Rationality Lessons Learned from Irrational Adventures in Romance

post by lukeprog · 2011-10-04T02:45:31.391Z · score: 56 (84 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 616 comments

Contents

  Gather data
  Sanity-check yourself
  Study
  Just try it / just test yourself
  Use science, and maybe drugs
  Self-modify to succeed
  Finale
None
616 comments

Gooey personal details alert! See also: Alicorn's Polyhacking.

Years ago, my first girlfriend (let's call her 'Alice') ran into her ex-boyfriend at a coffee shop. They traded anecdotes, felt connected, a spark of intimacy...

And then she left the coffee shop, quickly.

Later she explained: "You have my heart now, Luke."

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because Alice hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

This is an account of some lessons in rationality that I learned during my journeys in romance.* I haven't been very rational in my relationships until recently, but in retrospect I learned a fair bit about rationality from the failures resulting from my irrationality in past relationships.

Early lessons included realizations like the one above — that I wasn't happy with the standard cultural scripts. I hadn't really noticed the cultural scripts up until that point. I was a victim of cached thoughts and a cached self.

Rationality Lesson: Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask yourself: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?

 

Gather data

At the time, I didn't know how to optimize. I decided I needed data. How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work? The value of information was high, so I decided to become a social psychology nerd. I began to spend less time with Alice so I could spend more time studying.

This wasn't easy. She and I had connected in some pretty intimate ways, including a simultaneous deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity. But in the end my studies paid off. Moreover, my studies in personality and relationship styles helped me to realize that I (and therefore she) would have been miserable if I had decided to pursue marriage with her (or anyone at the time). Now that is valuable information to have!

Rationality Lesson: Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.

 

Sanity-check yourself

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty. Now I realize that there's hardly a more damaging way to break up with someone. She asked that I kindly never speak to her again, and I can't blame her.

This gives you some idea of just how incompetent I was, at the time. I had some idea of how incompetent I was, but not enough of one to avoid badly wounding somebody I loved.

Rationality Lesson: Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)

 

Study

During the next couple years, I spent no time in (what would have been) sub-par relationships, and instead invested that time optimizing for better relationships in the future. Which meant I was celibate.

Neither Intimate Relationships nor Handbook of Relationship Initiation existed at the time, but I still learned quite a bit from books like The Red Queen and The Moral Animal. I experienced a long series of 'Aha!' moments, like:

Within a few months, I had more dating-relevant head knowledge than any guy I knew.

Lesson: Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.

 

Just try it / just test yourself

Scholarship was warm and comfy, so I stayed in scholar mode for too long. I hit diminishing returns in what books could teach me. Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle every contingency.

The dating books told me I would think that, but I told myself I was unusually analytical, and could actually benefit from completing the decision tree in advance of actually talking to women.

The dating books told me I would think that, too, and that it was just a rationalization. Really, I was just nervous about the blows my ego would receive from newbie mistakes.

Rationality Lesson: Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now and change course. How many months or years will your life be less awesome as a result? How many opportunities will you miss while you're still (kinda) young?

 

Use science, and maybe drugs

The dating books told me to swallow my fear and talk to women. I couldn't swallow my fear, so I tried swallowing brandy instead. That worked.

So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books about what makes an interaction fun for most women:

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy. And a little after that, I had my first one-night stand, which was great because it was exactly what she and I wanted.

But as time passed I was surprised by how much I didn't enjoy casual flings. I didn't feel engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. I had gone in thinking all I wanted was sex, but it turned out that I wanted connection to another person. (And sex.)

Rationality Lesson: Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.

 

Self-modify to succeed

By this time my misgivings about the idea of "owning" another's sexuality had led me to adopt a polyamorous mindset for myself. (I saw many other people apparently happy with monogamy, but it wasn't for me.) But if I was going to be polyamorous, I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:

This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I later dated a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Rationality Lesson: Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.

 

Finale

There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm much more romantically capable, I'm free to take up relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, and I can build rapport with almost anyone. My hair looks good and I'm happy.

If you're a nerd-at-heart like me, I highly recommend becoming a nerd about romance, so long as you read the right nerd books and you know the nerd rule about being empirical. Rationality is for winning.

 

 


* My thanks to everyone who commented on earlier drafts of this post. Here are the biggest changes I made:

616 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kevin · 2011-10-02T00:17:03.340Z · score: 26 (34 votes) · LW · GW

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

This is probably the single funniest bit in your backstory.

comment by MartinB · 2011-10-02T13:38:45.482Z · score: 21 (27 votes) · LW · GW

No.

It reads like a scene from The Big Bang Theory, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone would ever actually do that - till I remember doing similarly bad+stupid things.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T00:55:27.777Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that was really, really bad. I'd like to take that one back, for sure.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-02T04:48:18.580Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T07:01:25.114Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW · GW

No, it was in a car, and I had written it up in a 20-page document I printed off, but then I recited it from memory anyway. I'm kinda glad I don't have that document anymore.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-10-04T05:04:15.797Z · score: 35 (37 votes) · LW · GW

This is the exact reverse, in every way, of Erin collaborating with a friend of hers to write up an elaborate argument tree for the job of persuading me that she ought to be my girlfriend, which she ended up not actually needing to use.

She also doesn't have that document any more. I so wanted to see it...

comment by Jolly · 2011-10-20T02:54:09.704Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

grin that was fun, and incidentally how I first found out about you (Eliezer). I don't remember actually formally writing said document though, so much as just reasoning out the pro/cons of various approaches.

I'm glad it worked out though! :)

comment by Solvent · 2011-10-12T09:50:02.963Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How the hell do people lose these things? I keep all these documents so I can publicly distribute them after say a one year time period, to the general amusement and enlightenment of all. Ask her to write it again.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-02T08:17:26.762Z · score: 19 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

comment by Alejandro1 · 2011-10-02T14:47:03.678Z · score: 39 (43 votes) · LW · GW

I'm picturing it with an impressive array of references at the end, and side remarks on The Neglected Virtue of Scholarsip.

comment by Aleksei_Riikonen · 2011-10-04T02:11:17.559Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Wow! A 20 page essay on "why I'm breaking up with you"? That's just... brutal!

And obviously the title should have been:

"In Which I Explain How Natural Selection Has Built Me To Be Attracted To Certain Features That You Lack"

:D

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-03T01:26:24.248Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I take no responsibility for anything Luke-2007 did. Different guy. :)

comment by JenniferRM · 2011-10-04T02:14:41.829Z · score: 32 (36 votes) · LW · GW

Out of curiosity, do you expect Luke-2015 to take responsibility for anything Luke-2011 does?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T02:20:19.600Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Only the good stuff! :)

comment by tristanhaze · 2012-01-29T04:45:27.671Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if this principle works in the case of a murder which rapidly changes the murderer. (Later that day, they may bear no responsibility.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-03T20:23:09.970Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am surprised that she didn't cut you off way before you got to the one-hour mark...

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-03T20:31:04.701Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My guess is that it would have been like forcing herself to look away from a train wreck.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-02T16:45:16.355Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Did you destroy all of the copies?

comment by gwern · 2011-10-02T01:57:43.303Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Why? Did subsequent evo-psych research disprove the selection for those features?

comment by antigonus · 2011-10-02T04:45:10.905Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

People who get dumped want to know their partners' reasons for breaking up, not the biological etiology of those reasons. They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-02T07:51:23.511Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

They are very likely to take lengthy discourses into the latter as insensitive, obfuscatory deflections (and probably correctly so).

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

Which is not to say that descriptions of the biological eitology are not also obfuscatory deflections. Most answers to this question will be! In fact, answers to this question will usually be obfuscatory deflections because not to do so will necessarily be 'insensitive'.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-03T13:24:36.923Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Another reason for not giving the real reasons is that sorting that kind of thing out is work and telling the truth about oneself is an offer of intimacy. If you're breaking up with someone, you may not want to do either one.

comment by antigonus · 2011-10-02T08:03:06.886Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I would call the 'real reasons' typically given to be obfuscatory deflections. People seldom know the actual reasons for why they want to break up. More often they are explicitly aware of one of the downstream effects of the actual reason.

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-02T13:07:50.038Z · score: 35 (39 votes) · LW · GW

It makes the reason much more of an attack-- it's not just "I find [feature] unattractive", it's "people in general are likely to find [feature] unattractive, and this is to the advantage of the human race".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-04T11:03:24.257Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

In spite of this, piling up the karma on this comment makes me feel better about LW. When no one else had made this point on the original post, and then the points were slow to show up on this comment, I was beginning to wonder about the cluefulness level.

I haven't felt this way about any of my other comments.

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't) is a book about women and shame, with a little about men. I'd been wondering why such a high proportion of insults (to both men and women) are about sexual attractiveness, but the book points out that the most stinging insults are about failure to fulfill gender expectations. At the time, I hadn't thought about men being accused of homosexuality, but that fits the pattern from the book.

If I were to get evolutionary about this, cutting down one's rivals' mating potential would make sense as a fundamental attack.

On the other hand, I don't think the author was collecting cross cultural material, so I don't know what insults/shame looks like in cultures where religious prejudice is a larger factor.

None of this is intended as an attack on lukeprog (2007)-- it's clear he had no idea what he was doing. My guess is that he was trying to be less insulting by making the breakup less personal.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-06T19:02:35.436Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, I don't think the author was collecting cross cultural material, so I don't know what insults/shame looks like in cultures where religious prejudice is a larger factor.

I'm not an expert on this by any means, but insult content varies quite a bit across cultures. Dutch profanity is largely medical, for example; kankerlijer ("cancer-sufferer") is very strong. I've heard speculation that this is due to the largely urban landscape that Dutch evolved in, where being a vector of infection (never mind that most causes of cancer aren't infectious) meant being a clear danger to the community.

So religious insults seem plausible in any culture that takes religion especially seriously. Spanish profanity has retained a lot of religious content; I don't know much about its evolution, but it could plausibly be related to Spanish-speaking culture's historically strong Catholicism.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-07T03:50:20.489Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks-- the Dutch sickness insults are amazing by American standards.

If it was just about fear of infection, then all urban cultures would have that sort of insult.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-07T04:17:24.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it does have the ring of a Just-So story, doesn't it? I haven't heard any other explanations yet, though.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-07T10:39:09.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My suggestion of random factors means that there's no detailed explanation possible, except for history which is almost certainly based in spoken words and emotional reactions and therefore not available.

I believe that it's the tone which makes an insult. Insult is about lowering status, and is basically a group effect-- a good insult implies not just likelihood of ongoing attack from that person, but that the attacks will deservedly continue from other people.

It seems to me that cultures are probably constrained to ranges by various issues (number of people, technology, resources), but those ranges are huge compared to the particular things cultures do, and there's little point in predicting.

American slang will probably generate new words for very good and very bad, but this doesn't mean that which words are used for very good and very bad has an interesting or predictable pattern. The words will probably be short, but I doubt you can get much farther than that.

I wonder whether insults could be used to track patterns of obligatory kindness-- if some feature is not used as grounds for insult, could it mean that it's a area which is culturally inhibited from attack. In other words, I'm still shocked at using having cancer as a generic insult.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T18:44:01.415Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's worth noting that not every piece of social interaction has a non-trivial influence from evolutionary psychology. Sometimes an insult is just an insult...

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-07T01:04:41.558Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's worth noting that not every piece of social interaction has a non-trivial influence from evolutionary psychology. Sometimes an insult is just an insult...

Of all the forms of communication over which to trivialize evolutionary psychology you chose insults? Knowing how, when and who to insult is one of the most critical instincts evolutionary psychology provided us!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-07T02:41:16.752Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And the exact specific insults chosen is pretty darn culture-bound. "Stupid melon" is only a serious insult in Chinese.

(To clarify: I am talking about the semantics of the words chosen as insults, not the behavior of socially insulting another for whatever reason. I do not think the specific words common in current English parlance as insults by a specific social group can be meaningfully applied to humanity as a whole)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-07T03:48:13.816Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm more dubious about ev psych than most here, I think. It wouldn't surprise me if there is random history affecting which insults are salient in various societies, rather than some sort of optimization.

The fact that people can insult each other so easily may well have some evolutionary history.

Any theories about why people are so apt to remember insults for years?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-07T04:45:35.010Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It wouldn't surprise me if there is random history affecting which insults are salient in various societies, rather than some sort of optimization.

I'm a bit of a polyglot who's sampled broadly from some very, very different language families and that rings true.

You can be insulting in Chinook Wawa or Ojibwe (speaking disrespectfully or very bluntly), but cognates for most familiar English swears are either lacking altogether or of very recent coinage. The closest you'd get to everyday, non-personal swearing in Chinook Wawa sort of means "eeeewww"; the word "bad" could be a matter-of-fact descriptor, a vaguely-literal or nonliteral grammatical particle, or just a very blunt statement more impolite than anything.

Chinese has quite a varied vocabulary for profanity and insults, but the literal translations would almost sound cutesy to foreigners (傻瓜, "sha3gua1" in Mandarin, means "stupid melon" but has about as much social bite as "idiot!" or "dumbass!").

Japanese has a lot of profane words, except that it's much easier to be insulting without actually using any of them and some of the ones whose literal translation would be profane or impolite in English are used with much less weight. This is true of some dialects of Chinese too (there's a phrase that probably best translates as "holy fuck" in both Chinese and Japanese but isn't nearly as impolite as its English equivalent, although it's not exactly good manners either.)

comment by Prismattic · 2011-10-04T05:02:56.248Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Examining what Lukeprog wrote...

Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. By then I knew I couldn't give her what she wanted: marriage.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty.....

...his stated reason doesn't appear to match the paragraph that preceded it all (I realize that we are probably gettting a very condensed version of the conversation, but hopefully it didn't elide something this important).

Were I in the lady's position, I'd wonder why I only became physically unsuitable after I started seeking a legally recognized commitment. Unless the feature Lukeprog found unattractive was "wants committed pair-bonding," the explanation does not appear to fit the circumstances at all. This doesn't seem like a case of someone unable to deal with "radical honesty;" it seems like a case of someone being pissed off at what comes across as dishonesty.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-02T14:56:07.484Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The real harm, in my eyes, is because she will likely generalize that because evolution made you that way it made all men that way, which is likely not true. Actually it's patently untrue for any example I can think of.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-03T15:27:56.747Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see any evidence that suggests that she would draw any conclusion about evolution from a breakup like that. Is that in the text or your own conclusion?

(and I must add that though I didn't write a 20 page document for my first breakup, I arguably did no better.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T18:46:07.655Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Humans have emotions and don't think rationally by default. Most people do not like to feel inadequate, though how they respond to that feeling varies a great deal. Most people in a relationship also don't like to feel they were rejected sexually over some perceived inadequacy.

So when a mate gives them a 20-page lecture on their failures to hold their attraction and concludes by rejecting them as a sex partner, it's probably not vanishingly far from the null hypothesis that the person is going to get upset...

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-03T15:35:18.233Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way. If evolution did it to him, then it did it to everyone. Evolution doesn't discriminate. What's more likely is that evolution didn't actually make him that way, but societal pressures did.

But that's setting aside the fact that most people tend to wildly anthropomorphize evolution...

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-03T18:12:47.940Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't expect lukeprog to bring up evolution in that context unless he believed that most men were like him.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-03T15:49:09.453Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well it's almost definitional. If evolutionary selection pressures were extreme enough to actually make lukeprog that way, then all men are that way.

This does not follow. There are many species where different members have evolved different mating strategies. For a really neat example see this lizard. Males have evolved three different strategies that are in a rock-paper-scissors relationship to each other.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-03T15:53:33.199Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems clear though, that your example is the exception and not the rule. There is no reason that evolution would have made lukeprog different from other males, given that he was human.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T00:50:18.730Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, variable mating strategies are darn common for animals. Sometimes they represent stable lifepaths with whole species populations grouped not just by sex, but by which members of a given sex use which strategy (cleaner wrasses come to mind); other species vary thejr strategies based on things like food availability, or in different parts of their geographical range, or in different sub-populations.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-04T00:21:36.919Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can give lots of other species that have stable equilibria with multiple mating strategies. There's also a fair number of game theory scenarios where the Nash equilibria involve similar mixed strategies. These aren't that uncommon in nature. The lizard example is just one of the weirder examples. This is clearly way too common for it to be labeled as "almost definitional".

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-03T20:32:19.572Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can you clarify what the harm is, in her thinking 'just like a man'

Or what her thinking would actually be, if that is not what you're suggesting?

And for the record, I killed that first relationship by telling my BF that I wasn't sure I loved him anymore, but that I didn't actually want to break up. Which was totally true, and had predictable results. I turned a normal healthy and cute math-classics major/computer science nerd into a clingy and demanding person, because I didn't understand why I wasn't happier with myself. He had no recourse to any pat generalizations, like 'just like a woman'.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-03T20:56:49.015Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would think that her thinking would be that if evolution made lukeprog not like me because of xyz, then it would make all men not like me because of that. I must not be a likeable person.

That would be bad.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-03T23:30:41.211Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'm no expert on how women think, but there is no thought control.

This breakup story is so unusual in the amount of rational preparation for it, I'm sure that I would be able to see that most other men are not much like lukeprog, on that point if no other.

I am not sure there is any way to convince someone you do not want to date (at all / any longer) that they are likeable, except by proving it over time.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-04T00:11:43.696Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most men are not like lukeprog on that point, certainly.

However, lukeprog was not asserting that most men were like him on that point. He was asserting that evolution had contributed for his not liking her for reasons X, Y, and Z. All people are closely enough related that if that were true, then there would be a good chance that evolution had done similarly for other men. So, to the degree that she believed him, the conclusion that it likely applied to other men would follow more strongly than without his assertion.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-04T00:32:03.896Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You make a good point, but I doubt she believed his assertion for long, if at all. Though it probably offended her.

I am trying to suggest that lukeprog's assertions about why he didn't feel like he liked her the right amount any more are totally irrelevant to her reaction. Their accuracy is, in fact, arguable.

Evolution, as it applies to men, suggests that just often enough, some of them will try to impregnate someone. Cross-cultural standards of physical beauty in women suggest who most men are most likely to try to approach. This is statistical. "Who wants to date ME" is personal, and there is no proof other than experience.

The fact that he didn't feel like he liked her the right amount to date her anymore is the unarguable point, and there is no way of getting around that.

She sounds like a normal girl and probably had a normal amount of disappointment over the breakup, and maybe an above-average amount of resentment at the suggestion that she might not be as evolutionarily attractive as the next girl.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T01:24:50.505Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I must not be a likeable person.

He should have started with the mind projection fallacy.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-10-04T05:24:45.288Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Luke will never be able to break up with any future girlfriends because it would require too many preliminaries before he could even start the sequence which would explain why they should break up.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-06T02:27:01.850Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

...says the only person who required more buildup to discuss metaethics than I did.

I have not tired of these jokes, but: actually, 'breaking up' rationalist-to-rationalist is pretty easy and painless in my (limited) experience.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T05:57:36.296Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And the more time he spends with more and more girlfriends the more he will learn about relationships and the harder it will be for him to break up with them. It's pretty much an Unfriendly and Artificial Breakup Conversation FOOM.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T05:35:53.284Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Expecting short inferential distances then.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-02T08:12:18.067Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure that's the case. But my point was that if the real reason for the break-up was "I want to be with someone who possesses quality X that you lack," then tacking on "...because evolution made me that way" does not render the reason more real or add an additional, separate reason; it just renders the one reason better explained in a mostly irrelevant way.

It is rather irrelevant. Even crockers rules doesn't take you as far as giving evolutionary psychology explanations. So saying "because you have small breasts" is grossly insensitive and saying "because you have small breasts and I am biologically ... signalling ... etc" is grossly insensitive and also irrelevant, nerdy and kind of awkward.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2011-10-04T05:18:35.964Z · score: 31 (37 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed that the ev-psych was bad. But...

If your true and actual reason for breaking up with someone is that her breasts are too small, consider that (a) saying "It was because you were too clingy" may cause them to try and mess with an aspect of their personality that doesn't even need fixing, and (b) total silence, which you may fondly imagine to be mercy, may result in her frantically imagining dozens of possible flaws all of which she tries desperately to correct, just on the off-chance it was that one. As opposed to, say, looking for a guy who's into smaller breasts next time.

Maybe I'm just being inordinately naive, but telling someone honestly, softly, and believably, your true reason for rejecting them, seems like it really should have certain advantages for them, if not for you. I mean, compared to either silence or lying. Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

comment by Swimmy · 2011-10-05T04:00:28.560Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're assuming too rational a partner.

If you're honest and say, "Your breasts are too small," the person in question might seek a guy who likes smaller breasts next time. Or she might fall into a deep self-loathing in which she believes that her body is imperfect and nobody could be attracted to her, thus sabotaging her own future potential relationships. Or she could run out and get breast implants, even though she doesn't really want them, in hopes that you / other future guys will find her more attractive--which is much more expensive and possibly less rewarding than simply finding people who like small breasts.

In my view it's better to keep it vague. Guessing over dozens of possible flaws is likely to be less harmful than obsessing over one particular flaw, since it's difficult to figure out / change whatever possible flaw you think may exist.

(Disclosure: I have been dumped once and did the dumping once. The dumper kept it vague; I kept it specific but lied. I can't judge how keeping it specific while lying worked, since the person in question was bipolar and therefore not at all a normal test subject. I can judge how keeping it vague went: I obsessed over dozens of flaws for a while, until I found other people who were interested, at which point I decided it was probably just a bad match and nothing really to do with absolute flaws at all. I do not know how a completely honest dumping pans out.)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-05T06:18:37.413Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If you're honest and say, "Your breasts are too small," the person in question might seek a guy who likes smaller breasts next time. Or she might fall into a deep self-loathing in which she believes that her body is imperfect and nobody could be attracted to her, thus sabotaging her own future potential relationships.

In which case the honest answer would clearly have in fact been "you are too psychologically unstable, needy and difficult to communicate with honestly".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-05T08:19:58.390Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That answer isn't feasible-- it's based on behaviors after the breakup, so they can't be the cause of the breakup, even if they were present (perhaps in less extreme form) before the breakup.

Also, it's at least possible that the man would have tolerated the same difficult behavior from a woman with larger breasts-- he may have been accurate about his preferences.

What about being accurate about difficult behaviors which are at least theoretically easier to change than basic body features?

I know a woman whose husband had been taking her office supplies, leaving her to think that her memory was seriously erratic. When she found her office supplies in her desk and confronted him about it, he told her off for violating his privacy.

I don't know whether she mentioned this during the breakup, but would it have been a good idea to do so?

comment by HumanFlesh · 2011-10-07T13:07:38.655Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I know a woman whose husband had been taking her office supplies, leaving her to think that her memory was seriously erratic.

That's called gaslighting.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-07T13:44:09.455Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's called gaslighting.

I haven't seen a wikipedia article look more like it belongs on tvtropes!

comment by taelor · 2011-10-07T20:03:06.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

TVTropes has its own page on the subject.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-05T08:56:53.009Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That answer isn't feasible-- it's based on behaviors after the breakup, so they can't be the cause of the breakup, even if they were present (perhaps in less extreme form) before the breakup.

Disagree, it is most certainly feasible - and something I would consider a rather wise reason to break up with someone. Being in a position where you can do enormous amounts of permanent psychological damage to someone by telling them they have small breasts is not a good place to be.

Psychological vulnerability insecurity and a tendency toward self loathing are traits of a person (in the medium term) and are not impossible to predict. When you are breaking up with someone for this reason you are not obliged to wait until they actually spiral into self loathing so you can justify your decision.

The very decision to refrain from telling someone that you are breaking up with them because they have small breasts is based off their predicted response. So it is clearly just as possible to make the same prediction and have it influence your decision to break up with them because of their psychological fragility.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-05T09:07:30.614Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What about being accurate about difficult behaviors which are at least theoretically easier to change than basic body features?

That sounds like a very good idea all else being equal. Focusing on what you can change is usually the best strategy and providing others with information about what they can change is probably going to be more useful.

I know a woman whose husband had been taking her office supplies, leaving her to think that her memory was seriously erratic. When she found her office supplies in her desk and confronted him about it, he told her off for violating his privacy.

Wow, that guy is a dick!

I don't know whether she mentioned this during the breakup, but would it have been a good idea to do so?

I don't see anything in it for her and nor do I see why she should feel any need to do things for his benefit. Do kind things for people who aren't dicks.

My response in that situation would be to make no particularly extravagant reaction at the time of the incident, calmly make all the relevant preparations such as hiring a divorce lawyer and finding another place to live then break up via having someone else serve him a divorce notice. But I think most other people may be a little less extravagant in their responses (and less practical). My strategy when breaking up with a spouse for reasons like their diminished attractiveness or excessive more justifiable conflict would be entirely different and much more social.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-05T23:18:06.736Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see anything in it for her and nor do I see why she should feel any need to do things for his benefit. Do kind things for people who aren't dicks.

If he's capable of eventually acquiring a clue, this is also kindness to the people he'll be dealing with later on. I don't know whether the cost to her is worth the possible benefit.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2011-10-06T16:03:04.751Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In which case the honest answer would clearly have in fact been "you are too psychologically unstable, needy and difficult to communicate with honestly".

That's a very big one for me. Someone who can't handle the truth is not someone for me.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T05:57:53.056Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

true reason for rejecting them

This usually makes little sense, particularly for someone one was attracted to for a while.

It's almost never true that for someone whose breasts one once found sufficient, her breasts would be a deal breaker, and no woman would be attractive with similar breasts regardless of her personality, face, legs, etc.

The problem is that the character sheet was filled out with mostly low die rolls, not that stat X is too low.

ETA: asking what the "true reason" for a breakup was is like asking what the "true reason" for a war, such as the Iraq War, was. Was it possible WMD? Past links to Al-Qaida? Possible future links to Al-Qaida? Past human rights abuses such as mass torture and murder? Aquiring influence over oil? Creating a pro-western regime? Creating a democratic regime? Perceived divine guidance during Bush's praying?

The first test to figure out if someone is more rationalist than emotional about the Iraq war to ask them what the "true reason" for the invasion was and see if they right that wrong question. It's just as much the wrong question in this context as that one.

Calling it "grossly insensitive" is too quick a rejection of the possibility of telling a truth.

I agree.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T06:02:41.890Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

It's almost never true that for someone whose breasts one once found sufficient, her breasts would be a deal breaker

It is more or less true of people who gain a significant amount of status without a commensurate improvement in the status of their partner. Standards change.

Sure, it isn't going to be the only reason but it can certainly be significant enough to single out.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T10:37:01.403Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The principle of no aspect being the cause of too low value still applies.

How many guys are out of Morena Baccarin's league because her breasts are small? She has everything else going for her so her weakest attribute is compensated for.

To call the weakest attribute of someone you reject the "true reason" makes sense only if it is a lone sufficient condition, which it probably won't be even for someone who you no longer want to be with because you think you can do better.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-10-14T06:48:26.713Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine was dating a man because she wanted to be dating a doctor. She then finds out that he never managed to pass his licensing exams and therefore couldn't yet practice medicine. After she helps him pass, he dumps her, saying this:

Ben: I'm sorry, Elaine. I always knew that after I became a doctor, I would dump whoever I was with and find someone better. That's the dream of becoming a doctor.

Which illustrates the point rather nicely.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T06:27:05.613Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A complementary position is that just because something is 'grossly insensitive' doesn't mean it isn't both a kindness and exactly the right thing to do. Humans learn from unpleasant things. Especially targeted unpleasant things. So 'got to be cruel to be kind' often applies.

If your true and actual reason for breaking up with someone is that her breasts are too small, consider that (a) saying "It was because you were too clingy" may cause them to try and mess with an aspect of their personality that doesn't even need fixing, and (b) total silence, which you may fondly imagine to be mercy, may result in her frantically imagining dozens of possible flaws all of which she tries desperately to correct, just on the off-chance it was that one. As opposed to, say, looking for a guy who's into smaller breasts next time.

Tangent: The tricky thing is that often "because you were too clingy" will technically be the real reason, just not the most useful part of the causal chain to select. If she had bigger breasts that will change both how 'clingy' any given behavior seems and how much attraction to her you exhibit which in turn influences how clingy she is likely to be. So sometimes even 'real' reasons can be a cop-out!

Maybe I'm just being inordinately naive, but telling someone honestly, softly, and believably, your true reason for rejecting them, seems like it really should have certain advantages for them, if not for you.

That certainly seems likely for most cases.

Even bigger tangent: I can't think of many better ways to be broken up with than this! Seriously. It's (counter-intuitively) one of the least personally insulting break ups I've seen. Because pussy-footying around being 'sensitive' is in its own way just another kind of insult.

comment by khafra · 2011-10-04T14:27:33.741Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a better solution which preserves both values? Real reasons in rot13, maybe?

comment by jhuffman · 2011-10-04T16:46:55.363Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It would depend on the broader social context - in particular, will you still share a social context - but if you do it seems likely you could get your name dragged through the mud in that example,and she still might not believe you and so suffer b) anyway.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-05T14:58:53.308Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

WOW! I'd call this the most credible surprising argument for truthfulness I have seen in a long time. Figures it's from Eliezer. Score in our years long argument over the strength of the prior for truthfulness.
Note though, that to be a good idea this would have to be done very sensitively. Also, the girl would have to be awfully rationalistic. I'd default to the position that any girl who isn't already poly is fairly unlikely to be a good candidate for this sort of argument, accompanied by a firm assertion that rationalist guys should not restrict themselves to poly girls.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-05T15:07:13.645Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not convinced there's a significant correlation between being poly and being rational. In general, polyamory seems to be a mostly unchosen state of preference, and I've neither noticed nor would I particularly anticipate polyamorous people having a pronounced tendency to be more rational.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-06T01:20:29.278Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that it's particularly rational to be poly, but I do think that most people who are trying to be rational try to be poly, because being poly is a natural consequence of assumptions which sound reasonable and which few people in our society who identify with reason challenge.

Also, let me note that I see polyamory through a lens much closer to that held by many lesbians, which sees sexual orientation as primarily political, rather than the lens favored by most male homosexuals, which sees sexual orientation as primarily biological but which would seem to contradict what we know of the history of cultures such as Classical Greece.

comment by Quirinus_Quirrell · 2011-10-06T01:46:37.873Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You really ought to get yourself an anonymous alter-identity so you aren't tempted to discuss things like this under your real name. I believe that you in particular should avoid this topic when writing on public forums.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-06T18:38:20.259Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious as to why me in particular, but I'm happy to hear from you privately. In general, I go with radical transparency. I think that the truth is that so long as you don't show shame, guilt or malice you win. Summers screwed up by accepting that his thoughts were shameful and then asserting that they were forced by reason and that others were so forced as well. This is both low-status and aggressive, a bad combination and a classic nerdy failure mode.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-06T01:45:16.501Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I find it doubtful that most aspiring rationalists try to be poly; there are probably more making the attempt since the polyhacking post, but I would be pretty surprised if they constitute a majority.

Personally, I'm already polyamorous in that I'm open to relationships of more than two people, provided all the people are in a relationship with each other (TheOtherDave referred to relationships of this kind as closed polyads, but I haven't heard the term elsewhere and get no results by googling it.) I have no desire at all to engage in open relationship polyamory like Luke, Eliezer or Alicorn and MBlume, nor do I wish to self modify so that I would be happy with such a relationship. I don't suppose my own romantic inclinations are representative of the broader rationalist community, but I don't believe polyamory is as significant attractor as you seem to.

On a side note, I have tried to hack myself bisexual, to no avail. As far as I'm concerned, men are about as sexually attractive as plants and there seems to be nothing I can do about it.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-06T18:42:27.583Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's a matter of how far people go in these aspirations, and certainly asexuality is another plausible attractor. People can't be very aspiring towards rationality if something like the the polyhacking post influenced them much. Personally, I don't recommend polyamory, I just think that it's common among the extreme enough outliers.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-06T01:25:20.552Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This might depend on what one means by poly. I've been in poly and mono relationships before and don't try actively for either, it is a function of whether my primary is someone who is poly or mono. (This did lead to an interesting issue recently in that my current girlfriend is monoamorous and so I had to downgrade a certain highly poly friend back into the just friend category when my current girlfriend and I got serious.)

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-06T18:40:51.462Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd call that poly, just like being open to strait or bi relationships makes you bi. It just means that you have self-determination regarding your actions and take responsibility for positive actions, which is pretty much our group's core defining trait.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-06T21:12:42.885Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How are you defining poly then? Can you be more explicit?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-10-05T15:32:16.442Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly agreed, but with a caveat... my expectations would depend somewhat on context.

If someone lives in a predominantly X environment and has the option of identifying as X but instead identifies as Y, I consider that noteworthy (though far from definitive) evidence that they're constructing their models of themselves based on observation rather than adopting the cultural default model unreflectively. Identifying as poly in some communities qualifies, to my mind.

Constructing models based on observed data is an important rationality skill, as is setting aside cultural assumptions when evaluating data.

Of course, that isn't at all the same thing as a correlation between being poly and being rational, but there's enough of a connection that the caveat seemed worth making.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-05T15:46:21.951Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I had considered the possibility that self identifying as poly would take both self knowledge and willingness to defy cultural norms, but I don't think this would be likely to impose more than a fairly minimal lower limit on the rationality of people self identifying as poly. I wouldn't expect it to take much more than the minimum rationality necessary to recognize oneself as homosexual. Anyone looking for partners above a low baseline of rationality is probably imposing a stronger filter for rationality already than they would by looking for polyamorous partners.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-10-05T16:13:00.063Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed that identifying as homosexual in an environment that strongly encourages heterosexuality takes some of the same skills. Identifying as bisexual is an even closer analog. That is, it's a lot easier for me to notice that I'm not attracted to women and thus different from my heterosexual peers, than it is for me to notice that in addition to being attracted to women I'm also attracted to men; noticing that in addition to wanting a relationship with one person I also want a relationship with a second person is similarly more difficult. (More generally: if X is easier for As to notice than Y is, A1 noticing X says less about A1 (relative to As) than A1 noticing Y does.)

Agreed that this basically raises the floor by some marginal amount.

Agreed that if you can only filter based on one attribute at a time, this isn't the best one to choose if you want to maximize partner rationality. That said, if you can filter based on multiple attributes at once, it might turn out that a filter that takes this attribute into account performs better than one that doesn't, all else being equal.

comment by gwern · 2012-02-11T23:23:05.445Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not convinced there's a significant correlation between being poly and being rational.

If there is a correlation, I doubt it's much more than the general poly correlations of being white, educated, Open, and some groups into SciFi - but then, there's also said to be a pagan current of poly-ers, which would drag down any correlation by quite a bit, pagan-types not being famous for rationality.

comment by thomblake · 2011-10-05T15:08:29.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I thought that assumption was pretty odd. Also, "already poly" has weird implications.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2011-12-27T11:03:53.000Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Based on the above considerations it's still probably better to claim unnatural attraction to large breasts then saying something is wrong with her. It's easier on the girl, plus possibly better to have reputation of a perv than a shmuck. Not sure what the score is now.

comment by antigonus · 2011-10-02T08:39:46.856Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree. There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood. But there is no way of sensitively taking your devastated ex aside and handing him/her a Tooby and Cosmides paper to read for homework.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-02T08:52:14.138Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree.

It could go either way. Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you' The main problem with getting into a big speel on science is that it increases the total time spent dwelling on the painfully negative topic. The fact that it is talking about the science isn't the insulting part.

There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood.

Talking about 'lack of physical chemistry' is less insulting by virtue of being a vague pre-packaged euphemism rather than brutally personal criticism of highly status-sensitive personal features. It seems to be an entirely different kind of difference to whether you mention evolutionary psychology or not.

comment by antigonus · 2011-10-02T09:24:27.193Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Digression into a bunch of theory and science impersonalizes things as well as focussing on 'me' instead of 'you'

Not really. Any evolutionary explanation of why I am repulsed by your physical appearance is going to spend a lot of time dwelling on your physical appearance. And I think the impersonalization bit is the key - it is a ridiculously impersonal digression at a moment of extreme emotional vulnerability on the other person's part. Most people will interpret impersonal explanations of this sort of emotionally impactful decision as an extremely cold-hearted way of excusing oneself. "I'm sorry I've just hurt your feelings. But allow me to explain how this is all just the work of the forces of sexual selection in our ancestral environment..."

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T22:09:42.996Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm completely and utterly aghast at how some LW members can't see it this way.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-02T10:10:13.981Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We have a straightforward disagreement with respect to both the conclusion and most of the details.

comment by antigonus · 2011-10-02T08:39:16.603Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If your point is that going on about evolutionary psychology adds to the obfuscation but not to the insensitivity, I disagree. There are often ways of more or less sensitively coming clean about (what one takes to be) one's true reasons for breaking up. Maybe you wouldn't go so specific as "you're too fat," but you could talk about lack of physical chemistry or whatever without uttering a falsehood or being too misunderstood. But there is no way of sensitively taking your devastated ex aside and handing him/her a Tooby and Cosmides paper to read for homework.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-04T10:17:52.339Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I find it a bit amusing that for all the theorizing about why this was taken so badly, nobody seems to have mentioned the most obvious one. That is, while most people do want to know why you're breaking up with them, very few will appreciate somebody rambling on for 20 pages worth about all the things that are wrong with you. This would be true even if there had been no ev-psych content at all. ("Here are all the things about you that annoy me. First, you have small breasts. Second, you pick your nose. Third, you prefer Star Trek: Deep Space Nine above Star Trek: The Next Generation...)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-07T03:55:09.688Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm willing to bet a small amount that it wasn't an hour's worth of listing different reasons for why lukeprog was breaking up with her.

It was one or a small number of reasons for the breakup, and the rest was explaining about evolutionary psychology and possibly some time spent on footnotes.

comment by pwno · 2011-10-09T09:44:05.208Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Explaining her flaws in such a scientific, matter-of-fact way shows how emotionally distant he was. She probably felt like the guy she loved just dropped off an eviction notice.

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T22:00:38.556Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And this too.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-09T11:40:17.466Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point.

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-07T05:02:17.513Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

and possibly some time spent on footnotes.

Bwahahahaha

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T18:42:02.100Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It would be waaaaay too hard to make that sound smart. People having emotions is irrational and irrelevant to a discussion of rationality and romance!

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T22:00:01.943Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

THIS.

This, a million freaking times.

Just... goddamnit!

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T02:37:06.327Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

No, because "Alice" was not operating by Crocker's Rules.

comment by MichaelVassar · 2011-10-05T15:24:30.304Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No-one ever really is. Well, no-one I've met.

comment by Multipartite · 2011-10-04T22:05:20.059Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Crocker's Rules: A significantly interesting formalisation that I had not come across before! Thank you!

On the one hand, even if someone doesn't accept responsibility for the operation of their own mind it seems that they nevertheless retain responsibility for the operation of their own mind. On the other hand, from a results-based (utilitarian?) perspective I see the problems that can result from treating an irresponsible entity as though they were responsible.

Unless judged it as having significant probability that one would shortly be stabbed, have one's reputation tarnished, or otherwise suffer an unacceptable consequence, there seem to be significant ethical arguments against {acting to preserve a softening barrier/buffer between a fragile ego and the rest of the world} and for {providing information either for possible refutation or for helpful greater total understanding}.
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Then again, this is the same line of thought which used to get me mired in long religion-related debates which I eventually noticed were having no effect, so--especially given the option of decreasing possible reprisals' probabilities to nearly zero--treating others softly as lessers to be manipulated and worked around instead of interacting with on an equal basis has numerous merits.
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--Though that then triggers a mental reminder that there's a sequence (?) somewhere with something to say about {not becoming arrogant and pitying others} that may have a way to {likewise treat people as irresponsible and manipulate them accordingly, but without looking down on them} if I reread it.

comment by nshepperd · 2011-10-05T12:15:17.061Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Beware! Crocker's Rules is about being able to receive information as fast as possible, not to transmit it!

From Radical Honesty:

Crocker's Rules didn't give you the right to say anything offensive, but other people could say potentially offensive things to you, and it was your responsibility not to be offended. This was surprisingly hard to explain to people; many people would read the careful explanation and hear, "Crocker's Rules mean you can say offensive things to other people."

From wiki.lw:

In contrast to radical honesty, Crocker's rules encourage being tactful with anyone who hasn't specifically accepted them. This follows the general principle of being "liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send".

If you read books on communication such as How to Win Friends and Influence People, the authors go on about how just "saying what you think" is pretty much the worst strategy you can use. Not just for your own sake but for the purpose of actually convincing the other party of what you're trying to tell them. Unless they're explicitly running by Crocker's Rules and ready to squash their natural reaction to your words, it probably won't work.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-04T22:38:58.589Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Because the rest of the world operates without Crocker's Rules, treating someone as if they are is deemed to itself be a part of the message.

comment by araneae · 2018-08-20T16:27:29.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because instead of making the argument, "it's not you, it's me," he made the argument, "it's you, because I'm just like every other guy on Earth."

comment by FiftyTwo · 2011-10-09T23:29:18.086Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I find this incident hard to square with the general impression I get of you as possessing average-high social skills and awareness. Could you say how you had expected her to react? Did you have a coherent mental model of how the conversation would go?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-10T04:20:52.650Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I did not have average-high social skills and awareness at the time. I'll say no more.

comment by jhuffman · 2011-10-04T16:35:04.158Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to take that one back, for sure.

I don't know, you've made a lot of people laugh with this and you'll be able to use this story for several more decades. You might make tens of thousands of people laugh which could be net positive utilons.

comment by tristanhaze · 2012-01-29T04:38:14.326Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If only lukeprog had thought to tell Alice that at the time!

comment by Solvent · 2012-01-29T04:45:39.868Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Sure I'm being a jerk, but telling people about this in the future will be hysterical, so it's overall a good thing for me to do!"

Yeah, I bet that would have gone down well. :)

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-02T14:53:38.620Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Have you since tried to apologize to her?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T17:26:54.618Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-02T17:40:04.321Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Do you not care to elaborate? I'd be interested to know how she took it. But if you'd rather not share, that's of course within your rights.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T21:06:46.637Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure she would prefer I not elaborate.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-02T21:13:05.191Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough.

comment by listic · 2011-10-06T22:17:00.550Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would really like to know a girl that would be ok with that.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:16:37.667Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'd expect that people who are okay with breakups are fairly rare, regardless of the method...

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T21:55:46.213Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

(to everyone inquiring about the details of that sad incident in such a... straightforward manner; whether you're neurotypical or not, take heed that such behavior is often considered very tactless, despite the offhanded and ironic manner of Luke's line. I can easily imagine myself being hurt by associated bad memories if questioned about something like that.)

(I downvoted everyone here whose comments I would've been needlessly hurt by in Luke's situation)

comment by Jack · 2011-12-28T22:08:43.724Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty neurotypical by Less Wrong standards and I don't see any tactless comments here.

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T22:12:32.185Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about joking off-handedly over an highly embarrassing, ill-judged thing that a stranger disclosed about their past?

comment by Jack · 2011-12-28T22:22:13.100Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can see how they would be tactless in other settings and contexts. For instance, if Luke wasn't so clearly disassociating his current self from the person who did this embarrassing thing. If he hadn't brought it up. If it wasn't the kind of thing a lot of people here would totally do. If he didn't work under Crocker's. If this wasn't the internet. If he wasn't very high status in this group, etc...

ETA: I think you're actually missing a number of the relevant subcultural norms and situational features that make this kind of joking okay.

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T22:25:28.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, yet the sheer social horror of this action (showing his ex that document), to me, greatly outweighs all the reasons you listed. Me, once I'd have come to my senses way after committing a blunder of such intensity, I'd likely need a therapist to resolve it, or else would have buried the experience as deep as possible.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-12-28T22:53:32.915Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How about joking off-handedly over an highly embarrassing, ill-judged thing that a stranger disclosed about their past?

Kevin and Luke aren't strangers.

comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-28T23:00:03.741Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are quite a few playful (to them) or inconsiderate (to me - and quite possibly to Luke himself, though he would understandably not admit it publicly for fear of pushing them away) comments from different people above.

comment by tenshiko · 2011-10-01T23:03:37.922Z · score: 19 (57 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the picture detracts from the article. It's a deviation from most other LW pages, heteronormatizes the content, and in addition since the in-picture and out-of-picture background is white, the people look like cutouts in this really awkward way.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-02T00:07:03.811Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. The image also makes the post look like some random "science finds: X!" journalism, and that's not a good thing.

comment by jhuffman · 2011-10-04T16:28:01.285Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Some of those pages get obscene numbers of page views. Even heavily discounting the "conversion rate" here I think its possible for a net gain, if one objective is to provide novel rational insights to people.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-02T21:15:33.138Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

heteronormatizes the content

Seems to reflect the content reasonably well actually, since it's a man reflecting on his experience with women...

comment by tenshiko · 2011-10-02T22:36:22.879Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

...true. But as I say here, I'd like to think that Luke intends the material to be more possible to generalize than merely about how men should deal with women, though the concrete examples his personal experience and pursued knowledge provide are relevant to the experience of a man in pursuit of women. In other words, these are "Rationality Lessons Learned from Irrational Adventures in Romance", not "How to Become Vir Sapientior and Get the Girl of Your Dreams".

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-03T01:23:59.682Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

As Kevin said,

You aren't the target audience for the stock photo, it's a random person seeing Less Wrong for the first time. People like pictures.

As for the picture heteronormatizing the content... it's an explicitly hetero story, because it's my story. Don't you think it'd be weird to have a homosexual couple in the lead photo for my story?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T09:11:13.606Z · score: 24 (32 votes) · LW · GW

People indeed like pictures- but stock photos on articles about romance and relationships pattern match to really awful websites.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-03T01:26:03.945Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I presume that tenshiko isn't suggesting a photo of a gay couple. Tenshiko is suggesting no picture. Kevin's point does still seem relevant in that context however.

comment by tenshiko · 2011-10-03T03:19:20.081Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You predict my opinion correctly - as I've said elsewhere I have other aesthetic concerns due to the picture itself. At the very least I think it'd look much better with a colored background, because of the cutout effect I mention.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-03T20:39:25.090Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I like the photo, but the deviation point is a good one, which you did not address. Was that purposeful?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-03T20:49:00.271Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I deviate because people like pictures, and LW is not adequately taking advantage of this fact.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:21:43.923Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Do LW readers like pictures? It seems like the feedback has primarily been negative. Know your audience...

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-07T02:17:46.539Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Lukeprog said people like pictures. The feedback has been primarily negative because pictures are not the status quo and people, including LW readers, have a mild preference for cultural norms to be preserved, not challenged.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T17:52:44.854Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So you're saying pictures add so little value that "aiee, this is a change" overwhelms it? Can we remove them and be done with it, then?

comment by Raemon · 2011-10-18T22:36:41.900Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Crowds typically react negatively to change no matter what postive effects it brings. Wizards of the Coast has a track record of making decisions that were necessary and beneficial to the long term health of their games, each of which brought in new players and which old players eventually adapted to, and every single one of them produced an uproar.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-07T21:38:25.346Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To me, the proper response seems more likely to be using this as an opportunity to adjust our status quo bias downwards.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T22:57:31.417Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but in addition to it being change, it's also genuinely a change I don't like. I've visited enough website to know what I do and don't like. A small topic indicator icon like you see on Slashdot would be fine.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-07T23:15:20.526Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I realize you're getting rather piled on in this thread, so I'm somewhat reluctant to nitpick like this, but:

...people like pictures. ... people, including LW readers, have a mild preference...

...Can we remove them...

...adjust our status quo bias...

expresses an idea that is distinct from

...a change I don't like. ...know what I do and don't like. ...

It's not all about you, basically.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-07T02:30:27.804Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like pictures, though not necessarily these particular pictures. Still, I like seeing at a glance a picture that has some connection to the topic of the article.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-03T20:56:14.671Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is a change.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:21:05.639Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

it's an explicitly hetero story, because it's my story

No. It's an explicitly hetero story because you wrote it that way.

You also entirely ignore the options of not having a picture. If you can't find any inspiration for a picture which isn't tied to sexual orientation, maybe that would be the best option?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-07T02:36:03.654Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's an explicitly hetero story because you wrote it that way

Are you requesting that he omit the genders of the participants in his life, including his romantic life?

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene, and therefore knowing the genders and the sexual orientation of the participants isn't at all necessary to be communicated?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-07T02:40:48.453Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene,

In context I agree with your general point, but this seems like a strong demand for particular proof. To establish the point handoflixue would not need to establish that they are 'completely identical in all aspects' but rather that they have enough similarities for the genders and orientations to not be relevant in this context.

(Incidentally, I'm a het male who agrees that there's been a serious problem of focusing on advice for het males here. The most obvious solution is for the people who aren't in this set to write more general pieces. Or volunteer to work with someone like luke to coauthor a piece that is more broad. There's not some magic rule that luke and a few other people have to write all the posts on this subject.)

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T17:51:26.120Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

If so, are you prepared to support with evidence an argument that hetero romance and the hetero dating scene is completely identical in all aspects to gay romance and the gay dating scene, and therefore knowing the genders and the sexual orientation of the participants isn't at all necessary to be communicated?

Um, if the "heterosexual male romance" angle is essential to this story, then it's heterosexual dating advice, and LessWrong is not a dating advice site. So lukeprog should stop posting about it. Rationality (y'know, core focus of this site?) does not, to my knowledge, care whether I am a heterosexual male.

I will also point out that Alicorn managed a relatively gender-free story, by focusing on the rationality and internal aspects, rather than on dating advice and "how to get a girl".

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-07T21:21:48.286Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Um. if the "heterosexual male romance" angle is essential to this story, then it's heterosexual dating advice, and LessWrong is not a dating advice site. So lukeprog should stop posting about it.

How does this follow? Why is it okay for lukeprog to post dating advice which are independent of gender-orientation-independent, but it's not okay to post advice which are dependent on gender-orientation? You may argue that the former interests more people, but that's just a difference in the number of people that may be interested, not a qualitative difference.

I doubt you believe that all rationalists must be by necessity bisexuals.

Rationality (y'know, core focus of this site?) does not, to my knowledge, care whether I am a heterosexual male

First of all, is this sentence supposed to actually mean something? What would it mean for "Rationality" to "care" about your orientation, as opposed to "rationality" not caring about it?

Secondly, if anything, rationality means that you care about the elements that are relevant, and you don't care about the elements that aren't relevant. You've still not argued that sexual-orientation wasn't actually relevant to Lukeprog's story. Don't you think it would affect, for starters, whether he would seriously break up with someone and argue it's because they lacked evolution-promoted fitness markers?

I will also point out that Alicorn managed a relatively gender-free story, by focusing on the rationality and internal aspects, rather than on dating advice and "how to get a girl".

And I will point out that Alicorn is bisexual, so gender would be less relevant to her criteria than to lukeprog's. But hopefully not everyone needs be bisexual, for their existence and experiences to matter.

Um, [...] y'know, core focus of this site?)

I can recognize verbal signals of implicit condescension, so do be a bit careful over those.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-07T21:53:35.953Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"X doesn't care about Y" is often used idiomatically to mean "Y does not change X". This is clearly a true statement when it comes to rationality and gender/orientation; there are not separate versions of Bayes' theorem for various preferences.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T22:30:25.641Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Bingo :)

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-07T23:31:12.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will try to clarify points when I see them missed. This should not be interpreted as me siding with you in the debate, necessarily.

This was not one of my favorite posts on the site, but I did find it interesting - and, more particularly, I think there is space nearby for more interesting things. I think where I most strongly disagree with you is your classification (mentioned a few places) of this as dating advice at all. I see it as more of a case study in the exercise of rationality.

That rationality itself doesn't care about sexuality, therefor, cuts both ways. If we are going to examine Luke's rationality, we look at the evidence he has acquired and how he has turned that into conclusions. The conclusions are therefor material, but are not themselves the point of the post. In this case, it is a feature of that evidence that it was drawn from a skewed sample; it would not necessarily be better for Luke to generalize to cases excluded from sampling. While there are certainly other ways in which the sampling was nonuniform, this was a big, clear, intentional one and it makes sense to note it.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T23:02:58.333Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Seriously? I'm being down voted for confirming that somebody else had the correct interpretation of what I said? o.o

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-07T23:22:24.397Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This kind of moral outrage is a bad reaction to have to voting.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T23:43:54.394Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's not outrage, that's genuine confusion.

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-07T23:59:30.388Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My apologies.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-08T00:47:13.575Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this being downvoted? I'd be confused too.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T22:40:53.410Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why is it okay for lukeprog to post dating advice which are independent of gender-orientation-independent, but it's not okay to post advice which are dependent on gender-orientation?

Sorry, I thought the logic was clear, but I can see how that wouldn't have been clear:

ASSUME rationality is not changed by sexual orientation (see dlthomas if this is unclear)

IF (the advice is heterosexual oriented) THEN (the advice must be discussing something which is not rationality) OTHERWISE (the advice might be about rationality, but also still might be about something else)

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T22:42:16.260Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can recognize verbal signals of implicit condescension, so do be a bit careful over those.

Condescension there is intentional, but meant generally, not targeted at you specifically. Given that dating advice got posted, it's clear that at least one person on this site is confused as to the focus of the site, and feels that their dating advice is appropriate to post.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-02T09:06:23.231Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Color me marginalized.

comment by tenshiko · 2011-10-02T18:05:50.368Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly! Instead of this being a generic discussion of how maybe you can get the romantic utilons you want from more than one person, suddenly it's about the conflict between the educated man's logical evolutionarily dictated interest being directed towards multiple concubines, and the irrational woman's investment in marriage, imposed upon her by society. The shot's composition itself supports this, with the man clearly on top by virtue of more than just being naturally taller.

Is all this Luke's intent? Well, I'd like to think not, especially given his comments about trying to reduce the perception of misogynistic tones in the piece. But as he is a heterosexual man (yes? as far as I've been able to tell Luke's not bisexual or at least didn't present that way during the time period of these stories, please correct me if I'm wrong) Luke's story doesn't deviate from these norms, and the picture is definitely reinforcement.

comment by Nisan · 2011-10-04T00:42:22.619Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T01:15:21.367Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Would an actual photo of Luke and Alice be better?

Now I'm imagining a picture of Luke with a redacted silhouette of a woman entitled "woman I am not attracted to any more". There are arrows pointing to various lacking physical attributes lacking from an evolutionary psychology perspective, complete with sketches of what they should look like... Perhaps with a supplemental craziness vs hotness chart or two.

comment by tenshiko · 2011-10-04T01:31:33.718Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, this would actually be really epic and I would support it assuming it didn't have the whole fracking white background creating cutouts thing going on.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-04T03:12:11.287Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think this could easily lead to an outside observer interpreting this very negatively. I believe the relevant vague catch-all term is "objectifying". The entire approach of a silhouette for the female and an actual picture for the male could easily send very negative signals to a lot of people.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:23:12.636Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, but the idea still made me laugh :)

comment by bogdanb · 2011-10-02T01:37:37.078Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Luke, I’ve seen you and others mention the fashion stuff positively quite a few times, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything of substance about it.

Is it something that can only be imparted in a bootcamp, or can you convey parts of it in a blog post (not necessarily on LessWrong)? Since most readers won’t go to a bootcamp anytime soon, even if a text is less effective per person the aggregate benefits of such a post are likely higher. Or did I miss a link somewhere?

(I did encounter lots of fashion advice on the net, but I didn’t quite get it; I’m asking you about it because I vaguely remember seeing comments of (at least one) bootcamp participant who mentioned a similar problem but who did benefit from (what I assume were) your lessons.)

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T09:25:31.437Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There's plenty of good fashion advice out there. I would be very surprised if lukeprog claimed any rationalist insights into the matter. If you are male r/malefashionadvice is good. If you are female, I'd be shocked that you managed to be raised in western culture without having such advice shoved down your throat. (Seriously, though, google in both cases should suffice).

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:15:04.220Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you are female, I'd be shocked that you managed to be raised in western culture without having such advice shoved down your throat.

It's extremely unlikely a stranger will offer advice, and if you're introverted / not that social, co-workers are unlikely to comment on anything that isn't a big violation of norms (or if you work in a male-dominated field like programming...) That leaves friends, and if you have friends who know fashion, you'd probably already have thought to ask them :)

The other issue I've run in to is that I absolutely loathe most mainstream fashions, so most people's advice will lead me down dead ends. It's entirely possible to be fashionable without following mainstream trends, but it's definitely harder to get a start on it.

(sadly I solved all of these problems by having a fairly good fashion sense naturally, so I don't have any advice ^^;)

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T17:29:15.502Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't posted anything substantive about fashion online. It is hard to communicate that stuff even with text and pictures. I would have to write a whole book and clear the rights to hundreds of photos to reproduce what I taught in the minicamp and the longer boot camp, and I definitely don't have time to do that.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-02T21:18:51.322Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How did you learn what you know, then? Is there anything that you could recommend reading?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-02T21:43:38.309Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's some recommended reading if you click here and scroll down to where it says "recommended reading".

comment by bogdanb · 2011-10-15T13:55:32.636Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, Luke. I remember seeing that now, I must have forgotten it.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T13:50:55.140Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As far as men's fashion is concerned, Put This On is starting their second season soon.

comment by Swimmer963 · 2011-10-04T13:39:13.525Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What little I know about fashion, I've learned from magazines (women's fashion magazines in my case, but I'm pretty sure there are men's magazines too) and from helpful friends (which are probably easier to find if you are a girl.) I could learn a lot more from friends if I was willing to put in any effort or spend money on new clothes.

comment by AndrewM · 2011-10-04T13:09:48.319Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

dappered.com is a good resource for men's style

comment by Zeb · 2011-10-02T23:11:26.787Z · score: 13 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean..., and those are the kind of women I wanted to seek, so this knowledge was useful to me."? Also, did your studying convincingly impart that these general desires were gender specific, or would it be more accurate to say "Some people want.../mean"?

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-04T11:09:50.127Z · score: 14 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of saying "Women want..." and "Women mean..." would it not be more accurate to say "Some women want.../mean...,

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Some forms of accuracy are simply wastes of space; how many digits of Pi does rational!Harry know, as compared to rational!Hermione?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-04T12:38:12.715Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want", and don't understand that these aren't just statistical trends. And I'm pretty sure that this ends up causing considerable damage. We should whatever we can to avoid strenghtening such views.

And while you may be right that the average commenter will recognize the difference even without it being explicitly stated, I wouldn't be so sure about the average reader. Note that lukeprog has stated that the article is also aimed towards people who don't usually read LW. A random person who gets the link to this article from his Facebook feed is a lot more likely to take such claims literally than someone who has read through every post on LW.

Also, I do feel like there are tendencies towards such over-generalization even among active LW commenters. For instance, there was one case of a commenter acting condescendingly towards people he thought were carrying out preferences that were suboptimal for their sex. (Or so my memory claims: when I went to look up the details, I noticed that the relevant comments had been deleted, so I can only link to my rebuttal.)

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T16:17:41.092Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"

Do you mean "The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men all want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"? Because people who interpret the author as saying something stupid are interpolating in an unwritten determiner to do that just as much as those interpolate "generally" by reading him charitably and correctly figuring out what is meant from context.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-04T16:34:44.386Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean "The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men all want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want"?

Yes.

Because people who interpret the author as saying something stupid are interpolating in an unwritten determiner to do that just as much as those interpolate "generally" by reading him charitably and correctly figuring out what is meant from context.

I'm having difficulty parsing this sentence.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T16:46:45.414Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want" rather than "women/men generally want" is a mental step, just as the conscious or subconscious decision to read "women/men want" as "women/men generally want" rather than "women/men all want" is a step.

It's not obviously the default to read "women/men want" as "women/men all want".

In this context, to do so is a) obviously wrong to me, b) actually wrong according to the intent of the author and c) would result in the author saying something stupid rather than arguably true.

A critical reading skill is to read charitably such that the author is not saying something stupid, and I have trouble sympathizing with what I see as an abandonment of that duty by readers or commenters excusing and/or justifying that.

If I say in passing "men are taller than women", I hope I don't get assailed by people pointing out that at maturity, many women are taller than many men, or that men start as babies less than a foot or so tall, at which point almost every female is taller than they are*.

*And when I say "almost every female is taller than they are," I mean female human, as most females are of smaller species and our babies are taller than they are**.

**And when I say "most females are of smaller species and are babies are taller than they are" I mean of species so far discovered***.

***And when I say "of species so far discovered" I mean "discovered by humans," for other species may have discovered many more large species than we have discovered small species.****

****And when I say "discovered by humans," I mean as far as I know.*****

*****And when I say "as far as I know," I mean as far as I knew when typing this.

I hope that's enough disclaimers to protect from those determined to misread my words.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-04T18:25:12.248Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

But this presumes that the reader does already realize that a claim of the type "all men want x" (or even "the overwhelming majority of men want x") is stupid, while my point was that for many people, "all men want x" is a perfectly reasonable claim.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T22:29:42.803Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have examples of people agreeing with what they believe to be a claim of the type "all men want x"?

So far I've only seen people a) disagreeing with what they interpret as such claims on the grounds they are unreasonable and b) saying that others will mistakenly agree with the unreasonable interpretation and find it reasonable.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-05T07:56:53.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to remember running into such people, but don't remember any particular occasion well enough to give a cite.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T18:32:40.062Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You can demonstrate an absurd case, but check this out:

"On average, men are taller than women."

Note the utter dearth of twisted, tortured forced phrasing and the way it totally requires no linguistic effort to generate that context if you just stop to think before you speak. If someone disputes that, they're either clearly wrong or have an interesting study to look at (and probably debunk).

I'm a woman and I'm 6'5'' (taller than 99.9999% of women last time I checked), but I can't see what's wrong with stating it that way. Your reply is kind of a straw example of what's being asked.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2011-10-08T14:18:46.357Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

This was a good example, but I think you probably missed a part of the message. Or maybe I am imagining a part that did not exist.

Generally, people are speaking imprecisely. To state one's opinion with a mathematical precision as you did, is rare. (For example, writing this paragraph I would have a problem to precisely define what "generally" and "rare" mean in this context.) And when normally speaking, people tolerate this. ...uhm, usually.

Asking people to be precise is also a signal of something. We usually don't demand perfect clarity for every sentence we ever read or hear, even on LW. I suppose we usually demand it when we disagree with one's opinion.

Placing a burden of preciseness on some people or some opinions, provides their opponents cheap counter-attacks, when they don't have to discuss the argument, only point out the impreciseness.

Now, carefully crafting one's comments into precise sentences is possible, but has a non-zero cost. So by selectively asking people, whose opinion we don't like, to be more precise than usual, we make them pay for their dissent. All while pretending that we only care about the truth, without taking sides.

Of course, people learn that they are asked for higher precision only when expressing certain opinions, so if they want to avoid the costs of such speech, they avoid the sensitive topics. But that's the point, isn't it? By increasing standards of speech for certain opinion, we gradually make it disappear.

I think that people often feel when this is done to them, but it's kind of difficult for them to express what is happening, without seeming kind of paranoid. Also it's kind of difficult to express your feelings in a situation when an extra dose of preciseness is required.

Summary: It is possible to selectively use demands for precision as a form of censorship.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T16:00:03.360Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Asking people to be precise is also a signal of something. We usually don't demand perfect clarity for every sentence we ever read or hear, even on LW. I suppose we usually demand it when we disagree with one's opinion.

I don't want "perfect clarity* from people, I want for the people on this site who make declarative statements about groups of people they're not in (especially when the implications shape their behavior toward members of that group) to be factually-accurate and not misleading in their implications. This is not a complex or censorious idea.

I don't want "politically correct", I want actually correct. Do you see the difference? What I want to see is people not committing the ecological fallacy (Population X is statistically Y on average, ergo more members than not will be Y) and nobody pointing it out just because the conclusions are agreeable to a majority on this site.

I do not have the power, let alone the desire, to censor you or any other poster on this site (other than by means of downvoting a comment, and I only get the one downvote).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-08T17:05:38.872Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Precision is a way of fighting availability bias-- if all you see is "women are shorter than men" because most women are in fact shorter than most men, then it can be hard to remember that there are women who are taller than most men.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T17:32:08.920Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed; this is also important.

It also seems to lead to treating actual examples (say, of taller women) as irrelevant, simply because they're in a numerical minority.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2011-10-08T17:27:02.141Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want "politically correct", I want actually correct.

My point was that I suspect that a presence of "politically incorrect" ideas increases our desire for actual correctness, while an absence of such ideas makes us relax.

Perhaps this bias already has a name; I don't remember it. It means requiring stronger evidence to ideas you disagree with; and not being aware of it.

If you require the same level of proof for both "politically correct" and "politically incorrect" comments, then it is OK. But it seems to me that in many discussions the level of proof rises up at the moment that "politically incorrect" opinions are introduced.

EDIT: Of course, even if my hypothesis is true, this is not an evidence for "politically incorrect" ideas (that would just be trying to reverse stupidity).

EDIT2: I would like to taboo the term "politically incorrect" in this comment, but I can't find a short enough substitute with the same expressive power. I would like to make it more group-dependent, not outside-world-dependent. It is supposed to mean: something that a decent member of this group would hesitate to say, because the morality keepers of this group will obviously disagree.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-08T19:45:19.417Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My point was that I suspect that a presence of "politically incorrect" ideas increases our desire for actual correctness, while an absence of such ideas makes us relax.

Perhaps this bias already has a name; I don't remember it. It means requiring stronger evidence to ideas you disagree with; and not being aware of it.

It's pretty clear that if we're dealing with ideas whose incorrect versions have great potential to do harm, then we should be careful to only disseminate the correct versions. It's a question of epistemic hygiene and minimizing the effects of contaminated mindware.

If we were discussing the recipe for a food that tasted marvelous when prepared correctly, but could cause severe poisoning when prepared incorrectly, then I would want people to be precise and careful in their wording as well. "Requiring stronger evidence for ideas you disagree with" doesn't have much to do with it: it's a straightforward expected utility calculation.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-11T12:10:09.727Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Requiring stronger evidence for ideas you disagree with" doesn't have much to do with it: it's a straightforward expected utility calculation.

Suppose someone made the comment that "men and women are equal." Would that statement be acceptable, or would it need revision for preciseness?

(To try and not bias your response, I'll hold off on explaining the utility calculation I made with regards to that statement.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-11T17:42:36.777Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What would be the context of the comment, and what sense of "equal" is implied?

For instance, I probably wouldn't object to someone saying "men and women are equal" if it was clear from the context that they meant "men and women should have equal rights". On the other hand, there are a variety of well-documented statistical differences between men and women, and trying to deny some of those might be harmful.

E.g. I've often heard it claimed that the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children. I haven't looked at the matter enough to know if this is true. But if it is, then denying any population-level differences between men and women seems harmful, because it implies that something that actually has an innocuous explanation is because of discrimination.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:05:44.281Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I'd use the word innocuous with the example of this reason for this gender difference. If it is a rational choice, why don't both genders make similar choices?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-12T09:32:55.686Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, when arguing for the case that people should be careful with their wording, I'm challenged for a careless choice of wording. :-)

Innocuous in the sense of emerging from different-gendered people on average having different preferences and on average making different choices as a result. Me eating french fries every day, because I want to, is an innocous reason for eating french fries every day (though such behavior will probably cause health problems in the long term). Eating french fries every day because somebody pressures me into doing so, or because I genuinely can't afford anything else, is a non-innocous reason.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T15:40:09.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I absolutely agree that there are many statistical differences between men and women, and trying to deny this is actually ludicrous, whether or not it is harmful!

However, I object to the word ludicrous, because while I agree that there are statistical (as well as biological and almost certainly evolutionarily-based cultural) differences between men and women, the assumption of harmlessness, based on that claim you've often heard, suggests that there is no bias involved other than personal choice. And personal choice is biased by so many other factors!

And, though I did not make this clear, I was not trying to suggest that the harm was one-sided.

The thing about bias was difficult for me to argue specifically until I explored the matter of pay inequity and the current state of research. Over the years I have heard a lot on the subject, which I do not remember that well.

Because though it is no trivial matter to me personally, personally, If I can't identify a personal or cultural bias as actually causing me harm, I don't get that excited about it. And frankly, if I haven't identified what I should do about it, I try not to get exited about it if it is causing me harm. There are plenty of people in the world much more inclined than I to actually address the problems of gender-based pay inequities, which I think is a good thing.

It pretty much seems clear to me that a lot of men care more than women about getting a big pile of negotiable tokens. Statistical. Why women do less about getting a pile of negotiable tokens, I already understand. Some of this understanding of women may be visceral, or biological. I'm pretty sure most of it is pretty self-aware, or rational as well.

Why men care more I don't understand as viscerally, but I am actually trying to understand better because I would like a bigger pile of negotiable tokens to play with. :)

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-11T18:08:16.499Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sexual dimorphism?

(One specific example: women have ovaries, men have testes. Both organs release mind-affecting hormones, in different distributions.)

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:12:02.255Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

you do not address my point of the word choice 'innocuous'.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-11T18:21:24.022Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok: let's suppose he intended the primary definition of innocuous, "not harmful." If a choice is made voluntarily, then by the assumption of revealed preferences it is the least 'harmful.' If we forced women to choose with the same distribution that men do, then on net women would be worse off- i.e. harmed by our force.

It seems incontestable to me that distributions of values are different for men and women. If values are different, choices will be different, and that is optimal.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T20:13:48.154Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that men and women have different distributions of values due to sexual dimorphism. It isn't obvious, though, that those different values are sufficient to explain women choosing to stay and home and raise children at a greater rate than men. For example, it may be the case the women face greater social pressure to raise children or that when couples choose who should continue working and who should stay home there is an unjustified cultural assumption that women should be the ones who stay home. There may also be social pressures in the other direction: pushing men to work more than is optimal. It is harder to find social companionship as a stay at home father and Western culture ties the ability to provide for a family to man's worth. Even if these cultural norms are the product of on-average sexual dimorphism they would still harm those who deviate from the average values of their sex. A man who prefers to stay home and raise children and a woman who prefers to leave children at home to work may face additional costs to their decisions because their values deviate from what they are expected to value due to their gender.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:29:20.515Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do not have any objection to your use of the word innocuous, here.

I think that calling the choice to spend more or less time doing financially unrecompensed work in the home an innocuous gender difference, is careless. The harms of the various choices have not been evaluated that well. And it may be impossible to evaluate that harm without bias.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-11T18:31:40.260Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It is not uncompensated financially, if the alternative is hiring someone to do the same work. It may or may not be under-compensated, depending on her other options.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:34:18.365Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yay! Do you think your evaluation is bias-free? How much should normally financially-uncompensated work in the home be worth, market prices? Which is worth more, an investment of time or money?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-11T18:47:09.209Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Between cooks and gardeners and housekeepers and nannies and laundry services and grocery delivery and personal assistants, I am really failing to think of any housework that could not be contracted out. In which case, when members of the household do it themselves they are saving themselves precisely the cost of contracting it out. My laundering my shirts is being compensated at .99 cents/lb minus the cost of running the laundry machines. My cooking dinner is being compensated at the price of a meal out minus the cost of a meal in.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:51:56.455Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have I demonstrated that calling such a choice 'innocuous' is a careless word choice yet?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-11T19:02:50.716Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You think my choice to cook a meal for myself and my wife, rather than (say) ordering a pizza, is not innocuous?

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T19:13:05.926Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that calling the choice to spend more or less time doing financially unrecompensed work in the home an innocuous gender difference, is careless. The harms of the various choices have not been evaluated that well. And it may be impossible to evaluate that harm without bias.

The actual choices people make are often very carefully calculated with regard to benefits. And this includes both the choice to leave 'home' work to paid professionals, or unpaid amateurs. And the choice to become a well-paid professional (or self-employed professional).

I totally agree with this point:

(One specific example: women have ovaries, men have testes. Both organs release mind-affecting hormones, in different distributions.)

But rationally understanding the gender bias inherent in different choices does not make cleaning up after any other person, unpaid, a wholly joyous choice.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-11T19:49:38.984Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My only point is that it is not unpaid.

Circumstance 1) I go to my programming job, write programs for other people, and in the end my household has more money than otherwise.

Circumstance 2) Someone goes to a housekeeping job, cleans up after other people, and in the end their household has more money than otherwise.

Circumstance 3) Someone cleans their own household, part of which involves cleaning up after other people, in place of hiring a housekeeper, and in the end their household has more money than otherwise.

Please clarify why circumstance 2 is "paid" and circumstance 3 is "unpaid", and why 3 is less "joyous" than 2; 3 may, in fact, prefer to be cleaning up for people they care about, and may be better appreciated. And who says a choice being "wholly joyous" is relevant anyway? My going to work instead of working on my own projects is the right decision (I believe), but it is not "wholly joyous" - just mostly.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T21:10:10.232Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

prefer to be cleaning up for people they care about

It may cause caring about them.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T20:23:04.381Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My only point is this: gender differences and choice difference probably do not wholly justify the pay inequity between genders. The choice of the word 'innocuous' in this case is careless. Do you agree, or disagree?

In answer to your explicit question: I am speaking of negotiable payment, in tokens that can be exchanged in any market. And I am also calculating payment of intangible compensation, like the respect of others and self-respect. I find your actual questions, with quoted words to denote careful usage, confusing.

Payment in 'increased money for the household' is fine, and is part of the calculations individuals use to evaluate and justify their choices. And joys.

"wholly joyous" is, in my mind, an unattainable ideal, but the joy, payment, and respect individuals get for the work that they/we do is measurable, if not always negotiable. And the harm is not always considered at all.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T23:18:44.939Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

gender differences and choice difference probably do not wholly justify the pay inequity between genders.

To say that a situation is not wholly caused by enumerated factors is generally trivially true, so the question becomes how much connotation is intended, which means the question should probably be rephrased.

I don't think it's a good idea to ask if states of the world are justified when people disagree about the causes of those states of the world unless great care is taken to not be confusing. Those things can be addressed separately by just talking about causation and also asking what would be justified under a hypothetical set of facts.

And I am also calculating payment of intangible compensation, like the respect of others and self-respect.

I don't know how to think of those things, particularly self respect, particularly since the frame is not just causation but justice.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T16:07:16.045Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To say that a situation is not wholly caused by enumerated factors is generally trivially true, so the question becomes how much connotation is intended, which means the question should probably be rephrased.

Very true, and I must pedantically point out that I did not ask a question about how much connotation was intended. I suggested that the connotation of 'harmless' seemed careless to me. Literally and seriously careless, especially given my trivial research into the subject revealed that there is bias for male employees that employers, rationally, respond to.

I don't think it's a good idea to ask if states of the world are justified when people disagree about the causes of those states of the world unless great care is taken to not be confusing. Those things can be addressed separately by just talking about causation and also asking what would be justified under a hypothetical set of facts.

I agree. I was trying to avoid this, because I mostly agree. I did not bring up the state of the world, and I seriously did avoid discussion of it in this thread, which apparently was also offensive? I am somewhat concerned about the state of the world, but I already take great care not to be confusing, and fail.

I do have some doubts about drawing conclusions from a hypothetical set of facts, unless those conclusions are testable and, in fact, tested. But I am philosophically inclined to talk hypotheticals long into the night...

I don't know how to think of those things, particularly self respect, particularly since the frame is not just causation but justice.

Well, I probably care more about justice than I do just word choice. But I do far more for the cause of just word choice than any other. I will apologize for being elusive on more serious issues. I probably could have caused less confusion if I had not specifically tried to avoided answering questions about states of the world. Do you agree?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-11T21:22:43.368Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was never addressing the entirety of your argument - on which I have to reserve judgment, having not thought it through entirely.

As it happens, my wife and I both work. We both receive income in tokens that can be exchanged in any market. However, I think this is a meaningless distinction; per the laws of the state of California, money I make isn't "mine" and money she makes "hers" - money either of us make is "ours". As either of us works, we have more tokens. As either of us does tasks that save us money, we have more tokens. Describing the latter as not involving "financial recompense" I view as inaccurate.

If you simply wish to state that such work is under-compensated financially, I may agree. If you wish to state that such work is often under-appreciated, I would certainly agree. You stated that house work was financially unrecompensed. I was simply picking a nit. If it critically undermines your argument, update. If it doesn't, fix your argument. If you still disagree, please explain why.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T01:40:51.248Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am really enjoying this discussion. And I respect the fact that you are reserving judgment, as you haven't thought it out very thoroughly.

I didn't think my objection to the use of the word innocuous through before I voiced it, and I absolutely don't regret it.

But I am literally having trouble figuring out what else I am supposed to object to. I am willing to try to explain. And I think I can better understand my position, if I understand IF or HOW people disagree with my original objection about word choice. I have not stated this confusion often or clearly enough, so, to set a 'good' example, I will state it as a question:

Do you approve of the word innocuous, meaning harmless, in the statement above? Why or why not?

Having said all that, I'll give it a stab a reply to your more recent comments anyway. The use of a question mark in your words makes it much easier for me to identify your question, and answer it.

Personal note: I am not usually trying to be ironic, but I am aware that I often come across that way. I make special effort on LW to be more precise and direct, and careful in my statements. Taking out the word 'totally', which I usually sling about in order to increase positive feedback in my day-to-day life, in order to suggest that I have a sense of humor about my unfortunate 'know it all' attitude may have been an error. Feel free to assume I am just trying to make a humorous point instead of a serious one, if you find me offensive on a rational level!

But enough about me...

'such work' is not defined, but I assume you are referring to home work, whether paid in negotiable tokens or 'financially unrecompensed'.

I did not notice stating this:

You stated that house work was financially unrecompensed.

And what the state of CA thinks about the negotiable and non-negotiable arrangements you make with each other, or with employers, I do not really care about, as long as CA does not force you to live there, and there are a wide variety of other options available to you both. Do you have a wide variety of other options?

As either of us does tasks that save us money, we have more tokens. Describing the latter as not involving "financial recompense" I view as inaccurate.

I disagree with your conclusion, but on a somewhat pedantic level. Financial recompense and Optional reduction of financial expense are not equivalent. One is simply a pile of tokens. The other is a choice and a judgment about what to do with a pile of tokens. Do you disagree?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T18:12:48.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with your conclusion, but on a somewhat pedantic level. Financial recompense and Optional reduction of financial expense are not equivalent. One is simply a pile of tokens. The other is a choice and a judgment about what to do with a pile of tokens. Do you disagree?

It depends somewhat on whether we are speaking descriptively or prescriptively, in terms of how people think about it.

Do I think that most people consider these to be the same, and that you are some odd outlier for interpreting it differently? No.

I just think this perspective is less useful, and leads to (amongst other things) such work being undervalued. Fundamentally, I have a set of choices in front of me that represent different outcomes; in some of these, my pile of tokens is larger than in others. When my pile of tokens is larger down one path than another, I am being financially compensated for making that choice (or financially penalized for making the other).

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-13T00:22:30.080Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I totally agree that 'such work' (some paid and some unpaid work in the home) is absolutely undervalued, but I'm not sure what that has to do with any particular perspective.

I don't know how other people think about the unpaid housework that other people are doing. I personally am grateful for it, but I have never supported anyone who I shared housework with, nor the reverse, and I really do have trouble doing the part I actually recognize as my share. And I have never cared as much about how clean things 'ought' to be as any of these roommates and ex-boyfriends did.

In myself, I kind of deplore this tendency to do what I'm inclined to and let the chips fall where they may. I do, of course, always manage to get things clean enough for my own standards. And I do far more housework when I live alone, because nobody else gets 'fed up' and takes over.

I had to respond somewhat anecdotally here, and I wish I could keep the more analytical, academic tone of your comment. My main problem with that is I'm not sure if I'm being descriptive or prescriptive, so I don't know how to respond without figuring that out--but I need a nap first and I wanted to reply right away. If I've made it clear which I was doing with this response, that was totally my intention!

I can't tell if your comment is mostly explanatory, or requests confirmation or introduces a new topic! Taking that nap now.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T16:42:29.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did not notice stating this:

You stated that house work was financially unrecompensed.

This was my understanding of the comment here, and was what I initially objected to.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-13T00:06:57.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK. I consider negotiable tokens to be the only definition of financially recompensed. An optional reduction of financial expense, on an individual level is simply personal budgeting.

In the case of any particular couple, how the work, paid or unpaid, is divided, I don't really care. Unless the arrangement is a source of stress for that relationship.

I think that a gender-biased pay disparity can aggravate financial stress in heterosexual relationships. And I think that a high disparity in income level can cause a similar stress in any couple, no matter the actual gender or sexual orientation.

The questions of 'how best can i contribute' and 'am I acting responsibly by choosing to contribute, unpaid, in the home while being supported (fully or partially) on someone else's "dime" (long may it last)' are difficult and sometimes conflicting questions, whether gender pay inequities are biased. Or irrelevant, because the couple are of the same gender.

Questions I wonder about but do not know the answers to: How common are one-income households in either situation? How stable are one-income households compared to two income households? I'm pretty sure there's quite a lot of data on heterosexuals.

Since gender bias probably exists, I wish we could compare it to data on homosexual couples, but they do not get the same social support or suffer the same social pressures... so I'm not sure how meaningful a comparison would be. But I'm still curious.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-13T02:38:06.874Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In the case of any particular couple, how the work, paid or unpaid, is divided, I don't really care. Unless the arrangement is a source of stress for that relationship.

I agree.

In one of my dreams last night, I was living with a sorceress. She needed some reagents, and her friend on the moon wanted to use a human skeleton for some occult purpose. So she removed my first person perspective/spirit from my body and put it on the mantle across from the magic mirror, so I could see things that were going on. She then incinerated my flesh, leaving charred bones held together in human form by magic.

I then watched an Indiana Jones-style path animation of my skeleton going to the moon, and of magic supplies for my sorceress girlfriend being sent from there to Earth. Other stuff happened in the magic mirror, and eventually there was another path animation of my bones being sent back. My bones were magically cleaned, flesh was put on them, and my spirit was returned to my body.

Despite the fact that she didn't ask my permission, I didn't mind and wasn't bothered by the events as they happened. In real life, I'm a different person and would probably mind such a thing.

My point is that whether something having to do with relative income or who does what in a relationship is a source of stress depends on the mindsets of the people in the relationship. If neither member of a couple minds acquiring goods or negotiable tokens by having one suddenly extrude the other's soul, scorch their body until their bones are black, and lend them to friends, and they're happier that way than they would be in less gruesome scenarios...that's what works for them.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T02:53:01.480Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My point is that whether something having to do with relative income or who does what in a relationship is a source of stress depends on the mindsets of the people in the relationship. If neither member of a couple minds acquiring goods or negotiable tokens by having one suddenly extrude the other's soul, scorch their body until their bones are black, and lend them to friends, and they're happier that way than they would be in less gruesome scenarios...that's what works for them.

It seems so obvious when you put it that way. (Upvoted for divine lunacy.)

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-13T04:17:07.763Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want to get involved in the personal business between any two or three+ people, but I also do not mean to suggest that every arrangement that both parties agree to has a matching balance of stress and benefit to both parties. (Love your dream scenario! for me, that would totally be a nightmare.)

And I don't think any specific gender causes the harm for a pattern of gender differences, like a bias to favor male employees because people report more satisfaction with male employees.

But with a gender-based pay inequity, which couples benefit most? gay men, straight people, or lesbians?

And should we care more about couples than we do about individuals, eg: single women? I don't think anybody is suggesting this. But this is, in my mind, the primary problem with gender-based pay inequities, and 'innocuous' causes are no longer 'innocuous' if the harm to individuals is measurable and significant.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T16:40:42.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am really enjoying this discussion. And I respect the fact that you are reserving judgment, as you haven't thought it out very thoroughly.

Great :)

I'll be responding to the above in several chunks, as it's gotten large enough to be a bit unwieldy.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-11T21:06:27.494Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And it may be impossible to evaluate that harm without bias.

I find this a fascinating assertion. What other harms do you imagine might be unevaluatable?

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-11T18:51:32.801Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

financially unrecompensed work in the home

Who would compensate them? Whose benefit is it for?

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-11T18:59:12.638Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I do not really understand your questions. Can you define 'who' 'them' 'whose' and 'it'? Would, compensate, benefit, is, and for I get.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-11T21:33:41.837Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure if serious. Just in case you are, however: 'them' is referring to the people doing financially unrecompensed work in the home. 'it' is the financially unrecompensed work in the home. 'Who' and 'Whose' are up to you to define - that's why they're phrased as questions, dontcha know.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T00:36:07.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am trying to be clear about the fact that the ONLY part of this thread I care about was the use of the word 'innocuous'. All these other questions are good questions that people are asking, and answering, for themselves, and for other people, every day. Which I have no quarrel with.

I do not want to answer these questions for other people. This question:

Who would compensate them? Whose benefit is it for?

is an excellent question that I actually do not want to answer, because noone has acknowledged that my point about the word innocuous is valid or valuable criticism. All the feedback I have seen so far dodges this small point to ask me much tougher questions about how individuals should be making these choices.

Why me? I make no assertions other than that the word 'innocuous' in that specific argument suggests that the reasons their is gender pay inequity is harmless. Because I am not sure that it is harmless.

I do not want to quantify the harm, but if you want me to take a stab at it, how about this:

Do some pay inequities cause stress? Does stress aggravate some mental disorders? (for the record, I am not trying to suggest that this harm is greater to either gender!)

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T01:07:45.108Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Point the first - Now I'm confused. Is it that

This question:

Who would compensate them? Whose benefit is it for?

is an excellent question that I actually do not want to answer,

or is it that "I do not really understand your questions."? Or did my explanation allow you to understand that you didn't want to answer, or...

Point the second - Hypothetically, if this:

the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children.

is true, then gender pay inequities do have an innocuous explanation- namely, the above. Kaj_Sotala made no claims beyond that, certainly not to the extent of claiming the above statement is true in the real world.

This leads me to believe your point is not valid or valuable criticism. If you think I'm wrong, could you explain why?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T01:12:11.820Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is it true that [stuff] or is it true that "I do not really understand your questions."? Because it seems to me like only one of those can be true.

Your explanation couldn't possibly have cleared it up?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T01:19:25.048Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well... I highly doubt it, both because the original 'confusion' seemed blindingly obvious to me and because

I am trying to be clear about the fact that the ONLY part of this thread I care about was the use of the word 'innocuous'. All these other questions are good questions that people are asking, and answering, for themselves, and for other people, every day. Which I have no quarrel with.

I do not want to answer these questions for other people. ...

... that I actually do not want to answer, because noone has acknowledged that my point about the word innocuous is valid or valuable criticism.

indicates to me something other than "Oh, so that's what that was about!" In fact, it seems more along the lines of "Your clarification was not needed because I was missing the point intentionally."

But in the interests of being as charitable as possible, I have edited my reply.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T01:56:58.496Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Than you for making clear that you do not agree that my point is valid or valuable criticism.

My objection to the word choice of harmless is based on my feelings, which I have not fully examined, that there may be harm.

Point the second - Hypothetically, if this:

the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children.

is true, then gender pay inequities do have an innocuous explanation- namely, the above. Kaj_Sotala made no claims beyond that, certainly not to the extent of claiming the above statement is true in the real world.

Hypothetically, I agree with you.

I think I am having the most objection, in the statement you quote, with the phrase 'mostly attributable'. I can think of several other reasons that can and do account for a gender-based inequity, all possibly innocuous. The one that springs to mind is something to do with women and negotiation of payscale, but as I look for resource that can explain what I mean by that more clearly than I have managed to, I came across another interesting theory on wikipedia, that I had never heard of before. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_pay_for_women#Different_Studies_and_Economic_Theories

"They interpret their findings to suggest that employers are willing to pay more for white male employees because employers are customer driven and customers are happier with white male employees. They also suggest that what is required to solve the problem of wage inequality isn't necessarily paying women more but changing customer biases."

This difference does not seem so harmless. Do you agree?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T03:44:47.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Point the second - Hypothetically, if this:

the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children.

is true, then gender pay inequities do have an innocuous explanation- namely, the above. Kaj_Sotala made no claims beyond that, certainly not to the extent of claiming the above statement is true in the real world.

Hypothetically, I agree with you.

I think this might be confusing pedanterrific because if I read you right above you don't agree with him. I thought your position was similar to the one I made here that that explanation of pay inequality, even if true, is not innocuous because the reason why men and women make different choices about work and home life could be harmful social pressure, or some other reason that we don't think people should have to face in an ideal world. But I could have misread you when you wrote this:

I don't think I'd use the word innocuous with the example of this reason for this gender difference. If it is a rational choice, why don't both genders make similar choices?

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T04:00:50.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly I was not sure what pedanterrific was arguing, but I asked him to clarify, and he did. I am often unintentionally funny to other people. Lately I am getting better at understanding what the 'subversion of expectations' I am committing.

I absolutely agree with your point, but I was not conscious of why the word innocuous bothered me when I made my comment, and I don't actually know if I read your comments before this moment. I don't always read every comment before I respond, and I don't 'notice' consciously everything I do read. Confusions galore!

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T02:07:04.565Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you agree?

Yes, of course. That's trivially true and not in dispute.

I still think you're rather missing the point, however. I don't see how it makes sense to object to the phrase 'mostly attributable' when that's a premise of the hypothetical. Let's look at the original comment in context:

E.g. I've often heard it claimed that the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children. I haven't looked at the matter enough to know if this is true. But if it is, then denying any population-level differences between men and women seems harmful, because it implies that something that actually has an innocuous explanation is because of discrimination.

That is, IF [the difference is mostly attributable to something innocuous], THEN [denying population-level differences seems harmful]. That's all that was said. Kaj_Sotala never claimed the innocuous explanation was true.

Editeditedit: I apologize for my horrible social skills.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T03:52:23.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your 'horrible social skills' are almost as funny as mine! no apologies necessary! And your edits are a vast relief to me personally.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T03:27:08.397Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

let me just say that 'like, really?' comes across as dismissive of all my efforts to explain what I care about, in the context of my original remark, and why I care about the word 'innocuous' in the hypothetical statement.

I am generous to assume that are not trying to crush my will to respond with irony, and are seriously confused.

But it is more difficult for me to maintain this generosity of spirit after you have already dismissed something relevant to the hypothetical argument and my objection to the word 'innocuous' as 'trivialy true and not in dispute'.

And I am totally willing to maintain at least a pretense of generosity of spirit, because I have plenty of experience with losing my generosity of spirit, and I know that it keeps growing back.

But I wasn't faking any enthusiasm or bewilderment before I read your comment with those two apparently dismissive word choices. "trivial" and "like".

Do you believe me?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T03:34:34.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When you say:

Thank you for making clear that you do not agree that my point is valid or valuable criticism.

I'm reading you as actually being sincerely grateful but I'm guessing pedanterrific read you as being sarcastic.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T03:40:32.988Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

...Oh. I think my sincerity detectors might be broken.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T03:46:51.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, it set mine off too-- I avoided the error only by paying attention to the tone and attitude of the rest of her comments (which make sarcasm coming from her [assuming her based on gender conventions around the phonetics of the handle] look very unlikely).

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T03:46:50.098Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I am sure that they are normal, and partly because my mental problem which I have mentioned elsewhere, includes depression. In person, it is very hard to tell if a depressed person is sincere or sarcastic, I just wasn't aware until now that this problem (I think call it 'affect'?) is something I also ought to consider in a pure text situation.

In person I usually fake enthusiasm, but I am fortunately not that good at it. <--serious and funny, yet again. at least it was intentional.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T03:37:24.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I edited my previous comment to make my meaning clearer. Note that it's only about that one quoted line.

you have already dismissed something relevant to the hypothetical argument and my objection to the word 'innocuous' as 'trivialy true and not in dispute'.

Terminology confusion. See What is a trivial truth?. What I meant to say is,

"They interpret their findings to suggest that employers are willing to pay more for white male employees because employers are customer driven and customers are happier with white male employees. They also suggest that what is required to solve the problem of wage inequality isn't necessarily paying women more but changing customer biases."

describes a difference that is definitely not "harmless" no matter what the rest of your argument states. By "not in dispute" I meant "I agree with you, and was not aware that you thought we disagreed on this subject."

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T03:33:18.445Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I think I finally understand.

What was said was:

E.g. I've often heard it claimed that the difference in average pay between women and men is mostly attributable to differences in ambition and time voluntarily spent at home with children. I haven't looked at the matter enough to know if this is true. But if it is, then denying any population-level differences between men and women seems harmful, because it implies that something that actually has an innocuous explanation is because of discrimination.

One common explanation of harm and utilities is that the "real" or important utility function held by a human is that implied by the humans actions. If a human chooses A over B, that means to the human A has a higher value than B to the human. This runs us into problems, for example when humans choose B over C and C over A, but there is no agreed upon way to discuss the relationship of humans to utility functions. We just don't know how to extract the human and cut the nonsense without cutting the human! This is despite extensively discussing extrapolate volition. One way to get people to actually choose consistently among A, B, and C is to teach them about this paradox, but let's just say for our purposes here that it's clearly not out of line to discuss people's "true" preferences being something other than what they choose.

Vaniver: Ok: let's suppose he intended the primary definition of innocuous, "not harmful." If a choice is made voluntarily, then by the assumption of revealed preferences it is the least 'harmful.' If we forced women to choose with the same distribution that men do, then on net women would be worse off- i.e. harmed by our force.

Clarica: I think that calling the choice to spend more or less time doing financially unrecompensed work in the home an innocuous gender difference, is careless. The harms of the various choices have not been evaluated that well.

One issue is that language is flexible, and it is common to see "innocuous explanation" as a way of discussing the motives of a person causing the things the explanation explains, rather than according to the usual adjective-noun relationship where the adjective modifies the noun.

For example: a video teaching "how to fold a shirt" with the audio 50 decibels is a harmless explanation. The same video with the audio at 125 decibels is a harmful explanation.

No one argues that the explanation itself would have only good consequences, the discussion is instead what sort of harmlessness is meant instead. Whether the author's intent is clearly that, if it is discovered that women's actions alone cause the statistical difference, i) employers are doing no harm in the hypothetical case, or ii) if a similarly plausible interpretation is that no one is suffering harm, for had they chosen as men, there would be no disparity.

Context points to the first explanation as the best contrast with "discrimination", what employers are allegedly doing, and what hypothetical evidence would clear them of, but it's easy to see why someone intending the second point might have used the same words.

The sentence might be rewritten: "But if it is, then denying any population-level differences between men and women seems harmful, because it implies that something fully explained by innocuous behavior is because of discrimination."

The principle of charity protects us in similar cases where we happen to only see one interpretation and it is the wrong one.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T04:18:14.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like this is an accurate, thoughtful, and generous explanation of the confusion I have and the confusion I cause. If I could spend my few measly karma points upvoting this, I might!

After I read it, because it's late, and I can not take it all in right now. And I'm grateful for the effort, and the clarity of the parts I already understand!

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T01:16:35.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why was this downvoted?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T01:39:59.670Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If I had downvoted it, it would be because I can't really imagine reading "Who would compensate them?" and responding "Can you define 'who'?" as a serious attempt at communication.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T01:45:44.942Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And you call yourself pedantic? There were a number of referents in my comment which could have applied, and while I usually feel at no disadvantage in a battle of wits, I have a mental problem that either renders me easily confused, or fully aware that I am not a mind reader.

This comment is supposed to be serious and funny. Can you guess which parts I think are funny, and why?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T01:51:01.641Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And you call yourself pedantic?

Ready for some meta-meta-irony? At the time I chose the username, I actually wasn't aware that "terrific" is a word people commonly misspell.

Can you guess which parts I think are funny, and why?

At this point I'm afraid to try.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T02:03:48.770Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do not really understand your questions. <--serious

Can you define 'who' <--funny

'them' 'whose' and 'it'? <--serious

Would, compensate, benefit, is, and for I get. <--funny

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T02:13:10.606Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, 'this comment' was self-referential. The comment you reviewed was intentionally serious, and unintentionally ridiculous. I get that a lot.

But ridiculous is funny, and I totally agree with your last judgement of funny, and wish I had noticed that it was funny, BEFORE I posted. I am trying to get comfortable with being accidentally funny.

I should really just stick with a pretense that everything funny I say is intentionally hilarious, instead of just occasionally patently ridiculous. Apparently.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T02:29:34.514Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When asked "who" would do something, asking for a definition of who is an interesting move.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T03:49:04.284Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Pedantic, but I think what everyone has been talking about is assigning the referent of "who", not defining it.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T04:15:56.398Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You rang?

(That's what lessdazed is talking about as well.)

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T16:30:48.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, didn't mean to call you by name.

I know that's what everyone was talking about - I was just clarifying because it can be read more strongly than it should be.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T03:12:51.262Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Apparently so. Can you explain why it is interesting?

Edited to add: I assume you may be trying to explain what is interesting about my comments in the more serious and complicated response you may still be working on, but of which I have only seen the placeholder. I'd say that I can't wait, but I have already had to...

In the self-referentially intentionally funny comment I make above, I was absolutely serious about having a mental problem. And about being easily confused. And about being painfully aware that I am not a mind reader. Absolutely intentionally serious, and, for a change, intentionally funny at the same time. Irony is LOST on me. or everybody else, and I have no way of telling which!

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T03:41:17.348Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Someone (Eliezer?) once said something like: if you tell me exactly what it is that an Artificial Intelligence can't do, I can build an AI to do exactly that. If a person who believes in a fundamental difference at that sort of level between machines and animals can precisely define something, a computer can follow that definition.

It doesn't work quite as well here. But if someone gives a good enough answer for their question of "who", with exactly why an animal wouldn't count, or a computer, or a corporation, they may make their question so complicated that it only has one answer or no answers as asked.

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-12T04:08:49.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah. I am abnormally careful about the question of 'who would' do something. People often take my serious suggestions as playful, and vice versa. I no longer recommend a new hairstyle to anyone because I have given this advice three times, it was always taken, and I only liked the results without qualification once.

I may be paranoid, but I do not like to worry about this. <-- also intentionally funny. I am trying to not to worry about whether it is true. <-- Also funny.

I am taking medication for insomnia. Seriously.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T04:16:27.516Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am taking medication for insomnia.

So am I! But it's not working very well, hence my being awake at this hour.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-11T18:13:20.018Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What would be the context of the comment, and what sense of "equal" is implied?

Suppose lukeprog put it in the ancestral post.

For instance, I probably wouldn't object to someone saying "men and women are equal" if it was clear from the context that they meant "men and women should have equal rights". On the other hand, there are a variety of well-documented statistical differences between men and women, and trying to deny some of those might be harmful.

"Clear from the context" seems like the heart of the matter, here. If it can be clear from the context that when someone says "men and women are equal," then mean the most sensible interpretation, then it seems similarly clear that a generalization with neither "some" nor "all" specified should be assumed to mean "some," not "all."

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-12T09:38:27.717Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose lukeprog put it in the ancestral post.

That's still insufficient context: to be able to give a definite answer, I'd need something like the paragraph the sentence was contained in.

"Clear from the context" seems like the heart of the matter, here. If it can be clear from the context that when someone says "men and women are equal," then mean the most sensible interpretation, then it seems similarly clear that a generalization wither neither "some" nor "all" specified should be assumed to mean "some," not "all."

Indeed. For what it's worth, my prior for people misinterpreting "men and women are equal" is lower, though still not neglible, than my prior for people misinterpreting "all men want". But again, depending on the context either interpretation for either sentence could be blindingly obvious, not obvious at all, or anything in between.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-08T20:03:27.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to taboo the term "politically incorrect" in this comment, but I can't find a short enough substitute with the same expressive power. I would like to make it more group-dependent, not outside-world-dependent. It is supposed to mean: something that a decent member of this group would hesitate to say, because the morality keepers of this group will obviously disagree.

"Taboo" itself actually sounds about right, although it carries connotations of low value that may not be what you're going for.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-08T20:41:27.380Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I misread what you meant. Sorrry for adding noise.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-08T20:54:35.646Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I'm familiar with Rationalist Taboo, and I was looking for a substitute for "politically incorrect" fitting the description provided. "Taboo", in its sense of "culturally forbidden" rather than its sense of "party game about avoiding words", is what I came up with. Sorry if that lacked clarity.

There are several reasons to play Rationalist Taboo, though; I'd assumed that the grandparent wanted to drop the phrase mainly because of its political loading (which seems to be causing some problems here), not because of any implicit assumptions or ambiguity of definition that needs to get aired out. In which case brevity would be no sin.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T17:09:28.507Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I want for the people on this site who make declarative statements about groups of people they're not in (especially when the implications shape their behavior toward members of that group)

If this was applied consistently for all low status groups I wouldn't mind it.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T17:27:49.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd certainly prefer it that way myself, and try to implement that in my approach to such discussions.

If your objection is over our perceptions of which groups are low-status and in what contexts, say that.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T17:31:42.722Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying I object (at least not in the way some have). What I'm implicitly refering to is that these kind of usage disputes only ever arise when it comes to gender relations.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T17:44:54.408Z · score: 5 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Can't speak for anyone else, but I've brought this up re: race and sexual orientation as well in conversations on this site. I don't go looking for it, so the conversation usually has to be fairly current (ie, comments are showing up on the sidebar or it was recently posted to Discussion).

In general I don't start conversations about such things here because I'm well aware my own beliefs and perspective on issues like this are in the minority on this site, and if there's one thing I don't need more of in my life it's arguing with a population comprised mostly of wealthy, white Libertarian-esque cisgendered/heterosexual men whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot.

I'm much more apt to get involved in an existing conversation when some comment grabs my attention and I feel able to reply (or provoked to annoyance by it -- that happens). I critique what passes into my attention, assuming I've get the energy and wherewithal to get into what will most likely be another unproductive argument about it (unproductive because apparently it just feels like mind-killing politics to many of the posters here, who don't have some hands-on experience with being in a social minority and are not apt to readily grasp the difference between "I am angry/hurt by this AND think it is incorrect" and "my disagreement is purely emotional").

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-08T19:31:36.891Z · score: 2 (20 votes) · LW · GW

arguing [...] whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot.

Downvoted for formulating the question in a way that treats vaguely defined classes of ideological transgressions as having an independent Platonic existence, implying that their properties should be discussed as if they were independently existing elements of reality, rather than a matter of definition. (And in this case there isn't even anything resembling a standard, precise, clearly stated, and consistently used definition.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T22:41:23.103Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for formulating the question in a way that treats vaguely defined classes of ideological transgressions as having an independent Platonic existence

Platonic?

If I step on your toe unintentionally, and you're in pain, just because I don't feel that pain (it wasn't my toe) doesn't mean that any harm done occurred either in a Platonic sense or not at all. It sure as heck doesn't mean that you're an ideologically-motivated, irrational zealot for getting mad when my response is anything other than "Whoops, sorry."

I do not think we share sufficient premises to make discussion worthwhile.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-08T23:13:37.786Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whether you feel pain or not is a fact. It's territory, not map.
Whether someone is racist/sexist depends on definitions. These are categories -- which are map, not territory.

I'd guess that whatever value is derived by arguing over whether someone is racist or sexist can be produced better by tabooing those words, and arguing more specifically over what the specific claim is ("would his words be offensive to a significant number of member of such group" "is he trying to increase his own group's relative power/privilege over the other group", "does he believe in an innate inferior moral worth for that group", etc, etc)

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-09T04:00:50.416Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Back in the days when incorrect beliefs about the trinity could get you into trouble, it became heresy to doubt that Jesus was god. Shortly thereafter some people stopped believing he was man, which in due course also became heresy. Much drama ensued on the question of whether Christ was cosubstantial with god, or consubstantial with god, and whether the holy ghost proceeded from Christ, or God, or both, and whether God was three or one or both.

Discussions of racism are apt to develop a similar character.

On a conservative blog, the blogger will say something politically incorrect, which in less right wing circles would be deemed "racist". Then one of the commenters too plainly says something horribly racist, which is clearly implied by and logically follows from the original post on which he is commenting. The right wing blogger, of course, firmly denies his post has such horrid implications, denounces the commenter as disgustingly racist, and bans him.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T07:56:09.210Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Back in the days when incorrect beliefs about the trinity could get you into trouble, it became heresy to doubt that Jesus was god. Shortly thereafter some people stopped believing he was man, which in due course also became heresy. Much drama ensued on the question of whether Christ was cosubstantial with god, or consubstantial with god, and whether the holy ghost proceeded from Christ, or God, or both, and whether God was three or one or both.

Discussions of racism are apt to develop a similar character.

However, in the historical discussions of the Trinity, the opposing sides at least made it clear what exact beliefs they considered as orthodox and which heretical, and spelled out the criteria for orthodox beliefs and their official justifications at length, always ready to elaborate still further if any details remained ambiguous. (However arbitrary and illogical these official justifications may have been.)

In contrast, in the modern discussions of racism, sexism, and other ideological transgressions, it is never spelled out explicitly and clearly what exact beliefs one is supposed to profess to remain orthodox. Rather, there exists a pretense that there is a certain set of beliefs that will be accepted by all people who are not malevolent or delusional -- and if you ask for a precise and clear statement of what exactly these beliefs are (and let alone how they are justified), this is by itself considered as strong evidence of ideological transgression, since only a malcontent would ask so many annoying questions about things that are supposed to be plainly obvious to sane and honest people.

A clear and explicit list of official doctrine that it is forbidden to question, such as the those pronounced by various parties in historical trinitarian disputes, is at least honest and upfront in what it demands. What we see today however is the utterly mendacious and delusional insistence that the official doctrine is a product of pure rationality and free thinking that can be denied only out of insanity or malicious dishonesty.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-09T22:16:00.024Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, the long lists of condemned theses, censured theses, and prohibited articles of the thirteenth century gave no real indication of what was not condemned, not censured, and not prohibited.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-09T12:55:14.592Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the differences you perceive are because the analogies you and sam0345 make to "religious heresy" are really really bad ones. Christ wasn't truly around to be offended or not offended if someone got his nature wrong. Demanding adherence to a particular theology was basically just a demand by the church for complete monopoly of thinking. Disagreements about the nature of Christ were effectively attacks on the authority of the church.

The best modern-day analogy to such issues of religious heresy, are probably the intra-Communist squabbles about Stalin and Trotsky and Mao and revisionism and whatever...

But in regards to racism and sexism though, it's not about lowering the status of institutions like the Church or the Communist Party, but about lowering the status of groups of actual people. It's a much more... decentralized defection, and similarly it gets a much more decentralized punishment -- in Western states there's no single "punishing authority" as there used to be in Communist regimes for defections against communist ideology, or there still is in Theocratic regimes for defections against theocratic ideology.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T16:55:53.675Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You are presenting an oversimplified picture in both cases, and the contrast is definitely not so clear-cut.

First, the christological and other theological controversies were often only part of much broader political, ideological, ethnic, and other conflicts, involving all sorts of parties and factions both within and outside the church hierarchy. Sometimes there was also a strong populist element -- during the monophysite controversy, for example, there were plenty of spontaneous riots and pogroms. Therefore, in these controversies, the power and status of many groups and individuals was at stake, not just the interests of the Church leadership.

Second, the modern repercussions of various ideological transgressions are by no means limited to spontaneous reactions by people who feel directly targeted. For start, there is a complicated and non-obvious system that determines which groups are entitled to such reaction, so that their outrage will be supported and the offenders condemned by the respectable opinion, and which groups are OK to denigrate, so that protesting will only lower their status still further. Then, we also have a network of official intellectual institutions that have a de facto monopoly of respectable and impactful thinking, and the reaction of these institutions to various ideological transgressions involves many elements far beyond direct and spontaneous outrage of those who are (supposed to be) directly targeted.

But aside from all this, my main point is the contrast between two kinds of systems that is independent of the issues you raise:

  1. A system in which certain beliefs are clearly spelled out as official dogma that it is forbidden to question, so if you're accused of heresy, you can at least demand a clear statement of what exact official dogma you have contradicted -- and if you have in fact steered clear of any matters of official dogma in your writings and utterances, this is admissible as a valid defense. (Historically, this was typically the case for people accused of heresy by the Church tribunals, though of course things varied a lot in different places and times and there were certainly instances of corruption and railroading, like in any other legal system.)

  2. A system in which there is official pretense that there is no dogma whatsoever, that everyone is supposed to be a skeptical free thinker about everything, and that imposing some sort of official dogma would be the vilest tyranny imaginable -- so that when you are accused of some ideological transgression, it is automatically assumed that your statements must be due to either disingenuous malice or some crazy delusion, since the respectable opinion is considered to be a product of pure rational thinking, as an assumption built into the system. So rather than having clearly outlined boundaries of what you may or may not say, you must pretend to be a free thinker unencumbered by any official dogma, while at the same time strictly adhering to the de facto official dogma -- which is only more sweeping and onerous because it is so vague and not stated openly.

It seems to me that system (2) is hardly an improvement over (1).

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-10T02:39:31.584Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But in regards to racism and sexism though, it's not about lowering the status of institutions like the Church or the Communist Party, but about lowering the status of groups of actual people.

Surely the communist party would say something similar - and indeed it did: Trotsky complained that certain speech was a violation of freedom of speech because that speech oppressed the proletariat.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-11T00:12:49.045Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Surely the communist party would say something similar

I'm sure it would, because after all that was the prime characteristic of social-fascist regimes -- claiming supposedly egalitarian-minded ideas for the pursuit of in-actuality the establishment of a new ruling class/aristocracy based on party membership. Much like corporate-capitalism propagandizes itself as meritocratic instead (while trying to form a ruling class based on control of stocks and so forth).

I made an image of this some time ago:

This of course doesn't mean that all egalitarian ideas exist to support the communist party elite, any more than it means that all meritocratic ideas are there to support the corporate elites.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T04:39:48.022Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Surely the communist party would say something similar

I'm sure it would, because after all that was the prime characteristic of social-fascist regimes -- claiming supposedly egalitarian-minded ideas for the pursuit of in-actuality the establishment of a new ruling class/aristocracy based on party membership

And is that not what is happening in America today?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T05:15:23.765Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, it's not.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-13T04:23:49.670Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the idea can be written off so easily. This of course gets into all sorts of extremely charged issues, but in any case, considering the historical record of egalitarian ideas in general, surely it would not be rational to take the presently dominant egalitarian ideas at face value automatically.

Not to mention that for anyone familiar with the standard OB/LW motives, it should be straightforward to ask about the signaling and status issues involved. Should it be controversial to propose that, perhaps, egalitarianism is not about equality?

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-14T04:46:10.453Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cuba had obvious, striking, and severe inequality, with a strong element of racial inequality. Yet back before the fall of the Soviet Union, and for some time thereafter, visitors to Cuba tended to not only congratulate Cuba on its wonderful equality, but also themselves on being able to perceive that wonderful equality, that someone less sensitive might have failed to see.

During the hungry ghosts famine in China, J.K. Galbraith observed “If there was any famine in China it was not evident in the kitchen”. The kitchen to which he refers being the kitchen of the luxury hotel his hosts provided him.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-13T05:06:40.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be getting into thorny theoretical questions about the nature of modern Western culture and political ideology. I don't really have much to add on that point.

I was just talking about a simple question of fact: that is, most Republicans would consider the appellation of 'egalitarian' to be an insult.

Edit: Actually, you know what? This is straight-up mindkilling, right here. So how about I just retract everything I contributed to this travesty of a 'conversation' and take extra care not to get sucked into this kind of thing again.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-09T22:30:42.821Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

In communism, political incorrectness might get you shot, but far more likely might be taken into account when you next sought a holiday or promotion. For the most part, the enforcement of political correctness under communism was every bit as decentralized as the enforcement in the US.

Similarly with thirteenth century punishment for heresy, the main punishment being that one was unlikely to receive tenure. No one respectable got tortured or burned at the stake, though Roger Bacon got solitary confinement on bread and water.

And the enforcement in the US is ultimately highly centralized. The reason your boss will fire you for wrongthink is that when his business gets charged with racism, all his employees will be scrutinized for wrongthink. Most discrimination charges do not involve an employer calling a member of a protected group a derogatory name, but rather an employee revealing unapproved views unaware that there are spies present who will rat on him. A member of a protected group heard of the unapproved views - in some cases he would had to have been listening at keyholes to have discovered the unapproved views and have his feelings hurt, and I suspect that in fact these unapproved views were only discovered during the disclosure phase, and the complainant could hypothetically have heard them at the keyhole, rather than actually heard them.

For the most part, enforcement of political correctness under communism worked in exactly the same way as in the US - through employment and academic admissions.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-09T04:40:51.658Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'd guess that whatever value is derived by arguing over whether someone is racist or sexist can be produced better by tabooing those words, and arguing more specifically over what the specific claim is ("would his words be offensive to a significant number of member of such group" "is he trying to increase his own group's relative power/privilege over the other group", "does he believe in an innate inferior moral worth for that group", etc, etc)

I notice a glaring omission from your list of questions. Namely "are his words if interpreted as a factual claim and/or argument true and/or valid"

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T00:57:11.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree these are helpful paraphrases-- but as a practical matter increasing the burden on the person trying to point out the offense or marginalization isn't necessarily a good idea since it often very difficult for people to call their friends and acquaintances on such matters. For example, I imagine it is very difficult for a black person surrounded by white people to call out behavior that makes them feel marginalized-- there is a great deal of social pressure against this. In normal social contexts a minority should be free to express how something makes them feel without being expected to enter into an extended defense of the matter.

Here at Less Wrong, I almost always translate "is x-ist" in the way you suggest and think it is worthwhile where the goal of the discussion is truth seeking (I'm not a member of many relevant minorities, though)

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-09T04:22:54.904Z · score: -8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Whether you feel pain or not is a fact. It's territory, not map.

And is the pain of envy and covetousness also a fact?

I would call it an attitude, not a fact.

comment by Kingreaper · 2011-10-12T21:46:56.771Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Envy is an attitude/emotion.

Whether or not someone feels envy is a fact.

Pain is a feeling.

Whether or not someone feels pain is a fact.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T05:15:57.554Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Platonic?

Yes, Platonic -- and it's easy to demonstrate that it follows in a straightforward manner from your phrasing.

To stick with the (relatively) less incendiary of the two, consider the notion of "sexism." Discussing whether some institution, act, or claim is "sexist" makes sense only if at least one of these two conditions applies:

  1. There is some objectively existing Platonic idea of "sexism," so that whether something is "sexist" is ultimately a question of fact that must have an objectively correct yes or no answer.

  2. There is a precise and agreed-upon definition of "sexism," so that whether something is "sexist" is, assuming agreement on questions of fact, ultimately a question of logic (i.e. whether the given facts satisfy the definition), which also must have an objectively correct yes or no answer.

Now, the option (2) is clearly out of the question. This is because the term inherently implies that any "sexist" claim does not belong to the set of reasonable and potentially correct claims and a "sexist" institution or act is outside the bounds of what is defensible and acceptable -- while at the same time nobody has ever given any definition of "sexism" that wouldn't be either so restrictive as to make most of the common usage of the term inconsistent with the definition, or so broad as to make many reasonable and defensible claims and institutions "sexist," thus again contradicting this essential implication of the term. Also, the very fact that you talk about "arguing [...] whether or not you can be [...] sexist [...] without [property X]" implies that there exists some Platonic idea of "sexism," since otherwise it would be a trivial question of whether property X is included in the definition.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T00:44:33.472Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Also, the very fact that you talk about "arguing [...] whether or not you can be [...] sexist [...] without [property X]" implies that there exists some Platonic idea of "sexism," since otherwise it would be a trivial question of whether property X is included in the definition.

It is trivial. Jandila's definition of sexism and racism does not include the speaker being a bigot as a necessary criterion. Now, I often complain to my anti-subordination activisty friends that a lot of people don't realize their definitions of racism and sexism don't imply that. It's a problem since people tend to get more defensive than they need to be when someone points out something they did or said that is racist, sexist, anti- gay, etc. But people getting defensive after they know these words don't imply bigotry really is silly. And yet it still happens-- which is why Jandila doesn't always have the patience to deal with it.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-11T03:15:44.960Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's because words like "bigot, racist, sexist, anti- gay" are frequently used to sneak in conotations that the argument in question (and by extension the person making it) is somehow immoral and can be dismissed without looking at its validity, or at the very least requires us to engage in motivated continuation until the argument has been "rationally" dismissed. If you and Jandila don't mean to sneak in these connotations, say so; however, in that case you should probably pick a word that doesn't have these connotations in common usage.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T05:37:15.577Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't mind being told my behavior pattern matches with that of bad people's by people who I thought think probabilistically.

If someone were to see me handcuffed in the back of a police car with blood all over me, they should think me more likely to have killed someone than if they hadn't seen that. If they concluded I killed someone because they saw me there, they would just be stupid.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-11T05:46:05.418Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If they concluded I killed someone because they saw me there, they would just be stupid.

Scary thing is: The jury is made up of these people!

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T06:31:56.333Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

All I really need is for two (Asch conformity) of twelve regular people who accept stupid arguments to accept arguments I am not guilty, or one nut juror, or one intelligent juror.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T03:38:47.959Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am reticent to discuss this without there being any object level issue-- I don't trust either side's claims about how these words are 'frequently used'. I would be comfortable evaluating a specific instance of the use of these words but I suspect discussion of how they tend to be used will just leave people insisting on generalities that flatter their own ideology. Both sides have ways of framing the other's rhetorical techniques as harmful and destructive to honest communication. And both sides are often oblivious to what the other side is saying. Usually when words like sexist and racist are thrown out the users usually have reasons why they used those words instead of others despite (or I guess sometimes because of) connotations. But again, those reasons can't be evaluated in abstract.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T05:17:56.310Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect discussion of how they tend to be used will just leave people insisting on generalities that flatter their own ideology.

I think that the burden of proof is on those criticizing authors for using particular language.

But again, those reasons can't be evaluated in abstract.

It ought to disqualify the prosecutors from bringing such cases if there can't be evidence to support them, so it seems to me you're on a "side" if you think that.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T05:32:32.122Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the burden of proof is on those criticizing authors for using particular language.

Both sides are criticizing the other for using particular language. Bob says x. Susan says saying x is racist (criticizing Bob). Bob says saying something is racist sneaks in connotations (criticizing Susan).

It ought to disqualify the prosecutors from bringing such cases if there can't be evidence to support them, so it seems to me you're on a "side" if you think that.

I don't know what you're talking about here.

Edit: If I understand you right I guess I don't see a justification for 'burden of proof' type analyses except in literal court rooms. There usually isn't a reason for them other than presumption and status quo bias.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T06:30:41.467Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Both sides are criticizing the other for using particular language.

The criticisms are importantly different.

"Susan says saying x is racist."

There is nothing wrong with that statement, but "arguing [...] whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot," is confused, though not necessarily accusatory.

"Bob says saying something is racist sneaks in connotations."

Bob is saying something not confused, but coherent and accusatory. "If you and Jandila don't mean to sneak in these connotations, say so;" is unfair. Bob has to address the argument as if those connotations were not intended, even if they probably were (in his mind), or weren't but probably are so misinterpreted by others (in his models of them), he can't decline to address the actual argument unless he has overwhelming evidence that it was designed primarily to manipulate and not substantially to present evidence.

If it's easier for Bob to show the argument is dishonest rather than refute it, it's fine to let him do that if he feels it is better for some reason, and I don't think Bob owes an explanation of how the argument was wrong or even an honest attempt to try and understand it, depending on how sinuous and sinuous it was.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T03:32:35.611Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Susan says saying x is racist."

(...)

Bob has to address the argument as if those connotations were not intended,

The problem is that without the connotations associated with the word, Susan's statement doesn't even constitute a counter argument.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T03:59:01.064Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Susan's statement isn't supposed to be a counter argument, just an argument. (When I described the situation above I could have as easily started with "Bob does something racist" instead of "says. She may or may not have a propositional disagreement with what Bob said.)

[And now we have two threads about Bob. He is apparently both a racist and terrible with women.]

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T04:29:20.470Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The presumed purpose of the statement is to criticize Bob's argument and/or action. To do this it relies on the connotations of the word "racist".

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T04:37:30.832Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It relies on the implication that the user of the word frowns on racisms and that other people ought to as well. This is different from the connotation that someone who does something racist must be intentionally bigoted or some kind of secret white supremacist. The difference is that the first is merely a normative implication that is obvious to everyone while the second suggests additional beliefs about Bob that are being snuck in but not officially defended by anyone.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T04:59:39.393Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It relies on the implication that the user of the word frowns on racisms and that other people ought to as well.

That's still sneaking in connotations unless deserving to be frowned upon is part of the definition of "racism". However, in that case Susan needs to establish that the action and/or argument deserves to be frowned upon in addition to satisfying the other parts of the definition of racism to justify her claim that the action and/or argument is indeed "racist". Notice that what you called "defensiveness" in the comment that started this sub-thread is simply Bob pointing out that she hasn't done so.

Essentially Susan is trying to argue that Bob's action and/or argument is racist and hence by definition bad. This argument runs into the problem Eliezer discusses in that article.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T05:43:56.268Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Essentially Susan is trying to argue that Bob's action and/or argument is racist and hence by definition bad.

Too many guards were facing the wrong direction until now.

The problem isn't so much that connotations may sneak in, it's that relevance may sneak out. That's why I said some things were confused and not even an argument: the key step was that a label applied and everything with that label was invalid, and that thinking something is an argument doesn't make it so be it sentences or even a string of arbitrary characters, and so on.

It's too difficult and too costly in terms of accusations made and inferences drained from language to zealously guard against bad connotations.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T05:15:01.030Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's still sneaking in connotations unless deserving to be frowned upon is part of the definition of "racism".

No, it's merely an assumption in polite society. Bob is free to say that he doesn't care that he's being racist-- but that is not what he is being defensive about.

The defensiveness is in response to the connotation which Jandila at the very start of the thread disclaimed:

if there's one thing I don't need more of in my life it's arguing with a population comprised mostly of wealthy, white Libertarian-esque cisgendered/heterosexual men whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot.

There is a connotation that doing something racist or sexist means you're intentionally trying to hurt people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant. When I say there is an implication to the word "racism" that my activist friends aren't paying attention to I'm talking about that not the implication that a racist statement shouldn't be said. Note, those activist friends consider everyone a racist, themselves included.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T05:40:42.021Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is a connotation that doing something racist or sexist means you're intentionally trying to hurt people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant.

You're still trying to sneak in connotations, notice how you seem to be trying to exclude the possibility that a statement you describe as racist could actually be true, or that an action you describe as racist could actually be rational.

Also, why are you getting so defensive about my pointing out that you're sneaking in connotations? There is a connotation that sneaking in connotations or exhibiting some other bias means you're intentionally trying to mislead people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant. Note, people on lesswrong consider everyone biased, themselves included.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T05:51:13.147Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're still trying to sneak in connotations, notice how you seem to be trying to exclude the possibility that a statement you describe as racist could actually be true, or that an action you describe as racist could actually be rational.

I don't notice how I seem to be doing it, actually.

Also, why are you getting so defensive about my pointing out that your sneaking in connotations? There is a connotation that sneaking in connotations or exhibiting some other bias means you're intentionally trying to mislead people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant. Note, people on lesswrong consider everyone biased, themselves included.

Clever. It's actually a good analogy. I'm really not getting defensive, just frustrated that you seem to be misunderstanding me (which is weird because I thought your original comment understood me perfectly).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T06:25:18.835Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're still trying to sneak in connotations, notice how you seem to be trying to exclude the possibility that a statement you describe as racist could actually be true, or that an action you describe as racist could actually be rational.

I don't notice how I seem to be doing it, actually.

The statement I quoted:

There is a connotation that doing something racist or sexist means you're intentionally trying to hurt people, that you're a bad person instead of just making a mistake or being ignorant.

seems to imply that the only reason one would make a "racist" statement is either out of a desire to hurt people or out of ignorance.

Clever. It's actually a good analogy.

One difference is that the definition of bias as used on lw does explicitly include the requirement that they provide incorrect results, as such I've been providing you with links to the relevant lesswrong articles.

I'm really not getting defensive,

One reason I did that is so you could see how annoying arguments of the form:

"Why are you getting so defensive about my accusing you of bad thing X, X doesn't imply worse thing Y?"

are when you're on the receiving end of them.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T03:45:36.738Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What if someone thought that even with the connotations associated with the word, it still wouldn't constitute a counter argument?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T03:51:49.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Then why did Susan make that statement at all?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T04:01:51.560Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Susan thought it was a counter argument.

Any arbitrary string of characters djRX3YeKTQUw BdIml13Ep6vAqa8WdflzY 7adQKSEXDp0paMg7K87 pKw4CCey C068tqagUkSs7H7HsCZdA 84MaxAJr4VwIV28tASRPcDO1Wtv1Oh02DTyFyaM PcAOPJ2CLBnztEG6 4kvjZ3aTKHEcPMN2gjOjzuWB pdzmu9hPRQnmYEJZ Uy6Q96cIkguaYbgwJcte

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T05:18:38.754Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is that a ponycode?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T06:05:09.088Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Any arbitrary string of characters

It's ponycode for:

"may subjectively be considered a counterargument but that doesn't make it important. The statement was made because it was intended to make a certain point, even though its mechanism was to exclude things from consideration based on a labeling criteria too many steps removed from truth."

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T05:11:40.144Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Btw, Could you provide your definition of "bigot"? I've gotten a vague idea of what you mean by the word from context, but I'd like to see your formulation. (Note: be prepared to explain why being a "bigot" is obviously a "very bad thing".)

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T05:19:37.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia looks fine:

The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing sex, race, ethnicity, religion or spirituality, nationality, language, inter-regional prejudice, gender and sexual orientation, age, homelessness, various medical disorders particularly behavioral disorders and addictive disorders.

(Note: be prepared to explain why being a "bigot" is obviously a very bad thing".)

I am not so prepared-- though it doesn't seem especially controversial to me I am vaguely open to an argument that it isn't obvious. But I don't see why I should be expected to explain why.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T05:33:29.916Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing sex, race, ethnicity, religion or spirituality, nationality, language, inter-regional prejudice, gender and sexual orientation, age, homelessness, various medical disorders particularly behavioral disorders and addictive disorders.

So if I believe that, say, religion X is wrong and its teachings are immoral, do I qualify as a bigot under this definition?

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T05:40:26.983Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Only if you are therefore hostile to its members.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T05:45:53.637Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Only if you are therefore hostile to its members.

Depending on what you mean by "hostile" that may be a perfectly reasonable course of action.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T06:03:48.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thats a unique example in that definition, that, in retrospect I should have perhaps left out. Unlike the other groupings religion partly consists in beliefs and values which I think it is often important to be hostile to. Those beliefs and values are closely tied to the culture of a religion which I don't think people should be hostile to. I would not call someone a bigot for criticizing, mocking or insulting the beliefs and values associated with a particular religion. Doing the same to the people themselves or the culture, purposefully, and not the result of merely being uninformed or temporarily blinded would make a person a bigot.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T06:47:04.114Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly is the criterion for being an element on the list?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T06:54:57.077Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously it's specific contents are political and I don't necessarily think it is complete (or as we seen without mistakes)-- but the criteria for an ideal list is something like 'classes of people that agents cannot help but be members of'.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T07:06:30.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously it's specific contents are political

And that's the problem given that politics is the mindkiller.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T07:16:47.077Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. It's a mess of a hard problem. Thats why I try not to talk about it here because nobody is good at talking about it rationally. I'm not defending every instance of someone calling something racist, sexist etc. I'm not defending everything the people who tend to do it nor the list of groups they do it for.

That being the case I don't think the solution is to deny the harms people are talking about when they complain about racism, sexism etc. And it's going to get talked about at some point just like all politics.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T07:37:59.756Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That being the case I don't think the solution is to deny the harms people are talking about when they complain about racism, sexism etc.

Nor is the solution to suppress discussion of statements that could be construed as bigoted. Even statements about race and IQ, or whether homosexuality is a sexual deviance.

To be fare, the main problem on LessWrong, as opposed to the world in general, is people engaging in motivated stopping and motivated continuation when discussing these topics in an attempt to avoid being sexist (for some reason race is less of a problem) and/or bigots.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T08:04:22.148Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

whether homosexuality is a sexual deviance

Does this question have empirical content that constrains my anticipated experiences? Or is it just a value judgment?

I don't think there is a lot of room or reason to discuss terminal or near-terminal value judgments. I find that criticism along the lines of "Stop valuing that, it's a character defect" is a perfectly reasonable response to terminal value judgments that I disagree with (though I try not to penalize people for value disagreement here since people with bad values can still be insightful about factual matters).

With something like race and IQ I don't think they should be suppressed and haven't tried to suppress them (I have comments elsewhere lamenting such suppression). But do think it is reasonable to expect those conversations to occur at a higher level than they have so far. For whatever reason the most vocal advocates of genetic inheritance as an explanation for the race IQ gap have been worse than average commenters. A while back I linked to an article Steve Hsu wrote on the subject, he showed up and there was briefly a really good back and forth on the subject. But for the most part discussion of the subject here consists of anecdotal evidence, baseless claims and people on both sides paying no attention to the relevant studies or population genetics. It is worthwhile in these cases, I think, for people to do what they can to avoid pattern matching with something designed to demean or oppress people. Both to avoid hurting people unnecessarily and to avoid triggering mind-killing. You don't have to sound like George Cuvier to argue for a genetic explanation of the race IQ-gap.

Edit: Though apparently we can't even talk about talking it without the both of us being downvoted.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T08:40:03.887Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does this question have empirical content that constrains my anticipated experiences?

I had in mind something like this.

About race and IQ, that really hasn't been a problem here.

But for the most part discussion of the subject here consists of anecdotal evidence, baseless claims and people on both sides paying no attention to the relevant studies or population genetics.

Part of the problem is how politicized population genetics has become.

I should probably have listed as an example something like talking about PUA and whether it works, because that has caused problems here, despite being less controversial in the outside world.

Edit: Though apparently we can't even talk about talking it without the both of us being downvoted.

Welcome to my reality. ;)

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T09:51:28.607Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had in mind something like this.

The only thing that offended me was the one value judgment in the bunch:

the behaviors associated with the pederastic/dominating classical style are entangled with abuse and degradation in a way that can only be described as evil

And I'm not offended on behalf of homosexuals but on behalf of BDSMers and kinky people who take those styles and practice them, but only between consenting adults. The rest of the piece, I think, exhibited a lot of ignorance about modern homosexual and heterosexual sex and desire and an overconfidence in historical records about romantic homosexuality. But I think you might be surprised at how similar his point is to that made by some radical queer theorists I've read.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-12T10:20:29.179Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T11:03:57.266Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The one I have in mind is Lee Edelman. He quotes Hegel a lot. He does philosophy from an English department and works in post-structuralism and, wait for it, psychoanalytic theory. Probably not Less Wrong's cup of tea. He does show gay porn in his lectures, though.

Anyway, he critiques what he calls "reproductive futurism", by which he means the norms and values that serve to continue civilization in the traditional sense: "The children are our future", the fact that political appeals on behalf of children are impossible to refuse, heterosexual marriage, the nuclear family, and the entire political edifice he sees as built up around the idea. He sees the figure of the queer person as someone left out of this social order. He suggests that rather than (or maybe in addition to) fighting for the right to join in the social order--through joining the military openly, gay marriage, gay adoption etc. gays and lesbians should resist the entirety of reproductive futurism.

He positively quotes conservatives for accurately revealing just how it is queers lie outside the established social order. I suspect he might see the "romantic homosexuality" style in the above linked blog post as acquiescence to reproductive futurism.

[That make sense to anyone? Just trying to translate the ideas into something reasonable sounding.]

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T23:12:16.503Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"The children are our future", the fact that political appeals on behalf of children are impossible to refuse, heterosexual marriage, the nuclear family, and the entire political edifice he sees as built up around the idea. He sees the figure of the queer person as someone left out of this social order. He suggests that rather than (or maybe in addition to) fighting for the right to join in the social order--through joining the military openly, gay marriage, gay adoption etc. gays and lesbians should resist the entirety of reproductive futurism.

Even if they succeed in that goal all they'll do is cause the affected culture to evolve to extinction.

[That make sense to anyone? Just trying to translate the ideas into something reasonable sounding.]

This is more or less what conservatives have been accusing the gay-rights movement of being a cover for since day one.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-12T11:02:31.166Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

They exist, but they're mostly all tangled up in whatever hybrid of Marxism and/or postmodernism is in vogue. Add in a sprinkling of half-understood genetics, evolution, and evolutionary psychology, and it's just a monstrous headache every paragraph.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T09:11:09.906Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

apparently we can't even talk about talking it without the both of us being downvoted.

Many comments like this one get net upvotes. Are you concerned with total or net votes? What are your net votes from such discussions? How possible would it be for you to reshape downvoted-type comments into upvoted-type comments, particularly because any one downvoted comment is unlikely to have received much of your editing attention?

both sides

Comments expressing the lament of "people on both sides" are likely to be downvoted by me. I have many similar loose heuristics, such as "vote down people arguing by definition", "vote up people changing their mind", "vote up people citing sources", "vote down people who do not apply the principle of charity", and "vote up comments in which people correctly use the word 'literally'".

You're unlikely to avoid tripping any if you make multiple comments, but I think each is fair and generally the type of content I want to see gets communicated. Consequently I suggest being less concerned by total downvotes, even if your only other change is to be more concerned with net downvotes. It's not really supposed to be possible to avoid tripping any wire any reader has.

But I don't see you getting net downvotes, so I'm not sure if that is instead your complaint...because that would be weird, as getting a near balance of favorable and unfavorable reviews isn't too harsh a form of censorship.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T09:40:58.915Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm concerned not with my karma total but with the net-negative karma score for individual comments. A net negative karma for a comment signals that Less Wrong does not want to see that comment. When I see net negative comments I try to figure out why. For any one comment there are lots of possible explanations for downvoting. But when I see a trend that suggests downvoting heuristics I think are bad I sometimes publicly lament those heuristics. For example, I see a lot of bad pattern matching downvoting where people say things that unexamined resemble theistic apologist arguments. Taking any position that could be considered political also seems to be subject to downvoting. Especially when that position is inconsistent with the values of the local demographic cluster. Laments of downvote heuristics seems to be a rather unpopular comment type as well. These heuristics have a chilling effect on the discussions of those subjects and partly explain Eugine's complaint:

To be fare, the main problem on LessWrong, as opposed to the world in general, is people engaging in motivated stopping and motivated continuation when discussing these topics in an attempt to avoid being sexist (for some reason race is less of a problem) and/or bigots.

Comments expressing the lament of "people on both sides" are likely to be downvoted by me.

Fair enough as a heuristic, though I'll note I made it pretty clear which side I thought was worse in the preceding sentences. But don't worry about your downvote- the heuristic you used was fine by me.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T20:17:21.524Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Laments of downvote heuristics seems to be a rather unpopular comment type as well.

Laments of downvote heuristics seem to be about why the complainer's immediately preceding comments were downvoted.

How often are such complaint framed as laments that political allies were downvoted, much less neutrals or opponents?

If everyone writing a comment of content type X also always added spam links, I would downvote overconfident speculation about why people don't like content X and how that makes them bad people.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-12T20:51:50.972Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But when I see a trend that suggests downvoting heuristics I think are bad I sometimes publicly lament those heuristics. For example, I see a lot of bad pattern matching downvoting where people say things that unexamined resemble theistic apologist arguments. Taking any position that could be considered political also seems to be subject to downvoting.

Outside of threads I'm personally involved in, I try to downvote any comment which seems detrimental to the overall signal-to-noise ratio on LW. Most often that means posts which are statistically illiterate, incoherent, obviously biased, or poorly written, which I imagine should be uncontroversial. Beyond content and style, though, it's also possible for a post's framing to lower the signal-to-noise ratio through a variety of knock-on effects.

Usually this happens by way of halo effects and their negative-affect equivalent (let's call that a miasma effect, if it lacks a proper name): arguments matching religious apologia too closely, for example, tend to trigger a cluster of negative associations in our largely atheistic audience that prime it for confrontation even if the content itself is benign. Likewise for comments with political framing or drawing unwisely from political examples. I don't usually click the downvote button on comments like these until there's evidence of them actually causing problems, but that's sufficiently common that I still end up burning a lot of votes on them.

I submit that this isn't a bad heuristic. It's one that shouldn't be necessary if we were all free from emotive priming effects, but we clearly aren't, and exposing ourselves to many sources of them isn't going to help us get rid of the problem; in the meantime, discouraging such comments seems like a useful way of keeping the shouting down.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T21:07:34.998Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If someone is going to be pulling a thread dangerously close to politics, we should expect those comments to be held to a higher standard.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T06:11:42.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

culture

What do you label with that symbol? How do you know no aspect of any of them should be criticized, mocked, or insulted?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T06:13:35.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. Consider it striked.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T06:20:40.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had assigned what felt like a 10% probability to your defending that without falling to the no true Scotsman fallacy, so I am disappointed.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-10-12T06:54:32.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, what do you mean by hostile?

If I believe it's better for people not to have behavioral disorders or/and addictive disorders develop a treatment and encourage people with said disorders to take it, am I being hostile? What if I do the same w.r.t. homosexuality?

BTW, if the answer to both those questions is "no", I have no further problem with the definition.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T07:01:34.478Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, what do you mean by hostile?

Treating someone like an enemy. Shrug. I don't have a clear bright line or anything, the amount and intensity of bigotry someone must exhibit before I'm comfortable calling them a bigoted person is pretty high.

If I believe it's better for people not to have behavioral disorders or/and addictive disorders develop a treatment and encourage people with said disorders to take it am I being hostile? What if I do the same w.r.t. homosexuality?

In both cases it depends on why you want people to take the treatment.

We're now very far from what was a pretty contingent defense of another commenter's position and I don't especially enjoy the topic...

comment by Erebus · 2011-10-09T08:08:02.634Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

[...] Discussing whether some institution, act, or claim is "sexist" makes sense only if at least one of these two conditions applies:

  1. There is some objectively existing Platonic idea of "sexism," [...]

  2. There is a precise and agreed-upon definition of "sexism," [...]

Replace "sexism" by "X". Do you think this alternative is still valid?

Or maybe you should elaborate on why you think "sexism" gives rise to this alternative.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T23:20:32.886Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Replace "sexism" by "X". Do you think this alternative is still valid?

Of course it is still valid, unless X corresponds directly to some observable and clearly identifiable element of physical reality, so that its existence is not Platonic, but physically real. Obviously it wouldn't make sense to discuss whether someone has, say, committed theft if there didn't exist a precise and agreed-upon definition of what counts as theft -- or otherwise we would be hunting for some objectively existing Platonic idea of "theft" in order to see whether it applies.

Now of course, in human affairs no definition is perfectly precise, and there will always be problematic corner cases where there may be much disagreement. This precision is ultimately a matter of degree. However, to use the same example again, when people are accused of theft, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only disagreement is whether the facts of the accusation are correct, and it's only very rarely that even after the facts are agreed upon, there is significant disagreement over whether what happened counts as theft. In contrast, when people are accused of sexism, a discussion almost always immediately starts about whether what they did was really and truly "sexist," even when there is no disagreement at all about what exactly was said or done.

comment by Erebus · 2011-10-10T09:15:52.804Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Of course it is still valid, unless X corresponds directly to some observable and clearly identifiable element of physical reality, so that its existence is not Platonic, but physically real. Obviously it wouldn't make sense to discuss whether someone has, say, committed theft if there didn't exist a precise and agreed-upon definition of what counts as theft -- or otherwise we would be hunting for some objectively existing Platonic idea of "theft" in order to see whether it applies.

Of course? There must be a miscommunication.

Do you think it makes sense to discuss, say, intelligence, friendship or morality? Do you think these exist either as physically real things or Platonic ideas, or can you supply precise and agreed-upon definitions for them?

I don't count any of my three examples physically real in the sense of being a clearly identifiable part of physical reality. Of course they reduce to physical things at the bottom, but only in the trivial sense in which everything does. Knowing that the reduction exists is one thing, but we don't judge things as intelligent, friendly or moral based on their physical configuration, but on higher-order abstractions. I'm not expecting us to have a disagreement here. I wouldn't consider any of the examples a Platonic idea either. Our concepts and intuitions do not have their source in some independently existing ideal world of perfections. Since you seemed to point to Platonism as a fallacy, we probably don't disagree here either.

So I'm led to expect that you think that to sensibly discuss whether a given behaviour is intelligent, friendly or moral, we need to be able to give precise definitions for intelligence, friendship and morality. But I can only think that this is fundamentally misguided: the discussions around these concepts are relevant precisely because we do not have such definitions at hand. We can try to unpack our intuitions about what we think of as a concept, for example by tabooing the word for it. But this is completely different from giving a definition.

However, to use the same example again, when people are accused of theft, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only disagreement is whether the facts of the accusation are correct, and it's only very rarely that even after the facts are agreed upon, there is significant disagreement over whether what happened counts as theft. In contrast, when people are accused of sexism, a discussion almost always immediately starts about whether what they did was really and truly "sexist," even when there is no disagreement at all about what exactly was said or done.

This only reflects on the easiest ways of making or defending against particular kinds of accusations, not at all on the content of the accusations. Morality is similar to sexism in this respect, but it still makes sense to discuss morality without being a Platonist about it or without giving a precise agreed-upon definition.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-10T17:02:03.159Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So I'm led to expect that you think that to sensibly discuss whether a given behaviour is intelligent, friendly or moral, we need to be able to give precise definitions for intelligence, friendship and morality. But I can only think that this is fundamentally misguided: the discussions around these concepts are relevant precisely because we do not have such definitions at hand. We can try to unpack our intuitions about what we think of as a concept, for example by tabooing the word for it. But this is completely different from giving a definition.

Well, morality is such an enormous and multi-sided topic that what usually matters in a concrete situation is only some particular small subset of morality. A discussion can be meaningful if there is agreement on the issue at hand, even if there is disagreement otherwise. So to take the same example again, if we're discussing whether someone is a thief (i.e has committed the sort of immoral behavior that is called "theft"), it doesn't matter if we define murder differently, as long as we define theft the same.

But yes, of course that discussing whether a given behavior is intelligent, friendly, or moral makes sense only if we agree on the definitions of these terms. As I said above, in practice our definitions about human affairs are always fuzzy and incomplete to some degree, so there will always be disagreement at least in some corner cases, and discussions will be meaningful as long as they stick to the broader area of agreement. However, in case of friendship, intelligence, and most issues of morality, people typically agree at least roughly on the relevant definitions, so the usage of these words is usually meaningful.

Also, when people agree on definitions, it doesn't matter if they are able to state these definitions precisely and explicitly, as long as there is no disagreement on whether the definitions are satisfied assuming given facts. Giving a precise definition of "friendship" would be a difficult task for most people, but it doesn't matter since there is no significant disagreement on what behavior is expected from people one considers as friends, and what behavior should disqualify them. One the other hand, when someone makes vague ideological accusations such as "sexism," there is no such agreement at all, and a rational discussion can't even being before a clear definition of the term is given.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-09T03:31:16.528Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If I step on your toe unintentionally, and you're in pain, just because I don't feel that pain (it wasn't my toe) doesn't mean that any harm done occurred either in a Platonic sense or not at all. It sure as heck doesn't mean that you're an ideologically-motivated, irrational zealot for getting mad when my response is anything other than "Whoops, sorry."

the problem is that the pain is not caused by someone stepping on your toe, but by someone showing subtle but detectable signs of thinking thoughts that you disagree with.

The pain caused by someone committing thought crime against you has a more dubious ontological status than the pain caused impact upon your toe.

A typical example of this is the word "gay", the latest polite euphemism for male homosexual, the latest of a great many. Like every other polite euphemism for anything, it has become a swear word, a swear word that unlike Carlin's list of seven words you used not to be able to say on TV, still has the power to shock.

Indeed, as soon as one creates a new euphemism, it implies that the thing that it is a euphemism for is unmentionably disgusting, thus becomes good swear word, depriving the euphemism of the niceness that is the essential characteristic of a euphemism, while rendering all previous euphemisms for the thing (of which there are usually large number) too disgusting to speak.

The pain caused by the inevitable and inexorable transition from euphemism to curse word is fundamentally different from the pain caused by stepping on your toes. It is more like the pain caused by losing an election, or someone banging a prettier girl than you banged. The tenth commandment forbids you to experience or admit to experiencing certain kinds of pain. Not all pains have equal status as cause for complaint. You cannot help feeling pain if someone steps on your toes, but you can and should help feeling certain other forms of pain, which forms of pain are therefore less real.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-11T07:31:51.686Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that some insults (and this is currently true about those relating to homosexuality) get backed up with violence and/or with serious social exclusion-- they aren't "just words".

Also, people don't reliably put abuse behind them. Their reactions to threats that it might start up again are quite strong. The situation is complicated by the fact that these reactions can be amplified by social effects.

Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness has the thesis that, because overt racism isn't socially acceptable but covert racism still goes on, both black and white Americans search for more and more subtle clues to whether people are racist. This looks insane, but is a rational response to a difficult situation.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-13T13:40:24.389Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is unclear to me that those consequences were unintended.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-13T13:45:02.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're overestimating people's competence, but it's hard to tell about that sort of thing.

What's your line of thought?

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-13T13:59:21.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure it's a line so much as it's an impression. Strategists try to reshape battlefields to give themselves the high ground. I'm not sure I can articulate anything worth updating on, but I'll think about it and get back to you if I come up with anything.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-11T00:47:56.365Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"A typical example of this is the word "gay", the latest polite euphemism for male homosexual, the latest of a great many."

Hmm... I'd have guessed it was less about being a euphemism and more about English-speakers wanting to have a one-syllable word instead of a five-syllable one, much like "straight" is a one-syllable word for "heterosexual", without this meaning that hetero sex is "unmentionably disgusting".

Not all pains have equal status as cause for complaint.

Even from childhood we know that pain caused by deliberate insults often hurts more than physical fights. People should not seek to take offense where none was meant -- but when offense is meant, and you know it's meant, not being hurt is often harder than ignoring a merely stepped-upon toe. A deliberate insult can linger all day in your mind when a toe is soon forgotten.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T00:56:34.008Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

English-speakers wanting to have a one-syllable word instead of a five-syllable one, much like "straight" is a one-syllable word for "heterosexual", without this meaning that hetero sex is "unmentionably disgusting".

Supporting evidence: American English speakers weren't even content with a two syllable word meaning that homo sex is "unmentionably disgusting", and it's been shortened to one syllable.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T01:20:51.052Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But the original word was "queer"... which is now not a curse after having been reclaimed.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-12T20:01:55.778Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

On a tangential note, this usage of "reclaim" has always bothered me. "Queer" didn't start out with positive or neutral connotations. It has not been reclaimed by the GLBT movement, it has been appropriated. Reclamation denotes previous ownership, something that simply doesn't apply when you look at the historical relationship between the words that are being "reclaimed" and the groups that are claiming them, but it's chosen for its connotations of legitimacy, since people are less likely to object to your taking back what's rightfully yours.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T20:05:05.505Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I find amusing the notion of bigots launching a campaign to reclaim "queer" as an insult.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-13T02:24:34.604Z · score: -17 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Only leftists consciously try to remake language. Conservatives do not,

This may reflect the conservative belief in naive realism, that words refer to things in the world, and are ultimately defined by pointing at stuff, primarily by mothers pointing at stuff, as in "mother tongue". Leftists frequently believe that words create reality, hence they always start language projects.

If a rose by any other name will smell as sweet, no point in finding new words for shit. You want conservatives to say "gay". Observe. They say "gay", but somehow it sounds remarkably as if they saying (long, long, long list of words no one is allowed to say any more)

comment by Manfred · 2011-10-13T03:00:11.807Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Before building a house, check that your foundation is sound.

The bias you have to be most careful of in this situation is availability. When claiming "liberals X, but conservatives don't X," I think people first run a mental search for "liberal X" and then a search for "conservative X." But mental searches aren't as reliable as you might wish - if in the post just above, your brain was primed with an example of "liberal X," your mental search will be a lot better at thinking of liberal X, and so you might conclude that liberal X is much more common. Curse you, availability bias!

One way to train yourself to search thoroughly is my "magical exercise of power" (actually just an improv exercise, but assertive naming seems to have worked for the Rules of Power :P).

comment by Jack · 2011-10-13T03:22:06.527Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I really don't think availability bias is his biggest problem.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-13T05:22:50.178Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, if you spend time in a highly partisan environment, availability bias is a huge problem. One of the things people do in an effort to convince each other is invent and promulgate pseudo-experience.

If you keep getting told stories of people from group A attacking group B, and you're a B, the stories stick with you. You're also less likely to spend time around A's, so that you don't have a personal history of knowing that they might be less dangerous than you've been told, and you're not likely to hear stories about them being attacked by B's or to take such stories seriously if you do hear them.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-13T02:37:01.238Z · score: 7 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Only leftists consciously try to remake language. Conservatives do not

Freedom fries.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-13T10:30:05.558Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Only leftists consciously try to remake language. Conservatives do not,

"pro-life" instead of "anti-abortion"
"Enhanced interrogation" instead of "Torture"
"Collateral damage" instead of "Civilian casualties"
"Death tax" instead of "Inheritance tax" or "estate tax"
"Civilian contractors" instead of "Hired mercenaries"
"Freedom fries" instead of "French fries"
"Freedom fighters" instead of "Those particular terrorists we happen to support"
"illegal" used as a noun.

Do these suffice?

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-13T04:39:06.786Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Only leftists consciously try to remake language. Conservatives do not,

I've never heard this before. Can you point me to some evidence?

The rest of your comment seems intentionally offensive. Am I correct in this assessment?

If so, feel free to pm me with your intended message without the offensive content, if you are trying to make a point with the offensive content. I don't know if anybody else is getting your intended message, but I know I am not, and I am curious, if you can reframe your content more constructively.

comment by Atelos · 2011-10-13T02:31:39.509Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Homicide Bomber.

There are certainly other examples, but that's the first one to come to mind.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-13T02:44:10.642Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Islamofascism, "real America", 'Democrat' as an adjective as in 'Democrat Party', Death Tax, Obamacare.

It's politics; people come up with this stuff for a living.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-10-13T06:28:44.274Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If Lesswrong were an explicitly conservative site, we would recently have been re-reading the "Enhanced interrogation v. dust specks" sequence...

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-13T11:46:33.943Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Probably not. Enhanced interrogation is torture, but not all torture is enhanced interrogation. "Enhanced interrogation" implies the point is to get information, if any is available. Torture includes more acts because it includes other purposes, like fun and deterrence.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-13T12:55:57.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, it is only enhanced interrogation when you or your allies are doing it. When others do it, named or unnamed then it is torture. See here.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-13T13:41:31.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

named or unnamed

What does this mean?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-13T14:55:13.369Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Named is examples like China mentioned in the article. Unnamed was something like torture v. dustspecks where who is doing the torturing doesn't figure into it.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-13T15:33:20.811Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I need to add: trying to induce a confession as China did, like trying to get information, is also "interrogation", unlike torture for no reason, fun, deterrence, etc.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-10-13T05:04:15.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because no conservatives have ever started language projects?

I almost admire your fortitude in repeatedly charging forward, Light Brigade-like, with material you know beforehand is going to be downvoted to oblivion for partisan mindkilling.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-13T02:35:25.575Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

At this point you are coming across as either a troll or as hopelessly mind-killed. It is possible you do not fall into those categories, but that's the impression one gets from comments like the above. Please read if you have not already done so why politics is the mindkiller.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-13T06:17:38.533Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. This got downvoted pretty heavily, didn't it. So how about some of the downvoters point out some examples of conservative projects to deliberately remodel language, in the sense for instance feminism explicitely tries to, or that whole business of political correctness.

Disclaimer: I'm not conservative, hell I'm not even American and we don't have "conservatives" where I live. I'm asking this because the falseness of what sam said is very far from apparent to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T06:19:30.189Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People already have. See comments below.

Yawn.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-13T06:20:30.892Z · score: -7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Missed it due to clicking on a link that produced a single-thread view.

Yawn.

Same to you, friend.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T06:23:22.726Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not your friend, pal.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-13T11:06:06.225Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoting both of you for signalling contempt at each other.

Let's try and keep the forum as respectful as we can.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-13T11:48:43.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly. Though I admit I am a little baffled as to why I got downvoted more heavily, when I wasn't the one who came out with unprovoked rudeness.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-13T12:00:25.792Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How do you expect people to know who was provoked or unprovoked, once you deleted your comment? If you want people to know how a discussion went, you have the option of retracting but not deleting.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T11:55:35.721Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm still wondering how you were able to delete your post after I had already replied to it.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-13T12:14:39.182Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I understand correctly, when a page gets refreshed with a reply to a comment, the delete button on that comment is gone; but as long as one is viewing a previous state of the page, when you use the delete button it works.

Which is what I did. I hadn't seen your reply, you made it just as I was deleting - literally, I deleted and upon the page reloading I saw the inbox thingie with your reply. I was deleting because I had just noticed that I missed all those other replies to Sam.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-13T20:00:26.551Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Which would mean, with some greasemonkey, one could have a delete button on anything I guess.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-11T01:31:41.675Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Once again guessing, I'd say that "queer" and "bent" were both at a time abandoned by the gay community (even though "bent' is of course the actual counterpart of "straight") because of the negative connotations of weirdness in the former case, and something that's not in its proper shape in the latter. "Gay" persisted because it was the first name whose alternate connotations were positive (being merry/carefree).

I don't know why "queer" became acceptable to be reclaimed again, but I'm wondering whether it's because "weird" is not really seen as a bad thing anymore -- "geek" has also become a badge of honor after all, though it once used to be an insulting word.

comment by Prismattic · 2011-10-11T02:17:21.082Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Geek was actually the specific term for a carnival entertainer who bites the heads off of live chickens, before it became a generic term of abuse, before it became a specific term for someone who is passionate about a particular interest.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T04:45:20.011Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I may never think of Best Buy's tech support department the same way again...

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-11T02:00:23.810Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also possibly because the original meaning of "weird" has become lost, or at least outmoded, as a result of tarnishing by association with the slur. Nowadays, high school and college literature professors have to preface discussions of Moby-Dick with a disclaimer to the effect that the passage

Well, well, well! Stubb knows him best of all, and Stubb always says he's queer; says nothing but that one sufficient little word queer; he's queer, says Stubb; he's queer - queer, queer; and keeps dinning it into Mr. Starbuck all the time - queer, Sir - queer, queer, very queer. And here's his leg! Yes, now that I think of it, here's his bedfellow!

has nothing to do with sexuality at all.

(Melville knew what he liked, I guess.)

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T05:06:20.984Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

--Moby Dick

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T01:34:44.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T04:21:45.281Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There were lots of words before queer.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-12T04:56:48.149Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can only imagine how Roy Cohn felt during the Army-McCarthy hearings when Joseph Welch quipped that "a pixie is a close relative of a fairy"...

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T04:14:23.373Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm... I'd have guessed it was less about being a euphemism and more about English-speakers wanting to have a one-syllable word instead of a five-syllable

We already have more one syllable euphemisms for male homosexual than I can shake a stick at, each of which became a curse word, and each of which was supplanted by another euphemism. The most recent one previous to gay was "queer".

The same usually happens with other euphemisms for other undesirable characteristics - for example "retard".

Euphemisms do not work. If the thing being referred to was OK, we would not be looking for euphemisms, thus euphemising merely draws attention to the fact that the thing being referred to is not OK.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T09:32:30.928Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even from childhood we know that pain caused by deliberate insults

But very rarely is someone in trouble for making a deliberate insult. When people get in trouble for being politically incorrect, they are accused of wrongthink, not intentionally insulting any specific identifiable person.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T17:22:33.564Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Wrongthink" is oldspeak. Say 'ungoodthink'.

Also, I'm curious whether you think your assertion holds in cases where an activist organization of (Group X) is the entity that accuses a speaker of political incorrectness towards Group X.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T18:34:56.437Z · score: -6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The pain of deliberate insults occurs when Person A directly insults Person B, not when Person A denigrates group X. After all, school and University is non stop denigration of whites, males, white males, and dead white males, which has a lot to do with massive male drop out rate. So the alleged representatives of group X are not personally insulted.

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-12T19:27:05.275Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I hate to get involved in political discussion, but that seems inconsistent with the data: dropout rates for men in the US are slightly higher than for women, but the difference is only about three percentage points. Perhaps more saliently, the gap appears to historically have been larger for black and Hispanic students than for whites (it still is for Hispanics), which is exactly the opposite of what I'd expect if "nonstop denigration of whites, males, white males, and dead white males" was a major factor.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T18:44:14.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After all, school and University is non stop denigration of whites, males, white males, and dead white males

And Protestants! Can't forget those poor, persecuted Protestants, nosiree.

Seriously, where did you go to school? Cause it wasn't where I went to school, I'll tell you that.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T23:20:32.619Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My school more or less had all the teachers from the MTV show Daria. Most of those are leftist, with enormous character flaws and failures of rationality.

Fortunately I learned that reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-10-12T18:51:59.162Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

which has a lot to do with massive male drop out rate. That strikes me as both testable and improbable.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T01:28:14.253Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Marginalizing or diminishing people due to the socially enforced classes they belong to is not at all the same thing as "showing subtle signs of thinking thoughts you disagree with".

Feeling demeaned or socially excluded is a fundamentally different kind of pain than that caused by having one's toe stepped on: it is a much more damaging one.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2011-10-11T11:32:17.856Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Feeling demeaned is painful and can be worse than having one's toe stepped on. But some people are allowed to complain about it, and other people are not.

It's like saying that stepping on someone's toe is bad, but some people by definition don't have toes. If they claim to have toes too, it only proves their malice -- by pretending to have toes they want to make us less sensitive about the pain of the real toe owners.

If you officially don't have a toe, then everyone is free to step on your toe, because officially it didn't happen. Other people then tell you how lucky you are for not having a toe. Then they accuse you of lack of empathy towards people who have their toes stepped on.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-11T16:27:27.159Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you mean that there are classes of marginalized people who aren't allowed or aren't capable of objecting to mistreatment I agree. And I would agree that the cluster of people that cares a lot about racism, sexism, etc. often doesn't see such people as deserving justice. When male victims of domestic violence feel excluded by feminist discussions of domestic violence which vilify men for example-- I think that counts as a real harm.

But that does not mean everyone's claim to having had their toe stepped on deserves equal respect or credibility. Claims of harm due to anti-white racism, as if it were equivalent to anti-black racism are really implausible and people taking offense to the suggestion of equivalence is reasonable. This is why I don't agree with the anti-subordination activist's position of privileging first person accounts of dis-empowered people when defining the scope of bigotry and injustice. I think neutral principles of some sort are required to sort out claims of injustice-- but of course I don't know how to arrive at such principles and think it is likely that any criteria I propose will be based on concern for protecting my politically favored groups. And that would be bad. In short, this stuff is really complicated and I'm not really aligned with much anyone on the subject.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T04:57:45.662Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Claims of harm due to anti-white racism, as if it were equivalent to anti-black racism are really implausible

The question "Is it easier to beat action game levels on normal mode, or on hard mode with an infinite ammunition cheat on?" would be ill-posed.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T05:21:49.482Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, don't follow the metaphor.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T05:56:11.114Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Assuming it wasn't a metaphor, it would still obviously be ill-posed though, right?

It may be that one game can be beaten by someone only on normal, but all levels but one are easier on hard with unlimited ammo. Or that one game is easier on normal and another easier with unlimited ammo on hard. One level might require 72 hours of straight gameplay to beat on hard with unlimited ammo, but such a victory might be reliably achieved, and a 9/10 chance of death each run on normal, with success determined by the third minute.

The metaphor is that people have different advantages and disadvantages. The one person whose challenge is difficulty conserving grenades and separating enemies to confront as few at a time as possible might have little in common with the person whose challenge is grouping enemies such that the fastest and slowest are each hit by as many of his individual grenade throws as possible.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T06:06:13.604Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: Never mind. I got it.

That there are different advantages and disadvantages does not mean that there cannot be, on net, one group that dominates another.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T04:36:34.753Z · score: -8 (20 votes) · LW · GW

claims of harm due to anti-white racism, as if it were equivalent to anti-black racism are really implausible

Oh come on. Lot of people get beaten up for being white, frequently maimed for life. There is a whole genre of you tube videos on the topic. No one gets beaten up for being black - and very few people ever did. The fact that when you are digging for white racist attacks, you wind up with such an implausible poster boy as Emmit Till shows how hard up you are for examples.

Similarly, lots of people are excluded from university for being white and male, and worse, white and male from rural America

Which tells us:Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission."

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T05:46:36.190Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I have basically no desire to have an extended discussion on this matter with someone who seems to have had their mind killed by politics (whether or not I've had my mind killed as well). Of particular note is second clause of

No one gets beaten up for being black - and very few people ever did.

which is historically ignorant to an almost absurd point-- a point I don't think I've seen anyone take before. I will note that random irrational violence is almost always done by victims of one kind or another. High status people don't get into fights as a rule. Low status people are much more likely to-- this isn't surprising when considering what kind of behaviors get selected for in a mammal dominance hierarchy. Males with few to no mating possibilities because of their low status are much more likely to risk their lives in combat in order attain higher status and mating opportunities. Alpha elephant seals with large harems don't pick fights with the young bulls who lack harems. Obviously black people who beat up white people do not experience a substantive status change when the succeed but we all know evolved software misfires.

(Unfortunately it may need to be said that I don't consider the above explanation for violence to be a justification for violence)

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T21:17:19.695Z · score: -13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

No one gets beaten up for being black - and very few people ever did.

which is historically ignorant to an almost absurd point-

So where is your poster boy who got beaten up for being black? If you had such a poster boy, you would not be reduced to using Emmet Till as poster boy.

I will note that random irrational violence is almost always done by victims of one kind or another.

You will seem to be conceding what you deny.

Groups that employ random irrational violence tend to lose to groups that employ rational coordinated cooperative violence, violence that is bold yet planned and prudent, groups that display loyalty and discipline. It does not follow that that those who employ random irrational violence are violent because they lost, but rather that they lost because their violence was irrational.

Nor does it follow that those groups that lost were "victims". If we look at Africa, it is apparent that blacks were better off ruled by whites than by blacks.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-13T02:35:32.241Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

So where is your poster boy who got beaten up for being black? If you had such a poster boy, you would not be reduced to using Emmet Till as poster boy.

There's no more need for a poster boy for racial violence against blacks than there is for a poster boy for historical repression of the Native Americans. Why should anyone have to come up with a single representative example when you can point to general policy?

Well into the 20th century, the Klu Klux Klan was still considered socially respectable as an institution, and being a member could even be politically advantageous.

It's easy to take a position that's socially frowned upon, and argue or assume that everyone who disagrees with you is too biased by social conditioning to change their minds. Easy enough to turn it into a fully general counterargument. But here of all places, I think you should keep in mind that if your position is getting a bad reception, you should strongly consider the possibility that you are either not making a good case for it, or that you're arguing for something that simply isn't correct.

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-13T04:36:35.788Z · score: -13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

So where is your poster boy who got beaten up for being black? If you had such a poster boy, you would not be reduced to using Emmet Till as poster boy.

There's no more need for a poster boy for racial violence against blacks than there is for a poster boy for historical repression of the Native Americans

So you are not going to let the absence of any facts get in your way.

Well into the 20th century, the Klu Klux Klan was still considered socially respectable as an institution

Which presupposes that which is to be proven: That the Klu Klux Klan beat blacks up for being black, the way blacks beat whites up for being white every day.

The Klu Klux Klan made it dangerous to engage in certain political activities, especially if one was black (see the Wikipedia list of notorious Klan Murders). It did not make it dangerous merely to be black, the way it is dangerous merely to be white in any location where whites are outnumbered by blacks. Klan violence was political violence, and indeed terrorism, but it was not race hate, not the race hate that we see so enthusiastically displayed by blacks on You tube

Come to think of it, it is also dangerous to be black in any location where whites are outnumbered by blacks (the presence of whites makes blacks safer from other blacks), but it is even more dangerous to be white in such areas.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-13T15:46:49.817Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Which presupposes that which is to be proven: That the Klu Klux Klan beat blacks up for being black, the way blacks beat whites up for being white every day.

What would you take as adequate evidence? The Klu Klux Klan is notorious for having lynched and committed other acts of racially motivated violence. There's no shortage of writers who have written about racially motivated violence against blacks as part of their personal experience. There's no shortage of documentation. What evidence, that we should reasonably be expect to be there if a significant amount of racial violence against blacks has happened, and have access to, would be sufficient for you?

If you simply wanted to convince other members of this board that most racially motivated crime in America today is committed against whites, your best bet would probably have simply been to link them to this. But even this is a seriously problematic claim; the idea that 90% of race based crime incidents are white seems to originate here. I read the original report, and confirmed that it makes no such claim, rather, Sheehan gets that figure by classifying all interracial crime as race based crime, and comparing the number of violent crimes committed by black perpetrators and white victims with the number of violent crimes committed by white perpetrators with black victims. But not only is it absurd to suppose that all violent interracial crime is racially motivated, there are a lot more white people in this country than black people, meaning that if all criminals chose their victims completely at random, black on white crime would dramatically outnumber white on black crime. In fact, according to the report, crime among black people is more intraracial than crime among white people relative to the number of crimes committed.

The swastika on the tab for the site where Sheehan wrote the article is a pretty significant sign of a biased agenda all by itself.

But claiming that violence against blacks by whites has not been historically significant, in addition to present day race based crime being slanted in the opposite direction, that's a really outstanding claim. So what evidence are you prepared to present?

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-14T05:05:05.358Z · score: -9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

What would you take as adequate evidence? The Klu Klux Klan is notorious for having lynched and committed other acts of racially motivated violence.

A black man who happened to be walking down the street while a dozen Klansmen happened to be walking by in the other direction was not going to be attacked by a dozen Klansmen for no special reason other than general hatred of blacks, the way a white man walking down the street may be attacked by a dozen blacks for no special reason other than general hatred of whites.

If you count all the blacks that were attacked to be carried off into slavery, unjust white attacks on blacks probably greatly outnumber unjust black attacks on whites, but these were not race hate attacks. They attacked because they wanted someone to cut sugar cane, not because they disliked blacks.

From the absence of race hate attacks by whites, and the frequency of race hate attacks by blacks, we can conclude that everywhere in America today, the safest places for a white man, are also the safest places for a black man.

From which we can conclude that you do in fact believe that blacks on average, have worse character than whites, since you are aware that predominantly black areas are unsafe - unsafe for everyone, but especially unsafe for whites.

From the fact that Everett Till is the poster boy for white attacks on blacks, we can conclude that in all of American history from around that time to the present, there has never been a racially motivated attack on a black resembling racially motivated attacks on whites that occur every day in today's America, because if there ever had been such an attack, you would not be reduced to using Emmet Till as poster boy.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-14T05:36:09.228Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Why bother to quote my text if you're not going to answer the question?

You could say that there are cases where black people have attacked white people for being white, and I wouldn't contest it. And you could say that white people haven't attacked black people for being black, and I would be willing to concede that there is a sense in which that is true. But to say that black people have attacked white people for being white, but white people have not attacked black people for being black is simply absurd.

The reason that they can both be individually correct, but not accurate as a comparison is because it involves a manipulation of terms. I am prepared to accept the claim that black people sometimes attack white people for being white, with the implicit understanding that what this really means is "being white and being in the wrong neighborhood," or "being white and being taken as a scapegoat for a lifetime of second class citizenship."

I am also prepared to accept that the claim that white people don't kill black people for being black can be said to be true in a sense; you're not going to find a white person who'll kill a black person for being black in the same sense that they'd kill a person for sleeping with their wife. But you can find white people who'll go out and commit premeditated attacks on people of other races to promote their ideology of a racially homogeneous society and strengthen their allegiance to the cause. It's called lone wolf activism. And while the Klu Klux Klan would not, as you said, attack a black man who just happened to be walking down the street, a black person could attract violence for being found in the wrong neighborhood, just like your white person in a black neighborhood scenario, or for associating too closely with white people, or being too successful, or "getting ideas above their station." Black people were attacked for representing a threat to white individuals' place in the social hierarchy among people who needed someone to look down on. Saying that this doesn't count as white people attacking black people for being black, while black on white racially motivated violence does count, is a severe case of special pleading.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-14T05:41:59.066Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Stop feeding the troll.

comment by RomanDavis · 2011-10-14T08:39:46.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking the same thing as Desertopia, but decided that he wasn't worth the time it would take to type up.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-10-14T05:21:31.531Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious: who are your white victim poster children?

comment by Clarica · 2011-10-13T04:48:43.067Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Come to think of it, it is also dangerous to black in any location where whites are outnumbered by blacks, but it is even more dangerous to be white.

What dangers are you referring to, specifically? Can you point me to a specific source that measures these harms? I have never heard your concluding suggestion before, though I think I have heard the opposite claim.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T06:35:39.636Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When I walk down the street and hear footsteps I start thinking about robbery. Then I look around and see someone white and feel relieved.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-10-13T04:50:32.581Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It did not make it dangerous merely to be black, the way it is dangerous merely to be white in any location where whites are outnumbered by blacks.

Evidence?

One series of anecdotes: I've been the only white person in the subway car quite a few times. I didn't check carefully, but there were few if any Asians. I'm short, I'm female, I have no reason to think I'm a scary looking person. I haven't been attacked or threatened.

comment by lavalamp · 2011-10-12T21:48:17.173Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

better off ruled

Downvoted for selecting one out of hundreds of potential effects and calling it "apparent" without a shred of evidence. Seriously, you can't make that point without a book-length argument, and good luck getting anyone to read a book like that.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T21:22:26.238Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You said something like this before, and - at risk of lowering the signal-to-noise ratio further, in which case I apologize - I'm honestly curious: what's wrong with Emmitt Till?

Edit:

better off ruled by

Jesus Christ, I can't believe you said that.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-12T20:58:26.884Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that you are going out of your way to spread general mind-killing to this thread.

Your second point, regarding differential admissions to colleges is potentially much more interesting. The claim that there's both directed harm and actual inefficiency resulting is a pretty strong type of argument. And you even back it up with sources.

But you start off your post with a claim that even if it were true is only marginally related to the topic at hand and is going to create a clear negative emotional reaction in almost any reader. And that claim is made with zero sourcing other than your own say so.

Depending on your viewpoint one can classify the following as either Dark Arts or as good communication: when talking to people about controversial subjects you don't need to throw out every claim that could potentially help one viewpoint, and this is an especially bad idea when one of those supporting arguments will give a negative association to the claims in question. This is true whether or not the supporting argument is factually accurate.

Here's an example that will be likely less controversial here. If I'm discussing evolution with a religious Jew or Christian, it more efficient to stick with the easily discussed factual issues. If they make specifically religious objections one can simply say that that's something they'll need to resolve and just lightly note that some people seem to be able to do it. You aren't going to get very far if your central arguments are something like fossil record, genetics, oh and your religion is all bullshit.

Don't mindkill when you don't have to.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-12T23:28:16.588Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No one gets beaten up for being black

May 2011 : Greece: Fascists attempt to kill immigrants : one migrant stabbed to death, 17 hospitalized.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-12T23:31:06.716Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I (perhaps incorrectly) understood him to be speaking of within the US. Otherwise, Libya also has some significant, very recent counterexamples.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-13T02:06:33.382Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eh, not that hard to give examples in the US either. The most recent that comes to mind. And that's just the most recent fatality. If one extends to just people being "beaten up" the set will be much larger.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-12T23:48:50.979Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I (perhaps incorrectly) understood him to be speaking of within the US.

Claims must be specific and backed with evidence. The claim as he stated it is false. If he wants to limit it in scope, then let him limit it as he will, and its significance then becomes proportionaly limited in a similar way. From a claim about the world entire, it becomes a claim for about 1/20th of the global population, and thus attains 1/20th its former significance, at which point we ought give it about 1/20th the weight we otherwise would.

I want parochialism and assumptions of parochialism to have no place in this forum. If we can discuss many-worlds and if we can worry about what we'll be doing for fun a million years from now, then people can bloody well lift their noses up to perceive there exist countries outside the USA.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-13T00:05:46.922Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have mixed feelings about what you say here.

On the one hand, of course the whole world matters. On the other, we can make much more specific claims about smaller regions, and test them more easily.

In this particular case, I think both are overwhelmed by concerns of conversational pragmatism. If you can defeat his arguments in the framework where he made them, you win. If you make an objection outside that domain, and he says "but that's not what I meant", then squabbling about particularities of domain, word choice, and inference is a frequently observed failure mode. Noting and criticizing US-centrism (or any other -centrism) is worth doing, but should be considered an aside.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-12T23:07:22.486Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am surprised that this is so severely downvoted.

The second and third paragraphs are excellent, with sources, and I have very different standards for voting depending on the speaker and what I expect from him or her. Do others not? I would encourage sam0345 to make more posts like this until they are standard for him, and then later dowvote him for such posts when posts like this are typical for him.

Upvoted.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-12T23:19:38.497Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't have downvoted it in isolation, but it seemed to me that, taking his other activity today into account, sam0345 was basically trolling. My habit is just to downvote that stuff until it goes away. Maybe the line between relatively high-quality trolling and needlessly inflammatory dissent is blurry...but are we really short on Brave Truth-Tellers here on LW? I submit we are not.

(Pretty short on black people, though.)

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-12T23:36:29.560Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

but are we really short on Brave Truth-Tellers here on LW? I submit we are not.

That just sounds self-congratulatory applause-lights. What's your evidence for this claim?

comment by Nornagest · 2011-10-12T23:48:42.032Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I read "Brave Truth-Tellers" as a slightly sarcastic way of saying "contrarians", which we've got plenty of.

comment by katydee · 2011-10-13T00:04:56.839Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Quite.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-13T00:09:44.104Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No we don't.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T00:06:40.393Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

self-congratulatory applause-lights

Oh no, not at all, I meant it more like "Oh LW, you so crazy!" I believe we are very, very contrarian here; stating unpopular beliefs is a form of showing off (see The Irrationality Game). I am not sure what quantifiable evidence I can offer of that, but I'm far from the first to make the observation.

comment by Vaniver · 2011-10-13T00:19:12.933Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am surprised that this is so severely downvoted.

If it had excluded the sentence "No one gets beaten up for being black - and very few people ever did," I would have given it an upvote without a second thought. Because of that comment, I gave it an upvote only because I think it doesn't deserve to be at -6, and would not have upvoted it if I saw it at 0.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T11:59:09.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Then they accuse you of lack of empathy towards people who have their toes stepped on.

And by abduction: lack of empathy for people who have thorns in their side, lack of empathy for those weak at the knees, and eremikophobia (fear of sand).

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T04:26:33.755Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Marginalizing or diminishing people due to the socially enforced classes they belong to is not at all the same thing as "showing subtle signs of thinking thoughts you disagree with".

When someone uses "gay" as a curse word, he is not "marginalizing blah blah blah". He is inadvertently revealing that he thinks homosexuality is a bad thing - or inadvertently revealing that he thinks the frequent change of euphemism is an indication that most people think it is a bad thing. You are punishing him for his beliefs, not for his actions. He is not intentionally attacking anyone.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-12T07:37:58.664Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He is not intentionally attacking anyone.

No one is saying he is. In fact, the context of this entire thread is someone saying explicitly that no one is saying he is.

Jandila:

if there's one thing I don't need more of in my life it's arguing with a population comprised mostly of wealthy, white Libertarian-esque cisgendered/heterosexual men whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot.

When people say "that shit is gay" gay people feel marginalized and diminished. They feel hurt. Whether or not it was intentional (and certainly it often is).

comment by sam0345 · 2011-10-12T19:45:44.723Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

When people say "that shit is gay" gay people feel marginalized and diminished.

School and university is a non stop denigration of whites, males, and white males. It is clear that males feel marginalized and diminished, which contributes to high and rising dropout rate of males, but it is more important to worry about the marginalization of some groups that other groups.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T20:11:06.699Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You know, you're going to have to back up these claims eventually. Why not start now?

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-12T04:42:43.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or he could be advertently revealing that fact.

comment by Kingreaper · 2011-10-08T23:17:21.304Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

whether or not you can be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot.

I'd be intrigued to see an example of an argument for the statement:

"You can't be racist/sexist/whatever without intentionally being a bigot"

because I have never seen that sentiment expressed in my life. And I find it hard to see many people agreeing with it. Reasoning that it is false is far too simple.*

*(imagine a world where the general belief is that green people are brutish and ignorant, and should be killed on sight. Now imagine a farmer who has been told this, and believes it, and has never seen any evidence to the contrary. Has he ever made a decision of the form "Should I be bigoted? Yes I should"?)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-09T00:26:25.151Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You raise a good point, and that's that definitions are unclear and there is little consensus on them. I'm not making my meaning explicit enough, and should probably taboo the words I'm using here.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-10-09T00:01:52.350Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've often observed people defend themselves or others against accusations of racism, sexism, and whatever by replying that they are not intentionally being bigoted.

It's not ridiculous to infer from that observation that many people believe that, in order to be racist/sexist/whatever, one must be intentionally bigoted.

That said, I think it's the wrong inference. What I infer from it is instead that many people emotionally reject such accusations and grab whatever arguments they can think of to counter them, even arguments that depend on premises that many of those same people would rightly reject as absurd when phrased in the abstract.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T06:00:10.906Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(Comment retracted because it was based on a misreading.)

I've often observed people defend themselves or others against accusations of racism, sexism, and whatever by replying that they are not intentionally being bigoted.

It's not ridiculous to infer from that observation that many people believe that, in order to be racist/sexist/whatever, one must be intentionally bigoted.

That said, I think it's the wrong inference.

So, according to you, what is the definition of being "racist/sexist/whatever" that would allow us to draw the conclusion that this inference is wrong? And what is the reason why we should agree on this definition?

To consider a less controversial analogy, if you are accused of theft, there are multiple necessary conditions in the standard definition of theft that you can use to counter the accusation if your act did not involve any one of them. For example, you might argue that the property claim of the accuser is invalid, that the taking was unintentional or done under duress or out of life-saving necessity, that the act is excusable under the de minimis principle, etc., etc.

Now, if it often happens that there is a complete agreement on facts but there is still a disagreement on whether a given act constitutes theft, we can only conclude that the definition of "theft" is controversial and non-standardized, so it doesn't make any sense for people to talk about "theft" before they've made it explicit what exact definition they apply. Which indeed may be the case -- sometimes there are conflicts between people coming from cultures or milieus that have very different ideas on what constitutes a valid property claim, what counts as duress or necessity, what is excusable under de minimis, and so on. Such conflict has no objectively correct resolution, and the outcome depends on who will prevail by means other than rational discussion of facts and logic. And if it makes sense to accuse someone of theft, it is only under the assumption that there is an agreed-upon definition of theft that is clearly satisfied by the fact asserted in your accusation.

Yet unlike this analogy, you seem to believe that there is some objective sense in which someone is "racist/sexist/whatever," despite the evident lack of agreement on what these terms are supposed to mean, or even whether they make any sense at all.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-10-09T15:06:58.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Nope, I don't believe that "racism" (etc.) is any more objectively defined a category than "theft", and I don't think there's any particular definition of it we should all agree on. I agree with you that disagreements about category membership can arise even when there's agreement on facts, both with respect to "racism" (etc.) and more or less every other human category.

(This is not surprising, given that the way human brains categorize percepts and concepts maps very imperfectly to how we imagine definitions working; the whole idea of categories having definitions is a very poor approximation of what's going on. But that's a digression.)

If anything I've said implies that "racism" or any other category has an objective definition in the sense you seem to mean here, I've completely missed that implication and am likely very confused. If you feel inclined to unpack what it was I said that implies that, I'd be appreciative.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2011-10-09T17:07:57.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Looking back, it seems like I misunderstood your comment. Specifically, I misinterpreted what exactly the "wrongness" in the last paragraph refers to, which makes my criticism inapplicable. My apologies.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-10-09T18:41:32.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No worries; glad the confusion was easily remediable.

comment by katydee · 2011-10-08T19:17:09.091Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this being downvoted?

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-08T22:43:57.901Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Dunno. Didn't cite any sources I guess. ;p

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-11T06:47:50.569Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I downvoted it for the following claim:

"many of the posters here, who don't have some hands-on experience with being in a social minority and are not apt to readily grasp the difference between "I am angry/hurt by this AND think it is incorrect" and "my disagreement is purely emotional")."

I think it is unfair to say they do not understand when they may simply believe that motivated cognition is occurring or similar.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-08T21:30:46.075Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't need more of in my life it's arguing with a population comprised mostly of

I tried.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-08T21:38:19.980Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

not misleading

Misleading-ness isn't a property of a statement, but of a statement-interpreter pair.

So if people claim statements are misleading because some other minds will misinterpret it to the detriment of their in-group, when there is no sign such misinterpreters exist in significant number, that seems like a power grab (independent of the question of whether or not that group should have more power) at the expense of the principle of charity.

Thus wouldn't be the case if people were leaving comments arguing against what they thought were authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs, or agreeing with what they thought were the authors' beliefs with them wrong about the author's beliefs.

comment by Tesseract · 2012-02-02T06:59:01.098Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This comment is shockingly insightful and I would like to thank you for it.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2011-10-08T17:16:59.750Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Summary: It is possible to selectively use demands for precision as a form of censorship.

Now now, insight like that might slow the evaporative cooling that has been happening on Lesswrong when it comes to gender and sexuality (and to a much lesser extent on all unPC matters). Thinkers here used to be much less burdened by this, makes even a fool hard pressed to chuckle.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-04T17:12:08.974Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The fact is that there are a lot people who do think "women/men want" when they hear someone saying "women/men want", and don't understand that these aren't just statistical trends.

I would tend to be one of them. But no woman or man is a 'women'/'men'. What the group -- as a second-order simulacrum -- wants isn't necessarily what an individual instantiation of the group wants.

Also, I do feel like there are tendencies towards such over-generalization even among active LW commenters.

Given that all I have to work with is your quoting him as saying "a certain behavior" is suboptimal (in a manner so vague I haven't a clue what position either of you were staking out) -- I cannot begin to make any informed statements on that topic.

Just to play devil's-advocate here -- have you considered the possibility that your feeling here represents an over-generalization about LW'ers over-generalizing?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2011-10-04T18:26:34.277Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Just to play devil's-advocate here -- have you considered the possibility that your feeling here represents an over-generalization about LW'ers over-generalizing?

Maybe. But I didn't make any claims about exactly how common this attitude is among LW'ers, only that it seems to exist.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-05T02:49:04.606Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help but feel that this seems like something of a retraction of what I would refer to as "the informational meaningfulness" of your positional stance. It reduces an interesting statement to a trivial one.

comment by ewbrownv · 2011-10-04T18:12:47.741Z · score: -7 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Please, spare us the empty posturing.

A more accurate summation would be that modern liberalism considers any statement that implies humans might have some sort of gender-specific behavioral differences to be inherently offensive, and therefore expects anyone discussing the subject to pepper their text with a constant stream of disclaimers and apologies in an effort to pretend that they don't mean to suggest anything of the sort. This is no different than a religious extremist who insists that any discussion of evolution or geology or cosmology should constantly defer to their particular sacred text.

It's true that the reality of human relationships is a complex, messy subject, but attacking anyone who tries to discuss it clearly for failing to sufficiently genufluct in the direction of your personal political ideology is a waste of everyone's time.

comment by Erebus · 2011-10-04T15:36:00.477Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory.

Understanding signaling in communication is almost as basic as understanding the difference between the map and the territory.

A choice of words always contains an element of signaling. Generalizing statements are not always made in order to describe the territory with a simpler map, they are also made in order to signal that the exceptions from the general case are not worth mentioning. This element of signaling is also present, even if the generalization is made out of a simple desire to not "waste space" - indeed the exceptional cases were not mentioned! Thus a sweeping generalization is evidence for the proposition that the speaker doesn't consider the exceptions to the stated general rule worth much (an upper bound is the trouble of mentioning them). And when dealing with matters of personal identity, not all explanations for the small worth of the set of exceptional people are as charitable as a supposedly small size of the set.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-04T17:07:38.016Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And when dealing with matters of personal identity, not all explanations for the small worth of the set of exceptional people are as charitable as a supposedly small size of the set.

Certainly.

However, the simple truth is that communication becomes positively impossible if 'sweeping generalizations' at some level are not made. Is this a trade-off? Sure. But I for one do not find it exceedingly difficult to treat all broad-category generalizations as simulacra representing the whole body. Just like how there's probably not a single person in politics who agrees with the entirety of the DNC or the GOP's platforms, discussing those platforms is still relevant for a reason.

And political identity is arguably one of the most flame-susceptible category of that available for discourse nowadays. So that's saying something significant here.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-06T04:53:01.725Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A statement like "Women want {thing}" leaves it unclear what the map is even supposed to be, barring clear context cues. This can lead to either fake disagreements or fake agreements.

Fake disagreements ("You said that Republicans are against gun control, but I know some who aren't!") are not too dangerous, I think. X makes the generalization, Y points out the exception, X says that it was a broad generalization, Y asks for more clarity in the future, X says Y was not being sufficiently charitable, and so on. Annoying to watch, but not likely to generate bad ideas.

Fake agreements can lead to deeper confusion. If X seriously believes that 99% of women have some property, and Y believes that only 80% of women have some property, then they may both agree with the generalization even if they have completely different ideas about what a charitable reading would be!

It costs next to nothing to say "With very few exceptions, women...", "A strong majority of women...." or "Most women...." The three statements mean different things, and establishing the meaning does not make communication next-to-impossible; it makes communication clearer. This isn't about charity, but clarity.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T07:40:01.187Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't about charity, but clarity.

I in another subthread referenced the "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" 'fanfic' written by Eliezer, when he mentioned how many fewer digits of Pi rational!Harry knew as compared to rational!Hermione.

The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

Are you familiar at all with how errors propagate in measurements? Each time you introduce new provisos, those statements affect the "informational value" of each dependent statement in its nest. This creates an analogous situation to the concept of significant digits in discourse.

For a topic like lukeprog's, in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance. Eliminating it altogether (until such time as it becomes significant) is an important and valuable practice in communication.

Failure to effectively exercise that practice will result in needless 'clarifications' distracting from the intended message, hampering dialogs with unnecessary cognitive burden resultant from additional nesting of "informational quanta." In other words; if you add too many provisos to a statement, an otherwise meaningful and useful one will become trivially useless. An example of this in action can be found in another subthread of this conversation where someone stated he felt that there is a 'trend among frequent LessWrongers to over-generalize". This has informational meaning. He later added a 'clarification' that he hadn't intended the statement as an indication of population size, which totally reversed the informational value of his statement from an interesting one to a statement so utterly trivial that it is effectively without meaning or usefulness.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2011-10-06T08:55:14.164Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The point is that I'm concerned not with charity nor with clarity, but rather with sufficiency to the current medium. Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

Not adding those statements also has a cost.

in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance.

Honestly, you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post seemingly making unchallenged sweeping generalizations about women, and decide that these so-called rationalists are just a group of bigoted idiots that are less rational than your average person-in-the-street.

It's okay for someone to to say that pi is "3.14" if the other person knows that you know in reality it has more digits than that, and you're just being sufficient for your purposes. In short if there's actual transparency, not a double illusion of such.

But if they don't know that, if every post of yours may be perceived as an indication of complete positions (not hasty approximations thereof), it costs less to do things like say "most women" instead of "women" (or add a general disclaimer at the beginning) rather than not do it.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T13:59:30.619Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not adding those statements also has a cost.

This is trivially true. What does adding them add to a conversation to which they are not relevant or significant?

Honestly, you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post seemingly making unchallenged sweeping generalizations about women, and decide that these so-called rationalists are just a group of bigoted idiots that are less rational than your average person-in-the-street.

This is uncontestably true. But the opposite is also true; you don't know how many potential rationalists may find a post filled with provisos and details and, upon discovering a massive gulf of an inferential gap, give up on even attempting to understand.

[Re: Pi "is" 3.14] In short if there's actual transparency, not a double illusion of such.

Certainly.

But if they don't know that, if every post of yours may be perceived as an indication of complete positions (not hasty approximations thereof)

This is a gross misrepresentation of my statements, to the point of being nothing remotely like what I advocate. I have repeatedly advocated not the elimination of precision but the application of only the relevant degree of precision to the nature of the discourse at hand.

it costs less to do things like say "most women" instead of "women" (or add a general disclaimer at the beginning) rather than not do it.

My point is not restricted to '''"most women" instead of "women"'''. It is a generalized principle which happens to apply here. For any given conversation there are thousands of such details we must choose to parse for relevance to a conversation. Demanding unerring accuracy beyond relevance is simply damaging to dialogue.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-06T09:07:14.019Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Each of those little "costs next to nothing" statements actually do have a cost, one that isn't necessarily clear initially.

The cost of omitting them isn't clear initially, either.

Are you familiar at all with how errors propagate in measurements? Each time you introduce new provisos, those statements affect the "informational value" of each dependent statement in its nest. This creates an analogous situation to the concept of significant digits in discourse.

I was generally taught to carry significant figures further than strictly necessary to avoid introducing rounding errors. If my final answer would have 3 significant digits, using a few buffer digits seemed wise. They're cheap.

Propagation of uncertainty is not a reason to drop qualifiers. It's a reason to use them. When reading an argument based on a generalization, I want to know the exceptions BEFORE the argument begins, not afterwards. That way, I can have a sense of how the uncertainties in each step affect the final conclusion.

For a topic like lukeprog's, in other words, the difference between 99% and 80% of women is below the threshold of significance. Eliminating it altogether (until such time as it becomes significant) is an important and valuable practice in communication.

If I want an answer to three significant figures, I do not begin my reasoning by rounding to two sigfigs, then trying to add in the last sigfig later.

If one person thinks that an argument depends on an assumption that fails in 1 in 100 cases, and someone else thinks the assumption fails in 1 in 5 cases, and they don't even know that they disagree, and pointing out this disagreement is regarded as some kind of map-territory error, they will have trouble even noticing when the disagreement has become significant.

Failure to effectively exercise that practice will result in needless 'clarifications' distracting from the intended message, hampering dialogs with unnecessary cognitive burden resultant from additional nesting of "informational quanta." In other words; if you add too many provisos to a statement, an otherwise meaningful and useful one will become trivially useless.

This tends to happen to bad generalizations, yes. Once you consider all of the cases in which they are wrong, suddenly they seem to only be true in the trivial cases!

Good generalizations are still useful even after you have noted places where they are less likely to hold. Adding any number of true provisos will not make them trivial.

As for the cognitive load, why not state assumptions at the beginning of an essay where possible, rather than adding them to each individual statement? If the reader shares the assumptions, they'll just nod and move on. If the reader does NOT share the assumptions, then relieving them of the cognitive burden of being aware of disagreement is not a service.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T22:00:40.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As for the cognitive load, why not state assumptions at the beginning of an essay where possible,

I just now caught this, and... this is, I believe, where we have our fundamental disconnect.

By restricting the dialogue to essays the overwhelming majority of the meaningfulness of what I'm trying to say is entirely eliminated: my statements have been aimed at discussing the heuristic of measuring the cognitive burden per "unit" of information when communicating. The fact is that in a pre-planned document of basically any type one can safely assume a vastly greater available "pool of cognition" in his audience than in, say, a one-off comment in response to it, a youtube video comment, or something said over beers on a Friday night with your drinking-buddies.

I am struck by the thought that this metaphorically very similar to how Newton's classical mechanics equations manifest themselves from quantum mechanics after you introduce enough systems, or how the general relativity equations become effectively conventional at "non-relativistic" speeds: when you change the terms of the equations the apparent behaviors become significantly different. Just like how there's no need to bother considering your own relativistic mass when deciding whether or not to go on a diet, the heuristic I'm trying to discuss is vanishingly irrelevant to anything that one should expect from a thought-out-in advance, unrestricted-in-length, document.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-09T03:20:32.709Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for clear communication.

I'm sort of puzzled, though, as to how I could have possibly interpreted your statements as applying to anything but the post and the comments on it; I saw no context clues suggesting that you meant "in everyday conversation." Did I miss these?

That said, if one of us had added just three or four words of proviso earlier, limiting our generalizations explicitly, we could have figured the disconnect out more quickly. I could have said that my generalizations apply best to essays and edited posts. You could have said that your generalizations apply best to situations where the added cost of qualifiers carries a higher burden.

Because we did not explicitly qualify our generalizations, but instead relied on context, we fell prey to a fake disagreement. However, any vindication I feel at seeing my point supported is nullified by the realization that I, personally, failed to apply the communication strategy that I was promoting.

Oops.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-10T02:38:46.223Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I saw no context clues suggesting that you meant "in everyday conversation." Did I miss these?

My language throughout was highly generalized. Consider my opening statement: "I am troubled by the vehemence by which people seem to reject the notion of using the language of the second-order simulacrum -- especially in communities that should be intimately aware of the concept that the map is not the territory."

And then also consider the fact that I used the term "discourse".

I didn't mean "everyday communication" specifically -- it simply is the venue where such a heuristic is most overtly valuable and noticeable. I did not qualify my generalizations because there were no qualifications to make: I was meaning the general sense.

You could have said that your generalizations apply best to situations where the added cost of qualifiers carries a higher burden.

Quite frankly, I did. That would be a modifying element to the "threshold of significance". (I.e.; "Is the cost of adding item X to this conversation greater than the value item X provides to the depth or breadth of information I am attempting to convey? If yes, do not add it. If no, do.") Because I was discussing so highly generalized a principle / heuristic, the fact that situations where added cost of qualifiers cost a higher burden is simply an inexorable conclusion from the assertion.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-10T07:47:43.034Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My language throughout was highly generalized.

This seems like a context in which that shouldn't be expected to save you from unwarranted criticism and being misunderstood at all. ;-)

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-10T09:27:01.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's tough: When I mean to be general and I use generalized terminology, should I not have the expectation of having communicated that my case is generalized?

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-07T00:09:34.773Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a thought-out-in advance, unrestricted-in-length, document.

For a moderately loose definition of 'thought out in advance', this describes most text-based, internet-based communication, and certainly the types of communication that can happen on LW.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-07T16:18:14.088Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with the usage of the term "moderately" here. I do not find it applicable. How many hours do you spend on each comment you make?

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-07T18:59:08.082Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how your question is relevant to the topic at hand. I usually spend less than 15 minutes writing any given comment - most of mine are relatively short - but that's not counting time spent thinking about a topic and figuring out if I have something to say about it at all, which varies wildly and has been known to last days in some cases. But even in instances where I come up with a response near-instantly, it's generally because I've previously spent time thinking about the particular issue, and as a result have a high-quality cached response available, which certainly seems to fit the criteria for 'thought out in advance'!

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-08T02:39:39.588Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But even in instances where I come up with a response near-instantly, it's generally because I've previously spent time thinking about the particular issue, and as a result have a high-quality cached response available,

Given that your personal commenting history on this site is extremely limited comparatively speaking I can't really say that I disagree with you directly on this.

But we weren't talking about just you personally, we were talking about "most text-based, internet-based communication". And you seem to be an exception, not a rule, when it comes to the normal dialogue/discourse I see in the commenting threads of LW. And LW itself is by far vastly the exception to the rule when it comes to dealing with statements made as a result from pre-formed thoughts.

That being said -- I would hope we can both agree that the notion that one can prepare for all possible conversations in advance regardless of topic is simply ludicrous without something resembling the heuristics I am trying to put a spotlight on.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-08T04:14:12.880Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But we weren't talking about just you personally,

o.O

How many hours do you [emphasis yours] spend on each comment you make?

If you're going to change the subject, at least don't try to act like I'm doing something wrong when I politely go along with the subject change, okay?

we were talking about "most text-based, internet-based communication".

Most text-based, internet-based communication has very little in the way of time pressure, and LessWrong specifically has a norm of allowing or even encouraging comments on older posts and comments, allowing for arbitrary levels of pre-thinking. Length restrictions are slightly more common on the internet at large, but still not the norm, and not present here. This, in the context of your original comment - plus the implication that since it is possible to do those things, any case where someone doesn't is a matter of personal choice or (problematic, in my opinion) group norms - was the entirety of my original point.

I do agree that the idea of having cached responses to all conversational possibilities is ridiculous. I wasn't proposing that that is a thing that people should particularly try to do. My point, insofar as I had a point and wasn't just answering your question on the assumption that you had some use for the information, was that that is one of the tactics that I've found to work, the other main one being to actually take the time to think my responses through, even if that takes a while.

And you seem to be an exception, not a rule, when it comes to the normal dialogue/discourse I see in the commenting threads of LW. And LW itself is by far vastly the exception to the rule when it comes to dealing with statements made as a result from pre-formed thoughts.

I am not at all sure what you're trying to communicate, here. One possible way of parsing it suggests that you might think that since LW is already well above average in terms of good communication, making it better shouldn't be a priority, which I disagree with. I'd strongly prefer a clarification of your actual intent to a discussion of that idea if it wasn't what you were trying to communicate, though.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-08T04:30:26.759Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How many hours do you [emphasis yours] spend on each comment you make?

If you're going to change the subject, at least don't try to act like I'm doing something wrong when I politely go along with the subject change, okay?

I was using an example to demonstrate the intended meaning (which apparently was not a well-aimed one given the fact that you are statistically aberrant). I was not changing the topic.

Most text-based, internet-based communication has very little in the way of time pressure,

If I cared about time pressure as opposed to cognitive burden -- that is, available attention span -- I would have indicated so. I don't, so this isn't relevant.

and LessWrong specifically has a norm of allowing or even encouraging comments on older posts and comments, allowing for arbitrary levels of pre-thinking.

Even so, my point remains easily demonstrated by a perusal of the majority of comments, which are typically made in a "conversational" rather than "ex post facto" mode. (We, right now, are in that conversational mode.)

This, in the context of your original comment - plus the implication that since it is possible to do those things, so any cases where someone doesn't is a matter of personal choice or (problematic, in my opinion) group norms - was the entirety of my original point.

A) that wasn't my original comment.

B) Your counter-point as I understand it still remains invalid, to be quite honest, because you're -- I cannot help but feel intentionally at this point -- refusing to recognize the fact that you're using statistical outliers instead of norms to support your claims against what I have already stated explicitly was a heuristic.

And you seem to be an exception, not a rule, when it comes to the normal dialogue/discourse I see in the commenting threads of LW. And LW itself is by far vastly the exception to the rule when it comes to dealing with statements made as a result from pre-formed thoughts.

I am not at all sure what you're trying to communicate, here. One possible way of parsing it suggests that you might think that since LW is already well above average in terms of good communication, making it better shouldn't be a priority,

No, that is not a valid interpretation of my statement. You leave out the context provided by antecedent statement of mine (same comment) that necessarily influences the meaning: "Given that your personal commenting history on this site is extremely limited comparatively speaking I can't really say that I disagree with you directly on this." It is clear that how I said you were different was in that you have a limited commenting history.

I'd strongly prefer a clarification of your actual intent to a discussion of that idea if it wasn't what you were trying to communicate, though.

I seem to have some strong difficulties in communicating with you any of my intended meanings at pretty much any point. I'm not at all certain why this is the case, as I do not normally have this difficulty with an audience. I have noted that you have left out contextually significantly relevant points/items in coming to your interpretations of my words as I have written them.

I do not know why that is happening, but it makes me feel that this conversation is never going to go anywhere but frustrate me. So no, you won't get that clarification; but not because I wouldn't like to give it.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T14:05:25.256Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was generally taught to carry significant figures further than strictly necessary to avoid introducing rounding errors.

Which is why I also discussed error propagation, which compounds.

Propagation of uncertainty is not a reason to drop qualifiers. It's a reason to use them.

I can only say that you are reading the metaphor too literally given the examples I've given thus far.

If I want an answer to three significant figures, I do not begin my reasoning by rounding to two sigfigs, then trying to add in the last sigfig later.

Of course!!! This isn't applicable to dialogue, however, as it has the opposite problem: the degree of cognitive burden to retain the informational value of a statement increases with the increased complexity. There is a limit on how much of this can be done in a given conversation.

Increasing complexity of statements to increase their accuracy can cause the ability to comprehend a statement to be reduced.

If the reader does NOT share the assumptions, then relieving them of the cognitive burden of being aware of disagreement is not a service.

This statement carries a specific assumption of depth of dialogue which may or may not be valid.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-06T08:24:59.174Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And yet, we still say that p(Christianity is correct) is epsilon, rather than zero - and this seems to cause few-to-no problems, even.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T14:11:35.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seems is the key here. Any instance where you would use that sort of language, the relevant threshold of significance was such that it was a proper statement to make.

Consider a context where you were making that statement to a Jehovah's Witness trying to hand you a flyer as your 10 o'clock bus was stopping in front of you. You could still make the statement, but if you were being honest with yourself you'd realize that your words would be gibberish, whereas "I'm not Christian" would be contextually appropriate: you would convey a statement with non-zero informational value. "The probability that 'Christianity is correct' is epsilon" on the other hand would not in such a context, quite likely, actually convey any meaning to the audience.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-06T14:30:35.214Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that I've failed to make my point.

It is, as far as I can tell, safe to assume that everyone who reads LW understands enough about probabilities that saying 'zero' would communicate exactly the same concept regarding the probability at hand as saying 'epsilon', if we had a norm of allowing the former. The reason for doing the latter is about signaling, in much the same way that saying 'most women' instead of just 'women' is about signaling. In both cases, the point of the signal is to encourage accurate thought in the long run, rather than letting a small amount of convenience in the near term to outweigh that.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T21:26:25.707Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that I've failed to make my point.

Either you have or I have. As I believe I understand entirely what your position here is, I can't help but wonder.

It is, as far as I can tell, safe to assume that everyone who reads LW understands enough about probabilities that saying 'zero' would communicate exactly the same concept regarding the probability at hand as saying 'epsilon', if we had a norm of allowing the former.

Here's the thing: nothing I've been saying was tailored at any point to be specific to Less Wrong in particular.

It's also not a safe assumption, by the way, for the simple fact there is at least one person who recommends this community to every budding (or potential) rationalist he encounters -- me. At least one of those persons (my ex-primary of 10 years) has an exceedingly poor capability of grasping mathematics and probabilities. This was one of the reasons she and I didn't make it past that 10 year mark.

The reason for doing the latter is about signaling, in much the same way that saying 'most women' instead of just 'women' is about signaling.

See, I suspect there might be a political element to this as well. I for one would strongly prefer that the second-order simulacrum be the standard assumption rather than requiring continued increased cognitive burden in discourse. It is true that we think in language; and therefore the language we use shapes our thoughts -- but language is a memeplex of symbolic representations of semantical content/value. If we adjust the symbol, we adjust the thought. But this is now becoming an altogether different topic of conversation.

the point of the signal is to encourage accurate thought in the long run, rather than letting a small amount of convenience in the near term to outweigh that.

Reductively, the long term is nothing more than a collection of near terms. What remains a constant near term burden over the long term becomes a long-term burden.

I remain of the position that constantly adding caveats and provisos to language regardless of where the focus of discourse at a given moment happens to be is a fundamental error in communication. Since we can't seem to agree on this topic, I have to wonder what postulates we aren't sharing in common.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-06T21:30:12.402Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(my ex-primary of 10 years) has an exceedingly poor capability of grasping mathematics and probabilities. This was one of the reasons she and I didn't make it past that 10 year mark.

Not judging but... this is a very novel reason for ending a 10-year relationship.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T21:48:08.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"One of" is a key term here. I also didn't provide any context for weighting of said reasons.

I didn't make those clarifications because it really wasn't relevant to the information I was trying to convey at the time. ;-)

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-06T21:54:29.223Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, a factor like that may have been a significant cause of other more proximate issues.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T22:02:45.568Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I'll admit it -- that just got a grin and a chuckle out of me. Well done.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-10-06T22:05:12.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

bows

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T05:07:34.530Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

However, the simple truth is that communication becomes positively impossible if 'sweeping generalizations' at some > level are not made.

True but misleading. One should seek to avoid eliminating relevant meaning in the process of making those generalizations.

If you say "Men are sexually attracted to women" and your intended meaning is "this is true enough often enough to serve as a reliable guide to male behavior", then when someone points out that homosexual men and asexual men exist, the fact that those groups are minorities doesn't change the fact that you were imprecise in misleading ways, even if you didn't explicitly say "always". In addition, the unspoken implications you take out of the the statement (which could be nearly anything depending on what you're talking about) may be apparent but not agreeable to the listener, which is quite relevant if you're depending upon those to support your argument downstream.

So yes, make generalizations, but make good, accurate generalizations with appropriate scope limitations. And try to make the implications you perceive explicit.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T07:57:07.385Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

True but misleading. One should seek to avoid eliminating relevant meaning in the process of making those generalizations.

(Formatting tip: you need to add two spaces at the end of the previous line to get lesswrong's commenting markup language to "
"/"\n". Two newlines will "

".)

I follow the convention of thinking that provisos are somwhere betwee standard deviation or significant digits. When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand.

While this seems like a trivial item for a single statement, the thing about this is that such provisos propagate across all dependent statements, meaning that the informational value of all dependent statements is reduced by each such proviso made.

Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individuals and other men/women/intersex individuals may or may not marry one another in groups as small as two with no upper bound for reasons that can vary depending on the situation."

This is, granted, an extreme example (reductio absurdum) but I make it to demonstrate the value of keeping in mind your threshold of significance when making a statement. Sometimes, as counterintuitively as it may seem, less accurate statements are less misleading.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-06T09:36:08.928Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

No, they are pointing out that in order to apply to a case they are interested in, the conversation must be made more precise.

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other", then the fact that some men/women don't marry, or the fact that intersex people aren't necessarily men or women, or the fact that GLBT people who marry are also likely to do so because of love, or the fact that some marriages are loveless is only a distraction to the conversation at hand.

The last one isn't a distraction, it's a counterexample. If you want to meaningfully say that men and women marry out of love, you must implicitly claim that loveless marriages are a small minority. If someone says, "A significant number of of marriages are loveless," they aren't trying to get you to add a trivializing proviso. They're saying that your generalization is false.

Consider the difference in meaning between "Men and women marry each other because they love each other" and "Men/women/intersex individuals and other men/women/intersex individuals may or may not marry one another in groups as small as two with no upper bound for reasons that can vary depending on the situation."

This isn't a reductio, it's a strawman. When you add provisos to a statement that is really nontrivial, you do not turn "generally" into "may or may not." You turn "always" into "generally", or "generally" into "in the majority of cases".

In any case, what about "People who marry generally do so out of love?" This retains the substance of the original statement while incorporating the provisos. All that is gained is real clarity. All that is lost is fake clarity. (And if enough people are found who marry for other reasons, it is false.)

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T13:48:41.534Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When someone adds that proviso "asexual/homosexual" -- they are changing the relevant level of precision necessary to the conversation.

No, they are pointing out that in order to apply to a case they are interested in, the conversation must be made more precise.

I want you to understand that you just agreed with me while appending the word "No" to the beginning of your sentence. This is... a less than positive indicator as to whether I am being understood.

The last one isn't a distraction, it's a counterexample.

The statement doesn't allow for counterexamples because it's a statement of fact, at bare minimum: the fact is that men and women do marry because they love each other. Other shit happens too, but that itself is a factual statement. Its informational value as a statement can only be derived from within the text of a given conversation.

If you want to meaningfully say that men and women marry out of love, you must implicitly claim that loveless marriages are a small minority.

That doesn't follow. Where do you get this necessity of implication from? Certainly not from the principle I'm espousing here. (Note: "A small minority" is a different statement from "a minority". In several cities in the US, whites are a minority. And yet the second-order simulacrum of those populations would still be a white person -- because whites, while a minority, are the plurality [largest minority].)

This isn't a reductio, it's a strawman. When you add provisos to a statement that is really nontrivial, you do not turn "generally" into "may or may not." You turn "always" into "generally", or "generally" into "in the majority of cases".

If and only if you meant "always" in the first place and want to be less than perfectly accurate. "In the majority of cases" is an inaccurate method of expressing how S-O S's work -- as I mentioned above, with "the largest minority" being the representative entity of the body. So you'd be better able to most accurately express the situation by stating that X happens Y percent of the time, but that simply isn't language used in ordinary discourse.

In any case, what about "People who marry generally do so out of love?" This retains the substance of the original statement while incorporating the provisos.

That the statement can be revised in this manner does not obviate the example I was pointing to with the previous example. I used an explicit reductio ad absurdum to make the mechanism explicit. From zero to one hundred, as it were.

In a more 'realistic' example for your revision: what is meant by "generally"? What is meant by "love"? What is meant by "people who marry"? These are all imprecise statements. Is "generally" "a large majority"? Is "generally" "a small majority"? Is "generally" "the largest minority"? Etc., etc.. You chose not to go to that level of precision because it was not necessary. And that's just for one sentence. Imagine an entire conversation with such provisos to consider.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-09T08:57:31.840Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, wait, I think I see something here. I think I see why we are incapable of agreeing.

If and only if you meant "always" in the first place and want to be less than perfectly accurate. "In the majority of cases" is an inaccurate method of expressing how S-O S's work -- as I mentioned above, with "the largest minority" being the representative entity of the body.

This seems more like a description of how S-O S's fail.

Can you offer any reason why I should treat S-O S's as a useful or realistic representational scheme if my goal is to draw accurate conclusions about actual, existing people?

Let me try to make my confusion clearer:

If I come upon a Halloween basket containing fifty peanut butter cups without razorblades, and ten peanut butter cups with razorblades, what is the second-order simulacrum I use to represent the contents of that basket? "A basket of delicious and safe peanut butter cups?"

Is this even a legitimate question, or am I still not grasping the concept?

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-10T01:38:14.356Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is a town. That town is called Simulacraton. Simulacraton is 40% white, 35% black, and 25% hispanic by population. The Joneses of Simulacraton -- are a semi-affluent suburban couple and live next door to a black man married to a hispanic woman. The Joneses are the second-order simulacrum of the average household in Simulacraton.

Is this even a legitimate question, or am I still not grasping the concept?

Second-order simulacra will always fail when you use them in ways that they are not meant to be used: such as actually being representative of individual instantiations of a thing: I.e.;, when you try to pretend they are anything other than an abstraction, a mapping of the territory designed for use as high-level overview to convey basic information without the need for great depth of inspection of the topic.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Second-order_simulacra

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-10T05:25:23.053Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The article says:

Second-order simulacra, a term coined by Jean Baudrillard, are symbols without referents, that is, symbols with no real object to represent. Simply put, a symbol is itself taken for reality and further layer of symbolism is added. This occurs when the symbol is taken to be more important or authoritative of the original entity, authenticity has been replaced by copy (thus reality is replaced by a substitute).

If I'm reading this correctly, it leaves me even more leery about the value of second-order simulacra.

Also from the article:

Baudrillard argues that in the postmodern epoch, the territory ceases to exist, and there is nothing left but the map; or indeed, the very concepts of the map and the territory have become indistinguishable, the distinction which once existed between them having been erased.

... did you intend for me to read this charitably? At best, it's a descriptive statement that says that people no longer care about the territory, and talk about maps without even realizing that they are not discussing territory. At worst, it says that reality has ceased to be real, which is Not Even Wrong.

If you want me to understand your ideas, please link me to clearer writing.


I am going to avoid using race or sex examples. I appreciate that you used Simulacraton as an object-level example, as it made your meaning much clearer, but I'd rather not discuss race when I am still unhappy with the resolution of the candy bowl problem.

I will revise my question for clarity:

"What is a reasonable second-order simulacrum of the contents of that basket of candy, and why? If no reasonable second-order simulacrum exists, why not?"

Second-order simulacra will always fail when you use them in ways that they are not meant to be used: such as actually being representative of individual instantiations of a thing: I.e.;, when you try to pretend they are anything other than an abstraction, a mapping of the territory designed for use as high-level overview to convey basic information without the need for great depth of inspection of the topic.

True, but none of the above reservations apply to the bowl of candy.

  • I am not claiming that the second-order simulacrum should represent the individual candies in the bowl. It may be wrong in any individual case. I am simply trying to convey a useful impression of the POPULATION, which is what you claim that SO S's are useful for.

  • I am not pretending that a simulacrum is anything more than an abstraction. I think it is a kind of abstraction that is not as useful as other kinds of abstraction when talking about populations.

  • I DO want a high-level overview, not a great depth of information. This overview should ideally reflect one REALLY important feature of the candy bowl.

(The statement that I would use to map the basket's population in detail would be "Ten of the sixty candies in the basket contain razorblades." The statement that I would use to map the basket broadly, without close inspection, would be, "Several of the candies in that basket contain razorblades."

if I had to use a second-order simulacrum, I would choose one of the candies with razorblades as my representative case, not the candy without. But this seems to break the plurality rule. Or perhaps, if feeling particularly perverse, I'd say "The candy in that basket contains one-sixth of a razorblade.")

I believe that second-order simulacra fail badly in the case of the candy basket. And if second-order simulacra can't handle simple hypothetical cases, shouldn't I be at least a little suspicious of this mapping strategy in general?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-10T17:34:48.601Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hoping I can butt in and explain all this.

Logos01 probably shouldn't have brought up Baudrillard, who is among the sloppiest and most obscure thinkers of the last century. Baudrillard's model of abstraction is pretty terrible. Much better to user analytic philosophy's terminology rather than post-structuralism's terminology. In analytic philosophy we talk about abstract objects, "types" or "kinds". These are ubiquitous, not especially mysterious, and utterly essential to the representation of knowledge. "Electron", "Homo sapiens", "the combustion engine", "Mozart's 10th Symphony", "the Human Genome", etc. To map without abstract objects one would have to speak only of particulars and extensionally defined sets. And that's just the nouns-- whether one can even use verbs without recourse to abstraction is another issue entirely. Open up any scientific journal article and you will see named entities which are abstract objects. There are schools of thought that hold that kinds can ultimately be reduced to classes determined only by resemblance or predicate-- in an attempt to dissolve the supposed mystery of what abstract objects are. But even the most strident nominalists don't propose to actually do away with their usage.

None of that is particularly controversial and that's basically what Baudrillard means by "second-order simulacra". Now the question is, to what extent is it permissible to make statements about types which are not true of all of the particulars which instantiate that type? Call these "generalizations". We know from the limit cases that it can be both permissible and impermissible. "The Bobcat is found in North America" seems true and informative-- and yet there are bobcats in zoos outside that region. At the other end "Birds can talk" is mis-informative even though there are a few species of bird that can learn to talk.

The criterion for whether a generalization is permissible is chiefly pragamatic. You wouldn't say "The candy is safe" if there were a few razor blades mixed in because people are used to not having any razor blades mixed in at all! The fact about the candy that is worth communicating is that there are razor blades in a few of them. You're trying to warn people!

I think Logos's race examples above are wrong. Whether one specifies the race of the typical family depends on whether or not race is a relevant variable in what you are trying to communicate. If all you want to do is express to a Boston Red Sox fan that he or she shouldn't expect to find other fans in New York you would just say "New Yorkers don't like the Red Sox." There is no reason to say "New Yorkers are white people who don't like the Red Sox"-- even if the vast, vast majority of New Yorkers were white this would be communicating unnecessary detail given the goal of the communication. But if you're trying to constrain someone's expectations about what kind of people they will meet in New York saying "New Yorkers are white people who don't like the Red Sox" is mis-informative if most or a large fraction of New Yorkers aren't white people.

These are all simple examples which can be solved by adding another sentence at most. But in discussions of sufficient complexity additional specificity really does become untenable. At the limit demanding arbitrary precision would require you to use quantum field theory to build an airplane (Newtonian physics can be thought of as a generalization of quantum mechanics).

There are special cases. One is that people should include additional, irrelevant details in cases where not including them reinforces a popular belief that such details don't exist. This is especially true when the additional details are newly discovered. If one is speaking to a crowd that thinks, say, all men are heterosexual, it is worth qualifying statements about men that assume heterosexuality since not saying anything about the existence of homosexuals reinforces the false notion that they don't really exist or are extremely rare. When speaking to crowds who are very familiar with that information, qualifying it may look like additional, irrelevant information. Relatedly, when hearing about social identity no one likes to feel like they've been left out of the map. This is both an understandable feeling and an inevitable problem when trying to talk about issues involving social/cultural identity and experience. Almost always even the most carefully PC essay talking about how group x experience behavior y or institution z will ignore some subset of group x. Social types and kinds are particularly rife with exceptions-- there is simply too much individual variation. But at some point you have to generalize to talk about social identity. I think among respectful, tolerant and educated people it is helpful to maintain a constant policy of "Yes, we all know this isn't true for everyone but this is a useful generalization". Whether or not it makes sense for Less Wrong to adopt that policy is another question.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-10T17:45:45.775Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Almost always even the most carefully PC essay talking about how group x experience behavior y or institution z will ignore some subset of group x.

Using 'x', 'y', and 'z' as labels to represent variable groups reinforces the pernicious stereotype that other letters aren't worthy of being used as labels to represent variables and don't count.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-10T17:49:52.907Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't appreciate your attempt to erase the experiences of the Greek alphabet!

comment by Oligopsony · 2011-10-10T18:45:36.908Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't appreciate how lazy these jokes are. Once posting on LW one would assume unnecessary tribal signaling in the form of easy, form-fillable potshots at the religious, "political correctness," non-nerd popular culture, &c.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-10T19:12:28.904Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

After I write a six-paragraph explanation of abstraction and the pragmatics of generalization I reserve the right to tell a lazy joke.

I think you're reading too much into the joke though. I wasn't intending to make fun of political correctness- hopefully what I wrote before makes it clear that that is not my attitude. I did find lessdazed comment humorous both for the meta-ness of turning the subject of the paragraph back on the text itself and for the juxtaposition of the concern for inclusiveness being applied to silly, non-human things like variable letters. So I played along. The joke was a good way of emphasizing that that particular concern about generalizations is not about communication or accuracy, but about how we treat people.

Whether lessdazed was trying to make fun of political correctness or not you'll have to ask him.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-10T06:21:50.464Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

... did you intend for me to read this charitably?

I habsolutely zero intentions. I had hoped that you would be capable of being a rational agent in this dialogue. If, however, that isn't something you care to do, we can end this conversation here and now.

"What is a reasonable second-order simulacrum of the contents of that basket of candy, and why? If no reasonable second-order simulacrum exists, why not?"

The stereotypical bowl-candy is perfectly safe. It likely has a neighbor that has a razorblade in it.

-- In a side-note, why did you feel the need to push this particular variation of your question on me when I had already answered it? What, exactly, did you think the Simulacraton example was? Or did you not make the connection merely because you used candies and ratios and I used people and percents?

I believe that second-order simulacra fail badly in the case of the candy basket.

Of COURSE they do. It's not an applicable or relevant scenario in which one SHOULD use a second-order simulacrum in.

  1. The scale is vastly too small to allow for abstraction to be useful.

  2. The topic at hand focuses on the group in question rather than some other topic to which the group is tangential.

And if second-order simulacra can't handle simple hypothetical cases, shouldn't I be at least a little suspicious of this mapping strategy in general?

Good luck getting through life without ever constructing a symbolic representation of anything at any time ever under any circumstances: because that's what you are arguing against.

comment by GilPanama · 2011-10-10T12:39:36.514Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for telling me what I'm arguing for and against, for something like the third time now, when I am fairly certain that our intuitive ideas of how abstraction works are somewhat different. This is one of the few things that breaks my internal set of "rules for a fair argument."t.

(Note: I am NOT downvoting for the paragraph beginning "OF COURSE they do", because it's given me a hunch as to what is going on here, is clearly written, and makes your actual objections to the candy bowl case clearer.

I SHOULD not be downvoting for the first paragraph, but it affected the decision.)

I habsolutely zero intentions. I had hoped that you would be capable of being a rational agent in this dialogue. If, however, that isn't something you care to do, we can end this conversation here and now.

When I tried to work out what you meant by second-order simulacra, you linked me to a cryptic Wikipedia article discussing a vague description of the term, along with confused-looking statements about the nature of reality. I really did NOT know what your intentions were, and I genuinely was getting exasperated.

I am sorry for implying bad faith. I should have said, "I have no clue what I am supposed to take from this article, but it sends extremely dubious signals to me about the validity of this concept."

In a side-note, why did you feel the need to push this particular variation of your question on me when I had already answered it?

Because you hadn't. I presented an example where second-order simulacra fail. Reading the reply, I was unsatisfied to find a description of a different case, followed by a statement that second-order simulacra fail in the candy bowl case, but for reasons that weren't consistent with the example.

What, exactly, did you think the Simulacraton example was?

An example chosen in which your heuristic gave a semi-plausible answer, when I had asked about a place where it ceases to work.

Or did you not make the connection merely because you used candies and ratios and I used people and percents?

I did. I did not conceive, however, that your answer would be:

The stereotypical bowl-candy is perfectly safe. It likely has a neighbor that has a razorblade in it.

The analogy to the population of people was stretched enough - and not just for reasons of ratios and percents - that there was no WAY I'd come to the above answer without questioning it.

  1. The scale is vastly too small to allow for abstraction to be useful.
  2. The topic at hand focuses on the group in question rather than some other topic to which the group is tangential.

This is getting closer to what I actually am looking for - a situation where I ought to use second-order simulacra. However, I still do not think these are problems for the candy bowl.

1: Abstractions can work on an arbitrarily small sample size. "A bowl of candies, some of which are unsafe" IS an abstraction.. If that is not abstract enough, what about a pie chart showing the proportion of unsafe candies?

  1. If a group is truly tangential to a topic, how do you decide which features are important enough to include in your abstraction? Why include ANY features in your abstraction besides "lives in Simulacraton?" It does no good to say that one would abstract the Joneses as being of the plurality race. For example, I could imagine them as being racially indeterminate. But I have trouble imagining them at all.

Good luck getting through life without ever constructing a symbolic representation of anything at any time ever under any circumstances: because that's what you are arguing against.

Generally speaking, that is not representations work in my mind. The phrase "generalizing from one example" is ringing a bell right now.

When I am told "the population of Simulacraton is 40% white," I don't really feel any need to abstractly represent the population with one person, neighbors or no, or to refer to such a person in conversation. I would not say, "People from Simulacraton are {X}," and I tend to react to such statements with skepticism because I see them as unqualified statements about an entire set of people based on weak evidence.

How do I describe the average family in that town? With reluctance. I default to mapping by groups. In fact, I'm not used to visual or instance-based representation in general. It may be developmental - I was born blind and raised blind for a month before surgery. This may have affected my brain development in odd ways; I'm still bad with faces.

It does seem likely to me that a more visual thinker would find it convenient to imagine an average family as having visibly defined properties representing a plurality, rather than properties that can't be visually imagined as easily. But my 'average member' is just a bunch of loosely defined properties tied together with a name, and many of the properties that are needed to visualize a person clearly are missing from that set.

I don't think ONLY in verbally described sets, of course. I also think in free-floating sensory memories that rarely remain in my consciousness for very long. But "thinks in sets defined by verbal descriptions" is a good approximation of what I do.

Example: I have never been to Paris. If I were to talk about the Eiffel Tower, and for some reason felt the need to mention a Parisian in the description, I would likely say "a Parisian." I wouldn't give them a name or any properties unless I had to. If I did, the properties would be based on what I saw in movies, not any properties that reflect a plurality of Parisians, and I would assign them in a miserly way. My second-order simulacrum would be useless for anything but fake local flavor.

What about questions where "a Parisian" is just a tangential feature, where precision in the description of the Parisian is unimportant? Surely I use a second-order simulacrum then, right?

Nope.

For me, it is cognitively cheaper to not reference "a typical Parisian" when asked a question that tangentially involves people from Paris, because that would require me to represent a typical Parisian symbolically, and I have trouble imagining such a thing as "a typical Parisian." Instead, I would simply say, "a random Parisian," and my mental representation of such a Parisian would be the word "Parisian" with attached possible properties, half-formed images, and phrases spoken in movies.

THIS is why qualifiers like "almost always," "generally", "about half of the time," "on occasion", and "almost never" strike me as informative - they are quick and dirty ways to adjust the sets in my head! They are cognitively cheap for me, though not NEARLY as cheap for me as numerical probability estimates, which are great when people actually bother to give them.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that a "set" is part of the territory itself, but once one starts to cluster entities together, using a second-order generalization may reinforce confusion about the properties of entities in that cluster. When I discourage the use of second-order simulacra without disclaimers, it is not because I fail to realize my set-based map is not the territory, but because many people will name a cluster of entities, pick a single entity from that cluster, generalize to the entire cluster, and imagine that they have actually described a lot of territory in a useful way.

People do this constantly in politicized arguments. Context is not enough, and the more unwilling someone is to add a proviso, the more I suspicious I grow of the reasons that they are unwilling to do so. I suspect that my attitude towards unqualified generalizations is very similar to your attitude toward qualified generalizations. They seem like useless maps to me because I don't use them and don't really know how to.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-10T19:52:10.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Context is not enough, and the more unwilling someone is to add a proviso, the more I suspicious I grow of the reasons that they are unwilling to do so.

Is this a matter of degree or of kind? It seems to me like the issue here is how many qualifications should be made in particular contexts, and so is a question of degree, and not at all one of kind. This means that there is a possible mind with standards analogous to yours to the same degree yours are analogous to Logos01.

For example, where Logos01 thinks an essay with five paragraphs of content needs one disclaimer, you might think it needs fifty, and some third party might think it needs two thousand and fifty, and some fourth party 125,000. Any criticism you apply to him or her seems applicable to you as well, for all trade off precision for brevity.

It therefore seems impossible to muster a strong argument against Logos01's general practice of being imprecise for the sake of finishing sentences despite lack of perfect precision, because you do that as well, and so it seems your argument can't be stronger than a weaker one against a particular balance of trade offs.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-10T13:45:52.114Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for telling me what I'm arguing for and against, for something like the third time now, when I am fairly certain that our intuitive ideas of how abstraction works are somewhat different. This is one of the few things that breaks my internal set of "rules for a fair argument."t.

  1. I made no "intuitive" statements about "how abstraction works". Ever.

  2. Your positional statements made it quite clear that your objection to S-O S's was in the fact that they are an abstraction.

  3. You repeatedly made several arbitrary statements about representative symbols and how they would "have" to be that I demonstrated to be inaccurate of how abstraction is done.

  4. I never make the statement, "You are arguing X" unless it is factually and demonstrably true. You stated that you "distrusted" "this method" ("this method" being the use of symbols without referents) of abstraction... but unfortunately, that's all abstraction is; "making maps." If you don't like it when someone tells you what you are or aren't arguing for or against, don't put yourself into a position where those statements would be true. If you had said, "The sky is blue", and I told you, "You are saying the sky is blue", would you also react so childishly?

The rest of your post is simply too long for me to bother with. This topic has gone beyond my threshold of conversational utility: you demonstrate that you will accept nothing I say at any point and are merely arguing for the sake of arguing. Case in point:

If a group is truly tangential to a topic, how do you decide which features are important enough to include in your abstraction?

They are topical. This is a tautology. And this marks at least the second time I've called out your continuing to riddle the topic with questions that have already been answered or have answers whose very questions demonstrate them. This is not the mark of an honest conversant.

Further:

Generally speaking, that is not representations work in my mind. The phrase "generalizing from one example" is ringing a bell right now.

This directly contradicts the very definition of the word, "abstraction". Abstraction -- and mental representation is never anything BUT abstraction -- is definitionally constructing simulacra within the mind.

I point this out as yet another demonstrative example of your arguing for what I can only describe merely the sake of arguing.

Rounding this out:

I suspect that my attitude towards unqualified generalizations is very similar to your attitude toward qualified generalizations. They seem like useless maps to me because I don't use them and don't really know how to.

No. This is a flat-out false characterization of my position and I have explicitly disagreed with it. I said nothing of the sort. Ever. And I haven't been arguing in favor of such a position.

You are A) misrepresenting me. B) refusing to accept basic definitions of terminology relevant to this topic, C) continuously raising questions that have already been answered, amongst other things.

I'll not be responding to you in this topic again.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T12:49:54.432Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

For example; if I say "Men and women get married because they love each other",

Oooh, perfect example! Because this is probably still not true for a plurality, if not majority of humanity, and it used to be little more than a perk if it occurred in a marriage. For most of human history and for much of humanity today, marriage is more like a business relationship, corporate merger, pragmatic economic decision...

If you confine your statement to Westerners, and especially middle-to-upper class ones, and those who live in societies strongly modelled on the same pattern (urban Chinese often yes; rural Chinese often no) then you are dealing with an acceptable level of accurate to be relatively unobjectionable.

Do you want to try again?

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T13:51:30.553Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oooh, perfect example! Because this is probably still not true for a plurality, if not majority of humanity,

[...]

Do you want to try again?

My statement wasn't ever meant to be representative of the whole. That should have been obvious. If I'd said "only for love" then that'd be a valid objection. As it stands, I have no such problem. Generalizations that are useful for a context need not be without exception or even universally comprehensive.

People in the past or in other cultures are irrelevant to me when discussing social habits I am familiar with.

So, no. My statement is fine as is. Did I leave out a great heaping swath of precisions, provisos, and details? Absolutely!! -- but that was the point from the outset.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T18:26:48.785Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So, no. My statement is fine as is. Did I leave out a great heaping swath of precisions, provisos, and details? > Absolutely!! -- but that was the point from the outset.

And you wouldn't hear a peep out of me if it wasn't depressingly common to see people couch advice, theories and other mental-model-of-the-world stuff in such terms, giving no obvious sign that they've thought about the distinction between "speaking to a specific audience" and just speaking with the assumption that the listeners fit their relatively vague preconception of who they talk to, rather than about.

It's far from clear when an Anglophonic Western man says "Men and women marry each other for romantic love" that he is cognizant of the distinction. After all, that's his default context, other possibilities are barely even mentioned in his expected cultural background (let alone presented as normal), and unless he has much overt contact with people for whom that's not the case, the odds are pretty good it's a thing-over-there, done by some outgroup about whom he knows rather little.

It may not be terribly important if he's just talking among a peer group of like folks, but when he's got access to a wide and relatively unknown audience (it could be anyone reading), and he's trying to frame it in terms of general information about "how people work", it's usually a safe bet he just didn't think about how his own norms influence his advice, and hence how applicable it might be to even, say, an English-speaking, technically-trained man in India (where arranged marriages for purposes other than romantic love are still pretty standard).

Sometimes people on this site even take norms like that and try to infer over all of human evolution. So yeah -- this is not an unreasonable thing to question.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T21:43:14.016Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the assumption that the listeners fit their relatively vague preconception of who they talk to, rather than about.

Can you rephrase this for me? It's not parsing my language-interpreter.

It's far from clear when an Anglophonic Western man says "Men and women marry each other for romantic love" that he is cognizant of the distinction.

Certainly. Arguably, for the majority of cases it's not even relevant whether he is or isn't. In all likelihood whoever he is talking to also shares that set -- as you said, it's his "default context". Now, yes, absolutely failing to recognize that one's default context is not the sole available context can be a significant problem. But that really isn't relevant to the topic of my assertions about cognitive burden per statement of equivalent informational value and the relevance of said burden to knowing when generalizing trivial elements of a statement is a net gain rather than net loss.

an English-speaking, technically-trained man in India (where arranged marriages for purposes other than romantic love are still pretty standard).

You know, after years of making daily calls to workers in India (I do corporate sysadmin work, for a number of various corporations) -- I still have absolutely no clue beyond the vaguest notions gleaned from the "idiot box" (TV, but at least I mean PBS-ish) about the cultural contexts of a modern urban Indian person. I really do feel like I understand more about the unspoken assumptions of Amazonian tribesmen than I do about Indian people.

I do, however, find it both insulting when my offshores co-workers think they can slip insults by me through such expedients as telling me to "do the needful" in a particular tone, but I digress.

Sometimes people on this site even take norms like that and try to infer over all of human evolution.

Absolutely not an unreasonable thing to question, since any norm not empirically validated to exist in other monkeys (I am of the belief that all modern primates qualify monocladistically as monkeys) is simply not viable material for Evo-Psych theories without significant and rigorous documentation.


By the way, I just made an inaccurate statement for the purposes of making the statement less misleading, as I previously asserted. It has to do with my use of the term "empirically" -- I follow the thinking of Poplerian falsificationism which, while similar to empiricism, does not suffer from the problem of induction. While this one instance is trivial -- keeping up that level of technicality quickly turns casual conversation into cited, researched, thesis papers. And it's just plain impossible to always communicate at that level; ergo, devoting actual thought and consideration to building a rational heuristic for when generalization / inaccuracy is acceptable is a necessary part of the toolkit. Which is what I was saying from the outset.

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-10-06T10:56:51.222Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reasonably confident that most intersex people are either men or women. You meant genderqueer.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-06T13:31:41.190Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's tough to get exact numbers on the rate of intersex individuals per thousand, but I do know that the number of intersex individuals I've met and known for some time is far higher than that rate. No, I did not mean "genderqueer". This would be what you might call "too many digits beyond what's significant."

comment by Jack · 2011-10-06T12:46:34.013Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or meant to distinguish males, females and intersex persons rather than men, women and intersex persons.

comment by Morendil · 2011-10-04T12:49:12.466Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

second-order simulacrum

What's that?

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-04T17:17:39.870Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A second-order simulacrum is a symbol that doesn't actually represent anything. The concept of 'the number' is a representative symbol (as in, an abstraction) of all numbers -- but isn't actually itself a number; it is a second-order simulacrum.

The proverbial average household with its whitewashed picket fence and that poor .5 of a kid (It's a damned shame what happened to poor .5!Timmy. People should be more careful around asphalt crackign equipment and rutting mules.) is a second-order simulacrum used as a 'conceptual placeholder' to make discussing households far simpler.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Second-order_simulacra

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T11:29:15.011Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some forms of accuracy are simply wastes of space; how many digits of Pi does rational!Harry know, as compared to rational!Hermione?

That depends: does it "really" count as "knowing" if they have to consciously divide tau by two first?

ETA: actually, the opposite would make more sense to me, with Harry memorizing fewer digits of tau than Hermione memorized of pi.

comment by jhuffman · 2011-10-04T14:03:24.334Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, actually there is a single answer to this. This is a reference to a fanfic/rationality text Yudkowsky wrote - which is excellent by the way.

In his universe Harry has memorized around 6 digits of Pi and Hermione has memorized 100, because that is how many were in the back of her book.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T16:25:13.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah OK, I only read it once and it's been a while. It's never too late to retcon!

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T13:34:18.969Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That depends: does it "really" count as "knowing" if they have to consciously divide tau by two first?

I hope so. Because if memorizing a big number that can be combined with a simple algorithm in order to calculate digits of Pi counts as memorizing Pi then I'm claiming I know 'infinity' digits.

comment by Alexei · 2011-10-03T00:57:48.543Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that whole paragraph rubbed me the wrong way too. It seems Luke expects that every male should take charge of the relationship/dating/sex. That's not always how it works. It's not necessarily bad if a man can't lead, but it does become bad if he can't also follow. I.e., every person needs social skills regardless of gender.

comment by Rubix · 2011-10-05T04:02:25.653Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Luke was working from the perspective of a man trying to improve his social skills in order to be contributing more equally to a potential relationship. The implication was not that women do not also need social skills, rather, for him to attract the attention of a woman (who has already caught his attention, presumably, with her social skills, body language, pheromones etc.,) he must have better social skills.

From personal experience, I feel that most of the pronouns in that paragraph could easily be reversed. There are women with poor body language and poor social skills; if anything, this essay proves that, because he's not thinking about how to attract those women.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-03T02:46:44.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not necessarily bad if a man can't lead, but it does become bad if he can't also follow.

Swap two words around near the end?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-03T00:19:58.761Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Does the name of this) dog breed (the Pointer) strike you as outlandishly inappropriate?

comment by Zeb · 2011-10-03T00:26:08.748Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Just say what you mean. Making a point obliquely in a way that requires readers to click a link is not very helpful.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-03T00:48:44.295Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"Pointer" dogs are not the only dogs that point, many others do or can be trained to. What's more, not every dog of that breed will grow up to be a hunting dog or ever point! Even those that hunt frequently will spend a very, very small portion of their lives pointing. They will spend far more time eating, sleeping, having four legs (most anyway, some will have accidents or birth defects) and most time of all having warm blood.

We do not call the breed "warm-bloods" because this would not go far in distinguishing them among animals. We latch onto this tiny difference of action, which they spend a tiny portion of their lives doing, which is an even tinier amount more than other dogs do it, and name them by what they distinctly do. It's fine to discuss differences without spending every sentence on similarities. The similarities are the background assumption.

It's entirely appropriate for Luke to speak in generalities with his group as a base case for comparison, and to in writing ignore exceptions and outliers as we know there are always some. He doesn't just mean "some women want", one could construct many, many different true sentences about what "some women want" and it would not be at all useful.

We know men and women are of the same species and are similar. We are interested in differences, it is these differences that the males will fail to correctly model when they mentally model females' minds using their own, as if those minds were like exactly their own.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-04T03:34:41.771Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think you missed Zeb's point. E wasn't claiming that Luke was saying that no men do X; e was claiming that Luke was saying that all women do X, or at least that a large enough portion of women do X that the rest are a minority small enough to be safely ignored.

That kind of statement is particularly annoying, above and beyond considerations of its truth value, because it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me? Even if that's not the intention, enough messages like that tend to build up in the form of cached thoughts that can be very frustrating to deal with.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T03:45:06.172Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That kind of statement is particularly annoying, above and beyond considerations of its truth value, because it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me?

Yah; it comes across all too often like a retroactive attempt to patch an idea that might be compromised by bias. Especially because those minority of cases may be the real salient test of the idea -- if your theory is predicated on the idea that all X are Y, and along comes an X purporting to be a Z but not a Y, then conditional on the truth of this statement your theory is wrong. It's one thing to look at the failures of your original formulation and go, hmmm, clearly I missed something and need to patch or reject my theory; but in a context like this it's usually more, well, a rationalization -- "your counterexample doesn't apply because my factual error can be retconned as a previous, weak definition of the scope of my statement!"

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T04:10:18.829Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

at least that a large enough portion of women do X that the rest are a minority small enough to be safely ignored

I interpret Luke's claim as being about what women do more than men. It's an aid to model other minds that, along several axes, tend to systematically differ. I disagree with "ignored", I think that's inserting a charged intention into Luke's essay that is obviously not intended.

it tends to come across as judgmental: "Real" men/women/rationalists/whatever do X or Y or Z, so if I don't, does that mean something's wrong with me?

Women (generally) want to have children more than men do (I think, which is sufficient for the example). I personally very much want to have children one day. I don't think that makes me "not a real man" or anything like that.

Even if that's not the intention

It's obviously not.

cached thoughts that can be very frustrating to deal with.

Fair enough.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-04T04:32:32.485Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with "ignored", I think that's inserting a charged intention into Luke's essay that is obviously not intended.

Would you agree that Luke communicated that it's fairly safe to assume that all women X? That's a more diplomatic way of putting it, but to my way of thinking boils down to essentially the same message.

Women (generally) want to have children more than men do (I think, which is sufficient for the example). I personally very much want to have children one day. I don't think that makes me "not a real man" or anything like that.

This seems to miss the bulk of my point. If one leaves out the 'generally', and just says "women want to have children more than men do", a man who is very interested in having children can think that women want children even more. He'll probably be incorrect, but he can think that, without it being a source of immediate stress or drama. But a woman who has no desire to have children is in a different situation - there's no plausible way that the average degree of wanting-children in men is lower than that, so it's immediately obvious that she doesn't fit the speaker's definition of 'women', which can be quite stressful. The case where men aren't referred to at all is similar, except that the man seeing the message is likely to come to a conclusion that's a bit closer to correct.

(Also, does it change your perception of this conversation at all if I point out that 1) I'm in a particularly a-gendered phase of genderfluidity right now and don't identify as female at the moment, and 2) my most recent priming for having this kind of argument actually came from a male-focused gender-egalitarianism blog? These things do run both ways, even if the example at hand is female-focused.)

Edit: Downvote of parent comment: Not me.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-04T04:42:58.802Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So I upvoted this comment and then saw when I looked at it again that it was now at zero. I'm deeply curious what in it someone thought deserved a downvote.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-04T04:51:02.074Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's quite likely that I'm being downvoted for having a conversation about gender at all, given that those have a bit of a habit of exploding when they happen here.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T08:48:38.722Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone else noticed considerably more downvotes than usual in the past week- in particular for comments which are well above what we expect here in terms of writing, manner, education and rationality? (I may have just spent too much time in threads that got political.)

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T10:23:28.264Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I voted this comment down, would you take that as supporting evidence that there are recently more downvotes than usual, or as evidence opposing that theory?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T10:35:15.292Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would take it as evidence supporting my sense that there have been more downvotes than usual recently (or that you were just screwing with me). I asked a reasonable question regarding whether or not others had noticed more downvotes lately. Downvoting the comment signals that someone doesn't want to see comments like it-- not that they disagree with my impression.

(I personally think that downvoting to merely express disagreement is unwarranted except with comments that already have, say 6+ karma in which case a downvote is helpful to demonstrate that there is no consensus on the matter. To no one does -2 indicate that two people merely disagreed with the opinion in the comment. Downvoting someone who is stupidly, irrationally or wrong beyond the standards of LW is a different story.)

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T10:43:02.341Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

you were just screwing with me

Of the 26 comments on your first page, I had upvoted five and downvoted none, including the parent and great grandparent of this comment.

If I disagreed enough with the great grandparent I might simply downvote it, which is why the situation is peculiar.

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T10:45:45.505Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just meant someone might find it funny to downvote a comment talking about how many downvotes they've seen- I wasn't talking about you in particular.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T10:46:47.576Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do think it's funny so I wrote the comment instead of downvoting.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-04T09:55:10.773Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone else noticed considerably more downvotes than usual in the past week- in particular for comments which are well above what we expect here in terms of writing, manner, education and rationality? (I may have just spent too much time in threads that got political.)

No, I haven't noticed it. But I confess my standards are rather brutal and I haven't been paying close attention.

Can you point to a few examples that you would not expect to be voted down as much at other times?

comment by Jack · 2011-10-04T11:15:51.557Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The parent and lessdazed's reply (before my upvote) for instance. This thread was full of examples until most of the negative karma comments eventually got voted back up. It's hard to find examples since negative karma comments so often get brought back up to zero.

Could also be that I was away from Less Wrong for a while and I'm not used to the current level of traffic- I suppose I've also been surprised by how upvoted some comments have been.

People should be somewhat aware of the averse and irrational reactions negative karma tends to evoke in people-- it can lead to the downvotee downvoting more aggressively in turn and become more defensive and arrogant in his comments. Which isn't to say people should lower their standards about what is acceptable here, exactly.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T05:33:07.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Would you agree that Luke communicated that it's fairly safe to assume that all women X?

It depends on the passage. For example, "Women want men to be better at making them laugh and feel good and get aroused and not be creeped out," applies to basically all women, and also applies to all men but the message from context is that it is generally more important to women than to men. So yes to "all women want X" and "women generally want X more than men want X" but no to "all women want X more than men want X".

If one leaves out the 'generally',

One has to assume something from context and insert either "generally", "exclusively", "equally", or whatever, if it isn't explicit. My assumption that the intention was best captured by "generally" was a) the charitable reading b) the most likely reading.

The argument that a sentence could be interpreted as offensive seems like it unfairly ignores the principle of charity.

a woman who has no desire to have children is in a different situation - there's no plausible way that the average degree of wanting-children in men is lower than that, so it's immediately obvious that she doesn't fit the speaker's definition of 'women'

Is it a definition?

does it change your perception

Not consciously.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-04T07:32:11.757Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to have to let my response to this stew for a bit before it's suitable to post, if I can get the inferential distances reasonable at all.

The short, probably-won't-work, only-posting-it-so-the-above-doesn't-sound-like-an-evasion version is that your assumption that people will automatically parse things like that assumes that such people are at stage 4 (possibly 5) or better of Perry's development theory (or equivalent), and that such an assumption is not safe to make, even here.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T08:08:33.713Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The principle of charity forces people to privilege interpretations they consider unlikely, even if they aren't the readings they glean automatically. If their first reading implies that the author is innately evil or incredibly stupid, that indicates reinterpretation is in order.

If your point is that it pattern matches for bad things, OK, Luke is communicating suboptimally in the context of many readers being systematically biased and unfair and other writers using similar words to mean mean things.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2011-10-04T08:54:45.837Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If their first reading implies that the author is innately evil or incredibly stupid, that indicates reinterpretation is in order.

You seem to be assuming that people can make such reinterpretations in the way you're looking for. This is not always true. And, even in cases where it is, I suspect that the initial interpretation - the one that's considered most likely - is the one that counts in terms of affecting the person's psychological/emotional state.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-03T00:51:25.366Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If Zeb had requested that he use the word "many" rather than "some" would you consider his point to be more valid?

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-03T00:55:18.788Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Less invalid, but Luke did a fine Gricean job saying that the mean and mode and median woman differs from her counterpart man in the described ways.

comment by Zeb · 2011-10-03T03:26:28.076Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me what is important about Luke's statement is the assertion that the kind of women he wants to [blank] are likely to respond appropriately to the behaviors he has learned. Sure, if he just want to [blank] any woman, then it is useful to know what behaviors most women will respond appropriately to. Otherwise it hardly matters what portion (few, many, most...) of women Luke is accurately describing. It only matters that he is describing the ones he is interested in. By failing to qualify the subset of women (and "some...which are the ones I want" would be the most general way to qualify them), Luke is potentially misleading the people who want to [blank] other women, and he is contributing to the general gender stereotyping of women. Furthermore I think it would be very interesting and relevant to know if everything Luke says applies equally or significantly to men. The construction "women want..." does not denote that "men do not want..." but it perhaps accidentally connotes it.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-03T16:38:32.618Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is good advice.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-02T08:06:33.719Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Good article, but after comparing it with the drafts, it comes across as a little... weakened?

Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.

I wonder why you ended up removing that line. Granted, I'd say "rarely" or "unlikely to be" rather than "never", but still, it looks like a useful pointer (or at least reminder), especially given the kind of crowd we have here.

If it's an observation based on repeated experiment, you should say it. If knowing this helped you optimise your strategies, you should say it. Or did you end up thinking that it's actually untrue?

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-10-01T20:10:57.355Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Tremendously improved from your first draft, well done. Almost all of the misogyny vibes I got were removed/fixed.

The only real thing that bothered me was the italicization of "totally works". But we've bantered back and forth about this post enough. :-)

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-01T20:14:15.428Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, thanks!

comment by roland · 2011-10-04T19:49:04.852Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Did you ever do a boot camp or infield training with pick up artists or receive any kind of in-person coaching or did you train by yourself?

Which of the seduction community books did you read if any at all? Which do you recommend, besides the ones you have listed in the article?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-11T09:05:41.159Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I trained by myself. I consumed lots of material. I guess I would recommend the first 10 episodes of Pickup Podcast, Savoy's Magic Bullets (the title is ironic), and probably anything by Brad P. I'm not sure there's anything that is particularly thoughtful or scientifically serious while also being compact and immediately useful. Also, people are at different levels of functioning on different dimensions, so what will be most impactful for a particular person is hard to predict.

Alternatively, skip the pickup world and just do Toastmasters and then go to lots of parties and clubs and social gatherings and watch what people with high mating intelligence are doing.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-05T21:52:28.366Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I, too, would be interested in more recommendations. I'm looking to optimize my approach to romance before I begin my freshman year of university in three months. In this interim, the pool of available, attractive women around me is almost non-existent. At least until university starts, I'll have time to commit to some major self-improvement.

The Handbook of Relationship Initiation has certainly been helpful! Though, I also need help on the more practical issues it doesn't delve into such as body-language and fashion. Can anyone point me toward the best resources on those (and related) subjects?

comment by roland · 2011-10-05T22:27:02.871Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Just one advice from experience. Try to avoid practicing social skills(pick up and related) in environments where people know you(workplace, school, university). Of course it depends on the size of the university but you don't want to be the weird guy who is using the same lines again and again, if you get my idea.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-05T23:32:36.268Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hey roland. Thanks for the feedback.

I agree with your overarching point: I don't want to be that guy.

While my university is pretty large, I also don't want to be using "lines" in the first place. Or at least, not cute-flippant pickup lines. Women tend not to respond well to them in experimental settings (see page 107 of Handbook of Relationship Initiation).

To clarify my goals a bit more, I'm looking to meet women for short and long term dating. Pickup lines - as I understand them - are associated with hookups, casual sex, etc. I'm not looking for the latter group.

Or maybe I misunderstand what you mean by "lines"?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-05T23:41:23.305Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have you tried online dating sites? OkCupid has a good reputation for being decent for members of the skeptics/rationalist/agnostics/atheists amalgam and there's been a lot of prior discussion of it on Less Wrong such as this thread.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T00:42:29.729Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hey JoshuaZ.

I have tried OkCupid, without much success. I sent out about messages to (about seven) women I found attractive, but I got no responses. Pretty disheartening at the time. In retrospect, I think my approach to these women and to my profile could have been optimized better.

I didn't know OkCupid had such a reputation, though. Maybe I'll give it another shot, especially after reading the advice in the linked thread on how to improve my profile. I think it'd be fantastic to meet a LessWrong-er (or someone of equivalent rationality) in my area.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-06T00:59:46.341Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seven is a pretty small number. I'm not about to go through my entire log to check how many are to separate individuals, but my Sent box contains 466 messages. I've received more than half that many, but it took a lot more than seven messages before I learned to improve my profile and messages to get a reasonable response rate.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T17:52:17.043Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-06T01:02:52.600Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. 7 sounded small to me, but I'm pretty sure that 466 was way above anything I sent. Are you sure you are counting individual people sent and not each separate message which will include longer conversations? (Also how long have you been active on OkC?)

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-10-06T01:15:50.586Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm counting individual messages, not individual people; I've definitely contacted fewer than 466 people, but without going through the whole list I can definitely say it's been over a hundred individuals. I prefer to talk in real time rather than correspondence, so if I get along well with someone initially, I'll progress to instant messaging and/or meeting in person.

I joined the site about four years ago, but I've only been active on and off, and disabled my account for about a year.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-10-06T01:01:27.250Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly, 7 sounds like a fairly small number. I don't remember how many people I messaged, but it was a lot more than that. Profile optimization seems to definitely help a lot. Also, one has to remember that females seem to be getting messaged a lot more than guys, so you generally need something in your message that stands out, especially showing that you read their profile and found something interesting.

I may be a biased source in regards to how effective this is. The last three people I've dated (including my now current, sort of long-term girlfriend) I met on OkCupid, although I think she messaged me first.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T01:21:00.048Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reluctantly, I agree with you that seven women is fairly small set. Maybe my searches weren't properly done or my standards were too high, but these were the only women I found attractive in my searching.

To my credit, I definitely did try to put something my message that stood out, especially something related to her profile. I think one of the errors in my messages was that I came off too strong.

Congratulations! I'm glad that the service is working for you. Gives me a bit of hope (=

comment by roland · 2011-10-06T00:44:36.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I was assuming you are familiar with the seduction community. By lines I mean any scripted piece of conversation that you use repeatedly. For example you could open a conversation saying "Hi, did you see my hamster?" This is supposed to be funny and if done correctly should elicit a positive response from the beginning. The thing is, you probably will have to try it several times until you get it to work. This is a general characteristic of PU stuff that you are supposed to use it repeatedly, until you get it. That's why the idea is to go out several nights a week and open 12 sets(groups of women) every night to get practice. The more socially awkward you are the more practice you will need. But practicing at your university may backfire. The good thing about night venues is that people usually are drunk and are used to weird behavior, so you have more social leeway to make mistakes that would be frowned upon in a work environment.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T01:31:45.178Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not up-to-date on with the seduction community. Though in context with what I do know, I understand better what you mean now. I agree with you, practicing lines in that setting wouldn't be optimal.

Do you find the techniques of the seduction community useful? It may be worth me looking into. I'm much more interested in "day game" than "night game," though. (If I have the terminology correct.) I trust practice is still essential for the former, as well.

comment by roland · 2011-10-06T03:37:05.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you find the techniques of the seduction community useful?

Yes I do, though there is lots of misinformation and bullshit out there so nowadays you have a hard time distilling the useful stuff. Also a lot of it is very hard to understand if you don't see it applied in field by a pro.

I agree that day game is great although night game can be very good for practice because people are often more in a social mood than during day.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-06T17:39:29.829Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you point me in the direction of the useful stuff, please? I'd like to avoid the misinformation and bullshit, if at all possible. I just don't know enough to separate the good information from the bad.

comment by roland · 2011-10-06T18:36:42.324Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Venusian arts revelation(the book). http://www.venusianarts.com/

EDIT: And lets keep the pirates at bay. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-07T21:17:16.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the suggestion!

After reading 100+ pages, I'm a 1/3 of the way through the book. A lot of the information makes sense to me! I think my biggest challenge will be the implementation.

Edit: Just got to the part about negs. Wow! Now this seems like something I could implement well.

comment by tristanhaze · 2012-01-29T04:04:13.084Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find that edit sort of chilling!

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-23T17:54:04.119Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mystery is the PUA. His book "The Mystery Method" is a classic and while some canned routines are dated, the overall theoretical foundation is solid. Perhaps he could have optimised presentation a bit to more easily facilitate inner game and perhaps Bang by Roosh does a better job of presenting game to the average Joe layman by ditching the geeky acronyms and pseudo-evopsych(I love the geeky acronyms and pseudo-evopsych) but overall if you want to understand how dating and seduction works I have yet to see a better book.

I haven't read his newer work (Revelation ect.) but I'd put a high probability on it being quality stuff.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-04T03:52:25.129Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It is interesting to me that I feel almost horrified by nearly all of the relationship advice in this post. I think I am fairly rational, but by no means an expert and I am sure I have many areas of incompetency, but I haven't considered relationships to be one of them. I have had successful, reasonably happy experiences with dating even though I have also been through painful breakups. I have not had any desire to get married or to have children and this was a preference I became aware of around age 18 or 19. At the same time, though, I feel much happier with a monogamous relationship and my sex drive has been much lower than what I perceive to be the cultural norm for men. Even the physical act of having sex does not bring much physical pleasure for me and I've never felt that a sexual connection was of any particular importance for me. At the same time, I realize it is not likely that a compatible female will feel this way, so I just try to focus on doing things to satisfy the women I am in relationships with because I care about them. I doubt I am a great lover, and I most assuredly prefer to just 'be myself' and to patently reject any idea that I need to conform to some socially acceptable level of skill in the ability to carry a flirtacious sequence into good sex. Flirting has always left me feeling cold and I would be very unhappy to change that.

I am wondering if my relationship views are similar to the idea of shock levels or if the modern ideas of being polygamous, avoiding commitment, etc., are just themselves worse than some of the traditional values. For example, I feel proud if I am able to control sexual desire towards a female I am not committed to (when I am committed to someone else). The opportunity cost of losing the chance to have sex with her does not strike me as worrisome in any sense. Perhaps my personal sex drive is just many standard deviations lower.

I find similar feelings when it comes to being a vegetarian. I have never had an intrinsic desire to eat meat, despite the fact that I was raised on a farm in Indiana and my parents fed me lots of meat throughout my childhood. As soon as I decided it was unethical to eat meat (and especially later when I discovered how unhealthy it can be), it was a very easy decision that I have never been seriously tempted to change. It's the same with monogamy and commitment for me as well.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:00:41.469Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd think polyamory would work well for you. Any woman you date with a higher sex drive can just have sex with people that aren't you, and then you're not pressured to meet a need that you have no interest in...

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-07T01:19:08.966Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I doubt I am a great lover, and I most assuredly prefer to just 'be myself' and to patently reject any idea that I need to conform to some socially acceptable level of skill in the ability to carry a flirtacious sequence into good sex. Flirting has always left me feeling cold and I would be very unhappy to change that.

Maybe I'm misreading you. Are you saying that you would be unhappy if you began to enjoy flirting? If so... why? (Or is this too personal?)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-07T01:33:41.706Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The current prospect of my current self undergoing a transformation into a future self that enjoyed flirting causes me current displeasure. To make an exaggerated example, if someone told me that in 10 years the world would be more or less the same as it is now but that I would come to enjoy cannibalism or self-flagellation, that would upset me because my current mental configuration would see it as a bad thing for me to come into that later mental configuration. On a much much much smaller scale, I feel the same about flirting. You could exchange flirting with "become a fan of the TV show Friends" and I would feel about the same way about it.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-07T01:59:36.719Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I understand the basic concept - I think the usual analogy is offering Ghandi a pill that would make him want to murder people, or something like that - but in most examples I could think of, there's an element of (and I don't mean this as bad as it sounds) moral judgement about it. Like, there's some things I don't enjoy that I wouldn't mind enjoying - the taste of tea or coffee, for example - and some things that I don't enjoy and would consider it immoral to begin to enjoy - cannibalism, kicking puppies, etc. This model is pretty clearly flawed by failing to account for your stated preferences not to enjoy Friends et al. (unless you consider that immoral somehow?).

Also, to illustrate how one man's exaggeration is another man's Tuesday: I do not currently, but would not particularly mind beginning to, enjoy self-flagellation. Masochists pretty much have it made, in my opinion - it's so easy to inflict pain.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-07T02:13:01.404Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with you. It probably is a certain amount of moral judgement. The way I experience a distaste in flirting is that it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush. I don't personally derive enjoyment from it. If I did, or wanted to, I might feel differently about it. Flirting would by no means be the worst thing to end up having as a preference. But I still think some self-hacking would have to happen before I would want to enjoy flirting.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-10-13T01:09:55.005Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The way I experience a distaste in flirting is that it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush.

I see flirting somewhat differently. Flirting gives an opportunity for both partners to showcase their social skills and gain information about what they each respond to sexually, and what sort of relationship they might have if they were to embark on one. It's like a mutual interview. Flirting will help your potential female partners determine what kind of guy you are, and if they are into you.

Flirting can often be direct, even though it is implicit rather than explicit. Yet many people find beating around the bush to be useful, because they want more time to assess their potential partner before making a commitment of interest. Personally, I am totally fine with giving a potential partner social information to help her assess her interest in me, rather than trying to get her to make a snap decision before she has sufficient information.

You still might not find flirting enjoyable, but perhaps you can see that it does serve some useful purposes.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T03:38:12.312Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree there can be useful information conveyed through flirting, but my experience is that flirting does not usually correlate with the factors that I want to gain information about prior to making a dating decision. On the other hand, if I were interested only in brief sexual encounters, then flirting might communicate information about whether I will enjoy a person's company in the short term. I don't usually seek that, but can see how it would be useful for people who do.

comment by HughRistik · 2011-10-13T06:13:24.456Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It might be possible that flirting is more useful for negotiating short term sexual encounters, but I think there are still applications for long term relationships. For example, flirting can help determine whether your senses of humor are compatible, which could important for a long-term relationship.

Although you might not care much about the information conveyed through flirting, your prospective partners very much might. Flirting will give them a lot of information about your character and social experiences, which they could find useful for determining their desire for a relationship of any length.

All long-term relationships start off being short-term.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-13T15:12:03.129Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't noticed a correlation between flirting and the kind of humor that is compatible to my own sense of humor, but again, it might be there. For me, however, one of the issues I actually actively look for when meeting a new person and considering a relationship with them is whether or not they are inclined to flirt. If someone flirts with me, it is generally a detractor and both she and I are probably better off not pursuing anything further, again except possibly for short term sexual interests. If someone else cares a lot about flirting (perhaps legitimately) that is usually a signal that I am not a good match for them. It would be the same if our first conversations focused heavily on NASCAR or high-end fashion... these are signs of a mismatch with my own personality and flirting is among them (though of course not the most telling or severe sign).

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-10-07T02:17:37.571Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

it seems annoying and counterproductive to beat around the bush

Now I get it! Okay, that makes perfect sense to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-10-10T15:18:26.494Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, for anyone who is interested, I am really curious what LWers think of the long passages at the end of David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King that describe the character Shane Drinion.

comment by MatthewBaker · 2012-05-20T16:07:01.424Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I will read it and get back to you.

comment by Emile · 2011-10-04T08:32:06.424Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even the physical act of having sex does not bring much physical pleasure for me and I've never felt that a sexual connection was of any particular importance for me. At the same time, I realize it is not likely that a compatible female will feel this way

The impression I get is that when a couple disagrees about the frequency of sex, in the majority of cases it's the man that wants more and the woman that wants less - so even if you're at the low end of the distribution of sexual appetite for men, chances are there'll be more women around that level.

comment by Logos01 · 2011-10-04T11:05:38.459Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with this sort of thinking is that women may not express a desire for sexual contact, but they still are strongly influenced by oxytocin / emotional intimacy from love-making.

Also, as an anhedonic (complication of autism) -- I would note that there really aren't many women 'down in my level' as it were. I personally have suspicions that in this category, as in so many other, the bell-curve distribution of motivation/interest/promiscuity is far denser towards the mean in women than it is in men. Same rough average, but fewer outliers.

comment by Raemon · 2011-10-01T20:01:52.923Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This post has definitely improved a lot.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-01T20:10:29.916Z · score: 9 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I'm pretty sure it will still hit a lot of people's buttons, though. And unfortunately, everybody has different buttons. Some people really like X while others think X is morally objectionable and irritating, but these people don't mind Y even though the first group of people find Y to be obvious and boring. Still others just don't like "applied rationality" posts at all, and especially posts about rationality and romance, and will downvote so as to decrease the odds that others will be able to read such posts in the future, too. Still others will find this comment right here to be victimhood-seeking, with some justification.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-01T21:05:46.566Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Will those downvoting this comment name the sentence they disagree with?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-03T02:10:52.744Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Will those downvoting this comment name the sentence they disagree with?

It's a sex thread. Your comment touches on the topic of justifying posts on that subject and speculates on the reasoning of those who may object. Or, at least, it is close enough to be pattern matched to that kind of comment. Comments of that type which are reasonably expressed I expect to be initially downvoted but then end up significantly positive after a while. Naming the cause for that observed tendency would mostly amount to providing a just so story.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-03T05:42:19.589Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Because of the last sentence, I didn't think it deserved to be rated as highly as it is. It does not deserve to be downvoted to negative numbers.

comment by Raemon · 2011-10-01T20:23:56.788Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm amused that this comment was already downvoted.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-01T20:24:51.900Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I was kinda asking for it. :)

comment by wedrifid · 2011-10-03T02:18:35.117Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Still others will find this comment right here to be victimhood-seeking, with some justification.

The content of your comment certainly has 'victimhood-seeking' potential. But you (or, more precisely, the lukeprog_2011 persona with whom we are engaging) do not have it in you to be whiny. So your tone doesn't convey either the martyred sulkiness or the sanctimonious bitchiness that the two major 'victimhood-seeking' modes seem to employ. It is easy to imagine some changes to your wording that convey a completely different picture. Or at least that's my reading.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T01:30:31.587Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Still others just don't like "applied rationality" posts at all, and especially posts about rationality and romance

Could you provide evidence that "people dislike relationship threads" is a more common objection than "you're writing something that's only useful if you're a heterosexual male and could you please make it a bit more widely applicable"? My primary objection is that you keep assuming that "I dislike relationship posts" is the more common objection, whereas the comments on this post seem to tell the opposite story.

For that matter, showing some sign that you actually understand the latter objection, and actually care to correct it would be wonderful...

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-07T06:45:23.248Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Here are the lessons illustrated by my story, which happens to be a heterosexual story because I'm heterosexual:

Until you explicitly notice the cached rules for what you're doing, you won't start thinking of them as something to be optimized. Ask yourself: Which parts of romance do you currently think of as subjects of optimization? What else should you be optimizing?

Respond to the value of information. Once you notice you might be running in the wrong direction, don't keep going that way just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in the thoughts or information you've now realized is valuable because it might change your policies, i.e., figuring out which direction to go.

Know your fields of incompetence. If you suspect you may be incompetent, sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling. (E.g. "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely", or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.)

Use scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to gain a certain class of experience points.

Be especially suspicious of rationalizations for not obeying the empiricist rules "try it and see what happens" or "test yourself to see what happens" or "get some concrete experience on the ground". Think of the cost of time happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider the opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now and change course. How many months or years will your life be less awesome as a result? How many opportunities will you miss while you're still (kinda) young?

Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.

Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion.

So... I notice I'm confused. How are these lessons "only useful if you're a heterosexual male"?

It is as though I just told a story about an Arabian prince that illustrated a few very general lessons about how to succeed in business, and then somebody objected, "But I'm not an Arabian prince! This isn't useful to me!"

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T17:59:12.596Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Aha! Women want men to be better at making them laugh

"Aha! When women say "Be yourself," they mean "Don't be fake; be uniquely you."

When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date,

After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy.

If none of this was actually important to your point, might I suggest cutting it?

comment by lukeprog · 2011-10-07T21:02:04.368Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. Those are important examples and events in my own story; not surprisingly, they are heterosexually framed because I'm heterosexual. But four examples/events being heterosexually framed amidst the 7 labeled rationality lessons that are neutral to gender orientation does not make the post "only useful if you're a heterosexual male," I don't think.

So I'm still confused about what you seem to be reacting against. When I read a book and some small section of it doesn't apply to me, I don't write the author to complain that there was a section of what they wrote that didn't apply to me. I just skim past that part and note that it didn't apply to me, and then get back to the parts that do apply to me, if I'm finding the book useful at all - and if I'm not, I just don't read the book.

So, I'd love to be "showing some sign" of understanding the "some of your post doesn't apply to me" objection, but I'll need to have you help me understand it first, I'm afraid. :)

comment by bootypower · 2011-10-08T04:11:22.697Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly is the problem with the cited portion? Methinks you are reading things into Luke's comments that are not really there. This is sadly common when dealing with 'touchy' issues (sexuality, race, gender, etc.). Sometimes a person reveals their overly sensitive nature about things rather than true points in such instances.

Also, before one insists upon edits one ought to justify why such things are necessary. If you a really intent on upping a person's rationality you need to provide an argument that justifies your suggestion.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-10-07T21:50:02.028Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Compare these considerations: (1) I believe it's better to not have posts like this, (2) it's just better to change posts like this in a way that makes them more widely useful. Of these, (2) can't bring about an improvement by a large margin, since heterosexual males form a sizeable portion of the readership, possibly more than half (given the gender imbalance), so its relevance seems more likely to come from either urge to rationalize (1) without admitting it as an actual reason (perhaps subconsciously), or from expecting people who don't benefit from the post to dislike its presence, which is again a special case of (1).

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T23:02:13.605Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I believe it's better not to have posts like this, because it has a lot of irrelevant fluff that could be cut - it's an article that mixes rationality and dating advice. I want the article which is just the rationality, without the dating advice. I'm not sure which box that falls under. Alicorn's post was ostensibly on the same subject, and struck me as well written and unobjectionable, so it's clearly not just an objection to mentions of romantic life.

Also, if the audience is "possibly more than half", that implies that (2) could double the usefulness of the post... I'm not sure how a suggestion to double the usefulness of a post is "not a large margin of improvement".

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-10-07T23:11:34.447Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe it's better not to have posts like this, because it has a lot of irrelevant fluff that could be cut

Again, if you are suggesting an improvement, this doesn't clearly argue for not having posts that are not so improved. For this to matter, the post as it stands has to be bad, but its hypothetical improved version has to cross over into the "good" category. Improving relevance doesn't seem like a strong enough change to do this trick, it seems like the character of an adequate such improvement must be that of "fixing a damaging problem", rather than that of "making the presentation even better". You'd need to address this problem, otherwise all I hear is a fake explanation.

comment by zaogao · 2011-10-03T11:01:46.036Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

+1 for last comment making me imagine lukeprog as Charlie Sheen.

comment by Iabalka · 2011-10-02T10:40:00.229Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My rationality thoughts on certain aspects of relationships:

• Your first time (hug, kiss, etc...) with a new partner

Be aware that you have built some expectations. Thus if your expectations were high(low) you are likely to be disappointed(overexcited). Then your second time will be perceived as better(worse) due to the regression towards the mean phenomena. So draw a representative sample before judging and start optimizing.

comment by Aleksei_Riikonen · 2011-10-04T01:57:18.049Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked.

LOL

(Just couldn't resist posting my reaction, even though there's already an essentially identical comment.)

It seems that this was made a lot more amusing by you apparently having great social skills these days.

(And makes me all the more glad I've never broken up with anyone, even though this requirement made it kinda hard to get into a relationship in the first place.)

comment by TraderJoe · 2012-11-02T09:31:39.816Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[comment deleted]

comment by Aharon · 2011-10-09T07:12:30.010Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I post this here because it is the more recent topic, and I guess the chances you find and answer to my comment are higher: In a comment to Alicorn's experiences with polyhacking, you write that one of the perks of polyamory is that you don't have to constantly smother your attraction to many, many women.

Seeing how the cultural norm is still monogamy, and it would be quite hypocritical to date a woman with such preferences despite your own feelings on the subject matter, doesn't that limit your pool of potential partners more than what would be available to a serial monogamist or someone who just cheats his main partner?

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-09T11:46:21.801Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, if your pool of potential partners is randomly sampled from the entire population. In practice, nobody's pool of potential partners is selected thusly; you seek out pools, as it were, and so you can seek out polygamous groups so that your pool of potential partners contains many polygamists (and monogamish-ists?).

comment by Aharon · 2011-10-09T15:36:31.554Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My experience totally differs, most relationships in my circle of acquaintances and my family were formed because of preexisting common interests/hobbies/whatever that are shared by the two eventual partners. ("People who play tennis together", "People who finished college at the same school in the same year", "People frequently attending events of the same fraternity", etc.). Yes, it's not totally random, but the subsets you get are still likely to contain people with very different personalities, attitudes and interests. I admit that this is only from my own observations, and that this is perhaps caused by cultural and environmental differences (I'm from a moderately traditional german family).

But assuming for the moment your model is correct, Lukeprog would still have to smother his attraction to the many woman who aren't polyamourous. So it doesn't really help in that respect, does it?

comment by shokwave · 2011-10-10T03:07:53.068Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh! I see what you mean; my previous comment is based on a misunderstanding. As a monogamous person, Lukeprof would have to smother his attraction the many women he wasn't currently dating. In this respect, entering into a monogamous relationship closes off all the other monogamous women in much the same way that being polyamorous closes them off.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2011-10-01T20:39:54.076Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

never mind me

comment by furiouslysleepy · 2011-10-04T09:05:42.980Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I've just been corrupted by reading too much feminism, but like someone said, this seems to be rather heteronormative. While I appreciate that you are a straight male, it would be excellent to see a similar writeup from a female, or even one that doesn't simply assume that the 'desired class' is 'female'.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-10-04T09:31:37.561Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Link at top of page.

comment by handoflixue · 2011-10-07T00:58:44.623Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

(not the original poster) Alicorn's post succeeds at avoiding a gender/orientation-specific narrative while lukeprog's fails.

Simple changes can do a lot to address this: "When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl." Becomes "When I realized there were thousands of other nearby people I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular one."

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2011-10-08T14:59:55.254Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl." Becomes "When I realized there were thousands of other nearby people I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular one."

I think the "people I could date" part could be changed to "people, animals or objects I could interact with". But I also think that such change is not necessary, because if any reader feels excluded, they are able to imagine the sentence properly changed.

More seriously, I think we should distinguish situations when someone is speaking about themselves and when someone is speaking about others. When you speak about others, it is good to be including. But if you speak about yourself, you only need to include... yourself.

For example, if I write a story about "how you can use your rationality skills to get an ice cream", it is fair to object that some of the readers do not want ice cream. But if I write a case study "how did I yesterday use my rationality skills to get an ice cream", then it is a story about me and my specific experience, so saying that someone else does not want ice cream is irrelevant.

Saying that all people love ice cream is not OK. Saying that I love ice cream is OK. I hope the difference is obvious.

Perhaps some people can be offended even by hearing that I love ice cream. I am not sure what to do in such situation. I don't want to be a jerk, but I don't see anything wrong in the fact that I love ice cream. I have no problem with people who don't like ice cream, and similarly I expect them to have no problem with the fact that I do. Is this offensive?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-29T05:34:02.697Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yo luke. Was wondering if I should PM you this but utilitarianism tells me I should post it here because some other poor soul like me could benefit from it.

Just a, well.. simple-looking question. I have an issue with conversations. I can talk with my guy friends well enough but sometimes the conversation dies with women. Either the conversation dies or when we're in a group I simply have nothing to add because the conversation can get quite inane[1] or I'm simply out of words to say[2]. Or the opposite [3].

This isn't how all conversations go - I had quite a few conversations which were very nice. Most of them were one-on-one (sadly, just the conversation) One even said she's had fun but I suspect she was a nerd too so this was more fateful than anything. (Blame the glasses, I guess.)

[1] You probably had this when you're in a group and the topic at hand seems so.. stupid, easily-solvable or anything that you personally wouldn't dwell on for more than five minutes.

[2] Sometimes this happens. I want to try pulling something out of my ass just to see if hammering ice (breaking the ice seems to be too gentle in my view) would work.

[3] And this is a situation which is somewhat related to [2]. But sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself or the wall or anything that isn't really going to respond. It's like the give-and-take part of the conversation is not there at all.

[4] There waasn't really a 4, but running quality control over this comment makes me remember a comment I read a looong time ago on a bodybuilding forum. The topic was about some guy who is trying to convince his friends that Mark Rippetoe's program is fine and doing many reps isn't going to help them get more muscle mass. The forum admin waas quite active and usually responded with about 8 items that should make them shut up and squat. The last one was a particularly funny, but interesting response: "Get better friends". Now this is an rather interesting one because it could mean I'm going south despite wanting to go north. It almost as if the friends are a burden to him. I could go on but I think you got the point.

[5] Now there wasn't really a 5 either but I think I'm a victim of the Fucking Fallacy, whereas a young man computes that attractive woman = we must get along. There are some other things like women being affected by what their friends think which is some cached thought I have. There's a few others that don't quite pop into my head. Back to the fallacy, the fact she's attractive doesn't mean we have (or at least have the theoretical ability) to get along. Bottom-line-way this means I should go for the narrow rather than broad appeal as you've mentioned in this post (http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/) But at the same time, I feel like something's missing and I could definitely do better if I could find what it is.