Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? 2011-11-25T06:06:40.349Z


Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-26T04:16:04.987Z · LW · GW

Thanks for that, it looks like a great selection. The only one of those I've read before is The Prince, and that was a long, long time ago. I definitely need to track all of those down and give my brain a nice warm bath.

I'd read about politics being the mind killer and all that, and that makes my mistakes even more silly in retrospect. I think I wanted my main focus to be on looking at what's useful/worth discussing about the movements, and whether or not they're something that knowledge could be gained from. I thought that would be apolitical enough, but then I went and injected politics into it anyway.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T18:23:52.558Z · LW · GW

That wasn't my core intent, and I'm sorry I angered you by making it look like it was. Honestly I'm a bit of a pop-politics junkie. I also followed the tea party closely, as well as the campaigns of minor candidates like ron paul, because I found it interesting to see how well non-core-party rhetoric would work.

I guess I wanted LW to have a discussion page about it or something because we are a big powerful monkey tribe, and because the stupid ancestral part of my brain respects that, and wants to see what the tribe thinks of my interests. Putting in that little bit about potentially getting involved in the party was going too far, and I'm sorry about that.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T10:10:21.648Z · LW · GW

"do you think the Ivy League professor or the media mogul, regardless of what noises are making, really have it in their best interest something that corresponds to an idealised, rationally cleaned up version, of what OWSers really want? "

Of course not, which is where I think most of the difficulty in getting democratic systems to work comes in. It's hard to communicate the will of the majority effectively, and it's hard to tell on which points the leaders diverge sometimes. This ends up making bills that aren't what you want, and making them frequently.

I'll have to think of if there are any ways to change that, some hack to reduce the complexity of the task to something doable. I'll also have to think of that sometimes when it's not 2:00 AM. I'll be thinking about this though, and I hope other people who stop by will too.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T09:55:00.901Z · LW · GW

Loosely. I'm only entirely in my area with math up to trig and medium-level calculus. I can sometimes feel my earwax burning as I stumble through the more complex QM stuff. I have a few textbooks on it I bought awhile back, and I'm thumbing through them trying to get more comfortable with it, and looking to the QM sequence as a more 'human' understanding of what's going on under it all.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T09:47:48.941Z · LW · GW

That is a damn good point, and I don't know if I can entirely counter it, because as far as I can tell it's pretty darn true. I do think that there are arguments that will work for some of the less hippie-esque protesters though, the ones who are there more because of economic issues rather than moral ones.

A major part of what drove the economic recession that lead to most all of the problems that these people are protesting was speculation on subprime mortgages. These are mortgages that are plain-to-see crappy to everyone. However, ratings agencies gave the vast majority of these mortgages very high ratings. When speculators came to purchase insurance on these loans, they would see a AAA rating, no indication the loan was subprime until it comes crashing down upon them.

The ratings agencies have argued in court that they were merely giving their opinion about these mortgages, that it didn't necessarily have to have anything to do with what was actually in the mortgages. They argue that their opinion is 'true' because it's what they believe, and everyone else just chose to accept that.

Now, these ratings agencies were paid to analyze loans. Their word was used to price transactions on the market. There were literally in some cases lives on the line (in the case of medical loans.) Does this mean their opinion is worth two shakes? How about when their 'truth' causes the entire country to crash?

I think that argument would get a lot of people angry, but would also be a good setup for convincing them that objective truth not only exists, but should be priority when you're negotiating economic and political deals.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T09:24:57.500Z · LW · GW

Agreed in full! On its own, changing the political discourse has only a short term effect. But it also serves to legitimize the protestors' viewpoints. Once you have serious discussion, you can start assembling voting blocs and existing candidates who do support your views (the progressive party seems a likely ally.) As the discussion grows more legitimate, and the voters grow more confident, your political allies gain more power. And they in turn can use that power to further spread the discussion.

You'd never have a big win, just lots of small wins, never taking a single leap of improbability too big to flip the whole thing over, until you're where you want to be.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T09:00:41.842Z · LW · GW

I'd not discount the movement's potential for change entirely. Consider the effect that the Tea Party has on politics right now. Are any of their candidates going to win? Probably not. But they have high priority advertising space in the political spectrum, and they can force ideas and discussion onto stage.

Likewise, while the Occupy movement probably won't reach even a tiny fraction of its goals, it most certainly will change the political discourse, and potentially upset a few elections.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T08:41:59.587Z · LW · GW

We should probably wait and see what kind of response this initial proposal gets over the course of a day or so, to see if there are people interested in discussing it further, and to see if there are potential actions to coordinate. After that, setting up an alternate forum is pretty easy (Maybe a community blog over on blogspot or something, or even just a facebook page would do)

As for advertising, I don't know... I'm very new to discussing things here on LW, I don't really know what does and doesn't work in drawing community attention.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T08:24:47.507Z · LW · GW

Ah, I see what you're getting on about now (And yes, I did accidentally think you meant the post-modernist art style rather than the philosophy, sorry about that,)

I've been trying to figure out why philosophies like that tend to profuse in the left more than the right, actually. I've not come up with much yet, and I think that it may just be a Rattlers-v-Eagles type thing, where one party takes on a philosophy just to differentiate themselves from the other party.

So I think that this may just be a very good opportunity to help educate people out of those post-modernist leanings. Most every protester out there is angry at what they view as a rigged political and economic system, they'd probably be pliable to believing other systems aren't true as well. And if we come up to them with very convincing arguments, they may just listen.

Not saying it'd work universally, or even all that widely, but teaching even a few people is a long way from being a bad thing.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T08:10:13.062Z · LW · GW

You're right, there are great big swaths of the Occupy movement that are too prone to becoming sides to take, or teams to cheer for, and would take far too much time and attention to unravel for the utility they'd provide. But I don't think the problem's entirely prohibitive, at least not all of its parts. Broad discussions on whether the protests' methods are moral, or whether their cause is just, those probably are too messy. But I think that problems that the protests bring up that we'd not see in normal day-to-day society, like the increasing militarization of police forces in the US of late, they could be useful discussions to have.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T07:58:39.933Z · LW · GW

Post modernism most certainly, you can even see its artistic influences in some of the signs protesters are carrying.

I'm not familiar with post-rationalist opinions in the left though (or in general really.) Can you please provide me with a few examples/links?

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T07:48:37.716Z · LW · GW

I mean that I shouldn't have snarked back like that using that language, it was immature. Sorry about that.

... Wow I seem to be getting a lot of downvotes.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T07:37:36.701Z · LW · GW

I joined the BayAreaLessWrong group, but had to move out of the bay area shortly after, and right now I'm way out in the rurals, a long way from any of the meetups. I also imagine that there are a lot of LW readers in similar situations, or who can't regularly attend their local meetup for some reason. Therefore I think if we move the discussion out of LW, it should be to an online forum (easier to do international comparison and organization that way too.)

At the same time, we want to make sure that the LW community at large knows that conversation is happening, so we'd have to advertise the link to that thread/forum pretty well. And extend it to other rationalist communities if we can.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T07:25:41.320Z · LW · GW

Yeah I realized that myself shortly after writing it, mostly the 'blind monkey' bit.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T07:12:12.956Z · LW · GW

Who said anything about shadowy? I'd wager most of the more moderate protesters would openly support rationalist ideas as part of their policy discussion.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T06:52:39.958Z · LW · GW

Actually, a lot of the movements have addressed the political source of the problems. Some of them locally (A lot of Occupy Oakland's rhetoric has been against the decisions of the city trade council and its mayor) some of them more universally (occupyDC has drafted a deficit/jobs bill in rough, and is currently petitioning and protesting to get it through, )

And the squawking itself also serves a purpose. Because a blind monkey sees a lot better than the legislative bodies of most modern nations, if the rhetoric and bills and such are any indication. Sometimes you do have to create a lot of noise to draw attention to a problem.

Comment by DBreneman on Should LessWrong be Interested in the Occupy Movements? · 2011-11-25T06:38:35.562Z · LW · GW

Oh I've already gone past and read Metaethics and the stuff past it. I just keep coming back to QM because I don't understand it, and I'd very much like to. Partially because I'm interested in how the world works, partially because I just don't like that I don't understand it.

Comment by DBreneman on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2011-06-03T23:13:31.238Z · LW · GW

It's not exactly a textbook series, but I've found the videos at khan academy to be really helpful with getting the basics of a lot of things. The most advanced math it covers is calculus, which will get you a long way, and the language of the videos is always simple and straightforward.

... Guess I need to recommend it against other video series, to keep to the rules here.

I do recommend watching the stanford lecture videos , but I recommend Khan over them for simplicity's sake on getting the basics. (Then watch stanford for a more complex understanding)

And though it just covers abiogenesis and evolution, cdk007 does have quite a bit of overlap with khan's biology section. But it's a lot more narrow than what khan covers, and pretty much is just there to counter creationists. While that's a pretty good goal, and the videos are good, it's not as good for learning in my opinion.

Comment by DBreneman on Church vs. Taskforce · 2011-05-11T21:37:42.840Z · LW · GW

I think the community that I grew up in might have something that can be looked into as a sort of semi-example. I grew up in a rural town, and it had no shortage of religiosity, but most community events didn't happen at the churches. There were weekly sermons sure, but marriages, town hall meetings, debates, just about any big event would happen at our Grange hall .

( , it's basically freemasonry for farmers)

The grange serves as sort of a meta-communal arranger of all the sub-communities of the town's religions; we have a dozen flavors of christian including catholic and jehova's witnesses, mormons, quite a few jewish people, a very few muslims, and even less atheists. But all of those groups have sub-populations belonging to the Grange, and they all get along at grange meetings fairly well. It's like it was a neutral ground, where they could all go to get things done.

Probably not a perfect example, but it's the cached thought that came to my mind as an example when i was reading this.

Comment by DBreneman on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) · 2011-04-26T12:34:48.694Z · LW · GW

Just a (very primitive) version of Space Hulk I made in school and a metroid-vania style platformer that never reached completion before the team split. I'm still building up a website for myself and a couple of my fellow designers ( that I'll post them to as soon as I can.

Not much I know, but I literally just graduated at the end of February. Still hunting for that first job where I can really make a name for myself.

Comment by DBreneman on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) · 2011-04-26T12:03:49.596Z · LW · GW

Hi there everyone, I'm a programmer by trade and a video game maker by inclination. I first ran across Less Wrong while random-walking through tvtropes. I read a little of it, found it daunting but fascinating, and it... sat in my bookmarks for about a year after that.

Later, I random-walked upon Harry Potter atMoR, and it rekindled my interest. I'd read a chapter, get on lesswrong, and try and find all the tricks that harry (or other characters) used for that chapter. It was still slow going, because I wanted not just to read the material, but to absorb it and become stronger (Tsuyoku Naritai!)

I... pretty desperately needed it. I grew up in a rural community with an absolutely abhorrent school system, even by the standards of the american school system. I had a middle-school understanding of math and logic going into college, and am still recovering from the effects of a bad start (Bayesian theory and the QM sequence are on the very edge of what's possible for me, but stronger, stronger, I will learn)

I 'came out' as an atheist two years ago to my parents, and began rearranging my life insurance to go to an Alcor membership two weeks ago. All in all, I'm not terribly new to 'critical' thinking in terms of not taking a claim at face value, but still learning how to truly deeply analyze claims as a rationalist.

So um.. hi

Comment by DBreneman on Belief in Belief · 2011-04-26T11:36:26.779Z · LW · GW

Hi there, nice to know I'm not the only one absolutely new and quaking in my slippers here.

I don't think you're quite making the mistake of believing in belief. I can't model your brain accurately just by reading a few paragraphs of course, but you don't seem to show much flinching-away from admitting the judeo-christian god and the catholic interpretation of it is wrong. I think you're more identifying the religion of your family and peers as your 'group' (tribe, nation, whatever wording you prefer) and shying away from dropping it as part of your identity for the same reason a strong patriot would hate the feeling of betraying their country.

I remember reading a thing about this by... some famous secularist writer, Dawkins or Harris I think. About a million years ago, for all the good my memory is serving me on the matter. I'll try and find it for you.

As for being attracted to a higher order of things, well.. I agree with you. I just happen to think that higher order is quite physical in nature, hidden from us by the mundanity of its appearance. I think you might really want to read the sequences: and

Comment by DBreneman on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2011-04-26T11:12:17.237Z · LW · GW

Experimental and Organizational tests seem to be the most important test types here; if the students and methods are able to show they're capable, and are measurably better than the students of another craft, then their school is obviously doing something better than other schools anyway, no Reputational test needed. So I'll concentrate on those.

What do we need for an experimental test? We need a way of comparing the strengths of students and ideas, to see which are stronger. The problem here is that there's not really a standard unit of rationality. If you want to measure something's volume, you can put it in a water bath and measure how many mL it displaces. If you want to measure someone's rationality... you're a bit out of luck.

I'm not well versed enough yet in cognitive sciences to propose a unit of raw intelligence/rationality measurement, and a way of at least estimating it. Until such a metric is apparant, I think we can make do with comparative testing. Take two students and have them perform some test of rationality that returns less rational, more rational, or equally rational as a rough comparison of the two. Perform it on an entire school, and you can rank each student. Perform it between similarly ranked students in two schools, and you can determine which school is better. Roughly. A test like this could also potentially serve as an organizational test.

What tests would I propose as an experiment? How about something like having the students competitively build a weirdtopia? ( You could have a panel of randomly selected scifi fans read one of the two weirdtopias (don't compare them side by side, we're trying to get their honest opinion about one of the stories, not their comparison of the two) and rate 1-10 how much they'd like to live in that weirdtopia. The student with a higher voted paper is more rational, and if the stories are about equally weighted, we have two roughly equal weirdtopias.

That... doesn't test every facet of rationality I know. However, using tests as a way of comparing two students is something that a lot more tests could be adapted to, without necessarily having to make a measurable yardstick of rationality. Just need to figure out which aspect of rationality you want to test, look at papers and stories that display this aspect, have the two students write a similar paper using their own skills, and compare the two.