Having Trouble Posting 2013-02-07T09:09:26.992Z · score: 1 (8 votes)
What Longevity Research Most Excites You? 2012-07-14T21:54:10.719Z · score: 5 (10 votes)


Comment by christina on Questions for Moral Realists · 2013-03-17T00:40:11.424Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting thoughts. Definitely agree that morality comes from people, and specifically their interactions with each other. Although I would additionally clarify that in my case I consider morality (as opposed to a simple action decided by personal gain or benefit) comes from the interaction between sentients where one or more can act on another based on knowledge not only of their own state but the state of that other. This is because I consider any sentient to have some nonzero moral value to me, but am not sure if I would consider all of them persons. I am comfortable thinking of an ape or a dolphin as a person, but I think I do not give a mouse the same status. Nevertheless, I would feel some amount of moral wrongness involved in causing unnecessary pain to the mouse, since I believe such creatures to be sentient and therefore capable of suffering.

I'm not sure how the rest of my morality compares to yours, though. I don't think there is any one morality, or indeed that moral facts exist at all. Now, this does not mean that I subscribe to multiple moralities, especially those whose actions and consequences directly contradict each other. I simply believe that if one of my highest goals is the protection of sapient life, and someone else's highest goal is the destruction of it, I cannot necessarily expect that I can ever show them, with any facts about the world, that their morality is wrong. I could only say that it was a fact about the world that their morality is in direct contradiction with mine.

Now I don't believe that anything I've said above about morality (which was mostly metaethics anyway) precludes my existence or anyone else's existence as a moral actor. In fact, all people, by their capability to make decisions based on their knowledge of the present state of others, and their ability to extrapolate that state into the future based on their actions, are automatically moral actors in my view of things. I just don't necessarily think they always act in accordance with their own morals or have morals mutually compatible with my morals.

Nevertheless, I think that facts are very useful in discussing morality, because sometimes people are not actually in disagreement with each other's highest moral goals--they simply have a disagreement about facts and if that can be resolved, they can agree on a mutually compatible course of action.

Comment by christina on Politics Filtering and Higher Standard Discussions · 2013-03-02T06:35:25.770Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you afraid of people who agree with you because you worry some will chime in with badly supported arguments? I imagine there are few things people enjoy less than seeing someone making a bad argument with the same conclusion as theirs, regardless of the quality of their own argument. Of course, I could be misinterpreting your statement here. Obviously, you could point out that their argument is flawed.

If they are making the same argument as you, though, and the only difference is how they make it, then you cannot say their argument is flawed (since from your perspective it is not and their attitude is not relevant to the truth value of the argument). In that case you just have to accept that you won't necessarily like everyone who holds the same position as you.

Are you worried that people may not be willing to discuss the issue at all if they feel too strongly about it? That does happen, but I think it is to be expected. Everyone has strong emotions sometimes, and one way a person might choose to deal with that is not to engage someone. That doesn't mean that everyone will do that, and it doesn't mean that the information on opposing viewpoints you are looking for can't be obtained through other means. So I think it's best not to worry about that.

I guess I'm not entirely sure what it is about strong opinions that troubles you, regardless of whether people would be expected to have them about a particular argument or not. The amount of emotion felt or expressed in an argument is not indicative of its quality. Only the logic contained therein is, and that is the only part that needs to be addressed if trying to understand other people's points of view. Perhaps I have addressed your concern above? You can let me know if I haven't, though.

Comment by christina on Recommended reading on the ethics of Animal Cognitive Enhancement · 2013-02-23T20:37:06.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's also been said that ancient humans were more intelligent than modern ones. In fact, both the argument for human intelligence and the wolf-dog argument have put forward the idea that being domesticated lowers intelligence (in the case of humans, it can be said we domesticated ourselves). I don't really think this is a simple hypothesis to investigate at all given the complexity of investigating intelligence.

Some references:

News Article on Human Intelligence--News article discussing this hypothesis.

Gerald Crabtree--This is the researcher I've seen quoted a lot lately on the idea that ancient humans were more intelligent than modern ones. From the article above, and looking at his published work, it sounds like this is just a hypothesis he wants to test, rather than something that he has thoroughly investigated.

News Article on Dog-Wolf intelligence--This news article has some discussion of an experiment trying to determine differences between wolf-dog intelligence.

Comment by christina on Politics Filtering and Higher Standard Discussions · 2013-02-23T06:27:41.553Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there isn't really a problem with people discussing 'political' subjects, because the problem isn't politics. Really, anything that involves 'philosophy' and the word 'should' can be a potential problem, even if this is only implicit in the conversation. If you don't want to feel angry or to have people angry at you, the solution is simple--only talk to people you already agree with.

In fact, people can happily discuss politics and philosophy all day long, and do so all the time--as long as both parties already agree with the other's conclusions.

Now, I am assuming what you actually wanted to know was how to discuss politics with someone you don't already agree with. In order to do that one has to be able to separate the argument the person is making from their emotional response to it. if you can't do that, then anything that is significantly meaningful to you will be something you cannot meaningfully discuss with anyone you disagree with.

The goal of such discussions shouldn't be to convince someone that you are right, but to find the root cause of the disagreement to begin with. It's very important to make logical arguments and not use fallacies as arguments. When you feel strongly about a subject, this may be difficult. Also, if the other person has already made an argument for their case, you need to respond to the points they made. Otherwise you're just talking past each other. I agree that you shouldn't be obscure--that is a way to create a monologue, or perhaps talk with people who know whatever linguistic password you've set up, which may mostly be people you already agree with. I guess that works in the sense that one avoids confronting people they don't agree with.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to discuss anything at all important with someone you disagree with, there's going to be strong feelings involved. If someone presents a logical argument, regardless of the emotions involved, your response needs to address their argument, and not their or your emotional response. If you can't do that, then you might try understanding your opponent's side by choosing to read work from the most intelligent people who hold the same opinion they do. If you think those people's arguments are worthless (not merely wrong, but unintelligent and without any logical scaffold) then you probably won't be able to have a logical discussion of the subject with people you disagree with. And that is because if you think that, you are probably having trouble putting aside your own emotions on the subject. There is no such thing as an argument that cannot be argued using logic, or that has never been argued using logic. The question merely becomes what that logical infrastructure has been built on. Somewhere in there is the basic component that you and your equally logical countepart (who nevertheless believes the opposing viewpoint) disagree on.

Comment by christina on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2013-02-08T20:54:57.072Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My thought is that it would be best not to offer in the particular situation you gave. That is, it was night, and presumably there was no life-threatening danger to her from the rain.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being generous, but there are always other factors to consider. If, for example, you want to hold doors open for people or offer to carry heavy things, that is fine, as long as you do that for everyone consistently and don't take offense if anyone refuses. Also, you may want to consider the context. Even if you are not a scary person, offering to help somone with a minor task if the area is dark and/or deserted can be perceived much differently than in a more typical context.

I would advise you to continue to make the effort to recognize when you may be conforming to undesireable cultural norms, as you have been doing here. That is the first step to taking action on this extremely pervasive issue.

Comment by christina on Having Trouble Posting · 2013-02-08T06:17:41.799Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I will take a look at it. Once I finish setting it up and sift through the codebase to find the templates and other frontend interface things, I'll see what I can do.

Comment by christina on Having Trouble Posting · 2013-02-08T03:17:50.771Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are a number of issues with post visibility on this site. When I first posted here, it actually took a week for me to figure out just how to make my post visible. And when I posted here again recently after not posting for a while, I had this problem again, although the last time it was actually a different issue, I believe.

As a programmer, my analysis is that many of the issues about post visibility that bother me would not really require major code changes. Most are just usability-type things, like better placement or sizing for interface functionality. The search issue you mentioned might require slightly more tweaking. Unfortunately, it sounds from your comment below that there really is no one actively maintaining the site.

Honestly, I wish I could try fixing some of it myself, but even if I could get access the code (I heard somewhere that it is open source?), I have no idea how I would get approval for the changes.

Comment by christina on Having Trouble Posting · 2013-02-08T03:02:06.651Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you! I can see my posts now when following those instructions. I confess, I didn't want to post an entire discussion article just to ask this question, but I was going crazy trying to figure it out.

Comment by christina on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2013-02-07T08:46:31.126Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why wouldn't you offer to assist a male who had no umbrella? That seems rather uncharitable of you.

Comment by christina on How to offend a rationalist (who hasn't thought about it yet): a life lesson · 2013-02-07T07:11:11.948Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused why your friend thought good social justice arguments do not use logic to defend their claims. Good arguments of any kind use logic to defend their claims. Ergo, all the good social justice arguments are using logic to defend their claims. Why did you not say this to your friend?

EDIT: Also confused about your focus on axioms. Axioms, though essential, are the least interesting part of any logical argument. If you do not accept the same axioms as your debate partner, the argument is over. Axioms are by definition not mathematically demonstrable. In your post, you stated that axioms could be derived from other fundamental axioms, which is incorrect. Could you clarify your thinking on this?

Comment by christina on Do you have High-Functioning Asperger's Syndrome? · 2012-07-12T07:02:57.358Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I got a 22 on that test. I am fairly convinced I do not have Aspergers Syndrome, not only because I've not been diagnosed and that's lower than the cutoff point given, but the experiences described for those who have it seem quite different from mine in several respects. I am convinced that I am intensely introverted, however. It's not that I don't like other people, but that I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm when I have plenty of time to myself.

Comment by christina on Moderate alcohol consumption inversely correlated with all-cause mortality · 2012-07-12T06:36:15.721Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see this type of thing a lot. It's kind of only interesting to me in an academic sense, because even if that amount of alchohol promotes longevity, I am not willing to drink due to being an utter control freak (and several relatives of mine had severe substance abuse problems, so if there's any genetic component to that I want to avoid it). In any case, if it does, I wonder what the mechanism is?

Comment by christina on What math should I learn? · 2012-02-06T05:43:32.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wait. You dropped algebra? Do you just not need educational instruction in mathematics? If you are self-taught and just looking for an interesting course, go meet the professor before you choose one. If they seem like a fun person, sign up for it. Otherwise, go retake algebra at your earliest convenience--unless you were just taking it again for fun...

Comment by christina on Which College Major? · 2012-02-06T03:43:23.049Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The most important question you've asked here is:

"Should I care more about making money or doing something that I have a "passion" for?"

And my answer is: You should care about both, approximately equally.

I would advise that you don't ever choose something that makes you want to gouge your eyes out with a metal fork just because the average yearly salary is six or seven figures. Most likely the result will not be anything like what you are visualizing (eg. early retirement, actually having time to enjoy your money, reasonable mental and physical health...) . I suspect this kind of choice tends to lead either to dropping out of your major, and thus losing both time and money, or to far too much agony when you do enter the workforce. The more interest and enjoyment you get from your chosen field, the better. In a similar vein, be wary of fields that sound cool or tolerable if you have very little idea of what the work in them is actually like. If you have some familiarity with doing whatever is done in your chosen field, that helps a lot. I majored in Computer Science, but I had been programming as a hobby for many years before that, so I already kind of knew how I felt about it. I knew about the frustrating parts, but also knew that overall I enjoy it immensely. I would definitely recommend considering which hobbies you enjoy most when you think about what you want to major in.

On the other hand, I would not ignore the importance of money. Please consider: how much would you like to have the independence to make your own decisions, because your money is your own? For me, this was very important, so I was unwilling to go into a field where the average (the mode, not the mean or median) salary was small, or where money seemed to be very unreliably distributed. For example, some fields have a few very prominent successes who make crazy amounts of money and a large number of talented, hardworking individuals who make almost nothing. Do not assume you will be one of the few prominent successes, regardless of your talent or ability to work hard. Also consider how important financial security is to you. Even if you are well off now, circumstances can change. So try to choose something where you will be able to put some of your money aside into savings (I think the amounts most people advise for this always sound a bit low...). When I was younger, there were times that money was extremely tight for my family--I knew that wasn't how I wanted to live once I was an adult, because it always felt so financially insecure. On the other hand, some people thrive on very little money, so you will need to consider how much your temperament matches mine. This is not to say I didn't take great pride in spending as little money as possible--but this was largely because I wanted the number in my savings account to be as large as possible. Because I did take this into consideration, I don't currently have to worry about money or debt, which is rather nice.

So, that's my advice. Hope you found that helpful in some way. It did at least work for me. I have a career that I can actually enjoy doing, and I don't have to live in poverty.

Comment by christina on How is your mind different from everyone else's? · 2012-02-06T02:47:35.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I used to have a similar ability as well, although that was primarily for life experiences + written material (came in handy on tests--read once-write anywhere, heh). It faded and largely disappeared sometime during high school. I feel I compensated fairly well afterward, so the loss doesn't bother me too much. Not that I wouldn't be interested if I found a way to get it back, though.

It seems different people may experience changes in this type of memory at different times. Maybe those adults who are considered to have really good memories just never had their childhood mnemonic abilities fade over time.

Comment by christina on Talking to Children: A Pre-Holiday Guide · 2011-12-22T04:54:55.935Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for your very relevant article selection.

Yes, I was aware of both the pink/blue reversal and the unbreeched boys practice. The insanely rapid (at least if considered on an evolutionary timescale) pink/blue reversal in particular indicates to me that some things are entirely culture.

I think the young Louis XV is even more apropos to illustrate the sentence you responded to from my post. In fact, I'll go add that link in now...

Still, regardless of where my preferences come from, I don't particularly want our culture to return to dressing all children in frilly little dresses. I see this as entirely consistent with my dislike of frilly little dresses. Even so, I understand that not everyone has my preferences, so my hope is to live in a society that increasingly doesn't demand that people conform to whatever the majority preference is. Rather than, say, living in a world where wearing frilly little dresses is banned for people of any gender.

Comment by christina on Talking to Children: A Pre-Holiday Guide · 2011-12-21T23:40:22.305Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just thought I would comment on this:

I know it's hard, but DON'T tell little girls that they look cute, and DON'T comment on their adorable little outfits, or their pony-tailed hair.

Actually, I don't think I would ever find this difficult. An adorable child is one who is using their toy dragon to level their toy castle. But I do agree that this is a behavior our society encourages, and that it is quite widespread. I feel a bit ambivalent about this kind of advice, though. I think there are benefits to discouraging this type of behavior in the adults, but mostly the benefits fall to those of us who are annoyed by it.

I remember being a child with zero interest in wearing dresses or being considered pretty. I am now an adult who feels much the same. This was not because my parents or the people around me were in any way atypical in their reinforcement of gender roles. So I think people could get the wrong impression and believe that this behavior has more impact than it really does. On the other hand, I am also somewhat dubious that people actually have any sort of innate reaction by gender to, say, pink frilly dresses specifically. I suspect there's a very complex interaction going on between genetics and culture here. So while I agree that it is senseless to encourage or engage in behavior that you don't approve of, regardless of its cause, I would also caution anyone you give this advice to that there are a lot of influences on children, and that they are by no means the only one.

I would add that if a person compliments a little girl's ponytail, that will not annoy me if they also compliment a little boy's ponytail in the same way.

Comment by christina on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-12-03T08:50:32.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Practically speaking, I don't think it is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve.

Should be read as "Practically speaking, I don't think it (doing the thing we are talking about, knowing others' preferences) is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve."

Upvoted for clarifying this point. This changes my interpretation of this sentence considerably, so perhaps I can now address your intended meaning. This statement does have a truth value (which I believe to be false). I disagree that knowing another human's preferences is not important to achieving most of their goals (ie. their preferences). Since you make a weaker statement below (that they only need to vaguely know the other's preferences), I assume you intend this statement to mean something more along the lines of needing very little preference information to achieve preferences than needing no preference information to achieve preferences (and it is probably not common for humans to have zero initial information about all relevant preferences anyway).

Knowing the temperature of the ice cream or the composition of the flour is important only in the sense that there can be human preferences in this direction.

But I don't need to know them if you do and we share knowledge about states of the world.

I disagree. If I want to buy something from you, I benefit from knowing the minimum amount of money you will sell it for. This is a preference that applies specifically to you. Indeed, other people may require more or less money than you would. It is, therefore, optimal for me to know specifically where the lower end of your preference range is. Knowing other facts about the world, such as what money looks like or how to use it, would not, by themselves, resolve this situation. Likewise, if you wish to sell me something, you must know how much money I am willing to pay for it. You must also know whether I am willing to pay for it at all.

A very, very hazy idea of others' preferences is sufficient, so improved knowledge beyond that isn't too useful. Alternatively, with no idea of them, we can still trade by saying what we want and giving a preference ranking rather than trying to guess what the other wants.

If I were trading with someone, I might not be inclined to believe that they would always tell me the minimum they are willing to accept for something. Nor would I typically divulge such information about myself to them. Sure, you can trade by just asking someone what they want, but if they say they want your item for free, that's not going to help if you want them to pay.

Since you state ("There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion,") is not a logical assertion but generally true, I assume you mean to say that it is true in the world we live in but would not have to be true in all possible worlds.

I did not mean it is always true in this universe but not like that in other universes. Instead I meant it is almost always true in this universe. If you are in a situation in this world, such as a financial one or one in which you disagree over a joint action to take, it will almost always be better to get a unit of relevant information about consequences of actions than a unit of relevant information about the other person's preferences, particularly if you can communicate half-decently or better.

By the lack of truth value, I meant that it was not clarified what preference the word important referred to. If the preference referred to is explained, then the expanded sentence has a truth value. Perhaps this is like the other sentence, and you meant it to refer to satisfying the preferences of others. Also, the consequences of actions can only be assigned a value if the preferences are known. No preferences = No consequences.

This depends heavily on an intuitive comparison of what "random relevant" information of a certain quantity looks like. That might not be intelligible, more likely a formal treatment of "relevant" would clash with intuition to settle this decisively as tru or false, but it wouldn't fail to have a truth value.

Yes, these statements lead me to believe that you were stating something similar to your original sentence, and meant something like "There are a lot of facts more important for satisfying the preferences of the other person than understanding the other person's opinion". This seems incorrect to me. Also, I believe that you will find that all pieces of relevant information relate to one or more of the preferences involved. This relation is not mutually exclusive, since these pieces of relevant information could also relate to facts external to the person. Consider your example of the unfortunate cheese-loving person who believes the moon is made of cheese. This belief gives them both a false picture of the world and a false picture of their own cheese-related preferences. A belief that Saturn was made of salami would give them a false picture of the world, but not of those same cheese-related preferences.

I do not know which I find more tragic, the person who knows the goal but not the path to get there, or the person who knows perfectly all the paths, but not which one to take.

We're discussing the goals of other people. Each type might be equally tragic, but if you had the opportunity to give a random actual person (or random hypothetical being) more knowledge about their goal or knowledge about the world, pick the world and it's not a close decision!

My view on this discussion is that I have been saying "pick the world"...

It sounds like there is some misunderstanding of what I mean. Let me try to restate my position in a completely different way.

Preferences are, of course, facts. They could even be thought of as facts about the world, in the sense that they refer to a part of the world (ie. a person). This is true in the same way that the color orange is a fact about the world, assuming that you clarify that it refers to the color of, say, a carrot, and not the color of everything in the world. If you remove the carrot, you remove its orange-ness with it. If you remove the person, you remove their preference with them. Similarly, if you remove the preference involved, then you remove its importance with it. The importance is a property of the preference, just as the preference is a property of the person. This was why I was saying that the statement of importance (referring to a preference) had no truth value—because the preference it was important to was not stated. As such, I read it as ' There are a lot of facts more important for x than understanding the other person's opinion'. Since x was unknown to me, the statement could not be evaluated to true or false any more than saying 'x is orange' could. The revision I posted above (based on your earlier revision of your other sentence) can be evaluated as true or false.

My position is that one should know the preferences involved with great precision if one wishes to maximally satisfy those preferences, since this eliminates time establishing irrelevant facts (of which there is an infinite number). Furthermore, one needs to know about the people involved, since the preferences are a property of the people. Therefore, many of the facts about the preferences will also be facts about people. There may, in any given case, be more numerous facts about the world that are relevant to these preferences than facts about the person. Nevertheless, one unit of information about the person which relates to the preferences to be satisfied can easily eliminate over a million items of irrelevant information from the search space of information to be dealt with.

Here is an example: Two programmers have a disagreement about whether they should try to program a more intelligent AI. The first programmer writes a twenty page long email to the second programmer to assure them that the more intelligent AI will not be a threat to human civilization. This person employs all the facts at their disposal to explain this and their argument is airtight. The second programmer responds that they never thought that the improved program would be a threat to civilization—just that hiring the extra programmers required to improve it would cost too much money.

The less you understand a person, the less you can satisfy their preferences. Whether that decreased satisfaction is good enough for you depends on a number of factors, including the magnitude of the decrease (which may or may not vary widely for a given unit of preference information, depending on what it is), how much time you are willing to waste with irrelevant information, and your threshold for 'good enough'.

Comment by christina on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-20T12:07:24.861Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Practically speaking, I don't think it is important to achieve the sort of goals humans generally want to achieve.

Okay. You are telling me something about your preferences then.

If I'm trading you ice cream for flour, what we really need to nail down...

And why is that? Why are those facts more important than, say, that the ice cream is bubblegum-flavored or blue-colored or sweetened with aspartame or made from coconut milk? Knowing the temperature of the ice cream or the composition of the flour is important only in the sense that there can be human preferences in this direction.

Then, we can negotiate a trade without knowing each other's preferences.

Your example is not about people negotiating without knowing each other's preferences. Your example is about people negotiating with a few assumptions of the other person's preferences. Here is an example of people negotiating without knowing the other person's preferences:

Person A: Would you like some flour?

Person B: No. Would you like ice cream?

Person A: No. I have some fruit fly eggs here...

Person B: Not interested. Would you like a computer?

Person A: Why, yes. What do you have here? Never mind--I won't buy anything over ten years old.

In contrast, if we only know each other's preferences, we won't get very far.

True. If we only know the other person's preferences but not any relevant facts for achieving them, we cannot expect a mutually satisfying interaction. However, if we know the relevant facts for achieving various preferences, but not which of those preferences the other person has, the same is true.

there are possible minds whose only desire is to only know the other person's opinions.

True, but not what I'm discussing. I am discussing how to satisfy both people's preferences in an interaction between two people.

I meant it as an assertion of what's generally true in human interactions.

Since you state this is not a logical assertion but generally true, I assume you mean to say that it is true in the world we live in but would not have to be true in all possible worlds. However, what I am saying is that this statement does not have a truth value in any logically possible world since it does not specify the preference the importance relates to. Using the word important in this way is like leaving off the 'if' condition in an 'if'-'then' statement, but not leaving out the if as well. The 'then' condition has a truth value by itself, but the 'if'-'then' statement can only be evaluated if both conditions can be evaluated.

So as I intended it "less important" applies in a stronger sense than "I disapprove" since compared to the other type of knowledge those facts are less often necessary and less often sufficient.

And I disagree that it can. Less important to achieve what objective? The only way a statement of importance has meaning is to relate it to the goal it is meant to achieve. That goal is a preference.

You have been trying to argue that facts are important but that knowing another person's preferences is not very important. But important for what purpose? One possibility is that you mean that knowing other facts is more important for the goal of achieving that person's preferences than knowing that person's preferences. Another is that you mean that knowing facts are more important for achieving your preferences than knowing what the other person's preferences are (since you state you don't consider goals humans generally want to achieve as important, it seems reasonable to assume this is also a possibility). In order to say whether your statement is true, I need to know the specific preferences involved. As you have stated it here, it has no truth value.

My position is that knowing a person's preferences and the facts about how to achieve those preferences are both necessary, but by themselves insufficient, to achieve those preferences. I do not know which I find more tragic, the person who knows the goal but not the path to get there, or the person who knows perfectly all the paths, but not which one to take.

Comment by christina on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-19T21:54:05.211Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If someone in fact enjoys eating cheese, and thinks the moon is made of cheese, I'll tend to just call his opinion that he would enjoy eating a piece of the moon "wrong".

Certainly. As I said in my first post, you can have objections to a fact stated if you believe it is incorrect.

Disagreeing on facts is often sufficient to cause a problem.

This is also true. Whether two people disagree only on the facts or only on preferences, the same amount of trouble can be had. Also if people disagree on both.

There are a lot of facts more important than understanding the other's opinion.

This is itself an opinion, so I cannot assign a truth value to it. The assignment of importance can only be done if preferences exist. For example, a preference may exist to gain benefit from a certain fact, but not necessarily to satisfy the preference of another person. Given such a preference, it would not, of course, be important to know what the other person's preferences are. On the other hand, if a person wanted to satisfy another person's preferences (or to go against them), then it would be very important. Are you saying that you generally prefer to discover facts about the world over facts about the preferences of other people, or that you think the statement you made is itself some fact about the world? If it is the first, then I assume you have more knowledge of your preferences than I do. If it is the second, then I think I have to disagree.

Comment by christina on Polyhacking · 2011-11-19T21:18:47.668Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Thanks for your perspective. I think you probably know more about this topic than I do. What do you think the expectations are for the husband, and for the wife's family? It seems that there is an expectation that the husband is able to earn money (ie. since you mentioned that large amounts of money are given to highly educated men, my assumption is that the wife's family is expecting him to earn money with his education, but if you think that's untrue I'd be interested to know your reasoning). However, you seem to be saying that there is also the expectation that the wife's family will help him with money. Is this expectation generally only for a short duration of time or is it considered a long-term obligation? Is there any expectation in the reverse (that the husband help the wife's family with money)?

Comment by christina on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-08T08:24:04.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, my point is that an opinion = facts + preferences. First, you form a belief about the state of the world, and then you may assign a value to that state and decide on an action. Two people may have identical beliefs about a certain fact in the world, but may not assign identical value to that state. If this is the case, there is no point in trying to prove the fact being considered wrong. Sometimes it is the preferences themselves that differ. This can sometimes be resolved, but it does require thinking about the thought processes behind those preferences, and not just focusing on the facts we are assigning value to. Your last two sentences imply that opinions have a truth value. I am saying that they don't. Only the facts that opinions are based on have a truth value.

Agreement on opinions requires not just agreement on facts, but also agreement on preferences. I feel a high degree of confidence that people's preferences are not identical. Therefore, I suspect that agreeing on the facts alone rarely solves the problem. If we verify the fact that one person has one preference, and another person an opposing preference, the verification of that alone will not resolve their disagreement. The only approach is to try to understand the similarities and differences in the preferences involved, and see if anything can be worked out from there.

Comment by christina on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-06T20:13:13.929Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Factual incorrectness is not the only objection a person could have to something. In many cases, people present what they believe to be the facts and then give their response to those facts. For example, someone says that Amy is 80 years old. They could then decide:

1.) Amy should be treated with unquestioning respect--they want to live in a society that respects their elders.

2.) Suggest that Amy should treat her children with unquestioning respect since they will have to take care of her.

3.) Say that Amy should be accorded respect, but not unquestioning respect because their preference is to treat others in an egalitarian way.

4.) Any number of other things.

You could then have objections to either the fact they stated (if it is not true), or to preferences they stated (if yours differ), or to both. Preferences can reference facts, especially if they are contingent on facts to achieve other, more central, preferences. And so sometimes you can use facts to show that someone's preferences are not in accordance with their core preferences. But a person's core preferences only convey a fact about the person holding them, not a fact about the world. The world has no preference about what happens to us. Only we do.

Comment by christina on A Rational Approach to Fashion · 2011-10-24T21:18:57.200Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for your thoughtful reply, which clarified a number of your points quite well. I will try to address some of your points and ask questions for those things I am still unclear on. Firstly, in your previous posts, it seems like you are discussing two separate issues—the first is the extent to which our decisions are based on external factors, the second is the extent to which our decisions are based on unconscious processing as opposed to conscious processing of those factors. Since your last post focused more on the second issue, this post will do so as well.

Here is what I did to analyze in more detail the position you are taking. I followed the link you supplied (this link being one of the reasons I upvoted your post—also, the use of the quote is very helpful to quickly establish relevance) and also used that page to get some information on the original source of the study mentioned. This led me to a paper by Nisbett and Wilson where this experiment is described by the original researchers. They also did a review of the literature to describe similar studies.

Reading Nisbett and Wilson's paper changed my point of view on this subject since they discussed a variety of confabulation research in great detail. I would now agree that unconscious reasons can be an important component of understanding healthy decisions, although I still think this doesn't always tell you any more useful information than the conscious reasons (specifically this may not always or even usually be the case where the conscious reason is correct, regardless of whether it is a confabulation). Their description of the 1931 experiment by Maier stood out especially for me, since it showed that healthy individuals could incorrectly explain how they knew the answer to a problem (as opposed to just saying that they don't know how they figured it out). I'm not sure why I found this additional information more compelling than the more relevant clothing example. Maybe it helped to illustrate the more widespread existence of confabulation in cognition. I'll have to think about this.

However, I think this paper outlined an important distinction, and that is that even when the reasons are correct, this doesn't mean that they were discovered from introspection. Your link also discusses this concept of confabulation. However, a confabulation is not necessarily wrong (it is just necessarily not obtained from introspection). When the reasons are correct, they are still consciously known. It would be incorrect to say that they are not consciously known. It might be correct to say that the reasons for the reasons are not consciously known, but this is not quite the same thing.

I will now address some specific questions I have about the evidence you presented for your position. Let's consider the right-side bias you presented. This is a good example because obviously nothing intrinsic to the clothing improves if you place it on someone's right, and yet people overwhelmingly chose the item on the right (and they got the reason for this wrong). Yet I have questions about the applicability of this to everyday decisions. For example, how much stronger is this specific bias than conscious factors? If instead of being presented with identical items, the items are different, would this bias still be relevant?

For the other one involving color choice based on emotions felt at the time, I was not able to find any support. Is this factor also based on research, or just a hypothetical scenario? Am I missing something obvious? I know of claims that colors affect emotion, but am unaware of claims that current emotions affect color choice.

people who believe that certain specific external things motivate their dress and other things don't may be wrong or may be right about each of those things

Okay. That makes sense to me, then.

I said I don't think that!

True. It was an unfortunate typo on my part. I have since corrected the post above to reflect my actual meaning.

I think more goes into decision making than attempting to achieve satisfaction.

What do you mean by this? Can you give an example of what a person's thought processes would be doing when making a decision (whether conscious or unconscious) besides attempting to achieve satisfaction? states that satisfaction is 'The fulfillment or gratification of a desire, need, or appetite.' Maybe you mean that some of the ways the brain is wired to choose things do not actually fulfill this requirement, but are simply some sort of artifact of the wiring itself? For example, maybe this is true of the right-side preference you gave earlier. Nevertheless, if our minds have a component that positively justifies such seemingly irrelevant decisions through confabulation (ie. unconsciously making stuff up), it would seem that the overall structure of the mind is working quite hard to increase satisfaction.

You can be suspicious of anyone saying that they know your subconscious reasons without being suspicious of someone who tells you your articulated reasons are of moderate importance.

Thanks for bringing this up—I think I understand somewhat more clearly what claim you are trying to make now. I agree that being suspicious of the first kind of statement does not necessarily entail being suspicious of the second kind of statement. Still, I find it necessary to be suspicious of both. I have a relative lack of knowledge in the field of psychology and neuroscience (although I greatly enjoyed the one psychology class I took in college). In order to determine whether another person is correct in their statements, I need to closely evaluate the available evidence for those statements. This includes claims made by journal articles, the logical train of thought used, simple things like day to day experiences, and any other available evidence. I can, of course, guess based on my current knowledge, but that would bias my decision towards information I already know.

We believe there are unintuited influences, we should not pretend that all the influences we understand are all that influence us.

How would giving more weight when there is evidence for a reason (whether consciously or unconsciously known for the subject) be the same as pretending that only the intuitive kind of reason influences us? I do not think this is the correct response to a statement about examining evidence. Things for which there are evidence are not necessarily intuitive in any way. That is why science is necessary in the first place. I think this would be a more valid response to a statement saying that anything unintuitive should automatically be given less weight. That was not what I said, however. In fact, I can give more weight to your statement about people choosing items on the right now that I see the evidence that this actually occurs.

I would expect people to tell themselves flattering stories...

Yes, I did see studies that say that confabulations are often positive , so I see that there is research to support for the idea that people would choose flattering stories for their conscious decisions. However, if most confabulations really are positive, does this mean conscious thought is usually used to come up with negative reasons? Or just that people usually don't come up with negative reasons for things?

I hope that helps to clarify my current position on this matter. I appreciate the time you took to provide additional insight into your position. I'll definitely be reading more about this kind of research on unconscious reasoning to try to better understand how people make decisions.

Comment by christina on A Rational Approach to Fashion · 2011-10-15T18:04:49.875Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your comments, and for clarifying your ideas. I think I can further address some of your points now.

It really wasn't, especially coming from you

Good to know you think my writing is usually clear, even if not in this case. I agree that there should have been more background added to the first post to make the statements clearer. I will try to improve this in the future, since one of my goals for my writing is for it to be clear to those reading it. Therefore, I have tried to be as clear as I can in this post, although I suspect that it could be optimized more for brevity...

eternal-->external, sorry, edited.

Thanks for clarifying this. However, I am still confused by this sentence. Now the first part seems to be saying that if someone believes that certain external factors motivate their clothing choices and others don't, they could be wrong or right. But isn't it always the case that certain external factors motivate people and others don't? If I wear rainproof clothing on a rainy day, isn't it rational to suppose that I did so because it was raining and not because the grass was green? The second part of your sentence says that someone claiming that no such external factors are hugely influential isn't right. I agree with that, but I'm uncertain if it was intended to disagree with my assertion that I choose clothing to please myself. If so, I think that my second post addresses that what satisfies me is based on external factors, especially those external factors that produce the comfort and functionality of the clothes (such as their size and the material they are made of). Could you perhaps give a specific example of where someone's beliefs satisfies the statement you made and one where it does not?

Also, I feel that internal mental states, as they are affected by external factors, are what is actually being discussed here, and it is important to make this distinction. If the causes for our actions were 100% external from our brain, it follows that we wouldn't need one to act in the ways that we do. But in fact we have external inputs that are processed in some way by our brain, producing an internal state (with possibly both unconscious and conscious outputs) that results in some specific action.

I think people's articulated reasons are, even if true, not nearly complete.

Yes, articulated reasons are not necessarily complete, but I think that unarticulated reasons are much more difficult to evaluate than articulated ones. For example, let's say that I choose to buy a certain wide-brimmed hat. The reason I give you is that I want to keep the sun out of my eyes and because I like the color. This is my articulated reason. The first part can be examined in terms of whether the given item is likely to fulfill the stated function. The second part must be taken at face value. Let's say that I have an unarticulated reason for buying the hat—or actually, lets say I have several unarticulated reasons for buying the hat. Now, let's take a look at what these might be. Trivially, I might have unarticulated reasons that I am conscious of, but do not choose to share. However, I think you were thinking more along the lines of unconscious reasons. And here is where I become suspicious, because while it could be quite useful to know what these actually are, I think that only a good deal of reading on psychology and neuroscience can even begin to scratch the surface of these reasons.

Either way I don't trust intuitive conscious narratives people have for how they choose what to wear.

And I am wary of intuitive conscious narratives given for unconscious reasons people have for how they choose what they wear (or for why they do anything, really). I will give much more weight to reasons where I can examine the evidence and the logical chain of reasoning behind them, whether they are conscious or unconscious. In the case of unconscious reasons, a researcher might come up with a hypothesis for how unconscious behavior works, and formalize it through experimentation. While there can be plenty of valid reasons for your position, it might help to explain specifically what you don't trust about conscious narratives. Lack of completeness isn't necessarily a fatal flaw—if a person's conscious reasoning effectively predicts their future actions (especially if they can generalize this over many future actions), then there is a good reason to make use of that reasoning. However, if a person's conscious reasoning is not a good predictor of their actions, then the time and effort required to look for unconscious ones may be justified.

I think you probably choose clothing for largely the same reasons others do.

This hypothesis is interesting, but it doesn't tell me much about what you would predict for this behavior. For example, if people all choose clothing for largely the same reasons, does that mean they all wear largely the same things? Does it mean that Phil's stated desire to choose more fashionable clothing and my stated desire to choose practical and comfortable clothing are not relevant in satisfying our actual desires in this area? How would you use this idea to predict people's behavior or to give them useful recommendations to increase their satisfaction with their clothing choices? Could you clarify your ideas on this?

In summary, I would be interested to hear a more detailed explanation of your position that addresses what specific beliefs you think are correct and incorrect about clothing choices, and what predictions you would make about human behavior based on your position.

Edit: I did correctly interpret the second half of your sentence, but had an unfortunate typo in exactly the wrong place. I have corrected it above (the fix is the italicized 'isn't'). Sorry about that. Please read the remainder of that paragraph with the fix in mind.

Comment by christina on A Rational Approach to Fashion · 2011-10-11T04:29:11.186Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

People who believe that certain specific eternal things motivate their dress

What do you mean by eternal? What I find comfortable or functional is not eternal and varies depending on location, time of year, and the weather of the particular day, just to name a few of the relevant variables.

but I don't think anyone claiming that no such factors are hugely influential is right

Hugely influential in what way? Certainly I dress in certain ways that are indicative of the time period and culture I grew up in. I do not believe my choices are somehow unaffected by these things. Perhaps this was not clear in my original post. My intent was to say that I choose clothing by deciding if the clothing fulfills my preferences (which are shaped by external factors) and I do not generally spend much time thinking about whether other people around me will find it fashionable. I do spend a lot of time thinking about whether my clothing will keep me warm when it is cold, or dry when it is wet, and whether it is too tight or loose to be comfortable. In terms of aesthetics, I am trying to please my own sense of aesthetics (which are not necessarily unique to me). The largest exception to this that I can think of is interviews, and even then I pick the clothing I find most acceptable in terms of comfort and aesthetics that I also think will be acceptable for an interview.

But my particular preferences will not necessarily be shared by other people. Other people may give more weight to the aesthetic sense of those around them when deciding what clothing to wear. For them it will be useful to decide which of those people it's more important for them to appeal to. They will also probably want to consider what kind of message they are trying to send, since choosing clothing in this way is about communicating something. This may mean that comfort and other factors might be ignored if they interfere with this goal.

Comment by christina on A Rational Approach to Fashion · 2011-10-11T02:22:06.519Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. Choice of goals is based on preferences. But in order to meet the goal of being fashionable, considering subjective opinions is the only way to be objectively successful. To expand on that, I think a person would have to consider things like which people they want to judge them as fashionable. You can't please everyone--the person who likes goth styles is probably going to have a different aesthetic than the one who wears sweaters with kittens (although perhaps not always).

Comment by christina on A Rational Approach to Fashion · 2011-10-10T22:58:59.222Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Fashion is a completely subjective opinion. If you want to be fashionable, you need to figure out who you're trying to be fashionable for, and figure out what they like. In my case, this is easy, since the person I dress for is myself. I therefore choose clothing that is comfortable and functional given the large amount of time I spend outdoors. I do get comments on my clothing at times, which are sometimes complimentary and sometimes not. I think it's best to wear the things you yourself like, even if you are dressing for someone else, though. Don't you want to attract the kind of people who like the things you do?

Comment by christina on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism · 2011-10-05T05:29:41.146Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to ask a couple questions.

Can you clarify if this meta-contrarian hypothesis of human psychology makes predictions that distinguish it from other explanations for holding an idea to be true or communicating it to be true? I ask since from reading some of the comments, the classification of these triads seems like a fluid thing, and I can't think of anything offhand that might be used to constrain them. If you want to use your hypothesis merely to talk about the reasons for why confidence is assigned, do you think the ideas you've presented here can make more accurate predictions on that than those in an example journal article on psychology, such as this one by Kahneman and Tversky?

Also, I think it would be more helpful to depend on examining only the logic behind, and the evidence for one's beliefs (and ignoring how confident one feels about them) to determine if they are right. You state:

You can't evaluate the truth of a statement by its position in a signaling game; otherwise you could use human psychology to figure out if global warming is real!

I strongly agree with this statement. Which is why I also want to know how the triads you propose help people to examine the flaws in their beliefs better than other psychological theories or hypotheses. For example, I might say that one should examine any belief closely, even if one feels a high degree of confidence in it, because level of confidence felt does not predict level of truth. This is a hypothesis about how confidence felt for a belief correlates to its truth (and if you want to be meta about it, it's a belief that I currently believe to be true).

In summary, I would like to know 1.) how you use the hypothesis you've given to make predictions and 2.) how this can help people identify false high confidence beliefs better than other possible hypotheses (such as the one I gave). And if anyone besides Yvain can answer these questions, I would welcome your input as well.

Comment by christina on Concepts Don't Work That Way · 2011-09-27T07:29:07.830Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for being clear, concise, and easy to read.

Comment by christina on Complexity: inherent, created, and hidden · 2011-09-27T06:41:51.088Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think in order to understand what willpower is and what it is useful for, it is important to understand that people want more than one thing. For example, I want to read Internet news. I also want to improve my math abilities, increase my programming skills, read novels, learn more physics, improve at my job, draw more pictures, bicycle more, spend more time in nature, and bake more delicious strawberry-rhubarb pies of which I will place one scoop of vanilla ice cream on each slice I eat. That's not even close to an exhaustive list of all the things I want.

Multiple wants will often come into conflict with one another. All of the things I've mentioned take time. My time is limited. So I have to put some kind of priority ordering on them. Sometimes I should do something where I will only accomplish what I want in the long term. Sometimes I should do things that can be quickly or easily accomplished with little mental effort in the short term. Mostly people talk about willpower when they're having trouble doing the long term or high effort things they want to do, not the short term or low effort things they want to do.

So the need for willpower mostly arises when people are trying to maximize attainment of various wants which compete for their time and energy. Since the longer term wants don't maximize short term rewards, they take more mental effort to accomplish since you don't feel automatic and immediate positive reinforcement from them (you want to do them in the abstract, but there are other things that would make you happier right now if you did them instead).

So when someone does something requiring willpower, they want to do it in an intellectual sense, and they have some emotional stake in whether it gets done, but they don't want to do it in the sense that they are getting a large positive reinforcement from anticipating the task. Possibly they feel bad when they anticipate not doing it, or it just doesn't generate as much excitement at the moment as the other task. So they want to do it, but it requires willpower for them to do so. I think willpower is really just a way to talk about the mental effort required to do something a person wants to do, which differs for different wants. If you want to know more about what might actually affect how willpower works, understanding more about motivation will probably help.

I prefer to minimize the need for willpower in long term goals, however. If I can find a way to give myself short term positive reinforcement for doing something that achieves a long term goal, I will. Anyway, I hope that helps explain it.

Comment by christina on Knowledge is Worth Paying For · 2011-09-25T10:39:28.963Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's what I was referring to. I use my debit card for online purchases, but I am selective about doing this, since I like to avoid fraud. I have had an experience with fraud before which was more time consuming than what you described (with a significant amount of paperwork), but did result in the bank returning the money to me. As a result of the unpleasantness of this experience, I tend to be reluctant to buy from sites I don't clearly recognize as legitimate.

This is not a strictly online concern for me, though. I also make much fewer debit card purchases at stores nowadays and don't use it at all at restaurants.

I would probably feel similar even if I had a credit card instead since I found the first experience so unpleasant.

Comment by christina on Knowledge is Worth Paying For · 2011-09-25T05:30:03.591Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, from what I have seen, sellers have been very eager to eliminate this problem. In many of the stores near where I live, you can buy gift cards for various online sellers in addition to brick-and-mortar ones. For example, in my nearby grocery store, we have Amazon gift cards, Kindle gift cards, Ebay gift cards, and just the other day I saw one entire side of a gift card rack decked out in Facebook gift cards. Though Barnes and Noble and Best Buy both have brick and mortar stores, their gift cards allow you to purchase at either the store or the website.

I don't know how many other places have this kind of availability, but if you can buy a $10, $25, $50, or $100 gift card for an online store, that opens up a variety of possibilities for online purchasing. Especially if, like Amazon, the vendor allows you to use more than one of their gift cards. Of course, this approach does seem to limit you to larger companies, but still allows a variety of web purchases.

Also, online purchases from any vendor are possible for young adults who have a debit card with a credit card logo, though some may not prefer to make purchases this way.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-24T09:04:08.017Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are several things I would like to address, taking into account the additional information you have now supplied.

The trouble with this position is that the falsification of the issue has been available since before it became an issue. A more-than-cursory examination reveals this I disagree with this statement,since I think determining the truth or falsehood of most statements tends to be rather more complicated than it might intuitively seem, but this is the type of statement that would be relevant to supporting your original conclusion.

there needs to be active suppression...

As opposed to something like confirmation bias? What specific kinds of actions does active suppression entail? Are you saying that this is the only possibility because you have evidence to dismiss all others, or because you intend this statement to refer to a large number of types of behavior that encompass all or most possible types of reactions?

It doesn't make sense to me to discuss people and their motivations (which you've said you don't care about)

Ahh... no, I never said that. I said I didn't make any presumptions about what their motivations in specific were. That's not the same as saying that I "don't care" about them.

Okay, after considering them some more, I agree that your statements don't indicate that you don't care about the motivations (apologies for the double negative).

In regards to presumptions of specific motivations, I have examined the statement in question:

That it's fear-mongering, being exploited by an array of political and social agencies with sometimes conflicting agendas in order to exploit the 'risability' of the common person to fear in order to achieve their various goals through persuading the population.

I observe that I interpret all of the 'in order to's here as 'with the intent of'. If you intended them to perhaps mean something more along the lines of merely 'with the effect of', then I will not interpret 'exploiting the risibility of the common person' as a statement about their specific motivations. Otherwise, even if this motivation is not a terminal motivation, it still seems to be a specific one.

However, since you didn't talk about how peak oil being false causes people to say it is true, I think there is something missing here.

Someone has been raising the issue. I haven't made any presumptions about who or why -- only that it has been happening. I then described the act of raising a false fear as 'fearmongering'. They might not know they're doing it. They might honestly believe it.

That they honestly believe a false fear to be valid doesn't change the fact that they are promoting a false fear.

This clarification of your original statement increases my estimate of it's probability of being true, but only by making it more generalized than I originally thought it was. Do you agree that the more possible outcomes a statement applies to, the fewer things its truthfulness can be used to predict? If I have three types of card in a shuffled deck: red, green, and blue, and I say the card on the top is red and I am right, is that more or less predictive than if I say the card on top is red or blue and I am right?

Even with the more general meaning you have applied to your statement, I still don't think after presenting evidence that X is false, One can conclude that people act in way Y whenever they state that X is true. The only conclusion that follows from giving evidence that X is false is that X is false. If you want to convince others that people act in way Y when they say that X is true, it is not directly relevant evidence to simply say that X is false (though this might be used to support a sub-argument if X being true corresponds to different behavior). Instead, discussion of the causes of people's mental states, and how their mental states affect their behavior, is necessary. Your conclusion does not directly follow from your original argument. This was, and still is, my largest objection to the conclusion you supplied.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-19T23:38:24.898Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for explaining your intent in more detail. However, the fact that I see a logical problem with your argument still exists. I will try to clarify the issue.

How can the topic -- which is expressed as a 'serious problem' -- remaining a concern for discussion possibly exist except through the agency of various groups attempting to drive up fear levels amongst the public in order to achieve their specific goals?

If people are concerned about something untrue, then this may very well be because various groups are attempting to drive up fear levels. It may also be because the various individuals involved looked at the incomplete and often ambiguous data available to them and came to the conclusion that it is true, regardless of whether or not that was the conclusion some group wanted them to come to, and regardless of whether or not any groups involved wanted to drive up fear levels, or create a sense of fatalism, or thought this news would somehow cheer people up. I think there really is a lot one could say about how humans act on their beliefs and why.

But that was not what your main arguments were discussing. Let me try to summarize what you have said so far:

  1. Giving various arguments supporting the idea that peak oil is false.
  2. Concluding with the idea that some people say peak oil is true for various specific motivations that you have clarified are irrelevant to you, but one of their motivations for saying it is true is to drive up fear levels.

It doesn't make sense to me to discuss people and their motivations (which you've said you don't care about) at the very end of talking about whether a certain state of the world is true. It would make sense to end with a conclusion distilling the essence of what you argued (eg. 'technology is already advanced enough to prevent this from being a problem' or 'we won't be running out of oil anytime soon'). It might also make sense to summarize the various points you argued. However, since you didn't talk about how peak oil being false causes people to say it is true, I think there is something missing here. Perhaps you want to discuss something about human nature as well, as it pertains to what people say or do, or what people believe. That is where I think the ending you gave might belong, not as a conclusion to arguments discussing whether or not peak oil is true.

If there is something you think I am missing here, I hope you will elaborate.

Comment by christina on Science Doesn't Trust Your Rationality · 2011-09-07T02:50:56.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I view a question about my opinion as a question about my preferences. In fact, I don't think there's any way a person can answer that question without referencing their preferences. Of course, I did try to go into more detail about what specific preferences were involved and reference facts when applicable, but I'm not really sure what benefits or advantages other people would enjoy, excepting those who agree with me. This is why I didn't reference that particular preference.

I'm not really sure why you think the comparison to the laws congress passes is applicable. As far as I understand, a symbolic monarchy doesn't pass laws. Are you saying that people who pass laws should be eliminated because they can make awful choices? The consequences of people's choices is entirely dependent on how much power they have. Also, I was only commenting about the inequality of their pay, not so much that it is a burden on their society (as I stated in my previous post). Once again, this is a personal preference.

Comment by christina on Open Thread: September 2011 · 2011-09-04T20:02:44.833Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the placebo effect actually worked exactly like that, then yes, you would die while the self-deluded person would do better. However, from personal experience, I highly suspect it doesn't (I have never had anything that I was told I'd be likely to die from, but I believe even minor illnesses give you some nonzero chance of dying). Here is how I would reason in the world you describe:

  1. There is some probability I will get better from this illness, and some probability I will die.

  2. The placebo effect isn't magic, it is a real part of the way the mind interacts with the body. It will also decrease my chances of dying.

  3. I don't want to die.

  4. Therefore I will activate the effect.

  5. To activate the effect for maximum efficiency, I must believe that I will certainly recover.

  6. I have activated the placebo effect. I will recover (Probability: 100%). Max placebo effect achieved!

  7. The world I live in is weird.

In the real world, the above mental gymnastics are not necessary. Think about the things that would make you, personally, feel better during your illness. What makes you feel more comfortable, and less unhappy, when you are ill? For me, the answer is generally a tasty herbal tea, being warm (or cooled down if I'm overheated), and sleeping. If I am not feeling too horrible, I might be up to enjoying a good novel. What would make you feel most comfortable may differ. However, since both of us enjoy thinking rationally, I doubt spouting platitudes like "I have 100% chances of recovery! Yay!" is going to make you personally feel better. Get the benefits of pain reduction and possibly better immune response of the placebo effect by making yourself more physically and mentally comfortable. When I do these things, I don't think they help me get better because they have some magical ability in and of themselves. I think they will help me get better because of the positive associations I have for them. Hope that helps you in some way.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-04T18:18:36.449Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. However, your preferences may simply be different than mine. I highly appreciate it when a person takes the effort to provide links to some of their sources for various facts, which don't necessarily have to be from Google Scholar (although that can be a plus). Obviously there is a limited amount of evidence than can be included in a comment, and most comments are not going to be able to provide enough evidence to exhaustively prove their claim. But to me some is better than none (where applicable--some responses don't lend themselves to citations, but I felt the one I replied to did). Also, I feel the link is the most important part of the citation, although it's sometimes better if the post takes the time to give it sufficient context so I know what parts of, say, a 30 page document are being used to support an argument.

The purpose of my comment wasn't only or primarily to request citations, but primarily to give my impressions of what I thought was good and what could be improved. Admittedly it is a bit short, and could probably convey the info about what I liked in greater specifics.

Comment by christina on Gender differences in spatial reasoning appear to be nurture · 2011-09-04T09:23:37.962Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What is the point of this statement?

Comment by christina on Science Doesn't Trust Your Rationality · 2011-09-04T09:01:25.284Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think I should emphasize that I don't think anything horrible should be done to any current symbolic monarch, and I do not approve of what happened to the full monarchs during the French Revolution. However, symbolic monarchs are very expensive politicians to maintain, and whether or not they gain their position is an accident of birth. They may not have absolute power like a full monarch would have, and therefore I disapprove of them less than I would a full monarch (since their role is quite different), but I still disapprove.

I should note that I disapprove of full monarchs because I disapprove of so few people holding such great power in society. I disapprove of symbolic monarchs because I don't feel any one politician should occupy a position where they are automatically made so important over others.

For those symbolic monarchs today who perform in their current roles admirably, I feel it would be better to simply drop the title and change it to something more reflective of their political duties, drop the inheritance of the role, and change the income from the state to something more in line with what other politicians receive. The lifelong nature of the role can be kept if this still better fulfills some function of the new, but similar, role.

To answer your two questions, there's not much of a practical advantage, but I simply prefer the lack of a symbolic monarch because I dislike monarchy. I don't think this would make the lack of a symbolic monarch only beneficial to the French. However, I do think this is mostly a cultural and/or individual preference a person may have.

Supporting Notes

Compare the price of an example symbolic monarchy vs an example president. While its true that a symbolic monarch probably isn't going to strain the finances of a relatively rich country, I must also consider the price of an example prime minister of the same country as for the symbolic monarch and I have to disagree that they should be worth so much less than the symbolic monarch (this is irrespective of who the monarch is or how many separate countries share the monarch between them, and more about how I rate the value of the respective positions, since the individuals come and go).

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-04T05:38:31.730Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted since you put forth a pretty good argument for your case here, although I would prefer more citations. I still disagree that this post supports your other post or vice versa.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-04T05:35:47.757Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I do not believe emotional comments are inherently irrational. As all of us experience emotion, almost any comment we make is emotional, in that it elicits certain emotions from both ourselves and others. However, not all emotional comments are rational. I still do not believe that your last comment on what to think of peak oil was rational ( I also disagree that the term agenda used in that context is not emotionally charged, but this topic may be more subjective than the other and is less central to my point, so I won't discuss it further here).

Your last comment about peak oil being fear-mongering is not supported by your previous statements. Your previous statements support peak oil not being true. Your last statement has nothing to do with this, as far as I'm concerned, and is considerably more complex to work out the truth or falsehood of. The idea of a political or social institution saying that peak oil is true because they wish to exploit common people for their own disparate agendas has nothing to do with whether or not peak oil is true. Consider:

  1. Peak oil is true and political and social institutions say that it is true, because they a.) believe it is true, b.) want to exploit other people, or c.) both.

  2. Peak oil is false and political and social institutions say that it is true, because they a.) believe it is true, b.) want to exploit other people, or c.) both.

I assume you are asserting 2b with your statement about fear-mongering, whereas your previous post put forth arguments that only support the statement in 2 that 'Peak oil is false'. I also feel that the connotation for fear-mongering used in such contexts is likely to produce either rapid agreement or disagreement.

My question is--which is more important to you, proving that peak oil is false, or proving what the motivations of various unrelated politicians and social organizations are? Do not mistake my criticism of your statement for a belief that fear is never used in politics. I just don't see how it at all helps your attempt to prove that peak oil is not true. See statements 1 and 2 above for my reasoning of why the first does not necessarily follow from the second. I think a more rational statement made after giving supporting arguments that peak oil is false would be something along the lines of 'don't worry about it and show others it is not true so they can devote their resources to solving things that are actually problems'.

EDIT: changed some erratic capitalizations and one 'denotation for fear-mongering' to 'connotation for fear-mongering' to more correctly express my meaning in that part.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-04T04:37:39.157Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

You do a fairly good job of presenting a rational argument here, but you do have some arguments that seem firmly rooted in your emotional response, rather than an attempt to explore the facts.

Your especially rational points are 1-4. This is irrespective of whether they are right or wrong--we have some ability to factually verify or disprove these points. In order to explore your biases, you might want to start by linking to some articles supporting your statements and some refuting them and then discussing why you believe one over the other. Choose articles that avoid excessive strident language(when possible) and make numerous factual statements that can be independently verified. Then it might be easier for you and others to determine what parts of your beliefs are strongly biased.

For example(emphasis mine):

  1. Politicians are powerless, so promise general feel-good nonsense like "energy independence".Nobody even tries to tackle the problem.

This statement seems to be more about how you feel about the problem than a statement that can be independently verified. How easy is it to get people to agree what feel-good nonsense even is? Does it predominantly come from those personable people you disagree with? The connotation of this word is going to overshadow any denotation. And how would you evaluate if someone tried to tackle a problem, regardless of whether they succeeded? It's hard enough to get people to agree on facts--it's even harder to get them to agree on emotion-laden statements that are difficult or impossible to verify.

Comment by christina on What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences? · 2011-09-04T03:55:44.328Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted as I disagree that this answer is the most rational view, Logos, nor does this kind of response encourage rational discussion. This is irrespective of whether I agree or disagree with your argument that peak oil hasn't occurred. Your first response sought to refute the specific statements the article made, and in general you did a fairly good job of putting up a rational argument (once again irrespective of whether the refutations are correct or incorrect). When your arguments are factual, they can be verified or refuted.

On the other hand, when your arguments contain no specific information that can be verified or refuted, and instead contain words designed to maximize for emotional effect rather than informational value, they cannot be called rational. Please see below for the words here that I feel especially stand out in this regard(emphasis mine):

That it's fear-mongering, being exploited by an array of political and social agencies with sometimes conflicting agendas in order to exploit the 'risability' of the common person to fear in order to achieve their various goals through persuading the population.

Comment by christina on Gender differences in spatial reasoning appear to be nurture · 2011-09-04T01:40:59.913Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have to disagree here. A matrilineal society, as I stated in my previous comment, does in fact often give women more access to familial resources, as these are often given to women to be managed or inherited from women, by women. This is a common theme in matrilineal societies--women have significant power over family life. The matrilineal doesn't just refer to family names--but also the line through which resources are obtained. However, you will tend to find that men dominate the political sphere in these societies(where applicable), so they are not matriarchal.

Please make the linguistic distinction when discussing these terms. Power over family life is referred to by '-lineal' suffixes and power over politics in the public sphere is referred to by '-archy' suffixes. A person who supports a matriarchal society (real or imagined) may not support a matrilineal one (real or imagined) or vice versa. These would not be logically inconsistent positions. It is confusing when people disagree on the meanings of the terms themselves.

Comment by christina on Science Doesn't Trust Your Rationality · 2011-09-04T00:52:58.269Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted since I definitely agree that comparing anything to Hitler or Nazis causes fairly consistent and predictable problems in the rationality of responses.

I think kilobug goes too far in supporting the French Revolution--I think it's good that France no longer has even a symbolic monarch, but I agree with Vladimir that kilobug glosses over the loss of human life and freedoms that occurred during the revolution. Saying things like this without backing them up with a lot of evidence (which probably doesn't exist given the absolutes used to qualify the statement), sounds overly idealistic(emphasis mine):

There is no ethnic conflict that was started inspired by the French Revolution. The French Revolution was the first to proclaim absolute equality of people, whatever their race, nationality, religion (or lack of religion) was. That's what it abolished slavery, for example.

Comment by christina on Gender differences in spatial reasoning appear to be nurture · 2011-09-03T21:07:12.113Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for your precision and accuracy in pointing out the distinction between the words matriarchal and matrilineal. A matriarchal society would be one where women dominated in political power. My short Internet search did not turn up any societies I would call both matriarchal (instead of matrilineal) and likely to be real, so I assume they are either extremely rare or nonexistent. A matrilineal society such as the one in the study is one that traces its ancestry through the female line--this trait does not mean that females have political power in the culture. I would add that matrilineal societies may also tend to differ from patrilineal socities in that women may have greater access to resources within the family, such as family earnings and inheritances. This does not make the society matriarchal since men still occupy the positions of political power.


  • The Wikipedia article on matriarchy I linked to presently asserts that "There are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal" with six references to this statement. Contradictions to this statement exist in the article, but from what I read they are not as well supported (at least not the ones I saw--I did not read the entire article). Hence why the Wikipedia article seems to me to support the likely rareness or nonexistence of matriarchal cultures. And yes, I do give some amount of credence to Wikipedia, even with all its flaws.

  • The second link I include about the Mosuo culture living in China seems to be matrilineal rather than matriarchal as supported by this statement in the article: "Political power in Mosuo society tends to be in the hands of males, which for many scientists disqualifies them as a true matriarchy, and they would be rather called "matrilineal"."

  • The matrilineal Nagovisi of the third link I included are interesting in that they are also described as having "anarchistic tendencies", and so do not seem to have a strong central political structure dominating their society. Also, gardening is said to be very important to them and the garden is a pivotal resource around which their culture revolves. As a sidenote to my sidenote, their country of origin, Papua New Guinea, is, in the words of the CIA World Factbook, "one of the most [culturally] heterogeneous in the world; PNG has several thousand separate communities, most with only a few hundred people...".

Comment by christina on On the unpopularity of cryonics: life sucks, but at least then you die · 2011-09-03T04:35:51.272Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

SENS stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. Being acronym-challenged myself, I certainly understand the occasional agonies involved in working an unfamiliar one out.

Comment by christina on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) · 2011-08-30T06:29:40.232Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hey, I think I've seen you around the forum.

I feel similarly about psychoactive drugs. I do consume small amounts of caffeine (via chocolate and the occasional caffeinated tea), but I try to avoid it since even those amounts can make me jittery and thus I don't drink coffee at all. I don't feel any desire to take recreational drugs, legal or otherwise. I suspect this qualifies as an unusual tendency, so it's always interesting to meet people who feel similarly. Nevertheless, I have a tendency not to mention this fact spontaneously for fear that people will feel I'm judging them.

Comment by christina on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) · 2011-08-30T05:39:48.909Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can't answer for anyone else, but I think graphene work sounds pretty cool, so here's an upvote from me!