Worried that I might already be a post-rationalist. I'm very interested in minimizing miscommunication, and helping people through the uncanny valley of rationality. Feel free to pm me about either of those things.
I greatly appreciate posts that describe when different flavors of self work (or different kinds of problems) don't feel like how one expected. A somewhat reversed example for me, for some years I didn't notice the intense judgement I had within me that would occasionally point at others and myself, largely because I had a particular stereotype of what "being judgemental" looked like. I correctly determined I didn't do the stereotypically judgemental thing, and stopped hunting.
I agree that meeting a person where they are is pretty important. You also seem to spend time with very different people than who I spend time with, and you have a very different reference for "people" and "where they are". This post probably isn't going to be too useful to the people you reference in your hypotheticals. It has been very useful for various people I know, so I'm meeting them where they are :)
You mention that it's useful to have conversations where you try to get on the same page about what you mean when you use certain words (3rd to last paragraph of your comment). I think that's frequently super important and often useful to do. I'm assuming you're mentioning it because you see my post as saying this doesn't matter and shouldn't be done. If you can point out what part seemed to be arguing that, I can see if I agree that my wording was ambiguous and/or poorly phrased. Currently I still don't think the content of my post argues or implies or sets the philosophical underpinnings for the claims you say it does. So we probably won't get out of this unless we dive into specifics.
As a shortcut, if you have similar criticisms of A Human's Guide to Words, then we probably do disagree a lot. But if you don't think EY "thinks words aren't useful" then we just have a misunderstanding.
This is awkward because I'm pretty sure I don't believe anything your reply asserts I believe.
To clarify, is it the case that from reading my post you've concluded that I don't think labels/words are useful and that I don't think we need language for complex thought? If that's the case, can you help me understand how you got that?
Some thoughts: the "When" in the title was meant to make this distinct from simply "Arguing Definitions Is Arguing Decisions". Of all arguments about definitions, some unknown about have the qualities I'm pointing at.
When you mention that I promptly forget that words/labels are useful, do you think I said things that contradicted the idea of words being useful, or did that fact that I didn't keep circling back to "words are great" make you infer I don't care about them? Mayhaps I find the idea of thinking people shouldn't use language as so ridiculous that I didn't feel a need to hedge against that interpretation, but you run into these sorts of people often and have high priors for that interpretation?
I'll file a complaint to this imaginary workplace.
I'm short on actual conversations I can remember the details of, so if you have any that you think make a good example, feel free to share. Examples are some of the most important parts and I don't like it whenever I have to make them up.
I'm reflecting back on this sequence I started two years ago. There's some good stuff in it. I recently made a comic strip that has more of my up to date thoughts on language here. Who knows, maybe I'll come back and synthesize things.
Agreed that there's something missing. I didn't provide much of a model about what emotions are, mostly because I didn't have much of one when I wrote this. It was also the case that for some time I used my lack of a mechanistic model of emotions as an excuse to ignore the ways I was obviously hurting.
In response to Raemon's comment here, I and a few others gave some more concrete thoughts on what negative repercussions are.
I intend to write some follow up posts with what I've learned in the intervening years. One thing I need to expand on is what I actually did with "fix it or stop complaining", because if I take your comment at face value, we were clearly not doing the same thing, yet we both felt it sensical to call what we did "fix it or stop complaining".
Another thought, these days I'm thinking a bit more in terms of "disavowed desires" instead of "repressed emotions". Desires (or subagents) feel like the mental things that generate loops across time, that make things come up again and again. Emotions are the transient expressions of these desires. Emotions actually can "just go away" if you ignore them, but I haven't found that to be the case for desires (I'm thinking less "I desire to have some lunch" and more "I desire to be accepted by others". Well, it's less "can I get this to go away rn?" (which you can almost always do with [drugs/video games/media/activity/etc]) and more "will this pop back up?").
This post of mine includes the exposition of one disavowed desire I've struggled with which generated a lot of emotions over the years which I ignored. The header "A Serious Pardox" describes the disavowed desire. Knots by R.D Laing describes in poetic language a lot of these emotional paradoxes.
All that being said, I've spent the last yearish more in a mode of understanding and building agency. This has felt possible because I feel I've unraveled enough emotional paradoxes that I'll know if/when I'm doing something that hurts me (agency isn't safe when you're not aligned). I've got a fewthreads about the process of building agency with an eye on not backsliding on emotional stuff, and another post which frames a lot of this journey.
Rao made his framework by combining his consulting experience with the TV show The Office. I don't believe he was trying to describe all corporations, which leaves me with the question "How would I determine which workplaces have these dynamics?"
The world he describes doesn't seem incompatible with the corporate world that the book Moral Mazes depicts.
I've not been in the working world long enough to have any data on what's common or normal, and haven't been at my current workplace long enough to have a sense for if it matches Rao's frame (it doesn't seem like it does).
You also don't think your work place fits the bill. Have you interacted with any work places that seemed to match up? How many work places have you interacted with enough to feel confident making the judgement either way? I'm very interested to get more data points.
From reading lots of Rao's stuff, I also got the sense that he's writing descriptively, and specifically, he's trying to describe The Office. It'll be truthful to the degree that The Office captures some truths, and to the degree that Rao's own consulting experience fills in the details.
Sometimes when I'm writing an email to someone at work, I noticing I'm making various faces, as if to convey the emotion in the sentence I'm writing. It's like... I'm composing a sentence, I'm imagining what I'm trying to express, and I'm imagining that expression, and along with that comes the physical faces and mental stances of the thing I'm expressing. It's like I'm trying to fill in and inhabit some imagined state.
Over the past year I've noticed a similar sort of feeling when I'm thinking about something I could potentially do, and I'm being motivated by appearing impressive. The idea/thought is there, and then I try to "fill it up" and momentarily live into that world. There's normally a slight tension in my forehead that starts to form. There's also a sort of "zooming in" feeling in my head. It likely sounds drastic me typing it out, but this is all pretty subtle and I didn't notice it for a while.
Anywho, mostly if I find myself pleasurably stewing in the imagined state of the thing, it's a sign for me that it's about impressiveness. I seem to not sit in the idea when there's other motivations? I can't think of any reason why that would be the case, but it seems to be for me.
Dope, it was nice to check and see that contrary to what I expect, it's not always being used that way :)
Some idle musings on using naive to convey specific content.
Sometimes I might want to communicate that I think someone's wrong, and I also think they're wrong in a way that's only likely to happen if they lack experience X. Or similar, they are wrong because they haven't had experience X. That's something I can imagine being relevant and something I'd want to communicate. Though I'd specifically want to mention the experience that I think they're lacking. Otherwise it feels like I'm asserting "there just is this thing that is being generally privy to how things work" and you can be privy or not, which feels like it would pull me away from looking at specific things and understanding how they work, and instead towards trying to "figure out the secret". (This is less relevant to your post, because you are actually talking about things one can do)
There's another thing which is in between what I just mentioned, and "naive" as a pure intentional put-down. It's something like "You are wrong, you are wrong because you haven't had experience X, and everyone who has had experience X is able to tell that you are wrong and haven't had experience X." The extra piece here is the assertion that "there are many people who know you are wrong". Maybe those many people are "us", maybe not. I'm having a much harder time thinking of an example where that's something that's useful to communicate, and is too close asserting group pressure for my liking.
Is there something you wanted to communicate here that was more than "that feels wrong/not true"? All usage and explications of "naive" that I've encountered seemed to focus on "the thing here that is bad or shameful is that we experienced people know this and you don't, get with the program".
If the details are available within you, I'd love to hear more about what the experience of noticing these fake values was like. Say for getting A's, I'd hazard a guess that at some point pre-this-revelation you did something like "thinking about why A's matter". What was that like? What was different about that reflection from more recent reflection? Has it been mostly a matter of learning to pay attention and then it's all easy, or have you had to learn what different sorts of motivation/fake-real values feel like, or other?
Does it feel like there were any "pre-requisites" for being able to notice the difference?
Previously when I'd encountered the distinction between synthetic and analytic thought (as philosophers used them), I didn't quite get it. Yesterday I started reading Kant's Prolegomena and have a new appreciation for the idea. I used to imagine that "doing the analytic method" meant looking at definitions.
I didn't imagine the idea actually being applied to concepts in one's head. I imagined the process being applied to a word. And it seemed clear to me that you're never going to gain much insight or wisdom from investigation a words definition and going to a dictionary.
But the process of looking at some existing concept you have in your mind, that you already use and think with, and peeling it apart to see what you're actually doing, that's totally useful!
I totally agree that the dude's critique didn't have much substance. That example, and several others, are all things were now I can see and feel the lack of substance. It was very real then though. In writing this I tried to emphasize that aspect, the way there wasn't much putting things in context, the way that by strategy for dealing with people made it very hard to go "k, jelly person critiquing with no substance".
I'm trying to find a post (maybe a comment?) from the past few years. The idea was, say you have 8 descriptive labels. These labels could correspond to clusters in thing-space. Or they could correspond to axis. I think it was about types of mathematicians.
Rao offhandedly mentions that the Clueless are useful to put blame on when there's a "reorg". That didn't mean much to me until I read the first few chapters of Moral Mazes, where it went through several detailed examples of the politics of a reorg.
I wrote this post mainly to express myself and make more real my understanding of my own situation. The summer of 2019 I was doing a lot of exploration on how I felt and experience the world, and also I was doing lots of detective work trying to understand "how I got to now."
The most valuable thing it adds is a detailed example of what it feels like to mishandle advice about emotions from the inside. This was prompted by the fact that younger me "already knew" about dealing with his emotions, and I wanted to write a post the plausibly would have helped him.
I think this sort of data is incredibly important. Understanding the actual details of your mind that prevented you from taking advantage of "good advice". I want more of people sharing "here's the particular way I got this wrong for a long time" more so than "something other people get wrong is blah". This feels like the difference between "What? I guess you weren't paying attention when you read the sequences" and "Ah, your mind is in a way where you will reliably get this one important aspect of the sequences wrong, let's explore this."
I still reference this post a lot, to friends and in my own thinking. It's no longer the focal point of any of my self work, but it's a foundational piece of self-knowledge.
"Does this post make accurate claims" is the fun part :) I tried my hardest to make this 100% "here's a thing that happened to me" because I'm an expert on my own history. But real quick I'll try to pull out the external claims and give them a spot check:
Everyone could learn to wiggle their ears
Not exactly a booming field of research, but this had the little research I could find. I think I'd put 80% or something on this being true.
Certain mental/emotional skills that you haven't practiced you're whole life have the same "flailing around in the dark" aspect as learning to wiggle your ears
I'd expect most people to agree with me that as a developing infant, learning to actuate your body and mind involved a lot of time "flailing around in the dark". Though I imagine one could also say "yeah, but after you grow up that's not a problem any more. There aren't parts of my body that I'm mysteriously unable to move but have the potential to." Wiggling ears was supposed to be an example of such a part, but I still want to address this. Why wouldn't you have learned how to actuate all the parts of your mind? My answer is longer and I'm going to punt it to another comment.
pjeby and kaj had a great comment discussion about when and where parts models help or get in the way of self-work. The central paradox of parts work is that even if you sensibly identify conflicting parts of yourself, it's still all you. It always has been. Mostly in accord with what pjeby says, I did in fact find the parent child model very useful specifically because the level of self-judgment I had made it really hard to not attack myself for having these wants and needs, but when I frame things has a group I can tap into all the intuitions I've built over the years about how of course you need to listen to people and not beat them into silence.
In summary, parts models can have the effect of putting distance between you and desires and needs that you have. It is possible that you are currently self-judgemental enough that you won't be able to make much progress unless you find a way to distance these desires, at least long enough for your judgement to shut up, and possibly allow you to figure out how to deal with the judgement.
Right, onto follow up.
In a comment, raemon said he'd appreciate an exploration of "what bad stuff actually happens if you ignore your emotions in this or a similar way?" There are 3 great response sharing snippets of diff people's experience. I think the most compelling extension I could add would be exploring more how "ignoring emotions" and "ignoring my ability to want" blend together, and how these processes combined to, for a long time, make it really hard for me to tell if something actually felt good, if I liked it or was interested in it, and as a corollary this made it easier for me to chase after substitutes (I can't tell if I like this, but it's impressive and everyone will reward me for it, but I also am not aware that I can't tell if I like it, so I now do this thing and think I like it, even though my motivation/energy for it will not survive outside the realm of social reinforcement). I'm currently writing a post that explores some of those dynamics! I could certainly add a paragraph or two to this post.
In some comment Lisa Feldman's work on emotions was mentioned. This also highlights how I don't really look at what emotions are in this post. I've since built a waaaay more detailed model of emotions, how to think about mind-body connection, how this relates to trauma, and how it all connects to clear thinking / not being miserable. Again, this would be a whole other post, possibly many.
Another follow up on how I relate to parts models. I think in parts way less often these days. Pretty sure this is a direct result of having defused a decent amount of judgement. But I can also see a lot of that judgement flare up again when I'm in social situations. So I'm generally able to, when by myself (which is often), feel safe accepting all of me, but I generally don't feel safe doing that around other people.
A few people have told me that they really wanted a section on "and here's what healthy emotional processing looks like", but I don't think I'm going to add one, because I can't. I think the most valuable stuff I can write is "here's a really detailed example of how it happened to me... that's all." And while I have grown better at processing and listening to emotions, I've yet to gain the distance to figure what I've been doing is was most essential for me, and what the overall arc/shape of my progress looks like. Plus, this would be a whole nother giant post, not an addition.
I'm pondering this again. I expect, though I have not double checked, that the studied cases of pressure to find repressed memories leading to fake memories are mostly ones that involve, well, another person pressuring you. How often does this happen if you sit alone in your room and try it? Skilled assistant would almost certainly be better than an unskilled assistant, though I don't know how it compares to DIY, if you add the complication of "can you tell if someone is skilled or not?"
Would be interested if anyone's got info about DIY investigations.
I plan to blog more about how I understand some of these trigger states and how it relates to trauma. I do think there's a decent amount of written work, not sure how "canonical", but I've read some great stuff that from sources I'm surprised I haven't heard more hype about. The most useful stuff I've read so far is the first three chapters of this book. It has hugely sharpened my thinking.
I agree that a lot of trauma discourse on our chunk of twitter is more for used on the personal experience/transformation side, and doesn't let itself well to bigger Theory of Change type scheming.
The way I see "Politics is the Mind Killer" get used, it feels like the natural extension is "Trying to do anything that involves high stakes or involves interacting with the outside world or even just coordinating a lot of our own Is The Mind Killer".
From this angle, a commitment to prevent things from getting "too political" to "avoid everyone becoming angry idiots" is also a commitment to not having an impact.
I really like how jessica re-frames things in this comment. The whole comment is interesting, here's a snippet:
Basically, if the issue is adversarial/deceptive action (conscious or subconscious) rather than simple mistakes, then "politics is the mind-killer" is the wrong framing. Rather, "politics is a domain where people often try to kill each other's minds" is closer.
With would further transform my new no longer catchy phrase to "Trying to do anything that involves high stakes or involves interacting with the outside world or even just coordinating a lot of our own will result in people trying to kill each other's minds."
Which has very different repercussions from the original saying.
Your linked comment was very useful. To those who didn't click, here's a relevant snippet:
It seems like Simulacrum Levels were aiming to explore two related concepts:
How people's models/interactions diverge over time from an original concept (where that concept is gradually replaced by exaggerations, lies, and social games, which eventually bear little or not referent to the original)
How people relate to object level truth, as a whole, vs social reality
The first concept makes sense to call "simulacrum", and the second one I think ends up making more sense to classify in the 2x2 grid that I and Daniel Kokotajilo both suggested (and probably doesn't make sense to refer to as 'simulacrum')
I started writing on LW in 2017, 64 posts ago. I've changed a lot since then, and my writing's gotten a lot better, and writing is becoming closer and closer to something I do. Because of [long detailed personal reasons I'm gonna write about at some point] I don't feel at home here, but I have a lot of warm feelings towards LW being a place where I've done a lot of growing :)
This makes me wonder, for every experiment that's had a result of "X amount of people can't do Y task", how would that translate to "Z amount of people can/can't do Y task when we paid them to take 2 days/ a week off of work and focus soley on it".
Love that you did this and learned something about some of the reasons discussions don't actually get started.
I notice that I have often don't comment in a discussion conducing way because I don't enjoy trying to discuss with the time lag normally involved in lw comments.
On twitter, I'm very quick to start convos, especially ones that are more speculative. That's partially because if we quickly strike a dead end (it was a bad question, I assumed something incorrect) it feels like no big deal. I'd be more frustrated having a garden path convo like that in LW comments.
To everyone on the LW team, I'm so glad we do the year in review stuff! Looking over the table of contents for the 2018 book I'm like "damn, a whole list of bangers", and even looking at top karma for 2019 has a similar effect. Thanks for doing something that brings attention to previous good work.
Besides being a really great object level post, I think it's also an great example of pointing to a subtle conversational move that appears pretty innocuous but upon investigation often is being used to sabotage information flows, intentionally or otherwise. I think a large part of rationality is being able to spot and navigate around these moves.
The S1/S2 dichotomy has proven very unhelpful for me.
For some time it served as my "scientific validation" for taking a coercive-authoritarian attitude towards myself, resulting in plenty pain.
It's really easy to conflate S2 with "rational" with "gets correct answers". I know think that "garbage in -> garbage out" applies to S2. You can learn a bunch of explicit procedural thinking patters that are shit getting things right.
In general, S1/S2 encourages conflating "motives" and "cognitive capacities". "S1 is fast and biased and S2 is slow and rational". If you think of slow/fast, intentional/unintentional, biased/rational, you are capable of doing cognition that combines any of these qualities. Unnecessarily grouping them together makes it easier to spin narratives where one "system" is a bad guy that must be overcome, and that's just not how your brain works.
This post (along with the rest of Kaj's amazing sequence) was an crucial nudge away from the S1/S2 frame and towards a way more gearsy model of the mind.
This post makes a fairly straightforward point that has been vary helpful for thinking about power. Having several grounding concrete examples really helped as well. The quote from moral mazes that gave examples of the sorts of wiping-hands-of-knowledge things executives actually say really helped make this more real to me.
This flared up again recently. Besides "wanting insight" often I simply am searching for fluency. I want something that I can fluently engage with, and if there's an impediment to fluency, I bounce off. Wanting an experience of fluency is a very different goal from wanting to understand the thing. Rn I don't have too many domains where I have technical fluency. I'm betting if I had more of that, it would extend my patience/ability to slog through texts that are hard for me.
I'm glad you're bringing sender-receiver lit into this discussion! It's been useful for me to ground parts of my thinking. What follows is almost-a-post's worth of, "Yes, and also..."
Stable "Deception" Equilibrium
The firefly example showed how an existing signalling equilibrium can be hijacked by a predator. What once was a reliable signal becomes unreliable. As you let things settle into equilibrium, the signal of seeing a light should lose all informational content (or at least, it should not give any new information about whether or not the signal is coming from mate or predator).
Part of the what ensures this result is the totally opposed payoffs of P.rey and P.redator. In any signalling game where the payouts are zero-sum there isn't going to be an equilibrium where the signals conveys information.
More complex varied payouts can have more interesting results:
Again, at the level of the sender-receiver game this is deception, but it still feels a good bit different from what I intuitively track as deception. This might be best stated as an example of "equilibrium of ambiguous communication as a result of semi-adversarial payouts"
I would not speculate on the mental life of bees; to talk of the mental life of bacteria seems absurd; and yet signalling plays a vital biological role in both cases. -Skyrms
I want to emphasize that the sender-receiver model and Skyrms' use of "informational content" are not meant to provide an explanation of intention. Information is meant to be more basic than intent, and present in cases (like bacteria) where there seems to be no intent. Skyrms seems to be responding to some scholars who want to say "intent is what defines communication!", and like Skyrms, I'm happy to say that communication and signals seems to cover a broad class of phenomena, of which intent would be a super-specialized subset.
For my two-cents, I think that intent in human communication involves both goal-directedness and having a model of the signalling equilibrium that can be plugged into an abstract reasoning system.
In sender-receiver games, the learning of signalling strategy often happens either through replicator-dynamics or a very simple Roth-Erev reinforcement learning. These are simple mechanisms that act quite directly and don't afford any reflection on the mechanism itself. Humans can not only reliably send a signal in the presence of certain stimulus, but can also do "I'm bored, I know that if I shout 'FIRE!' Sarah is gonna jump out of her skin, and then I'll laugh at her being surprised." Another fun example is that seems to rely on being able to reason about the signalling equilibrium itself is "what would I have to text you to covertly convey I've been kidnapped?"
I think human communication is always a mix of intentional and non-intentional communication, as I explore in another post. When it comes to deception, while a lot of people seem to want to use intention to draw the boundary between "should punish" and "shouldn't punish", is see it more as a question of "what sort of optimization system is working against me?" I'm tempted to say "intentional deception is more dangerous because that means the full force of their intellect is being used to deceive you, as opposed to just their unconscious" but that wouldn't be quite right. I'm still developing thoughts on this.
Far from equilibrium
I expect it's most fruitful to think of human communication as an open system that's far from equilibrium, most of the time. Thinking of equilibrium helps me think of directions things might move, but I don't expect everyone's behavior to be "priced into" most environments.
HOLY shit! I just checked out the new concepts portion of the site that shows you all the tags. This feels like a HUGE step in the direction the LW team's vision of a place where knowledge production can actually happen.
One way I think about things. Everything that I've found in myself and close friends that looks and smells like "shoulds" is sorta sneaky. I keep on finding shoulds which seem have been absorbed from others and are less about "this is a good way to get a thing in the world that I want" and "someone said you need to follow this path and I need them to approve of me". The force I feel behind my shoulds is normally "You SCREWED if you don't!" a sort of vaguely panicy, inflexible energy. It's rarely connected to the actual good qualities of the thing I "should" be doing.
Because my shoulds normally ground out in "if I'm not this way, people won't like me", if the pressure get's turned up, following a should takes me farther and farther away from things I actually care about. Unblocking stuff often feels like transcending the panicy fear that hides behind a should. It never immediately lets me be awesome at stuff. I still need to develop a real connection to the task and how it works into the rest of my life. There's still drudgery, but it's dealt with from a calmer place.