Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T18:08:43.806Z · LW · GW

Hang on a minute. This a prime hypothesis testing space! If you really think that anti-rape messaging makes post-rape experience worse, it surely follows that it must be worse for women than for men, this messaging being mostly aimed at women. So you can quite conveniently check your theory by comparing the incidence of ptsd, depression, etc in male and female rape survivors.

No need to keep this as a controversial suspicion or instinct, you'd be armed with real knowledge! Knowledge you can report back to us, and anyone else you may have discussed this issue with. Indeed I think you could cultivate a useful reputation for open mindedness and rationality if you went back to any place you'd seen this attitude expressed before, and shared your findings -positive or negative- with them.

Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T17:57:53.545Z · LW · GW

Property laws aren't based on their owners having created them though. Ted Turner is not in the land reclamation business, and if I go down a disused quarry owned by another and build myself a table, I don't gain ownership of the marble. All defenses of actually existing property rights are answers to the question "how do we encourage people to manage resources sensibly".

Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T17:41:23.130Z · LW · GW

This is the common wisdom at the moment but it's far too short-termist. All theories are provisional and eventually your enlightened dictator will find themselves on the wrong side of history and need to be removed. Of course you can build a democracy which can't do that and a dictatorship which can but I suspect the "moves like molasses" aspect moves with this quality and not the voting ritual.

Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T17:37:21.933Z · LW · GW

I often get the impression, from young american consequentialist libertarians, that they would be socialists in any other country. Certainly they don't resemble right-libertarians elsewhere, or older american libertarians. And conversely your socialist organisations are missing their usual complement of precocious hippy cynics

Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T17:27:57.201Z · LW · GW

They are better, did they do better? You need to control for the empire's choice of targets! India accounted for a quarter of world GDP at the time of conquest- by independence it was barely one percent.

Comment by Mercy on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2012-01-31T17:13:48.415Z · LW · GW

Which the New Guinea quote is a sarcastic parody of. It's a "one could just as easily say" gambit. I don't have much time for GG&S, but you have to be willfully misreading that passage- or deaf to tone and context- to interpret it as a paen to the New Guinean master race.

Comment by Mercy on Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics · 2011-11-15T12:25:57.298Z · LW · GW

Yes, this is the precise complaint! To frame an argument as politically incorrect is to imply that all arguments against it are based on squeamishness. It's a transparent attempt to exploit the mechanism you describe, one so beloved of tabloid hacks that practically any right of centre* talking point can be described as politically incorrect ("you can't say [thing I'm saying right now on prime-time television] any more" and so on).

Why declarations of politically incorrectness are taken any more seriously than claims to be totally mad/random or the life of the party I shall never know.

*am I being, ah what's the equivalent here - unserious perhaps? populist? - if I suggest that this trick is mostly limited to the right? That political correctness just means any non-socialist leftwing opinion, with the added implication that the opinion is both hegemonic and baseless. When left wing commentators trip over themselves to avoid criticising america or soldiers, or rush to condemn protests at the first sign of a black mask, nobody talks about political correctness. Despite all the talk about how OWS has made it acceptable to moral issues in ways that were previously beyond the pale, nobody calls it an anti-PC movement.

Perhaps we should have a separate term to describe this phenomenon, if we are going to keep going on about political correctness, and pretending we aren't talking about politics? Since otherwise we reach a point where commentators are unable to call people fascists, for being so PC is decidedly politically incorrect.

Comment by Mercy on [link] I Was Wrong, and So Are You · 2011-11-15T12:19:34.970Z · LW · GW

Curious, one of the top entries in my primed cache of "idiotic things people might say in support of libertarianism" is "we aren't causing shitloads of global warming". It's the one of the most popular topics among libertarian columnists, beating out smoking, PC at the BBC, Europe and Laurie Penny. True, American Libertarians generally seem to be more contrarian than the sort we get in the UK, but I seem to remember both Bryan Caplan and Will Wilkinson making similar observations about the other side of the pond.

Comment by Mercy on [link] I Was Wrong, and So Are You · 2011-11-14T06:03:18.664Z · LW · GW

This would seem to hinge on the definition of “exploited”. And the question doesn’t specify who is exploiting the Third Worlders: the companies in question, or the capitalist First World system in general. Perhaps a socialist might argue that they are being exploited because we haven’t compensated them properly for the sins of colonialism, therefore putting them in the position where they have to work in sweatshops to make ends meet. Again it is not inevitable that any intelligent individual would accept that this statement is blatantly false, even after having that “fact” pointed out to him.

More than that, a socialist would almost certainly argue that they are being exploited by the landowner, by the recipient of any fee they have to pay (for instance, for intellectual property) their own government if they pay taxes, and so on. The socialist definition of exploitation is extremely broad but roughly isomorphic to rent. It's also to my knowledge the only remotely rigorous definition of exploitation that would make sense in that context. So the question is pretty much explicitly asking "are you a socialist" and taking yes as being wrong about economics. Since the author's of the study disagree with socialists about economics that seems entirely fair, though obviously as an argument that socialists don't understand economics it's circular. Still it would be clearer if they said "demonstrably being exploited", but I think they are assuming that people who think exploited is vague default to no.

Comment by Mercy on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-11-14T04:33:59.527Z · LW · GW

Sorry I missed this reply before, note sure if it's worth replying but briefly yes, narrow-band pesticides take care of the most distantly related weeds so your biggest problems are "volunteers" from the previous crop rotation, and wild relatives of whatever crops you are planting. That's why you have to modify the crop, rather than the pesticide.

Comment by Mercy on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-27T17:00:28.210Z · LW · GW

The problem is more dramatic in architecture. The latter is the point where the crisis of modern art moves from a bugbear of the chattering classes to a genuine problem. If someone insists that you just need to learn to appreciate some ear destroying extended technique violin piece, you have a difference of opinion. If someone insists that the solution to the residents of the new brutalist tower block wanting to kill themselves is to educate them on the finer points of architectural theory, then you have a civic problem. (Incidentally, are there any other forms of art that require the destruction of old pieces?)

With food though, "just learn to like it" is absolutely good advice as, a childish aversion to, say, cabbage is an unnecessary barrier to eating arrangements that could be solved with a few meals. And because food is such a flexible art form, learning to appreciate new elements dramatically increases your enjoyment. Though I suppose these are really two sides of the same coin, like the OPs definition of art snobbery as insisting that art should not contain certain features that indicate the wrong culture: perspective, raw meat, any consideration for the surrounding space whatsoever, etc, etc.

The problem is that artists generally like to focus on reducing the number of features, partly because it makes it easier to compose but mostly, I suspect, because it makes it easier for other people to compare your compositions. This is most obvious in fashion (take one accessory off, even after accounting for the fact that you were going to have one accessory too many) but compare any home recipe to any cooks recipe, the former will have all sorts of pinches of this and that and the other added in which make it taste muddier, which is not necessarily worse but harder to analyses.

This is the blockbuster problem basically: if you want to appeal to a lot of people you have to do a lot of things, and then the quality of your work will just be an average of how each person thought you did on the stuff they cared about. So you insist that dance scenes aren't serious and a real director doesn't put dance scenes in their movie, and gradually the quality improves (from the artists POV) even as the appeal narrows.

There's probably an economic paper treating this like a market with artist surplus and consumer surplus, with the artistic surplus narrowing to nothing as you reduce barriers to entry for artists.

Comment by Mercy on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-27T16:03:40.096Z · LW · GW

In my experience most people who hate modern art hate it because it's more-or-less uniformly absolutely awful.

Ah no but you see, modern art is good. Your move.

Seriously though, would I be right in saying you come from a background where most people can be expected to have an educated opinion on art? Because that's the only way I can imagine you've never met someone who claimed to hate modern art but folded completely after waiting to meet someone inside the Tate Modern, or catching a documentary one day. It's just too common in my experience, and yet I've never seen or heard of anyone doing the same thing with modern academic music or painting. I'm left to assume that they are genuinely lacking in the qualities which make naive audiences enjoy them and their reputation is reliable for everyone.

That just won't fly though for modern art, which was frequently very popular. Rather I think that what's happened is that the Young British Artists were not even trying to be good, especially as the bubble went on, and their output was as much confirmation as people needed to assume that they are also part of the down to earth sensible people who only like "representative art", when frequently they aren't.

Comment by Mercy on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-27T15:12:04.087Z · LW · GW

Doesn't it already? Presumably it depends on the level of exposure to the "awesome" cluster of tropes, but I think comics are the ground zero of the trend and the backlash is well underway. What passes for tastemakers in that medium are pretty down on the cluster - if you describe a Grant Morrison or Tsutomu Nihei piece as awesome they'll say they see where you are coming from, but it's a good comic too! And to dismiss a work as "awesome" is to suggest it's written for the blurb. Relevant

Comment by Mercy on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-27T15:05:32.257Z · LW · GW

Doesn't it already? Well presumably it depends on the level of exposure to the "awesome" cluster of tropes. I think comics are the ground zero of the trend, and what passes for tastemakers in that medium are pretty down on that cluster - if you describe a Grant Morrison or Tsutomu Nihei piece as awesome they'll say they see where you are coming from, but it's a good comic too! To dismiss a work as "awesome" is to suggest it's written for the blurb. Relevant

Comment by Mercy on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-27T14:40:12.376Z · LW · GW

I think worries about status seeking false preference formation start to break down when you apply them to comedy. For one thing laughter is involuntary, so you should know if you are faking in the teenager pretending to like spirits sense- you can't half convince yourself you find something funny if you don't.

For another the social aspect is often inherent to the form. Saying that you don't really like Steptoe and Son because you wouldn't find it funny if there wasn't a laugh track, or you didn't really like that Stewart Lee because if you were the only person in the room you wouldn't have laughed, doesn't to my mind make any more sense than saying you don't like dance music because you wouldn't listen to it on your own or you "only" like a song because of a happy memory associated with it.

Comment by Mercy on Requesting advice- where to live · 2011-09-22T12:52:39.562Z · LW · GW

He might be offended by the fact that he'd have to go to trial and plead guilty. There was a case over here of a guy who got tied up with his family for hours by burglars, who broke free and beat one of them into a coma with a cricket bat. He initially refused to plead guilty and received a fairly lengthy sentence- commuted on appeal once he actually had the sense to admit it and plead circumstances.

Comment by Mercy on Requesting advice- where to live · 2011-09-22T12:45:18.089Z · LW · GW

I don't think this is true? Britain at least spends a smaller proportion of government revenue on healthcare than the US does, and I imagine France and Australia do as well. Or if you are comparing british style to french style, the trade off is price vs quality, not where you pay.

It's probably worth considering taxes relative to whatever job you are applying for, and the gov't services in line with all the other benefits.

Comment by Mercy on How likely is Peter Thiel's investment into seasteading to pay off? · 2011-09-01T16:29:24.575Z · LW · GW

I quoted the whole thing because the structure is central to the thesis. He's comparing the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and so on with the revolutions that took down Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. That South Africa and Rhodesia were taken down and the Vietcong were not is perfectly true. That this is evidence the American government spent more effort opposing Apartheid than the Vietcong is something else entirely - conspiracy theory. Not merely in that it proposes a conspiracy but in that it does not bother to argue for one, the state of the world is evidence for the existence of a body that wanted it that way- except where it isn't, in the case of Israel.

That said, I quoted the whole thing to provide context, the claim I find impossible to grasp is that the US was not really opposed to the USSR and is not really allied with Israel. This requires either a definition of the US government that is separate from the people that actually run it, an assertion that the people who appear to be in charge don't really run it, or that they secretly hate Israel and love communism.

Comment by Mercy on How likely is Peter Thiel's investment into seasteading to pay off? · 2011-09-01T16:11:37.607Z · LW · GW

Well the stuff you've detailed about Afghanistan being a rogue puppet state brought to heel is an untroubling version of history that contradicts the official variety in a leftward direction. I see Constant was quite right to ask what I objected to in the quote, but I thought it obvious which bits were novel - that Israel is an enemy of the US and the Vietcong were not. It's not that these are troubling, I like being troubled by heterodoxy, but I like it for the opportunity to model their thought processes.

And I understand how someone can believe in the idea that the US is against Israel and for Communism, but I MM actually seems to think it's true- he thinks the US funding of Israel is explicable in terms of wanting to see Israel destroyed, and the invasion of Vietnam in terms of curbing the anti-american tendencies of communism. And I can't see what those explanations are.

Likewise, I can see someone interpreting America's attitude towards Israel as being overly pro-Palestinian, but MM actually goes ahead and describes what the world would look like for this to be true - there would be a Palestinian lobby which dwarfs AIPAC and J-Street in size. And he doesn't notice the world he's describing isn't our own.

Comment by Mercy on How likely is Peter Thiel's investment into seasteading to pay off? · 2011-09-01T03:14:16.752Z · LW · GW

Huh, I found the opposite, in the abstract he's insightful but his descriptions of modern day reality seem to be coming from some bizarre counter-earth, for instance:

"The pretend enemies (such as the Communist countries in the Cold War, other Third World nationalist thugs, revolutionary Islamists, etc, etc) are actually best defined as partial clients. Unlike full clients such as the OECD democracies, their friendship is only with one side of the American political system (the left side, duh). If their "anti-Americanism" actually reaches the level of military combat, the war is a limited war and essentially a civil one. Right enemies include: Nazis and other fascists, of course; apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia; the Portuguese Estado Novo and Franquista Spain; the Greek colonels; and, of course, Israel. You might notice a property shared by all but one of the regimes on this list, which is that they don't exist anymore. Sometimes there will be patron-client relationships on the right side of the equation, but they are always tenuous. Even in the last case, the "Israel lobby" is a piece of dental floss compared to the arm-thick steel cable that is the Palestine lobby. (You'll notice that USG's policy is that the war should end by Israel giving money and land to the Palestinians, not the other way around.)"

He's perceptive and erudite enough that when he says something so gratuitously and obviously wrong I sit there for ages thinking hang on, is this just something I don't want to believe- a politically correct myth I don't want to let go of. It disturbs me how often the answer is no, but I genuinely cannot see a way to make passages like the above make sense.

Comment by Mercy on A potentially great improvement to minimum wage laws to handle both economic efficiency as well as poverty concerns · 2011-07-27T16:43:46.462Z · LW · GW

What worse policies are you thinking of? Only this sounds like the socialist argument against the welfare state...

In terms of liberterian arguments for the minimum wage, Chris Dillows takes the same tack but the opposite conclusion- fighting to get rid of the minimum wage is a distraction from the problem of unemployment, given it's low magnitude.

Comment by Mercy on The importance of Not Getting the Joke · 2011-07-25T16:24:13.793Z · LW · GW

(1) seems pretty common, and from what I know of Mr Sailer, I imagine it underlies most of his examples- there'll be an article highlighting some inequality or problem and the "facts which undermine the premises of the piece" are the suggested causes, the "joke" is that the author's see the outcome as undesirable while Sailer sees attempts to change the outcome as foolish.

Conspicuous wrongness sounds close to belief as attire (the article with the pagan lady who believed something she obviously didn't think was true) but with the addition that someone believes it's true, so the motive is not to disagree with them. I think ideologues often identify each other by the viewpoints they can be certain nobody else shares- how else to explain why the unreadable Atlas Shrugs remains more popular than Rand's other books, which are no less strident but considerably more appealing to outsiders.

Comment by Mercy on Gender and Libido · 2011-07-03T18:52:14.834Z · LW · GW

I've also seen "women can't enjoy Penis-in-Vagina sex and any who believe they do are sufferring from Trauma Bonding" but only among people who, as far as I can tell, identify as anti-third wave feminists first, and radical feminists second.

Comment by Mercy on What are the best news sources to read for *insightful* discussions? · 2011-06-24T23:35:51.288Z · LW · GW

I do like the economist, but they suffer from a recent graduate syndrome I've become increasingly aware of as the blogosphere allows the sort of person who forms the majority of their staff greater access to the limelight, the very convincing on areas you know nothing about, horribly amateurish on areas you are familiar with, concatenate the last three AP reports with a dose of the old Washington Consensus style. It's a style formed by throwing in enough second hand research that one's editorially mandated conclusions seem authorative, which can see it in blogs like Lenin's Tomb. Of the big European weekly don't-pretend-to-be-unbiased newspapers, I find Le Monde Diplomatique much more useful because it doesn't rely on that style so much. But the economist is worth reading, and I don't think the NYT is most of the time, and anything owned by Murdoch certainly ain't.

Also: the Guardian has a similar attitude to the NYT, with much higher journalistic standards- depressingly, the best in the UK at the moment, purely on the basis that they've declined the least out of the respectable papers. Combine that with the Financial Times (which is done by the same sort of people as the economist, but aimed at an audience they actually respect) gives you a decent breadth of coverage. Add in Red Pepper if you want to keep up on the latest labour issues.

Comment by Mercy on What are the best news sources to read for *insightful* discussions? · 2011-06-20T01:49:21.905Z · LW · GW

I haven't read this Salam but that "not a partisan so they must be unbiased" heuristic is pretty dodgy, particularly for an American columnist- that two party duopoly means you have a lot of right-libertarian and socialist/green analysts who regard each party as identical but are toting around some pretty serious ideological blinkers of their own, not to mention the cult of the sensible centrist people.

The right-wing meltdown you've got going on kind of screws with this though- for most countries I'd suggest that heterodox/lesser-of-two-evils party members from any group tend to suffer the least from illusions, but the impression I get is that in the US, the conservative variety no longer feels comfortable with the Republican party. This is all second hand though...

Comment by Mercy on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T13:38:51.849Z · LW · GW

It's funny you should mention that, because just about the time of the collapse a bunch of posters on the Something Awful thread mocking bitcoins decided to see if they could crash the market by posting SELL SELL SELL messages on various discussion boards. From the posts there they think it's coincidence though- the crash was caused by a single big seller.

Comment by Mercy on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T13:32:14.245Z · LW · GW

I've kind of stayed out of this discussion because I think one's interpretation of the product depends on more on your views about economics and politics than any disagreement about bitcoin's properties. And Tyler Cowen's skepticism makes me think that bitcoin proponents are deep enough into Rothbardville that our lines of engagement would get fruitlessly broad.

But I'm curious on one point - why do some people have this dramatic 'coins'll be worth thousands or nothing" attitude. I can see the zero, and I can get my head round the viewpoint where it's plausible that a large chunk of the economy gets covered by bitcoins and they're worth thousands. But what about it staying where it is now, as a complementary used for drug deals, money laundering and Konkin t-shirts? Is there some reason that wouldn't be stable?

Comment by Mercy on London Meetup 05-Jun-2011 - very rough minutes · 2011-06-10T09:37:59.630Z · LW · GW

Okay just looking at this now I realise I've failed to heed my own advice, there's one style of "humour" that doesn't involve multiple levels of awareness and is very common among joyless ideologues, which is the style of mean spirited mockery, vicious down-putting of out-groups.

It kind of rises into proper humour if you exaggerate it to the point of ridiculousness, and it's my impression that the people who do that are also comfortable with self mocking and silly humour, and are capable of talking amiably with people not on "their side".

Comment by Mercy on London Meetup 05-Jun-2011 - very rough minutes · 2011-06-09T20:23:12.479Z · LW · GW

I've often thought that comedy is useful because it breaks down compartmentalisation, and more generally because it creates a sort of mental safe space in which ideas can be thought about without triggering the usual mental defences. I'll go as far as to say it's the safest way of breaking down compartmentalization- that if you do it while precommitting to accept the result, you'll tend to select the synthesis consistent with your most cherished beliefs, rather than the one which most accurately reflects reality. On a related note, humor-intolerance is a great warning sign for mentally dangerous ideologies.

I'd be wary of attempting to derive any universal "theory of comedy" though- this doesn't account for clowning or really any types of physical humour for instance. The only thing that seems to be universal about comedy is that it demonstrates awareness of/ability to manipulate multiple levels of meaning or interpretation - which isn't a sufficient condition.

Comment by Mercy on General Bitcoin discussion thread (May 2011) · 2011-06-07T23:22:31.559Z · LW · GW

Looks like one of those instances where pyramid scheme is used as a catch all term for scams which aim to look like a franchise or investment. Could be that they are thinking of the miners as franchisees but that would only make sense if the founders were selling graphics cards.

I believe the technical term for what the bitcoin founders are making the right moves to be doing is a pump-and-dump.

Comment by Mercy on Should a rationalist be concerned about habitat loss/biodiversity loss? · 2011-06-07T23:10:09.630Z · LW · GW

Do you mean the thread because that's hardly missing from the broader discussion, much of the funding goes towards towards seed banks and so on, on a broader scale too a lot of conservation is effectively ecological cryonics- zoos and so on just keep endangered species in a holding pattern. Criticism of these is, as far as I can see, mostly ecological eg: reintroduced tree species will fail to thrive if introduced to soils where their traditional symbiotic fungi have gone extinct in their absence.

Comment by Mercy on Rationality Quotes: June 2011 · 2011-06-06T23:51:22.568Z · LW · GW

"They" is the tricky bit there. Presumably some people wanted a canal, and some people other people wanted jobs, and for that matter presumably some people wanted money to go to the construction company who've got an opening for a government liaison consultant coming up in five years time. There's little reason to think the equilibrium is welfare maximising.

Comment by Mercy on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-24T22:58:19.593Z · LW · GW

A few people have mentioned monocultures and it's worth pointing out that one of the biggest advantage of GM is not in really novel out there breeding but in simply doing the sort of selective breeding we did during the Green Revolution quickly and cheaply. Potentially then it can get us out of the monocultures that dominate agriculture currently, by letting us bring ancestral varieties of rice/wheat/etc, or currently marginal crops up to the same standards that we've raised the main wheat varieties and such like to.

It is my understanding however, that the incentives for this aren't there under the current economic set up

Comment by Mercy on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-24T22:47:08.653Z · LW · GW

Terminator tech is effectively banned, and while I'm highly vulnerable to anti-corporate/capitalist rhetoric especially in the case of Monsanto, and so may be overcompensating, I think this is generally a bad thing. This is both because it makes biosafety more difficult, and because it reduces the ability of the big biotech companies to capture the benefits of GM research. This is good in the short term (though in a few cases it disproportionately benefits the largest landowners) but ultimately means that research is underfunded and mostly focused on relatively monetizable stuff like pesticide resistance for the big four plants and not things like more nutritious tef. Of course, we could lay this problem at the feet of the neoliberal hegemony- a massive Green Revolution style public investment campaign would circumvent the problem, but that just ain't the way business is done in universities nowadays.

Note the problem on biosafety is more that good GMOs will be banned because they'd spread pesticide resistance to weeds without terminator tech, not that they will be introduced illegitimately and spread pesticide resistant genes to weeds.

Comment by Mercy on [LINK] Pixar works to make the future better · 2011-05-24T13:32:50.481Z · LW · GW

Magic is a little ambiguous, I assume it's used here to mean illusion- the impossible act which proceeds directly from intention to effect with no stopping for mechanism. This is the magic of the deus ex machina and "a wizard did it" but also of the stage magician. I think they are correct that Pixar lacks this. It might not be clear how the setting came to be, but the causes driving the actual plot are always clear and logical.

EDIT: I have to say though, that auteur theory already throws too much information away, treating a whole production company as a consistent author is silly and it shows up in how the writer has to chuck half the movies out.

Comment by Mercy on Terrorist leaders are not about Terror · 2011-05-09T16:43:00.880Z · LW · GW

This is hardly new, didn't he say something similar himself in his videos? The point was to trick the US into radicalizing the populace via increasingly barbaric acts of warfare and secret policing. He wouldn't be the first terrorist to make such a claim and, tempting as the "don't you see you are playing into their hands!" argument is, it always smells like post-hoc justification for a failed military campaign.

Edit: Sorry should have read the article didn't realise it mentioned the mans own arguments.

Comment by Mercy on Climate change: existential risk? · 2011-05-09T16:28:08.242Z · LW · GW

This is a big issue, there's a lot of bright young people doing the equivalent of cleaning oil off seabirds because they feel they gotta do something about environmental risk. On the other hand, theres a lot of greens arguing against nuclear power and for growing tomatoes in greenhouses to save on aviation fuel, so maybe there isn't enough brainpower being dedicated to the topic....

Anyway the flipside of marginal utility here is comparative advantage: what skills do you have that can help with AI research?

Comment by Mercy on How would you spend 30 million dollars? · 2011-05-09T16:18:15.777Z · LW · GW

Why so many projects? With such a large amount of money you might reach the point where investments reach diminishing returns but donating for instance, to two different cryonics firms is silly. If you had six million dollars, you'd want to figure out which one could use the money most efficiently, and give it all to them. Have you read any of the threads on efficient charity?

Comment by Mercy on [POLL] Slutwalk · 2011-05-09T16:08:31.193Z · LW · GW

Most demo organisers I know are quite upfront about the fact that they a tool for recruitment and networking rather than PR . They don't use those terms obviously but criticise groups like Stop the War which don't have a clear strategy beyond the protest, and focus on speeches more than route when police interference isn't an issue. Anti-fascist counter-protests are the only example I can think of where putting boots on the ground is the point.

Take back the night style events like this are a pretty good example of the form: the point isn't to convince people who wouldn't attend of the campaign's views but to drag in as many wavering fence sitters as possible (hence why they are so big on campuses) and give them a big confidence boost in their beliefs. The main effect on framing is probably from the attendees going on to express those views in their personal life, rather than from the media coverage of the protest.

Comment by Mercy on Link Sharing Thread - April '11 · 2011-04-21T15:59:50.898Z · LW · GW

Language Hat has a roundup of responses.

Comment by Mercy on Link Sharing Thread - April '11 · 2011-04-17T21:50:50.123Z · LW · GW

The always readable Rebecca Solnit has an article in the march issue of LMD that's relevant to Less Wrong's interests, the stuff on mental disaster kits is a nice idea, the anti-nuclear stuff is instructive in it's dishonesty: ArticleHere

This Collection of articles on medical reforms is specific to Britain, but the statistics abuse documented is common the world over, I particularly recommend the article on cancer stats.

I never really understood the fuss over cooking for engineers, but this vaguely similar idea is wonderful.

Also: Webcomics! Comics on the internet. Who doesn't enjoy Webcomics? Only the craziest of individuals that's for sure! Webcomics!

Here are some fanc pictures which don't involve webcomics

Also, I'll take this down if it doesn't work for non-members, but this forum thread is the closest thing to one of those "well we should have a bunch of crappy smug fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd jokes but for atheists instead of christians" that's actually made me laugh (by the same people who brought you this I gather). Since I've seen this sort of internet infidels stuff brought up a few times I thought people here might get a kick out of it!

Comment by Mercy on Link Sharing Thread - April '11 · 2011-04-12T17:06:47.687Z · LW · GW

I very much like Dresden Codak as a comic, it fills the hole in my heart left by A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible, and I really like that sort of comic book science fantasy but it's a classic example of what the XKCD writer dismissed as "shouting science in the same way you'd shout Alakazam!", I'm not sure I'd pitch it for it's treatment of the singularity.

Comment by Mercy on A few minor comparisons of the results of Genetic egineering and Natural selection · 2011-03-22T21:29:23.490Z · LW · GW

Well the proposed Tay-Sachs benefit is an example of a trade-off that probably isn't present in our genome to as large an extent as was supposed during the hey day of the overdominance hypothesis. For heterozygote advantages to be a serious ethical issue would require the advantages they conferred to be difficult to obtain by other means, IQ I can see, but anyone rich enough to afford a designer baby probably isn't going to bother giving it a sickle cell allele.

Comment by Mercy on Enjoying musical fashion: why not? · 2011-03-18T23:26:05.996Z · LW · GW

The issue here seems to be that appreciating music for cultural reasons is somehow dishonest, like some Russian's appreciation of the Pogues is more pure than that of a London Irish kid who likes them partly as a signal of heritage. This is an attitude that's common among certain alienated young people but I think most people see it the other way around. And it's probably not in line with the way most artists think either, it's quite common to see them attributing their innovations to the need to differentiate themselves from squares.

Comment by Mercy on Rationality Quotes: March 2011 · 2011-03-08T15:06:00.396Z · LW · GW

Zinn assumed familiarity with those though! He didn't have anything novel to say about them, why simply regurgitate what's known so idiots won't misinterpret you?

Comment by Mercy on Some Heuristics for Evaluating the Soundness of the Academic Mainstream in Unfamiliar Fields · 2011-02-15T20:20:54.967Z · LW · GW

I think it's mostly an availability bias, since most of the non-climate scientists who have anything to say about global warming are heavily involved in either conservation or economic issues relating to the Global South, both areas likely to suffer under climate change. Do any Canadian/Russian/Northern European posters have any stories about people talking positively of climate change, I've heard a few comments about peach trees and wine in the UK, though it's kinda muted because of the possibility of Gulf stream interactions making us colder. But certainly you hear plenty of arguments along the lines of "why should we care, we'll be well out of it".

EDIT: Come to think of it, given the wealth differentials involved, people probably avoid saying this because it would come across as callous, though with appropriate changes to international trade and development it needn't be.

Comment by Mercy on Torturing people for fun · 2011-02-15T00:27:26.531Z · LW · GW

2) If you say X or N must be very large, does this prove that you measure torture and fun using in effect different scales, and therefore are a deontologist rather than a utilitarian?

I confess my knowledge of the subject is non-existant but everything I have seen has discussed utilitarianism as a sub-set of the broader class of teleological theories, and that not all of these would be uncomfortable with the idea of using different scales. And also that deontologists don't have scales for measuring outcomes at all.

Comment by Mercy on Social Necessity of Drinking · 2011-02-15T00:15:41.509Z · LW · GW

Depends on the social grouping, it's increasingly acceptable among the young.

Comment by Mercy on Science: Do It Yourself · 2011-02-14T20:35:10.690Z · LW · GW

I've seen two main groups, socialists who'll have something like that "pyramid of workers holding up the aristocracy" poster because they like the message and don't care about the source*, and people in stereotypically first-against-the-wall jobs who'll have a poster about killing bankers for kitsch value. People who like the style tend to go in for Polish movie posters.

*like, I imagine quite a few less wrongers would have no problem hanging this one on their wall:

Comment by Mercy on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-14T19:22:34.620Z · LW · GW

This is a very astute observation but I'm fairly certain what you are describing is normally refferred to as fascetiousness. Sarcasm uses hyperbole and intonation to make the falsity of the statement blindingly obvious, partly for humour but mostly to avoid having to directly refute it, either because it's so stupid that doing so would be boring ("let the market decide" can't solve every problem) embarrassing (no I'm not cheating on you), or because the speaker hopes to convince everyone this is so (see previous parentheses)

They do kind of merge together in multi-person arguments though, particularly on the internet where one person sarcastically dismissing a troll will leave everyone flippantly resurrecting their position long afterwards. Under the theory outlined above, this might be considered a kind of warding, like leaving heads on spears round your territory: "look, that argument has been dealt with, don't bring it up again or we'll quote you mockingly"