Comment by alvarojabril on Open Thread: June 2009 · 2009-06-02T15:15:43.542Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Two links that might foster discussion:

Fun online rationality and anti-bias oriented games. I particularly enjoyed "Staying Alive" (testing conceptions of selfhood). And

Great discussion, I hadn't seen Gendler before but Bloom is always good. Reminded me a little of the IAT discussion here a few months ago.

Comment by alvarojabril on Open Thread: June 2009 · 2009-06-02T14:04:28.832Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not only that, often people's goals require irrational thinking. If you're hoping to find a mate in a religious community, or if you're a businessman bringing the free market to the boonies there's an obvious rational incentive to believe irrational things.

Comment by alvarojabril on Do Fandoms Need Awfulness? · 2009-06-01T19:34:34.031Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just read over that for the first time and it seems to me that Eliezer's argument relies heavily on the anthropic principle, that is, it underestimates the amount of resources it has taken the universe to produce a very small amount of life, so far as we know.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-06-01T19:18:31.573Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you elucidate what you intend with this gem?

"The Master of the Way treats people as straw dogs."

Comment by alvarojabril on Do Fandoms Need Awfulness? · 2009-06-01T17:24:03.759Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I also think we can think of "prejudices" or pre-judgments common in popular media which aren't necessarily bad. Star Trek, for instances propagates prejudices toward tolerance, rationality, exploration, etc. So I think there's a lot of popular media which is also "good." I guess I may have misread your point - I'm talking instrumentally and you mean aesthetically.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-06-01T17:10:57.659Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You've never thought about it that way before because it's completely silly. How on earth does Annoyance make these judgments? I'm not nearly prideful enough to think I can know others' minds to the extent Annoyance can, or, in other words, I imagine there are circumstances which could change most people in profound ways, both for ill and good. So the only thing judging people in this manner does is reinforce one's social prejudices. Writing off people who seem resistant to reason only encourages their ignorance, and remedying their condition is both an exercise and example of reason's power, which, incidentally, is why I'm trying so hard with Annoyance!

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-06-01T17:03:07.976Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Annoyance, your argument has devolved into inanity. If you don't want to popularly cultivate rationality then you disagree with one of the core tenets of this community. It's in the second paragraph of the "about" page:

"Less Wrong is devoted to refining the art of human rationality - the art of thinking. The new math and science deserves to be applied to our daily lives, and heard in our public voices."

Your circular word games do no good for this community.

Comment by alvarojabril on Image vs. Impact: Can public commitment be counterproductive for achievement? · 2009-05-31T17:47:22.656Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Someone should document and categorize the most common signaling tropes of this community. Maybe once I get up to 40 or whatever.

Comment by alvarojabril on Image vs. Impact: Can public commitment be counterproductive for achievement? · 2009-05-31T17:44:50.843Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why are we assuming these categories are mutually exclusive? Like Will points out, if we just accept that altruism and status-seeking are inextricable then we can design societies where altruistic behavior has high status returns. I guess I don't get the usefulness of the distinction.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-31T17:39:35.501Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Annoyance, you're still dodging the question. Joe didn't ask whether or not in your opinion everyone is a useless prole, he asked why it's useful to make people feel like that. Your notion that "social cohesion is the enemy of rationality" was best debunked, I think by pjeby's point here:

more flies with honey and all that.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-30T17:18:15.574Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So you tell me what you think they're for, then.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-30T17:09:34.813Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's demonstrated by the fact that you can up/down vote and report anyone's posts, and that you need a certain number of upvotes to write articles. This is a method of policing the discourse on the site so that social cohesion doesn't break down to an extent which impairs our discussion. These mechanisms "reinforce correctness," in your terms. So I'll ask again, can we do away with them?

I don't think humanity follows obviously from rationality, which is what I meant about rationality being a means rather than an end.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-30T00:26:31.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. An opinion is a thought. What does it mean to say that you are not entitled to a thought?

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T23:46:24.892Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"teach them that they have no right to an opinion."

I know people throw the term around (I try not to), but this is maybe the most fascist thing I've seen on this board. They have no right to an opinion? You might want to rephrase this, as many of my opinions are somewhat involuntary.

Comment by alvarojabril on Taking Occam Seriously · 2009-05-29T22:51:24.552Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Could be a pretty wild dystopia for the people who aren't hooked up - elites constantly disappearing and the clocks are all wrong. Come to think of it, did I say DYStopia?

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T22:38:13.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and most of what I said reduces to "Annoyance is not practicing rationality with statements like "'social cohesion is one of the enemies of rationality.'" You said you had a "problem" with my contention and then I pointed out that Annoyance had made a qualitatively similar claim that hadn't bothered you. Aside from our apparent disagreement on the point I don't get how my claim could be a problem for you.

I think I've made myself clear and this is getting tiresome so I'll invite you to have the last word.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T22:17:16.331Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Look, this whole thread started because of Annoyance's judgment of people who have higher priorities than rationality, right? Did you have a problem with that?

All I'm saying is that this community in general gives way too short shrift to the utility of social cohesion. Sorry if that bothers you.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T22:00:17.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"When it happens to reinforce correctness, it's not needed"

Can you elaborate?

I'll note that rationality isn't an end. My ideal world state would involve a healthy serving of both rationality and social cohesion. There are many situations in which these forces work in tandem and many where they're at odds.

A perfect example is this site. There are rules the community follows to maintain a certain level of social cohesion, which in turn aides us in the pursuit of rationality. Or are the rules not needed?

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T21:58:42.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right, I get that people fare differently when it comes to this stuff, but I do think it's a matter of practice and attention more than innate ability (for most people). And this is really my point, that the sort of monastic rationality frequently espoused on these boards can have politically antirational effects. It's way easier to influence others if you first establish a decent rapport with them.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T21:08:09.373Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problems you cite in bullets are only nontrivial if you don't sufficiently value social cohesion. My biggest faux pas have sufficiently conditioned me to make them less often because I put a high premium on that cohesion. So I think it's less a question of social intelligence and more one of priorities. I don't have to keep "constant focus" - after a few faux pas it becomes plainly apparent which subjects are controversial and which aren't, and when we do come around to touchy ones I watch myself a little more.

Comment by alvarojabril on This Failing Earth · 2009-05-29T20:32:59.604Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad we've hashed this out. I think that bias about the messianic/apocalyptic role of technology has largely been overlooked on this site, so I was glad to see this entry of Eliezer's.

Regardless of whether or not they're true I tend to think that arguments about the arc of history etc are profoundly counterproductive. People won't vote if they think it's a landslide, either for their guy or against. And I suspect I differ from others on this site in this respect, but I find it hard to get ginned up about cosmic endeavors, simply because they seem so remote from my experience.

And I don't think we need an alternative! What I was trying to point out from the start was that increasing our predictive ability is necessary but not sufficient to save the world. Entirely selfish, entirely rational actors will doom the planet if we let them.

Comment by alvarojabril on This Failing Earth · 2009-05-29T20:16:41.984Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So you agree that yes, intelligence is continually generating "extra problems" for us to deal with. As you point out, many of the most pressing problems in the modern world are unforeseen consequences of useful technologies. You just believe that increases in human intelligence will invariably outpace the destructive power of the problems, whereas I don't.

The premise of this diary was many earths, so I'd submit that certainly there are many earths for which the problem of nuclear warfare outpaced humanity's capacity to intelligently deal with it, and that in the end we could very well share their fate.

I'll also note that I fail to see how anyone could conclude from what I've written above that my prescription for humanity is stupid pills.

Comment by alvarojabril on A social norm against unjustified opinions? · 2009-05-29T19:58:48.282Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This little tidbit highlights so much of what's wrong with this community:

"Many of my social 'problems' began once I recognized that other people didn't think like I did, and were usually profoundly stupid. That's not a recognition that lends itself to frictionless interaction with others."

You'd think a specimen of your gargantuan brainpower would have the social intelligence to handily conceal your disdain for the commonfolk. Perhaps it's some sort of signaling?

Comment by alvarojabril on This Failing Earth · 2009-05-29T19:27:54.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Joe, what you are forgetting is that human beings are not governed solely by their intelligence. I think Annoyance was referring to a sort of moral intelligence which isn't in your definition.

And intelligence doesn't generate extra problems? Ever hear of the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or, say, pollution?

Comment by alvarojabril on This Failing Earth · 2009-05-29T05:54:38.320Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Indeed, our Earth's Westphalian concept of sovereign states is the main thing propping up Somalia and North Korea."

Sure it is. It hasn't got anything to do with nukes/quagmire. I remember the Westphalian concept of sovereignty propping up Iraq in the spring of '03. How we laughed and laughed. Oh, Westphalia, you dog! I particularly enjoyed the part when Eliezer suggested that what Somalia needs is more Ethiopias.

There's a severe paucity of imagination in this post, or maybe empathy is the word I'm looking for. This planet doesn't fail Eliezer's space opera, it fails people.

Can someone tell me when going into the basement and solving the math problem has made "things turn out all right"? What I'm trying to point out is that SMARTS AREN'T SUFFICIENT. There's always a political framework around those smarts, and it directs them to ill or to good. There's far too little attention paid to this on the site.

"Of course the camel could also have three or more humps, and it's quite easy to imagine Earths that are failing much worse than this, epic failed Earths ruled by the high-tech heirs of Genghis Khan or the Catholic Church."

I would again submit that the relative rapacity and tyranny of our contemporary overlords is a matter of perspective.

"It's a cheap pleasure to wax moralistic about failures of global coordination."

I agree! I'd prefer to wax moralistic about the horrors of global coordination. Before we get to friendly AI we'd better get a grip on friendly I.

The "More Right" parody site is long overdue.

Comment by alvarojabril on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T13:59:55.281Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This actually gets to something interesting...perhaps there are some objects of beauty we could agree on...the sun, the human form, etc...but these things are so primeval that their beauty is continually contextually mediated by "truth" (the thrill of science, EY's space expansion) or "lies" (religion et al.).

Comment by alvarojabril on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T13:32:48.356Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His point seems to be that rationality isn't the only way to experience the world, which is absolutely, 100% right.

But it's the one that wins. And people do want to win.

I want to take issue with this Less Wrong mantra. It's just not true for many people, and you'll have a hard time winning them over if you can't empathize with that. We value rationality first and foremost because if you take the long view it wins and in the world we populate it wins. But for many people recklessness wins, or faith wins - for whatever reason, the social systems they have inherited and constructed for themselves contain constraints which favor nonrational behavior.

Right. It's done through intelligence, that's why rats don't paint. Remember EY's intelligence scale? The distinction is not between village idiot and Einstein. It's between amoeba, chimps, humans and higher intelligences.

What I'm basically getting at is that the tendency to emphasize the latter distinction can cause one to undervalue dissimilarity in the human social world.

Comment by alvarojabril on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T13:11:32.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

how about "lover"?

Comment by alvarojabril on Religion, Mystery, and Warm, Soft Fuzzies · 2009-05-15T13:11:24.327Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

but in the end the fact may remain that religious stories are better at generating them than any formulation of the truth is

This is exactly right. The question isn't whether or not it's chemically possible for people to get their fuzzies from places other than religion - this is obviously true. The question is whether or not us getting them to do so is politically feasible. I think not, and seeing how there are many believers who live decent lives I'd rather spend my time cultivating the more cosmopolitan varietals.

Comment by alvarojabril on Special Status Needs Special Support · 2009-05-12T22:00:15.415Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Frank and Eliezer both miss the point. It's really a question of priorities - is "starting over," in Eliezer's terms, a productive endeavor?

I think no. It's not that these institutions or texts have any special aesthetic or epistemic value, they're just really powerful. There's a reason the Catholic Church has been around for so long. We know that the religious can live in a socially responsible manner, just as we know that atheists are capable of great evil. It seems to me to be a horse and cart question - I think increasing standards of living lead to lower levels of religiosity, so going after religiosity before we tackle global poverty is backwards.

Personally I think the best atheists have to hope for in the near term is a reconciliation with religion built around the social value of voluntary spiritual practice.

It would have been helpful to interrogate Eliezer's Newtonian/relativity analogy a little more. We have reinterpreted Newtonian mechanics in the context of relativity and quantum mechanics, and now we use it as an approximation for human-scale events. In a similar way there are elements of religion that we can use as a moral shorthand. The deeply religious we can agree with understand their beliefs as such and have a deep appreciation for the yet-undiscovered unified moral field theory. While Eliezer's 12 Virtues are good for cold iron/hot iron syllogisms they don't give us any guidance on the fundamental moral questions. Some forms of religion give guidance I can agree with.

In contrast we have Eliezer's space opera. What he misses is that this story is just as morally suspect as religion is logically suspect. To organize for cryonics, space colonies et al. in the current era is to work for a very specific class interest, whether or not you see it that way.

Eliezer's climate change point belies his provincial attitude. In many parts of the world religious communities justifiably view Western secularism as the socially and ecologically destructive force. His inane reaction to Franks' reference to creative misreading was surprising. The notion that historical mythologies are reinterpreted by contemporary powers should be germane to Less Wrong readers. Liberal humanists should look to do the same.

Comment by alvarojabril on Mechanics without wrenches · 2009-04-16T00:05:37.794Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're mistaking economics for math.

Comment by alvarojabril on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-25T14:07:11.500Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My experience with psilocybin leads me to think few participants would be interested in blog-reading.

Comment by alvarojabril on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-25T14:00:00.396Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent second point, Michael, this is essentially what I was getting at below.

Eliezer, are we to assume from your final comment that the "baby steps" you're taking are a means to eliminate the feeling of the sacred from your life? Otherwise I don't get the baby metaphor.

I remember an interesting Slate article about the vagus nerve and the feeling of the sacred. I can't speak to the science behind it, but I think there's an interesting relationship between the notion of the sacred and AnnaSalamon's excellent "Cached Selves" post. Don't we then have a responsibility to actively avoid the feeling of the sacred?

Comment by alvarojabril on The Sacred Mundane · 2009-03-25T13:33:51.587Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That which is significant in the Unfolding Story.

Isn't it possible that many of the flaws you've listed creep into your thinking in via the Unfolding Story? For instance, your Story is probably somewhat private in that if we were watching a space shuttle launch you'd find it sacred and I'd think it was a harbinger of space militarization. And obviously, the faith charge often comes up on this score when it comes to futurists.

Comment by alvarojabril on On Things that are Awesome · 2009-03-24T21:40:20.852Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Curiously, no one seems to agree on which are best, which suggests that people value very different aspects of his writing.

Shouldn't we then consider that the awesomeness mean to which authors (broadly) regress reflects less their talent/circumstances and more our own subjective experience?