Ethics and rationality of suicide 2011-05-02T01:38:45.629Z · score: 49 (59 votes)


Comment by anonymous259 on Jews and Nazis: a version of dust specks vs torture · 2012-09-08T06:58:12.011Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Or actually: a "law" in the sense of "predictable regularity", not "rule that one will be punished for violating".

In which case the post exemplifies it, rather than violating it.

Comment by anonymous259 on How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy · 2012-09-08T06:40:45.287Z · score: 19 (45 votes) · LW · GW

Is anyone else distressed by the fact that, at the time of writing this comment, all of the "Recent Comments" displayed on the front page of the site are on a topic called "How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy"?

I'm not usually the kind of person who worries about "marketing" considerations, but....

Discussion section, ffs!

Comment by anonymous259 on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-02-04T01:04:37.863Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Racism as it's presently conceptualized isn't a simple matter of fear or hatred of ethnic others, unfortunately.

Of course not. That would subject accusations of racism to falsifiability.

Comment by anonymous259 on How would you talk a stranger off the ledge? · 2012-01-23T21:14:17.246Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I find this a complete non-sequitur. If you stay alive and become a bum, you will consciously experience a (potentially large) loss of status. Whereas if you commit suicide, you won't.

Maybe being dead is low-status too, but at least you're not around to experience it.

Comment by anonymous259 on 2011 Survey Results · 2011-12-05T19:39:46.640Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Ironically, Obama is exactly the kind of person to whom that term should refer, if it means anything at all. Descendants of African slaves taken to the Americas a long time ago should have another term, such as "American blacks".

Despite his lack of membership in it, Obama self-identifies with the latter group for obvious political reasons; after all, "children of foreign exchange students" is not an important constituency.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-02T02:38:59.238Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant discussion.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-24T01:43:20.182Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, I didn't

Yes, you did. Here is what you said:

While I think physical violence usually adds to the wrongness of a crime, I'd still call blackmail-for-sex wrong

This clearly implies that you didn't think I would call it wrong; you were setting up what you perceived as a contrast between your view and mine. If you disagreed with me but correctly understood my position, you would have written "I'd still call blackmail-for-sex as wrong as violent rape" or something similar.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-24T01:14:26.076Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want to have a mind-killing argument

Then don't just tell us what the moral categories are without explaining how you decided this.

That is precisely the argument (read: flamewar) that I am trying to avoid! The point is I didn't want to get into a detailed discussion of sexual ethics, how wrong rape is, and what constitutes rape. This is something that is emotionally controversial for many people. It's what we might call a "hot-button issue".

While I think physical violence usually adds to the wrongness of a crime, I'd still call blackmail-for-sex wrong

So would I. But there are degrees of wrongness, and in my opinion blackmail-for-sex is, if you'll pardon the expression, less wrong than rape.

Do you see what you did there? You automatically assumed that my moral categories were "Wrong" and "Not Wrong", when I was actually talking about "Wrong", "Very Wrong", "Very Very Wrong", etc.

and I'd still point to the same reason that makes violent rape wrong.

I view "violent rape" as a redundant pleonasm (to coin a self-describing phrase), and think that violence is most of what makes rape wrong. The getting-someone-to-do-something-they-don't-want-to-do aspect is also bad, but it's not 10-years-in-prison bad.

This is provided purely FYI, as a statement of my position; I do not intend it as an invitation to attack and demand that I justify myself further. This is not the right setting for this argument.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-23T20:56:41.894Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't agree that they are particularly idiosyncratic.

But, more to the point, they are chosen so that the semantic categories match the moral ones, thereby resisting "moral equivocation" of the sort that happens when people try to sneak in connotations by calling things less than the physical coercion of sex "rape".

Another (hardly less charged) example of such moral equivocation would be the word "racism", which is often used to subtly suggest that people guilty of far less are in a similar moral category to those who would perpetrate genocide, slavery, and de jure discrimination and oppression.

I don't want to have a mind-killing argument, but I do want to at least make sure you are aware of the issue I raise here.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-22T09:47:24.220Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you disagree that, say, drugging or blackmailing someone in order to have sex with them is rape?

Drugging I would consider physical violence, so that falls within my definition; blackmailing, no.

But we should not be having this discussion on this forum.

Comment by anonymous259 on Your Rationality is My Business · 2011-11-22T09:40:02.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The person you are replying to is unfortunately no longer with us. :-(

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-16T10:19:23.841Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't know "what on earth [your interlocutor is] talking about", this should make you less sure of your footing.

I'm pretty sure the question was rhetorical.

I do not trust everyone to judge the effects of their actions on others,

Unfortunately, the mere fact that you are raising this concern specifically in this context communicates a certain stance on the underlying issue(s), or, more bluntly, alignment with a certain faction in this particular power-struggle.

...and I'm probably communicating the opposite alignment by replying in this manner. So it goes.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-16T07:35:38.812Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Coercing sexual intercourse via physical violence or the threat thereof.

Comment by anonymous259 on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-11T21:51:37.952Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

But you see, women don't find men who try to be nice to them attractive...Women are genetically programmed to only let alpha sperm in

Oversimplified to the extent that it is basically not true.

And yet I would bet that it is still closer to true than I approve of. In particular, closer to true than the mental model used by the naive "nice guy"/"beta".

Comment by anonymous259 on So, I guess the site redesign is live? · 2011-06-22T12:34:45.483Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Bad: There is no longer any visible difference between promoted and non-promoted posts (all circles are green).

Extremely Bad: It is no longer possible to delete comments, only "retract" them (with usernames remaining displayed).

Comment by anonymous259 on So, I guess the site redesign is live? · 2011-06-22T12:29:55.138Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a test.

Comment by anonymous259 on Ethics and rationality of suicide · 2011-05-06T20:36:23.365Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

1) I think the increase in probability of suicides is non-tiny

What would be the mechanism linking this post to future suicides? (See also below.)

2) I don’t value “not having taboos” particularly highly

That would certainly help to explain your reaction. I, however, value it very highly indeed, and think that taboos are incompatible with rationality and "enlightenment" values (such as freedom of speech) more generally. (There could be exceptions, but they must always be considered, and never knee-jerk or uncritically inherited from general society.)

3) I think there are better ways to express regret than by saying, essentially, “So did he do the right thing or what?”

You have misunderstood the post. It does not ask whether Chris did the right thing. It invites readers to consider the rationality of suicide in general. It also invites them to critically examine society's attitude (of which you evidently happen to be an exponent). It does so as a tribute to Chris: this is a discussion that I think he would have wanted to see happen, and I feel he deserves to have his fellow aspiring rationalists pay some attention to this issue before he is forgotten.

If you somehow found out that someone had decided to kill themselves because of this thread, how confident would you be that they made the right decision?

So far as I am aware, my post does not contain any argument in favor of any particular person committing suicide. It is therefore difficult to imagine that anyone could rationally decide to kill themselves "because of" it. And I do not accept the Orwellian idea that we can (or should) prevent irrational suicides by avoiding discussion of the issue. Even if the effect were non-negligible (which I don't particularly believe), I would not consider it worth the censorship cost.

In short, while I may very well say "Oh shit" in response to such a suicide, the significance of that exclamation would not be any different than if the person had committed suicide in response to any other LW post I had written (on any other topic).

Comment by anonymous259 on Ethics and rationality of suicide · 2011-05-05T15:54:36.355Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

But I suspect that you're depressed yourself

I am not, in fact, currently depressed, although I have been in the past. But I (in my non-depressed state) respect the feelings, wishes, and preferences of my depressed self, just like those of someone else like Chris.

Many commenters here have reacted to the suicide not with "how must he have felt" but with "how can we prevent more such things from happening?" It seems you think this reveals a lack of empathy or respect

I haven't said much of anything in response to most comments here; you seem to be extrapolating from things I said in the post. But there I was criticizing specific bad arguments, ones that are encountered in the general culture and not necessarily here ; the remark about lack of empathy was in specific reference to the argument from grief of friends and relatives.

the banal and maudlin point that this was a tragedy and a mistake

That it was a tragedy is certain; unfortunately, that doesn't automatically imply that it was a mistake.

However, it may very well have been a mistake in Chris's case. I'm not sure he realized how close he was (a few keystrokes by him or someone else, like me) to the kind of friendship he needed.

But it's that kind of miscalculation that would make it a mistake, and not the mere fact that other people are sad, or that "we must prevent suicide" is a widespread moral-sounding meme.

I myself am very sad about this, and become more so the more I read his writings. I hope he is not forgotten.

Comment by anonymous259 on Ethics and rationality of suicide · 2011-05-04T13:33:24.094Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I really don't understand your objection to this post specifically. I tried to craft it in the most sensitive way possible, it wasn't directly addressed to suicidal people themselves, and you agree that all subjects are fitting subjects for rationality. Furthermore, many commenters (including yourself) have in fact used it as an opportunity to reach out to those in the community suffering from depression.

What aspects of this post are so harmful that you think they outweigh the benefits, and how could it have been better written so as to allow the topic to be discussed while minimizing harm?

Comment by anonymous259 on Ethics and rationality of suicide · 2011-05-04T02:57:18.128Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Has this been debunked in some way, or is this thread a really terrible idea?

Those are not the only two alternatives.

If minimizing the number of suicides were the only consideration, then you might have a (weak) argument that this post is a bad idea. (But note that gimpf's link specifically discussed television coverage; more generally, the "copycat effect" is generally considered to be a result of sensationalizing or glorifying suicide, not merely discussing it.) However, there are other, competing, values involved, such as:

  • not having taboos
  • finding out in what circumstances suicide is and isn't rational
  • finding out to what extent our society's approach to combatting suicide is ethical
  • acknowledging the death of a LW user ("one of our own"), and expressing sadness at the loss of a valuable member of the human species

and in my judgement these outweigh whatever tiny increase in the probability of some future suicide you're worried may result from this post. Not to mention the possibility that some people reading this post and the comments here might be less likely to commit suicide than they otherwise would have been. (Even if a significant copycat effect applies to this kind of discussion [unlikely], the LW readership is an atypical population, more likely to be moved by argument, and more likely to be regretful of Chris's death in particular.)

Comment by anonymous259 on Ethics and rationality of suicide · 2011-05-02T02:09:17.212Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

from a utilitarian perspective, committing suicide generally makes everyone around you absolutely miserable, and will then always cause pain for them. In that regard, committing suicide is either misguided or selfish.

Not necessarily; it depends on whether the pain they will experience is enough to outweigh the pain that the suicidal person will experience by staying alive.

Comment by anonymous259 on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-08T20:55:57.778Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

b) a lot of women have trouble saying "no" directly (we're socialized not to).

I cannot possibly stress enough how non-obvious this is to "geeky" males.

Comment by anonymous259 on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-08T20:40:17.908Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you are paying less than $30 in most markets you are getting a dreadful haircut


That sounds highly female-specific (but even so, I still find it shocking). My idea of haircut price range is $10-20.

Comment by anonymous259 on Goertzel on Psi in H+ Magazine · 2010-11-05T14:30:48.953Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Thank goodness, because I was starting to wonder whether I should be worried about Ben Goetzel's AGI project. This puts my mind at ease, at least for a while.

Comment by anonymous259 on Open Thread: March 2010 · 2010-03-03T03:48:57.833Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'll come out of the shadows (well not really, I'm too ashamed to post this under my normal LW username) and announce that I am, or anyway have been, in more or less the same situation as MixedNuts. Maybe not as severe (there are some important things I can do, at the moment, and I have in the past been much worse than I am now -- I would actually appear externally to be keeping up with my life at this exact moment, though that may come crashing down before too long), but generally speaking almost everything MixedNuts says rings true to me. I don't live with anyone or have any nearby family, so that adds some extra difficulty.

Right now, as I said, this is actually a relatively good moment, I've got some interesting projects to work on that are currently helping me get out of bed. But I know myself too well to assume that this will last. Plus, I'm way behind on all kinds of other things I'm supposed to be doing (or already have done).

I'm not offering any money, but I'd be interested to see if anyone is interested in conversing with me about this (whether here or by PM). Otherwise, my reason for posting this comment was to add some evidence that this may be a common problem (even afflicting people you wouldn't necessarily guess suffered from it).

Comment by anonymous259 on Closet survey #1 · 2009-03-15T17:57:24.723Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

With probability 50% or greater, the long-term benefits of the invasion of Iraq will outweigh the costs suffered in the short term.

Comment by anonymous259 on Closet survey #1 · 2009-03-15T17:51:28.763Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I believe this about climate change as well.

Comment by anonymous259 on Closet survey #1 · 2009-03-15T17:12:02.600Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's worth pointing out that the original comment concerned living or dying, not torture.

Myself, I would avoid the torture button, but would give serious consideration to pressing one that delivered a delicious pie at the cost of painlessly puffing a random faraway person out of existence.

If the button delivered a sufficiently large amount of money, I would press it for sure. Would require much more money for torture than death, however. (Like $1 million versus a few bucks.)