First impressions... 2017-01-24T15:14:38.022Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Metrics to evaluate a Presidency 2017-01-24T01:02:21.629Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Evaluating Moral Theories 2017-01-23T05:04:07.146Z · score: 3 (4 votes)


Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-27T03:37:41.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of course they are wrong. Because if you examine everything at the meta-level, and forget about being pragmatic, you will starve.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-26T04:38:42.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't posted the question there.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-26T03:40:06.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the love of... problem solved = the problem I asked for people to help me solve. I.e. finding metrics. If you don't want to help, fine. But as I said, being inane in attempt to appear smart is just stupid, counterproductive and frankly annoying.

Look, someone asks for your help with something. There are two legitimate responses: a) you actually help them achieve their goal or b) you say, "sorry, not my problem". Your response is to be pedantic about the question itself. What good does that do?

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-26T00:25:18.070Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My metrics are likely to be quite different from yours

And that's fine! If everyone here gave me a list of 5-10 metrics instead of pedantic responses, I'd be able to choose a few I like, and boom, problem solved.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T06:13:43.372Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The job was, evaluate a presidency. What metrics would you, as an intelligent person, use to evaluate a presidency. How much simpler can I make it? I didn't ask you to read my mind or anything like that.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T05:17:00.786Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's easy to generate tons of metrics, what's hard is generating a relatively small list that does the job. If you are too lazy to contribute to the discussion, fine. But contributing just pedantic remarks is a waste of everyone's time.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T04:50:07.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My parents always told me "we only compare ourselves to the best". I am only making these criticisms because rationalists self-define as, well, rational. And to be, rationality also has to do with achieving something. Pedantry, sophistry &c are unwelcome distractions.

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-25T04:47:29.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I apologize for assuming you meant something semi-reasonable by what you wrote, I will refrain from making that assumption in the future.

Okay, let's go into "talking to a 5yo mode". We have these facts: a) the vast majority of people use "gender inequality" to refer to the fact that women are disadvantaged. b) terms like this are defined by common usage. c) since common usage means "women are disadvantaged", the reasonable think to do is that when a random person utters the phrase, they refer to that. Whether women are in fact disadvantaged doesn't matter. What matters is what information I was trying to convey. I used a common phrase. It's not rocket science.

And why would this be obviously desirable? I didn't say it would be. I said it would mean feminists would have to admit Trump did well by women.

So "women are more equal than men" it is. I have not done an extensive analysis to see in which fields men are disadvantaged and in which fields women are, then weighted them by importance to determine what's the fact here. I assume that neither have you. So to be overly aggressive with people who believe in the common knowledge that women are disadvantaged (again, even if that isn't so), is not productive. It's pedantic, juvenile. It doesn't achieve anything. If you just want to shout "MEN ARE OPPRESSED!!!", fine. Don't be surprised when no-one takes you seriously.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T03:55:12.342Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was being facetious, of course I still believe in rationality. But you know, I was reading Slate Star Codex, which basically represents the rationalist community as an amazing group of people committed to truth and honesty and the scientific approach - and though I appreciate how open these discussions are, I am a bit disappointed at how pedantic some of the comments are.

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-25T03:52:23.656Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Jesus Christ. This is beyond derailed. For what it's worth, gjm is right, people are either purposefully misrepresenting what I wrote (in which case they are pedantic and juvenile) or they didn't understand what I meant (in which case, you know, go out and interact with people outside your bubble).

And anyway - the reason I want to measure progress towards closing the gap where women have it worse is so that I can fairly evaluate feminist arguments about Trump in 4 years time. If in 4 years time it turns out that women earn more than men across the board, that >50% of governors are women and that women are CEOs of like 80% of the Fortune 500, you will be able to say "rhetoric aside, it looks like Trump actually helped women".

Going for "aha! Trump improved men's lot in these fields where they were disadvantaged" will only increase polarisation. Maybe worth tracking, in the name of truth and science; but again, not what I was going for.

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-25T03:43:59.421Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Guys, come on. I am not setting up a formal tribunal for Trump. I want your measured opinions. Don't let's be pedantic.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T03:42:40.249Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, I cannot read minds.

But you can read, right? Because I wrote "I'd like to ask for suggestions on proxies for evaluating [...]". I didn't say "I want suggestions on how to go about deciding the suitability of a metric".

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-25T00:54:14.530Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And I am not saying that I agree with that majority view. All I am saying is that since you know that, to sort of pretend that it's not the case is a bit strange.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-24T23:17:08.162Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You in particular did provide metrics, so I am not complaining! Although, to be perfectly honest, I do think your delivery is sort of passive aggressive or disingenuous... you know that nearly everyone, when discussing gender inequality, use the term to mean that women are disadvantaged. You provide metrics to evaluate improvement in areas where men are disadvantaged - i.e. your underlying assumption/hypothesis is the opposite of everyone else, but you don't acknowledge it.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-24T23:14:27.255Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless of what I do, I expect the program to provide a response at the end. Like I said in response to another comment - if you want to "debug" my thinking process, absolutely fair enough; but provide the result. What you are doing, to carry on your analogy, is to say "hmm there may be a bug there. But I won't tell you what the program will give as an output even if you fix it".

Even worse, imagine your compsci professor asks you to write code to simulate objects falling from a skyscraper. What you are doing then here is telling me "aaah, but you are trying to simulate this using gravity! That is, of course, not a universal solution, so you should try relativity instead".

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-24T23:11:24.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, you have the right to do whatever you want. But, if someone new to a group of rationalists asks a question with a clear expectation for a response, and gets philosophising as an answer, don't be surprised if people get a perhaps unflattering view of rationalists.

Comment by arisc on First impressions... · 2017-01-24T23:08:24.222Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually the correct response.

And this is what I mean when I say rationalists often seem to be missing the point. Fair enough if you want to say "here is the right way to think about it... and here are the metrics this method produces, I think".

But if all I get is "hmmm it might be like this or it might be like that - here are some potential flaws in our logic" and no metrics are given... that doesn't do any good.

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T15:07:07.652Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Done! Thanks.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T15:04:59.057Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

because I thought you were saying that you can't find any grounds for moral disapproval of massive defamation campaigns

Yes, I meant I couldn't find grounds for disapproval of defamation under a libertarian system.

On discrimination, your argument is very risky. For example, in a racist society, a person's race will impact how well they do at their job. Besides, on a practical level, it's very hard to determine what characteristics actually correlate with performance.

Are you quite sure you aren't just saying this because it's something that doesn't fit with the position you're committed to? That's a bit unfair - I readily admitted the weakness in my whole theory re property rights. The problem with externalities like pollution is that it is difficult to say at what point something hurts someone to a significant extent, because "hurting someone" is not particularly well defined. Similarly for non-physical violence (e.g. bullying), and to an extent, this applies to defamation too.

OK. But if you hold that there's a way of finding out what these values are, then doesn't that call into question the impossibility of getting everyone to agree about them? (Which is a key step in your argument.) It seems as if the argument depends on its own failure!

Not clear on what you mean here... could you paraphrase please?

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T14:15:52.102Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(And since this is a rationalist forum, let me just point out that...

  1. Personal opinion, everything else pertains to politics, and is kind of pointless if not;
  2. Yeah, so? Unless is specifically designed for you, that's a bizarre comment;
  3. Again, very specious argument. You can apply it to literally everything ever written anywhere on the internet.
  4. Anecdotal evidence, inadmissible.)
Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T14:12:46.353Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am actually looking for criteria to evaluate any president. I only wrote Trump because it's whom I had in mind, obviously. Can I edit my own article?

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T14:10:45.501Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was exaggerating a bit - but I am sure you agree that your criteria are too few and unimportant to judge a whole presidency...

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T14:08:04.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I will gently suggest that you should maybe see this as a deficiency in the ethical framework you're working in...

All this does is weaken my argument for libertarianism, not my model for evaluating moral theories! Let's not conflate the two.

the evils of government coercion / starving to death... To be clear - it's not exactly the government coercion that bothers me. It's that criminalising discrimination is... just a bit random. As an employer, I can show preference for thousands of characteristics, and rationalise them (e.g. for extroverts - "I want people who can close sales") but not gender/race/age? It's a bit bizarre.

statistically likely to cause physical harm This is the subject of another post I want to write, and will do when I have time - I think the important thing here is the intent. But let's discuss this in more detail in another post!

pollution This is tricky, as many negative externalities are. To be honest, I'd say this falls into the category of "issues we cannot deal with because the tools in our disposable, such as language, are not precise enough", much like abortion. I think no moral theory would ever give you solid guidance on such matters.

there aren't any objective values Fair enough. My approach is predicated on the existence of values. If you want to say there is no such thing, absolutely fine by me - as long as you (and by you here I mean "one" - based on this conversation, I don't think this applies to you specifically!) are not sanctimonious about your own morals.

(but note that you can still use my framework to rank theories - even if no theory is actually the correct one, you can have degrees of failure - so a theory that's not even internally consistent is inferior to others that are).

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T11:58:38.738Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Question - how do you do this thing with the blue line indicating my quote?

For L1: well, I am not sure how to say this - if we agree there are no universal values, by definition there is no value that permits you to infringe on me, right?

On your examples...

1 ==> okay, here you have discovered a major flaw in my theory which I had just taken for granted: property rights. I just (arbitrarily!) assumed their existence, and that to infringe on my property rights is to commit violence. This will take some thinking on my behalf.

2 ==> I am genuinely ambivalent about this. Don't get me wrong, if someone defamed me in real life, I would take action against them... but in principle, I cannot really come up with a reason why this would be immoral (at least, not a reason that wouldn't have other bad consequences if taken to its logical conclusion - i.e. criterion (c)!)

3 ==> here I am actually quite definitive: while I personally hate discrimination, I don't think it should be illegal. I think people should have the right to hire whomever they please for whatever reason they please. Again, I think the principle behind making discrimination illegal is very hard to justify - and to limit to the workforce.

4 ==> I would call that violence.

As for facts & values: the question for the people in the first camp you mention is, how do we determine what are the objectively right values? That's what I am trying to do through my three criteria. I don't think it's good philosophy to both say "there ARE right values but there is NO way of determining what they are".

Let me say again that when it comes to how I live my personal life, I also have values that do not necessarily meet my criteria, especially criterion (b). Some times I try to rationalise them by saying, like you, that they will lead me to the best outcomes. But really, they are just probably the result of my particular upbringing.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T11:46:26.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First, you wrote "Every question of major concern contains some element of evaluation, and therefore cannot be settled as a matter of objective fact" - if this does not mean to say "there are no facts", I am not sure what it is trying to say.

Second, this whole this is pertaining to the second criterion. My point is that rejecting this criterion, for whatever reason, is saying that you are willing to admit arbitrary principles - but these are by definition subjective, random, not grounded in anything. So you are then saying that it's okay for a moral theory to be based on what is, at the end of the day, personal preference.

Third, if this isn't your view, why bring it up? I don't think it's conductive to a discussion to say "well, I don't think so, but some people say..." If we all agree that this position is not valid, why bother with it? If you do think it's valid, then saying "it's not my view" is confusing.

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T10:44:55.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK that's not a well thought out response. So if Trump launches a nuclear war, or tanks the economy, or deports all Muslims &c, that's fine as long as he meets these 3 criteria?!

I am trying to list criteria by which to evaluate any president. I am not trying to set up Trump to fail - else I could just have "appoint a liberal Justice".

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T10:12:02.951Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, serious response: if you don't want to admit the existence of facts, then the whole conversation is pointless - morality comes down to personal preference. That's fine as a conclusion - but then I don't want to see anyone who holds it calling other people immoral.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T06:40:58.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As I said though, I will start taking postmodernists seriously when they put their money where their mouths are and give a public display of how gravity isn't necessarily a thing!

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T06:16:46.273Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because what do I care how someone lives their personal life? I care the moment they start telling me how to live mine.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T04:09:37.294Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because we were discussing libertarianism, not sure how utilitarianism got dragged into the picture!

I see your point re L0. I go for L1, and I think you do get that from the agreed moral standard that you cannot find any good reason to do so - at least, not one that adheres to criteria (a) and (c) too.

Can you give me examples of horrible things a narrow definition would leave un-obstructed? My notion of freedom is binary, it refers to physical violence.

As for criterion (b), which seems to be the most controversial, my concern is that if we don't accept it, if we say that there are no facts, or at least no facts on which everyone agrees, then what is the point of moral philosophy anyway?

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T04:03:45.304Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect you are coming from a "men are actually "less equal" than women" perspective...

Comment by arisc on Metrics to evaluate a Presidency · 2017-01-24T04:02:13.036Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but by the same standard, all metrics are interesting to the extent they are causal to happiness!

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T00:57:45.187Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the continuing dialogue!

I am fine to tweak the definition of (b) to be facts-based as you say. And you are right to say that there may be many facts to choose from - I never said libertarianism is definitely the only possible theory to meet all criteria, just the only one I could come up with. So, yes, Douchetarianists, as you call them, could also claim that their theory meets (b), but I'd argue it fails to meet (c).

The problem with your moral theory, as I see it, is that it also fails to meet (c), because there could be many plausible, but horrific in my view, arguments you could make: e.g. that eugenics would improve the species' odds of survival, as would assigning jobs to people based on how good they would be at them vs letting them choose for themselves &c.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T00:52:23.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are right that we have limited computational power, but this is a theoretical tool. I do not grant that a) is impossible - it can be achieved by either having a system that relies on a single principle (e.g. libertarianism) or one that relies on ordered principles, so that if two conflict in a particular scenario, you go with the highest ranking one.

On (b), insane people & postmodernists aside, I do think there are facts on which everyone agrees... and re the latter, I do not know how seriously I take their disagreements with objective facts given that I have yet to witness one jump out of Sokal's window!

Yes, that's what I mean about societal vs personal. A societal theory should be coercive, which is exactly why it must meet these criteria - otherwise, if it doesn't meet (a) there will be situations where the theory will coerce you to perform two mutually exclusive actions, if it doesn't meet (b) you won't get people to agree to a covenant that allows for coercion and if it doesn't meet (c), if you start coercively applying its principles, you will end up with a dystopia.

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T00:46:47.829Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When you write utilitarianism, I assume it's a typo?

On your first point: if by null system you mean no moral guidance whatsoever, so that you allow violence, I think this fails criterion (c) - it's pretty dystopian in my view. Of course, that criterion specifies that the judge of whether the resulting society is dystopian is the theory's proponent, so if you think that's an acceptable society, fair enough, and you are right.

I do think libertarianism meets (b) - I think your propositions (no one has the right to inflict suffering on others...) is exactly what I am saying, I don't think it's a weak statement... why do you think so?

I think there may be some confusion though on how we define liberty - I use the term literally, so I do not accept that a rich person is more free than a poor person, for instance. So there can be no situation where you infringe on A's liberty to increase B's - unless A has already broken the moral code by physically harming B. For (2), this goes back to bootstrapping: because you have no right to harm others, people have a right to prevent you from doing so.

Re moral authority: actually both statements work - unless you can convince me of your moral authority's existence, I will not accept it as a basis for morality, and so the point is moot. We need to ground our morality on facts that are accepted as facts by everyone sane (I know the definition of sane invites a lot of debate, but I am being a bit practical here!)

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T00:39:37.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are right - already this comment thread is getting a bit confusing, because some people are sort of disputing libertarianism, and using this to discredit the evaluation framework...

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-24T00:38:44.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You mean under libertarianism? Well, economically I think they are a bad thing - but in theory, I don't see how they can be avoided without coercion.

Of course, if I were a president or prime minister, I would have to be a bit more pragmatic - I don't think pure libertarianism would ever work!

Comment by arisc on Evaluating Moral Theories · 2017-01-23T08:39:15.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your response!

First, re the suitability of (b) as a general criterion: if your theory rests on arbitrary principles, then you admit that it's nothing more than a subjective guide... so then what's the point of trying to argue for it? If at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference, you might as well give up on the discussion, no?

With regards to liberty meeting that criterion, it is at least a fact on which everyone can agree that not everyone agrees on an absolute moral authority. So starting from this fact, we can derive the principle that nothing gives you the right to infringe on other people's liberty. This doesn't exactly presuppose a "fairness" principle - it's sort of like bootstrapping: it just presupposes the absence of a right to harm others. I am not saying that not being violent is right; I am saying that being violent isn't.

Your point on the fact that this theory leaves a lot of moral dilemmas uncovered, you are right. Sadly, I don't have an answer to that. Perhaps I could add a 4th criterion, to do with completeness, but I suspect that no moral theory would meet all of the criteria. But to be clear here - you are not rejecting criterion a as far as I can tell; you are just saying it's not sufficient, right?

As for your personal principle - I cannot say whether it meets criteria a and c because you have not provided enough details, e.g. how do you balance justice vs honesty vs liberty? If what you are saying is "it all comes down to the particular situation", then you are not describing a moral theory but personal judgement.

But I appreciate the critique - my arguing back isn't me blindly rejecting any counter-arguments!

Comment by arisc on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2017-01-22T14:15:39.076Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your comment!

My definition of non-arbitrary would be, can we derive your principle from facts on which everyone agrees? I can propose two such principles: a) liberty - in the absence of moral absolutes, the only thing you can say is live and let live, as to do otherwise is to presuppose the existence of some kind of moral authority; or b) survival of the fittest - there is no moral truth, and even liberty is arbitrary - why should I respect someone else's liberty? If I am stronger, I should feel free to take what I can.

That said, I think there could also be an argument for some sort of virtue ethics - e.g. you could argue that perhaps there is absolute truth, and there are certain virtues that will help us discover it. But you'd need to be smarter than me to make a convincing argument in this line of thought.

Comment by arisc on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2017-01-22T07:48:25.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hello from Beijing.

I found out about Less Wrong from Slate Star Codex. I also read HPMOR last year, but hadn't realised there was a connection between that and Less Wrong.

I am posting here because I have been thinking about morality. I get into a lot of debates that all boil down to the fact that people hold a very firm belief in a particular moral principle, to the extent that they would be happy to force others to live in accordance to that principle, without evaluating whether this principle is subjective or rational.

In response to this, I have come up with a framework for evaluating moral theories, and I would like to hear the rationalist community's feedback. Briefly, what I propose is that a moral theory needs to meet three criteria: a) the ethical principles that comprise it must not be internally contradictory; b) its ethical principles must be non-arbitrary as far as possible (so, "be good to other people just because" is not good enough); and c) if the theory's principles are taken to their logical conclusion, they must not lead to a society that the theory's proponents themselves would consider dystopian.

I would like to hear people's thoughts on this - if you think it's intriguing, I am happy to submit an article to expand on my rationale for proposing this framework.

Best, Aris