Rationality Quotes March 2014

post by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2014-03-01T15:34:22.614Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 330 comments

Another month has passed and here is a new rationality quotes thread. The usual rules are:

330 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by nabeelqu · 2014-03-05T10:56:01.084Z · score: 44 (44 votes) · LW · GW

As burglars, they used some unusual techniques...During their casing, they had noticed that the interior door that opened to the draft board office was always locked. There was no padlock to replace...The break-in technique they settled on at that office must be unique in the annals of burglary. Several hours before the burglary was to take place, one of them wrote a note and tacked it to the door they wanted to enter: "Please don't lock this door tonight." Sure enough, when the burglars arrived that night, someone had obediently left the door unlocked. The burglars entered the office with ease, stole the Selective Service records, and left. They were so pleased with themselves that one of them proposed leaving a thank-you note on the door. More cautious minds prevailed. Miss Manners be damned, they did not leave a note.

-- Betty Medsger

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-03-10T22:21:20.730Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Tears in my eyes... awesome beyond words. The fact that this wasn't fictional makes it brilliant. The fact that the burglars were acting against an over-reaching institution is just icing on the cake. It's been sometime since I heard a story that warmed my heart so much.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T21:49:39.550Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How did they know they considered leaving a thank-you note? Did they confess afterwards?

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-03-27T15:47:37.089Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

Well. Sort of. Not exactly.

They were stealing government files on domestic surveillance in order to leak them - the quote comes from the journalist who was their press contact (see the link beneath the quote.)

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2014-03-01T22:10:34.360Z · score: 41 (45 votes) · LW · GW

As the world becomes more addictive, the two senses in which one can live a normal life will be driven ever further apart. One sense of "normal" is statistically normal: what everyone else does. The other is the sense we mean when we talk about the normal operating range of a piece of machinery: what works best.

These two senses are already quite far apart. Already someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly.

-- Paul Graham, The Acceleration of Addictiveness

comment by Torello · 2014-03-02T18:09:13.916Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for linking to the piece where the quote was drawn. Great article!

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-02T19:32:49.940Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

BTW, here is Eliezer's article on the same topic.

comment by dspeyer · 2014-03-01T18:43:02.659Z · score: 38 (38 votes) · LW · GW

In our large, anonymous society, it's easy to forget moral and reputational pressures and concentrate on legal pressure and security systems. This is a mistake; even though our informal social pressures fade into the background, they're still responsible for most of the cooperation in society.

  • Bruce Schneier, expert in security systems
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T11:51:47.966Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Could you link the source of the quote?

comment by dspeyer · 2014-03-06T17:25:23.774Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's in chapter 16 of Liars and Outliers, which AFAIK has no url.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2014-03-04T10:21:05.636Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Found it with google

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-01T17:52:25.630Z · score: 31 (31 votes) · LW · GW

The use with children of experimental [educational] methods, that is, methods that have not been finally assessed and found effective, might seem difficult to justify. Yet the traditional methods we use in the classroom every day have exactly this characteristic--they are highly experimental in that we know very little about their educational efficacy in comparison with alternative methods. There is widespread cynicism among students and even among practiced teachers about the effectiveness of lecturing or repetitive drill (which we would distinguish from carefully designed practice), yet these methods are in widespread use. Equally troublesome, new "theories" of education are introduced into schools every day (without labeling them as experiments) on the basis of their philosophical or common-sense plausibility but without genuine empirical support. We should make a larger place for responsible experimentation that draws on the available knowledge--it deserves at least as large a place as we now provide for faddish, unsystematic and unassessed informal "experiments" or educational "reforms."

-- John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder & Herbert A. Simon: Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:57:46.816Z · score: 29 (29 votes) · LW · GW

"Consider the people who routinely disagree with you. See how confident they look while being dead wrong? That’s exactly how you look to them." - Scott Adams

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T12:22:26.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I sense an asymmetry when both sides are express mere high confidence in their primary conclusions, but they keep on claiming I've got some sort of absolute faith.

comment by Thomas · 2014-03-01T16:29:55.631Z · score: 27 (29 votes) · LW · GW

He says we could learn a lot from primitive tribes. But they could learn a lot more from us!

  • Jeremy Clarkson
comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T18:04:21.445Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but on net primitive tribes (at least in the short-run) seem to be made worse off from contact with technologically advanced civilizations.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-03-01T18:37:26.289Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but that doesn't change the fact that they could learn a lot from us. Indeed, if that weren't so, they

a) would be primitive and b) wouldn't be (especially and unusually) harmed by the contact.

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-01T18:33:35.914Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even after controlling for harmful or exploitative behavior by the advanced civilizations?

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T18:40:21.210Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes because of germs.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-03-01T21:41:16.145Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Depends which primitive tribes. Amerindians died from European diseases and Europeans died from African diseases.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-02T23:16:06.676Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And germs.

Are the ideas harmful?

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-03T00:07:37.757Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some religious views might be.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-04T20:07:33.270Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure most uncontacted tribes had their own religious weirdness.

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-01T21:43:57.116Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, but that doesn't fall under the "a lot to learn from" rubric. Your general point about contact is likely true.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T21:49:18.019Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pretend I'm a fantastic in-person teacher but if you get near me you will die of some disease. Do you have a lot to learn from me?

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-02T11:25:49.930Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I said, your general point about net value of contact is correct.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T13:12:28.753Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. Use a correspondence course...

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-29T15:42:03.987Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And if you can't read?

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T16:29:48.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My reply was not entirely literal; in short, information and disease do not all follow the same vectors. A sterilized phone would be helpful, but of course then you could say what if you don't know how to use a phone...

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-03-01T18:38:15.880Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So, it's positive-sum. But anyway, who cares what a primitive tribe learns? We, surely, are the center and purpose of the universe; our gain, however small or large, is the important thing.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-03-12T20:48:02.837Z · score: 26 (28 votes) · LW · GW

If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru, you’ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil.

Warren Buffett

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-03-02T00:11:14.497Z · score: 26 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Procrastination is the thief of compound interest.

-Venkatesh Rao

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-03-04T03:07:22.953Z · score: 24 (28 votes) · LW · GW

It will be said that, while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours of work out of the twenty-four. In so far as this is true in the modern world, it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake. Serious-minded persons, for example, are continually condemning the habit of going to the cinema, and telling us that it leads the young into crime. But all the work that goes to producing a cinema is respectable, because it is work, and because it brings a money profit. The notion that the desirable activities are those that bring a profit has made everything topsy-turvy. The butcher who provides you with meat and the baker who provides you with bread are praiseworthy, because they are making money; but when you enjoy the food they have provided, you are merely frivolous, unless you eat only to get strength for your work. Broadly speaking, it is held that getting money is good and spending money is bad. Seeing that they are two sides of one transaction, this is absurd; one might as well maintain that keys are good, but keyholes are bad. Whatever merit there may be in the production of goods must be entirely derivative from the advantage to be obtained by consuming them. The individual, in our society, works for profit; but the social purpose of his work lies in the consumption of what he produces. It is this divorce between the individual and the social purpose of production that makes it so difficult for men to think clearly in a world in which profit-making is the incentive to industry. We think too much of production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer.

-- Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-14T14:38:32.928Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I once attempted to sum this up on another forum by saying, "Careerism is a subgoal stomp." Russell, of course, better expresses the broader point that the subgoal stomp of maximizing productivity has almost entirely replaced all discussion of what kind of terminal goals individuals and societies should have.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-03-05T14:10:34.472Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with spending money -- and consumption in general -- is the opportunity cost. If by doing something you are not maximizing some value, then it would be better if you did.

The same criticism could be also made about production: if you work hard and make profit by creating value, but by doing something else you could create even more value, then it would be better if you did the other thing.

Perhaps the difference is that on the production side people at least try to maximize (of course with all the human irrationality involved), but on the consumption side we often forget to think about it. So we need to be reminded there more.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-05T16:04:30.309Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If by doing something you are not maximizing some value, then it would be better if you did.

Not some value -- a lot of people are maximizing the wrong values.

One of the reasons why this whole thing is so complicated is that in reality people very rarely optimize for a single value. They optimize for a set of values which usually isn't too coherent and the weights for these values tend to fluctuate...

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-01T20:26:28.459Z · score: 23 (27 votes) · LW · GW

"He keeps saying, you can run, but you can't hide. Since when do we take advice from this guy?"

You got a really good point there, Rick. I mean, if the truth was that we could hide, it's not like he would just give us that information.

  • Rick and Morty.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-03-11T16:48:05.857Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The other thing is that he probably can't know whether you can hide.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T22:01:15.761Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

After Rick and Morty hid, he started looking for them in a way that made it pretty clear that he knew they were hiding. It didn't stop him from saying that they couldn't hide.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-06T17:06:09.551Z · score: 22 (32 votes) · LW · GW

Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous— that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

-- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-07T18:38:53.889Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is better than the other Screwtape quote, but - given the example of Ayn Rand - I think Lewis still gets causality backwards where smart Marxists were concerned. I think they started by being right about God and "materialism" when most people were insistently wrong (or didn't care about object-level truth.) This gave them an inflated view of their own intelligence and the explanatory power of Marxism.

comment by JQuinton · 2014-03-13T17:00:56.966Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I admit, I get horribly mind-killed whenever I realize I'm reading something by CS Lewis, especially anything from The Screwtape Letters. That's because years ago, the arguments in this book were used against me by a girl I was dating as a means to end our relationship (me being non-religious), who herself was convinced by her friends and family that we should break up.

That said, I was able to read this and appreciate it more clearly if I substituted the quote like so:

Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the [bad guys]. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that [good guys' philosophy] is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous— that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

If we are attempting to spread good rationality around, would it be efficient to not try to convince people that rationality was "true", but instead attempt to promote good rationality by saying that rationality is "strong, stark, or courageous -- that it is the philosophy of the future"?

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2014-03-13T18:30:25.697Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So you propose to spread rationality by encouraging irrationality?

Even assuming that this will work — that is, not just get people to buy into rationality (that part is simple) but actually become more rational, after this initial dose of irrational motivation — what do you suggest we do when our new recruits turn around and go "Hey, wait a tick; you guys got me into this through blatantly irrational arguments! You cynically and self-servingly pandered to my previously-held biases to get me on your side! You tricked me, you bastards!"? Grin and say "worked, didn't it"?

comment by JQuinton · 2014-03-13T21:28:31.222Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you propose to spread rationality by encouraging irrationality?

That seems to be what the quote is arguing.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-03-13T21:52:07.552Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The quote is spoken by a devil, who's deliberately seeking to destroy and devour a person...

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-03-15T21:54:07.543Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The speaker does not himself believe that materialism is true; he is giving advice on how to make another believe a falsehood.

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2014-03-13T22:37:51.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And do you think it's a good idea?

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T22:05:09.848Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We aren't trying to promote the idea that rationality is true. We are trying to promote that it is useful.

More accurately, we have defined "rational" to mean "useful", and when we argue that something is rational, we are arguing that it's useful.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-03-29T15:39:42.910Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you are, you are being irresponsible because you are not checking what people are going to do with this useful thing.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-29T20:30:04.722Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't know for sure that it won't come back to bite me, but I suspect helping people generally tends to be helpful. There are things that are easier to use to cause harm than to help, like nuclear weaponry, but in general helpful things seem to have improved humanity's standard of living, and made them care more about morality.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-03-29T22:45:05.320Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't actually think that teaching rationality is dangerous. I think that LW expects it to have an edifying effect, to change values for the better. So it is the claim of purely instrumental rationality that is the problem.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T15:21:57.772Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The only senses in which you wouldn't say it's true are those in which that would be a type error.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-03-26T13:48:10.501Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We aren't trying to promote the idea that rationality is true. We are trying to promote that it is useful.

We are trying to promote the idea that it is useful because it is true.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-06T22:07:32.812Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

While it is true that you shouldn't be a materialist just because it's fashionable, there's a fine line between saying "you shouldn't be a materialist just because it's fashionable" and "my opponents are just materialists because it's fashionable". The second is a straw man argument, and given that this is CS Lewis putting words in the mouth of Satan, I read this as the straw man argument. Needless to say, a straw man argument is not a good rationalist quote.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-06T23:00:11.612Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The second is a straw man argument, and given that this is CS Lewis putting words in the mouth of Satan, I read this as the straw man argument.

That sounds to me like you're assuming that Lewis wrote the book so that he could put the devil to say strawmannish things, in order to mock the devil. Which is not the case at all - the demon writing the letters is much more similar to MoR!Quirrel, displaying a degree of rationality-mixed-with-cynicism which it uses to point out ways by which the lives of humans can be made miserable, or by which humans make their own lives miserable. Much of it can be read as a treatise on various biases and cognitive mistakes to avoid, made more compelling by them being explained by someone who wants those mistakes to be exploited for actively harming people.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-07T09:53:24.366Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I read that quote as saying that the Devil (or a demon) deceives people by making them believe those things, not that the Devil believes these things himself. That's how demons behave, they lie to people. This one lies to people about why one should be a materialist and the people fall for it. The point is not to mock the demon, who in the quote is acting as a liar rather than a materialist, but to mock materialists themselves by implying that they are materialists for spurious reasons.

Of course, Lewis has plausible deniability. One can always claim he's not attributing anything to materialists in general--you're supposed to infer that; it's not actually stated.

Edit: Also, remember when Lewis wrote that. 1942 wasn't like today, when it's possible to say you don't believe in the supernatural and (if you live in the right area) not suffer too many consequences except not ever being able to run for political office. Any materialist at the time who claimed he was courageous could easily be just responding to persecution, not claiming that that was his reason for being a materialist. Mocking materialists for that would be like mocking gay pride parades today on the grounds that pride is a sin and a form of arrogance--pride in a vacuum is, but pride in response to someone telling you you're shameful isn't.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-07T10:40:21.935Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The demon is not just lying at random - the demon is lying with the purpose of getting a certain reaction (in this case, getting the human to subscribe to the philosophy of materialism). The original quote is advice on how to use the human's cognitive biases against him, in order to better achieve that goal.

The point of the quote isn't materialism. That could be replaced with any other philosophy, quite easily. The point of the quote is that, for many people, subscribing to a philosophy isn't about whether that philosophy is true at all; it's more about whether that philosophy is popular, or cool, or daring.

The point isn't to mock the demon, or the materialist. The point is to highlight a common human cognitive mistake.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-07T11:27:56.535Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You correctly describe what the quote literally says, but there's a fine line between "I'm just writing a story which requires that these particular materialists be biased" and "I'm accusing materialists in general of being biased like this". The former is often a way for authors to hint at the latter without saying it.

I could easily write a story where the Devil tempts Jews into baking matzohs using the blood of Christian babies. I could then argue that I'm not really accusing any Jews except my fictional characters of anything, and that this is simply a story about how people can do bad things for bad reasons. But you would be completely justified in not believing me when I say that.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-08T05:00:29.348Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You correctly describe what the quote literally says, but there's a fine line between "I'm just writing a story which requires that these particular materialists be biased" and "I'm accusing materialists in general of being biased like this".

Lewis is not accusing materialists in general of having that bias - Lewis is accusing humans in general of having that bias. The idea that humans have that bias, and that that bias can be exploited to convince a human to subscribe to a given philosophy independantly of whether that philosophy is true is rather the point of the quote.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-03-11T10:42:26.589Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I think it is both.

Lewis described how humans can subscribe to a given philosophy independently of its correctness. That part is completely rational.

But he didn't use a random example to describe this bias. -- Just look at all other books he wrote, they all deal with the same topic. His choice of Devil is not the same as e.g. Tolkien's choice of elves. Tolkien wrote fiction, but Lewis wrote fiction as a propaganda tool. Tolkien didn't believe in elves, but Lewis did believe in Devil. -- Therefore it seems to me very likely that he wanted his readers to think about this specific example instead of using this kind of reasoning generally.

In other words, his work is an equivalent of a hypothetical LW article: "Top 10 cognitive biases that Republicans have, and how it influences their voting". (Assume that the author wrote dozen articles on Republicans, and none about anything else.) Cognitive biases: okay. Selective attention to one specific group: not okay.

comment by Wes_W · 2014-03-07T12:05:01.308Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Since the author thought materialism was thoroughly false, this constitutes one of the mildest attacks on the character of materialists he could have written, short of just omitting the topic altogether. Thinking your opponents are wrong because they were misled by epistemic sleight of hand (from malevolent ageless invisible all-seeing schemers, no less) is nicer than thinking they're wrong due to stupidity or sheer contrarian defiance.

The Screwtape Letters is a hundred-page collection of mistakes to be avoided. It seems silly to assume hostile intent behind this particular passage, rather than reading it in the same "don't be misled in this particular way" spirit as the rest of the text.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-07T15:19:31.022Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Since the author thought materialism was thoroughly false

That's actually one of the reasons I'm more inclined to interpret it that way. If Lewis thought there were also materialists with superb reasoning abilities who believed in materialism by correctly exercising those reasoning abilities, I wouldn't think a passage about poorly reasoned materialists was meant to be a generalization.

this constitutes one of the mildest attacks on the character of materialists he could have written

Hypothesis: Lewis was well aware that there are materialists who are good people. Yet his religion forced him to think bad of materialists. He handled this cognitive dissonance by thinking bad of materialists in one of the weakest ways possible. In other words, he knew too much to be able to believe that all materialists are power-hungry maniacs, but he couldn't avoid at least politely thinking they were all materialists because of everyday human foibles.

It's like Lewis's beliefs about homosexuality. He was forced by his religion to believe that homosexuality is a sin and that all gay people should abstain from sex, but he tried to be as polite to them as he could within the confines of these beliefs and did not write about how gays are a menace to our children.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-07T18:49:41.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If Lewis thought there were also materialists with superb reasoning abilities who believed in materialism by correctly exercising those reasoning abilities, I wouldn't think a passage about poorly reasoned materialists was meant to be a generalization.

Why do you think he didn't think this? I'm having a hard time not seeing this exchange as you projecting negativity onto Lewis, when he was writing about fully general cognitive biases and weaknesses with compassion towards all humans who share those biases.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-07T22:26:35.295Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If he thought that materialists became materialists by reasoning correctly, he would either have been a materialist, or would have taken one of a particularly narrow set of positions (such as "materialism is based on correct reasoning, and how something can be false and correctly reasoned at the same time is one of God's mysteries" or "materialists are only materialists because they start with different premises from me, but correctly reason from those premises") which as far as I know he didn't. (Or else taken no opinion on materialism, which he wasn't going to do.)

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-09T11:55:43.919Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

mock materialists themselves by implying that they are materialists for spurious reasons.

I don't think he was mocking, but I do think he was correct. I claim that it's perfectly true that most materialists today are materialists for spurious, non-object-level reasons. The same goes for all other widespread philosophies. People in general are biased and also don't care about philosophical truth much.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-09T13:15:51.603Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think the non-object-level reasons that the devil names are interesting.

I think few new atheists care about whether atheism is strong or courageous. They rather care about the fact that it's what the intelligent people believe and they also want to be intelligent.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-09T16:14:24.896Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that most members of the Democratic Party are Democrats for spurious reasons too. But a Republican who lists a bunch of human foibles and writes a scenario that specifically names Democrats as being subject to them is probably attacking Democrats, at least in passing, not just attacking human beings.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-09T16:58:40.273Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Don't let yourself be mindkilled. Arguments aren't soldiers.

Focus on the true things you can say about the the world.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-10T20:39:46.097Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am tempted to reply to this with "May the Force be with you", but instead I'll ask "just what are you trying to say?" You just gave me a reply which consists entirely of slogans, with no hint as to how you think they apply.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-10T21:57:19.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You just gave me a reply which consists entirely of slogans, with no hint as to how you think they apply.

I think the argument I made was fairly obvious, but let me break it down.

You care about who's attacking whom. If you are in that mindset arguments are soldiers. You treat the argument that there are atheists who are atheists because it's cool to be an atheist as a foreign soldier that has to be fought. A foreign soldier that doesn't play according to the rules.

Those considerations don't matter if you want to decide whether there are atheists who are motivated by the coolness of being an atheist. If you care about truth, you want to have true beliefs about how much atheists are motivated by the coolness factor of atheism. It doesn't matter for this discussion whether that argument is fair. What matters is whether it's true.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-10T22:22:56.299Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Those considerations don't matter if you want to decide whether there are atheists who are motivated by the coolness of being an atheist. If you care about truth, you want to have true beliefs about how much atheists are motivated by the coolness factor of atheism.

  1. I also want to have true beliefs about Lewis and about Lewis's writings. Whether the statement is an attack matters for those beliefs.
  2. Whether the statement is an attack also matters for whether it is a rationalist quote. A proper rationalist quote should only be about its apparent subject and should not try to sneak in such an attack under the radar.
  3. It is possible to produce an endless sequence of statements with truth values (or to go through literature and extract an endless sequence of prewritten statements with truth values). Nobody has the time to evaluate all of them; we must pick and choose between them.
  4. The implicit attack "all materialists are materialists because they are flawed humans who make mistakes" also has a truth value, and this truth value is something that I can care about just as much as the truth value of the statement's literal words. Pointing out the attack is not ignoring truth in favor of something else, it's recognizing that there's something else there whose truth may be in question as well.
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T15:31:11.118Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

4 is wrong. The demon is talking about THIS GUY. The subject (or object as appropriate) is "Your man", "He", "him", throughout. Neither the demon nor Lewis is talking about people who really think things through, nor implying that they don't exist.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-29T16:46:50.201Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Neither the demon nor Lewis is saying words which literally read like that, but words have implications beyond the literal.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-30T11:51:01.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ehhh. The consistency of the pronoun usage is so strong that I would expect him to have generalized somewhere if he (either one) meant it.

The class he's a part of is 'philosophically weak borderline Christians', not 'Materialists'. After all, they guy isn't a materialist. And if you're a philosophically weak borderline Christian, the easiest route to materialism is indeed how useful it is, not a philosophical argument, because these folks don't give a whit about philosophy.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-11T08:47:17.174Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also want to have true beliefs about Lewis and about Lewis's writings.

Judging authors by a single quote without knowing the context is a bad idea. Rousseau begins one of his works by saying ""Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."

Taken on it's own you might think that Rousseau is somehow criticizing that man is in chains. He isn't. He advocates that man is chained by the social contract. I really had a hard time with ideas like this because I had read the book and my history teacher hadn't, so discussing Rousseau was really hard.

Why do you care about Lewis?

A proper rationalist quote should only be about its apparent subject and should not try to sneak in such an attack under the radar.

We are a group of smart people. There nothing wrong with a quote having multiple layers of meaning and saying something in addition to it's apparent subject.

Nobody has the time to evaluate all of them; we must pick and choose between them.

On LW we care about rationality. Having accurate beliefs about what makes people become atheists is useful for that purpose.

On the other hand having accurate beliefs about CS Lewis is less important.

The implicit attack "all materialists are materialists because they are flawed humans who make mistakes" also has a truth value, and this truth value is something that I can care about just as much as the truth value of the statement's literal words.

The truth value of that statement matters a great deal but that in no way implies that we shouldn't take about that statement and it has no place on LW.

You didn't attack it on grounds that it's wrong and that there evidence that it's wrong but on the grounds that it's an unfair attack.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-03-11T12:03:55.303Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

See filtered evidence. It is completely possible to mislead people by giving them only true information... but only those pieces of information which support the conclusion you want them to make.

If you had a perfect superhuman intelligence, perhaps you could give them dozen information about why X is wrong, a zero information about why Y is wrong, and yet the superintelligence might conclude: "Both X and Y are human political sides, so I will just take this generally as an evidence that humans are often wrong, especially when discussing politics. Because humans are so often wrong, it is very likely that the human who is giving this information to me is blind to the flaws of one side (which in this specific case happens to be Y), so all this information is only a very weak evidence for X being worse than Y."

But humans don't reason like this. Give them dozen information about why X is wrong, and zero information about why Y is wrong; in the next chapter give them dozen information about why Y is good and zero information about why X is good... and they will consider this a strong evidence that X is worse than Y. -- And Lewis most likely understands this.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-11T13:39:51.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt that any LW member would take all of his information about the value of atheism from Lewis. If you let yourself convince that atheism is wrong by reading Lewis than your belief in atheism was very weak in the first place.

I have a hard time imagine pushing anyone in LW into a crisis of faith about atheism in which we wouldn't come out with better belief system than he started. If someone discovers that he actually follows in atheism because it's cool and works through his issues, he might end up in following atheism for better reasons.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-11T14:55:30.302Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that this attack would not convince a typical LW-er, but I would claim that an unconvincing attempt to mislead with the truth is still an attempt to mislead with the truth and as such is ineligible to be a good rationality quote.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-03-11T14:24:51.537Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This quote taken together with the basic LW wisdom can be useful. But taken separately from any LW context, it would probably just push the reader a little towards religion.

In other words, a LW reader has no problem to imagine a complementary and equally valid quote (actually he probably already did something similar before reading Lewis) like:

... Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him in the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that Christianity is true! Make him think it is morally good, or socially beneficial, or altruistic — that it is the traditional wisdom. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-11T15:25:38.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But taken separately from any LW context

Why would you want to do that?

it would probably just push the reader a little towards religion.

The effects of little pushes are complicated. Vaccination is about little pushes.

Don’t waste time trying to make him think that Christianity is true!

The difference is that many Christians already argue that one should be Christian because it's the moral thing to do and it's socially beneficial. Christians don't engage in the same behavior of trying to make people think it's true than atheists do.

Christian missionaries actually do a lot of socially beneficial work in order to convince people of Christianity.

As far as "traditional wisdom" goes it gets interesting. I don't think that Christianity grows in China because the Chinese consider it traditional wisdom.

Mormons argue that the fact that the religion grows as fast at it does is a sign that it's true. They don't see it as a religion of the past but as one of the future.

Despite talking about ancient wisdom New Age folks use the word 'new' as part of their brand.

I think it's very useful to understand why certain movements win and move past your first stereotypes and actually seek understanding. Even Hitler who wanted to bring back traditional values was very clever in painting the status quo as going to end soon and the future as either his nationalism or communism.

He made it the cool philosophy that the young people at the universities wanted to follow before he had success with elections.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-03-07T11:56:44.496Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Also, remember when Lewis wrote that. 1942 wasn't like today... Any materialist at the time who claimed he was courageous could easily be just responding to persecution, not claiming that that was his reason for being a materialist.

Your understanding of 1942 is amazingly flawed. No-one in the developed world was persecuted for being a materialist at that time, but plenty were for their religion. Moreover, the fashionable belief at the time was dialectical materialism, and part of the claim made for it, by dialectical materialists themselves, was that it was the philosophy of the future.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-07T15:34:13.132Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Well, my first thought was Bertrand Russell being fired from CUNY, which was around 1940, although that was mostly because of his beliefs about sex (which are still directly related to his disbelief in religion). Religion classes in public schools were legal until 1948, and compulsory school prayer was legal until 1963. "In God We Trust" was declared the national motto of the US in 1956.

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-09T11:50:56.699Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Lewis' point of reference is the UK, not the US. I don't know how much that changes the picture.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-09T16:10:19.567Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the US counts as part of "the developed world", however.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-21T04:46:17.634Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Like Salemicus said, no one of those things are persecutions. The closest of your examples is Bertrand Russell's firing, but even you admit that wasn't over his materialism.

By way of contrast there were in fact places in the developed world during the 1930's-1940's where one could be prosecuted for not being a materialist. And by prosecuted, I mean religious people were being semi-systematically arrested and/or executed (not necessarily in that order).

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-22T02:08:46.357Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Saying "people in this time period are persecuted for their religion" implicitly limits it to Western democracies unless you specifically are talking about something else. It's like claiming that "in the 1980's, women weren't allowed to vote". That's literally true, because there are countries where in the 1980's (or even today) women could not vote, but it's not what most people would mean by saying such a thing.

Furthermore, the existence of laws implies persecution. If school prayer is compulsory, that means that people in schools are punished for not praying or have to pray against their will for fear of punishment. That's what "compulsory" means.

(Besides, if you're going to interpret it that way. I could point out that in countries like Saudi Arabia, people could be killed for not believing in God, and that this wasn't any better in the 1930's in most of those countries.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-22T02:48:34.020Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Saying "people in this time period are persecuted for their religion" implicitly limits it to Western democracies unless you specifically are talking about something else.

Spain was certainly a democracy at the time this prosecutions were happening, granted it was engaged in a civil war, but it was the democratic side whose partisans were doing the prosecution. Furthermore, "Western democracies" wasn't a stable category during the period in question, so it was perfectly reasonable for a religious person living in a western democracy to worry that his country would stop being democratic shortly.

Furthermore, the existence of laws implies persecution. If school prayer is compulsory, that means that people in schools are punished for not praying or have to pray against their will for fear of punishment.

So can you cite an example of someone being imprisoned or executed for refusing to engage in school prayer?

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-22T05:18:14.159Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't say people were imprisoned or executed; I used it as an example of persecution. It certainly was that. You may think that persecution only means being imprisoned or executed, but I don't agree with that.

comment by Larks · 2014-03-16T14:48:32.854Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Bertrand Russell wasn't a materialist; he believed in Universals. I think you are confusing "materialist" with "people I agree with".

comment by Protagoras · 2014-03-16T15:42:11.513Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If accepting universals made one not a materialist, that would rule out some of the great Australian materialists, such as David Armstrong. Thus, that would clearly be a non-standard use of the label "materialist." Perhaps there are details of Russell's account of universals which are not shared by Armstrong's which make it anti-materialist, but you don't specify any. I know that Russell's views changed over the years, which of course complicates things, but he certainly didn't believe in spooky souls, and most of the doctrines of his I can think of which seem to be in possible tension with materialism are either susceptible to varying interpretations or matters he changed his mind on at different points or both.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-03-09T23:18:38.707Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So given that none of these are examples of people being persecuted for their materialism, can I take it that you agree?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-11T04:00:40.505Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

pride is a sin and a form of arrogance--pride in a vacuum is, but pride in response to someone telling you you're shameful isn't.

Being proud of something that is actually shameful strikes me as particularly sinful.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-03-11T15:39:40.713Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about being ashamed of something that is actually prideworthy?

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-06T22:29:46.063Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

there's a fine line between saying "you shouldn't be a materialist just because it's fashionable" and "my opponents are just materialists because it's fashionable".

If someone is a materialist just because it's fashionable, that's trouble. Lewis may be wrong on whether or not the Church is 'true,' but I don't think Lewis is wrong on calling out compartmentalization and inconsistency rather than thinking about whether or not doctrines are true or false.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-06T22:34:42.057Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's a rather uncharitable reading.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T17:27:27.306Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

[A]lmost no innovative programs work, in the sense of reliably demonstrating benefits in excess of costs in replicated RCTs [randomized controlled trials]. Only about 10 percent of new social programs in fields like education, criminology and social welfare demonstrate statistically significant benefits in RCTs. When presented with an intelligent-sounding program endorsed by experts in the topic, our rational Bayesian prior ought to be “It is very likely that this program would fail to demonstrate improvement versus current practice if I tested it.”

In other words, discovering program improvements that really work is extremely hard. We labor in the dark -- scratching and clawing for tiny scraps of causal insight.

Megan McArdle quoting or paraphrasing Jim Manzi.

[Edited in response to Kaj's comment.]

comment by CCC · 2014-03-03T14:03:33.537Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Only about 10 percent of new social programs in fields like education, criminology and social welfare demonstrate statistically significant benefits in RCTs

This is a higher rate than I'd expected. It implies that current policies in these three fields are not really thoroughly thought out, or at least not to the extent that I had expected. It seems that there is substantial room for improvement.

I would have expected perhaps one or two percent.

comment by pgbh · 2014-03-06T04:50:38.217Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Remember that programs will not even be tested unless there are good reasons to expect improvement over current protocol. Most programs that are explicitly considered are worse than those that are tested, and most possible programs are worse than those that are explicitly considered. Therefore we can expect that far, far fewer than ten percent of possible programs would yield significant improvements.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-07T08:32:24.889Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That is true. However, there is a second filtering process, after filtering by experts; and that is what I will refer to as filtering by experiment (i.e. we'll try this, and if it works we keep doing it, and if it doesn't we don't). Evolution is basically a mix of random mutation and filtering by experiment, and it shows that, given enough time, such a filter can be astonishingly effective. (That time can be drastically reduced by adding another filter - such as filtering-by-experts - before the filtering-by-experiment step)

The one-to-two percent expectation that I had was a subconscious expectation of the comparison of the effectiveness of the filtering-by-experts in comparison to the filtering-by-experiment over time. Investigating my reasoning more thoroughly, I think that what I had failed to appreciate is probably that there really hasn't been enough time for filtering-by-experiment to have as drastic an effect as I'd assumed; societies change enough over time that what was a good idea a thousand years ago is probably not going to be a good idea now. (Added to this, it likely takes more than a month to see whether such a social program actually is effective or not; so there hasn't really been time for all that many consecutive experiments, and there hasn't really been a properly designed worldwide experimental test model, either).

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-11T17:22:06.722Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It implies that current policies in these three fields are not really thoroughly thought out, or at least not to the extent that I had expected.

That's one possible explanation.

Another possible explanation is that there is a variety of powerful stakeholders in these fields and the new social programs are actually designed to benefit them and not whoever the programs claim to help.

comment by maia · 2014-03-13T14:26:35.022Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Remember, you expect 5% to give a statistically significant result just by chance...

comment by CCC · 2014-03-14T07:49:04.113Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's only true of the programs which can be expected to produce no detriments, surely?

comment by Will_Sawin · 2014-03-01T18:57:46.942Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

10% isn't that bad as long as you continue the programs that were found to succeed and stop the programs that were found to fail. Come up with 10 intelligent-sounding ideas, obtain expert endorsements, do 10 randomized controlled trials, get 1 significant improvement. Then repeat.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T11:53:40.074Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

10% isn't that bad as long as you continue the programs that were found to succeed and stop the programs that were found to fail.

Unfortunately we don't really have the political system to do this.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-11T17:00:26.117Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But I have this great idea that will change that!

...Oh.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T19:20:31.467Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, governments are really bad at doing this.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-03-02T00:21:46.146Z · score: 27 (27 votes) · LW · GW

Humans in general are very bad at this. The only reason capitalism works is that the losing experiments run out of money.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-03-03T07:08:55.805Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The only reason capitalism works is that the losing experiments run out of money.

That's a very powerful reason.

comment by Will_Sawin · 2014-03-03T17:31:05.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True, but that doesn't mean we're laboring in the dark. It just means we've got our eyes closed.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-04T01:48:54.408Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, the people involved have an incentive to keep them closed.

comment by Will_Sawin · 2014-03-04T02:42:39.991Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's really relevant to the original quote.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-03-02T10:46:31.839Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on how many completely ineffectual programs would demonstrate improvement versus current practices.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-01T18:00:17.308Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the quote is from Jim Manzi rather than Megan McArdle, given that McArdle starts the article with

I asked Jim Manzi, who has literally written the book on randomized controlled trials, to share his thoughts. Below is what he said:

and later on in the article it says

I agree with the weight and seriousness of each of these objections. My agreement is not ad hoc; I wrote a book that tried to describe how businesses have implemented experimental processes that operate in the face of all of these issues.

suggesting that the whole article after the first paragraph is a quote (or possibly paraphrase).

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-03-18T21:18:23.190Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

The same persons who cry down Logic will generally warn you against Political Economy. It is unfeeling, they will tell you. It recognises unpleasant facts. For my part, the most unfeeling thing I know of is the law of gravitation: it breaks the neck of the best and most amiable person without scruple, if he forgets for a single moment to give heed to it. The winds and waves too are very unfeeling. Would you advise those who go to sea to deny the winds and waves – or to make use of them, and find the means of guarding against their dangers? My advice to you is to study the great writers on Political Economy, and hold firmly by whatever in them you find true; and depend upon it that if you are not selfish or hard-hearted already, Political Economy will not make you so.

-- John Stuart Mill

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T21:57:39.528Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That last sentence makes it sound like it makes you selfish and hard-hearted. I noticed it could be interpreted to be that it will make you at least one, which seems more accurate. If you desire to be kind-hearted and help others, you will either have to accept that you can't help others if you're kind-hearted, or stop trying to help others. You don't have to be selfish and you don't have to be hard-hearted, but you do have to be selfish or hard-hearted.

Also, considering Mill is considered the father of Utilitarianism, it seems unlikely that he was preaching egoism.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-13T20:51:11.787Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

A: Maybe an Air Nomad Avatar will understand where I'm coming from...(simulates Yangchen)...

Y: Avatar Aang, I know that you are a gentle spirit. And the monks have taught you well. But this isn't about you. This is about the world.

A: But the monks taught me I had to detach myself from the world so my spirit could be free!

Y: ...Here is my wisdom for you: selfless duty calls for you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs, and do whatever it takes to protect the world.

  • Avatar: The last airbender
comment by Mestroyer · 2014-03-13T22:29:52.472Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Context: Aang ("A") is a classic Batman's Rule (never kill) hero, as a result of his upbringing in Air Nomad culture. It appears to him that he must kill someone in order to save the world. He is the only one who can do it, because he's currently the one and only avatar. Yangchen ("Y") is the last avatar to have also been an Air Nomad, and has probably faced similar dilemmas in the past. Aang can communicate with her spirit, but she's dead and can't do things directly anymore.

The story would have been better if Aang had listened to her advice, in my opinion.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:54:26.038Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

"This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution." - Daniel Kahneman

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2014-03-01T15:35:08.561Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Allow me to express now, once and for all, my deep respect for the work of the experimenter and for his fight to wring significant facts from an inflexible Nature, who says so distinctly "No" and so indistinctly "Yes" to our theories.

— Hermann Weyl

(quoted in Science And Sanity, by Alfred Korzybski, of "the map is not the territory" fame)

comment by elharo · 2014-03-13T11:08:10.083Z · score: 17 (21 votes) · LW · GW

May I make a general request to people posting quotes? Please include not just the author's name but sufficient information to enable a reader to find the relevant quote. This doesn't necessarily have to be full MLA format; but a title, journal or book name if from a print source, page number or URL, and date would be helpful. Hyperlinked URLs are excellent if available but do not substitute for the rest of this information since these threads will likely outlive the location of some of the sources.

Doing so enables the reader not just to get a brief hit of rationality but to say, "Gee, that's interesting. I'd like to learn more," and read further in the source.

In fact, why don't we add a fifth bullet point to the header:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the original source of the quote
comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-16T03:04:31.068Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hyperlinked URLs are excellent if available but do not substitute for the rest of this information since these threads will likely outlive the location of some of the sources.

That's what archive.org is for. (Okay, it's not perfectly reliable, but...)

comment by Bakkot · 2014-03-20T04:28:19.876Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to avoid that problem, whenever you post a link you should submit it to archive.org or archive.is.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:53:54.884Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

"Luck plays a large role in every story of success; it is almost always easy to identify a small change in the story that would have turned a remarkable achievement into a mediocre outcome." - Daniel Kahneman

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-15T20:13:15.066Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-15T21:23:18.956Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's from a book: Thinking Fast and Slow.

comment by bbleeker · 2014-03-04T12:54:48.403Z · score: 16 (20 votes) · LW · GW

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth - that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

--H. L. Mencken

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-03-04T13:16:11.650Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Related:

Just because you no longer believe a lie, does not mean you now know the truth.

comment by TsviBT · 2014-03-09T05:08:18.458Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

The secret of life is: This is not a drill.

-The Wise Man in Darkside, a radio play by Tom Stoppard

comment by Weedlayer · 2014-03-10T06:55:56.326Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

This quote reminded me of a quote from an anime called Kaiji, albeit your quote is much more succinct.

Normally, those people would never wake up from their fantasy worlds. They live meaningless lives. They waste their precious days over nothing. No matter how old they get, they'll continue to say, "My real life hasn't started yet. The real me is still asleep, so that's why my life is such garbage." They continue to tell themselves that. They continue. And they age. Then die. And on their deathbeds, they will finally realize: the life they lived was the real thing. People don't live provisional lives, nor do they die provisional deaths. That's a simple fact! The problem... is whether they realize that simple fact.

  • Yukio Tonegawa in Kaiji
comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-16T03:06:54.982Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

More succinctly...

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

-- John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-03-09T08:08:37.816Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This is not a drill. Therefore, make sure you have drills for the really important bits.

comment by Manfred · 2014-03-10T05:38:45.530Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

And bits for the really important drills.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T22:07:17.997Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And make sure that the bit is properly secured and the chuck key is removed before operating the drill.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-09T18:56:34.933Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And when someone tries to be the wall the stands in your way, you'll have something that will open a hole in them every time: your drill.

(In a related matter, if there's a wall in your way, smash it down. If there isn't a path, carve one yourself.)

comment by AndekN · 2014-03-17T10:32:36.322Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

if there's a wall in your way, smash it down

BUT keep Chesterton's Fence in mind: if you don't know why there is a wall on your way, don't go blindly smashing it down. It might be there for a reason. First make absolutely sure you know why the wall exists in the first place; only then you may proceed with the smashing.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T22:25:29.329Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yours is the drill that will pierce the Heavens!

--Kamina, in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-29T21:20:17.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just who the hell do you think we are!?

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-03-17T11:08:31.531Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like the sentiment, but you do realize that breaking walls has costs.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-17T18:55:07.513Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Dear Journal,

My time among the Earthlings has yielded a strange new insight. These creatures are so spiritually ignorant that they have never even heard of the most sacred text, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (wthdytia). They may not even have yet acquired the Power of the Spiral at all. This explains much about the existential terror in which most of them live their lives, and it will be a pleasure to show them the Right Way.

May this transmission reach the homeworld in good time, Eli

comment by dspeyer · 2014-03-21T04:47:33.840Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I. This Is Not A Game.
II. Here And Now, You Are Alive.

-- Om and many other gods, Small Gods, Terry Pratchett

comment by chaosmage · 2014-03-12T17:53:30.984Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Funny. I came up with almost the exact same line:

One future will be happening
and we must choose: Which will
we someday be inhabiting?
So this is not a drill.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T17:23:02.346Z · score: 14 (24 votes) · LW · GW

If you're expecting the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you are fooling yourself. That's like expecting a lion not to eat you because you didn't eat him.

awesomequotes4u.com

comment by Salemicus · 2014-03-02T22:30:49.974Z · score: 21 (21 votes) · LW · GW

On the contrary, honesty, conscientiousness, being law-abiding, etc. have powerful reputational effects. This is easily seen by the converse; look, for example, at the effect a criminal record has on chance of getting a job.

This quote only gets any mileage by equivocating on the meaning of fair. What the quote is really saying is: "If you expect the world to fulfil even modest dreams just because you try not to be a jerk, expect disappointment." But said like that, if loses all its seemingly deep wisdom. In fact, of course, if you personally fulfilled even some modest dream of a large proportion of the people on earth, you would be wealthy beyond the dreams of lucre.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-03-05T14:04:06.843Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the comment is great, but

if you personally fulfilled even some modest dream of a large proportion of the people on earth, you would be wealthy beyond the dreams of lucre.

this part seems like a Just World Fallacy. You can start a chain of cause and effect that will make billions of people a bit happier, and yet someone else may take the reward.

But I agree that on average making a lot of people happy is a good way to get wealthy.

comment by michaelkeenan · 2014-03-08T06:42:53.236Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I see the quote as warning against a certain kind of naivety. I'm known as a trustworthy person and it's brought me many advantages - people have happily loaned me large sums of money, for example, and I've been employed in high-trust-requiring positions. But I have cooperated in Prisoner's Dilemma-type situations when I really should have realized the other guy was going to defect. In one case, he'd told me he was a narcissist and a Slytherin, and I still thought he'd keep our agreement. I lost a lot.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-04T20:13:33.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It always struck me that "fair" is one of the most misused words we have. What we mean when we say "fairness" is a sense that socially-constructed games have fixed rules leading to predictable outcomes, when some notion of a social contract or other ethical framework is exercised. If you enter a game with no rules, what would it even mean to expect a fair reward for fair play?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-05T02:55:41.623Z · score: 13 (25 votes) · LW · GW

If everybody thinks you're crazy, they might have a point. But if nobody thinks you're crazy, you have surrendered to herd consensus and are being far too timid in what you allow yourself to think and say in public.

Eric Raymound

comment by elharo · 2014-03-05T13:24:22.402Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with this. It's also a good quote. However there is an important caveat. It is possible to get caught-up in an echo chamber of equally crazy people. For extreme examples, consider the Lyndon Larouche crowd, Scientology, or the latest resurgence of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. So just because not everybody believes you're crazy, does not imply you are in fact, not crazy.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-14T14:45:25.873Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's important to distinguish between "crazy" and "irrational". Many crazy people are very rational. For instance, a fair portion of LW's users, including myself, have experienced some form of temporary or chronic mental illness; that's often exactly the impetus that gets someone to distrust their System 1 thinking and spend effort on deliberately becoming more rational.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-14T15:03:32.491Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Many crazy people are very rational.

Instrumentally, sure. Epistemically, I don't think so.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-14T16:06:14.312Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I might actually expect the opposite. Mental illness is conventionally defined in terms of a marked impairment of everyday cognition compared to the general population, i.e. instrumental irrationality. Yet relatively few mental disorders, from my reading, seem to have direct effects on an epistemic level.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-14T16:12:21.341Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yet relatively few mental disorders, from my reading, seem to have direct effects on an epistemic level.

That sounds very strange to me. The standard things like schizophrenia, paranoia, etc. are characterized precisely by a "wrong" picture of reality. If a paranoiac is unwilling to venture out to buy groceries, that's not a failure of instrumental rationality -- if there actually were people outside his door who want to kill him (as he believes), his behavior would be perfectly rational.

Even depression has a strong epistemic component.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-14T16:45:08.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but I don't think I'd describe that as a deficiency of epistemic rationality. People dealing with disorders like paranoia clearly have unusually strong biases (or other issues, in the case of schizophrenia) to deal with, but exceptional epistemic rationality consists of compensating well for your biases, not of not having any in the first place.

Someone who's irrationally predisposed to interpret others' behavior as hostility, and who nonetheless strives with partial success to overcome that predisposition, is displaying better epistemic rationality skills than Joe Sixpack despite worse instrumental outcomes.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-14T16:57:31.807Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People dealing with disorders like paranoia clearly have unusually strong biases (or other issues, in the case of schizophrenia) to deal with, but exceptional epistemic rationality consists of compensating well for your biases, not of not having any in the first place.

I am confused.

If a paranoiac has "unusually strong biases" but is exceptionally good at compensating for them, he would not be diagnosed with paranoia and would not be considered mentally ill.

My understanding of epistemic rationality is pretty simple: it is the degree to which your mental model matches the reality, full stop. It does not care how bad your biases are or how good are you at overcoming them, all that matters is the final result.

I also don't think full-blown clinical paranoia is a "bias" -- I think it is exactly a wrong picture of reality that fails epistemic rationality.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-14T17:55:27.619Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused.

I think you're modeling epistemic rationality as an externally assessed attribute and I'm modeling it as a skill.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-14T19:47:19.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're modeling epistemic rationality as an externally assessed attribute and I'm modeling it as a skill.

Not really. I am modeling epistemic rationality as a sum total of skill, and biases, and willingness to look for quality evidence, and ability to find such evidence, etc. It is all the constituent parts which eventually produce the final model-of-the-world.

And that final model-of-the-world is what you called "an externally assessed attribute", but it is the result of epistemic rationality, not the thing itself.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-14T18:04:20.819Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So... you'd have a skill modifier plus or minus an ability modifier, and paranoiacs have a giant unrelated penalty?

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-03-20T20:31:28.559Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

For men imagine that their reason governs words, while, in fact, words react upon the understanding; and this has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Words are generally formed in a popular sense, and define things by those broad lines which are most obvious to the vulgar mind; but when a more acute understanding or more diligent observation is anxious to vary those lines, and to adapt them more accurately to nature, words oppose it. Hence the great and solemn disputes of learned men often terminate in controversies about words and names...

-- Francis Bacon, Novum Organum

comment by shminux · 2014-03-28T18:27:39.973Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I’m a strong believer in modus ponens, in any domain of discourse where I know the meanings of all the words!

Scott Aaronson in reply to Max Tegmark replying to Scott's review of Max's book. He goes on:

In physics, however, I only believe in “approximate modus ponens,” in the following sense: if I accept “A” and “A⇒B,” then I’ll tentatively accept “B,” but I might decide on further reflection that I meant something different by a word appearing in “B” than by the same word in “A” or “A⇒B.” And in any case, I rarely would’ve considered “A” or “A⇒B” certain, just very well-established. For both of those reasons, I can start with physics statements that I consider to be well-established, apply enough steps of “modus ponens,” and end with a statement I consider to be speculation!

(Emphasis mine.)

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-03-29T00:27:06.507Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds similar to the view that is sometimes called the fragility of deduction. It was why John Stuart Mill distrusted "long chains of logical reasoning" and according to Paul Samuelson it is why "Marshall treated such chains as if their truth content was subject to radioactive decay and leakage."

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-03-29T15:50:20.596Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And that is why the long chains of logical reasoning used in the UFAI argument should not be regarded as terminating in conclusions of near certainty or high probability.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2014-04-02T11:35:07.474Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You could say that about anything.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T16:34:47.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe, but it would not be very painful in many cases. In most cases, people who put forward highly conjunctive arguments don't put out them forward as urgent, near certainties which require immediate and copious funding.Moreover, most audiences have enough common sense to implications as lossy.

MIRI/LW presen ts an unusual set of circa,stances which is worth pointing out.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-03-29T18:54:44.543Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That chain of reasoning isn't very long.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-03-29T19:54:29.633Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It is when you supply the unstated assumptions.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-03-29T23:39:49.484Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Please elaborate.

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-27T22:32:55.411Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Don't you think it would be a useful item to add to your intellectual toolkits to be capable of saying, when a ton of wet steaming bullshit lands on your head, 'My goodness, this appears to be bullshit'?

-Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

comment by MichaelHoward · 2014-03-15T02:13:44.577Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

How many things apparently impossible have nevertheless been performed by resolute men who had no alternative but death.

-- Napoleon Bonaparte.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:55:04.077Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed." - Daniel Kahneman

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T18:54:55.221Z · score: 10 (30 votes) · LW · GW

As the marijuana legalization movement strengthens, you can see hints of how hard it is to hit the libertarian sweet spot where something is simultaneously legalized but remains rare and distasteful. People, especially young people, pick up messages from society about what is winning and what is losing more than they pick up nuanced messages. Smoking tobacco is losing so it seems reasonable to ban smoking it even in your own car while driving through a brushfire zone. Smoking marijuana is winning, so it doesn't seem like the ban on smoking in Laurel Canyon applies to dope.

Steve Sailer

comment by dthunt · 2014-03-17T16:45:52.925Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"Therefore, this kind of experiment can never convince me of the reality of Mrs Stewart's ESP; not because I assert Pf=0 dogmatically at the start, but because the verifiable facts can be accounted for by many alternative hypotheses, every one of which I consider inherently more plausible than Hf, and none of which is ruled out by the information available to me.

Indeed, the very evidence which the ESP'ers throw at us to convince us, has the opposite effect on our state of belief; issuing reports of sensational data defeats its own purpose. For if the prior probability for deception is greater than that of ESP, then the more improbable the alleged data are on the null hypothesis of no deception and no ESP, the more strongly we are led to believe, not in ESP, but in deception. For this reason, the advocates of ESP (or any other marvel) will never succeed in persuading scientists that their phenomenon is real, until they learn how to eliminate the possibility of deception in the mind of the reader. As (5.15) shows, the reader's total prior probability for deception by all mechanisms must be pushed down below that of ESP."

ET Jaynes, Probability Theory (S 5.2.2)

comment by dthunt · 2014-03-18T00:44:54.006Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I found this (and the preceding bit) noteworthy on two points; first in the obvious mathematical respect that explains the relationship between favored hypotheses and less favored hypotheses which are both supported by data;

Second, by the realization that researchers favoring ESP most likely fail to apprehend the hypothesis that they are testing, w/r to their critics. In the case in question, they collected 37100 predictions, which seems a little excessive considering it had essentially no persuasive power to skeptics.

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-10T22:14:28.046Z · score: 8 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Quotes from the Screwtape Letters have not been terribly well-received in this thread. So, perversely, I decided I had to take a turn:

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy...you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.

-- The demon Screwtape, on how best to tempt a human being to destruction.

The existence of souls notwithstanding, Screwtape is clearly right: if you are charitable to almost everybody--except for those your see every day!--then you are not practicing the virtue of charity and are ill-served to imagine otherwise. You cannot fantasize good mental habits into being; they must be acted upon.

comment by khafra · 2014-03-13T13:54:36.419Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Who does more good with their life--the person who contributes a large amount of money to efficient charities while avoiding the people nearby, or the person who ignores anyone more than 100 miles away while being nice to his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train?

comment by dspeyer · 2014-03-21T04:42:29.346Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If he actually donates the money then the charity is not constrained to fantasy. By the miracle of the world banking network, people thousands of literal miles away can be brought as close as the sphere of action. Those concentric rings are measured in frequency and impactfulness of interaction, not physical distance.

What Screwtape is advocating is that he simply intend to donate the money once Givewell publishes a truely definitive report (which they never will). Or better, that he feel great compassion for people so many steps removed that he could not possibly do anything for them (perhaps the people of North Korea, who are beyond the reach of most charities due to government interdiction).

comment by CCC · 2014-03-16T04:06:34.750Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A tricky question.

The obvious, and trivially true, answer is that he who does both does more good than either. But that's not what you asked.

So. It can be hard to compare the two options when considering the actions of a single person, since the beneficiaries of the actions do not overlap. Therefore I shall employ a simple heuristic; I shall assume that the option which does the most good when one person does it is also the option that does the most good when everyone does it.

So, the first option; everyone (who can afford it) makes large donations to efficient charities, while everyone avoids those nearby and is unpleasant when forced to deal with someone else directly.

If I make a few assumptions about the effectiveness (and priorities) of the charities and the sum of the donations, I find myself considering a world where everyone is sufficiently fed, clothed, sheltered, medically cared for and educated. However, the fact that everyone is unpleasant to everyone else leads to everyone being grumpy, irritated, and mildly unhappy.

Considering the second option; charitable donations drastically decrease, but everyone is pleasant and helpful to everyone they meet face-to-face. In this possible world, there are people who go hungry, naked, homeless. But probably fewer than in our current world; because everyone they meet will be helpful, aiding if they can in their plight. And because everyone's pleasant and tries to uplift the mood of those they meet, a large majority of people consider themselves happy.

comment by tslarm · 2014-03-16T04:25:48.438Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore I shall employ a simple heuristic; I shall assume that the option which does the most good when one person does it is also the option that does the most good when everyone does it.

This assumption seems trivially false to me, and despite being labeled as a mere 'heuristic', it is the crucial step in your argument. Can you explain why I should take it seriously?

comment by CCC · 2014-03-16T04:56:54.147Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, for most choices between "is this good?" and "is this bad?" the assumption is true. For example, is it good for me to drop my chocolate wrapper on the street instead of finding a rubbish bin? If I assume everyone were to do that, I get the idea of a street awash in chocolate wrappers, and I consider that reason enough to find a rubbish bin.

Furthermore, and more importantly, the aim here is not to produce an argument that one action is better than the other in a single, specific case; rather, it is to produce a general principle (whether it is generally better to be charitable to those nearby, or to those further away).

And if option A is generally better than option B, then I think it is very probable that universal application of A will remain better than universal application of B; and vice versa.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-16T16:40:59.166Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When you ask what it's like if everyone were to "do that", the answer you get is going to be determined by how you define "that". For instance, if everyone were to drop chocolate wrappers on the lawn of your annoying neighbor, you might be happy. So is it okay to drop the wrapper on your neighbor's lawn?

It's tempting to reply to this by saying "'doing the same thing' means removing all self-serving qualifiers, so the correct question is whether you would like it if people dropped wrappers wherever they wanted, not specifically on your neighbor's lawn". This reply doesn't work, because there are are plenty of situations where you want the qualifier--for instance, putting criminals in jail when the qualifier "criminal" excludes yourself.

(And what's your stance on homosexuality? If everyone were to do that, humanity would be extinct.)

comment by CCC · 2014-03-17T08:18:07.869Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When you ask what it's like if everyone were to "do that", the answer you get is going to be determined by how you define "that". For instance, if everyone were to drop chocolate wrappers on the lawn of your annoying neighbor, you might be happy. So is it okay to drop the wrapper on your neighbor's lawn?

I do need to be careful to define "that" as a generally applicable rule. In this case, the generally applicable rule would be, is it okay to drop chocolate wrappers on the lawn of people one finds annoying?

So I need to consider the world in which everyone drops chocolate wrappers on the lawn of people they find annoying. Considering this, the chances of someone dropping a wrapper on my lawn becomes dependent on the probability that someone will find me annoying.

So, in short, I can put as many qualifiers on the rule as I like. However, I have to be careful to attach my qualifiers to the true reason for my formulation of the rule; I cannot select the rule "it is acceptable to drop chocolate wrappers on that exact specific lawn over there" without referencing the process by which I chose that exact specific lawn.

I can't attach a qualifier to a specific person; but I can attach a qualifier to a specific quality, like being annoying, when considering a proposal.

comment by DanArmak · 2014-03-16T19:42:28.419Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And what's your stance on homosexuality? If everyone were to do that, humanity would be extinct.

Well, what's your stance on forcing homosexuals to breed heterosexually to save humanity from extinction? Or forcing all homosexual women and a few men chosen by lottery, since we have an overabundance of sperm?

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-16T21:59:35.459Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think people should be forced to breed, but I wasn't arguing that people should be forced to breed, I was pointing out that the above argument (would you like if everyone did that) means that it is wrong to refuse to breed. Pointing out that an argument I oppose leads to an uncomfortable conclusion is a reductio ad absurdum and does not mean that I endorse that conlusion myself.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-17T08:24:14.216Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And if everyone were to breed, that would exacerbate the problems that are due to overpopulation. This implies that there should be some process that one follows when deciding whether or not to breed; it should be a process that has a nonzero chance of making the decision either to breed or not.

Exactly what the optimal process is, I do not know.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-16T14:07:13.361Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain in these two old blog posts of his makes the case that it's not clear that a world with grumpy people is worse than a world with hungry people.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-17T08:08:03.376Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You are correct. It is by no means clear which is better.

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-13T15:07:36.781Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that's been confusing: I meant this principle of charity.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-11T00:50:44.339Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Why the Hell would I want to practice the virtue of charity? If anything, I want to help people. And hating people from a foreign country could be an excellent way to do damage!

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-11T18:22:09.385Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry, my original post was not quite precise. I meant charity in the sense of the Principle of Charity, not charitable contributions. If you prefer, substitute "kind" for "charitable"; it's not quite the same but illustrates the point just as well.

And hating people from a foreign country could be an excellent way to do damage!

Keep in mind, we're talking about the damage you do to yourself. Hating people you've never met is not a very efficient way to damage yourself. Much better is to hate people you know intimately and see every day. That way you can practice your vices efficiently, and will have as many opportunities as possible to act them out.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-11T20:46:40.594Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Applying the principle of charity to people you know but not to foreigners is a well-known failure mode that produced Soviet atrocities against Germans, to use Lewis' own example. And again, here is Lewis applying the principle of charity to a transformation-happy Sith Lord with a mind-altering book after writing these allegedly helpful quotes. He seems to genuinely not see the parallels between borderline-self-insert Coriakin and his most famous villain.

Lewis is explicitly writing religious propaganda. It's not coincidence that his advice would have his mostly-Christian readers focus on charity to Christian authority figures before Soviets, or even Church critics they don't personally know.

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-12T13:38:35.381Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The three examples given in the quote are:

his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train.

Which of those are Christian authority figures?

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-13T15:38:48.498Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To the women in the Magdalen laundries, that would be their employer. But if you genuinely insist that because Lewis said "every day" rather than every week, he couldn't have meant a priest or vicar (or one of those supervising nuns) except in the case of those readers who actually do see one every day, then I'm going to insist he didn't want to help women because he said "he". Or do you want to argue this quote has nothing to say about people who fall in between the most "immediate" and the "remote circumference"?

Also, we just had another quote from the same source in which Lewis used the narrow form of this principle to attack atheists - or anyone who doubts that "his" neighbors belong to the body of an otherworldly entity, for what Lewis implies are poor reasons. (I agree they aren't the best reasons - those would start with the absurdly low prior.)

Are you going to respond to my argument that this habit of trusting the familiar hurt Lewis' rationality?

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-13T17:25:22.088Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you going to respond to my argument that this habit of trusting the familiar hurt Lewis' rationality?

No, of course not. It has nothing to do with the quote I posted.

You're clearly suffering and I don't want to just blow you off, but in this thread you've almost exclusively responded to things I didn't write. I am not the proper object for your anger with Lewis and Christianity, and I'm done engaging with you.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-03-11T03:14:15.193Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why the Hell would I want to practice the virtue of charity?

To self-modify, perhaps?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-11T03:57:27.310Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Why the Hell would I want to practice the virtue of charity? If anything, I want to help people.

Except, with that attitude you won't. You'll sit around telling yourself how virtuous you are for liking people you've never met, while being a misanthrope to everyone you personally know. Furthermore, if (or when) you mean one of the foreign people you supposedly love, you'll wind up being a misanthrope to them as well.

And hating people from a foreign country could be an excellent way to do damage!

Really? How does you, personally, hating people from a foreign country do damage?

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-11T04:37:36.471Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Furthermore, if (or when) you mean one of the foreign people you supposedly love, you'll wind up being a misanthrope to them as well.

And why would I care about that if my donations produce a giant net benefit? When did I even claim to love anyone?

comment by RowanE · 2014-03-13T14:13:39.746Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't love people, why would your utility function include a term for their wellbeing?

comment by VAuroch · 2014-03-25T20:43:57.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Where did he claim that his utility function included a term for the stranger's well-being?

comment by RowanE · 2014-03-26T09:21:17.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's implicit from when he said "if anything, I want to help people", and when he described donations that are efficient at helping anonymous strangers as "produc[ing] a giant net benefit".

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-03-13T15:13:17.825Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If Stalin didn't love his own people, why would he mildly prefer not to throw them at Hitler?

comment by RowanE · 2014-03-25T19:13:59.422Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The people of the soviet union were a resource that Stalin had a great amount of control over, and so even if he was perfectly selfish and uncaring towards his people, he would prefer to preserve that resource. The selfish benefit to be gained from saving a life in Africa is negligible, and is vastly outweighed by the cost.

I suppose I should clarify that I'm taking "love" in this context to basically mean the same thing as "like" - in many contexts it's not just a mere difference of degree, but in the context of "loving humanity" and such phrases I think it probably is.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-14T14:55:10.688Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train.

Of course, it's a lot harder to be charitable to the man on the train - or worse, to one's own exploiter employer - than to one's mother. For one thing, the wider the circle of charity, the deeper a pit to fill with one's efforts!

Which was precisely why, during my internship last summer, I eventually just picked one homeless guy and gave him my loose $1 bills every day during my commute.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T12:19:12.175Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The language you use to talk about something influences the way you think about it. If the chemistry you’re talking about is truly something new, then a fight over terminology may be quite an important part of getting to understand that chemistry better.

Jay A. Labinger

comment by Ian_S · 2014-03-14T20:05:03.808Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.

  • Machiavelli
comment by shminux · 2014-03-10T19:46:24.723Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Fault is a backward-looking concept: it focuses on deviations between the bad present and some desired past. Ability is forward-looking: it focuses on the deviation between some sub-optimal present and a desired future.

Anonymous commenter

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-06T17:09:55.114Z · score: 7 (23 votes) · LW · GW

When he goes inside [the church], he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.

-- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-06T22:03:26.735Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This appears to be saying "anyone who follows my religion and still looks stupid isn't a True Christian". How this is a rationality quote is beyond me.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-03-06T22:18:13.564Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

It's pointing out that people tend to judge the validity of a cause by the superficial appearance of the supporters of that cause. Quotes that point out common fallacies count as rationality quotes to me.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T12:18:03.179Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If you try too hard to fight a problem within yourself or someone else, the very act of fighting will often create resistance. Sometimes when you accept the problem and stop trying so hard, things will suddenly begin to change.

David Burns in "The feeling good handbook" about the "acceptance paradox" (The book has been shown to be effective at improving the condition of depressive people in controlled trials) Page 67

comment by William_Quixote · 2014-03-04T01:09:54.808Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like the claim made about the source is strong enough that it should have a link to a study.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-04T13:46:30.766Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It has sort of. It is in the forward of the recent edition of the book.

In general the book is well known on LW and I'm just reiterating a fact that's already established by other people. At the moment the LW search finds 431 hits for the search "feeling good handbook".

comment by James_Miller · 2014-03-01T18:28:22.780Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Never abandon life. There is a way out of everything except death.

Winston Churchill

comment by elharo · 2014-03-01T20:09:48.313Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The question presupposes a classical view of "rational argument," namely the use of classical logic (e.g., mathematical logic) in the service of self-interest.

But that is not how real rationality works. Political argument starts with moral framing - what is assumed to be right, not wrong or morally irrelevant. Conservatives and liberals differ on what is right. Real rational argument uses the logic of frames and metaphors, as well as the use of emotion in setting goals. For example, poor conservatives may care more about their moral identity as conservatives than about their financial self-interest. This is not "irrational;" it is a matter of what is most important to a given individual — moral identity or financial self-interest.

George Lakoff Progressives Need to Use Language That Reflects Moral Values

comment by Apprentice · 2014-03-01T17:53:24.798Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.

Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.

And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world –

And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.

Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God -- a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.

-- The Book of Mormon (Alma 30.24-28)

Edit: I'm mildly surprised by the reactions to this quote. The thing I find interesting about it is that Joseph Smith was apparently sufficiently familiar with Voltairesque anti-Christian ideas that he could relay them coherently and with some gusto. This goes some way towards passing the ideological Turing test.

comment by elharo · 2014-03-01T22:57:41.964Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hardly an expert on the Book of Mormon, but this quote surprised me so I googled it. It appears to be an accurate quote but is not fully attributed. As best I can make out, the speaker is the antichrist (or some such evil character; not sure on the exact mythology in play here).

Failure to note that means this quote gives either an incorrect view of the Book of Mormon, or of the significance of the text, or both.

When quoting fiction, I recommend identifying both the character and the author. E.g.

Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.

--Korihor in the The Book of Mormon (Alma 30.24-28); Joseph Smith, 1830

Having said all that, it's still a damn good rationality quote.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-04T20:17:59.571Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I would think it's bad publicity for us to explicitly note a resemblance to antichrist-type characters.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-03-05T23:48:15.906Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Unless we're trying to appeal to contrarians.

comment by Strange7 · 2014-03-09T00:45:03.331Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Considering how much hating on religion there already is around here, I don't think there's much left to lose on that front.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-09T18:54:29.488Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, of course, because it's more important to signal one's pure, untainted epistemic rationality than to actually get anything done in life, which might require interacting with outsiders.

comment by Strange7 · 2014-03-13T05:09:18.515Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Pick a side and stick with it, supporting your friends and bashing your enemies at every cost-effective opportunity" is the dominant strategy in factional politics much the same way tit-for-tat is dominant in iterative prisoner's dilemma. Generosity to strangers and mercy to enemies are so heavily encouraged because in the absence of that encouragement they're the rare, virtuous exception.

Yes, obviously we have to interact with outsiders. That's what makes them outsiders, rather than meaningless hypothetical aliens beyond our light-cone. The question is, should we be interacting with organized religion by trying to ally with, or at least avoid threatening, the people in charge? Or by threatening them so comprehensively that (figuratively speaking) we destroy their armies and take their cattle for our own?

The antichrist is a hypothetical figure who poses the greatest possible ideological threat, an exploit against which the overwhelming majority of Christianity's (worldly) resources and personnel cannot be secured. The popular theory is, that individual's public actions would trigger the ultimate 'evaporative cooling' event. Everybody who doesn't really believe, everybody who just checks "christian" on the census form and shows up to church for the social network and the pancakes, will stop doing so. In short, the sanity waterline would rise.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-13T23:39:38.699Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The antichrist is a hypothetical figure who poses the greatest possible ideological threat, an exploit against which the overwhelming majority of Christianity's (worldly) resources and personnel cannot be secured. The popular theory is, that individual's public actions would trigger the ultimate 'evaporative cooling' event. Everybody who doesn't really believe, everybody who just checks "christian" on the census form and shows up to church for the social network and the pancakes, will stop doing so.

That's nice, but I'm Jewish ;-). Or in other words, the very nature of an "antichrist" pins you to opposing one kind of religion in specific, and also pins you to moral positions you probably don't want to take. It's the ultimate sin of privileging the hypothesis: you've assumed it's a Christian world you have to persuade away from their Christianity.

(In real life, I would argue the greatest utility to be gained from deconversions right now is in the Muslim world, where one currently finds the greatest amount of religious violence over the smallest differences. You could tell me to go become the Anti-Muhammad, but again, I'm already Jewish.)

Remember, the Antichrist is also puppy-kickingly evil. You don't hate puppies, do you? Then why are you signing up for a role that outright requires you to kick them?

Are you sure there's not some other evil villain you'd prefer to be?

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-03-10T02:23:10.762Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, of course, because it's more important to signal one's pure, untainted epistemic rationality than to actually get anything done in life, which might require interacting with outsiders.

This is a failure mode I worry about, but I'm not sure ironic atheist re-appropriation of religious texts is going to turn off anyone we had a chance of attracting in the first place. Will reconsider this position if someone says, "oh yeah, my deconversion process was totally slowed down by stuff like that from atheists," but I'd be surprised.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-10T01:41:58.753Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted because that really is a failure mode worth keeping in mind, but I don't think it's responsible for the attitude towards religion around here; I think that's a plain old founder effect.

comment by JQuinton · 2014-03-13T15:38:10.595Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Certainty is the most dangerous emotion a human being can feel in politics and religion. Certainty stops all outside thought or reason. It closes the door and is a metaphorical spit in the face of anyone who disagrees. Changing one’s mind is the essence of critical thinking.

Edwin Lyngar at Salon

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-13T22:39:26.739Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think certainty is an emotion in the first place. The emotion that people who are certain feel is confidence.

Even then I think it's frequently better than anger.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-13T22:47:44.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Confidence in oneself, or confidence in someone or something external? The two feel quite different to me, subjectively -- something like a feeling of lightness and elevation vs. groundedness and solidity, although English doesn't have a very good vocabulary for this sort of thing.

comment by WalterL · 2014-03-12T19:21:09.760Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Bernard and Sir Humphrey are British government functionaries in the comedy show 'Yes Minister'

Bernard: If it's our job to carry out government policies, shouldn't we believe in them?

Sir Humphrey: Oh, what an extraordinary idea! I have served 11 governments in the past 30 years. If I'd believed in all their policies, I'd have been passionately committed to keeping out of the Common Market, and passionately committed to joining it. I'd have been utterly convinced of the rightness of nationalising steel and of denationalising it and renationalising it. Capital punishment? I'd have been a fervent retentionist and an ardent abolitionist. I'd have been a Keynesian and a Friedmanite, a grammar school preserver and destroyer, a nationalisation freak and a privatisation maniac, but above all, I would have been a stark-staring raving schizophrenic!

comment by khafra · 2014-03-10T15:32:09.458Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

... the controlling factor, the root cause, of risk is dependence, particularly dependence on the expectation of stable system state. Yet the more technologic the society becomes, the greater the dynamic range of possible failures. When you live in a cave, starvation, predators, disease, and lightning are about the full range of failures that end life as you know it and you are well familiar with each of them. When you live in a technologic society where everybody and everything is optimized in some way akin to just-in-time delivery, the dynamic range of failures is incomprehensibly larger and largely incomprehensible.

-- Dan Geer

(rationality applicability: antifragility & disjunctive prediction vs. optimization for conjunctive prediction)

comment by scav · 2014-03-12T16:33:40.388Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes," said Elinor, "in a total misapprehension of character in some point or other: fancying people so much more gay or grave, or ingenious or stupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what the deception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge."

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

comment by Protagoras · 2014-03-12T18:08:13.938Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty remarkable to detect yourself in that kind of mistake; most people are very good at finding confirming evidence for whatever judgments they've made about people, and ignoring any contrary indications.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-03-12T18:25:05.837Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, this is a good point - we generally don't realise that we are (self-)deceived, so we can't even begin to think about where we went wrong.

Of course, Elinor Dashwood is something of an authorial stand-in, so it's not really surprising that she's incredibly wise and perspicacious like that.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T15:46:27.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. This can happen, but what you describe is more common. Once a coworker was sure that I was an ultra-right-wing militiaman, based on one indirect, misleading bit of evidence, ignoring all else.

Merely declaring my general political alignment and support and opposition to various candidates was totally inadequate. I had to explicitly enumerate several political positions to get him to adjust, and even then he seized on the nuances to try to interpret it as my secretly being a right-wing nut.

comment by chaosmage · 2014-03-12T17:35:17.406Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think those mistakes usually happen for an entirely different reason. New people remind us of ones we've already met, and we unconsciously "fill in the blanks" in what we know about the new person with what we know about person we know, or some kind of average-ish judgement about the group of comparable people we know.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T12:17:33.135Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Genuine self-esteem is based on humility and an acceptance of your shortcomings.

David Burns in "The feeling good handbook" (The book has been shown to be effective at improving the condition of depressive people in controlled trials) Page 69

comment by Nornagest · 2014-03-14T18:00:20.954Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What's that from?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-14T19:20:21.114Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I made it up based on Eliezer's saying. I'm much too Gryffindor/Sunshine to call it world optimization.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-14T19:32:42.389Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do not quote yourself.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-14T20:21:29.575Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My bad. Deleting.

comment by Apprentice · 2014-03-11T23:08:54.762Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Truth has her throne on the shadowy back of doubt.

-- Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Savitri - A Legend and a Symbol

comment by Martin-2 · 2014-03-10T19:18:54.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can't do anything on purpose.

  • Professor Utonium, realizing he has a problem
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T12:17:16.583Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You can never be loved for your successes-only for your vulnerabilities. People may be attracted to you and may admire you if you are a great success. They may also resent and envy you. But they can never love you for your success.

David Burns in "The feeling good handbook" (The book has been shown to be effective at improving the condition of depressive people in controlled trials) Page 126

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-03-04T00:32:59.700Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted. I don't know if this is true; indeed, I suspect it is definitely partially false. But, I don't think it is entirely false. It's interesting and has made me think.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-04T14:16:18.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's the position of someone at the heart of the evidence based framework of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Even if you happen to disagree and think you know better how emotions work than the people with the credentials I think it's still useful to know where you differ with them.

I read David Burns book because it's the book that's most recommended on LW when it comes to dealing with emotions.

I'm not quoting someone from a New Age background but someone who actually is trying to teach people to get rid of irrational beliefs by recognizing their mental distortions.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-03-06T15:05:11.069Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's the position of someone at the heart of the evidence based framework of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

According to the research summarized by Yvain, Cognitive Bahvioral Therapy does not seem to be more strongly supported as effective than Freudian psychoanalysis. Rather, it conducted the research which demonstrated its effectiveness relative to placebo earlier than other types of therapy, and thereby gained a reputation as evidence-based.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-06T15:25:57.806Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not quite.

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there a strong focus on measuring the level of depression of the person who's coming to the sessions. Cognitive Therapist now tried different approaches of treating depression and believe in making decisions based on what interventions succeed in reducing the scores of someones level of depression.

A Freudian would tell you, that he doesn't really care about the score but that he cares that the person just feels better and succeeds in dealing with his childhood traumas.

David Burns wants that every patients fill out a questionnaire at every session that measures the amount of depression the person has at that time. He wants that psychologists who don't succeed in reducing the scores of their clients have no excuse because they are faced with hard numbers.

Given that's Burns approach of looking at the world there going to be less inferential difference in getting Burn understood be LessWrongers than if I would pick someone who could also produce results but who doesn't really care about gathering academic evidence for what works.

Don't confuse people who produce results by looking at published evidence and who base their practice on that evidence with people who just produce results.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-03-06T18:45:36.311Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there a strong focus on measuring the level of depression of the person who's coming to the sessions. Cognitive Therapist now tried different approaches of treating depression and believe in making decisions based on what interventions succeed in reducing the scores of someones level of depression.

A Freudian would tell you, that he doesn't really care about the score but that he cares that the person just feels better and succeeds in dealing with his childhood traumas.

The gist of the research though, is that while historically Freudian therapists have taken this approach, more recently many Freudian therapists have actually started performing the same sort of research on the effects of their therapy that Cognitive Behavioral Therapists have, and received essentially the same results. It's not that there isn't evidence to support Cognitive Behavioral Therapy working, but rather, more recent evidence seems to suggest that when they do gather the relevant data, other forms of therapy appear to work equally well. So it appears that the things about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that actually work are not things that are specific to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but rather, are general qualities of therapy provided by a trained practitioner.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-07T00:21:03.485Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The gist of the research though, is that while historically Freudian therapists have taken this approach, more recently many Freudian therapists have actually started performing the same sort of research on the effects of their therapy that Cognitive Behavioral Therapists have, and received essentially the same results.

No, the average Freudian therapist doesn't focus on the measurement on a scale but rather takes a more holistic approach.

Yes, you can run a controlled test where you pit Freudian therapists against Cognitive Behavioral Therapists and not find any difference in efficiency but that doesn't mean that both classes value published evidence and an improvement on a numerical score the same way.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-03-07T00:46:49.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Valuing published evidence" doesn't necessarily equate to having a more correct theoretical framework though. Reality doesn't grade for sentiment.

Cognitive behavioral therapists might on average be more relatable to Less Wrong members than Freudian therapists, but that doesn't mean that prescriptions rooted in a cognitive behavioral model of the human mind are more likely to be correct or helpful.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-07T00:54:45.727Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Cognitive behavioral therapists might on average be more relatable to Less Wrong members than Freudian therapists, but that doesn't mean that prescriptions rooted in a cognitive behavioral model of the human mind are more likely to be correct or helpful.

Yes. But if even the theory that most likely to be relatable to Less Wrong members get's voted down because the whole emotion business is just to strange, that's sad.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T19:30:40.538Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Supposedly, if you are totally uncompromising and intolerant with BS (particularly harmful BS), you lose friends. These are good friends to lose, for you will also make new friends, better friends.

Nassim Taleb

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2014-03-01T19:40:25.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Really curious about the "supposedly" in this. Does Nassim not actually believe or endorse this view?

comment by Vaniver · 2014-03-02T08:16:34.697Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Really curious about the "supposedly" in this. Does Nassim not actually believe or endorse this view?

I read it as him endorsing the empirical proposition, but not the value proposition. That's the point of the second sentence- he wouldn't say "these are good friends to lose" if there wasn't the potential to lose friends.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-03T11:50:37.435Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nassim doesn't advocate that you should become totally uncompromising toward BS as a technique to change the people with whom you hang out.

He doesn't advocate that you should optimize your tactics in that way to get better friends. He rather advocates authenticity where you don't hide by avoiding to call out BS because you are afraid of offending other people.

If being authentic means calling out BS than do it. If being authentic for you means to not confront other people about the BS they talk about, don't.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T19:45:04.310Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Taleb is responding to the common claim that one shouldn't call out BS because one will thus loose friends.

comment by Curiouskid · 2014-05-02T16:37:33.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination

-- James Dean

comment by Curiouskid · 2014-05-02T16:38:52.534Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find this a useful quote to keep in mind when I'm experiencing mental states that I don't want to experience.

comment by sallym · 2014-03-13T08:38:49.087Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"As I fear not a child with a weapon he cannot lift, I will never fear the mind of a man who does not think.’”

Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson, page 795

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-14T03:34:58.235Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Both the metaphor and its literal application only make sense if "cannot" and "does not" means "never", and they really don't.

While I'd never fear the mind of a man who literally is in a coma and doesnt think at all, I'd have plenty of reason to fear the mind of a man whose ability to think is merely limited. He can be a stupid moral reasoner and a clever killer at the same time.

comment by CCC · 2014-03-14T08:01:05.165Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I recall one Sherlock Holmes book, where Holmes said that he has a lot of trouble predicting the actions of idiots; an intelligent man, Holmes can work out what actions he would take in a given situation, but an idiot could do anything.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-03-14T14:44:03.094Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, this presumes that one knows the goals of said intelligent agent.

comment by Strange7 · 2014-03-19T13:53:38.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, though, you're afraid of the man's axe more than his mind.

comment by Jiro · 2014-03-19T22:14:33.335Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, because it works as metaphor too.

It's certainly possible to convince people of a proposition that is false; consider Eliezer doing the Ai-box experiment. In the Ai-box example, Eliezer understands that the proposition is false, but that need not be true in general; you can be bad at thinking in one way (and thus not understand that some proposition is false) but good at thinking in other ways (and thus be able to readily convince other people of the false proposition).

In other words, instead of a stupid reasoner and a clever killer, a stupid reasoner and a clever convincer.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T19:31:39.623Z · score: 1 (23 votes) · LW · GW

The general principle of antifragility, it is much better to do things you cannot explain than explain things you cannot do.

Nassim Taleb

comment by The_Duck · 2014-03-01T23:51:48.840Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What does this mean?

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-02T23:19:29.697Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My interpretation is that having an explanation for something is useless if you can't actually make it happen. And even if you don't fully understand how something works, it's good to be able to use it.

For example, I would much rather be able to use a computer than know how it works.

Also, if you can't do it, that calls into question whether your explanation is actually valid. Anyone can explain something, so long as they're not required to actually make the explanation useful.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-04T20:14:56.988Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So we could rephrase as: "If I really understand X's, I can build one, but if I kind of understand X's, I can at least use one"?

comment by philh · 2014-03-02T01:20:47.022Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I interpret it as related to expert-at versus expert-on. If you assume that an expert-on is always an expert-at, then someone explaining something they can't do is clearly not an expert.

I'm not sure that assumption is true, though I could believe it's a useful rule of thumb.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-03-08T14:59:20.984Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Think of Steve Jobs vs. the business school professor who wrote a book about entrepreneurship.

comment by soreff · 2014-03-02T05:48:08.279Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know, but it sounds similar to "It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:59:58.384Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure. My cartooning career, for example, is a direct result of failing to succeed in the corporate environment." - Scott Adams

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:58:32.570Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"The Six Filters for Truth:

Personal experience (Human perceptions are iffy.) Experience of people you know (Even more unreliable.)

*Experts (They work for money, not truth.)

*Scientific studies (Correlation is not causation.)

*Common sense (A good way to be mistaken with complete confidence.)

*Pattern recognition (Patterns, coincidence, and personal bias look alike.)

" - Scott Adams

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:55:48.274Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means—crucially—a love of errors, a certain class of errors. Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them—and do them well. Let me be more aggressive: we are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time." - Nassim Taleb

comment by drewbug · 2014-03-28T16:23:09.671Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The old temple inscription "Know Thyself" is often repeated today, but perhaps it is not adequate. It should declare "Construct Thyself" as well. Shape your mind, train your thinking power, and direct your emotions more rationally; liberate your behavior from the ancestral burden of reptiles and monkeys—be a man and use your intelligence to orient the reactions of your mind.

-- José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado

comment by elharo · 2014-03-05T13:18:43.048Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Because we must deal with the unknown, whose nature is by definition speculative and outside the flowing chain of language, whatever we make of it will be no more than probability and no less than error. The awareness of possible error in speculation and of a continued speculation regardless of error is an event in the history of modern rationalism whose importance, I think, cannot be overemphasized. This is to some extent the subject of Frank Kermode's Sense of an Ending, a book whose justifiable bias the connection between literature and the modes of fictional thought in a general sense. Nevertheless, the subject of how and when we become certain that what we are doing is quite possibly wrong but a least a beginning has to be studied in its full historical and intellectual richness."

--Edward Said, Beginnings, Intention and Method, p. 75, 1985

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-03-12T02:05:46.847Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The first sentence seems excellent to me, and probably true of a great many things. I have trouble focusing on the rest, and more trouble making sense out of it. Anyone care to take a crack at a summary?

comment by elharo · 2014-03-23T10:58:04.664Z · score: -2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

in general, when experts are dealing with some big unfathomable future, and it’s a complex system, I tend to discount that. The complexity makes it almost impossible to predict.

Also, if they are using a model, I pretty much discount everything I hear. But if they are just looking at data like a scientist and saying, “When this happens, that happens,” then I’m going to put more stock in it.

--Scott Adams, Interview with Julia Galef, February 10, 2014

comment by satt · 2014-03-27T03:32:25.286Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

But you can’t be an effective fox just by letting the data speak for itself — because it never does. You use data to inform your analysis, you let it tell you that your pet hypothesis is wrong, but data are never a substitute for hard thinking. If you think the data are speaking for themselves, what you’re really doing is implicit theorizing, which is a really bad idea (because you can’t test your assumptions if you don’t even know what you’re assuming.)

— Paul Krugman, "Sergeant Friday Was Not A Fox"

comment by Manfred · 2014-03-26T04:06:27.066Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Just looking at the data like a scientist" does not give you magic scientist powers. Models of the world are what allow you to predict it, without need for magic scientist vision.

comment by elharo · 2014-03-26T11:15:19.788Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Adams doesn't elaborate on this point, but I read him as saying, if you've actually measured things and taken data that goes to your point, then your model is more likely to be correct.

For example, suppose a model says that raising the minimum wage reduces employment. That's a pretty common model in economics and it can be backed up with a lot of math. However I would not find that alone convincing. On the other hand, if an economist goes out into the world and looks at what actually happened when the minimum wage was raised, that would be more convincing. If they can figure out a way to do an experiment in which, for example, 5 nearby towns raise their minimum wage, 5 keep it the same, and another 5 lower it, that would be even more convincing.

Another example: consider a model that says

  • heart disease kills people
  • heart disease is correlated with high cholesterol
  • eggs contain lots of cholesterol

Those three statements are reasonably well established and backed up by data. However if you throw in a model that says dietary cholesterol causes in-body cholesterol, and in-body cholesterol causes heart disease, and therefore eating eggs reduces life expectancy; you've jumped way beyond what the data supports. On the other hand, if you compare the levels of all-cause morbidity among people who eat eggs and people who don't or, better yet, do a multiyear controlled experiment in which
the only diet variation between groups is that some people eat eggs and others don't, the answers you get are far more likely to be correct.

Here's another one: you have lots of detailed calculations that say if you smash two protons together at .999999c relative velocity, and you do it a few million times, then you'll see certain particles show up in the debris with very precise probabilities. Only when you run the experiment, you discover that the fractions of different particles you see don't quite match what you expected because there's an additional resonance you didn't know about and didn't include in the model.

In other words, empirical data beats mere models. Models can be self-consistent and plausible, but not fully reflect the real world. Models that go beyond what the data says run the risk of assuming causal connections that don't exist (dietary cholesterol to in-body cholesterol) or missing factors outside the model (maybe eggs do increase the risk of heart disease but reduce the risk of cancer) that are more important.

Of course all these experiments are really hard to do, and take years of time and millions, even billions, of dollars, so often we muddle along with seriously flawed models instead. However we need to remember that models are just models, not data, and be reasonably skeptical of their recommendations. In particular, if we're about to do something really expensive and difficult like changing a nation's dietary preferences based on nothing more than a model, maybe we should step back and spend the money and the time needed to collect real data before we go full speed ahead.

comment by Manfred · 2014-03-26T23:08:51.295Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough - political conditioning has caused me to assume that any non-specialist saying "don't trust models, just 'look at the data'," is the victim of some sort of anti-epistemology.

In context, it's less likely that that's the case, but I still think this quote is painting with much too wide a brush.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-27T00:40:51.862Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

political conditioning has caused me to assume that any non-specialist saying "don't trust models, just 'look at the data'," is the victim of some sort of anti-epistemology.

I would argue that it is this political conditioning itself that is the anti-epistemology.

comment by Manfred · 2014-03-27T01:12:09.197Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't suppose you could contribute substance rather than just accusation?

comment by satt · 2014-03-27T04:19:14.808Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Please, please, kids, stop fighting! Maybe Eugine_Nier & elharo are right about the necessity of looking at the world to decide whether a model's true, and maybe Manfred & fezziwig have a point about observations and their interpretation not being cleanly separable from the use of models.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-03-27T08:18:20.451Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Prediction is going beyond the data, so a model that never goes beyond the data isn't going to be much use.

Climate change models incorporated data, so they are not purely theoretical like the economic model you mentioned.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-03-27T14:48:49.962Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I ... think he's talking about basic correlation, statistical analysis, that sort of thing?

(I enjoy Scott's writing, but I didn't upvote the grandparent.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-30T08:13:41.454Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, if they are using a model, I pretty much discount everything I hear. But if they are just looking at data like a scientist and saying, “When this happens, that happens,” then I’m going to put more stock in it.

What? Scientists do use models. Assuming charitably that he's not mistaken or bullshitting about what scientists do, by “model” he must mean something different -- what?

comment by EHeller · 2014-03-26T05:16:00.849Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm fairly certain that's actually horrible advice. It boils down to "substitute your judgement over professionals on those problems that are hardest."

comment by shminux · 2014-03-26T07:00:58.261Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More like "discount status on problems where expertise is a poor predictor of accuracy".

comment by fezziwig · 2014-03-26T19:50:24.175Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think this steelman is not quite true to the spirit of the original. The contrast he draws between "using a model" and "looking at data like a scientist" is especially strange. One wonders what he thinks of meteorology.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-27T00:43:52.065Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

One wonders what he thinks of meteorology.

Well giving that meteorologists (or at least climate scientists) have for the last couple of decades been predicting warming and sea level rises that never seems to occur, I'd say it's a good example.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-10T20:56:31.694Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"The fragilista falls for the Soviet-Harvard delusion, the (unscientific) overestimation of the reach of scientific knowledge. Because of such delusion, he is what is called a naive rationalist, a rationalizer, or sometimes just a rationalist, in the sense that he believes that the reasons behind things are automatically accessible to him. And let us not confuse rationalizing with rational—the two are almost always exact opposites. Outside of physics, and generally in complex domains, the reasons behind things have had a tendency to make themselves less obvious to us, and even less to the fragilista." - Nassim Taleb

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2014-03-04T16:22:24.631Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wittgenstein's appeal lies in the fact that he provides a strange kind of vindication of romanticism, of conceptual Gemeinschaft, of custom-based concepts rather than statute-seeking Reform, and that he does so through a very general theory of meaning, rather than from the premisses habitually used for this purpose. Because there is no unique formal notation valid for all speech, each and every culture is vindicated. One never knew that could be done - and so quickly too! It is that above all which endows his philosophy with such a capacity to attract and to repel. His mystique of consensual custom denies that anything can sit in judgment of our concepts, that some may be more rational and others less so. So all of them are in order and have nothing to fear from philosophy, as indeed he insists. This is a fairly mild form of irrationalism, invoking no fierce dark Gods, merely a consensual community. It is the Soft Porn of Irrationalism.

Ernest Gellner

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-01T19:29:06.696Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

And the probability-related problems with social and biological science do not stop there: it has bigger problems with researchers using statistical notions out of a can without understanding them and babbling "n of 1" or "n large", or "this is anecdotal" (for a large Black Swan style deviation), mistaking anecdotes for information and information for anecdote. It was shown that the majority use regression in their papers in "prestigious" journals without quite knowing what it means, and what claims can—and cannot—be made from it. Because of little check from reality and lack of skin-in-the-game, coupled with a fake layer of sophistication, social scientists can make elementary mistakes with probability yet continue to thrive professionally.

Nassim Taleb

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-03-05T20:09:11.592Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

There is a wide yawning black infinity. In every direction the extension is endless, the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce. But most of all, there is very nearly nothing in the dark; except for little bits here and there, often associated with the light, this infinite receptacle is empty.

This picture is strangely frightening. It should be familiar. It is our universe.

Even these stars, which seem so numerous, are, as sand, as dust, or less than dust, in the enormity of the space in which there is nothing. Nothing! We are not without empathetic terror when we open Pascal’s Pensées and read, “I am the great silent spaces between worlds.”

  • Carl Sagan
comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-05T20:16:08.239Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That seems like an attempt to attach emotional connotations to basic physical facts. A rationality quote..?

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-03-27T15:41:51.670Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Feeling Rational.

(I didn't upvote the quote, but I think that's what Kawoomba was going for)

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-03-06T19:13:35.604Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What's so bad about attaching wonder and awe to basic physical facts? Isn't emotion a driving factor of human motivation, Mr. Spock? Also, it is ladden with feel-good gravitas just by virtue of being a Sagan quote (let me demonstrate). I somewhat agree that it's not a good fit as a rationality quote really, but meh ... it's not exactly noise either.

  • Carl Sagan
comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-03-04T01:56:47.478Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Most fail to understand in the medical and socieconomic domains that treatment should never be equivalent to silencing symptoms.

Nassim Taleb

comment by DanielLC · 2014-03-25T22:32:30.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why not?

The problem with a disease is the symptoms. If you can cure the disease, all the symptoms will go away, but if you can only cure the more harmful symptoms, that will generally be almost as good.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-03-26T00:38:32.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with a disease is the symptoms.

Not really. The word "symptoms" generally means "noticeable signs" and with some diseases the first visible sign is sudden death.

Taleb is really talking about treating the cause and not visible manifestations.

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-08T07:30:37.794Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

A scientific attitude is of great importance, but we must recognize that science has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘consensus of the authorities.’ You are less likely to do the wrong thing if you believe that ‘the authorities are always wrong,’ because then you will begin to question their assumptions, evaluate their evidence, and examine their reasoning.

-Dr. Ray Peat

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-09T13:43:02.744Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You are less likely to do the wrong thing if you believe that ‘the authorities are always wrong,’

Reverse stupidity is not intelligence.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-03-27T15:34:56.092Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not reversed stupidity. It's an antiprediction.


... which does not make it correct, of course.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-30T07:19:10.083Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, yeah, if an authority says that the Hubble constant is 68 km/s/Mpc and you interpret that in such a way that if the Hubble constant is 67 km/s/Mpc or 69 km/s/Mpc the authority is wrong, then you'd better assume the authority is wrong -- though that's not a very informative assumption and anyway in the real world authorities often make claims more vague (i.e. whose negation is less vague) than that.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-03-31T18:29:21.421Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, sure, you have a relatively high opinion of authority. But even a vague claim needs the expert to be significantly better than chance to be promoted to your attention.

(And, well, this guy isn't a physicist. He's involved in medicine. There's less likely to be clear-cut experimental proof the expert can simply point out in order to overcome your prior. Instead, you get a huge, enormous pile of famous cases where The Experts Screwed Up.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-06T06:30:41.601Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Instead, you get a huge, enormous pile of famous cases where The Experts Screwed Up.

But there also are many many cases where the experts didn't screw up, which are less famous for obvious reasons. Believing doctors are always wrong sounds kind of extreme to me; sometimes they are right. (Otherwise, how comes life expectancy has increased so much in the past century?)

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-10T18:37:29.101Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is this reverse stupidity? It's a demonstrably false statement, but I think it's a useful heuristic to compensate for a bias we are prone to, allowing you to then collect evidence and evaluate the situation rationally. It might help overcome the also demonstrably false 'prior belief' that the authorities are always correct, which prevents people from ever expending energy to confirm or question them.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-03-08T11:52:30.086Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You are less likely to do the wrong thing if you believe that ‘the authorities are always wrong,’

Guess I'd better start driving without a seatbelt, smoking cigarettes, drinking while pregnant, avoiding healthy food and exercise, having unprotected sex with strangers ...

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-10T18:44:46.263Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He's not literally saying to believe this, but to consider this idea to enable you to then look at the evidence yourself.

The problem is so many people hold a 'prior' that the authorities are always right, it becomes possible for wrong ideas to become entrenched, and never seriously reinvestigated.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-09T13:33:38.289Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

smoking cigarettes

Nobody got the Nobel Price in medicine for showing that smoking causes cancer because of the way the authorities dealt with the issue at the time that discovery was made.

The current policy of requiring warning labels on cigarettes doesn't seem to be very evidence based and might cause more harm that it's useful.

avoiding healthy food

That's beginning the question. Different people have different opinion of what's healthy and when you read a bit on LW you will find that plenty of people agree with the official canon.

exercise

That's also a pretty broad category.

Instead of doing your three times 30 of jogging per day and sitting in front of your computer it might be better to get a walking desk and damage your ankles by jogging.

It's not quite clear that the current philosophy of what exercise is supposed to be is optimal.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-03-10T09:19:48.002Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're missing the point. "Authorities are always wrong" is not only demonstrably false (I could have listed a dozen other examples), it practically invites the reader to think that reversed stupidity is intelligence. We follow the wisdom of the majority because we don't have the cognitive capacity to reason through every problem as if it were new, and by doing what the majority does in scenarios where we're not domain experts, we're at least guaranteed a "not-terrible" outcome, even if it's sub-optimal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-10T09:55:57.095Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You're missing the point. "Authorities are always wrong" is not only demonstrably false (I could have listed a dozen other examples), it practically invites the reader to think that reversed stupidity is intelligence.

I think you are heavily misreading the intent of the quote, if that's what you take from it.

The quote basically teaches the kind of relationship that Feynman had with authority. Don't believe in it just because they say so, but demand evidence and follow where the evidence leads you.

Feynman might have benefited from brushing his teeth more frequently but he still left the legacy he did because of his relationship to authority.

comment by JQuinton · 2014-03-13T17:16:00.334Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Saying "always wrong" is too strong if that was the intent of the quote. It would be a better quote if the author said "could be wrong".

comment by bramflakes · 2014-03-10T13:15:45.750Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough, I disagree with it less now that I've read it through again.

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-10T18:55:13.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My interpretation is that this quote is aimed at people who do have the cognitive capacity to reason through specific problems that are important to them, but are failing to do so because they put too much trust in authorities.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-09T13:40:52.638Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

smoking causes cigarettes

I suspect you meant to type something else. :-)

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-03-11T14:37:02.674Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He is not wrong!

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-03-09T13:51:09.172Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Corrected.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-03-09T14:26:57.110Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I googled Ray Peat, and he is someone with rather definite views about nutrition and biochemistry. Can I go against his advice in the other quote to read a lot of technical stuff, and ask those on LW who have done so, to say how they judge his ideas?

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-10T18:42:43.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

His ideas are all based on the Association-Induction hypothesis, which is a little known and iconoclastic theory of cell biology... however it seems to have a strong experimental basis.

His writing seemed crazy to me at first (almost like schizophrenic word salad, despite having graduate level training in biology), but I've spent much of the last year studying the papers he cites... and I cannot find any mistakes in his reasoning yet. It's seeming more and more reasonable, but I think it's better to use his writings to find new ideas about basic biology, rather than just follow his health recommendations without understanding them.

I'm planning a post on the Association-Induction hypothesis. It's status is very similar to that of timeless physics: it's largely ignored and unknown however it is researched seriously by a small number of academics.

comment by WalterL · 2014-03-07T16:48:52.778Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

“There is a love that equals in its power the love of man for woman and reaches inwards as deeply. It is the love of a man or a woman for their world. For the world of their center where their lives burn genuinely and with a free flame."

  • Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
comment by bramflakes · 2014-03-07T20:27:14.893Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's a nice quote but what has it to do with rationality?

comment by WalterL · 2014-03-07T22:35:04.961Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's easy to assume that my own feelings towards things either do or should map to the feelings of others. LW example, monster aliens recognizing the inherent beauty of women in torn dresses.

I like this quote for emphasizing that others might love, or fear, or hate, or covet, whatever. I regard the notion of where someone sits down to eat as a casual decision, but in prison (or high school), it can have great emotional weight and be fraught with consequences. If someone bites his thumb at me, I might scoff, but Tybalt might call for a duel.

I'll also confess to a personal bias for the quote. I'm something of a hermit, and take a fierce joy in my, I dunno, groove (in the Emperor's New Groove sense). Positive depictions of loners are rare enough that I'm perhaps a bit of a sucker for a quote that even hints at one.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2014-03-04T16:31:43.621Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

[I am a humble adherent of]...Enlightenment Rationalist Fundamentalism.

Ernest Gellner

comment by CasioTheSane · 2014-03-08T07:32:51.861Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Occasionally, someone complains that they ‘don’t want to read a lot of technical stuff.’ These people prefer to do what ‘the authorities’ tell them. Where would the authorities be without them? I wouldn’t want to interfere in their relationships with the authorities, except that the system they sustain is tending to kill everyone.

-Dr. Ray Peat

comment by beoShaffer · 2014-03-02T22:19:57.409Z · score: -8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

The enemy's gate is down.

-Enders Game I thought this had been posted before but I couldn't find it anywhere.

comment by jaime2000 · 2014-03-02T22:25:24.116Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Needs more context. You and I know what this quote refers to; others might not.

EDIT: Here's a non-Tweeted version of the quote. It is used again later in the book, but to quote that scene would be a spoiler.

They finally got themselves together along the wall. Ender noticed that without exception they had lined up with their heads still in the direction they had been up in the corridor. So Ender deliberately took hold of what they were treating as a floor and dangled from it upside down. "Why are you upside down, soldiers?" he demanded.
Some of them started to turn the other way.
"Attention!" They held still. "I said why are you upside down!"
No one answered. They didn't know what he expected.
"I said why does every one of you have his feet in the air and his head toward the ground!"
Finally one of them spoke. "Sir, this is the direction we were in coming out of the door."
"Well what difference is that supposed to make! What difference does it make what the gravity was back in the corridor! Are we going to fight in the corridor? Is there any gravity here?"
No sir. No sir.
"From now on, you forget about gravity before you go through that door. The old gravity is gone, erased. Understand me? Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember-the enemy's gate is down. Your feet are toward the enemy's gate. Up is toward your own gate. North is that way, south is that way, east is that way, west is-what way?"
They pointed.
"That's what I expected. The only process you've mastered is the process of elimination, and the only reason you've mastered that is because you can do it in the toilet. What was the circus I saw out here! Did you call that forming up? Did you call that flying? Now everybody, launch and form up on the ceiling! Right now! Move!"
As Ender expected, a good number of them instinctively launched, not toward the wall with the door in it, but toward the wall that Ender had called north, the direction that had been up when they were in the corridor. Of course they quickly realized their mistake, but too late-they had to wait to change things until they had rebounded off the north wall.
In the meantime, Ender was mentally grouping them into slow learners and fast learners. The littlest kid, the one who had been last out of the door, was the first to arrive at the correct wall, and he caught himself adroitly. They had been right to advance him. He'd do well.

comment by somervta · 2014-03-02T22:26:46.841Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Confirm that I don't know what this means.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-03-29T16:16:23.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He's fighting a force which has foolishly employed fortifications partially made of insulating feathers.

Also, the portcullis of this fortification is not open.

Also, he is choosing a coordinate system in which said fortification is in the -Z direction.