Popular religions suggest extrapolated volition is non-existence and wireheading 2018-02-09T00:06:30.957Z
Welcome to Heaven 2010-01-25T23:22:45.169Z


Comment by denisbider on Humans can drive cars · 2014-02-18T12:12:41.284Z · LW · GW

Sorry, I don't check this place often.

To some extent, I think what you described does happen for snippets of code that are largely the same, and which one might write all the time. For example, I can write a "Hello world" program while maintaining conversation. However, as soon as you ask me to write something new, then I do have to start thinking about how to put pieces together, and can't continue conversation.

But this also happens with driving. Speaking for myself at least, I can only maintain conversation while driving in a way that does not require me to make any decisions: (1) a route I've driven many times before, (2) a straight piece of road that might be unfamiliar, but does not require making any decisions.

If you put me in a new city where I don't know where the streets are and how the traffic works, my conversational ability is much decreased (unless sitting at a red light, and perhaps even then, if I'm wondering where to turn next).

Programming tends to be like driving in new cities all the time. The difference we observe is really that we do most of our driving as a chore (same route, similar conditions each time) whereas we usually try to avoid that in programming (re-writing code we've already written several times, in similar conditions each time).

Comment by denisbider on Humans can drive cars · 2014-01-30T21:20:57.349Z · LW · GW

Programming is one of them. Even after doing it for decades, people are still as consciously engaged in it as they did in the beginning.

My experience disagrees with this. After about 20 years of experience with C/C++, I have internalized many of the aspects of programming in this language, which allows me to write complex software factors of magnitude faster than 20 years ago, and factors of magnitude more safely.

I notice how much I have internalized when I switch to a different language that isn't "my own", and find myself immediately bogged down in all sorts of details for which I don't know how exactly they work, and what is the best way to approach them.

In my experience, programming skill, especially in a particular language, does get internalized, much like dancing.

Comment by denisbider on Minimum viable workout routine · 2012-09-21T05:42:56.239Z · LW · GW

It doesn't only work for me. It's how most people I know, who are into fitness, manage their weight. The "Calories In" part is not eating too much. The "Calories Out" part is maintaining your metabolism by eating small meals regularly, exercising, and eating lots of protein to gain and preserve muscle mass.

It works. It works for a lot of people.

In fact, aside from gastric bypass surgery, it's the only reliable way to lose weight that I know. And gastric bypass surgery is a form of CI:CO!

And then we have a bunch of people on Less Wrong, all of whom appear to be convinced that human bodies can somehow violate the rules of thermodynamics. Or that the calorie content of foods varies so wildly no one can ever track it well enough to lose weight. Then when challenged, you resort to arguments like this:

  • The sun is dark green.
  • No, it's bright yellow, I saw it this morning.
  • That's anecdotal evidence. It's no good as science. It's green, stop spreading your bullshit.
  • I'm pretty sure that it was yellow every time I saw it in my life. It was never green.
  • More anecdotal evidence. What you see is not what other people see. Learn to science, man!

Ad hominems are the last thing to resort to, but this conversation has become so ridiculous, I am left with no more credible explanations for this denialism than that you guys are chronically fat, and hiding behind excuses because you lack the will power to stop slurping Double Diet Mountain Dew. Then, you make endless posts about beating akrasia.

Comment by denisbider on Minimum viable workout routine · 2012-09-21T02:39:22.309Z · LW · GW

In particular, adding up the numbers on the labels of the things you eat is not a sufficiently accurate method of determining caloric intake,

If that's the case, why does it work?

I agree that calorie content of any particular meal is hard to measure accurately, but over time, the calorie content of many meals should gravitate towards the average.

You're going overboard by stating, not just that CI:CO is hard, but that it's impossible.

You're saying that my positive experience with CI:CO over the past 5 years, which I was able to confirm numerous times, is a fluke.

That's you being offensive and arrogant. Yes, you should be tapping out.

Comment by denisbider on Not for the Sake of Pleasure Alone · 2012-09-21T02:17:10.694Z · LW · GW

Sorry for the late reply, I haven't checked this in a while.

Please don't fight the hypothetical.

Most components of our thought processes are subconscious. The hypothetical question you posed presses a LOT of subconscious buttons. It is largely impossible for most people, even intelligent ones, to take a hypothetical question at face value without being influenced by the subconscious effects of the way it's phrased.

You can't fix a bad hypothetical question by asking people to not fight the hypothetical.

For example, who wants to spend an eternity isolated in space? That must be one of the worst fears for many people. How do you disentangle that from the question? That's like asking a kid if he wants candy while you're dressed up as a monster from his nightmares.

There are lots of regretful heroin users.

Because not all components of the heroin experience are pleasant.

Wouldn't it be even better to constantly be feeling this bliss, but also still mentally able to pursue non-pleasure related goals?

I suppose, yes. Valuable X + valuable Y is strictly better than just valuable X.

Comment by denisbider on Minimum viable workout routine · 2012-09-21T01:47:32.006Z · LW · GW

I haven't checked this thread for a while, so sorry for the late reply.

You make it out as though diet by CI:CO is too difficult to be practical. Maybe it is, for people who can't track stuff to save their lives.

For me, it's been easy. When I'm dieting, I have a spreadsheet where I record the calorie and protein content of everything I eat.

Yes, calculating calorie content for homemade meals is a fair amount of work, and takes dedication. It takes me up to 30 minutes of lookups and calculations to calculate calorie and protein content in a meal, and that's after my wife has weighed and recorded all the ingredients.

Because of this complexity, I stick mostly to prepared foods that display their calorie content, or homemade meals made of well-known ingredients in well-known proportions.

I have a fair amount of confidence in my calorie calculations. I know from experience that when I keep the daily sum of calories under a certain level, my waist size goes down. It works.

I don't know anyone else who brings this level of dedication to their diet. I know people who don't, and so they're fat.

I accept your argument that CI:CO is hard for people lacking conscientiousness, but this is different from saying that CI:CO doesn't work.

Also, for people lacking conscientiousness, chances are that no diet is going to work.

Comment by denisbider on Less Wrong used to like Bitcoin before it was cool. Time for a revisit? · 2012-06-22T06:43:51.360Z · LW · GW

Presumably the company in question could easily manufacture a whole bunch for itself and get a significant portion of the bitcoin market

They can get 100% of the mining and transaction fees market by snapping their fingers. Once they've made their initial investment into manufacturing the chip, the marginal cost of making more of them is minimal. Far below the $30k they're selling the 1 TH solution for.

They can grab 50%+ of the mining market for themselves pretty easily. Then, they can increase their capacity to keep up with the growth of the network for cheap - all while they sell their processors to others, who pay much more for the mining capacity they get, than it costs for Butterfly Labs to make more.

(although it would have to be careful about destroying the currency's value).

It's possible to crash the currency if you're in a position where you can reliably mine more than 50% of the blocks. When you have more than 50% of the network's computing power, you can exclude other miners - gain 100% of the market by simply ignoring everyone else's blocks. The P2P network will respect your chain, because it's longer. Then, you can impose any transaction fees you like, or refuse to process any transactions at all.

However, unless you intentionally do things like that to crash the currency, its value doesn't come from the miners. It comes from people who use it for transactions and for storing value, which aren't necessarily the same people who mine the currency.

Comment by denisbider on Minimum viable workout routine · 2012-06-22T06:16:44.713Z · LW · GW

Congratulations. I revived this account, which I haven't used for years, just to downvote your crazy ass.

The evidence for the general principle - that weight change tracks the difference between calories eaten and calories expended - is overwhelming.

I have seen no fitness advice that suggests it isn't true. I have seen no fit person who doesn't accept it.

For the past 6 years, I have reduced weight and controlled it very effectively based on this principle. Time and time again, I have become fatter when I stopped counting calories and ate to my heart's content. Time and time again, I got my weight under control after I resumed calorie restriction.

If you want to show that calorie restriction doesn't work, you first have to overthrow conservation of energy. And then, explain how come no one was fat in Dachau.

Comment by denisbider on Not for the Sake of Pleasure Alone · 2011-06-23T08:08:51.772Z · LW · GW

Then they will blast you and the pleasure machine into deep space at near light-speed so that you could never be interfered with. Would you let them do this for you?

Most people say they wouldn't choose the pleasure machine.

Well, no wonder. The way the hypothetical scenario is presented evokes a giant array of ways it could go wrong.

What if the pleasure machine doesn't work? What if it fails after a month? What if it works for 100 years, followed by 1,000 years of loneliness and suffering?

Staying on Earth sounds a lot safer.

Suppose the person you are asking is religious. Will they be forfeiting an eternity in heaven by opting for passive pleasure in this life? They would say no, yet they are ultimately after eternal pleasure (heaven).

If you want to be fair to the person to whom you're talking, propose a pleasure machine they can activate at their convenience, and deactivate at any time. In addition, phrase it so that the person will remain healthy as long as they're in the machine, and they'll receive a minimum-wage income for spent time.

I suspect that, with these much safer sounding provisions, most people would opt to have access to the machine rather than not, and would eventually use it for 100% of the time.

Religious people may still not, if they fear losing access to heaven.

Personal example: The greatest feeling of bliss I have experienced is dozing off in a naturally doped up state after highly satisfying sex. This state is utterly passive, but so thoroughly pleasant that I could see myself opting for an eternity in it. I would still, however, only opt for this if I knew it could not end in suffering, e.g. by becoming immune to pleasant states of mind in the end

Comment by denisbider on Helpless Individuals · 2011-05-11T00:33:45.851Z · LW · GW

I don't think the lack of scientists is the issue. The issue is others providing all the engineering and support that scientists need - to survive in the first place, and then to get science done.

If you want to continue your example of sacrificing a child, a more effective proposal would be to have extra children and bond them into near-slavery, taxing them at some high amount so as to support those who do science.

But that would be a real sacrifice, and most would not find the idea pleasing.

Comment by denisbider on The Bias You Didn't Expect · 2011-05-10T15:37:01.980Z · LW · GW

The Economist reported on the Israeli study too:

The article makes an argument which I find persuasive: that it's not about food as much as it's about difficult decisions tiring the brain. When the brain is tired, it resorts to the easy and safe option.

Check out the Economist article for more.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:54:27.527Z · LW · GW

They do in some of the handful of transracial adoption studies, and don't in others. Rushton and Jensen et al hype the Minnesota study, because it's the one that supports their case, and note data quality problems with the other studies. Nisbett and Flynn do the reverse. But very little work is done in this area (yes, because of PC issues with funding bodies), so the data is still too thin to be very confident either way.

Agreed. More data would be nice.

I am open to a different explanation, it's just that the genetic one seems most compatible with what I do know at this time.

Seeing a prosperous and competent country arising out of Africa would surely be nice. I would prefer living in a universe like that. It's just that I don't see it happening - regardless of the aid - at this time.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:44:23.577Z · LW · GW

Most of your criticisms here appear to be resulting from "morally repugnant", which means that I hold a view wildly different from that which you find acceptable, but you can't quite figure out why. If you test me, you may find that my views are neither ill-defined, nor poorly thought out, nor dumb; nor even morally repugnant.

Your criticism about politeness is valid however. I do not try to be polite unless the other person is already polite, which creates a sort of vicious circle half the time. I'd like to improve that.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:34:21.570Z · LW · GW

Good points. But then why don't African Americans perform much better when adopted and raised by non-African parents? If it's about parent pressure, then an African American kid adopted by Asian parents should perform at about Asian level. Why do they not?

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:24:20.948Z · LW · GW

No one is powerless unless they are physically or mentally incapacitated.

To give an example of someone who is physically incapacitated. A pig. He's smart, but he doesn't have thumbs and can't speak. Are you out to help him?

For another example of someone who is mentally incapacitated. A chimpanzee. He has thumbs, but he's not so bright. Are you out to help him?

If you believe that Africans are somehow physically or mentally incapacitated, then you should treat them much the same as you treat chimpanzees.

On the other hand, if you believe that they are not incapacitated, then they aren't powerless. If they aren't powerless, they can organize their community any way they like.

They haven't yet created any highly functional societies over the past few decades, whereas many others have. So apparently, they're either incapacitated (so proper treatment = same as chimps), or they've decided that their current situation is what they want.

Either way, foreign aid is inconsistent. Either we should be helping animals as much as we help Africans, or else, they are people who have the power to better themselves, and do not need aid.

Edited to add: Again, people downvoting, but nary a peep about why this logic is wrong. Focus on the essence, rather than the blasphemy? Anyone?


I think I'm just going to give up on this community. Good luck with your goals, everyone. ;)

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:11:58.774Z · LW · GW

I find Flynn and Nisbett's position unconvincing. Asians are obviously different and were heavily discriminated against, yet have integrated in America regardless, and now have comparable or better outcomes. There must be a more substantial reason why Africans haven't done the same, and the most plausible reason so far for me is genetics.

Pretty much the one major argument against genetics is that people just don't want this to be the case, because it's one of the least hopeful explanations. But this is bias. Once you eliminate it, it becomes strikingly evident what the most likely explanation is.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T23:01:43.891Z · LW · GW

African-American IQ in the 80s, with only 20% European admixture, shows that African IQs are depressed by environment.

I wouldn't say so. I think it shows that genes for higher IQ are inherited dominantly.

This has also been proposed as an explanation for the Flynn effect - whole countries getting "smarter" over time - being due to the gene pool mixing more in cities, and thus with dominant pro-IQ genes gaining ground.

The same mechanism has been proposed for the increasing height.

Animals have short lives so it wouldn't work well, and I care less about them than people with long term plans hopes and fears.

See, that's fine with me. You want to indulge in X because you like it, not because of rationalization Y or Z. Just like I want to indulge in chocolate. That's fine with me.

I just don't like the claim that it is morally superior. Or that it's something everyone should do. Or that it's how resources "should" be spent. If it is an indulgence, though, then indulgences are fine with me.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T22:51:42.155Z · LW · GW

If the recipients are highly functional and creative thereafter, they should make money. If they make money, even if you don't want it, they can pay you back.

I do approve of charity which gives to things that do go on to create more than was invested. An example would be investing into basic research that isn't going to pay off until decades later. Investing in that is, I think, one of the most commendable charitable acts.

Most charity, however, is not that. It is more so charitable indulgence; it is spending money on something that is emotionally appealing, but never provides a return; neither to the giver, nor to anyone else.

I despise the travesty of such acts being framed as morally valuable charity, rather than as an indulgent throwing of resources away.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T22:41:36.357Z · LW · GW

I'm sure this is often the case, but please don't overgeneralize.

True; point taken. I find it likely that many (perhaps most here) are not like that.

Your grandparent post is at +2 as I write this.

True. But overall, I'm down about 50 karma today, and still counting. :)

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T22:31:34.779Z · LW · GW

Even the maximalist (and implausible in light of other data) Rushton-Lynn hypothesis

I've been looking for about a decade now, but have not encountered evidence that would discredit Lynn. I have however seen a lot of evidence which corroborates his findings.

If you have evidence that discredits his work, I would appreciate it.

is perfectly consistent with aid (external provision of disease treatment, etc) having massive benefits in reducing disease and increasing wellbeing until biotech or more radical things can bypass any genetic disadvantage.

Why stop at Africa then? Shouldn't we invest billions in animal shelters, so that dogs and cats can live long lives until we find a way to bypass their genetic disadvantage? Wouldn't those be just as "massive benefits"?

And there's no need to be smug.

Perhaps it came across as smugness, but I do find that every piece of news I see, either from South Africa, or from Haiti, or from Nigeria, or from Zimbabwe, or from Turks and Caicos, just adds to the pile of evidence.

Also, I myself live in a place like that. Which is why I suggest (in all seriousness!) that people should consider visiting a country like South Africa for a while.

There's no better cure for academic distance than direct contact with the hard facts on the ground.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T22:21:33.740Z · LW · GW

It is impossible to draw a clear line between races, but it is also impossible to draw a clear line between colors of the visual spectrum, and yet "red" and "blue" exist. For a non-IQ related example, people of Ashkenazim heritage are known to be at risk for certain genetic issues, while people of African heritage are known to be exposed to heart-related risks.

The concept of race (or any other word that symbolizes this concept) is statistically significant and useful - more so in countries that are much more homogeneous than the USA.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T22:10:31.479Z · LW · GW

I don't believe that I'm shifting the goal posts; I stand behind both my original comment and the one above. They are different aspects of a greater concept.

Are you now saying that charity shouldn't be directed to countries inhabited by races which by virtue of low IQ will be unable to make good use of it?

That's part of what I'm saying. It should also not be directed towards the homeless and other failures.

I am in favor of a social net for those who are legitimately out of luck and soon regain gainful employment.

It still seem clear that health, nutrition and education can have major effects on IQ regardless of the extent to which IQ differences might be due to genetic factors associated with ethnicity. (Imagine raising your kids in exactly the same conditions as slum dwellers in Haiti or Africa.)

I've been looking for about a decade now, but have not encountered evidence that would discredit Lynn. I have however seen a lot of evidence which corroborates his findings.

If you have evidence that discredits his work, I would appreciate it.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T21:59:50.197Z · LW · GW

If it makes one happy to go around and cure people of TB, then one should by all means do so. However, I do not perceive this as significantly different, or more valuable, than running a huge animal shelter, if the recipient of aid doesn't pay you back. As with an animal shelter, you are expending external resources to maintain something for the sake of it. Doing so does not contribute towards creating resources. It is a form of indulgence, not investment.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T21:49:49.110Z · LW · GW

Points taken, thank you.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T21:22:37.785Z · LW · GW

Seems like a funny link, I've watched a bit of it and will continue to watch it.

But comparing the per capita GDP of $7,000 in Mauritius, vs $39,000 in Singapore...? Granted, $7,000 in Mauritius is more than $270 in Zimbabwe, but still.

The difference remains similar in PPP terms.

Also, about 2/3 of the Mauritius population appear to be Asian.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T21:11:51.077Z · LW · GW

But the definition of "humanity" isn't even coherent, and is actually incompatible with shades of gray that actually exist.

Until these fundamentals are thought out, there can be lots of hot air, but progress toward a goal cannot be made, as long as the goal is incoherent.

It seems to me that the type of humanism you're talking about is based on an assumption that "other people are like me, and should therefore be just as valuable to me as I am".

But other people, especially of different cultures and genetic heritage, have strikingly different values, strikingly different perceptions, different capacities to think, understand and create.

The differences are such that drawing the compassion line at the borders of the human race makes about as much sense as at any other arbitrary point in the biological spectrum.

I believe that, to be consistent in valuing empathy as a goal on its own, you have to have empathy with everything. I find that a laudable position. But the sad fact is, most of us here aren't vegan, nor do even want to be. (I would be if most people were.)

People are selfish, and do not have empathy for everything. In fact, most people pretend to have empathy for the world as a whole, whereas in fact they only have empathy for the closest people around them, and perhaps not even them, when push comes to shove.

All that having been said, and the world being as selfish as it is, when you say that you're a humanist, that you want to better the lot of other people, and that you contribute 50% of your income to charity (just as an example), you are basically saying that you're a sucker, and that your empathic circuits are so out of control that you let other people exploit you.

Given that we are the way we are, I think a much more reasonable goal is to foster a world that shares our values, not to foster the existence of the arbitrary people who don't share our values, but exist today.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T20:46:47.696Z · LW · GW

I didn't read Guns, Germs and Steel, but I read the synopsis on Wikipedia. My impression is that Diamond discusses the reasons why civilization developed in Europe (rather than elsewhere) in the past. The synopsis on Wikipedia does not, however, discuss anything relevant to why Africa has been unable to pick up civilization after it has already been developed. Are you aware of a synopsis of Diamond's argument that addresses specifically that?

I gave the example of Singapore specifically because it is a country that grew from virtually nothing to prosperity in a matter of decades. Japan and Taiwan could also be used as examples, and China is not faring too bad either. There are still a large number of countries in Asia that are dysfunctional, but many countries, some of them very large, have picked up the lessons of what works, and have applied them, or are now applying them, to create a functional civilization.

This, however, is not happening in Africa, nor in Caribbean (where independent), nor in the Philippines, nor in the Bronx - nor anywhere with a majority of largely African descent.

In all these places, the reverse process took place. The locals took control away from colonizing foreigners, and then instead of a proliferation of prosperity, it all broke down and fell apart. Why is that?

The short answer is: their average IQ is 70.

The long answer is:

If you want to be shocked some more, follow an international news source such as BBC for a few years, and pay attention to news from Africa and the Caribbean. The pieces will fall in place in time.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T20:29:54.866Z · LW · GW

Since we're doing probabilistic thinking, I would assign a great probability to the current system being imperfect, simply because (1) it is the system with which the site was designed prior to developing experience, and (2) the system is observed to have faults.

These faults seem to be fixable by making voting costlier, prompting readers to invest more thought when they decide to vote. I don't even expect that this would necessarily improve my karma, but I think it would increase thoughtfulness, decrease reactivity, and improve quality overall.

There should probably be a daily limit to how many comments people can make, too. I think it would encourage longer and more thoughtful comments rather than shorter and more reactive ones.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T20:24:23.627Z · LW · GW

Perhaps I would know better to avoid that if I was more exposed to US culture, but I am originally from Europe and I tend to abhor political wars for their vacuousness, so perhaps I'm using words in ways that reminisce of politics inadvertently.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T20:19:31.906Z · LW · GW

Thanks Matt. I generally try to take this role because I'm aware that the character traits that allow me to do this are somewhat rare, and that the role is valuable in balance.

I'm also aware of the need to improve my skills of getting the message across, but this takes time to develop.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T20:15:23.564Z · LW · GW

That is generally true. In extreme cases, however, things can get near black and white. The case I was responding to does seem such an extreme case to me.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T20:09:05.267Z · LW · GW

Aid in health care and education would in fact be the best way if the problem was something that can be solved with health care and education.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T20:08:01.035Z · LW · GW

Good points. But when are they going to start feeding themselves and making their own medicines?

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T20:04:19.178Z · LW · GW

Haiti and Africa are not the way they are because anyone pillaged them. You need to read types of books you do not want to read, or try to live among them for a while, to get a glimpse of the nature of their dysfunction.

Or ask yourself this question. Many Asian countries are poor, but among them, some are marvelously prosperous. How come, though, there is no Singapore of African descent?

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T20:01:27.060Z · LW · GW

(1) I don't see my comments as being political. If you perceive them as injecting politics, then I suspect it's because you are used to hearing similar things in a more political environment. My comments are about reason, empathy, charity, value systems, and how they fit together.

(2) I am unable to substantiate my positions if people don't respond. When people do respond, then I have some understanding of the differences between my viewpoint and theirs, and can substantiate. But I don't believe it's reasonable to expect all possible counter-arguments to be preempted in a comment of reasonable length.

(3) The "delicate balance" argument is specious - it is a form of bias in favor of what already exists. If we had a different system, then you would be calling that system a "delicate balance".

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T19:45:26.338Z · LW · GW

Also, have you actually been to Africa? I recommend visiting for a prolonged period several times. You might see it in a different perspective then.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T19:42:31.380Z · LW · GW

Looks like you're just going to have to build that road then.

You are focusing on the immediate needs of people now, whereas I am focusing on the dysfunctionality that's going to continue into the future.

Freebies from the Western world aren't going to improve the lot of Africa. The only way their lot can be sustainably improved is by them reorganizing the way their communities work. No outsider can do that, and if they don't, no amount of external aid will help.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T19:37:10.538Z · LW · GW

I hear Socrates wasn't popular either.

I'm no Socrates, but focusing on style instead of essence is incorrect.

Some of the best lessons I've learned were from people who were using a very blunt style.

I am not trying to appear superior, nor to gain status. If I wanted that, I would not be using a style which I know is likely to antagonize. I use a blunt style at the expense of my status and for the benefit of the message, not the other way around.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T19:26:41.390Z · LW · GW

I'm not a Randian Objectivist, nor do I insist on everything leading to libertarian policies.

You seem to have misinterpreted me based on a preconceived notion of what other things are usually said by people who say this sort of thing. But I'm not one of those people.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T19:24:21.946Z · LW · GW

Which is more functional and creative: a community that leverages its own potential and builds its own clinic, or a community that relies on outsiders to provide that clinic?

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T19:09:27.387Z · LW · GW

I see it as equivalent if your cost-benefit calculation values that which is functional and creative.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T19:07:46.177Z · LW · GW

My observations aren't Randian in origin. At least, I haven't read her books; I even somewhat disapprove of her, from what I know of her idiosyncrasies as a person.

I do think that this is an important topic for this group to consider, because the community is about rationality. My observation is that many commenters seem to not be realizing the proper role of empathy in our emotional spectrum, and are trying to extent their empathy to their broader environment in ways that don't make sense.

Also, if my anti-empathy comment is being downvoted because it isn't part of a group theme, then the pro-empathy comments should be downvoted as well, but they are not. This indicates that people vote based on what they agree with, whether it is in context or not - and not based on what is in context, and/or provides food for thought.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T18:56:23.794Z · LW · GW


Oh, well now it's -6. :))

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T18:53:12.147Z · LW · GW

Please clarify. The article you link to is sensible, yet I do not see what part of it is at odds with what I wrote.

I am essentially saying that charity is harmful because the cost-benefit calculation comes out negative when charity is used outside of the context in which it works (a small, closely knit social group).

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T18:31:48.450Z · LW · GW

Actually thinking that out loud makes you honest. People who think of themselves as compassionate are much the same as I described, except that they would rather have me not exist, because my existence violates their values. Instead, they would prefer the existence of non-contributing people who need their help. (I have actually heard that from folks like that, in quite those words.)

The difference between me and such people is that they don't understand themselves - nor the dynamics of the world we live in. It's frustrating to be labeled a heartless bastard, but understanding what I do and acting differently would make me a hypocrite and spread falsity. According to my values, that's much worse.

It's also interesting to see how karma on this site falls steadily with honesty, and what that implies about what the balance of readers come here for. Sadly, it seems to be to further their existing preconceptions. :)

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T18:17:17.225Z · LW · GW

I think I'm with Wei in his analysis - resolving the inconsistency from the top down, not from the bottom up.

I accept that our feelings of empathy and compassion are something evolution came up with in order to make us function decently in small groups. I accept that this empathy works only for small groups, and cannot scale to groups that are too large for everyone to keep track of each other. Maintaining cohesion and functionality in larger groups requires formal mechanisms such as hierarchy and money, and empathy is at best of marginal value, or at worst sabotages a constructive order. Universal empathy is, if not outright impossible, at least very difficult to reconcile with the things we do to other creatures for convenience.

Of abstract things related to humanity, my top values are creativity and prosperity, not individual people. My perception is that a relatively small proportion of people contribute the vast majority of that which I value. On the other hand, a relatively large proportion of people are having disruptive or destructive effects.

I therefore do not value human life in general, just like I don't value bacteria in general, but I value that human life (and that bacteria) which contributes towards the creativity and prosperity I want to see. People who undermine that, I have no compassion for, and I would in fact prefer them to not exist.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T16:57:21.914Z · LW · GW

See what I mean about the voting system being broken?

Currently voted -2 and below threshold.

Completely rational points of view that people find offensive cannot be expressed.

This is a site that is supposed to be about countering bias. Countering bias necessarily involves assaulting our emotional preconceptions which are the cause of falsity of thought. Yet, performing such assaults is actively discouraged.

Does that make this site Less Wrong, or More Wrong?

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T16:45:31.097Z · LW · GW

Yes, but charity is not without external consequence.

The continuous rewarding of the dysfunctional does have long term effects, which I believe are negative on balance.

The reason we evolved empathy is for cohesion with our immediate social group, where our empathy is balanced with everyone keeping track of everyone else, and an effective sense of group fairness.

But this only works within our immediate social group. Charity towards complete strangers is harmful because it is not balanced with fairness.

To balance our economic interactions outside the immediate social group that we can monitor, we already have a functioning system that's fair and encourages constructive behavior.

That system is money. Use it for what it's for.

Comment by denisbider on Open Thread: February 2010 · 2010-02-11T16:37:19.777Z · LW · GW

If F(n) < n, then yes, karma disappears from the system when voting on comments, but is pumped back in when voting on articles.

It does appear that the choice of a suitable F(n) isn't quite obvious, and this is probably why F(n) = infinite is currently used.

Still, I think that a more restrictive choice would produce better results, and less frivolous voting.

Comment by denisbider on Shut Up and Divide? · 2010-02-11T16:26:28.376Z · LW · GW

Voted down for failing to get the point.