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Comment by elfvillage on Three Worlds Collide (0/8) · 2009-05-25T20:23:54.000Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer,

Personally, I liked the Babyeaters. At the outset of your story, I thought (1) that their babyeating would be held up as an example of the triumph of rationality (around population control), and (2) that their refusal to modify themselves would be based on their recognition that the specific act of babyeating nurtured and protected a more general capacity and respect for rational thought. I thought that Babyeating was being proposed as a bootcamp for overcoming bias. Maybe this idea would be interesting to explore?

In general, an interesting story. I did not find it possibly coercive or deceptive, as some other commentators did, and despite wide disagreement with what I take to be your own views; like your piece on truth, -- "The Simple Truth", I believe it was, -- I found it clear, deftly-made, and thought-provoking.

Comment by elfvillage on Least Signaling Activities? · 2009-05-24T00:50:38.615Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Compare the skilled butcher, who, with no wasted movements, cuts his meat just where the joints are, and the flashy butcher, whose flourishes make for less skilful and efficient cutting but send a more impressive signal.

I agree that the flashy butcher could became engaged in his cutting and lose consciousness of the crowd and his impression on it without decreasing his signalling behaviour. If he did so, he might become more sincere, but his signalling behaviour would remain. For signaling is not a conscious addition to his art, which might strip away: skill at cutting and skill at signalling are woven confusedly together in it.

What I had in mind, though, was engagement, not in the sense of losing consciousness in this way, but in the sense of giving oneself over the activity and its rhythms -- as devotion or submission. I assume that someone who gives himself over to an activity, like the skilled butcher, is to the extent that he does so going to bring his attention and action in line with the "joints" naturally present in that activity and set aside everything else as waste, including his signalling behaviour.

Perhaps "ecstasy" and "engagement" were the wrong words for this giving over. The idea, anyway, is that surrender to what is natural or given in an activity is likely to result in a state of mind that is more aware of those divisions and less engaged in signalling.

When I make love, I do not simply become too engaged to bother with conscious signalling. I am also, to the extent that I give myself over to the activity, -- to my own most animalistic urges and sensations, and to the movements of my partner, stripped of my unconscious signalling behaviour and enfolded or remade by the activity itself. In some measure, I step out of that behaviour and into the activity.

Comment by elfvillage on Least Signaling Activities? · 2009-05-22T20:47:38.970Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I take it that the point of this thread is to find activities which exemplify a low-signalling "mental mode".

Most of the commentators have pointed to activities, as topics, which feature more or less often in our signalling conversations. My attempt to point to the manner in which we do activities, in which signals least pollute our thinking, was voted into oblivion.

Again, however, I would like to suggest that activities characterized by ecstasy and intense engagement are good examples of what RH called "a more honest mental mode".

When I talk about music or logic, for example, I fall inevitably into signalling. My thinking becomes less "honest" as it becomes less responsible to its topic and more responsible to the social perception it elicits.

But when I am intensely engaged in making music or logical proofs, my thinking sometimes, when I am working well, becomes almost entirely responsible to that activity. My "mental mode" is more "honest" as I become more responsible to the rhythms the activity itself elicits and less responsible to elicit social perception through that activity.

My guess is that how often an activity features in our signal-rich conversations is likely to be an inconsistent indicator of the extent to which our mental mode while engaged in that activity is made "dishonest" by the work of signalling. Some activities, like sex, often feature in our signalling conversations; but, when we do the activity well, I suggest, we are not typically signalling.

I suspect that we are more likely to find better examples of "honest mental modes" by looking at the manner in which an activity is done, and not the degree of social interest in the activity. In particular, I suspect that activities which demand or admit a high degree of ecstasy or engagement, -- activities, that is, in which submitting to the rhythms of the activity requires nearly full attention and so starves out whatever attention would otherwise be devoted to signalling, -- will be among the best examples of "honest mental modes".

Comment by elfvillage on Least Signaling Activities? · 2009-05-22T05:05:59.767Z · score: -7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Love-making and music-making seem to me to have the capacity to transcend signalling. We can get lost in sex and song, pulled out of our usual patterns of broadcasting and receiving, taken up into something altogether free and fresh.

Of course, sex and song are also deeply interwoven with signals, and plenty of people mimic rather than make love and music; but that is over there, and over here—in the moment of rapturous love- or music-making—those things fall away, mostly, and for a time.