Comment by brainoil on Stranger Than History · 2014-04-02T01:13:17.469Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Jim Crowe laws were there up until 1965, two decades after the war. If there really was such an over-sensitization, this wouldn't be the case. Clearly, they weren't sensitized enough. You'd have a hard time linking this to WWII.

What are the examples you can give of such excessive tolerances and aversion to distinguish groups of people based on factual differences without resorting to generalizing, and instead judging each individual separately? In my opinion, it's very hard to be over tolerant. It's clear as day that George Zimmerman wouldn't have shot that kid dead if he was white. Even if it is true that black men have a predisposition to violence, that doesn't mean the kid deserved the bias against him.

I think it is this thought that drives the anti-discrimination political movement. It's the idea that people are more than members of their races. More than the WWII, it's just how the rise of individuality in the Western world would go forward. This also explains why Russia is still rampantly discriminating against all sorts of people, be it women, or gays, or minorities. They were involved in the WWII too, but clearly it hasn't caused any over-sensitization.

Other than that, there's the more obvious fact that among the people who are against Affirmative Action, Immigration, Disparate Impact Doctrine etc. are people like Pat Buchanan, who clearly doesn't have the best interests of protected groups in his heart. So you can't blame people for trying to be excessively tolerant so that they can counter the people who are excessively intolerant.

Comment by brainoil on A map of Bay Area memespace · 2014-04-01T15:28:58.107Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So there's that arrow that connects the 60s counterculture to distrust of authority. I'm reminded of something David Brin said about distrust of authority. Every generation thinks it invented it.

Anyway, I think the 60s counterculture had more to do with rejection of authority than distrust of authority. They totally trusted Eugene McCarthy, didn't they?

Comment by brainoil on Is my view contrarian? · 2014-03-31T02:52:28.165Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a false analogy. You can be a believer in God when you're five years old and haven't read any relevant arguments due to childhood indoctrination that happens in every home. You might even believe in income redistribution when you're five years old if your parents tell you that it's the right thing to do. I'm pretty sure nobody teaches their children about UFAI that way. You'd have to know the arguments for or against UFAI to even know what that means.

Comment by brainoil on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-04T00:32:52.627Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

"Nothing exists in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it." - Dana Scully, The X-Files

Comment by brainoil on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-03T06:37:30.714Z · score: -8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

“Don't we forgive everything of a lover? We forgive selfishness, desire, guile. As long as we are the motive for it...There are some European words you can never translate properly into another language.”

― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Comment by brainoil on Things I Wish They'd Taught Me When I Was Younger: Why Money Is Awesome · 2014-01-17T10:51:49.197Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is relevant:

Comment by brainoil on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2014-01-05T22:43:09.200Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

David Icke thinks Barack Obama and many other prominent politicians are reptiles and that there's a reptilian conspiracy going on. He has written many books about this, and seems to take all of that pretty seriously. Should I be reading his books, instead of something that is more likely to be true?

Comment by brainoil on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2014-01-05T12:15:54.845Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't think about that. But this actually makes a lot of sense. This is the only way you can believe in those things. You completely ignore reason and take it all on faith.

Comment by brainoil on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2014-01-05T06:03:40.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what actual Christians believe, but how could this be when god cursed that the snake would have to crawl on its belly for the rest of its days ("on your belly you shall go"), and yet later in the New Testament Satan walks with Jesus on earth to tempt him to idolatry with the offer of the kingdoms?

Besides, if it's Satan, why punish snakes instead?

I haven't talked about this with an actual Christian, but it seems to me that an erudite Christian won't hold this view that the snake was Satan, especially when you can get rid of the contradiction by saying the snake was not Satan.

Comment by brainoil on A Voting Puzzle, Some Political Science, and a Nerd Failure Mode · 2013-10-11T07:43:10.250Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not American, so I could be wrong about this. But at first glance it seems to me that Republicans have to run two vastly different campaigns, one in the primaries and the other in the general election, while Democrats could run pretty much the same campaign in the primaries as well as the general election. It seems to me that people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz would have to get called flip-flops if they were to run for presidency in 2016 while Hillary Clinton would be able to run just one campaign.

Am I wrong, or is the Democratic party just larger than the Republican party and therefore more mainstream?

Comment by brainoil on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-06T08:10:56.179Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably true for academic film theory. I mean how hard could it really be?

Comment by brainoil on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-05T11:41:37.770Z · score: 9 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, "If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don't, you won't be able to understand your own explanation." That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Roger Ebert

Comment by brainoil on Optimize Your Settings · 2013-07-30T02:39:29.848Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Completely agree. For example, if you're feeling suicidal, please don't kill yourself at least until you have moved to another country.

Comment by brainoil on Why I'm Skeptical About Unproven Causes (And You Should Be Too) · 2013-07-30T02:04:58.897Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, curing cancer might be more important than finding a cure for common cold, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should be trying to cure cancer instead of trying to get rid of common cold, unless of course you have some inner quality that makes you uniquely capable of curing cancer. There are other considerations.

Reducing existential risks is important. But suppose it is not as important as ending world poverty. There's also lot of uncertainty. It may be that no matter how hard we try, something will come out of the blue and kill us all (three hours from now). Still, if you are the only one who is doing something about existential risks, and is capable of reducing it a tiny bit, your work is very valuable.

The thing is, outside few communities like this one, no one really cares about existential risks (even global warming is a political phenomenon for most people, rather than a scientific one. Other existential risks make blue-collar oil drillers go to space and blow up asteroids).

Comment by brainoil on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-07-28T03:30:49.802Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If this happens, then some of the robots will start to look and behave exactly like humans. Robot prostitutes would look like human supermodels. This'll cause more unemployment.

Comment by brainoil on Scope Insensitivity · 2013-05-26T10:43:56.367Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

From Abhijit V. Benerjee and Esther Duflo's Poor Economics,

Researchers gave students $5 to fill out a short survey. They then showed them a flyer and asked them to make a donation to Save the Children, one of the world’s leading charities. There were two different flyers. Some (randomly selected) students were shown this:Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children; In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated 3 million Zambians face hunger; Four million Angolans—one third of the population—have been forced to flee their homes; More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.

Other students were shown a flyer featuring a picture of a young girl and these words:Rokia, a 7-year-old girl from Mali, Africa, is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger or even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed her, provide her with education, as well as basic medical care and hygiene education. The first flyer raised an average of $1.16 from each student. The second flyer, in which the plight of millions became the plight of one, raised $2.83. The students, it seems, were willing to take some responsibility for helping Rokia, but when faced with the scale of the global problem, they felt discouraged.

Some other students, also chosen at random, were shown the same two flyers after being told that people are more likely to donate money to an identifiable victim than when presented with general information. Those shown the first flyer, for Zambia, Angola, and Mali, gave more or less what that flyer had raised without the warning—$1.26. Those shown the second flyer, for Rokia, after this warning gave only $1.36, less than half of what their colleagues had committed without it. Encouraging students to think again prompted them to be less generous to Rokia, but not more generous to everyone else in Mali.

Comment by brainoil on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-14T04:45:26.681Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Oftentimes, when I'm not in a good mood, I simply decide to be in a good mood, and soon I am in a good mood. It's surprisingly effective. You just have to consciously tell yourself that you decide to be in a good mood and try to be in a good mood. Of course this doesn't work all the time. I'm generally a happy person, so it's perhaps easier for me.

Comment by brainoil on Pascal's Muggle: Infinitesimal Priors and Strong Evidence · 2013-05-06T12:54:36.617Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not really sure that I care about duplicates that much.

Didn't you feel sad when Yoona-939 was terminated, or wish all happiness for Sonmi-451?

Comment by brainoil on Rationality Quotes May 2013 · 2013-05-02T06:23:38.777Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. That's how you devour a whale. One bite at a time."

-Congressman Frank Underwood in the TV series House of Cards

Comment by brainoil on A Priori · 2013-04-30T09:54:06.740Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How is observing this pattern in someone else's brain any different, as a way of knowing, from observing your own brain doing the same thing? When "pure thought" tells you that 1 + 1 = 2, "independently of any experience or observation", you are, in effect, observing your own brain as evidence.

No no no. The difference between a priori and a posteriori is where the justification lies. You may be counting your fingers when you count 1 + 1. It may be that you won't be able to figure out the answer if someone cut off your fingers. In fact, it may be you won't be able to understand what 1 means if you didn't have your fingers. But the justification for 1 + 1 being 2 is not in your fingers.

So it may be that you are able to observe how your brain operates when you're counting 1 + 1. But even if your brain operated in a different way, 1 + 1 is still 2. If B is taller than A, and C is taller than B, C is taller than A. It may be that you're not able to understand this without three pencils. But C being taller than A is a priori knowledge.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-30T08:23:58.986Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The intent was to show that asking whether I don't have anything more valuable to do than voting was an unfair question because even those who profess utilitarianism don't always do the things that are most valuable in utilitarian terms. But it seems this strategy won't work with you.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-30T06:00:41.521Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this really how you think it works? Do you honestly watch Game of Thrones because it helps to better other people's lives? I'd be surprised. More likely, you start with "I like Game of Thrones" and end up with "it helps me to save the world." I can't read your mind. But that'd be my guess.

The problem is, you can justify too many things with this excuse. You already justified your iPhone when you could have bought a cheap android phone that has pretty much the same features. Paying the Apple tax is perhaps not the most effective way to save the world.

P.S. Is there any research done that suggests smartphones make people more productive?

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-30T02:26:02.722Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would push the fat man in front of the trolley too in the thought experiment, and so would many rights based libertarians. They just don't do it in real life. I don't think they think rights are any more real than utilities are. They think it is a better form of government, to hold that people have inviolable rights even when there are compelling arguments in favor of violating those rights.

But more importantly, why are you being smug about this? Some people value being able to own firearms even at a steep cost to others. Some people, like communists, value economic equality across the population. It is not privileging the question if they value something more than you do. In fact, if that is the case, we should frown upon customized news feeds in general.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-30T01:14:35.346Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

that I intended to use my iPhone that way (and have, by and large),

That seems like an awfully contrived reason to buy an iPhone, especially when you could do all the work you do with an iPhone using a cheaper android phone too. But suppose there is a certain unique feature that the iPhone has that others don't that makes you more productive (I'm not asking what that feature is). You are still deliberately dodging the spirit of the question. It wasn't about an iPhone. I didn't even know you had one.

So, am I justified in asking why you spend four hours per month watching Game of Thrones when you could have used that time to earn more money and use that to save a child in Africa? Do you think spending time on a couch, watching Game of Thrones, eating potatoes, is more valuable than saving a dying child in Africa?

You already have guessed what these questions would lead to. But my intention is not to accuse you of hypocrisy. What I say is that even if you watch Game of Thrones instead of saving a dying child in Africa, I wouldn't think any less of you.

Your article was Privileging the Question, not Promoting Utilitarianism. You could make your point without trying to change what people value.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T12:25:51.880Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Am I justified in asking why you bought an iPhone when you could have saved a starving child with that money, and whether you think getting an iPhone for yourself is more valuable than saving a dying kid? If not, you're a hypocrite. If yes, that too tells something about you.

I accept utilitarianism. But I also think we're not born with a utility function. When I vote, I value it being an informed decision. If you ask me whether I couldn't think of anything more valuable than that, I'd ask whether you couldn't think of anything more valuable to do with your money than buying a smartphone.

To be honest, I don't vote. But many do and value their right to vote.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T11:50:03.265Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What made utilitarianism the privileged value system? All I said was that if you try to make a utilitarian argument for gun control being an important issue, you'd probably fail. Someone would make a better argument for controlling diabetes being more important by comparing the number of people getting killed by illegal firearms and the number of people who die because of diabetes. (Note that the point here isn't whether controlling guns is a good thing to do, but whether it's more important than controlling diabetes).

I never said that utilitarianism is the privileged value system. What makes Casey Anthony brouhaha a privileged question is not the fact that it's entertainment and not news, but the fact that from all possible gruesome murders that could be equally as entertaining, they picked this one and follwed it day and night. That's a clear case of privileging the question. There are better questions to ask even among sensational issues.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T11:37:10.408Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't the role of government also affect, e.g., death rates?

Of course, but the reason that rights based libertarians oppose gun control is not utilitarianism. A rights based libertarian would oppose gun control even if the utilitarian argument for it was obviously true. Such a person would not consider this question a privileged question.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T07:45:55.879Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think "what should the role of government be?" is another privileged question. What do you intend to do with an answer to this question?

Decide for whom to vote, for one thing. Of course my one vote isn't important. But the vote of ten million people who watch news is significant.

I think the role of government is an important question because governments of nation states are some of the most powerful entities there are. No other entity can coerce people virtually without consequence.

Comment by brainoil on Privileging the Question · 2013-04-29T05:38:19.186Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Gay marriage and gun control are privileged questions? I disagree. They're not important if you're thinking about them in purely utilitarian terms, as in how many people get killed per year by illegal firearms. But they are important if you are concerned about the role of government.

Why has the media privileged these questions? I'd guess that the media is incentivized to ask whatever questions will get them the most views.

I think the more relevant question here is why do such questions get more views in the first place. I'd say the reason is they divide people along party lines. So it's more fun to ask those questions than a question like what to do in order to make charity more effective. It's entertainment, and who's to say entertainment is not important? There's no privileged value system.

I think most people who watch talk shows know that they are watching them for entertainment, not news.

ask not just whether the author is telling the truth, but why he's writing about this subject at all.

If I apply this principle to this author and this post, I'd wonder why take these three issues to make his point, instead of something clear and simple like the Casey Anthony brouhaha, which was clearly and indisputably a privileged question. Is he trying to signal something?

This is a good article.

Comment by brainoil on The Least Convenient Possible World · 2013-04-18T08:40:31.223Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but omniscience added with omnipotence implies predestination.

Comment by brainoil on The Least Convenient Possible World · 2013-04-17T11:02:44.509Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would this be moral or not?

Of course it is, if you live in this hypothetical world. The fact that in real life things are rarely this clear, or the fact that in real life you will be jailed for doing this, or the fact that you'd feel guilty if you do this, or the fact that in real life you won't have the courage to do this, doesn't mean that it's wrong.

But in real life I'd hardly ever violate the libertarian rights because of all the reasons mentioned above.