comment by Viliam ·
2016-04-07T16:13:57.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Just a random thing I wanted to say before I forget it:
It is okay to be rational and happy.
Why am I even saying this? Did anyone claim the opposite? Well, I haven't heard anyone say explicitly "no, as a rational person you must be always serious and grim", but sometimes people behave as if they believed that. Why could it be so?
There are many bad things in the world. Knowing and understanding more will make you see more of those bad things, which logically can make you sad. On the other hand, fools are believed to be ignorant and happy. So it's like we have an intuitive idea that intelligence or wisdom or rationality (I am not going to distinguish between these things properly; this is a comment on a blog, not a doctoral thesis) correlate negatively with happiness. Of course this isn't always true -- for example a paranoid person can be less rational, see more dangers, and thus be less happy -- but in general the idea seems plausible.
However, this is confusing two things: knowing in general that a bad thing exists, and thinking about it obsessively all the time. It is the latter that can make you sad 24/7. People in difficult situations often do have happy moments; they find a break to relax and enjoy whatever enjoyable thing is there. The hedonistic treadmill works both ways: when you do something difficult, it is a great feeling to declare it done, and then sit down and relax. On the other hand, people with a lot of free time and nothing much to do can spend the whole day thinking about unpleasant stuff.
So yeah, there are many bad things in the world. But it is perfectly okay to stop thinking about them for a moment, and just relax. Don't worry, you are not going to forget everything, you are not going to become completely stupid, if you turn off your worries for a moment.
And if it feels unethical, something like "children in Africa are starving to death every second, and here I am, relaxing and listening to music, shouldn't I feel guilty?", then think as a consequentialist: if instead you spend your afternoon depressed, how specifically is that going to help anyone? Does sadness increase your productivity? Does it somehow help you generate money that you can send to the poor? If you are like me, you are probably less productive when sad, and more productive when happy. In which case, it is actually your ethical duty to be happy. But no pressure: one doesn't get happy when a gun is pointed at their head with "now be happy, or else!". Just relax and enjoy whatever is there to enjoy.
Then there is this idea of "constant vigilance", like we must spend most of our time looking carefully for mistakes, in ourselves and in our neighbors, otherwise we could miss something, and that would be stupid, right? Nope. You are going to miss something anyway. On the other hand, by constant nitpicking you lose a lot socially. I am not going to ask you to accept all bullshit, just to... choose your battles. Also, it may help to be a bit more charitable. You don't have to automatically assume that everyone is an idiot, just because they said something without a citation.
But this requires some teamwork. One of the reasons why people stay alert is because they have an experience that when they relax, and say something that isn't perfectly scientific or misses some disclaimer, someone else is going to highlight the fact, and quite often in a way that seems like a status attack. So instead of writing "the sky is blue" we feel the pressure to write "the sky on Earth, today, during the day -- of course, different timezones do not have the day at exactly the same time -- appears to be blue -- but it may also contain non-blue clouds, or a plane, or a bird, or a flying squirrel, or... okay, I am giving up". It is easier to stop beating yourself when others stop beating you, too.
Of course (see, I am already in the defensive mode), trying to remove all negative feedback, for example not having downvotes (just like Facebook) would have bad consequences in some situations. People writing obvious bullshit; people spamming the discussion; and so on (just like Facebook). Yeah, it is okay to use the negative feedback sometimes. Just don't spend the whole day role-playing a prison guard, okay?
Obsessive thinking about bad things, obsessive looking for mistakes, obsessive mutual policing and self-policing... those are things that prevent us from relaxing and enjoying life. Each of those is necessary sometimes, rational in proper dosage, and insane when done habitually all the time. Don't think like this: doing X is necessary in some extreme situations, therefore I have to do it always. No you don't.
Smiling and hugging doesn't make you a cultist, btw. Sure, that's what cultists sometimes do. And you know what? That's also what other humans sometimes do.
Not sure what exactly should I propose here. To relax is a group activity (sometimes a group of one), because it is difficult to relax if merely one member is screaming and poking at others. But to scold that one person, well, that can start the fight. One idea -- not sure if good -- is to separate the discussion from the feedback. Imagine something like having a thread where no negative feedback is allowed, but the negative feedback could be provided in a different thread instead. Not sure how exactly would that work (the criticized person wouldn't get the message alert if the reply is not below their comment). Feel free to propose a better idea.
I guess offline people solve this problem by simply not inviting the people who violate the group norms into the debate. So maybe after having the "relaxed thread" we could have a meta thread where the most serious infractions against sanity would be pointed out, and if they happen repeatedly, the person would be banned from the "relaxed threads"? Again, this depends on judgement, whether people would propose bans for trivial things, or not. Maybe the person proposing the ban should also share some risk, like: too many unsuccessful ban proposals, and you get banned; or perhaps that after every failed ban attempt there would be an automatical reverse-ban discussion ("do you believe that X made this site too negative by proposing to ban Y?"). We probably should do some experiments to find out.
Replies from: Viliam, ChristianKl
↑ comment by Viliam ·
2016-04-07T21:39:21.540Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Oops, I did the mistake of proposing a solution too soon. Well, in the name of greater positivity, I am now officially forgiving myself. ;-)
Meta: Not sure how frequent this is, but I often think better while talking aloud. (Or writing.) Just like today: I wrote something, later I thought about it, felt somewhat dissatisfied like I didn't exactly express what I wanted to say, later it crystalized, so now I am going to write the conclusion.
I realized this: Politeness (or other communication norms) is a recursive problem. Like, imagine that someone says "let's make it our community norm that we only talk politely", and everyone is like "yeah, sounds great". Later someone says something not perfectly polite, and someone else is like: "dude, that wasn't cool, I thought we did have an agreement about politeness". And the accused person is like: "hey, on the scale from perfect politeness to 4chan, my comment was far enough on the polite side." And then they add: "you know what? using the small imperfection on my side as a pretext to attack me publicly, that's the real impoliteness; that's a behavior much more hostile than merely using 'fuck you' as a harmless idiom, so actually you are the bad guy". -- So now we have a meta-discussion about politeness, and a problem to keep even this meta-discussion polite, which is quite difficult because 'what exactly politeness means' is the topic being currently discussed, so obviously there is no clear consensus yet.
Logically, this seems like an unsolvable problem. So how do normies deal with this stuff?
If I understand it correctly, there are a few rules of politeness that serve to prevent similar escalations of minor stuff. You should excuse small violations of polite behavior by literally pretending they didn't happen. (Unless you are e.g. a parent of a child who violated the rules.) When it happens repeatedly, a gradually increasing reaction is allowed; the idea is probably to find the smallest possible reaction when the person will become aware of their transgression of the rules, and presumably will stop. (If it becomes obvious that they are aware of violating the rules and still want to continue, I guess you are allowed to get rid of them, using the smallest necessary force, and never invite them again.)
In other words, even if the other person violated the rules, it doesn't give you a free pass to break the rules too. (This may contradict your instinct of fairness. Well, yeah, politeness does include a lot of 'not acting on instinct'; get used to it.)
Another rule, or perhaps a special case of the previous rule, is that you don't go meta about politeness. Except in situations specifically designed for this kind of debate. So what happens when two people have different opinions? If the difference is small, the small infractions will simply be ignored. When the difference becomes too big to ignore, I am not sure, but my guess is that both sides apologize for having different norms, and then try to find a compromise solution. If they can't, they probably won't meet again.
I'm thinking about this, because I would like to use the similar mechanism for creating a norm of more pleasant interactions among aspiring rationalists. And, analogically, mutual accusations of "not being pleasant enough" or endless attempts to "have a meta debate about what really counts as pleasant" can reliably kill the mood.
Therefore, to keep the debate pleasant, we also need to have a meta-rule that small violations of pleasant behavior cannot be reciprocated, should be ignored for the first time, and when repeated, they should be met with as pleasant corrective reaction as possible. (Unless it becomes obvious that the infractions are intentional. Then, the user is forcefully removed from the debate, with everyone else trying to make as little drama as possible.) A meta-debate on politeness can only appear in designated threads, separately from where the object-level debate happens.
I'll think about it a bit more, and perhaps make an experimental "positive debate thread" when I will feel I have a good idea about the specific rules. Meanwhile, thanks for reading my "thinking aloud", and of course feel free to comment.
Replies from: ChristianKl
↑ comment by ChristianKl ·
2016-04-07T23:25:53.144Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
A meta-debate on politeness can only appear in designated threads, separately from where the object-level debate happens.
Meta-debates on politeness also don't have to happen publically.
↑ comment by ChristianKl ·
2016-04-07T23:42:04.653Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Then there is this idea of "constant vigilance", like we must spend most of our time looking carefully for mistakes, in ourselves and in our neighbors, otherwise we could miss something, and that would be stupid, right?
To use words from phenomenology I previously haven't heard on LW attentionality and intentionality are different things. Being in attentionality and noticing your confusion is not draining one one's mental energy. On the other hand intentionally looking for mistakes is.
I don't need to feel an obligation to carefully look for mistakes to find them.