Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" 2019-06-24T15:17:59.126Z · score: -40 (14 votes)


Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-07-05T02:18:24.006Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW I am attacking certain community norms, and I’m trying to use humor to do that. I can understand how this can shock and offend people I care about in the community. I’ve been through similar things before and it sucks, but I sometimes choose to do it anyway. Gadflies are important. I’m not talking about this dumb bet, exactly, but the “bet” has inspired me to work on more elaborate things that play off it. For instance: Seeking constructive feedback.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-07-05T02:04:38.176Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you Korin43! I found this feedback super-useful.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-07-05T01:58:10.730Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Further clarification: Zvi put quotes around the word “genius” and meant it ironically. Neither he nor anyone in the rationalist community has ever to my knowledge actually accused me of higher than average intelligence.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:59:46.286Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I get that the original version at least appears one-sided.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:55:24.444Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

BTW: Presently trying to Steel Man the attacks against me.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:35:49.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did get upset at being called a Troll. That is the only part of your description I can agree with. The bet is not one-sided.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:33:29.692Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That is what was said. I’m also pretty sure it’s wrong FWIW... but I can’t explain why without spoiling the joke. I know this will get me downvoted. Shrug

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:27:35.920Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Steve, I see how this was an offensive way to describe what Zvi wrote. He did use that word but not in the way I implied. All my (secret) criterion required was that he use the word “genius” somehow in his email and point it at me. To be clear: He meant if I won the bet, then I would be a genius.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:20:03.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hey Laura, would love to talk by Skype if you are free. See my note to Ray below.

Comment by glennonymous on Explaining "The Crackpot Bet" · 2019-06-24T22:16:48.216Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ray, I just tried calling you and Zvi. I would love to talk with someone who can set me straight. I understand well that people are upset and I almost certainly did something “bad” by some definition of that word. I don’t get all the hostility now that I mostly explained it.

Comment by glennonymous on Slack · 2019-06-23T22:36:50.055Z · score: -4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is pretty amazing — Zvi (winner of my one box award) and I independently invented the exact same concept and used the same word to describe it. I assume Zvi invented it first and deserves the credit, yay Zvi!!! I believe Danny Reeves may be able to verify this FWIW. (Danny, it’s a concept in Optimojo.)

Comment by glennonymous on Boring Advice Repository · 2015-08-12T16:13:24.835Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Proust's In Search of Lost Time, with its famously long and complicated sentences that often take four or five reads to parse, is great for this. As a bonus, it's Great.

Comment by glennonymous on Boring Advice Repository · 2015-08-11T22:36:37.337Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Read the Boring Advice Less Wrong thread periodically and do what it says.

Comment by glennonymous on Rationalist Fiction · 2014-09-26T16:56:46.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm more than a little ashamed to admit I'm only reading this now, after writing about half of a first draft of what is nominally a piece of "Rationalist Fiction," Erica's Adventures In The Multiverse.. I say nominally, because reading this I realized that I didn't even know what "rationalist fiction" is, despite having read and loved HPMOR and having other, even more embarrassing reasons, to school myself in this regard.

The good news is, I'm going through what I've written so far, and I think I can salvage what's good about it while reconstructing what needs to be reconstructed to transform the thing from fake rationalist fiction to something hopefully worthy of the label. It's invigorating, actually.

Comment by glennonymous on Meetup : Princeton NJ Meetup · 2013-10-26T15:49:03.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused. Is the date and location in the body of the post correct or not? These "I've amended the X" comments seem to imply so, but this thread would suggest the date is now the 16th, and the post says the 9th. Please clarify. I live in Central NJ and would love to attend if I can. Either date works for me.

Comment by glennonymous on The Unselfish Trolley Problem · 2013-05-17T12:13:13.404Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Great post. Here's my unvarnished answer: I wouldn't jump, and the reasons why involve my knowledge that I have a 7-year old daughter and the (Motivated Reasoning and egotism alert!!) idea that I have the potential to improve the lives of many people.

Now of course, it's EXTREMELY likely that one or more of the other people in this scenario is a parent, and for all I know one of them will invent a cure for cancer in the future. In point of fact, if I were to HONESTLY evaluate the possibility that one of the other players has a potential to improve the planet more than I do, the likelihood may be as great as the likelihood that one of the other players is also a parent. Which makes me think that yes, my incentives are screwed up here and the correct answer is: I should be as willing to jump as to push the fat man off the bridge.

I also note that, if my wife or daughter was one of the people tied to the track, I would unhesitatingly throw myself off. This makes me conclude that I should want to throw myself off the bridge (because the supposedly, flimsily 'rational atruistic' reason -- that I have the potential to help people -- is revealed to be bogus). I still wonder, however, if there is any possible rational reason to not choose to sacrifice oneself in the scenario. I am unable to come up with one.

Comment by glennonymous on Absolute denial for atheists · 2012-04-24T01:23:39.327Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My "Q.E.D." was not making the point that your disagreeing with me constitutes proof of my assertion. It was that every time I have made this assertion to anyone not already familiar with Harris' book, they immediately rejected it, making it a perfect example of the kind of thing the original post was asking for.

As for the mountain of evidence supporting my claim, the "pop psychology books" I linked to are extensively referenced. The easiest way to think about it is to consider twin studies. Since identical twins have the same genes, we can measure the amount of difference parenting makes on personality by measuring the differences in personality between identical twins raised in the same home and identical twins separated at birth and raised in different homes. Numerous studies have shown that there is no greater difference in personality between identical twins raised in the same home and those raised in different homes. Ergo, whatever environmental influences shape personality come from outside the home, not inside.

Studies that purport to show massive influence of parenting style on personality are very frequently flawed, as Harris shows abundantly in The Nurture Assumption. And as far as Vaniver's argument that parental abuse is an exception to all this, I would have to re-read Harris' book, but I'm pretty sure this was covered.

Comment by glennonymous on Absolute denial for atheists · 2012-04-20T20:35:28.615Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. Well I see that my comment has been downvoted out of existence, which I'm pretty sure means that it is a perfect example of that the original post was looking for. FWIW, people hating on this would do well to at least LOOK at the books to which I linked in my comment. Harris' book in particular is beautifully and rigorously argued, and very useful. The chapter in Pinker is a nice encapsulation.

Comment by glennonymous on Absolute denial for atheists · 2012-04-20T19:00:57.061Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by glennonymous on Absolute denial for atheists · 2012-04-17T21:35:41.958Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As elucidated by Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption and Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate, and completely contrary to our current cultural fad of attributing all neurosis to the failure of parents to properly nurture their children, parenting has close to zero effect on how children turn out. How our peers interact with us has a far greater impact on personality development than whatever our parents do or don't do, whether they abuse us, slather us with affection every day, ignore us, constantly berate us, constantly tell us we are wonderful, et cetera.

Comment by glennonymous on [LINK] Gödel, Escher, Bach read through starting on Reddit · 2012-01-09T20:10:55.357Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I KNEW I was cool for having read GEB.

Comment by glennonymous on In What Ways Have You Become Stronger? · 2012-01-07T13:05:10.661Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first answer that occurs to me:

  • I am very significantly happier and more even-tempered.

To expand: I have long suffered from mood swings in which I would 'enjoy' a month or two of borderline hypomania, followed by one to four months of depression and anxiety, accompanied by a lot of akrasia and mildly self-destructive behavior.

Before my 'rationalist conversion' in 2005, my main support system for dealing with these problems had become various Alcoholics Anonymous-style 12-step groups. After my rationalist conversion (I'll use BRC and ARC from here), I realized these programs don't have very good efficacy, especially for their primary purpose of helping people quit self-destructive behaviors. They have a secondary purpose, which is enhancing adherents' quality of life, for which they are somewhat more efficacious, but they promote too many irrational beliefs to be recommended for this purpose IMO.

ARC I went on a fairly intense quest to discover better means to improve the quality of my life by rational means, which ultimately led me here, among other places. One of these other places was that I learned to practice on myself the psychological techniques of Stoicism (I use that to refer the ancient Greek and Roman philosophical school that was the basis for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, not the modern slang term), as outlined by William Irvine in A Guide To The Good Life.

Without writing a long post about Stoicism, one of the core techniques is to doubt the validity of your thoughts and interpretations, especially thoughts that you find disturbing or that give you pleasure. The reason is that you have zero, or close to zero, influence over many of the things that happen that you get disturbed or ecstatic about. The Stoics hold that it is irrational to get worked up over things about which you can do nothing. Thus the aim of Stoicism is to train yourself to pursue and avoid only those things it is possible to EFFECTIVELY pursue and avoid, and to cultivate serene acceptance of the The Things You Cannot Change. (Yes, this is the 12-steppers' Serenity Prayer, but with a much better set of psychological techniques for cultivating the lofty state it describes.)

In a nutshell, learning these techniques has allowed me to effectively short-circuit the mental habit of going into a "tizzy," which is what I call that thing where you start playing an anguish-provoking mental loop in your head over and over again. This in turn has reduced the cognitive component of my depression down close to nothing. It has also diminished some of the cognitive component of hypomania, by instilling a habit of being skeptical of my "high" thoughts as much as I am of my "low" thoughts. This also has a positive impact on my overall happiness by softening the crash that occurs when my rose-colored notions about things I am going to do (get rich by starting my own business, usually) fail to come true. (Note that none of this means I shouldn't start a business or aspire to become rich!! However there is a big difference in the hard-headed mental state that would set a person up for success in starting and running a business, and the fragile high I am describing.)

Bottom line: I've experienced a major improvement and stabilization in my mood, without antidepressants or other psychoactive drugs. (I do get regular exercise -- another direct outcome of Stoic practice -- and this also helps.) I haven't had a serious bout of depression in two years, which is unprecedented in my adult life.

I've got to stop writing, so for the moment I will just list a couple of other major benefits of my rationalist conversion, to be unpacked later:

  • I indulge in fewer self-destructive/addictive behaviors, have lost a lot of weight, I exercise regularly, work harder and am more productive -- in short, I have less Akrasia.

This is a result of various aspects of rationality kung fu, most recently Less Wrong, commitment contracts, and Beeminder.

I also arguably:

  • Make more money than I would have otherwise (because I studied negotiation techniques)

  • Read and study more

  • Sleep better

  • And the skin on my hands is less dry, especially in winter. (I really like that last one, which is a nice little object lesson in rationality in itself, but in the interest of getting something posted, I will elaborate later.)

Comment by glennonymous on For-Profit Rationality Training · 2012-01-06T12:59:50.088Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think I may have a valuable point or two to contribute because of some of my life experience, e.g.:

  • I had a business as a Life Coach (in California in the 90's).

  • I used to be a fairly avid consumer of various flavors of coaching, motivational programs, self help etc. (I still am, I've just gotten MUCH more discriminating -- that's why I'm here.)

My primary reactions to your post are:

  • There is almost certainly a market for the service you describe. Your big problem, especially at first, is going to be sales and marketing. I'm sure this much is obvious, but you probably ought to ask yourself if you have an appetite for doing full-time sales and marketing, because that is your future for the next 5+ years if you start this business and want it to be successful. This leads me to the next point:

  • Be careful what you wish for. I often think about going back into some kind of coaching business, but when I do, I remember what it was like, and that gives me pause. I didn't like having to constantly market myself as a coach. There were a number of things that felt unsavory about it, including the fact that all my friends were now prospective clients. Surprisingly, I also really dreaded my coaching calls, even though there was frequently a nice feeling I had helped someone AFTER the call. My point is that it's hard to predict whether you are going to enjoy being a practicing coach or not, and I judge that it probably takes a very specific kind of personality type -- an aggressively extroverted sales-oriented type -- to really enjoy that business. This should be an important element of your consideration IMO.

  • Another judgment I have is that coaching is hard, and it's hard in subtle ways. People are not very amenable to change, even if they THINK they are amenable. The behaviors that would make an actual difference to our lives are not as accessible to conscious tinkering as we expect them to be. As you contemplate starting this business, you may also want to ponder if you will be frustrated when you observe people not changing as much as you'd like them to change, in response to your coaching. Letting go of the results is a subtle and important skill IMO.

All of this is not meant to discourage you -- I think you have an interesting idea for a business, and I encourage you to pursue it IF none of the above puts you off. Just pay close attention and try to determine how much fun, or not, this is actually going to be. I think you should only do it if it is actually fun. It was not fun for me.

Comment by glennonymous on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) · 2012-01-01T12:22:50.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great point, Ezekiel, thanks.

Comment by glennonymous on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) · 2011-12-31T12:33:35.914Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Hi all,

My name is Glenn Thomas Davis. I am a 48-year old male living in Warren, NJ with my wife and 5-year old daughter. I was born and raised in Ketchikan, Alaska. I am a creative director for a pharmaceutical marketing agency. I have been interested in science and skepticism since reading Godel, Escher, Bach in my 20's, but became a really serious skeptic and atheist after I started listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast in 2005ish. I beacame a fan of Eliezer and the Singularity Institute after seeing him speak on Bloggingheads 3 years ago, and I recently subscribed to the Overcoming Bias NYC listserve.

Most of my online friends are from the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived for many years. Not exactly the world's most rational bunch, and they don't often appreciate my atheist rants. I have been delaying introducing myself here because I am resistant to putting in the effort and time to become a known presence from the ground up, or even to write a proper introductory post. However, it recently occurred to me I could just share pieces of writing I've already done for other, less like-minded groups. Here's one:


(In response to an otherwise rational person who trotted out the following canard in a post about religion)

None of this proves there is no soul (you can't prove a negative).

The statement "you can't prove a negative" is meaningless. Or you could say that it is true in a technical, superficial way, but useless.

This is because your statement applies equally well to ALL nonsensical claims. After all, I can't prove Santa Claus doesn't exist. True, we could fly to the North Pole right now and demonstrate there is no Santa Claus there, but you could always argue that his workshop is invisible. Or that Santa Claus is real, but his workshop is in an undisclosed chicken coop in Jamaica. Or... ?

Saying "you can't prove a negative" perpetuates a pernicious distortion, which is that science is about the black-and-white notion of proving and disproving things. As you know, that is NOT what science is about. Science is about reducing our level of uncertainty about how well our beliefs map onto reality. Looking at it this way gives us a useful way to address the question of whether Santa Claus exists.

To reduce our uncertainty about the existence of Santa Claus, we can try to find alternative explanations for the phenomena that are supposed to be explained by the existence of Santa Claus. Which of these claims is more likely to be true?

  1. There is a real Santa Claus who travels on a flying sled and delivers presents to children everywhere each Christmas Eve.

  2. Santa Claus is a fictional character. Children who receive Christmas presents usually receive them from their parents and relatives, who find it useful to lie to them sometimes about the existence of Santa Claus.

I can't completely prove or disprove either of these claims any more than I can prove or disprove the existence of any other supernatural character, but lines of evidence could be marshaled that would establish that 2 is more likely to be true than 1, beyond a reasonable doubt.

This applies equally well to the question of the existence of gods and ghosts:

  1. Human consciousness resides in a disembodied energy field, called a 'soul', that persists after death.

  2. Human consciousness resides in human brains, and perishes when a person's brain stops working, i.e. at death. The idea of a 'soul' is a myth left over from the days when humans lacked a detailed understanding of the way mental processes work.

The same thing I said WRT to the existence of Santa Claus applies to these two claims. I cannot prove or disprove either claim, but I can marshal a great deal of evidence for scenario 2, and little or no good evidence for scenario 1. Hence 2 is correct beyond a reasonable doubt, by which I mean beyond the doubt of a person who applies the same rules of evidence and logic to this question he applies to any question in which he has no investment in the outcome.

The existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny is thus on EXACTLY the same footing as the existence of gods or ghosts of any variety. A person who takes action on the premise that there are invisible ghosts that will help or hinder them is in the same position as the person who doesn't buy any presents for their children, on the basis that their children have been good this year, surely Santa Claus will arrive to deliver presents under the tree on Christmas morning...

I respectfully urge you to therefore stop saying "you can't prove a negative," as if this somehow puts the existence of gods and ghosts in a special category where it isn't subject to the same rules of evidence to which we all subject all the other claims people make, every day.


Nice to meet you all --Glenn Thomas Davis