The selfish reason to write something for Ada Lovelace Day

post by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-10-10T22:28:48.005Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 16 comments

Last October there was a discussion post on Ada Lovelace Day, and it met with something of a lukewarm reception. Fair enough. There are legitimate criticisms of this particular blogosphere event, and people are welcome to subscribe to those criticisms, or not, as they see fit. Personally, I'm quite fond of Ada Lovelace Day, in no small part because I get a chance to write about one of my nerdy interests in a public place with a reasonable expectation that a lay audience will attempt to engage with it. This year, the occasion falls on October 15th, and as a result I'm currently drafting a short piece on Esther Duflo, a development economist responsible for pioneering randomised controlled trials of policy interventions in developing countries. She's rather prolific, has a shelf full of academic awards, and is a hot tip for a Nobel Memorial Prize over the next few years or so.

So I was thinking about this: I get to talk about the importance of randomised controlled trials in policy-making; I get to talk about evidence-based philanthropy; I get to wrap it up with a don't-put-mustard-on-the-cat closing message of how it's not enough to just care about an issue, you have to be informed on it as well, (and by the way, there's this thing called "effective altruism" you might want to look up); and I can expect a reasonable number of readers to actually engage with it, because it's ostensibly written about the work of an interesting woman on Ada Lovelace Day.

You can probably see where I'm going with this by now.

Whether or not you think it's valuable to publicise the work of women in STEM, it is an excellent opportunity to sneak assorted pro-rationality memes under the radar to an audience that wouldn't necessarily engage with them otherwise. Less Wrong has a lot of eloquent people with knowledge across a wide assortment of different domains. I'm curious as to what we could come up with if we made a concerted effort to do this.

For that matter (and Harry Potter fanfic aside), it's an interesting question as to what other popular internet phenomena can be co-opted for this purpose.

16 comments

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comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-10-10T23:07:56.415Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

[W]hat other popular internet phenomena can be co-opted for this purpose.

The Internet is, of course, for porn, so... rationalist erotica?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-11T00:30:32.859Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe Eliezer should start blogging about BDSM.

comment by shminux · 2013-10-11T03:34:18.058Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly he and Brienne could (and possibly do) write a riot together, but publishing it widely might not be overly rational.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-10-13T01:17:25.593Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Among the enhanced vampire senses is touch.

-- Luminosity, studiously avoiding having a sex scene in the narration

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2013-10-11T15:49:00.623Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. What would this be? Some set of people rationally deciding to hook up when without an especially rational outlook they wouldn't? Alternately, optimizing a hookup?

How could this be written so as to actually showcase rationality (i.e. don't gratuitously add 'rationality' to everything that's not stupid)? Without killing the mood?

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-10-11T16:17:30.191Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So that was intended for a joke, but ok, let's think. Some possibilities:

  • 50 Shades of Rationality - keep the sex scenes but upgrade the characters, HPMoR-style. I haven't read them, but presumably there's some excuse for a plot? So, make villains and heroes both awesomer. This does have the weakness that there's "separation of rationality and erotica" - it's about smart characters, and they have a lot of sex, but it's not necessarily smart sex, so to speak.

  • A sex scene that the characters have spent (at least) five minutes thinking about and preparing for. Does losing your virginity absolutely have to be a scramble of awkwardness, embarrassment, and rapid ejaculation? Not if the characters expend some effort ensuring otherwise. This is more explicitly rational; it's about how to actually accomplish a goal, the did-you-really-think-about-that-for-five-minutes question. We just make it sexual by setting the goal to "get laid" or "have really good sex".

  • In BDSM, there seems to be a conflict between the sub not currently being spanked, who wants to be; and the sub being spanked, who (to some extent) wants not to be. Precommitment, discounting, making decisions for yourself-in-the-future, sub-agents within yourself with differing agendas.

Obviously all depends on good writing; but really, anything with a plot - anything longer than five pages and more complicated than "Tab A went into slot B" - should have some room for rationality. The characters have to make some decisions, presumably, and that can be done well or badly.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-10-12T04:44:35.113Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A sex scene that the characters have spent (at least) five minutes thinking about and preparing for. Does losing your virginity absolutely have to be a scramble of awkwardness, embarrassment, and rapid ejaculation? Not if the characters expend some effort ensuring otherwise. This is more explicitly rational; it's about how to actually accomplish a goal, the did-you-really-think-about-that-for-five-minutes question. We just make it sexual by setting the goal to "get laid" or "have really good sex".

Interesting thing to think about: many teens / young adults today have a vast amount of book knowledge about sex (from health classes and the internet) but normal amounts of actual experience, compared to historical populations. (I remember being tremendously amused by some erotica I read recently in which a character, receiving oral sex for the first time, thought "This isn't the best thing ever like in all the erotica I've read and porn I've watched; it's just pleasant. I sort of want to stay here all day.")

comment by ikrase · 2013-10-14T05:36:25.865Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding this. Will likely interest feminists.

comment by Zaine · 2013-10-11T01:11:38.090Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I decided to delete the text of my first comment, as it dealt with what sex by rationalists would look like, rather than erotica fantasising rational decision making; the first is available upon request.

Minerva couldn't remember the last time she'd felt this nervous. She'd redone her hair knot at least twice now, and she still couldn't tear herself away from the mirror. Half of her wanted to be convinced it was out of respect for the man. That half was a dirty liar. Almost as dirty as her thoughts of the last hour.

A knock came at the door.

"Enter, please."

The way he derived partial transfiguration by extrapolating observable reality to its logical conclusions was just so sexy.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-10-11T02:23:35.908Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You know, this is the third time I've seen Harry shipped with McGonagall.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-10-13T01:14:38.343Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer once threatened to ship Draco with McGonagall. I don't remember the context, though.

comment by Zaine · 2013-10-11T04:10:31.546Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Never seriously, I hope. I have yet to stop laughing.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-10-11T04:37:03.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The first one was just a joke about a ship nobody would ever seriously do. It was also the only one where Harry had any part in it.

The second one was pretty much just for humor, but it did make sense in context: Avpubynf Synzry jnf bevtvanyyl n snxr vqragvgl sbe fbzrbar gbb ybj pynff gb or n erfcrpgrq nypurzvfg. Ur riraghnyyl znqr gur cuvybfbcure'f fgbar nf n ubnk, naq cnffrq ba gur znagry. Gur pheerag Avpubynf Synzry vf Uneel Cbggre. ZpTbantnyy jnf jryy njner gung vg jbhyq or n znl qrprzore ebznapr, ohg fur gubhtug fur jnf gur lbhat bar.

comment by ygert · 2013-10-11T07:33:33.163Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is generally good practice to advertise what story is being spoiled by the rot13ed text. If people are unsure over what the spoilers are for, they may be stuck in a state of eternal uncertainty over whether or not it is safe to read the rot13ed text.

For reference, in this case it's a spoiler for abawba'f "Jurer va gur Jbeyq vf Uneel Cbggre?" gevybtl. (I rot13ed that, in case someone doesn't want to be spoiled even that tiniest of tiny bits on the story. (And let me tell you, the spoiled part not a major part of that story whatsoever) But the jokes on them: they can never read the rot13ed text, even if what is inside is not a spoiler for them, as they have no way of knowing whether or not it is.)

comment by DanielLC · 2013-10-11T22:19:00.137Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is generally good practice to advertise what story is being spoiled by the rot13ed text.

I would have, but I couldn't remember what story it was.

And let me tell you, the spoiled part not a major part of that story whatsoever

Yeah, but it might still be more fun to find out the context by reading the context, instead of just a summary for it.

Also, I couldn't remember exactly how much of a spoiler it was.

comment by Oligopsony · 2013-10-11T09:12:54.042Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Technically speaking, this seems like an altruistic reason to write something for Ada Lovelace Day, not a selfish one. Unless you're using the term in the trivial sense where "selfish reason to" is pleonastic.