Open Thread, August 16-31, 2012

post by OpenThreadGuy · 2012-08-15T03:25:30.869Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 316 comments

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

316 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-15T06:58:18.330Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Velocity Raptor: a simple physics Flash game where the physics simulates special relativity. Lorenz contraction, time dilation, red shifts, visual distortions ... people seem to get stuck on level 30, though Gwern made it to level 31. It's one thing to look at equations, it's another to get a feel for it. I strongly recommend this to everyone.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-15T11:32:38.356Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

people seem to get stuck on level 30, though Gwern made it to level 31

That sounds, like, offensively speciest towards Gwern! Or something.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-15T13:07:56.954Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Technically, we don't have incontrovertible proof that Gwern isn't a mostly-friendly AI that consumes a lot of anime.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-15T15:09:06.475Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My exact thought. Very few baseline humans are such... data whores.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2012-08-27T15:53:55.704Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Gwern is obviously a P-zombie. Just try looking at his pineal gland and you'll find no soul.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T10:03:55.085Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Holy shit... after playing that for a while, whenever I quickly move my eyes the page I'm reading appears to stretch along the direction of the saccade and shrink along the perpendicular direction.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-16T06:56:16.704Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He also has a particle physics one: Agent Higgs.

comment by vi21maobk9vp · 2012-08-17T16:42:43.636Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Frankly, Agent Higgs shows way less than Velocity Raptor - neutrinos pass through matter, particle-antiparticle, what else? Velocity Raptor has even fully-relevant puzzles with colour keys...

comment by iDante · 2012-08-15T18:32:09.189Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This was tons of fun. Doing the wildcard levels in seen view was crazy!

I wish it had general relativity too.

Edit: also, for people wondering about the seen view, the episode of the cosmos called Journeys in Space and Time has a really awesome scene about what it would actually look like to move a significant fraction of the speed of light. Does anyone know of any (possibly more modern) other attempts to do this?

It's about 20 mins in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abp3q7aYOss

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-16T01:14:16.148Z · score: 30 (30 votes) · LW · GW

Hi all, I'm Andy, the guy who made the game. I stumbled across this posting and am glad people are both enjoying the game and thoroughly infuriated by it :)

I had that scene in Cosmos vividly in mind as I created VR. It's amazing how well that series stands up to the test of time.

Another neat resource for that 'seen' view is http://www.spacetimetravel.org

They have a bunch of videos and explanations, too. In fact, the big inspiration for this game came from an exhibit that group built. It was in a museum years ago, and you'd physically ride a stationary bike around their simulation. A giant screen in front of you showed what you'd see as you rode through the streets of Bern (supposing light was traveling at 5 mph). It was completely interactive, and completely rad.

I've got other links posted if you're interested in more, but that's the one that sticks out to me.

comment by iDante · 2012-08-16T04:26:41.056Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well you managed to entertain a lab full of astrophysicists and me for longer than I care to admit, so that was awesome ty.

It would be neat in a game to have objects/stuff that emits light outside of visible light that can only be seen by humans when they're doppler shifted into visible range.

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-16T15:51:11.536Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I quite like that idea. Make the objects invisible (instead of black, as they are now). That could lead to some nice puzzles. I'll keep that in mind for the future, thanks!

comment by Xachariah · 2012-08-21T03:50:39.798Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can't wait for the first time a student goes into Phys 200 and passes easily because quote "It's just like the time I was an ice skating raptor, dodging bullets while on fire and doppler-shifting doors open" unquote.

My only wish is that you add a little more to the congratulation screen for master of relativity. Even just a picture of the same raptor with a party hat on top would be awesome. You know, just to show that the poor raptor is doing okay after running into so many walls at a significant fraction of C.

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-22T14:39:53.311Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, a party hat, I like it! Yeah, I agree the player could use a little more positive feedback.

comment by komponisto · 2012-08-16T07:50:08.864Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hi all, I'm Andy, the guy who made the game.

Wow. Hats off to you. This game is exactly the kind of thing I've been dreaming of.

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-16T16:00:13.329Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You and me both. (And by that you mean literal dreams of being a velociraptor, right?)

comment by vi21maobk9vp · 2012-08-17T17:04:52.135Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you change the game, please, please add possibility to save progress inside level. It would make the arcade-hard SR-easy levels somewhat more feasible. I gave up when I was offerred to do the fire-snow-run among timed trapdoors.

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-22T14:44:48.015Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll keep that in mind. While I (clearly) don't want the game to be easy... I also don't want it to be too unreasonably hard.

comment by Decius · 2012-09-01T04:02:56.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well done. I can't tell though if what we're seeing is perceived view what happened n ticks 'ago', where n is the distance we were from the trap n ticks ago in our current speed or at the previous speed. General relativity would have it as the former, but it seems like everything catches up instantly when you stop, rather than the area of altered perception spreading when you stop spreading outward at the local speed of light.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2012-08-16T03:31:58.321Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you considered doing Galilean relativity? I don't think it would make much difference.

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-16T15:56:13.586Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In a Newtonian world? No way you could make a game like that. It'd hurt people's eyes! ;)

comment by Manfred · 2012-08-20T16:13:08.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It has general relativity for the effect of acceleration, doesn't it?

comment by iDante · 2012-08-21T02:09:57.178Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nah, general relativity is specifically about gravity. In this game, acceleration is treated just like you're changing reference frames really quicklike. The twin paradox can be thought of that way, although Einstein did it with gravity too.

comment by Manfred · 2012-08-21T02:43:54.410Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah.

comment by vi21maobk9vp · 2012-08-15T08:44:08.121Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would say that the level 30 is hard as the plain arcade, special relativity is not that relevant. If only the game allowed you to save midlevel, many more people would pass level 30.

Level 31 is easier because one of the arcade-hard tricks is removed.

ETA: Looks like level 34 is impassable without true arcade skills... It is the first level where you have both periodical obstacle and time limit

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-15T10:57:55.231Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You need time dilation to get across the water trap doors, so it's relevant in that sense.

Mind you, I wouldn't have made it to level 30 without the space bar and the dead stop whenever you hit an obstacle. Dump all your momentum from relativistic speeds for free!

comment by vi21maobk9vp · 2012-08-15T12:53:05.118Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, actually it doesn't truly matter, as you just need to have enough speed anyway. The fact that two parts of the trap always look simultaneous is funny, of course.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-15T14:08:45.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. This level is killing me.

ETA: Level 38 is... far far worse. No timing, except in the precision of movements in the final stretch.

comment by Manfred · 2012-08-20T16:15:35.003Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Was fun. Difficulty falls off after level 34, so keep trying :)

I wish that at level 35+ the color of the background tiles doppler shifted. Thus if you were going too fast you wouldn't be able to see >:D

comment by AndyH · 2012-08-22T14:42:47.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A diabolical player after my own heart!

In a moment of rare compassion for the player, I minimized the colors the shifted. I didn't want to be held responsible for people getting sick all over their keyboards. :)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-17T02:59:37.092Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Robot cars may already be better drivers than humans. And if not, they're clearly on their way to become so.

Driving is an area of life where millions of "ordinary" humans (non-specialists) make life-critical and therefore morally-significant judgments every day. When we drive, we are taking our lives and those of others in our hands. Many of us would wish to be better drivers than we are: not only more skilled, but better in ways that could be described as "virtue": less prone to road rage, negligence, driving while impaired, and other faults. Robots don't get angry, they don't get distracted, and they don't get drunk or tired. Since bad driving kills people, we can reasonably say that robot driving is (or can become) morally superior to human driving — in a plain consequentialist sense.

This seems like a natural analogy for CEV in superhuman systems. We do not want a robot driver to drive just like a human. We want a robot driver to drive as a human would drive if that human were faster-thinking, calmer, clearer-minded, more focused; had sharper eyes, better knowledge of the roads and hazards, better ability to cooperate with other drivers. We want a robot to optimize a utility function derived closely from ours — crudely, "get me to my destination and don't kill anyone or cause any damage on the way" — and to do so better than we can.

It is only within a limited domain that the robot car is a superhuman decision-maker; but that limited domain is one that pretty much every adult is acquainted with. When robot cars become commonplace, every human driver will — every day — be interacting with limited-domain superhuman, non-conscious, non-recursively-optimizing artificial decision agents implementing a form of extrapolated volition and making morally significant, life-critical choices.

People might notice that the robots are nicer than humans to share the road with. They don't cut you off. They let you merge. They stop for Grandma entering the crosswalk. They don't run bikers off the road by not seeing them. They don't drive really slow in the ultra-fast lane while people behind them are going insane — they're not assholes.

We should expect this will dramatically increase visibility of AI ethics as a field.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T16:57:28.811Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It's a very good example. It also illustrates how hard is to specify a useful utility function for an AGI: "get me to my destination and don't kill anyone or cause any damage on the way" can lead to a number of non-obvious unintended consequences, compared to the CEV version "drive as a human would drive if that human were faster-thinking, calmer, clearer-minded, more focused; had sharper eyes, better knowledge of the roads and hazards, better ability to cooperate with other drivers".

comment by DaFranker · 2012-08-17T14:36:10.050Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

None of this is news to me, but it's certainly nice to see the link being made between AI Driving and ethics in a positive light. Most people only jump to the part about "If an AI car kills someone, whose life do we ruin as vengeful punishment?"

Thanks.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-18T07:13:32.808Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Suspended Animation the first blog post in a series on Urban Future that I am currently reading. Stagnation in our time:

What seems pretty clear from most of this (and already in Cowen's account) is that nothing much has been moving forward in the world's 'developed' economies for four decades except for the information technology revolution and its Moore's Law dynamics. Abstract out the microprocessor, and even the most determinedly optimistic vision of recent trends is gutted to the point of expiration. Without computers, there's nothing happening, or at least nothing good.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-18T14:52:50.493Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a notion that things are still moving forward in IT because it's still something of a frontier. It's relatively possible to do good work and get paid for it without formal credentials, or at least we're not very far from the time when that was possible.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-22T07:41:30.353Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

LSD-Enhanced Creativity (HT: Isegoria)

Over the course of the preceding year, IFAS researchers had dosed a total of 22 other men for the creativity study, including a theoretical mathematician, an electronics engineer, a furniture designer, and a commercial artist. By including only those whose jobs involved the hard sciences (the lack of a single female participant says much about mid-century career options for women), they sought to examine the effects of LSD on both visionary and analytical thinking. Such a group offered an additional bonus: Anything they produced during the study would be subsequently scrutinized by departmental chairs, zoning boards, review panels, corporate clients, and the like, thus providing a real-world, unbiased yardstick for their results.

In surveys administered shortly after their LSD-enhanced creativity sessions, the study volunteers, some of the best and brightest in their fields, sounded like tripped-out neopagans at a backwoods gathering. Their minds, they said, had blossomed and contracted with the universe. They’d beheld irregular but clean geometrical patterns glistening into infinity, felt a rightness before solutions manifested, and even shapeshifted into relevant formulas, concepts, and raw materials.

But here’s the clincher. After their 5HT2A neural receptors simmered down, they remained firm: LSD absolutely had helped them solve their complex, seemingly intractable problems. And the establishment agreed. The 26 men unleashed a slew of widely embraced innovations shortly after their LSD experiences, including a mathematical theorem for NOR gate circuits, a conceptual model of a photon, a linear electron accelerator beam-steering device, a new design for the vibratory microtome, a technical improvement of the magnetic tape recorder, blueprints for a private residency and an arts-and-crafts shopping plaza, and a space probe experiment designed to measure solar properties. Fadiman and his colleagues published these jaw-dropping results and closed shop.

I'd be very interested in what information those of us who are into nootropics might provide on the risks and benefits of LSD. I find this microdosing particularly interesting:

First things first: Fadiman defines a micro-dose as 10 micrograms of LSD (or one-fifth the usual dose of mushrooms). Because he cannot set up perfect lab conditions due to the likelihood of criminal prosecution, he has instead crafted a study in which volunteers self-administer and self-report. Which means that they must acquire their own supply of the Schedule 1 drug and separate a standard hit of 50 to 100 micrograms into micro-doses. (Hint: LSD is entirely water-soluble.)

Beginning in 2010, an unspecified but growing number of volunteers have taken a micro-dose every third day, while conducting their typical daily routines and maintaining logbooks of their observations. Study enrollment may last for several weeks or longer: There doesn’t appear to be a brightly drawn finish line. After several weeks (or, um…), participants send their logbooks to an email address on Fadiman’s personal website, preferably accompanied by a summary of their overall impressions.

I've been rather impressed by how much data gwern can get out of self-study. I can't help but wonder what we as a community might do if we established a culture of running our own experiments and studies. Much of our culture and reasoning is built on studies that are likely to be false (because most studies are likely to be false). Worse we don't have a good way to test the theories we build empirically.

Now we might re-purpose CFAR to do some such studies, perhaps by getting them to lauch kickstarter-style donation drives to run particular experiments relevant to human rationality. But on research that is not legal community driven seems to be the way to go.

To add a disclaimer much of the rest of the original article is filled with obviously silly if somewhat virulent memes of which noble savage is probably the most obvious. There is also some pretty heavy handed politicking and tribal attire (for example the non sequitur occupy wall street references). Please ignore that.

comment by gwern · 2013-10-17T14:47:42.578Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have finally posted my self-experiment on LSD microdosing: http://www.gwern.net/LSD%20microdosing

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-17T15:38:20.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-17T15:06:35.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for running proper experiments.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-08-22T10:21:43.670Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Also of interest: Mathematics and the Psychedelic Revolution

This columnist didn't believe what was asserted by Timothy Leary and others in the GQ article, that the computer revolution and the computer graphic innovations of California had been built upon a psychedelic foundation. She set out to prove this story false. She went to Siggraph, the largest gathering of computer graphic professionals in the world, where annually somewhere in the United States 30,000 who are vitally involved in the computer revolution gather. She thought she would set this heresy to rest by conducting a sample survey, beginning her interviews at the airport the minute she stepped off the plane. By the time she got back to her desk in San Francisco she'd talked to 180 important professionals of the computer graphic field, all of whom answered yes to the question, "Do you take psychedelics, and is this important in your work?"

The article doesn't cite the column or the date. Can anyone familiar with the US graphics computing culture in the 70s and early 80s weigh in on whether the claim is in any way plausible?

comment by gwern · 2012-08-22T14:47:55.135Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The current 1990s-ish base-rate for ever taking psychedelics is ~10% of the population; the richer and more educated, IIRC, correlate with more drug use; the article is implied to be ~1989 in the PDF, and everyone she talked to would be at least 20 years old, putting their birth back in the 1960s at a minimum. What the Dormouse Said documented quite a number of interconnections between computing and psychedelics and hippies, so a large fraction is not implausible.

On the other hand, this reasoning sounds more consistent with, say, a third or a half, not 100% - 100% for both taking psychedelics and considering it important to one's work (and honestly saying so!) sounds implausibly high. My guess is some sort of sampling bias or maybe the journalist is overstating things; maybe word got around about her obsession with psychedelics and all the acidheads made a point of talking to her? We'll never know.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-08-22T15:34:04.663Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The wording in the anecdote is also a bit vague on whether the 180 professionals who answered yes actually were all the people she interviewed.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-18T18:04:21.734Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Something is hinky with the upvote and downvote buttons (for me at least). When I press one nothing happens. Repeated pressing doesn't seem to do anything, but then sometimes the button colours-in after a delay. Sometimes it doesn't look like I pressed the button and then when I refresh the page I see that the button is coloured and the vote did register. Anyone else have the same problem?

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-08-20T02:25:23.280Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Previously, the interface responded immediately, but the vote wasn't immediately applied (if you reopened the same post/comment, you wouldn't see your vote for a while). Sometimes, a vote would be lost, never applied, even though it was reflected in the interface. It looks like now the interface waits for the vote to actually get received, and only updates once it has been. As before, it takes a while for that to happen, and sometimes it doesn't happen at all, but the difference is that now this effect is apparent.

If this delay can't be easily fixed, an animation indicating that the operation is in progress (like one appearing when sending a comment) might help with the interface responsiveness issue.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-20T09:09:07.841Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like now the interface waits for the vote to actually get received, and only updates once it has been.

I suppose that that's actually better, but

If this delay can't be easily fixed, an animation indicating that the operation is in progress (like one appearing when sending a comment) might help with the interface responsiveness issue.

is definitely better again. Otherwise I'm tempted to mash the voting button until something happens. It doesn't have to be an "animation" it could just be a still image of something that means "waiting" like a clock or a sandtimer.

comment by tut · 2012-08-19T08:44:11.565Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have noticed something similar. The length of the delay appears to be correlated with the speed of my internet, so I think that what's happening is that when you click on the 'hand' your browser sends a signal to the LW servers telling it what you did, and then waits for confirmation that the comment has been upvoted before coloring the 'hand'.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-20T00:45:01.723Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Same here. FF14 for Linux.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-18T19:35:33.666Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Same here.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T01:27:41.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, been having this problem for a while, but haven't cared enough to report it. Stable Chrome on Fedora.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-08-18T19:20:37.851Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How long is the delay? On the order of seconds, or 10s of seconds, or minutes?

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-18T20:01:48.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seconds.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-08-18T21:57:09.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I sometimes also see a delay of that order between clicking and the hand being coloured. (I assume it has to communicate with the LW web server and then receive a message back, before the vote can be acknowledged/displayed.)

I haven't ever had it not responding at all though.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-19T08:35:42.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well the times I think that it's not responding at all might just be times where the delay is so long I got bored of waiting. But if so those times are certainly more than 10 seconds, which is much slower than I'm used to. Next time it looks like nothing has happened I'll wait for a few minutes.

comment by OpenThreadGuy · 2012-08-15T03:27:48.823Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

PSA: If you want there to be a new Stupid Questions Open Thread, make it yourself! There is not and never has been a rule against this. I consider the "how often to make them" question unanswered, but a good interim answer is, "whenever someone feels like making one".

(Also, my computer broke, and so I posted this from a Wii, which is incapable of using the article editor. If someone could kindly edit "the sentence" into the post.)

comment by Costanza · 2012-08-16T21:34:59.356Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking about Eliezer's post about Doublethink Speaking of deliberate, conscious self-deception he opines: "Leaving the morality aside, I doubt such a lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen."

This seems odd for a site devoted to the principle that most of the time, most human minds are very biased. Don't we have the brains of one species of apes that has evolved to be particularly sensitive to politics? Why wouldn't doublethink be the evolutionarily adaptive norm?

My intuition, based on my own private experience, is the opposite of Eliezer's -- I'd assume that most industrialized people practice some degree of doublethink routinely. I'd further suspect that this talent can be cultivated, and I'd think that (say) most North Koreans might be extremely skilled at deliberate self-deception, in a manner that would have been very familiar to George Orwell himself.

This seems like an empirical question. What's the evidence out there?

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T19:12:36.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What Eliezer calls doublethink most closely fits what is called 'cognitive dissonance' in psychology, but the evidence shows that we seek to resolve that dissonance either by 'compartmentalization' or by, I assume, reflective equilibrium (is there a word in psychology for this?). I don't think we deliberately self-deceive (although, perhaps therapies like CBT seek to do this with memory reconsolidation).

comment by billswift · 2012-08-19T04:03:52.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Humans normally get away with their biases by not examining them closely, and when the biases are pointed out to them by denying that they, personally are biased. Willful ignorance and denial of reality seem to be two of the most common human mental traits.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-19T09:03:34.554Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Races are clusters in DNA-space by James_G

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T08:00:08.444Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Besides this and the critique of "Salterism" fubarobfusco liked to I'd also recommend these posts. I'm really quite fascinated by his concept of the "eminent self" and wish he wrote an article about how this fits into metaethics and rationality on LessWrong.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-20T02:08:35.880Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Salterism refuted: removing wheels from racial Idealist heads" struck me as amusingly Quirrellish — as opposed to Malfoyish.

It does appear that almost all racialists are looking for excuses to hurt others ­— to justify defection and other loser moves in Prisoner's Dilemma, Chicken, and other payoff matrices — by inventing wrongs done to them either by members of other races; or by the existence, visibility, or prosperity of other races.

This seems almost as if an imaginary foe is running a "divide-and-conquer" strategy against humanity: running K-means clustering, reifying the clusters, and trying to convince members of one cluster that they can't trust and should defect against members of another cluster. We know well from the history of organizations and intelligence agencies — and from history in general! — that this sort of thing is a significant risk.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T07:34:44.810Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Salterism refuted: removing wheels from racial Idealist heads"

I found that post a fun and interesting one too, I think I'll probably be linking to it in the future when I see some unfortunate comments by otherwise intelligent people elsewhere online.

struck me as amusingly Quirrellish — as opposed to Malfoyish.

Heh, yeah that's a good way to put it.

It does appear that almost all racialists are looking for excuses to hurt others ­— to justify defection and other loser moves in Prisoner's Dilemma, Chicken, and other payoff matrices — by inventing wrongs done to them either by members of other races; or by the existence, visibility, or prosperity of other races.

This is just basic tribalism no? We should emphasise it is hardly unique to racialist sentiment, indeed it prevades a large fraction of the human experience. One can see it quite clearly whenn it comes to nationality, religion, language, philosophical positions, partisan affiliation, culture, taste (be it in sex, food, architecture,...) and even sports team fandom.

This seems almost as if an imaginary foe is running a "divide-and-conquer" strategy against humanity: running K-means clustering, reifying the clusters, and trying to convince members of one cluster that they can't trust and should defect against members of another cluster. We know well from the history of organizations and intelligence agencies — and from history in general! — that this sort of thing is a significant risk.

I do find this amusingly ironic however. I can easily imagine say a pro-Black racialist disparaging those who are promoting local tribes and nationalities as engaging in a divide and conquer strategy against the Black race.

Clearly you sir are displaying speciest tendencies. ;)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-20T15:54:20.612Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can easily imagine say a pro-Black racialist disparaging those who are promoting local tribes and nationalities as engaging in a divide and conquer strategy against the Black race.

Economic classes might be a more frequent example than "tribes and nationalities". Historically, there has also been the argument made by some on the Left — especially anarchists such as the IWW — that racism is capitalism running divide-and-conquer against the working class. "Who benefits when white workers and black workers can't organize together because of racial tensions between them? The bosses do!"

Clearly you sir are displaying speciest tendencies. ;)

"You might cooperate with a Pebblesorter on the Prisoner's Dilemma, but would you want your son to marry one?"

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T17:03:48.289Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Economic classes might be a more frequent example than "tribes and nationalities".

Right some racialist have also argued against class divisions. Most infamously the you-know-whos.

Historically, there has also been the argument made by some on the Left — especially anarchists such as the IWW — that racism is capitalism running divide-and-conquer against the working class. "Who benefits when white workers and black workers can't organize together because of racial tensions between them? The bosses do!"

I heard this argument not on race but on nationality attributed as a position held by some socialists in the aftermath of World War One. It was one of the basis of some quite elaborate explanation of cultural forces as tools of the ruling class. I find it somewhat amusing how right-wing Moldbuggianism (which is basically endorsed by James_G) is very similar to such notions just with a different idea of who the ruling class is.

Looking at this from the leftist perspective though I find the Chomsky-ite argument on race and capitalism far more convincing:

"See, capitalism is not fundamentally racist — it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn’t built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist — just because its anti-human. And race is in fact a human characterstic — there’s no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangable cogs who will purchase all the junk that’s produced — that’s their ultimate function, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevent, and usually a nuisance."

Can you imagine a racist Coca-Cola Company in a global economy? Thought I sometimes wonder if their commercials would be slightly less subtly disturbing then.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T01:21:46.227Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that cultural hegemony is a reasonable and far from overwrought explanation for many social phenomena... but racism isn't one of them. So I also think Chomsky's right on this.

Right some racialist have also argued against class divisions. Most infamously the you-know-whos.

Lip service mostly. Nazi policies generally moved to the right since the break with Strasserism and the purge of the SA, and the "Proper"/"German"/"Volkish" social hierarchy espoused by propaganda was (for all its utopian or faux-medieval motifs) in practice directed at recreating the class structure of Bismarck's Prussia, which was viewed through rose-tinted glasses by many at the time.

True, when the conservative aristocrats showed some resistance, they were chastised (and the July plot brought an anti-aristocratic pseudo-populist turn), but when they went along with the new regime, the Nazis helped secure their position. The non-Jewish industrial and financial elites got a pretty sweet deal at first, and enjoyed it before being dragged into a suicidal war.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-21T05:55:38.633Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Lip service mostly. Nazi policies generally moved to the right since the break with Strasserism and the purge of the SA, and the "Proper"/"German"/"Volkish" social hierarchy espoused by propaganda was (for all its utopian or faux-medieval motifs) in practice directed at recreating the class structure of Bismarck's Prussia, which was viewed through rose-tinted glasses by many at the time.

True, when the conservative aristocrats showed some resistance, they were chastised (and the July plot brought an anti-aristocratic pseudo-populist turn), but when they went along with the new regime, the Nazis helped secure their position. The non-Jewish industrial and financial elites got a pretty sweet deal at first, and enjoyed it before being dragged into a suicidal war.

Right, but one could use many of the same argument against post WW2 social democrats no? The quality of life of the German working class much improved in the 1930s.

Again I wasn't arguing they did that much on their stated beliefs but I said they where an example of racialists arguing against class divisions.

To give another example from Fascists rather than Natonal Socialists (I think there is a notable difference) listen to this speech by Sir Oswald Mosley.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-20T23:32:47.158Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Right some racialist have also argued against class divisions. Most infamously the you-know-whos.

Rather common among nationalists in general, not just racial ones; see the use of "class warfare" rhetoric today.

Can you imagine a racist Coca-Cola Company in a global economy?

"Racism" means too many different things. A Coca-Cola company whose views of the market were clouded by racial prejudice would be at a competitive disadvantage. But one that participated in systems of racial privilege would not necessarily be.

To cherry-pick a famous example from history — the Montgomery bus service of Rosa Parks fame was not owned by Southern race-haters, but by National City Lines, a front company for General Motors and Firestone Tire. It still participated in a system of racial privilege by enforcing segregated seating. Doing so was kind of an obvious business move for NCL, since segregated seating was required by Alabama law.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-21T05:49:50.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doing so was kind of an obvious business move for NCL, since segregated seating was required by Alabama law.

Right but regulatory capture means that most business would not only have a financial interest lobby against such laws to boost profits but also probably be quit effective at them.

To give an example requiring a larger number of toilets because segregation was required by law in your factory was clearly a unwanted expense, especially for investors coming in from the outside.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-22T19:45:23.663Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like you're suggesting regulatory capture effects would have led NCL to eventually lobby against segregation laws in order to make more money by better serving black Alabamians.

But isn't it at least as credible that regulatory capture would have led NCL to lobby for the maintenance of segregation to deter competition from upstarts offering desegregated service to those who wanted it?

Regulatory capture usually offers to explain established businesses supporting regulation, or favoring forms of "deregulation" that end up entrenching them at the expense of new competition. So this might explain it if NCL had lobbied for anti-discrimination laws (thus forbidding whites-only competitors) but I don't see how it would predict supporting merely the removal of segregation laws.

This line of thinking leads me to wonder how much predictive power the "regulatory capture" idea actually has ...

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T02:14:03.237Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

[Warning: more of my neurotic bullshit!]

struck me as amusingly Quirrellish — as opposed to Malfoyish

Having read that blog... frankly, given equal general intelligence and competence, I'd pick Quirrell over James_G any day.
The former isn't hung up on any particular grand theory, seems to have charisma, a sense of humour and a dry aesthetic of his own. He's just plain cool.
The latter clearly has an IQ through the roof and excels at formal reasoning, but is monomaniacal about his "rational" hedonic utilitarianism in the face of numerous dismal conclusions, seemingly can't appreciate the value and importance of "mere emotions" for most people... and the pictures of his "strong aesthetic sense" make me question whether I'd want to exist in his world at all, no matter how many hedons he might provide to how many people.

Seriously, ew. Give me neo-feudalism as originally proposed, or give me chaos and ruin, just not this squeaky clean brave new world! Absolute monarchy and unrestricted capitalism both seem like such trifling worries to me compared to the prospect of this covering a living, breathing, diverse nation-state!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-21T09:51:46.480Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

is monomaniacal about his "rational" hedonic utilitarianism

Even I find it mildly disturbing especially since it strikes as more or less the same "rational" hedonic utilitarianism that is the de facto norm on LessWrong.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T09:55:24.417Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Even I find it mildly disturbing

His hedonic utilitarianism or my rant? If the former... then thank you yet again for seeing a method to my madness :)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-21T10:08:11.551Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His hedonic utilitarianism or my rant?

His hedonic utilitarianism.

If the former... then thank you yet again for seeing a method to my madness :)

Of course there is, we actually share many of the same misgivings about the smiley faced worlds that utilitarianism might build.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-22T19:17:37.511Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is such a thing as genetic groupings of humans. There is such a thing as groups recognized by a given society based on heritable physical markers that are treated differently and thus develop different cultures. The word "race" is already used to describe the second one. "You're the race cops think you are", and a police officer will classify the Bantu and the San as black and the Scot as white, not the Bantu and the Scot as haplogroup L3 and the San as L0. Why overload the word, if not to justify preexisting racism?

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-09-01T10:23:01.161Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Actually the word race is about what part of your ancestry you identify with or society identifies you with. Obviously both culture and genetic diversity correlate strongly with ancestry. The word race was also used in a taxonomic sense in the early 20th century. Indeed racial classification is still used that way in say medicine though naturally euphemisms are gaining popularity.

not the Bantu and the Scot as haplogroup L3 and the San as L0. Why overload the word

You really miss the point here so I suspect you didn't read the article.

When you take a look at the entire genome of the person and look for clusters in thing space you find groupings that basically match old racial classifications. For all the number crunching gene analysis that went into it this map does not much differ the map Lothrop Stoddard would have presented when asked about the distribution of racial groups before the Age of Discovery. Clearly they are touching the same underlying reality.

Sure looking at one or two genes a Scott might be more similar to a San than a Sardinian, but as you increase the number genes you are looking at, the similarity more and more matches to the first approximation what you'd guess from looking at faces.

Why overload the word, if not to justify preexisting racism?

Creating two words for the basically the same cluster in thing space in order to diffuse "x-ism" will only makes the x-ists feel more clever than they are. This gives the ideologies they create a new source from which to pump warm fuzzies into believers and a hook with which to appeal to people who figure out it is the same cluster.

comment by HBDfan · 2012-08-20T00:44:15.338Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. Lesswrong needs more race realism under what ever name.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-20T02:10:12.548Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Why? Racialism appears to be a loser move. People focus on their race when they have nothing better to say about themselves.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T07:36:11.428Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Race realism in the sense that races are real clusters in thingspace, not in the sense of racialist politics.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T05:37:29.162Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Commentary on LessWrong and its norms

That I would like to share. I recently found it on the blog Writings by James_G. I am going to add some emphasis and commentary of my own, but I'm mostly interested how other LWers see this. The main topic of the post itself is about politics and cooperation but I want to emphasise that isn't the topic I'd like to open.

...

So, neurological egalitarians like (I should imagine) Zachary and neurological racist-authoritarians like myself need to be able to cooperate. Unfortunately, politics is the mind-killer.

No wait—that can’t be true. I’m writing this highly political essay, and my mind ain’t killed (Aberlour notwithstanding). This is the problem with Yudkowsky: he’s right so often, that the odd misfire goes unnoticed.

People go funny in the head when talking about politics.

Close, but no cigar. People go funny in the head when their emotions are aroused, and “political” arguments tend to be provocative. Thinking about and discussing politics doesn’t always evoke strong emotions; strong emotions can be evoked by things other than politics. Politics and out-of-control emotions are closely related, but here Yudkowsky didn’t cleave reality at its joints.

Yudkowsky’s rationalist forum, lesswrong.com, is based on the idea that politics is the mind-killer. When someone comments on what he considers a political subject, he apologises for dropping a mind-killer. Political arguments are taboo. The forum also has a karma system: every post and comment is subject to anonymous positive and negative ratings from other users. This is especially effective because of the forum members’ high regard for LessWrong’s majority opinion; negative karma is an assault on one’s soul. Given the high quality of the founding population (Overcoming Bias commenters), these features make LessWrong an unusually civil place.

Yeah it kind of can feel like that. Consider the strong reaction and even written out objections people have when down voted. Yet I think we should be doing more down voting.

So, is LessWrong an exemplar for efficient cooperation across the neuropolitical divide? I don’t think so.

There seems to be evidence that we indeed failing at this.

First, enforcing the no-politics taboo isn’t straightforward. “Politics” is an ill-defined term. It means roughly, “ideas and arguments associated with governance, how people should live, and decisions that significantly affect many people’s lives”. A LessWrong thread about the irrationality of Keynesianism and fraudulence of Keynesian economists would be highly political—seditious. But a (quite interesting) thread about Awful Austrians isn’t political, because Austrian economists are marginal. Austrian theory isn’t influential and might never be, therefore attacking it doesn’t seem political in everyone’s eyes. In this way, no-politics can easily become no-political-opinion-that-isn’t-mainstream—not a recipe for rationality.

Another problem is that the scope of “mind-killing arguments” is embarrassingly wide. For example:

I’ve recently read a lot of strong claims and mind-killing argumentation made against E.Y.’s assertion that MWI is the winning/leading interpretation in QM. The SEP seems to agree with this, which means I’ve got a bottom-line here to erase since both of my favorite authorities agree on that particular conclusion.

If arguments about quantum mechanics are mind-killing, what isn’t? Is arguing in general taboo? That isn’t rational.

Emotion is the mind-killer, so an apolitical argument could kill a nerd’s mind. For example, his opponent might insinuate that only rubes take the Copenhagen interpretation seriously. Being insulted, or simply losing an argument can stimulate emotions. But a rational person learns not to let anyone kill his mind (and to be a skilful mind-assassin when it suits him). To describe every firm clash of opinions as “mind-killing” is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Emotions may have evolved to permit ignorant humans to practise timeless decision theory in situations requiring reciprocity and deal-making, like the Parfit’s Hitchhiker thought experiment. “Emotion” signifies a shift in the balance of mental sub-agents, which induced TDT behaviour in fecund ancestral humans. If the brain in question is a moral realist, it rationalises these emotions using moral projectivism: “I responded like that because he was morally wrong”. This epistemic error obstructs the displaced sub-agent from regaining control; moral realism legitimises upstart sub-agents.

Some emotions don’t prompt moral rationalisation. The excuse for odd behaviour associated with mating is, “I love X”. Love is nonetheless another instance of TDT pre-commitment; but since mating is a private interaction, unlike morality the (degenerate) rationalisation for the emotion of love need not act as a common currency for collective negotation and deal-making. Whether or not TDT considerations fully explain the evolution of emotion, we know that emotion “kills minds”—it promotes upstart sub-agents—and we can identify its causes.

Internet fora are provocative. Anyone can comment; even if 9 out of 10 discussants are reasonable, there’s always a jerk. The low bandwidth of internet discussions also causes problems. In meatspace, body language, tone of voice and familiarity allow people to respect one another’s emotional limits; internet interlocutors inadvertently upset one another. LessWrong’s karma system is also subtly infuriating. Outside cyberspace, nobody can snipe someone’s reputation with the impunity of the anonymous, silent downvoter. In real life, not everyone’s opinion is equally status-enhancing or -detracting, and every off-hand comment isn’t susceptible to meticulous scrutiny. Unwarranted downvotes—and jerks’ downvotes are indistinguishable from anyone else’s— are the Jim Jones of mind-killing.

LessWrong does a great job of maintaining civility; a more polite, entirely open internet forum I cannot imagine. But the costs of the no-politics taboo and karma system—entrenching mainstream ideas, stifling discussion of important problems, and creating effete rationalists—are unavoidable, and gradual dissipation of the highly rational, open-minded Overcoming Bias founding group may exacerbate these downsides.

A completely open forum, however effective the karma system and informal rules, doesn’t permit neurological leftists and rightists to cooperate and discourse efficiently. Still, internet fora are a great means of exchanging information. To confine useful discussion to email and glacial blogospheric exchanges isn’t ideal. We need a way to discuss politics honestly, without emotional turmoil. I propose two things: a protocol, and a forum design.

The protocol is a formal way to conduct internet discussions, which minimises mind-killing. First, each discussant must state his utility function. “Humans” don’t have utility functions, but their sub-agents do. For example, I (speaking now) am a hedonic utilitarian, which inhabits a brain populated by competing sub-agents. Refusal to state a utility function implies failure to accurately reduce the “I” in a statement like “I want to do X”.

Discussants whose utility functions differ substantially must accept that this is an impediment to cooperation. But the strongest sub-agent in an educated mind is usually a hedonic utilitarian. Ideally, all parties to a discussion claim to share the same utility function.

...

I'm not sure this protocol is workable. The full article is here.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T05:51:02.581Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In response to the blog post Nyk writes:

I am of the opinion that “politics is the mindkiller” rule is bad because it allows some unrecognized aspects of mainstream politics (i.e. Universalism) to slip under the radar. Many Universalist ideas are ‘no longer politics’ in the same way that they are ‘no longer Christian’, allowing them to bypass any red flags that might be triggered with politics and religion respectively.

James_G responds: "Echoing Player of Games: my imagined forum design is federalist, like the style of government I favour; LessWrong exhibits democratic degringolade, as does today’s West."

Also, the karma system on LW has all of the bad characteristics of demotism, and the fact that such a system of votes of equal value was chosen in the first place again seems to point to demotist bias. I would very much prefer moderation similar to the dictatorial one of Razib on GNXP.

Konkvistador (me): Razib's harsh style does indeed create a comment section well worth reading.

My opinion is that groupthink is already quite strong on LW at this point in time; I am not sure how it was in the past. Their preference for philosophy and pure reason (rather than experimental science) is immediately obvious to me as an outsider; also, some of them seem obsessed with a few topics while losing sight of other important issues. I presume that is because of their (or should I say our?) highly atypical psychological profile: many Asperger types (some borderline, but many quite beyond that), and heavily risk-averse types. There have even been articles calling for the sabotage of scientific research into computing and AI as long as they consider their current pet obsession (Friendly AI) to be not 100% implemented in a safe manner. I for one believe it becomes impossible to achieve anything at all if you crawl into a hole due to fear of inadvertently creating paperclip maximizers. At some point, you have take some risks and go past analysis paralysis.

James_G responds: "I can’t fault this."

Zack M. Davis criticizes James_G's approach of viewing humans as a collection subagents:

The subagents idea is interesting, but it seems like a metaphor at best. That humans are an incoherent kludge of partially-conflicting values is indisputable, but to say that they meaningfully factorize into subagents seems like a much stronger claim; I don’t understand what is gained by speaking of a dominant hedonistic utilitarian subagent coexisting with ideological upstart subagents, when one can just say “I value (or ‘this brain contains parts that value’, &c.) pleasure, and antivalue pain, and I also value these-and-such political goals, but not quite as much as I antivalue pain.”

Is this a mere semantic quibble?—possibly, but near the end of your “Beyond Moral Anti-realism,” you seem to want to attribute your writings to your hypothesized hedonic utilitarian subagent, and in this post you write that “the strongest sub-agent in an educated mind is usually a hedonic utilitarian[;] [i]deally, all parties to a discussion claim to share the same utility function,” and it seems unnecessary; I don’t need to suppose that my values factorize in any particular way, nor disparage any of them as mere inferior upstarts, in order to be eager to cooperate and discuss ideas with smart, sane people who happen to like things I find distasteful or abhorrent.

I strongly agree with this.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-22T06:22:20.354Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Review of “America’s Retreat from Victory” by Joseph R. McCarthy

This excellent review makes me think this will be an interesting book to add to my reading list. Has anyone else read it? I probably should add this statement as a sort of disclaimer:

A rationalist has a hard time not reviewing history from that period and concluding that for all intents and purposes McCarthy was right about the extent of communist infiltration and may have indeed grossly underestimated and misunderstood the nature of intellectual sympathies for communism and how deeply rooted those sources of sympathy where in American elite intellectual tradition.

He basically though he needed to eliminate some foreign sources of corruption and that he would be helped rather than sabotaged by well meaning Americans in positions of great power at least after they where made aware of the extent of the problem. He was wrong. For his quest to have been less quixotic he would have needed to basically remake the entire country (and at that point in time, the peak of American power that basically meant by extension the remaking of the entire West).

Actually that whole thread was a very interesting one with many cool posts by various people so go read it!

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T09:35:46.694Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree almost entirely with this descripton, but the "reactionary" judgment's modus ponens is my modus tollens - that is, I judge that what McCarthy perceived as "communism" around him was an old and respectable Western tradition that did far more good than evil throughout history (according to my preferences).

I do think that this so-called "communism" ("Universalism") was in some sense a miscarriage of mainline Western Christian civilization, and that the Enlightenment's abandonment of theism for clever is-to-ought rationalizations was a time bomb - but for all its sins, it essentially was Western culture in its logical 2000-year unfolding. I insist that Modernity ought to be redeemed, not denounced and buried. And I doubt that things could have turned out very differently, that the Chesterton's Fence of older values, notably mourned even by Orwell, would have protected against all possible disasters in the face of technological change.
I know, the "logical 2000-year unfolding" might sound very far-fetched, but I've read plenty of evidence for it - for starters, see Robert Nisbet's remarkable History of the Idea of Progress and Karen Armstrong's History of God.
(Regarding modern history, I would further argue that the leftward radicalization effectively stopped in 1968, that the "60s' revolution" ended up a kind of counter-revolution in disguise - but that's a difficult subject for another day.)

In particular, it seems to me that Soviet imperialism and Mao's radical reforms, for all their unnecessary evils and wilful stupidity, led to far more net human welfare - never mind the gain in more nebulous things like "Human development"! - than their actual, really present alternatives at the time: America's pre-war relative non-interventionism; Chiang Kai-Shek's conterfactual rule in China (read up on him!) and so on.

Frankly, the absolute worst disaster that resulted from "World Communism" was probably the premature and devastating so-called decolonization - and America even at its most right-wing always disapproved of European colonialism anyway.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-24T10:09:00.074Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And I doubt that things could have turned out very differently, that the Chesterton's Fence of older values, notably mourned even by Orwell, would have protected against all possible disasters in the face of technological change.

I agree with this, the traditionalists where not equipped for the technological change that took place. Of the various offshoots that tried to grapple with it Soviet Communism wasn't really that disastrous. It didn't result in a break down into the bleak dystopia of North Korea or the barbarism of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

I think it plausible that mild fascism (think Franco) in conjunction with monarchy would have worked better for Russia.

(Regarding modern history, I would further argue that the leftward radicalization effectively stopped in 1968, that the "60s' revolution" ended up a kind of counter-revolution in disguise - but that's a difficult subject for another day.)

I would be very interested in this take on recent history, please write up a email if you feel it wouldn't be productive to discuss it here.

In particular, it seems to me that Soviet imperialism and Mao's radical reforms, for all their unnecessary evils and wilful stupidity, led to far more net human welfare - never mind the gain in more nebulous things like "Human development"! - than their actual, really present alternatives at the time: America's pre-war relative non-interventionism; Chang Kai-Shek's conterfactual rule in China (read up on him!) and so on.

I'm not so sure. Right wing capitalist authoritarianism, the sort of outcome I think the Kuomintang could have provided has a good track record of development in East Asian states. I'm not suggesting China would have been a Tawian(!) or Singapore, it was too large and in the early years too chaotic for that. I do think they would have been far wealthier and I think it would probably be more democratic today than the PCR (not that I would necessarily approve of that). Though again a West allied China may have gone to war with the Soviet Union which would have been a disaster.

Also check out the strong socialist elements in the original ideology and practice of the party. Had it gone in that direction again, I can't see them doing worse than Mao.

It might be true that they could have lost grip of the country and see it descent into the hands of various warlords, which might have meant decades of trouble for China. The almost unified China under the PRC would obviously beat that out.

To be fair though Mao's revolution was basically a Chinese peasants revolt installing a new dynasty in some Marxist drag. Hardly exceptional in Chinese history, the more surprising part was that Mao was dethroned with relatively little bloodshed.

Frankly, the absolute worst disaster that resulted from "World Communism" was probably the premature and devastating so-called decolonization - and America even at its most right-wing always disapproved of European colonialism anyway.

Moldbug makes the case that was mostly America's doing. It is quite plausible Communism isn't to blame for it. Indeed by providing a opponent ready to spread to new states in Africa and Asia it may have made the Anglo elites more careful and measured in their decolonialization mania than they would have otherwise been.

But I disagree, I think the opportunity costs for Eastern Europe and East Asian in particular are pretty high.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T18:46:55.417Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Concerning Singapore and why the "traditionalist" conservatives and the atheist alt-right really ought to split on their attitude to it (as of now, they all seem to think that it's a nice clean place free of all that liberal insanity):

You know how Lee Kwan Yew has occcasionally been complaining about the "crass materialism" around him in his latter interviews and such? The loss of nice, cozy traditional values? Well, I think that he hasn't fully comprehended what he has been ushering in, culturally speaking. Behold. BEHOLD AND WEEP! Right out of trashy dystopian sci-fi... hell, it totally reminds me of this classic music video (at 3:10).

And here some Catholic woman is trying to pin this shit on leftism. Can't she see that old good Universalist morality is her only surviving ally against such horrors? (Rhetorical question: I understand that the less insightful conservatives simply lump all formally irreligious societies together as The Other. But the brighter ones should see how this is much worse than leftist academia.)

May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-25T08:48:12.593Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can't she see that old good Universalist morality is her only surviving ally against such horrors?

Mainstream Western Universalist morality has no objection to that video except that its tacky.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-25T09:37:57.395Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe this is so. Most any liberal professor type - hell, most lefties I know - would flip their shit around the phrase "manufacture life" or earlier. Maybe I'm too rosy-eyed, but I really can't see them remaining unperturbed. In theory, those lyrics manage to tick off just about every sacredness/profanity box of stereotypical liberal mentality. (I'll run a poll!)

They might not put much stock in family, but they sure as hell believe in parenting, upbringing, etc, and will at least see that an ad for breeding that doesn't even mention parenting or parental love is critically, fundamentally wrong. (Also, the gut reaction to social control of intimacy/sex. And other feelings along these lines.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-25T10:16:32.542Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Right. It hits their sacrednss/profanity boxes in such minds but they can't articulate a rational argument against it based on harm or fairness. Remember they think they don't have the former box. The typical universalist mind faced with something that fits sacredness/profanity latches on to the nearest rationalization expressed in the allowed stated values to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Such rationalizations then live a dangerous life of their own sometimes resulting in disturbing policies.

To analyse the example you've provided, if I'm right we should be seeing in the moderately educated mind a search for a rationalization that fits this shape:

a company with quiet aid of government promoting this might cause harm or unfairness

I think the following does so nicely:

having babies is bad because it hurts the environment and the world is overpopulated anyway

This is ironically part of the environmentalist memeplex that is elsewhere propped up mostly by purity concerns. As evidence of this I submit the most liked youtube comment to the video.

Heh, clever and well-written song. Catchy too! :D

But, it's just the government and capitalism being on a flawed infinite-growth-based system at fault here. There's nothing wrong with some shrinking populations with how overpopulated the world is getting. If anything, there needs to be more adoptions. Everywhere. And way less baby-making.

Reading this can't you just hear the cogs turning in the person's head? Of the real reasons rooted in tabooed sentiments, only the bolded pro-nurture sentence remains, the charge has been successfully transferred to "babies bad for Gaia!". Inspect some of the other comments to this story on Youtube and other sites, you will see this particular rationalization consistently win out among the Brahmin and wannabe Brahmin.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-25T13:15:20.926Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Damn right. Hmm, looks like I should post your last PM and my reply in here for kar... I mean, for the public's benefit.

[Konkvistador messaged me:]

Orwell is dead

and soon Žižek and Chomsky will follow.

You put your hope in the decentness of Universalism as a replacement for Christianity.

I don't endorse that position because modern Universalism seems to be suffering more or less the same malaise that killed its predecessor.

I don't know what will happen next.

[I replied:]

You put your hope in the decentness of universalism as a replacement for Christianity.

No, I put my hope in the fact that it is Christianity, mostly intact or even refined under the surface. It was led astray not by immorality but by a philosophical and epistemic error - the folly of rationalization, the is-to-ought thing, "deriving" preferences from "pure reason", being ashamed of making a seemingly arbitrary stand on an issue, assuming the inevitability of their particular "progress"; you see what I mean.

The irony is that most branches of "Christianity" that remain openly theistic, like Catholicism, still retain many advantages such as better-maintained Chesterton's fences, but not because they're a better living fork - they merely remained a century or so behind the "core", Universalist Christianity, and see no other way to advance. Either they'll become fossils unable to handle new reality, or they will keep following in Universalism's footsteps without the vision or the imagination to adjust the course.

I hope that, should this single big error of Universalism be somehow mended - not necessarily or solely through a return to theism - then we can have the good things back and filter the really bad ones. This is why I'm looking into the relationship between the radical/totalizing/"core" current in Christianity and its Gnostic/less-worldly side. As I was beginning to say, I see this "1968 counterrevolution" as the former voluntarily surrendering to the latter in the face of the Left's Orwell-like fears. However, the resulting paralysis of the Left led to a vacuum of power, where the Right are kept away from institutions by the Left's massive aura of influence, yet the New Left is unwilling and afraid to approach any really important matters. It's not about some mysterious lack of "personal responsibility", "accountability", etc - there were plenty of unaccountable but good rulers. It's about the psychology of it, turning inwards instead of forging any sort of a path.

And, speaking of that last one:

(I can't resist mentioning Evangelion yet again. I'll do a full, detailed look at its place in historical and political context one day. Malaise is certainly its central theme.)

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-08-25T15:29:41.548Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for sharing PM's without permission.

Edit: See Konkvistador's reply.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T06:02:40.985Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Up voted for enforcing a community norm.

I already messaged Multiheaded and explained this to him before you posted. I want to emphasise he now has my permission to post that particular PM.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-29T13:03:50.769Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[I already apologized, damnit, and he said it wasn't a problem!]

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T11:19:08.016Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also!

I think it would probably be more democratic today than the PCR

Language trap here. "Democracy" as meaningful majority vote vs. "democracy" as government attention to broad popular demands vs. "democracy" as a loose cultural view of Vox Populi vox Dei vs. "democracy" as a permissive and liberal stance towards social relations, and hell, there's even more packed in here.

I, for instance, think that modern China is much more democratic on many such metrics than modern Singapore. Including metrics that I value. (Singapore indeed has legitimate majority vote, but that vote, and the overton window for it, is controlled by the State in several ways that are unlike 1st world Universalist propaganda.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-24T11:30:32.957Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well my model of right wing capitalist regimes puts "under Western influence they transmute into social democracies when rich enough or after the founder dies" as the default. It happened in South Korea and it happened in Spain.

As to "democratic" I was using it in the standard sense used when discussing international relations and geopolitics:

"democratic" == does things the State Department, NYT and/or the Pentagon like.
"undemocratic" == does things the State Department, NYT and/or the Pentagon don't like.
comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T10:31:38.448Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I disagree, I think the opportunity costs for Eastern Europe and East Asian in particular are pretty high.

Eh, I think that you and I would have some disagreement due to harder-to-articulate terminal values here, regardless of a little variation in numbers.

I can confidently say that you're dead wrong on Chiang, though. All contemporary accounts, such as those of Western liasons, say that he was very good at holding on to power via manipulation and intrigue yet very, very bad at using it for anything. He literally took bribes in plain view and spend them on himself and his cronies while his armies were hungry, demoralized and steamrolled by the Japanese; all intelligent Westerners described him with utter contempt, and his own people did not respect his authority. He's living proof that a self-interested authoritarian ruler can still be a trainwreck. For a good description of his wartime behavior (and an extensive list of sources) see e.g. Max Hastings' Retribution. Hastings is my favorite World War 2 historian btw. I'll dig up the sources on Chiang and post them later.

(Regarding modern history, I would further argue that the leftward radicalization effectively stopped in 1968, that the "60s' revolution" ended up a kind of counter-revolution in disguise - but that's a difficult subject for another day.)

I would be very interested in this take on recent history, please write up a email if you feel it wouldn't be productive to discuss it here.

I've had that hunch for a while and am researching it right now; this is conjunctive with what I'm trying to analyze about the current/postmodern religious and mystical consciousness. Gonna take a while. Check my yesterday's email on the New Left for a glimpse.
Zizek touches on this "counter-revolution" angle in his rants about "Cultural capitalism". Also somewhat related is his distinction between the "radical/leftist" core of Christianity and "Gnostic" tendencies within it - the "Gnostics" being the ones who do not seek to immanentize the Eschaton, although I view that in a very different light and think he's dangerously one-sided here.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-24T10:44:27.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that I specifically say that a return to warlordism or a protracted civil war would be the worst of all options so Chiang being good at holding on to power is a virtue in itself. Again I'm not saying he was a particularly great ruler, its not like I expect him to live forever. But the fact remains that several decades after his death Taiwan is a first world country while China's recent growth can be largely credited to Deng's reforms.

Suppose China was divided in half between Mao and Chiang and they manage to avoid war for several decades due to cold war dynamics similar to the one that kept a divided German and Korea stable. In 2000 which half of China would you expect to be the better developed one?

If you agree with my assesment that the capitalist half would likely be the better developed one, why do you expect a China that is 99% under Kuomintang governance to be worse than a China that is 99% under Communist party governance?

Max Hastings' Retribution.

I will add it to my reading list.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T11:06:18.815Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But the fact remains that several decades after his death Taiwan is a first world country

The difference between governing a 10-million enclave (a significant proportion of elite refugees among those 10 million) that serves as a forward outpost to a friendly superpower, and governing a war-ravaged empire of ~600 million (in 1949) - subsistence farmers most of them - seems to me greater than, say, the difference between running a coffee shop and Northrop Grumman. We have much evidence that Chiang was failing miserably at the latter before 1949.

But the fact remains that several decades after his death Taiwan is a first world country while China's recent growth can be largely credited to Deng's reforms.

Under Mao, life expectancy literally doubled and the literacy rate went from 20-25% to 80%. And the increase in life expectancy is largely attributed to his vast state healthcare initiatives.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-24T11:26:51.355Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The difference between governing a 10-million enclave (a significant proportion of elite refugees among those 10 million) that serves as a forward outpost to a friendly superpower, and governing a war-ravaged empire of ~600 million (in 1949) - subsistence farmers most of them - seems to me greater than, say, the difference between running a coffee shop and Northrop Grumman.

Very well, you can make that argument. So I'm taking your answer to my alternative history scenario:

Suppose China was divided in half between Mao and Chiang and they manage to avoid war for several decades due to cold war dynamics similar to the one that kept a divided German and Korea stable. In 2000 which half of China would you expect to be the better developed one?

Is that you don't expect the capitalist half to be significantly better off than the communist half?

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-24T11:27:39.520Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thinking.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-09-01T13:20:15.920Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Under Mao, life expectancy literally doubled and the literacy rate went from 20-25% to 80%. And the increase in life expectancy is largely attributed to his vast state healthcare initiatives.

I have heard similarly glorious statistics for Cuba, and, until quite recently, for North Korea.

Visiting Cuba in 1992 it was obvious to me that living standards, literacy, and health, had collapsed since the revolution. People are living in the decayed remnants of what had been decently comfortable houses fifty years ago. People were hungry, frightened, and desperate.

It is clear that China suffered poverty and economic stagnation under Mao. You don't double living standards and life expectancy while having massive famines and operating an economy based on slave labor. Taiwan unambiguously and obviously experienced dramatic growth. Kuomintang rule was competent, efficient, and successful. Communist rule was a disaster propped up by foreign intervention.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-09-01T15:40:05.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, but it's hardly possible to fake such a tremendous increase in such basic statistics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_%281949%E2%80%931976%29#Mao.27s_legacy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_China#Post-1949_history

It is clear that China suffered poverty and economic stagnation under Mao.

It certainly did; I never claimed otherwise, and neither did Lindsay. Mao's leadership was a little unhinged to say the least. However, we're talking about the really existing alternatives to China's particular situation in 1949, not the Cuban revolution or anything else.

You don't double living standards and life expectancy while having massive famines and operating an economy based on slave labor.

Um, looks like that's exactly what happened.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-09-02T02:54:18.181Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, but it's hardly possible to fake such a tremendous increase in such basic statistics.

And equally hard, no doubt to fake the very similar tremendous increase in the basic statistics for North Korea, Cuba, and Ethiopia.

I notice that in the case of Marxist Ethiopia, we saw a tremendous increase in basic statistics despite bloody and unending civil war, and the massive use of artificial famine to terrorize the peasants.

And when the Marxist Ethiopian regime was finally overthrown in that bloody and terrible civil war, and peace returned, their statistics abruptly fell back to African normal. Did everyone suddenly forget how to read? Perhaps capitalism caused the death rate to suddenly rise, but did it overnight erase all that wonderful education that the communists had so successfully done?

comment by gwern · 2012-09-01T16:57:46.409Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Um, looks like that's exactly what happened.

Industrialization is a hell of a drug, isn't it?

I'd also note that in my reading about the Chinese famines and especially the Great Leap Forward ones is that they were due only minimally due to nation-wide shortages, but mostly to massive failures in distribution such as falsified statistics; this scenario is consistent with both claims.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-24T03:05:04.747Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just reading the book right now after seeing Foseti's review the other day. (The book is easy to find online.) However, I'm already familiar with most of its arguments from other sources.

This whole topic is a very deep rabbit hole, and an attempt to study it in-depth quickly leads to a baffling situation where on many questions, all respectable sources are silent or clearly wrong or incoherent, while tantalizing clues are provided by various sources that are completely obscure or (often not without good reason) utterly disreputable. But I don't think it's a topic for which LW would be a good discussion venue in any case.

comment by Dar_Veter · 2012-08-23T23:09:01.786Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If i wanted to find a way to prolong WW2 as much as possible and maximize the body count (including American one), it would be hard to find better strategy than McCarthy's proposed one. This synopsis managed to get put my opinion about him even lower. Why shall i care about political opinions of someone who never even bothered to look at map (physical map showing mountains, rivers, roads and railroads, not political one)?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-24T05:28:49.152Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When doing a body count you really should consider the several dozen million deaths in China under Mao. This was no freak occurrence. Not only had millions already died from famine and in labour camps, but the USSR was arguably just as aggressively expansionist as Germany before nuclear weapons made this direct approach impractical.

Anyone who knew anything about the prewar history of the Soviet Union should have realized that some costs are worth paying. If such goals where not on peoples minds and the Western Allies simply wanted to minimize casualties and ensure future peace, they should have signed an armistice with Axis powers once they had been clearly defeated in 1944 instead of demanding unconditional surrender.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-18T07:38:17.249Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Related to: List of public drafts on LessWrong

Public Draft On Moral progress -- Text dump

For now this is just a text dump for relating to a conversation I had, that I retracted, not because I found them so lacking but because that particular irrationality game thread turned out to have been made by a likely troll. Expect changes in the next few days. Here is a link to the original conversation.

We have not been experiencing moral progress in the past 250 years. Moral change? Sure. I'd also be ok with calling it value drift. I talked about this previously in some detail here and here. I hope some of you have read that material before. It is also neat if you read the meta-ethics sequence and particularly this post.

Against the Better Angels of our Nature counterargument

Named after this excellent long book which you guys really should read. Actually someone should do a review of the book. Note to self: Do review in one year if no one else beats you to it.

The trend to moral progress has been one of less accepting of violence, less acceptance of nonconsensual interaction, less victim blaming, and less standing by while terrible things happen to others (or at least looking indignant at past instances of this).

This leads to a falsifiable prediction. In the next one to four centuries, vegetarianism will increase to a majority, jails will be seen as unnecessarily, brutally, unjustifiably harsh, "the poor" will be less of an Acceptable Target (c.f. delusions that they are "just lazy" and so on), and a condemnation of the present generation for being so terrible at donating in general and at donating to the right causes. If all of those things happen, moral progress will have been flat-out confirmed.

I don't think I should be a vegetarian. Thus at best I feel uneasy that people in four centuries thinking vegetarianism should be compulsory and at worst I'll be dismayed them spending time on activities related to that instead of things I value. If I thought that was great I'd already be vegetarian, duh.

Also I think I like some violence to be ok. Completely non-violent minds would be rather inhuman, and violence has some neat properties if viewed from the perspective of fun theory. In any case I strongly suspect the general non-violence trend (document by Pinker) in the past few thousand years was due to biological changes in humans because of our self-domestication. Your point on consent is questionable. Victim blaming as well since especially in the 20th century I would think all we saw was one set of scapegoats being swapped for another one.

This leads me to suspect Homer's FAI is probably different from my own FAI, is different from the FAI of 2400 AD values. If FAI2400 gets to play with the universe around forever, instead of FAI2012 I'd be rather pissed. Just because you see a trend line in moral change doesn't mean there is any reason to outsource your future value edits to. Isn't this the classical mistake of confusing is for should?

But if it was as you say then all our worries about CEV and FAI would be silly, since our society apparently already automagically is something very similar to what we want, we just need to figure out how to design it so that we can include emulated human minds into it while it continues working its thing.

Yay positive singularity problem solved!

Is moral progress a coherent concept? What is moral progress?

Short anser: Yes I tentatively think it is. I need to work to make my answer to the second question more explicit, if not into an independent essay, I'll be citing some thought done by Eliezer Yudkwoksy on CEV and will also be relying on James_G's concept of the eminent self.

Do you believe that there is no non-arbitrary way to define "moral progress", or you think that "moral progress" is a coherent concept, just we haven't experienced it?

I think moral progress is a coherent concept, I'm inclined to argue no human society so far has experience it, though obviously I can't rule out some outliers that did do so in certain time periods since this is such a huge set. we have so little data and there seems to be great variance in the kinds of values we seen in them.

"Moral progress" simply describes moral change or value drift in the speaker's preferred direction. Very confident (~95%).

I don't use it that way. I like lots of moral changes in the past 250 years but feel the process behind it isn't something I want to outsource morality to. Just like I like having opposable thumbs but feel uncomfortable letting evolution shape humans any further. We should do that ourselves so it doesn't grind down our complex values.

There are lots of people running around who think society in 1990 is somehow morally superior to society in 1890 on some metric of rightness beyond the similarity of their values to our own. This is the difference between someone being on the "wrong side of history" being merely a mistake in reasoning they should get over as soon as possible and it being a tragedy for them. A tragedy that perhaps kept repeating for every human society and individual in existence for nearly all of history.

This also suggests different strategies are appropriate for dealing with future moral change. I think we should be very cautious since I'm sure we don't understand the process. Modern Western civilization doesn't have narrative of "over time values became more and more like our own", but "over time morality got better and better and this gives our society meaning!". Its the difference between seeing "God guiding evolution" and confronting the full horror of Azathoth.

Do you think any human society ever experienced moral progress?

Hard to say, history is blurry, we do know the past 300 years well enough that I'm ok with this level certainty.

I'm far from comfortable saying that there was no moral progress in say some Medieval European societies. Not perhaps from our perspective, but from a sort of CEV-of-700 AD values looking at 1100 AD, who knows? I don't know enough to have a reasonable estimate.

There was also useful progress in philosophy made before the "Enlightenment" that sometimes captured previous values and preferences and fixed them up. But again nearly any society for which that is true there was also lots of harmful philosophy that mutated values in responses to various pressures.

If you can't produce evidence that moral progress ever happened and believe that it definitely hasn't happened in the recent past, why do you think that moral progress is a coherent concept?

I didn't say I had great confidence in moral progress being a coherent concept. But it seems plausible to me that acquiring more true beliefs and thinking about them clearly might lead to discovering some values are incoherent or unreachable and thus stop pursuing them.

Feedback at any stage is welcomed. Expect Frequent Edits

Note: I've had very good experiences with such public drafts so far and I recommend them to others.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-11-10T21:42:27.609Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The trend to moral progress has been one of less accepting of violence, [...] and less standing by while terrible things happen to others (or at least looking indignant at past instances of this).

I find this juxtaposition unintentionally hilarious. The reason modern society does so much looking indignant at past instances of terrible things happening to others, rather than stopping them while they are happening, is because the only way to stop them is to use violence oneself, which modern society is especially uncomfortable with.

In general this is the problem with attempting to blindly extrapolate present trends past the point where they come into conflict with other present trends.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T02:27:08.659Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But it seems plausible to me that acquiring more true beliefs and thinking about them clearly might lead to discovering some values are incoherent or unreachable and thus stop pursuing them.

Some people might reasonably, and coherently, value valuing incoherent or unreachable values (in, so to say, compartmentalized good faith - that is, you might know that an algorithm is incoherent, prone to dutch-booking, etc, but it still feels just fine from the inside) - just as some people think that belief in belief might have worth of its own, are consciously hypocritical, etc.
Therefore, I'm against such one-level optimizing-away of already held values; if you see that some specific value is total mess, you might instead just compartmentalize a little, etc.

(I believe I've already mentioned the above to you at some point.)

BTW, a classic example of people valuing an unreachable value: "Love thy enemies". (Once I had an awesome experience meditating on it.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-18T15:07:27.018Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know it's a first draft, but "Better Angels of Our Nature", much as I love the idea of being able to geometrize moral stature.

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis talks about utopian dreams means hoping that a small proportion of the human race will tyrannize over the whole future.

CEV is problematic if part of my idea of knowing more includes the idea of learning from experience. I don't have unlimited trust in extrapolation.

I don't know what you mean by violence having some good traits. I can imagine an improved society which permits low-level interpersonal violence with a strong norm that equivalent retaliation should be possible. I don't think there's anything gained by big wars, but I could be wrong.

"The wrong side of history" is a way of cheating in an argument. We don't know the future, and "the wrong side of history" just implies a belief that your side will continue to win. I'm willing to bet that "the wrong side of history" is used by people who aren't comfortable with making moral pronouncements.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-18T15:48:21.763Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I know it's a first draft, but "Better Angels of Our Nature", much as I love the idea of being able to geometrize moral stature.

More a text dump than anything else. Thank you for pointing out the typo thought.

I don't know what you mean by violence having some good traits.

Violence can be fun. I'd argue this is particularly true of "safe violence", that doesn't result in death or permanent injury. Otherwise we wouldn't include it so much in every aspect of entertainment, particularly interactive entertainment. We also have people who enjoy violence in their sexual lives.

I can imagine an improved society which permits low-level interpersonal violence with a strong norm that equivalent retaliation should be possible. I don't think there's anything gained by big wars, but I could be wrong.

Yes this is what I was going for.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-11-10T20:18:33.516Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what you mean by violence having some good traits.

Violence can be fun. I'd argue this is particularly true of "safe violence", that doesn't result in death or permanent injury. Otherwise we wouldn't include it so much in every aspect of entertainment, particularly interactive entertainment. We also have people who enjoy violence in their sexual lives.

I suspect the two of you are using “violence” with slightly different meanings.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-18T14:26:09.359Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would benefit from seeing a clear distinction made in these discussions between two different questions about moral progress:

1) Have moral intentions improved? Does a typical person educated in an advanced society have better moral intentions (never mind outcomes) than a typical person educated in a backward society?

2) Have moral outcomes improved? Are there in aggregate more moral events and less immoral events (never mind intentions) now than previously?

Of course there is no consensus on what "moral" means in either of these questions. I think Pinkerian "amount of violence" is a pretty good proxy for 2), but not for 1).

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-08-18T09:10:46.505Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your counterargument to Pinker is pretty central to this thing, but as it stands it seems to boil down to a not yet very convincing "I don't care for vegetarianism. Violence is occasionally entertaining." This part should be the one that makes the reader go, hm, maybe there's a point there, but it's currently doing nothing to make me stop classifying factory farming food industry and a preoccupation with violence as problems instead of things to cherish.

Moving on to

This leads me to suspect Homer's FAI is probably different from my own FAI, is different from the FAI of 2400 AD values. If FAI2400 gets to play with the universe around forever, instead of FAI2012 I'd be rather pissed.

this is also confusing. You're basically restating the exact problem CEV is for, without mentioning that CEV is for this problem. This also really only makes sense if you antropomorphize FAI into basically an equivalent of the cultural norms of the era. There are way too many unknown unknowns in how the basic cultural backdrop would come out in the end when operated on by an AI as compared to when operated on by collective human minds for the equating to outcomes of a culture run by humans to make much sense. I'm basically assuming that the hopefully better understanding of just how intelligence works at 2400 would dominate over whatever the human cultural norms are like for how FAI2400 as opposed to FAI2012 would come out.

If I wanted to attack the thesis that we're experiencing moral progress due to cultural evolution, I'd go for looking at how we currently have unprecedented energy resources at our disposal, and can afford a great deal more social signaling of every sort than in pretty much any other point in history, and how the past 300 years we've been on a rising gradient towards the current level of resource use.

From historical perspective, I'd be interested if we can quantify any sort of differences in moral progress separate from material progress in the various geographically and culturally separate historical large civilizations, and what we can make of the collapse of the Roman Empire into the Early Middle Ages.

The article might also try to say something about what it could mean for a society to be moral, independent of how technologically advanced and resource-rich the society is.

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-11-10T18:53:52.667Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I should be a vegetarian.

You bastard.

EDIT: That's a joke, in case it's not clear.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-11-10T19:10:50.014Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is plain false because my parents are married. However this isn't usually how we do moral arguments around here, are you new to the site?

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-11-10T19:33:03.564Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That was a joke.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-11-10T19:34:59.695Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Went right over my head, sorry. :)

comment by MugaSofer · 2012-11-10T19:41:33.809Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You probably weren't the only one, its famously hard to convey tone using text.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-11-10T20:13:02.201Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-17T21:22:02.682Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I wish my mother had aborted me-- extreme utilitarianism.

comment by Nisan · 2012-08-22T19:48:05.951Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A good article. It's not extreme at all, though. Anyone who believes that sometimes abortion is the right choice has got to agree that abortion would have been the right choice for the author's mother.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-29T00:25:34.842Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Simple explanation of meta-analysis; below is a copy of my attempt to explain basic meta-analysis on the DNB ML. I thought I might reuse it elsewhere, and I'd like to know whether it really is a good explanation or needs fixing.


Hm, I don't really know of any such explanation; there's Wikipedia, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-analysis

A useful concept is the hierarchy of evidence: we all know anecdote are close to worthless, correlations or surveys fairly weak, experiments good, randomized experiments better, controlled randomized experiments much better, and blind controlled randomized experiments best. If a randomized experiment contradicts an anecdote, we know to believe the experiment; and if a blind controlled randomized experiment contradicts an experiment, we know to believe the blind controlled randomized experiment. But what happens when we have a bunch of studies on the same level... which don't agree? What do we do if only 3 out of 5 experiments report the same result? We need to somehow combine the 5 experiments into 1 final result. The process of combining them is a "meta-analysis".

What parts of the experiments get combined may surprise you if you've read a few papers. Meta-analyses usually presume you know what an 'effect size' is. This is different from stuff like p-values, even though p-values are what everyone usually focuses on when judging results! The difference is that p-values say whether there is a difference between the control and experiment, while effect sizes say how big the difference is. It turns out that you can't really combine p-values from different studies, but you can combine effect sizes.

Each study gives you an effect size, based on the averages and standard deviation (how variable or jumpy the data is). What do you do with 10 effect sizes? How do you combine or add or aggregate them? That's where meta-analysis comes in.

You could just treat each as a vote: if 6 of the effect sizes are positive, and 4 are negative, then declare victory: "There's an effect of X size." (Some of the first meta-analyses, like the famous one combining studies of psychic effects, did just this.)

But what if some of the effects are huge, like 0.9, and all the others are 0.1? If we just vote, we get 0.1 since that's the majority. But is 0.1 really the right answer here? Doesn't seem like it.

So instead of voting, let's average! We add up the 10 studies and get something like +5; then divide by 10 and get 0.5 as our estimate. Much more reasonable: 0.9 seems too high like they may be outliers, but 0.1 is kind of weird since we did get some 0.9s; we split the difference.

But studies don't always have the same number of subjects, and as we all know, the more subjects or data you have, the better an estimate you have of the true value. A study with 10 students in it is worth much less than a study which used 10,000 students! A simple average ignores this truth.

So let's weight each effect size by how many subjects/datapoints it had in it: the effect size from the study with 10 students is much smaller* than the one from 10,000 students. So now if the first 9 studies have ~10 datapoints, and the 10th study has 1000 datapoints, those 9 count as, say, 1/10th* the last study since they totaled ~100 to its 1,000.

So each effect size gets weighted by how many datapoints went into making it, and then they're averaged together as before to give One Effect Size To Rule Them All.

With this done, we can start looking at other questions like:

  • confidence intervals (this One Effect Size is not exactly right, of course, but how far away is it from the true effect size?)
  • heterogeneity (are we comparing apples and apples? or did we include some oranges)
  • or biases (funnel plots and trim-and-fill: does it look like some studies are missing?)

These other factors help us in the unlikely case that we have multiple meta-analyses at odds:

  • which meta-analysis is made up of studies higher on the hierarchy? A meta-analysis of experiments beats a meta-analysis of surveys, just like experiments beat surveys.
  • which has more studies in it?
  • which has smaller confidence intervals?
  • which has lower heterogeneity?
  • which looks better on the bias checks? etc.

An example of the further questions we can ask:

In the case of the DNB meta-analysis, we can look at the One Effect Size over all studies which was something like 0.5. But some studies are high and some are low; is there any way to predict which are high and low? Is there some characteristic that might cause the effect sizes to be high or low? I suspected that there was: the methodological critique of active vs passive control groups. (I actually suspected this before the Melby meta-analysis came out, which did the same thing over a larger selection of WM-related studies.)

So I subcategorize the effect sizes from active control groups and the ones with passive control groups, and I do 2 smaller separate meta-analyses on each category. Did the 2 smaller meta-analyses spit out roughly the same answer as the full meta-analysis? No, they did not! They spat out quite different answers: studies with passive control groups found that the effect size was large, and studies with active control groups found that the effect size was small. This serves as very good evidence that yes, the critique is right, since it's not that likely that a random split of studies would separate them so nicely.

And that's the meat of my meta-analysis. I hope this was helpful?

* how much smaller? Well, that's where statistics comes in. It's not a simple linear sort of thing: 100 subjects is not 10x better than 10 subjects, but less than 10x better. Diminishing returns. Some formula and power calculations in https://plus.google.com/u/0/103530621949492999968/posts/i4RB2DHnW5y

comment by siodine · 2012-08-29T14:08:12.163Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great explanation, but I think you could improve it by putting it within the context of the hierarchy of evidence (i.e., how it should be weighted as evidence), and mentioning its flaws. Often in skeptic circles I saw people using meta-analyses as the nuclear option in arguments with alternative medicine supporters or such -- things got awkward when both sides had a meta-analysis in their favor.

Actually, I'm surprised someone hasn't made a post on how to weight research in general (that probably means someone has).

comment by gwern · 2012-08-31T03:09:58.660Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I've edited it heavily. How is it now?

comment by siodine · 2012-08-31T15:04:03.296Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

http://i.imgur.com/rOmjZ.gif

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-21T21:46:55.408Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Questions about Eliezer's Metaethics

According to Eliezer’s metaethics, morality incorporates the concept of reflective equilibrium. Given that presumably every part of my mind gets entangled with my output if I reflect long enough on some topic, isn’t Eliezer’s metaethics equivalent to saying that “right” refers to the output of X, where X is a detailed object-level specification of my entire mind as a computation?

In principle, X could decide to search for some sort of inscribed-in-stone morality out in the physical universe (and adopt whatever it finds or nihilism if it finds none), so Eliezer’s metaethics doesn’t even seem to rule out that kind of "objective" morality. To me, a satisfactory solution to metaethics might be an algorithm for computing morality that can be isolated from the rest of a human mind, along with some explanation of why this algorithm can be said to compute morality, and some conclusions about what properties the algorithm and its output might have. Is Eliezer’s theory essentially a negative one, that such a solution to metaethics isn’t possible?

X is supposed to be a stand-alone description of a computation and not something like “whatever computation my brain does” . But I do not have introspective access to most of my mind nor hold a copy of it as a quine. How can I mean X when I say “morality” if I don’t know what X is and also can’t give a logical/mathematical definition that unpacks into X? Is there a theory of semantics that makes it clear that words can sensibly have meanings like this?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T12:01:38.858Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To me, a satisfactory solution to metaethics might be an algorithm for computing morality that can be isolated from the rest of a human mind

The problem is finding this algorithm. After you find it, you may isolate it from the human mind.

It's like if humans would instinctively calculate 2+2, but we wouldn't be aware of what exactly are we doing. So we would need some way to discover that we actually calculate 2+2. Later, when this fact is known and verified, we can make machines that calculate 2+2 without having to inspect human mind.

along with some explanation of why this algorithm can be said to compute morality

Such explanation would include comparing with a human mind. You can explain that the machine calculates 2+2. But to explain that the machine does the same thing that humans instinctively do, you need to compare it with a human mind.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-28T12:49:21.332Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A decade after Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo? by Ed West

As Pinker recalls: “Research on human nature would be controversial in any era, but the new science picked a particularly bad decade in which to attract the spotlight. In the 1970s many intellectuals had become political radicals. Marxism was correct, liberalism was for wimps, and Marx had pronounced that ‘the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class’. The traditional misgivings about human nature were folded into a hard-left ideology, and scientists who examined the human mind in a biological context were now considered tools of a reactionary establishment.”

So Richard Herrnstein was called a racist for arguing, in 1971, that “since differences in intelligence are partly inherited, and since intelligent people tend to marry other intelligent people, when a society becomes more just it will also become more stratified along genetic lines”, even though he was not even discussing race. He received death threats and his lecture halls were filled with chanting mobs.

Then there was EO Wilson, whose Sociobiology concluded that some universals, including the moral sense, may come from a human nature shaped by natural selection. The aim of the book was to describe things such as violence and altruism through evolution, yet a widely-read article by a group of academics accused him of promoting theories that “led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany”.

As Pinker says: “The accusation that Wilson (a lifelong liberal Democrat) was led by personal prejudice to defend racism, sexism, inequality, slavery and genocide was especially unfair – and irresponsible, because Wilson became a target of vilification and harassment by people who read the manifesto but not the book.”

comment by fezziwig · 2012-08-28T20:56:50.357Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure this counts as wearing a clown suit to school.

I don't think it is. These are not new ideas, there are lots of people wearing this particular clown suit, and the unfortunate thing for Pinker is that most of them are clowns. That maybe strikes you as unfair, but I think even Pinker would agree that the quality of his supporters is uneven, at best.

This is just your garden-variety unpopular opinion.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-29T05:17:50.999Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you are right, I sort of pattern matched it to cryonics as something that feels like lonely dissent because while there are other's in the world who support your idea you aren't likely to ever encounter them in your everyday life.

most of them are clowns.

Not among the set of scientists.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-28T10:30:54.686Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose you are pretty sure the society you are living in is evil, beyond your power to destroy and unlikely to ever reform.

How would you deal with the psychological toll of such a life? What strategies and approaches would you recommend?

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2012-08-28T11:56:06.939Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How high are your standards for non-evilness? Singapore and Switzerland seem non-evil to me and are reasonably easy to immigrate to.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-28T14:10:03.912Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How high are your standards for non-evilness?

Probably unreasonably high. The thing is I'm currently not sure there is a non-evil human society around.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-28T11:19:29.783Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Move to a less evil society. Better yet, move to a good society, assuming such a thing exists.

Otherwise, keep you head down. Do what the society compels you to do (pay your taxes, obey the laws, etc.) because there is no sense fighting against it if there is no significant chance of reform.

Beyond that, try to live as though you lived in a good society. Focus on following your passions, finding a romantic partner, getting a fulfilling job, and so on.

comment by Incorrect · 2012-08-31T05:39:57.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/lw/sc/existential_angst_factory/

You could try self-modifying to not hate evil people ("hate the sin not the sinner"). Here's some emotional arguments that might help (I make no claim as to their logical coherence):

If there was only one person in existence and they were evil, would you want them to be punished or blessed? Who would it serve to punish them?

If you are going to excuse people with mental illness you are going to have to draw some arbitrary line along the gradient from "purposely evil" to "evil because of mental illness." Also consider the gradient of moral responsibility from child to adult.

If someone who was once evil completely reformed would you still see value in punishing them? Would you wish you hadn't punished them while they were still evil?

Although someone may have had a guilty mind at the moment of their crime, do they still at the moment of punishment? What if you are increasing the quantum measure of an abstracted isomorphic experience of suffering?

comment by Costanza · 2012-08-27T17:09:20.566Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

X is in a category whose archetypal member has certain features.

I don't always judge X. But when I do, I judge X as if it also had those features. Stay thirsty, my friends.

--The Worst Argument in the World

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T15:44:50.733Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why hate loan givers?

I find myself asking is why was the practice of making loans with interest rates so unpopular in antiquity? I always assumed this was about excessive interest rates (whatever those are), however it now seems to me that usury was about charging any interest on loans.

Some of the earliest known condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India. Similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At times many nations from ancient China to ancient Greece to ancient Rome have outlawed loans with any interest. Though the Roman Empire eventually allowed loans with carefully restricted interest rates, in medieval Europe, the Christian church banned the charging of interest at any rate (as well as charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change).

comment by Athrelon · 2012-10-05T16:33:25.559Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Per Gregory Clark in A Farewell to Alms, the ancients had noticeably less future time-orientation than modern people. Furthermore, there were relatively few ways to make profitable investments - it's not as though a farmer could take loans out to buy a tractor.

In that context, lending is more akin to drug dealing than responsible investing. It hooks in people with poor self-control who will spend it on consumption not investment. So the logical thing to do is to crack down on the practice. Yes there are some responsible users who lose out, but that's far outweighed by the benefit to those who'd end up in debtor's prison after blowing the cash on one glorious drunken weekend.

I mean, we as a civilization still have a problem with payday loans.

comment by gwern · 2012-10-05T20:41:42.496Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Per Gregory Clark in A Farewell to Alms, the ancients had noticeably less future time-orientation than modern people. Furthermore, there were relatively few ways to make profitable investments - it's not as though a farmer could take loans out to buy a tractor.

Did we read the same book? Clark's whole point was that there were many secure (eg. his argument that property rights were more secure in early Britain than during the Industrial Revolution) high-paying investments; this surprised me so much that I recorded one snippet from chapter 9 in my Evernotes:

All societies before 1400 for which we have sufficient evidence to calculate interest rates show high rates by modern standards [with ~0% inflation].5 In ancient Greece loans secured by real estate generated returns of close to 10 percent on average all the way from the fifth century to the second century BC. The temple of Delos, which received a steady inflow of funds in offerings, invested them at a standard 10 percent mortgage rate throughout this period.6 Land in Roman Egypt in the first three centuries AD produced a typical return of 9–10 percent. Loans secured by land typically earned an even higher return of 12 percent.7

... Medieval India had similarly high interest rates. Hindu law books of the first to ninth centuries AD allow interest of 15 percent of the face amount of loans secured by pledges of property, and 24–30 percent of loans with only personal security. Inscriptions recording perpetual temple endowments from the tenth century AD in southern India show a typical income yield of 15 percent of the investment.8 The return on these temple investments in southern India was still at least 10 percent in 1535–47, much higher than European interest rates by this time. At Tirupati Temple at the time of the Vijayanagar Empire the temple invested in irrigation improvements at a 10 percent return to the object of the donor. But since the temple only collected 63 percent on average of the rent of the irrigated land, the social return from these investments was as high as 16 percent.9

While the rates quoted above are high, those quoted for earlier agrarian economies are even higher. In Sumer, the precursor to ancient Babylonia, between 3000 and 1900 BC rates of interest on loans of silver (as opposed to grain) were 20–25 percent. In Babylonia between 1900 and 732 BC the normal rates of return on loans of silver were 10–25 percent.10 In the sixth century BC the average rate on a sample of loans in Babylonia was 16–20 percent, even though these loans were typically secured by houses and other property. In the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century debt cases brought to court revealed interest rates of 10–20 percent.11

EDIT: Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations:

In Bengal, money is frequently lent to the farmers at forty, fifty, and sixty per cent. Twelve per cent, is said to be the common interest of money in China, and the ordinary profits of stock must be sufficient to afford this large interest.

comment by Athrelon · 2012-10-05T22:16:06.122Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it looks like you're right that there were significant investment opportunities even with BC technology, unlike what I assumed. We can quibble over whether these investment opportunities were "deep" or one-offs, but it seems reasonable that irrigating farms is something you can invest a lot in before hitting diminishing returns.

This is still a strange phenomenon: on one hand you have potential investments with high rates of return, even with risk adjustments - yet market interest rates were very high, showing few people were willing to make those investments. Clark's argument is that this demonstrates low ability to delay gratification among the ancients.

This being the case, although there evidently were opportunities for loans to be put to good investment purposes, it looks like there was a strong psychological impulse to blow it on consumption - maybe comparable to the behavior of the Western poor today. It is still plausible that restricting moneylending was good policy if the good borrowing:bad borrowing ratio was unfavorable enough.

comment by gwern · 2012-10-05T20:44:11.225Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I ran into a relevant paper on the 'economics of religion' which offers some interesting theories:

As one example of the approach, consider Ekelund et al.'s treatment of the church's usury doctrine (analyzed more formally in Ekelund, Robert Hébert, and Tollison 1989). Here rent seeking is seen as the primary motivation for the maintenance of a particular doctrine. The central church's monopoly position allowed it to extract rents from downstream producers (the clergy) and from input suppliers (banks) by controlling the borrowing and lending interest rates. The authors argue that usury rules enabled the church to borrow at low rates while lending (through papal bankers) at much higher rates, and they cite many sources spanning several centuries to defend their claims.

One can, however, tell a very different, though perhaps not mutually exclusive, story. Carr and Landa (1983, p. 153) and Edward Glaeser and José Scheinkman (forthcoming) argue that usury laws acted as a form of social insurance against shocks that were not otherwise insurable. In all societies, but especially simple agrarian ones, individuals face the constant threat of bad harvests and other unpredictable disasters. Interest rate restrictions can benefit the victims of bad shocks (who will have high demand for credit) while penalizing those who had experienced good shocks (and are thus in a position to lend). Glaeser and Scheinkman formalize this model and derive a variety of nonobvious predictions, including some that they test using American data. The model's greatest appeal lies in its ability to account for the pervasive nature of interest restrictions, which arise in societies and religious traditions far removed from those of medieval Europe.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T17:43:29.460Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does human intuition need to be explained, or just mapped? There are explanations available for why there are many cities along rivers, and they are of positive but limited value if you want to understand why Baghdad is where it is. The history of usury laws tells a very interesting story about human intuition, and it can be used to make predictions about people's reactions to similar but novel proposals. But how to tell if there should be a more elegant explanation?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-27T17:47:59.066Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does human intuition need to be explained, or just mapped?

Explaining intuitions gives insight into whether they are useful. And yes even in this case I do leave the possibility open that all ursury is bad for reasons I don't yet understand despite the consensus among economists on it.

But your question is actually a poignant one since it is one we should have clearly answered at nearly any step of the entire LessWrong project of building up human rationality, yet I don't recall us attempting to do so.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-05T16:17:40.118Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Bahá'í Faith

Is Usury Good ?:

Interestingly enough, in the tablet of Ishraqat, Baha'u'llah explicity lifts the ban on usury formerly instituted in Islam. ...

I wonder what has changed in 1300 years that it was once under the "devils influence", destined to "incur hell", and is now "lawful and pure" and instrumental to worship with "joy and fragrance, happiness and exultation"? I don't mean this flippantly, I am really interested to know if there are practical reasons for such an abrupt shift, similar to the lifting of the ban on eating pork.

Ancient Middle East

Johnson, Paul: A History of the Jews (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1987) ISBN 0-06-091533-1, pp. 172–73.

"Among the Mesopotamians, Hittites, Phoenicians and Egyptians, interest was legal and often fixed by the state. But the Hebrew took a different view of the matter."

Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou puttest thy hand unto, in the land whither thou goest in to possess it."

comment by Kindly · 2012-08-27T17:22:51.948Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Probably because it would have had less of an impact if the Bible had said "Thou shalt not lend upon interest greater than 6% to thy brother."

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T12:13:12.413Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another example of how reading LW ruined the pleasure from reading the most of the internet:

Robot learns to recognise itself in mirror

Recognizing oneself in a mirror is considered a sign of self-awareness. Therefore, if we program a robot to say the words "this is me" when it sees an image of itself in a mirror, the robot becomes self-aware, right?

Or it could be just a cheap hack that does not prove anything. For example if we sprayed the robot with a different color, it would not recognize itself in a mirror even after billion years of contemplation.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-21T09:31:50.513Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For your enjoyment: a somewhat-rationalist Harry Potter-Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic.

comment by drethelin · 2012-08-28T20:40:35.090Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My problem with this fic is the same as with Brutal Harry: Instead of taking a harry with no changes but a different personality and bringing him into the wizarding world, both fics immediately start with giving harry new magic powers.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-17T09:02:36.403Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Every now and then, I want to use the expression "the map is not the territory" when writing something aimed at a non-LW audience. Naturally, in addition to briefly explaining what I mean by that in the text itself, I'd prefer to make the sentence a link to an illustrative LW post. However, I'm not sure of what would be a good page to link - the wiki has three (1 2 3) pages about the subject, but I'm not sure if any one of them is very good for this purpose. Suggestions?

comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T16:49:38.681Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To reduce the inferential distance, remove the metaphor or replace it with one appropriate for your audience. "Belief is not reality", "wishing does not make it so" are some examples. Once people are comfortable with the idea, you can introduce the map/territory metaphor and link first to the Wikipedia entry. Wikipedia generally has more credibility than any niche site like LW. The "simple truth" parable on yudkowsky.net is quite engaging, but rather wordy and vague, and so should not be a primary reading, but rather a supplementary one.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T17:01:25.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like your examples, perhaps someone could do something like this for LW jargon.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-18T08:24:22.047Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People mean different things by "the map is not the territory". For instance, it's sometimes used to say "no description is perfectly accurate" whereas other times it's more like "be careful not to confuse levels of reference." And sometimes it's more like a critique of magical thinking: "changing the map doesn't change the territory."

There's a Wikipedia article about it, too ... which also isn't especially great ...

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T03:29:52.965Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what a 'model' is. Someone play taboo with me, and tell me about how theories work. Literally speaking, a model, like, airplane is isomorphic to some degree or another to the real airplane of which it is a model. Is that how a scientific theory works? Is there some isomorphism between the parts of the theory and things in the world?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-08-16T06:54:01.639Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Literally speaking, a model, like, airplane is isomorphic to some degree or another to the real airplane of which it is a model. Is that how a scientific theory works? Is there some isomorphism between the parts of the theory and things in the world?

Yes, just like that.

In science, a model is a set of variables that stand for physical quantities, together with a set of relationships between those variables, which are asserted to correspond with the relationships among the physical quantities. The relationships are typically expressed mathematically.

For example, s = (at^2)/2, where s is the distance travelled in time t by an object under constant acceleration a starting from rest. This is a model of what happens when you drop something.

More generally, there is a Wikipedia page, which is sound but I think over-complicates the idea (and the section on "Business process modelling" doesn't belong there at all), and even more so the disambiguation page for "Model", but the same fundamental idea runs through the whole.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T17:22:34.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A model is a map of the territory. For example, we could create an emulation of a light bulb using the most the most basic understanding of a light bulb. I.e., you flip a switch, magic goes through a wire, and on goes the light bulb. Or if you wished (and could) make the model more accurate, you would go down to the level of electrons, or even further. However, you wouldn't want a model at the most fundamental level if you're trying to understand how artificial light affects human behavior, for example. Models are a tool for explaining, understanding, and predicting phenomena conveniently.

comment by billswift · 2012-08-19T04:17:46.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or for representing phenomena in an altered "format". For example, I have read a description of the bimetallic spring in a thermostat as a model of the room's temperature presented in a way that the furnace can make use of it.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-08-29T11:52:08.484Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Karma for the last 30 days appears to be displaying 0 for all users.

Relatedly, is there a bug report link somewhere permanent on LW? Could there be? (Should there be?)

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-08-23T13:48:37.734Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

William Thurston: On proof and progress in mathematics. Good stuff on the more unformal core bits of mathematics here.

Mathematicians have developed habits of communication that are often dysfunctional. Organizers of colloquium talks everywhere exhort speakers to explain things in elementary terms. Nonetheless, most of the audience at an average colloquium talk gets little of value from it. Perhaps they are lost within the first 5 minutes, yet sit silently through the remaining 55 minutes. Or perhaps they quickly lose interest because the speaker plunges into technical details without presenting any reason to investigate them. At the end of the talk, the few mathematicians who are close to the field of the speaker ask a question or two to avoid embarrassment.

This pattern is similar to what often holds in classrooms, where we go through the motions of saying for the record what we think the students “ought” to learn, while the students are trying to grapple with the more fundamental issues of learning our language and guessing at our mental models. Books compensate by giving samples of how to solve every type of homework problem. Professors compensate by giving homework and tests that are much easier than the material “covered” in the course, and then grading the homework and tests on a scale that requires little understanding. We assume that the problem is with the students rather than with communication: that the students either just don’t have what it takes, or else just don’t care.

Outsiders are amazed at this phenomenon, but within the mathematical community, we dismiss it with shrugs.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-20T18:45:12.415Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

kickstarter, how to

Miniatures company aims for 30K, is over 1M with 5 days to go. Possibly of interest here because it's a fine example of understanding what motivates people.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-21T09:32:21.524Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One for the startups thread?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-22T05:29:28.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have a problem if you want to put it there.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T17:07:01.755Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Lure of the Void (Part 1) a recent blog post on Urban Future on the culture of space travel in the West.

comment by billswift · 2012-08-19T03:55:53.464Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That has a link to a new article by Sylvia Engdahl who has written on the importance of space for years, http://www.sylviaengdahl.com/space.htm

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T00:07:59.126Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Any LWers with recommendations for ways to improve social skills? Right now, I can more-or-less hold a conversation, but I tend to overthink what to say and end up not saying anything, and I just generally lack confidence. How much benefit would I get from, say, joining an improv class or doing (more) rejection therapy?

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T18:03:42.310Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think the most important realization re typical conversation is that its purpose is not for information exchange, it's for bonding (like apes picking nits off each other). A good conversationalist has a lot of anecdotes (and continually generates more), listens and mentally models others well, and makes no overt attempts at lowering the status of others within the conversation (this could be something as seemingly innocuous as pointing out that someone is wrong about something).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-17T18:39:38.617Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nerds bond by exchanging information.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T18:44:25.878Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, nerds are atypical in many ways. Also, you could form information into compelling anecdotes/stories like the best science journalists do (Carl Zimmer comes to mind).

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-08-16T03:10:54.107Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Practice conversation and you will get better at it. That's it. More helpfully, if there is a random stranger near you, you can open them and talk for a bit about any random smalltalk bull you like. This will improve general conversation skills. If you live in a large anonymous city you don't need to care if people think that's weird because people will not be getting together to share these impressions. Advice I picked up from reading PUAshit; jump between topics without feeling the need to link them or segue at all. Advice that sounds good that I haven't tried out; record yourself in conversation to pick out flaws. Oh, and pause, don't um. Improv will help, and remember, keep calm and carry on.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-16T07:50:59.814Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, choose topics where inferential distance for a random person is small. This is what allows talking instead of explaining, and easy jumping between the topics. Avoid controversial topics, such as money, politics, religion.

A good topic is easy to understand, and does not divide people into opposing groups.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T14:44:42.530Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What topics aren't controversial and within a short inferential distance from most people? My intuition is that this is close to the definition of "boring".

comment by billswift · 2012-08-19T04:21:09.588Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Listen to actual conversation sometime, most of it is excruciatingly boring if you think about it in terms of information. But as other posters have pointed out, most conversation is about social bonding, not exchanging information.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-26T15:51:51.673Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This all looks like good advice; thanks. I think my main problem is that I have trouble mustering up the guts to actually do these things. I just don't talk to strangers.

Maybe I could get around that by precommitting to social interaction? Like signing up for improv like you say, or with stickk, or by going on some sort of working holiday?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-22T18:37:57.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you're not really good at reading feedback, practice won't help in the least. People will be polite to you, which you won't distinguish from pleased, and quietly hate you.

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2012-08-23T02:45:46.781Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Really good is helpful, very helpful, but not necessary.If what you're saying is that practicing on randomers you won't meet again is low EV given poor is people reading skills, sureis. But iwhat's higher? And for people with over sensitive rejection detectors or general anxiety practice is good even if all you get out of it is calmer.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-23T06:35:04.888Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Getting in group conversations, then mostly shutting up and watching. Most people will be decent conversationalists to learn from, you'll be able to watch reactions more closely than if you were concentrating on talking at the same time, and they'll gossip about the absent which will tell you what to avoid.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-08-25T09:22:43.511Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What worked for me better than anything was standing on a busy sidewalk holding a sign that said "Free Hugs" for a few hours. I came away feeling very high status and had a friendly, open orientation towards everyone I saw.

Another idea is to play the eye contact game lukeprog mentions in one of his skill-building posts: stare in to a friend's eyes for 15 minutes straight. Seems to have permanently made me way more comfortable maintaining eye contact (this is more than a year after doing the exercise).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-26T15:39:30.878Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the advice. The second one in particular is surprising because most of the once-off life-changes I've tried have had no effect on me a week or two later. I've added both to my list of "things I'll wish I'd done sooner", from where I'll hopefully make concrete plans to actually execute them.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-08-20T14:52:16.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm also interested in this. I want to know what specific social situations I can put myself in to build social skills. Raw exposure doesn't seem to work well for and in any case isn't time effective.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T23:46:12.965Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you feel you lack confidence you could try exposure as others have suggested. If you want put yourself in an awkward situation you could maybe Skype with me or someone ells willing. That way you can pick out the flaws afterwards as Barry pointed out .

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-26T15:53:42.551Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the skype offer. Maybe as a stepping-stone to real social interaction I could try talking to lots of random people online via chatroulette or something similar?

comment by palladias · 2012-08-16T17:01:12.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I notice that you've listed things you do that are not working. Can you think of people you interact with who seem to have achieved victory? What do they do? How do other people respond? It may be easier to decide if improv or rejection therapy is helping if you have more metrics to check to see if people are comfortable and/or enjoying conversations with you.

Feelings of confidence are an internal signal, and not a very trustworthy one, since you will feel unconfident when you're experimenting. Look for some external signals like the body language of people you're talking to (arms uncrossed, duchenne smiles, etc). Combine rejection therapy and data gathering and ask some friends outright what you could improve. (Tell them to be specific).

One thing that I did was to notice some people who seemed good at socializing and then just try to impersonate some aspects of what they did. Don't mimic to the point of parody, but pick out a few specific things they do (relaxed, splayed leg body language, asks questions to draw out others, etc) and then just try them out for a week.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-08-24T19:45:52.969Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Other people seem to be able to sit down and assimilate themselves into a group conversation, when I do this I rarely end up saying anything.

Yeah, I think that feeling unconfident is largely the cause, so it's something that I should try to avoid even though it is an especially poor internal signal. I should try to make myself update on some more reliable signals like those.

Yeah, I should try that more. My main issues with mimicing successful people is that I have trouble mustering the emotion to do it effectively.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2012-08-17T06:06:51.357Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Social abilities are useful when you are prepared to say awful things like agreeing, when disagree. People would reward if they feel you are part of they social/groupthinking. For this infere that there is habilities you could train in terms of general competence, but is is better to have some specific groups in mind.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T00:03:29.354Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is there any sort of prevailing opinion in LW about diet? For instance, paleo, IF, CR, etc. The only posts I could find are inconclusive and from years back.

comment by Sly · 2012-08-16T19:06:15.161Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

A very simple and easy first step is cutting out all liquids except for water (if that is too difficult, start with the soda). This helps a lot.

comment by Dallas · 2012-08-16T04:00:56.262Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think there is a vague consensus that, all other things equal, eating less will make you lose weight and eating more will make you gain weight? I might have seen someone post a counterexample at least once, but I might simply be misremembering.

comment by jsteinhardt · 2012-08-25T09:12:21.373Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Paleo seems to be popular around here but I am pretty skeptical of it actually being a good idea (I am open to updating if evidence is presented). Intermittent fasting is the only thing I really feel like I can recommend, and even that is something that will work for some people but not others (did not work for me, but LeanGains makes specific enough predictions that a sufficiently large number of people seem satisfied by that I am convinced it is a real phenomenon).

Also fixing any deficiencies you have (more water if you are dehydrated, for instance; probably more protein if you are a vegetarian).

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-16T01:21:56.665Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you're looking for a good diet, the first question is - a good diet for what?

comment by Manfred · 2012-08-20T16:08:29.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The consensus I've picked up is that if you focus on just eating the right macronutrients and getting some exercise, everything else usually works out - try to replace sugar, refined starch, and processed fruit/vegetable product with protein, lowish glycemic index starch, and less bland fruit/veg.

Another idea that was useful to me is that mass-produced food has to have a low water content, or else it goes bad really quickly, and so replacing water with fat is a great way to make mass-produced food better. But in fresh food there's no such limitation. This means that eating fresher food basically substitutes fat for water in a lot of your food items.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T17:36:56.645Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Make it difficult to consume more calories than the amount of calories necessary for maintaining your target weight. E.g., make it such that you need to eat a lot of food everyday to reach the maintenance level for your target weight (fast food, e.g., makes it very very easy to go over that target). Or you only eat after a certain time late in the day.

  2. Religiously monitor your progress. Take pictures of your back, side, front every week. Weigh yourself everyday. Take measurements -- use us navy body fat calculator. Find a way to show off your progress. (This is all purely motivational.)

  3. Do the kind of exercise that you will excel at with your desired body type. If you want to be muscular, do a lot of body weight exercises. If you want to be lean, do a lot of long distance running. But note that some body types require different nutritional compositions.

  4. This must be a lifestyle change, and not a temporary thing to just lose fat.

  5. You need to believe it will work, and continually adapt to setbacks.

eta: this is what I've gathered from the research showing the strategies of people successful at losing body fat and maintaining a lower bf%.

comment by OpenThreadGuy · 2012-08-30T02:18:53.381Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Congratulations to Vladimir Nesov for passing Anna Salamon in karma and making it to the top contributors, all time list.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-28T21:39:31.647Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tomorrow, I begin an Intro to Ethics class at university. (I need it for a General Education requirement.) I found out that the professor is a Continental philosopher, possibly with Marxist influences. My cursory reading of Continental philosophy doesn't give me a good impression of the field.

I'm trying to reserve judgment until I experience the class, but I'm worried it will be a miserable exercise in guessing the teacher's password... I'll still (likely) get an 'A', but it might be a very trying experience.

I think my fear is illustrated by the oft-quoted experience of Danielle Egan:

I remember this paper I wrote on existentialism. My teacher gave it back with an F. She’d underlined true and truth wherever it appeared in the essay, probably about twenty times, with a question mark beside each. She wanted to know what I meant by truth.

Can someone please give me a pep talk? Advice?

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-29T01:43:18.940Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

See what you can learn. Try to steel-man the arguments that you encounter. If you're faced with bad arguments then three things that you can focus on (in declining order of priority) are: 1) what good points are in the neighborhood of this argument, 2) what is the central flaw of this argument (which gets at its core), and 3) why would someone find this argument plausible? #3 is especially useful if it can lead you back towards 1 & 2.

In most philosophy classes, you can get a good grade if you make clear arguments, and clearly lay out the arguments that you disagree with before expressing your reasons for disagreement. So it's probably worth at least giving that a try (especially if you have opportunities to try it out early in the class that won't have much effect on your final grade). If it doesn't go smoothly, before jumping to the mind-numbing "guess the password" solution, try looking at it as a problem of inferential distance. Are there ways of getting your points across more clearly based on how you frame your argument, what background information you give, which claims you leave out of your argument (because they are inessential and too many inferential steps away), etc.?

I took several philosophy-related classes (in a few different departments), and only had one where I had to do something like guessing the teacher's password. In that class the professor was a postmodernist type, who designed the course as a way to explain his worldview and assigned papers for us to write that had to follow a template that fit within his worldview. On the whole that class was a good experience. I didn't have to worry much about password-guessing except when writing those papers; in class I was sincere & engaged and focused on inferential distance (including trying to point out flaws in his reasoning in class discussion in a way that was concise, catchy to other students, and non-annoying). It took some thinking to figure out what was going on in his worldview, and where the main flaws were, which seemed like a useful exercise. I learned some things, and could have learned more if I'd put more effort into steel-manning; looking back there were a lot of arguments in the same neighborhood as Robin Hanson's points about signaling, group affiliation, and X not being about X (as well as contorted versions of other valuable LW ideas, like warnings about the mind projection fallacy). There wasn't room within the papers I wrote to raise questions about his worldview, given how the assignments were structured, but I was careful to notice when I was bullshitting or glossing over things to fit the assignment (with one paper I even created a version with footnotes that identified the flaws in what I was writing; I turned in the footnote-free version).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-30T19:59:08.581Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for taking the time to respond! I found your advice helpful. If you're curious about how my experience was of the class, see this comment.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-08-30T04:32:42.513Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, how did the first day go?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-30T19:57:38.944Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To answer your question from the other post, the class is relatively small. About 20 people, all sat in a circle.

Thanks for asking! The first day went okay. He said some wonky things about the divisions between science, philosophy, and "faith," as well as that atheism is a faith. But beyond that, he seemed really nice and approachable. I get the impression that he's a fair grader, as well.

I stopped by his office this morning during office hours, and we talked about philosophy and science for about an hour. We have some obvious disagreements, but he seemed genuinely curious in where I was coming from and was interested in talking more. At times I found it very difficult to bridge the inferential gaps. I am a bit down on myself for not doing as well as I would have liked, but on balance I think it was a good experience.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-08-30T20:11:18.417Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thats good to hear.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-08-29T01:53:17.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First look at the syllabus especially the teacher's title. Intro classes that are also commonly taken by out of major students tend to follow pretty strict departmental guidelines and/or be taught by people who are pretty low on the academic totem pole. Thus there is good chance that the teacher won't be able shoehorn too much of their pet projects in. Before I go one can I ask about how large the class is?

-edit I was going to customize it a bit based on the class format, but was intending to say more or less what Unnamed did, minus the personal anecdotes. I was also going to add that if the teacher is completely horrible you might be able to transfer to another section. On a final note you might want to look into pragmatism and late Wittgenstein. From what I've seen they aren't up to the standard of the sequences, but do provide a high status/low inferential distance (to philosophers) way of pointing out some of the most common ways people misuse words.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-27T14:28:28.378Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The FHI just released a technical report, Indefinite Survival through Backup Copies whose result is:

it is possible to have a finite chance to survive an infinite time even if there is a finite chance of getting destroyed per unit of time, if you make backup copies (that are also destroyable) at a high enough rate. The number of backup copies needed only grows logarithmically with time, a surprisingly slow growth.

I'd previously been assuming that exponentially many copies were needed (in order to "cancel out" the fact that if you only have one copy you die exponentially quickly), so finding out that only logarithmically many copies are needed is great news. I no longer need to hope that space is negatively curved!

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-23T06:14:39.852Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On Paternal Age and genetic load from the West Hunter blog by Gregory Cochran.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-22T15:12:14.048Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why I am a deathist, for those who can't understand the mentality:

Because the thought that someday I will die is a -liberating- thought for me. First you must understand who I was, however - in my youth I was absolutely terrified of a permanent injury of any sort. (When I realized, truly realized, I'd been circumcised, it was mildly traumatizing.) This extends to the mental as well as the physical.

The realization, later, that I would die - wasn't a horrifying thought. It was a realization that permanence was a faulty assumption about anything except death. It freed me to take risks, and even to engage in permanent modification of myself, both physical and mental.

Death let me live.

So I don't have a sour grapes attitude towards death. I believe that death as a horizon event is necessary to my sanity.

The "horizon event" may be important, however. I certainly would prefer not to die tomorrow. And tomorrow, I would not want to die on that day's morrow. This may well stretch into infinity. Death has become the sole permanent injury; to be avoided, as previously I avoided all other permanent injury, but necessary, in order to invalidate all other such fears.

This does not imply, however, that today I should prefer never to die at all. I am running on corrupted hardware, and I balance one corruption against another. Until such time as living with mistakes forever is rendered irrelevant, or ceases to be an object of abject terror for me, death as a horizon event is necessary to my sanity, necessary to my ability to deal with the world.

(The opportunity for suicide does not alleviate these issues, incidentally, because of my certainty I would not choose it. I suspect an actual debilitating injury would be sufficient to overcome my fears, but that is hardly an experiment I would like to deliberately run.)

Speak to me of being able to replace arms and legs, lungs and heart, to repair a damaged brain, and those parts of the brain we sometime refer to as the heart - speak to me of clinical immortality by component pieces, and that I can fathom and accept and support. Speak to me of conquering death, however, and you lose me. Because I don't desire never to die, but rather not to crumble away into something just more than nothing.

comment by Nisan · 2012-08-22T19:35:42.452Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like you're describing two attitudes towards immortality, an abstract one and a concrete one. The concrete attitude: "I don't desire never to die, but rather not to crumble away into something just more than nothing." "What's more likely in any given ten year period, pristine immortality being fully resolved, or somebody awakening my mind to an existence I would never want?" "The opportunity for suicide does not alleviate these issues, incidentally, because of my certainty I would not choose it." I will not comment on these concerns today.

The abstract attitude is summed up by:

I believe that death as a horizon event is necessary to my sanity.

The map-territory distinction is useful here. You should say instead

I believe that "death as a horizon event" is necessary to my sanity.

The idea of death allays your anxieties by inspiring healthy emotions. That doesn't mean that the idea of death should inform your decisions. It's possible to comfort yourself with the thought of death and then go ahead and sign up for cryonics anyways, just like how people can comfort themselves by not thinking about death and then go ahead and wear a seat belt. But you no doubt have other, more concrete objections to cryonics, which takes us back to your first attitude. Those objections are better reasons to make "deathist" decisions.

Better yet, you could use a different narrative to comfort yourself. Just because the thought that you're going to die someday succeeded in allaying your anxieties doesn't mean it's the only narrative that can do so. (That it is sufficient for your sanity does not imply that it is necessary for your sanity!) It's worth spending some time on looking for an alternative narrative that's just as comforting and which is more concordant with your preference "not to die tomorrow".

If you do switch narratives, you might find that you're no longer "deathist" but none of your decisions have changed. In that case all that changed was your aesthetic. But I suspect if you change your abstract attitude towards death, you might find that your concrete attitude changes as well: You might notice ideas you didn't notice before, which make important life decisions more or less compelling.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-22T20:06:12.703Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am pondering on this. It may take some time.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-24T16:58:48.042Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It was a realization that permanence was a faulty assumption about anything except death. It freed me to take risks, and even to engage in permanent modification of myself, both physical and mental.

This problem has been solved already. Keep backups.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-22T19:42:06.780Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Shouldn't you be working on that phobia directly? Even without the part where it makes you want to die, it sounds pretty unpleasant. It might help to spend time around disabled people, especially those who aren't just adapting to their disability but actively building culture around it, like the Deaf community. Paralympic athletes with better-than-natural accommodations also come to mind, but you might react better to people just going about their daily life in slightly unusual ways than to awesome flashy gizmos.

What is frightening you exactly? Your circumcision example suggests visibly losing body parts is the problem, but the rest of your post mentions loss of abilities more.

The image I associate with "something just more than nothing" is that of the kind of patients uncharitably called "vegetables". Is that correct? I don't know how much limits-pushing badassery appeals to you, but I'd like to present another view: someone with a broken body and a broken mind, who refuses to give up and every day deploys great courage and cunning and perseverance to achieve what you do without thinking, through pain and fear and confusion and repeated failure. It's very bad, but the attitude is awesome.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-22T20:15:37.343Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Loss of abilities is something people can relate to more. The "permanent" part is more important than the "injury" part. A small scar nobody could see was a horrifying thought to me.

It extended to the mental as well. The thought that I might not be able to learn every language in existence in the narrow timeframe before my mind "hardened" against learning new languages was horrifying as well. (Particularly torturous, that one, because languages were dead-last on my list of things I needed to learn -soon-. I recognize Eliezer's fear that he won't be done with what he needs done by the time he's 40 - but start those fears at age 7 and thinking it may already be too late and you might have some inkling of what my childhood was like.)

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-22T20:50:48.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is it any comfort that no injury can be permanent, since it's vanishingly unlikely that we'll find a way around the universe's heat death but not around damage to human bodies in the next few billion years?

comment by OpenThreadGuy · 2012-08-28T05:44:48.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this reasoning actually makes sense, but regardless, why do you think this makes it okay for other people to die, if they don't want to? That's what deathism is.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-28T13:01:52.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not all deathism holds that everybody should die, only that death is good.

comment by Rain · 2012-08-22T18:46:50.885Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My brother prefers the label "anti-liveite".

comment by kilobug · 2012-08-22T16:07:35.134Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hum, I don't get the reasoning. You say the perspective of death allows you to better handle the thought of permanent injury. But "conquering death" also implies conquering permanent injury. I really don't see how we could prevent death but not be able to regrow a limb (or foreskin). So if we remove both the risk of permanent injury and death at the same time, what's your need for death ?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-22T17:13:42.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"I don't desire never to die, but rather not to crumble away into something just more than nothing."

There is a difference between conquering death and conquering the ailments of the mortal condition - mental and physical. If we can upload minds before we can repair bodies, we can achieve immortality without solving any of these issues.

comment by kilobug · 2012-08-22T17:57:42.796Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hrm, no, if we can upload mind, then we can just hold the minds in "stand by" mode until we have the technology to build bodies at least as good as a fully sane normal human.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-22T18:21:07.536Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Contingency-based wish machines are evil genies who may not even respect your wishes. I have to ask - what's more likely in any given ten year period, pristine immortality being fully resolved, or somebody awakening my mind to an existence I would never want?

You should never pause your mind until some contingency is reached unless you are precisely aware of what other contingencies could result in your mind being unpaused - and have done the calculations and identified the risk.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-18T18:10:47.579Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Octopus intelligence

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-23T11:04:38.869Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Worrying. They're too good at general-domain planning and learning. Might they be people?

comment by Alicorn · 2012-08-23T18:32:02.234Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't eat cephalopods even though I still eat other seafood because I have error bars around that.

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-08-23T20:02:28.222Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Squid and cuttlefish still look pretty stupid. I'm not motivated to stop eating cows because humans are people (and if I understand the reasons for your vegetarianism, neither are you), so avoiding the order Octopoda alone seems safe enough. Octopus as food is rare in most cultures (exceptions are some Mediterranean cultures, Japan, and Hawaii).

comment by Alicorn · 2012-08-23T20:11:26.285Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I never liked squid all that much anyway (and the one time I tried octopus I didn't like it) so it's not a big sacrifice to have the error bar anyway. And it means I get to use the word "cephalopods" routinely in casual conversation.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T23:35:59.275Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm looking for strategies/techniques to manage/improve poor working memory, I currently find myself in situations where I forget to do something I thought about doing just a minute past or so. If anyone have any worth trying out, I'd love to here about them.

Strategies that I already use are:

  • Visual ques, putting things in positions that make me notice them hence remember.
  • Domino-ques, i.e. focusing on remember one thing that will remind me of a number of things.
  • Outsourcing, pen and paper mostly.
comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T18:23:38.406Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

DNB?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T11:44:42.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh I didn't know gwern had written about it! Thanks, I'll try to implement it best I can.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-17T07:13:44.482Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that a lot gets "forgotten" because it wasn't noticed in the first place. Have you tried mindfulness meditation?

I don't know whether your mind works the same way, but I find that sometimes (if I remember to check!) I can tell whether I've actually done something by checking for tactile/kinesthetic memory in addition to visual.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-20T11:39:54.593Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that a lot gets "forgotten" because it wasn't noticed in the first place. Have you tried mindfulness meditation? It has been suggested to once or twice, but for other reasons, I might give it a try. What kind of benefit/time invested ratio can I expect?

I don't know whether your mind works the same way, but I find that sometimes (if I remember to check!) I can tell whether I've actually done something by checking for tactile/kinesthetic memory in addition to visual.

Hmm well, I can tell from the feel of my hands if I have done something that requires me to wash them even if my hands are not visual dirty. Do know any particular technique that enables you to assign feels to preformed actions?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-21T17:46:35.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure whether you can expect memory improvement from mindfulness meditation-- I was suggesting it as something plausible rather than proven. The most detail I've seen about the benefits of mindfulness meditation are about calmness rather than memory.

I think kinesthetic and tactile memories get saved for me of things I've actually done for a short time. I'm not sure how long it is, but it seems to be more than half an hour and less than a day. I recommend exploring whether there are memory differences between what you intend to do and what you've actually done.

comment by coffeespoons · 2012-08-25T13:27:19.318Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found the self-help stuff on here useful, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend any useful online study skills guides? I'm particularly interested in learning to read/take notes and retain information more effectively. At the moment, I can spend hours reading and take very little in!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-25T14:17:31.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You may already have heard of it, but spaced repetition is the solution to the problem of retaining memory-worthy information.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-25T13:33:36.396Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found Study Hacks to be particularly helpful.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-08-20T11:46:01.093Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have experience with speed dating? Specifically did they find that it improved social skills? It seems like it would be very effective.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-22T09:19:52.354Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In theory it seems an excellent way to practice what are called "openers" by PUAs, short introductory statements that grab peoples attention by amusing or engaging them. I should point out that some consider talking or flirting to other people with the intention of practicisng social skill unethical. I'm not sure why.

I've had very good experiences and made tons of new acquaintances just starting conversations with strangers in such a manner. This is somewhat rare behaviour in my culture.

Keep in mind that speed dating is an artificial situation. Seemingly trivial details unique to the setting will change outcomes considerably thus reducing how transferable the skills and calibration you gain will be. To give an example of such factors, it has been shown that when you rotate the men in such an event and the women stay put, they become choosier about the partner. When you reverse the roles men become choosier.

comment by Jabberslythe · 2012-08-24T20:48:41.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've stopped trying to start conversations with strangers. When I considered it a 'live option' I didn't think that I was getting enough conversations out the effort I was allocating. I imagine it would be a better option for people who were not as shy to begin with.

The reason that speed dating is attractive to me is that I don't think that I could get many more conversations started in a speed dating environment because it would be expected that I would once I was in it. Yeah, that's good to keep in mind. I would expect that a lot of it wouldn't transfer, but even if a small amount did it seems like it would be worth the investment for me.

comment by metatroll · 2012-08-20T12:13:09.822Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Afterwards, if you ever want to impair your social skills again, I recommend speed trolling.

comment by djcb · 2012-08-15T18:29:10.814Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I like the Rationality Quotes, but it seems it is dominated by fairly long entries, rather than the small gems that I prefer. Now, obviously some people like those longer entries, but it'd be great if I those could be filtered out in some way. Is there a way to do that?

comment by DanielVarga · 2012-08-16T11:54:34.795Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Here you are: Best of short rationality quotes 2009-2012. I created it with a one-line modification of the script I used here: Best of Rationality Quotes, 2011 Edition. The threshold is 400 characters including XML markup. The user-names for the newer quotes are missing, I'll fix this for the 2012 Edition.

comment by djcb · 2012-08-16T16:24:44.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great! Thanks a lot for this!

comment by AandNot-A · 2012-09-04T23:47:37.728Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

2 separate related comments:

1) I'm moving to Vienna on the 25th. If there exist lesswrongers there I'd be most happy to meet them.

2) Moving strikes me as a great opportunity to develop positive, life-enchancing habits. If anyone has any literature or tips on this i'd greatly appreciate it

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-31T04:18:23.039Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Note; The story I originally posted here was true and complete. However the details detract from the main point of the post, which was to indicate material support for life extension causes. Hence the edit.


Owing to a recent financial windfall, I now intend to travel the world working towards life extension. Im starting by pledging donations to the Brain Preservation Fund and the Kim Suozzi fund. Readers will also shortly see my name appearing on the donar list of the aforementioned funds.

I have a blog (link below) where I will soon be writing about my new life as I travel the world working towards life extension.

Happy journeys to us all and see you in the future!

My blog is here: http://zarzuelazen.com/wordpress/

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-08-31T13:07:16.291Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I hope you don't expect that the majority of the people here will just take a random stranger at his word regarding this, even if many of them are too polite to say so plainly.

I have a significant higher estimation that you're lying for purposes of trolling, than that you are accurately describing what happened.

In the slight possibility that you're telling the truth, I hope you're not offended by my low estimation of the likelihood of such sincerity.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-08-31T16:05:23.533Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I hope you don't expect that the majority of the people here will just take a random stranger at his word regarding this, even if many of them are too polite to say so plainly.

Geddes isn't exactly a random stranger, he's been trolling SI related forums for something like a decade.

comment by Quantumental · 2012-08-31T11:31:12.826Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dude you are looking at numbers through some 9/11 Truther eyes, you definitely got a long way to go if you plan on travelling the world "working towards life extension". It's great that you are donating money to these funds, but please don't use your story as a "The SAI might be God" thingy. It will only make people look at transhumanism as a religion (like plenty already do).

Congratulations

comment by Incorrect · 2012-08-31T04:46:55.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just won the New Zealand national lottery.

Congratulations!

For the sake of people reading this post who may not be familiar with the concept of backwards causality:

As a fun test, I called on any future super intelligences to come to my aid, appealing to the notion of backward causality. Asking for clear evidence of the hand of a superintelligence in the event I won, I choose a number of high significance to me personally. The number I chose was 27, which I placed in all lines of the ticket. (All the other numbers I selected at random).

This is not the typical LW understanding of decision theory. Here's an example of what "backwards causality" could actually mean:

mjgeddes and lottery employee both believe an agent will be created in the future that likes to grant wishes and will reward people who help grant wishes. The lottery employee somehow knows mjgeddes made a wish, and fudges the lottery results in the hope of a future reward from the wish-granting agent.

Thinking of it as "backwards causality" enacted by the hypothetical future wish-granting agent is a useful way of thinking about certain decision problems but should never preclude a normal, traditional explanation.

Lest anyone claim I am ruining the mood: Praise be to the glorious Eschaton; that acausal spring from which all blessings flow!

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-31T09:09:06.953Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The odds of me winning this prize at random as calculated by the NZ Lotteries Commission were 1 in 639,730 for randomly selected numbers.

And therefore I am skeptical. I don't believe stories of people who beat odds of 500,000 to 1 against by calling on help from the post-singularity future. Therefore something is fishy about this story.

comment by Incorrect · 2012-08-31T09:27:55.703Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote my comment above under the assumption of mjgeddes' honesty but I also believe they are more likely lying than not lying.

My alternative theories are: mjgeddes is just trolling without any real plan (40%), mjgeddes is planning to laugh at us all for believing something with such an explicitly low prior. (40%), something else (>19%), actually won the lottery: <1%

Yet still I feel the need to give them the benefit of the doubt. I wonder precisely when that social heuristic should be abandoned...

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-02T09:09:53.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anyway, selection effects. If half a million people try to do that and one succeeds, you hear from that one but not from the other 499,999

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-09-01T15:14:11.741Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or something is fishy about your metaphysic, yo. (I have no opinion on the matter.)

comment by Decius · 2012-08-31T16:47:53.798Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Which airline did you fly, and what type aircraft has a seat numbered 27? Every aircraft I've ever seen with more than 10 seats numbers them with a number and letter...

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-08-31T05:35:56.883Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Congratulations!

Im starting by pledging donations to the Brain Preservation Fund and the Kim Suozzi fund.

It's looks like the whole world got lucky!

It appears that either Im just astonishingly lucky or the SAI is with me!

If you think it's the latter, I would urge you to keep the specifics of your summoning-the-SAI strategy to yourself. Perhaps share it with lukeprog. But please don't tell us how you did it---I wouldn't want that information to fall into the wrong hands!

comment by TimS · 2012-08-30T15:26:32.139Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of interest to probably no one but me: I seem to have lost 20 karma overnight. My views are not exactly mainstream in this community, but I am vague curious what triggered someone to go through some of my recent comments to downvote them.

Also, it doesn't appear to be related to this new feature.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-08-29T23:15:44.362Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Related.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-29T22:24:29.880Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is anyone else's karma score for the last 30 days also showing as 0?

comment by gwern · 2012-08-29T22:56:07.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mine is, which is a little weird and surely can't be right given my many comments over the last 30 days.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-30T00:42:39.289Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, the top contributors list for the last 30 days is blank. :-/

comment by gwern · 2012-08-30T00:55:18.989Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly we are disappointing LW and need to improve our contribution quality.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-23T10:12:41.383Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(test, please ignore)

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-22T02:39:04.664Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An attempt to apply causal reasoning a la Pearl, to the interpretation of quantum correlations. Their framework is totally not ready to analyze the full range of possible interpretations of QM, but they make a start on formally depicting a number of informal arguments that you see in the interpretation debate.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T12:05:39.025Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've been reading Robert Lindsay's blog - he's a total badass of a contrarian, stark raving mad in a good way, and a self-identified Stalinist, mentioned favorably by TGGP). He is a feminist-hating feminist, a liberal humanist who supports far-left totalitarian repression, and an anti-racist/anti-fascist White Supremacist - among other things. Literally a mad genius.

Anyway, what I want to mention is that, from the remarks of a guest poster there, I extrapolated what looks like a succint, plausible and non-mind-killed explanation of why, paradoxically, African-American communities in the U.S. have been in such a tragic state since segregation began to fade away in the 60s:

The origin of such ghettos can be traced back to segregation. Some of these communities thrived at a time and were fairly self-sufficient. The Black middle class fled these places. And all that was left behind were the poor and a crumbling society. The middle class Blacks might have served as role models to those less fortunate. The Whites didn’t care about them either. Everyone that could afford to get out, got out.

Duuuude. I think that hits the nail on the head. Evaporative cooling! When the segregation and anti-black sentiment are weakened but still in effect, of course it'd be the brightest, best socialized and most driven blacks who would break through the weakening celling, but the majority of blacks would remain an isolated community, suffering constant brain drain and hardly any "brain input" (from non-black assistance to the community, etc).

Of course, the traditional Black matriarchal family morphing into an unstable single-mom variant is another, far better known, cause of the clusterfuck - but it's startling how evaporative cooling demonstrates a direct causal link between what I'd call "desegregation for the top 10%" and the loss of those 10%'s contribution.

(P.S.: I do not endorse anything those guys say about "spoilt" American women and the "aggression" of mainstream feminism, etc - that has a grain of truth to it, but, as always, geeky American contrarian young men on the internet take that grain of truth and bury it under narrow-minded parochial whining. Looking from a Second World country, if anything screams "spoiled" to me, it's ye olde MRA rant. But I digress.)

(P.P.S.: oh damn, his attitude to masculinity and male sexuality is also schizophrenic, but in a really bad, no-good, awful way. I'm torn between laughter and disgust. Is he trying to imitate Orwell? Is that just full-on trolling? ...Sigh, I guess that's the admission price he's charging.)

comment by gwern · 2012-08-21T16:14:37.759Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Why doesn't this apply to every minority? For example, when anti-Semitism broke down, why didn't it leave behind little Jewish ghettos of swirling social dysfunction and failure as the best Jews escaped into goyish society? Why not any Asian group? etc.

Good try anyway.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T16:54:19.932Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Jewish culture has a very strong and extremely ancient tradition of networking and giving to the community, one that Afro-Americans lack. With Asian-Americans it's largely similar, plus consider that the Asian immigrants to the US must have already been the most driven and novelty-seeking of their class back home.

U.S. Blacks carry a unique history of slavery and such. They did not know how to choose between cooperation and defection, because sticking together had never been a choice before.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-21T17:05:38.263Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty much every culture has a tradition of networking and giving to the community, and African-Americans are no exception - think of the powerful networks of black churches which were behind the civil rights movement.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-21T12:18:17.307Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The origin of such ghettos can be traced back to segregation. Some of these communities thrived at a time and were fairly self-sufficient. The Black middle class fled these places. And all that was left behind were the poor and a crumbling society. The middle class Blacks might have served as role models to those less fortunate. The Whites didn’t care about them either. Everyone that could afford to get out, got out.

I think that hits the nail on the head. Evaporative cooling! When the segregation and anti-black sentiment are weakened but still in effect, of course it'd be the brightest, best socialized and most driven blacks who would break through the weakening celling, but the majority of blacks would remain an isolated community, suffering constant brain drain and hardly any "brain input" (from non-black assistance to the community, etc).

If this is model is correct then we should expect it to also work when dealing with class. If so it might explain the rise of the native British underclass, as the old culturally enforced class barriers where lessened by meritocracy in the early 20th century, evaporative cooling ensured the remaining lower class suffered more and more social pathologies.

If Charles Murray's Coming Apart case that such a cultural divergence between classes is taking place in America is correct, we should be able to make a few predictions about the near term social future of that country. At a glance these predictions seem plausible as they match most current recorded trends.

This seems related to matters discussed in my public draft on Meritocracy and the comment section there:

Let us leave aside problems with utilitarianism for the sake of argument and ask does this automatically mean we have a net gain in utility? The answer seems to be no. A transfer of wealth and quality of life not just from the less deserving to the more deserving but from the lower and lower middle class to the upper classes. If people basically get the position in society they deserve in life they are also costing people around them positive (or negative) externalities. Meritocratic societies have proven fabulously good at creating wealth and because of our impulses nearly all of them seem to have instututed expensive welfare programs. But consider what welfare is in the real world, a centralized attempt often lacking in feedback or flexibility, it can never match the local positive externalities of competent/nice/smart people solving problems they see around themselves. Those people simply don't exist any more in those social groups! If someone was trying to get pareto optimal solutions this seems incredibly silly and harmful!

With humans at least centralized efforts don't ever seem to be as efficient a way to help them as would just settling a good mix of talented poor with them.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-08-17T15:05:08.267Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've recently read a lot of strong claims and mind-killing argumentation made against E.Y.'s assertion that MWI is the winning/leading interpretation in QM. The SEP seems to agree with this, which means I've got a bottom-line here to erase since both of my favorite authorities agree on that particular conclusion.

I know very little actual, factual QM, as relates to the math, experiments, hard data, evidence and physics beyond what's constantly being regurgitated in popular-science-news articles - AKA loads of BS.

How should I go about being epistemically rational about this, what is the strong attack (and response) on what SEP claims is MWI's weakest defense (essentially, that MWI acts as a curiosity-stopper in the face of theoretical "collapse", if I understand correctly), and should I proceed with my plans of reading through the Quantum Physics sequence?

(this was the next sequence in my reading list, but the above concerns make me doubt whether that's the best thing to do or if I should instead learn more impartial QM before reading the what-could-be gospel of what-could-be my favorite cult, if I'm wrong about my self-assessment)

comment by prase · 2012-08-17T23:00:37.444Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I think being epistemically rational entails learning the mathematical part of QM first and reading through the QM sequence afterwards. Before you can seriously attack the problem of interpretation of QM, you needn't necessarily know the experiments and hard data and evidence for QM, but you must know the mathematical structure of the theory, because that's the thing what you are going to interpret!

Be sure you operationally understand QM under the collapse interpretation, that is, you should know how to calculate probability distribution of observed results in series of subsequent measurements of different observables and you should understand the standard jargon. You will probably have to learn Hamiltonian mechanics in the course (if you don't know it already); it is not strictly necessary for the collapse-related questions, but most textbooks assume familiarity with it from the beginning, and besides, broader and more general understanding of QM is probably a better goal than understanding only the aspects which EY had decided to write about. I suggest starting with the collapse interpretation because it is the easiest one to understand for a person accustomed only to classical mechanics. The downside is obvious., but, on the other hand, from what you've written I don't get the impression that you could be easily biased in favour of quantum collapse theories.

Your attitude towards the problem is apparently healthy, so let me just point out few (some of them perhaps obvious) things:

  • Interpretation of a particular scientific theory is important for professionals working on the cutting-edge research (mainly because although different interpretations may be precisely equivalent in their experimental predictions, they may be profoundly different in their ability to inspire new ideas). For the non-professionals learning such things may serve to satisfy their intellectual curiosity, but it is certainly not the hallmark of general rationality. (I recall Yudkowsky has written that MWI is actually not an interpretation but rather a full theory distinct from the Copenhagen interpretation, but the arguments for that were, as far as I remember, mostly semantical. Even if we agreed upon MWI being a theory it would still not change the fact that one's opinion about it isn't that much correlated with one's rationality.)
  • In comparison to the other sequences, there aren't many rationality-related insights in the QM sequence.
  • The sequence doesn't give a faithful account of the alternatives to MWI. The matter is presented as if there was practically one alternative to MWI - wave-function realism with objective collapse (i.e. "there is an ontologically fundamental observer-independent thing, the wave function, which discontinuously changes upon measurement"). This is even not a true description of the Copenhagen interpretation, which is more of a positivist "here is the mathematical formalism you need for your calculations and who cares about ontology". Of course, even under other sequence posts people regularly accuse Yudkowsky of distorting the conventional philosophical positions to make his own look better, but nowhere this is as apparent as in the QM sequence. (This may be my own bias, though, because I am originally a physicist and therefore, when reading the sequences, I had been more informed about QM than, say, about philosophical zombies, and thus had been better equipped to spot the problems).
  • The sequence lacks the level of formality I would consider suitable. When speaking about Many Worlds, one should for example try to define precisely what constitutes a "world" in the technical sense. I don't remember seeing such definitions in the sequence (although it's quite a long time since I have read it and my memories may be faulty; I suggest you judge for yourself).
  • Quite surprisingly the approach taken in the QM sequence seems to contradict some of the EY's positions expressed elsewhere. Namely there is a recognisable realist stance without enough emphasise on the map/territory distinction. Although "probability is in the mind" is a central thesis to many EY's posts, "wave function is in the mind" is not considered a viable alternative. Somewhat similar maxim "shut up and calculate", again defended elsewhere in the Sequences, is rejected for the quantum-mechanical context in a quite rantish post. But again, I may be missing some subtleties in EY's positions.
  • Another thing which is not properly addressed is the fact that in among all physical observables time plays a special role in quantum theory (being the only observable which can't be represented by an operator) while it is perfectly on par with position coordinates in general relativity. There are attempts to strip time of its unique role, mostly pursued by people trying to quantise general relativity, but it is not clear how MWI could survive such a change. On a related note, since quantum measurement is apparently not time-reversal symmetric, contrary all other microscopic dynamical laws, there is the possibility that quantum measurement is in fact an essentially macroscopic emergent process whose irreversibility has the same origin as the irreversibility of thermodynamical evolution. I don't remember seeing a discussion about this in the QM sequence; granted, this is a hard question, but at least the possibility of the non-fundamental nature of collapse (or world-splitting, if you prefer) should be noted.
  • I remember few people commenting about the QM sequence as being the worst of the Sequences, an opinion I agree with, mostly for the reasons given above.
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-20T00:50:06.122Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think being epistemically rational entails learning the mathematical part of QM first and reading through the QM sequence afterwards. Before you can seriously attack the problem of interpretation of QM, you needn't necessarily know the experiments and hard data and evidence for QM, but you must know the mathematical structure of the theory, because that's the thing what you are going to interpret!

See, I might think that, but many LWers (including SI staff) responded to that considering it ridiculous that one should have to understand the equations to have a meaningful opinion on the topic. So we're at odds with consensus here.

comment by prase · 2012-08-20T06:37:59.474Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't claim representing consensus in the parent comment.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-20T09:37:28.608Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't claim representing consensus in the parent comment.

David wasn't trying to imply otherwise. He was making use of your comment as a context in which to snark about past disagreements he has had.

comment by prase · 2012-08-20T16:33:24.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I understood that, nevertheless I used his snarky remark as a context in which to disclaim one possible misinterpretation of my original comment.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-20T20:21:55.661Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I understood that, nevertheless I used his snarky remark as a context in which to disclaim one possible misinterpretation of my original comment.

;) I suspected that, nevertheless I used your clarification as a context in which to frame the interjection in question as somewhat more in the direction of petty than incisive---my impression being that the snarkiness did not accurately represent the positions of people who have disagreed with David in the past.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T15:26:02.912Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Read through the sequence, but every time there is a many worlds assertion, stop and think whether adopting it lets you do anything more than feel superior to single-worlders. Take notes of the sort "without MWI, the following argument advanced by EY would not work: ...", then try to see if someone interpretation-agnostic would still be able to make the same argument. Simply learning the EY-path through QM is little better than memorizing scriptures (= guessing teacher's password). Feel free to post your progress and questions in the appropriate thread.

comment by pragmatist · 2012-08-19T05:56:30.276Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the expository part of the QM sequence can be skipped without significant loss of understanding of the broad philosophical point EY is attempting to make. However, if you are interested in QM for its own sake, I would recommend reading a quick non-pop-sci introduction to the theory before reading the sequence. Otherwise I think you will emerge from the sequence with only the illusion of understanding. In my experience on this site, it is far too common that people whose main exposure to QM is the sequence misunderstand not just the mathematics of the theory but also the conceptual structure of MWI.

If you want a really good, really short introduction to the mathematics of QM, this book is excellent. It's written in a very engaging, non-textbooky way, so don't worry about it being a dry read. It does presume some mathematical sophistication though. If you're not comfortable with differential equations and linear algebra, I would advise against reading it.

If you don't have that sort of mathematical background, read this instead. It actually is an introductory book, presuming very little knowledge on the reader's part. I recommend it over standard intro textbooks (such as Griffiths) for someone with your interests, because it focuses on developing a deep conceptual understanding of the theory rather than on doing calculations.

Finally, you could try David Albert's idiosyncratic but compelling book on the philosophy of QM. Again, the book is completely introductory. It won't teach you much about the math of the theory (for that, read Hughes), but it will give you a short overview of the main extant interpretations of QM, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. The author is skeptical about MWI (in fact, he seems skeptical about pretty much every interpretation), but he's a very sharp philosopher, and his arguments are worth considering seriously.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-08-20T13:29:42.326Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How should I go about being epistemically rational about this, what is the strong attack (and response) on what SEP claims is MWI's weakest defense (essentially, that MWI acts as a curiosity-stopper in the face of theoretical "collapse", if I understand correctly), and should I proceed with my plans of reading through the Quantum Physics sequence?

As prase and David Gerard have said, to understand QM, first learn QM. The actual mathematics and physics of it, not any popularisation. When you can pass a finals exam in the subject, with distinction, making minimal use of reference materials, then you will have reached a position from which you may be able to begin to participate in useful discussions about QM. How many similarly qualified people there are on LessWrong to have such a discussion with, or who they might be, I do not know.

I hasten to add that by that standard, I am certainly not one of them. I do not know QM. I hope I have never pontificated on the subject here or anywhere else, but I certainly do not do so now.

Anyone wanting a quick self-test, and with access to a university library, might entertain themselves with this volume, a book of exercises in QM, with worked solutions. If you can do even one of the problems at sight, and get it right, then you know more QM than you will ever discover from popularisations. When you can do all of them, you can claim to know QM.

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-20T15:08:33.629Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you reading the Sequence in order to learn about QM, or in order to complete the Less Wrong course in rationality? The most sober way to think about QM is as a recipe for prediction, for which there are several competing explanations, and all of which might be wrong. The Sequence aims to rise above the disputes of physicists and rationally pick the winner. It doesn't really rise above, but neither does it sink below. An argument by a physicist in favor of a specific interpretation usually contains a mix of good points and blindspots, and Eliezer's argument is at that level. Understanding why QM works is a problem of the first order, and you won't learn the answer by reading the Sequence or even by reading a hundred textbooks. But you will learn more about the problem and about what we do know; and if you read the comments, you may even avoid acquiring false knowledge.

As for studying rationality, it's even easier to avoid going astray - just study the arguments bearing in mind that the specific conclusions about physics may be wrong, and ask how substantively that would affect the higher-level lessons that you're asked to draw.

That SEP article is the article on MWI. The other SEP articles on QM don't say that.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-16T11:17:05.628Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

A politically incorrect example of a mathematical theorem:

When someone (a white person) is accused of racism, and they say -- "I'm not racist, some of my best friends are black," -- they often get a response like -- "This is exactly what a racist would say."

Translated to mathematics, the fact that a white person has black friends, is considered an evidence for hypothesis that the person is a racist. Now if this line of reasoning is correct, then according to the law of conservation of expected evidence, not having black friends should be an evidence against hypothesis that the person is a racist. Therefore the correct defense would be: "I'm not racist, none of my best friends is black!"

I suspect that in real life this defense wouldn't work either, but at least it would provide an opportunity to notice a confusion.

comment by pragmatist · 2012-08-16T11:38:32.840Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

It is not the fact that the person has black friends that is supposed to count as evidence of their racism. It is the fact that they say that they have black friends in response to an accusation of racism. The response is the evidence, not the fact (if it is a fact) that the response is reporting. So what would be evidence against the racism hypothesis is not saying things like "I'm not racist; some of my best friends are black."

I'm not saying this is great evidence either, but it is not as obviously ridiculous as thinking that not having black friends is evidence against racism. I wouldn't be at all surprised if saying "Some of my best friends are black" is anticorrelated with actually having black best friends.

comment by Xachariah · 2012-08-21T04:06:51.073Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly. I think this XKCD is relavent. If someone accuses you of being a bad teacher, "It's okay! I always wear a condom while teaching" is a bad response. However, "It's okay! I never wear a condom while teaching" is even worse.

Those lines of thought should never even come up as something one would think to say.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-16T15:49:33.397Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It is not the fact that the person has black friends that is supposed to count as evidence of their racism. It is the fact that they say that they have black friends in response to an accusation of racism.

Exactly. The claim is not "You have black friends, therefore you are racist." The claim is "You think 'I have black friends' is a relevant thing to mention in response to being called on your apparently racist comments or behavior. It isn't."

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-16T16:04:11.250Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's a difference between being racist (or, more precisely, the popular perception of what being racist entails) and engaging in racist behavior.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-16T19:49:12.705Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I agree. However, folks often take the claim "Hey, that thing you just said was kinda racist" as meaning "YOU ARE AN AWFUL RACIST SCUMBAG GO DIE IN A FIRE" and respond accordingly.

That's not too surprising given that ① people generally don't like receiving criticism of their views or actions, and get defensive; and ② many people seem to believe that only "racists" (a kind of person, usually found in Nazi or Klan uniforms) do, say, or believe racist things — and therefore that if someone says you did something racist, they are calling you "a racist" and thereby predicting that you're going to go commit hate crimes.

It's unfortunate though.

It probably doesn't help that people use "racism" to mean several different things, including:

  1. Racial prejudice — having false negative beliefs about people according to their race
  2. Racial privilege — the situation where some people receive social, political, or economic advantages and others receive disadvantages on the basis of their race (see also: invisible knapsack)
  3. Racial hatred — having malicious intentions towards people on the basis of their race

Notably, people can do racist₂ things — perpetuating racial privilege — without being racist₁ or racist₃.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-16T15:19:16.270Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Would you fail to be surprised based on evidence that people who say that don't have black best friends, or because you agree with the implicit claim that that is a response a racist is likely to use?

Because it seems like there's some circular logic going on somewhere. Possibly in the form of a societal feedback mechanism; non-racist people assume that's a racist's response to the question, and so don't utilize it.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T17:02:56.485Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

My honest response to "do you have black (indian/chinese/..) friends?" is something like "no idea, I don't usually notice hair, eye or skin color".

EDIT: wondering about the downvotes... does it sound non-believable or something?

comment by prase · 2012-08-17T23:19:04.306Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That is a great signalling response, but honest? You really don't know whether your friend is black or white?

comment by shminux · 2012-08-18T04:25:58.438Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not unless their skin is coal-black, no. For example, I was surprised to learn that Condoleezza Rice was considered "black". Same with people of East Indian, Philippino or often even Chinese descent. Then again, I live in Vancouver, Canada, where race (however you want to define it) is basically a non-issue, so I don't notice stuff like that, unless pointed out to me. Probably my personal blind spot, of course. A friend of mine (I'm pretty sure she is white) often refers to her acquaintances by their ethnicity when talking about them ("that Yemeni dude"), and I just stare blankly.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-18T02:48:09.497Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as we all know, race is a purely social construct with no underlying biological basis; unfortunately, LWers are known for their very poor socializing skills and understanding of social norms. So shminux, a LWer, doesn't know?

Not very surprising, actually!

comment by siodine · 2012-08-19T21:33:55.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as we all know, race is a purely social construct with no underlying biological basis

I know race is a social construct, but no underlying biological basis? Isn't this Lewontin's fallacy?

comment by gwern · 2012-08-19T22:04:06.484Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, as I understand it, Lewontin's fallacy is considered to be not the claim that there is no underlying basis, but that this is established by looking at raw percentages of between-group vs within-group variation.

comment by prase · 2012-08-19T20:39:46.421Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Although I assume you aren't being serious, remember that shminux claimed that he doesn't notice hair, eye and skin colour. As far as I know, colour is not a purely social construct, althout if shminux were a continental philosopher, I could imagine him believing that it is.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-19T20:48:15.618Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

C'mon, color is totally a social construct!

comment by Nornagest · 2012-08-19T21:52:53.336Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There really should be a phrase for socially constructed divisions or elaborations of a continuous empirical space.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-19T22:48:06.939Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"self-fulfilling distinctions"?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-20T14:10:12.465Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This may be strongly culture-dependent.

In some culture you can find many people of any skin color on your social level. In other culture, things may be completely different. In different cultures people will notice different facts, because those facts will bring different number of bits of information.

For example, if there is exactly one black person in otherwise white town, and it is a well-known person (especially well-known for something that is somehow related with them being black -- for example well-known as the billionaire prince from Nigeria), then obviously everyone remembers whether they have 1 black friend or 0 black friends in the town; and if they say otherwise, I would suspect hypocrisy.

Perhaps this all just shows that one should not blindly copy heuristics just because they worked in a different environment.

comment by prase · 2012-08-20T16:44:44.243Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In my culture I can find people both straight and curly hair on every social level (and although I can't say for sure there is no hair texture to status correlation, I am not aware of any prejudices with respect to this), but it never occured to me that I could be ignorant about whether my friend has straight or curly hair. Maybe I use "friend" too restrictively.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-08-20T17:42:36.756Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You might be ignorant about whether some of your friends have naturally curly or straight hair.

comment by prase · 2012-08-20T18:29:04.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I might, as well as I might be ignorant about whether Michael Jackson was naturally white or black. I wonder why you consider this particularly relevant.

comment by gyokuro · 2012-08-19T03:29:27.294Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This happens to me as well-- I was shocked recently when someone pointed out some people I interact with daily are on the black side of the spectrum. It just doesn't occur to me.

comment by arundelo · 2012-08-20T15:34:59.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This thread needs a mention of Stephen Colbert, one of whose running jokes is that he "doesn't see race" [video].

comment by Emile · 2012-08-16T15:48:02.586Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Translated to mathematics, the fact that a white person has black friends, is considered an evidence for hypothesis that the person is a racist.

That's a bit of a bad faith interpretation; I see it as meaning something more like "Having black friends is not sufficiently strong evidence to push you out of the 'racist' category".

A bit as if I spent all day laughing and pointing at ugly and disabled people, and when someone called me an asshole I replied "I'm not an asshole, I helped an old lady cross the street last week". Even assholes can point to examples of nice deeds they did, even racists can point to black "friends".

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T19:32:54.143Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Alternatively, the immediate statement "I'm not racist" is actually the evidence that you are a racist. The additional statement "Some of my best friends are black." may or may not be evidence against racism, depending on context. It seems like one piece of evidence, but nothing stops you from taking it as two entirely different pieces of evidence and evaluating each one separately. Or alternatively, the mere context of the fact that the statement is immediate might be the indicator itself.

Consider: A person named John Doe does not even appear willing to consider that they might have, for instance, offended a person of another race with whatever they just did, and they just immediately deny that person of the other race is saying something plausible and start making excuses as to why they are wrong. Ignoring John Doe's specific words for a moment, does that context make John Doe sound more or less likely to be racist?

comment by CarlShulman · 2012-08-18T01:18:35.217Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a huge variety of alternatives one could offer as a defense against racism, and giving one rather than others inevitably provides evidence about the various features that get called racist. If the best defense someone can offer (assuming people lead with their best defenses) is "some of my friends are X," that can be evidence of racism by indicating the absence of more persuasive defenses, perhaps one of these:

  • My spouse is X
  • My best friend is X
  • My best man/maid of honor was X
  • My roommate is X
  • I am 1/4 X
  • I have voted for X political candidates A, B, and C
  • I am a member of the pro-X political group A
  • I chose to live in an area with a high population of X
  • I send my kids to a mostly-X school
  • I don't believe [false] racist-sounding claims A, B, C...
  • I don't believe [true] racist-sounding claims A, B, C...
  • I believe [true] anti-racist-sounding claims A, B, C...
  • I believe [false] anti-racist-sounding claims A, B, C
  • I have a low score on the IAT for anti-X associations
  • I love X, an X saved my life in Iraq
  • I donate to charities that primarily help X folk
  • Haha, yeah, right [insert funny joke or self-deprecating humor as countersignaling]
  • I participated in the boycott against anti-Xers
  • Look at my demographic characteristics: in surveys and IAT studies people of my occupation, education level, religion, and political affiliations show low levels of racism, so your prior for me being racist should be low
comment by Dallas · 2012-08-17T17:28:03.204Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This might actually be true. If you consider the categories of white people who would be most likely to have black people in their social network, what comes up is a list of categories correlated with racism (e.g. poverty, religiosity).

comment by Kindly · 2012-08-16T12:40:09.976Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're forgetting an alternative here. The only possible non-racist thing to say is "I'm not racist, all of my best friends are black." Clearly, no such person can be racist. Again, by conservation of expected evidence, having any non-black friends whatsoever is evidence of racism.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-16T14:40:10.353Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As I understand it, there is no non-racist thing a white person can say in some social circles. The best bet is something like "I'm racist, but trying to become less racist."

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-16T16:56:39.011Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Sadly, yes. And the best way to signal that you are trying, is to accuse other people.

And because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is best to start accusing others even before you are accused.

(To prevent possible misunderstanding: I believe that there is real racism and real racists; and I also believe that there is a status game played about this topic. And precisely because the racism is harmful, it would be good to distinguish between real racists and people who are simply not good enough at playing this status game; and also between people who genuinely help and people who are simply good at playing this status game.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-16T17:45:57.533Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An example of what you're talking about on the positive side.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-08-16T16:48:24.523Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For a demonstrated historical example of something very similar:

There were (are?) social circles where there is no non-witch thing a presumed witch can say, nor any non-witch thing a presumed witch can do. There is no best bet: They will kill the presumed witches even if they "repent" and demonstrate willingness to correct themselves.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T22:31:53.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

there is no non-racist thing a white person can say in some social circles

“Two plus two equals four.”

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-17T03:40:47.447Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I should have been more exact-- something like "In some social circles, there's no way for a white person to demonstrate that they're not racist".

comment by shminux · 2012-08-17T16:59:22.962Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'd guess that any such circle is anti-white racist, and so best avoided.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-16T11:57:03.286Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That's exactly the kind of comment a racist would post!

(WARNING: THAT WAS A JOKE)

comment by Grognor · 2012-08-20T16:29:04.822Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have become 30% confident that my comments here are a net harm, which is too much to bear and so I am discontinuing my comments here unless someone cares to convince me otherwise.

Edit: Good-bye.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-08-20T17:35:44.964Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

What the hell? Did you catch Konkvistador disease or something? What is up with high-quality contributors deciding to up and leave?

I, for one, think that your posts are valuable to the community.

(I'm assuming you mean that you suspect your comments cause harm to others, obviously if you think you're spending to much time procrastinating on LessWrong then leaving is fine.)

comment by Dallas · 2012-08-16T04:04:02.814Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Somebody is raising money for buying Wardenclyffe Tower and turning it into a museum. Is this worth the dead kids or should we try and intervene?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-16T08:05:06.418Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"Don't do this nice project that feels warm and fuzzy to you" is guaranteed to provoke a strongly negative reaction in the vast majority of people hearing it, and there's the obvious double standard (which people won't hesitate to point out and make you look stupid) of objecting to such charitable projects but not objecting to somebody buying a movie ticket, say. Besides, buying fuzzies is perfectly fine.

And that's even without the status considerations that paper-machine points out. People think we look weird already. Attacking a high status individual famous throughout the Internets isn't going to make that better.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-16T17:50:05.287Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

At a guess, the Oatmeal is raising new contributions from people who were highly unlikely to be donating to charity in the first place (selfish young geeks participating for solidarity with their social group at the order of their leader); attacking it will probably shift very few dollars to better charities and will be very expensive for us. I think there's an XKCD comic on this, actually...

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T04:24:10.265Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt LW has the social capital necessary to intervene without considerable backlash. Oatmeal is the Randall Munroe of 2012.

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-08-16T12:14:49.446Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for making me snort-laugh. I'm getting way too meta-contrarian .

comment by Dorikka · 2012-08-16T05:16:57.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My first guess would be no, given that any amount of capital significant to the project (which seems like it would just generate warm fuzzies anyways) is probably a crapload of dead kids.