Comment by abigailgem on A Suite of Pragmatic Considerations in Favor of Niceness · 2010-01-06T10:40:44.054Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the meaning is, that on reading something unpalatable, one may be tempted to write it off as "crazy" or "stupid" quickly, and then ignore it, and trying to see the good in it may be more useful; and calling the writer crazy or stupid will make further communication more difficult. So when someone uses those words too readily, that person is called "mean", and seen as not "nice".

Comment by abigailgem on If reason told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it? · 2009-12-22T14:26:49.217Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"cleverness" comes to mind as a better substitute

Or "Hubris". In the examples, the people go wrong not because they are using reason and they should not use reason, but because they falsely imagine they are capable of using reason sufficiently to deal with the particular issue.

Comment by abigailgem on What makes you YOU? For non-deists only. · 2009-11-14T10:15:14.156Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Deism in the 17th century was a move towards rationalism, away from the idea of a God who interfered in the world. Rationalists now will not be deists, but deists during the Enlightenment were more rational than society in general, and were moving towards atheism. I suggest that you use the word "atheists" rather than "non-deists" in the title.

Comment by abigailgem on Experiential Pica · 2009-08-17T11:50:01.435Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A rewrite, using Feeling words: if you feel happy, content and fulfilled, you will be better able to do the things you have to do. If you believe that doing those things is likely to accomplish a goal you have, you will be better able to motivate yourself to do them. If you cannot bring yourself to do what you have to do, find something which will make you feel happy, content or fulfilled; or if you cannot do that, play Tetris or whatever which will at least take your mind off the guilt, until it comes back worse later.

What will make you feel fulfilled? What will make you feel that doing the task you have to do will make achieving your goal more likely?

Comment by abigailgem on The Apologist and the Revolutionary · 2009-07-28T09:10:00.246Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When I tried this technique, I did it very slowly. It was like asking whether a word to write felt right. Then I did a drawing which seemed to contradict what I had been thinking consciously shortly before.

I am not aware of research on the technique.

Comment by abigailgem on The Trolley Problem in popular culture: Torchwood Series 3 · 2009-07-28T09:04:19.814Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: major plot spoiler in this comment.

You miss out a major point of the story, that those who agree to sacrifice others' children are dishonourable, and that this matters; and that the main character, who sacrifices only one child to save all the rest (his grandchild) suffers terribly for this.

I would not argue from fictional evidence, but the storytellers seem keen to point this out. Also, when deciding to sacrifice children, all possible other courses of action must be eliminated first.

Edit: for me, the main interest of the trolley problem is the emotional response. Would you kill one to save five, if saving the five was certain if you killed the one, and impossible otherwise? Er, yes, I hope so, though I think such a situation, with such certainty, is unlikely. How do you feel about trolley problems generally? Horror and disgust. Then I see that even if I am not going to be in that situation, I may be in situations where I must behave rationally, and Stoically fight down emotional responses.

Comment by abigailgem on Not Technically Lying · 2009-07-12T20:29:06.521Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Among lawyers, this can show high status. Lying to a court is completely unacceptable, and can make an advocate useless to future clients. However NTL is OK.

The pupil barrister: "To be honest..."

Head of Chambers: Lawyers are always honest. The lawyer will say, "To be frank..."

(taken from the BabyBarista blog)

Comment by abigailgem on Rationality Quotes - June 2009 · 2009-06-16T08:23:55.336Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them" - Mr Gradgrind, Hard Times (Dickens)

An anti-rationalist quote. Dickens believes there is more to life than rationality. Does his satire upon us here have any basis in reality?

Comment by abigailgem on Least Signaling Activities? · 2009-05-23T08:59:12.571Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not signalling is

plausibly a more honest mental mode

Why should it be more "honest" not to signal? We are a social species. I conceive it possible to make a close relationship closer by signalling to ones partner what is actually the case.

Things like exercise, studying, which increase fitness and status may be motivated by the desire to increase fitness and status, with signalling only a by-product of this.

In moments of threat where the amygdala takes over, and time seems to slow down, a person responds to the threat, probably without signalling. But it is meaningless to say that I am "honest" when in a fight or flight situation, and at no other time.

Comment by abigailgem on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T13:41:52.295Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am irritated to find my post named as "nitpicking" when I was answering a direct question. I too "got the meaning and moved on". Alvarojabril below, much clearer- "The glance of a lover will still be alluring". Why not go with that?

Comment by abigailgem on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T11:04:40.061Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

women will still be alluring

I am much less offended by this than by the suggestion I will be attracted to Jessica Alba. "Women" includes me. I will take it as a compliment.

I can tolerate all sorts of stuff, and can just accept the maleness of this site, but it should be easy to amend to no longer be gender specific, or heteronormative. "The touch of another person's skin will still be wonderfully sensuous", perhaps? Or miss out sex as an example, stick to sunsets, music, rainbows, animals, the vista from a hilltop, the sea, great literature.... for examples of the merely real.

Comment by abigailgem on You Are A Brain · 2009-05-14T14:07:28.969Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No, "you are an organism".

You are a mammal, and all that is within your skin is you. This includes the unconscious bits, as well as the conscious running dialogue in your head. This includes all your other organs, whose functioning affects the functioning of your brain.

Comment by abigailgem on The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball · 2009-05-09T13:52:27.184Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I said, "only if you believe that to be the case". By "that", I intended to refer to the belief that [thinking the post is worthless means that you are unenlightened].

This is thinking in rigid categories. "All people who do not value koans are unenlightened". I do not really know what "enlightenment" is, but that false view is unenlightened.

Comment by abigailgem on Rationality is winning - or is it? · 2009-05-09T08:41:43.400Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"As above, so below". This is an explanation of Astrology. As above us the stars and planets move in their courses, so below, on this flat Earth, we follow our Destiny.

I do not believe in Astrology more than I believe the Earth is flat, but I love this sentence, expressing so much in so few words. It is my favourite such quote: beautifully and elegantly expressing an idea which is completely wrong. .

I work in an advice agency. We had an anonymous postcard, which read, "The otherbugger will get on your back if he can That is all the advice you ever need to give If he's on your back already it's TOO LATE!"

I find that both horrible and untrue, but it is elegantly expressed.

Comment by abigailgem on The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball · 2009-05-08T17:51:51.948Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I do not define "enlightened", claim to be enlightened, claim that you are less "enlightened", or say that you would be in any way better if you tried koans, or better if you wanted to try koans. I only said I had found them valuable.

I do not define "enlightened", because it is something which I only, as it were, gain the odd glimpse, from my peripheral vision. If I define "enlightenment", that means I place it in a box, make my understanding of it concrete. If I did, that would make it more difficult for me to gain in understanding of what "enlightenment" means, because I do not see the bits which go beyond my definition.

For over two thousand years, people have been using koans, and finding them valuable. Though I am not Buddhist, I tell you that I find them valuable too. I do not ask you to value them, but you might consider them a bit more before dismissing them.

I recommend "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" (can't remember the author, discussing some Buddhist ideas from an atheist, fairly rationalist standpoint. It is out of print but should be available on Abe Books.

Comment by abigailgem on The First Koan: Drinking the Hot Iron Ball · 2009-05-08T10:37:05.254Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I value koans as an exercise. I am not sure whether this makes me "enlightened", or whether I have a "better" way of understanding than anyone else, merely that I have valued the experience.

The point of the koan isn't to find the 'right answer', the point of the koan is to struggle with it

I have struggled like that. It seems from the inside like I have come out the other side of that struggle, better able to be in the World.

If I say "What a load of crap! This post conveys about as much insight as a Rorschach test!" then that means, more or less by definition, that I don't get it and am unenlightened, right?

Only if you believe that to be the case. To use a Less Wrong image, only if you are not Winning.

Comment by abigailgem on Without models · 2009-05-04T12:17:52.883Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Exercise 2. The accelerator will go to maximum, and the driver would have to brake maximally, until something burned out or the driver put the car out of gear or turned off the cruise control.

Comment by abigailgem on Without models · 2009-05-04T12:14:19.903Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Exercise 4. When targets were imposed on British GPs, the effect at my practice was that only a few appointments were available. I had to sit by the phone from 8.30am when the practice opened, phoning, getting the engaged tone, repeatedly pressing the redial button. Then I got the appointment time I wanted. Phone later in the day and there were no appointments available.

A GP may decide that his amour propre (signalling?) is more important than conforming to targets.

Experience on targets appears to indicate that people find ways of meeting the target, which may or may not be by achieving what the target-setter wished to achieve.

Comment by abigailgem on Without models · 2009-05-04T12:06:54.493Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Exercise 1. Assuming the truth of the statement that the candle has the effect of raising the temperature of the thermostat like that, (I do not have the knowledge to state whether that is or is not the case) the room temperature will oscillate between 15 and 16 degrees as the temperature of the thermostat continues to oscillate between 20 and 21, until the candle burns out.

Comment by abigailgem on Return of the Survey · 2009-05-04T11:59:21.753Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There may be left wing Conservative Party members in the UK who would be closer to Democrats in the US. I think UK centre ground is to the Left of US centre ground.

Comment by abigailgem on Generalizing From One Example · 2009-04-29T11:49:22.939Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have no ability to create images in a "mind's eye". I read of a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique, which suggested that one try to imagine a very simple image, such as a cloudless sky, the sea (no ships or other coastline) and a beach. So, two lines, the shore and the horizon. I tried this without success.

Comment by abigailgem on Theism, Wednesday, and Not Being Adopted · 2009-04-28T09:35:36.452Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

if you can believe in God, you can believe in anything.

The trouble with that is that I believe in some pretty weird things. I believe in a universe with a hundred billion galaxies, each of a hundred billion stars, of the Earth being a globe rushing round the sun when it appears to be still, with the sun going round it. I believe these things not because I have worked them out for myself, but because I understand that Academe believes them, more or less, and people with whom I associate believe them.

Comment by abigailgem on Escaping Your Past · 2009-04-25T08:45:39.584Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just think it's important to understand what doing better really involves.

For me, it has been the acceptance of other people, which has given me trust in myself, enabled me to relate better to other people, reduced my acrasia, made me more effective and happier. Internalising "It's alright to be you", "You have a right to be here". I am here to seek greater rationality, but do not think that rationality alone improves my life.

Comment by abigailgem on The ideas you're not ready to post · 2009-04-20T15:42:36.846Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Scott Peck, author of "The Road Less Travelled", which was extremely popular ten years ago, theorised that people became more mature, and could get stuck on a lower level of maturity. From memory, the stages were:

  1. Selfish, unprincipled
  2. Rule- following
  3. Rational
  4. Mystical.

Christians could be either rule-following, a stage of maturity most people could leave behind in their teens, needing a big friendly policeman in the sky to tell them what to do- or Mystical.

Mystical people had a better understanding of the World because they did not expect it to be "rational", following a rationally calculable and predictable course. This fits my map in some ways: there are moments when I relate better to someone if I rely on instinct, rather than calculating what is going on, just as I can hit something better if I let my brain do the work rather than try to calculate a parabolic course for the rock.

I am not giving his "stage four" as well as he could. If you like, I would read up in his books, including "Further along the RLT" and "The RLT and beyond" and "The Different Drum" (I used to be a fan, and still hold him in respect).

You could then either decide you were convinced by Scott Peck, or come up with ways to refute him.

Would you like an article on this? Or would you rather just read about him on wikipedia?

Wikipedia says,

Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith but does so because of genuine belief. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.

Comment by abigailgem on Evangelical Rationality · 2009-04-20T11:56:03.849Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. That is why the comment that an article was a "random mostly useless piece of trivia" stood out. These are Boo words, rather than reasoned criticism.

Comment by abigailgem on Evangelical Rationality · 2009-04-20T11:09:20.625Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I vote this article down for discourtesy.

I do not think that "the apologist and the revolutionary" is a random mostly useless piece of trivia. I think it is an interesting introduction to a particular way a damaged brain can work, such that the map and the territory are grossly different. I was fascinated by the blast of cold water in the ear, and the effect of that.

I consider that if we are too discourteous to each other we may drive people away. It is quite possible to disagree courteously, or to vote down an article, or leave a comment there.

It may be relevant that I am female. I like people to get along. I believe that we work better together when we do. Men here do, from time to time, ask why LW and OB comments are predominantly from men.

Apart from that, I am glad to read your article, and interested to hear how your evangelism went.

Comment by abigailgem on Voting etiquette · 2009-04-09T11:51:52.588Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

A suggestion on voting:

Get rid of down votes. Only allow up-votes, and suggest the ground for upvoting would be that the voter believes the comment or post should be higher up the sort, even if the voter disagrees with it. This would be a simple rule, easy to apply, easy to understand. The fact that a comment had only one point would indicate that only its author thought it interesting or worthwhile.

Comments made late to older posts would have a lower value simply because fewer people had read them. This is a flaw in this proposal. However all sets of rules will have flaws, and the more complex the rules, or the voting system, the more likely it is that people will break the rules or fail to apply them correctly.

Note that my first five words indicate what the comment is about, so may attract attention when it is on the "recent comments" sidebar.

The moderators would need to alter the karma rule for making a post: perhaps karma of 100 or 200.

Edit: I notice for the first time from this comment that merely commenting does not give me a point, and that I may no longer up vote or down vote my own comment.

Comment by abigailgem on What do fellow rationalists think about Mensa? · 2009-04-07T13:39:21.835Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I enjoyed Mensa. I went to weekends away, and evenings in the pub. I met some nice people, and some crushing bores. I took the test initially to try and boost my social life. I do not think I had more intellectual discussions than I do with work colleagues.

Sir Clive Sinclair for a time hosted weekends in moderate hotels, with dinner parties. So I have enjoyed a couple of long general discussions in a group of about a dozen including him and Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, and he is still one of my best name-drops.

When I foolishly disclosed to an employer that I was in Mensa, every time after when I made a mistake he would say, "Mensa strikes again!", mockingly. I think being in Mensa does not give a useful signal.

I have kind of lost interest. I have other social groups to join with. The magazine in Britain is not interesting.

Comment by abigailgem on Formalizing Newcomb's · 2009-04-07T13:15:05.484Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I find Newcomb's problem interesting. Omega predicts accurately. This is impossible in my experience. We are not discussing a problem any of us is likely to face. However I still find discussing counter-factuals interesting.

To make Newcomb's problem more concrete we need a workable model of Omega

I do not think that is the case. Whether Omega predicts by time travel, mind-reading, or even removes money from the box by teleportation when it observes the subject taking two boxes is a separate discussion, considering laws of physics, SF, whatever. This might be quite fun, but is wholly separate from discussing Newcomb's problem itself.

I think an ability to discuss a counter-factual without having some way of relating it to Reality is a useful skill. Playing around with the problem, I think, has increased my understanding of the real World. Then the "need" to explain how a real Omega might do what Omega is described as being able to do just gets in the way.

Comment by abigailgem on Rationality is Systematized Winning · 2009-04-03T17:33:32.358Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

James, when you say, "be rational", I think this shows a misunderstanding.

It may be really important to impress people with a certain kind of reckless courage. Then it is Rational to play chicken as bravely as you can. This Wins in the sense of being better than the alternative open to you.

Normally, I do not want to take the risk of being knocked down by a car. Only in this case is it not rational to play chicken: because not playing achieves what I want.

I do not see why a rationalist should be less courageous, less able to estimate distances and speeds, and so less likely to win at Chicken.

Comment by abigailgem on Rationality is Systematized Winning · 2009-04-03T16:02:36.492Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but...

Of course there is random noise and different starting points, but there is also some evidence of whether one is really rational. It is a question of epistemic rationality what Wins should accrue to Rational people, and what wins (eg, parentage, the lottery) do not.

Comment by abigailgem on Rationality is Systematized Winning · 2009-04-03T15:32:33.389Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Suggestion: "Rationalists seek to Win, not to be rational".

Suggestion: "If what you think is rational appears less likely to Win than what you think is irrational, then you need to reassess probabilities and your understanding of what is rational and what is irrational".

Suggestion: "It is not rational to do anything other than the thing which has the best chance of winning".

If I have a choice between what I define as the "Rational" course of action, and a course of action which I describe as "irrational" but which I predict has a better chance of winning, I am either predicting badly or wrongly defining what is Rational.

I am not sure my suggestions are Better, but I am groping towards understanding and hope my gropings help.

EDIT: and the warning is that we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we are being rational, when we are missing something, using the wrong map, arguing fallaciously. So what about:

Suggestion: "If you are not Winning, consider whether you are really being rational".

"If you are not Winning more than people you believe to be irrational, this may be evidence that you are not really being rational".

On a different tack, "Rationalists win wherever rationality is an aid to winning". I am not going to win millions on the Lottery, because I do not play it.

Comment by abigailgem on Aumann voting; or, How to vote when you're ignorant · 2009-04-03T14:55:35.671Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you need evidence about what effect non-tug of war voting has.

Suppose I support the free ownership of weapons, but think a seven day waiting period is better than none.

If I vote for that waiting period, am I demoralising my fellow gun supporters, and invigorating the gun control types, who will therefore struggle harder for more restrictions? Or invigorating my side, which will make sure it does not get defeated next time? Too little evidence to make a prediction.

Or what if I say, well, seven days is OK, but if they win this the gun control types will then demand gun licencing, involving gun holders needing annual psychiatrist's reports. So I have to tug against seven days, in case something worse comes along.

I would vote for the policy I supported. This has little enough effect on whether that policy gets made into law. I would think the effect on future changes is more negligible.

As a British citizen, I have never been eligible to vote in a referendum. It seems that American propositions are much more common.

Less Wrong SF quote: "The right to bear weapons is the right to be free"- The Weapon Shops of Isher.

Comment by abigailgem on Where are we? · 2009-04-03T11:49:21.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Newport, South Wales (Casnewydd, De Cymru). Rarely in London, willing to travel to Bristol or Swansea.

Comment by abigailgem on Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately · 2009-04-02T09:41:41.442Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As Michael's comment has been upvoted, I will respond. I have deluded myself a great deal, and decided some years ago to try to ferret out the lies I tell myself, and the motivation for these.

The main motivation was, "I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a Good person".

In May 2008 I decided, "I am a human being". I have the value of a human being. One among seven billion of us; but one evolved over four billion years, fitting beautifully into my environment, fitting into society with the attributes needed to live in society. Or some of the attributes. Or attributes needed to live in society in one way. Or something like that.

I am Good Enough.

So I want to stop morally judging myself. I am good enough. Does akrasia make me Bad? Am I not fulfilling my obligations to others? Am I Good? I have a neurotic flaw of taking such things too seriously, which makes me withdraw from action rather than taking the action I need to take.

Also, I am seeking to develop skills which reduce the effect of Akrasia, build better and deeper relationships, achieve goals. Life is Difficult. I have decided to stop beating myself up because I am not perfect at it.

I come at the problem with certain disordered personality traits.

Comment by abigailgem on Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately · 2009-04-01T13:36:26.904Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Try to wean yourself off the need for warm fuzzies instead.

EDIT: No, don't try to wean yourself off the warm fuzzies, but get the warm fuzzies from friends and family, not from people in distress in need of charity. Feel good about yourself because you are achieving your goals, including altruistic ones. (end of edit)

Carl Rogers, founder of person centred counselling, theorised that there is an "organismic self", with all the attributes and abilities of the human organism within its own skin, and a "self-concept" built up from what the individual saw it was desirable to be. The conscious part of the human being builds up a map of how that human being's unconscious motivations and desires are. Part of this map is mere falsehood, lies told to make the person feel better about himself, because he has introjected the idea that this is the way he ought to be. Disparity between the map and the territory causes cognitive dissonance, and may make the need for warm fuzzies: cognitive dissonance is painful, pretending to be your own self-concept gives a warm fuzzy.

If you can make your self-concept, your map of yourself, match your organismic self, the actual territory which you may be strongly motivated to deny, then your need for warm fuzzies may reduce.

You will be more efficient if instead of buying warm fuzzies, you spend energy on utilons or signaling.

I am strongly motivated to altruism. I have decided to stop asking whether this is selfish or not. Yes, it is selfish, it fulfils My goals. No, it is not selfish, it fulfils the goals of others too. Is it "good" or "bad"? Don't know that either. I have decided that does not matter. It is what I want, perhaps merely for signalling purposes.

Comment by abigailgem on Open Thread: March 2009 · 2009-03-26T16:43:05.070Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A psychic medium.

My colleague, let’s call her Sally, tells me she is a psychic medium. She tells me she first spoke to a dead person when she was three: she was talking to a woman on the stairs, and her mother was concerned when she went to tell her mother about it. Now, she tends not to see people, she realises they are not physically present in the way that a living person is present, but she senses them.

She reports three ways in which the Dead communicate. Normally, it is as if she hears them speaking, and relays the message to the living. During her meeting she will give a talk on a reading for about fifteen minutes, and it is as if the dead person speaks alongside her: there is equal control of what is said between her and the dead person. She tends not to do Trance mediumship, where the dead person takes over her body and speaks through her mouth, but has experience of it.

What am I to do with this information she gives me? There is a non-trivial possibility that she is a conscious shyster, a charlatan, a fraud, but that is not my experience of her in my working life. She tells me her beliefs have ruined one marriage. I do not consider it likely that she is deliberately lying.

She tells me that there are false mediums, and she hates them, because they bring the calling into disrepute. She can tell someone is a false medium because what they say is so non-specific. I intend to go to one of her meetings, because I am interested enough in the phenomenon- though I doubt I will be converted to believe she talks to the Dead.

I consider it a very small possibility that she is talking to the spirits of the dead. It is slightly more possible that she is inspired by some sort of Jungian “collective unconscious”. I think it most likely that she is unconsciously using the same cold reading techniques that a debunker of “psychics” such as Derren Brown or James Randi uses consciously. However, her experience of the phenomenon is such that she believes herself inspired.

I have written verse, like most people. Sometimes it comes so easily, one could almost believe in a Muse of poetry, as if something external was moving one to hear and write the words. You have probably heard of a dream of a snake eating its tail, leading to theorising about benzene rings. I think she has a genuine human experience, which she falsely ascribes to the words of the Dead.

I had vaguely thought of doing this as a post, but an open thread comment may be a better place for it.

Comment by abigailgem on Comments for "Rationality" · 2009-03-17T12:54:47.871Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer: "Similarly, if you find yourself saying "The rational thing to do is X, but the right thing to do is Y" then you are almost certainly using one of the words "rational" or "right" in a way that a huge chunk of readers won't agree with. In this case - or in any other case where controversy threatens - you should substitute more specific language: "The self-benefiting thing to do is to run away, but I hope I would at least try to drag the girl off the railroad tracks""

Yes. Rational does not equal "sensible" or "putting self first".

So can we be rational in arguing about morality? If I decide that human life has value, I can argue from that prior, rationally, that it is Right to try and drag the girl off the railroad tracks.

I believe that human life has value, even though that is not a completely rigorous, defined statement of my belief about human life. I doubt I have the words to fully express my beliefs about the value of human life.

It is possible that I generalise "human life has value" from my own selfish needs, I do not like being alone for too long, I would have to adjust and learn a great deal before I could survive without Society.

So I believe that for me to believe "human life has value" is Right, or at least permissible, but not necessarily Rational (epistemic or instrumental) in itself, though I can take it as an axiom, and argue rationally based upon it.

Or if my belief that "human life has value" derives rationally from "I will base my values on my own selfish needs" which derives from "I want to survive": in "I want to survive" there is a Want, which is not derived rationally from anything.

Comment by abigailgem on Really Extreme Altruism · 2009-03-15T20:18:01.845Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure I can be rational about this at all, because I find suicide repulsive. Yet my society admires the bravery of a soldier who, say, throws himself on a grenade so that it will not kill the others in his dugout. I might see a tincture of dishonesty in the man's actions, and yet he enters a contract, with a free contracting party, and performs his part of the contract.

So. Something to practice Rationality on. To consider the value of an emotional response. Thank you. I am afraid, I still have the emotional response, shameful. I cannot, now, see it as admirable.

Comment by abigailgem on Epistemic Viciousness · 2009-03-14T20:13:11.947Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

What can be done about it? We can fight.

The Master can argue for Creationism, and try to defeat the pupil's refutation of it. We can argue for or against One-boxing on Newcomb's problem. Or pretend to be the AI arguing that the Gatekeeper should free it. The Master is only Master for as long as s/he is undefeated.

Comment by abigailgem on Is Santa Real? · 2009-03-13T22:23:56.102Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It might be useful to teach the Santa Claus myth in order to teach fantasising. It is necessary to know the difference between reality and fantasy, but fantasy is where one can explore how one might Like the world to be, and then begin to plan a way towards it; and fantasy can lead in to lateral thinking.

Comment by abigailgem on Beginning at the Beginning · 2009-03-13T18:46:46.680Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do not base my life on the fiction of Newcomb's problem, but I do take lessons from it. Not the lesson that an amazingly powerful creature is going to offer me a million dollars, but the lesson that it is possible to try and fail to be rational, by missing a step, or that I may jump too soon to the conclusion that something is "impossible", or that trying hard to learn more rationality tricks will profit me, even if not as much as that million dollars.

Comment by abigailgem on Beginning at the Beginning · 2009-03-12T13:30:49.467Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think he meant it is Not rational to do something which will observably make you lose, in Newcomb's problem. The process which the two-boxer goes through is not "rational", it is simply a process which ignores the evidence that one boxers get more money. That process ignored evidence, and so is irrational. It looked at the map, not the territory- though it is impossible, here there really is an Omega which can predict what you will do. From the map, that is impossible, so we Two-box. However from the territory, that is what is, so we One-box.

Comment by abigailgem on Beginning at the Beginning · 2009-03-12T13:19:15.276Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In addition, there are issues where it is not possible to be rational. In choosing goals, one cannot always be rational: the emotional response decides the goal. One can be rational in choosing ways of achieving that goal, or in making the map fit the territory.

EDIT: As I have been voted down, I will provide an example. I am transsexual. I decided it was "rational" to attempt to live as a man, and arguably it is: and yet I could not, and the most important thing for me was to change my presentation. I cannot assess that goal "rationally": it means I cannot reproduce, it makes it more likely for me to be seen as a weirdo, it has been terribly difficult to achieve. And yet it was the most important thing in my life.

Comment by abigailgem on The Apologist and the Revolutionary · 2009-03-12T10:01:17.401Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

A friend of mine recommends writing with the non-dominant hand to access alternative brain functions. I have done this, and found myself disagreeing with myself.

Comment by abigailgem on The Wrath of Kahneman · 2009-03-11T14:40:11.635Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The reasons for punishment are deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and prevention. Criminal law balances these. English Law and Scots Law do not award punitive damages in civil actions, and it is hard to see why a Claimant should receive money which is more than his/her financial loss, in order to punish the Respondent. Should not that money go to the State?

Should punishment be allocated "rationally"? Perhaps, but I think human reactions to a wrongful act should be part of what is rationally assessed.

I do not have rational control of my feelings of anger. I can attempt to soothe my own feelings, or suppress and deny them.

If I dwell on an incident with the intention of making myself more angry about it, this seems to me to damage my own emotional responses.

Comment by abigailgem on Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive · 2009-03-10T09:48:43.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"The monster will get me if I make a mistake" can be a deep concrete belief, one looks at it rationally, and thinks, that is ridiculous- but getting rid of it can be hard work.

Comment by abigailgem on Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive · 2009-03-10T09:43:44.097Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"I have the potential to be the sort of person who continues even in the face of adversity", or "it is more in my interests to pass up that cookie", or "I really do have a choice whether or not to pass up that cookie". That is what I would recommend.

bill, below, has mentioned "Act as if": "I choose to Act as If I can continue even in the face of adversity, and I intend in this precise moment to continue acting, even if I may just fall down again in two minutes' time".

These have the advantages of being more likely to be true.

Rambling on a little, to be the sort of person who continues in the face of adversity is Difficult, and requires practice, and that practice is very worthwhile. Stating that it is True might make you fail to do the practice, and instead beat yourself up when it appears not to be true.