Comment by metastable on Question on Medical School and Wage Potential for Earning to Give · 2013-09-30T02:07:24.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No I do not like working with people. I would aim for surgery or radiology for this reason.

While the stereotypical surgeon may be gruff/demanding/efficient/decisive, most surgeons are required to work in and even lead teams. The profession selects for aggressiveness and confidence, not for loners (though there are obviously some in any profession). Medical training prior to specialization will be exceptionally challenging if you dislike working with people.

Pathology might be a medical specialty where you were able to indulge your love of biology while working in relative solitude, but that's a pretty narrow slice of the pie to target. Per your concerns about ROI, radiology is probably the medical specialty in the US most likely to deflate in the next several years, given that wages are exceptionally high and that there are few material barriers preventing radiographs from being read by physicians in other time zones, or even other countries.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-29T19:35:34.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or, in the opposite case, declaring that your once-over the text has revealed what believers "really" believe.

So very much this.

Comment by metastable on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 26, chapter 97 · 2013-08-29T03:45:44.010Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good points, all. Fiendfyre seems robust.

I might counter that most combat magic, even the adult sort, seems to be line-of-sight, which is a huge handicap. It also seems to be very inaccurate. If Harry & Co can literally dodge Deatheaters on foot and brooms, supersonic jets and HALO insertions are going to be really hard to target. Not to mention artillery shells in flight. And Wizards seem weirdly resistant to (biased against?) using magical heavy weapons or fire team tactics. They have a real duelist mentality.

But the ability to erase from time does really trump. I concede.

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-29T01:55:27.954Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You don't actually need a specific major to go to med school. You just need the pre-reqs, a pretty straightforward sequence of mostly-science that you can cram inside most majors. Bio majors are usually the easiest way to do this.

As I mention elsewhere in the thread, med school is usually debt-funded and costs you earning years in your twenties. And your per-hour income is sometimes surprisingly low.

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-29T01:39:17.532Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

still isn't obvious

Not sure what to say. There's finance and there's finance. HYPS and maybe two or three others have pipelines for pushing kids to the banks and hedge funds at the very top. And yes, I mean undergrad. The fourth or fifth of each class that goes into finance isn't doing it to sell mutual funds in mid-sized cities. Many bail after a few years, but those who stay in can easily become millionaires, and some do it before their former classmates in med school finish their residencies.

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-28T02:37:52.833Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

ETA: you're right that it's bogus to compare top-of-the-line finance to average physician. I should have said "The average Stanford-educated physician makes far less over his lifetime than he could applying the same horsepower and hours worked to, say, finance."

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-28T02:29:21.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OP is going to Stanford, so a career at GS, Deutsche Bank, JPM, or Bridgewater is a realistic possiblity in a way it simply isn't at 99.9% of schools.

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-28T01:18:09.681Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Edit to add: WRT networking, it's kind of a suitcase word. Lots of people talk about it. I am sceptical that public speaking and improv classes are the best places to meet the best networking prospects, though they might be excellent for meeting interesting people. Athletes typically do better than the mean at Stanford-type schools in terms of career earnings, despite lower HS GPAs and test scores. If you're not currently a recruited athlete, you might still be able to walk on to the crew team or ultimate team.

Comment by metastable on What should a college student do to maximize future earnings for effective altruism? · 2013-08-28T01:07:44.868Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you're interested in maximizing income, I would rule out pre-med. It's sub-optimal preparation for any career except medicine, and medicine is sub-optimal for income. A few reasons:

Salaries are essentially capped by reimbursement rates and man-hours. The best surgeon in the world isn't going to make more than a few million a year doing elective surgeries twelve hours a day year round.

The things that generate the most income for rich people with MD's, patents and start-ups and C-suite gigs, don't require the MD credential. There are better stepladders. The possible exception is medical celebrity, but the odds of you being the next Dr. Oz are extremely low.

The average physician makes far less over his lifetime than he could applying the same horsepower and hours worked to, say, finance. It's a fairly straightforward back-of-the-envelope calculation. In addition to losing seven to ten years of income after college (residency only pays a little above living wages) and possibly incurring $250K in student debt when money means the most due to time-value, you'll graduate into a market absolutely determined (for very understandable reasons) to bend the healthcare cost curve down and pay doctors less. American doctors are currently paid much, much better than doctors almost everywhere else in the world, due in large part to guild-like protections, and this cannot continue indefinitely. Globalization's already lined up to crush radiology and elective surgery, two of the better-remunerated fields, and IBM would very much like to put oncologists everywhere out of a job. Another half-dozen specialties are in turf battles against mid-level providers like nurses.

All that said, I highly recommend medicine. Just not for optimized philanthropy.

Comment by metastable on To what degree do you model people as agents? · 2013-08-26T04:22:11.392Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This is plausible to me, too. I've had very productive friends with very different rhythms.

But I suspect far more people believe they operate best staying up late and sleeping late than actually do. There's a reason day shifts frequently outperform night shifts given the same equipment. And we know a lot of people suffer health-wise on night shift.

Comment by metastable on To what degree do you model people as agents? · 2013-08-26T03:06:34.686Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, though it's always been interesting to me how the tiniest details of clothing become much clearer signals when eveybody's almost the same. Other military practices that I think conserve your energy for what's important:

-Daily, routinized exercise. Done in a way that very few people are deciding what comes next.

-Maximum use of daylight hours

-Minimized high-risk projects outside of workplace (paternalistic health care, insurance, and in many cases, housing and continuing education.)

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-22T22:38:34.483Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the link. It's a nice summary of the state of research a few years back, and anybody who's interested in the topic should read it.

It is probably even more interesting to me because it tacks pretty hard away from the conclusions some people have drawn in this thread. The authors clearly did not believe that the well-attested differences in IQ testing across ethnic groups could be ascribed to genetic factors.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-22T05:35:46.873Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of the current research focuses on "trust" inside groups. This is not exactly double-blinded climate controlled stuff, as you might expect, just brave and smart social psychologists doing their best. I find it highly plausible and confirmatory of many centuries of non-scientific observations about insularity. Disclaimer: I AM NOT SAYING DISTRUST OF PEOPLE OF OTHER BELIEF SYSTEMS IS GOOD, JUST THAT IT HAPPENS.

Atheism associated with lack of "trustworthiness signals" by believers.

Religious in-group trust and cooperation is higher.

I know of no studies on friction over expression of religious beliefs. I do kind of take as a given that there are fewer HR complaints when everybody's got the same Sacred Heart/Darwin amphibian/Santa Muerte/COEXIST bumper sticker.

Though some obvious confounders do come to mind...

Granted that there are huge trade-offs for religious homogeneity, and I think that it's almost always a bad business decision (exceptions: semi-utopian communes? survival in Hobbesian chaos? new colonies without hope of reinforcement?) It was just an exemplary argument of a sort made less often than, you know, arguments about race and IQ.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-22T04:46:08.739Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd love the world to be more biased in favour of my own highest stat

You can re-allocate some of that to Charisma if you work really hard (stand-up comedy is a learned skill) and if you have a British or Australian accent you get +1 just by coming to North America and talking. Provided you haven't already maxed it, Strength is highly trainable, as are Dexterity and Constitution. Even HP, up till about 30 when bone density stops accumulating. Wisdom is extremely trainable, and there's some evidence the world's biased that direction, so I'd throw points there when in doubt.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-22T04:34:57.725Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

why is the relevant disadvantaged class "black people"

As far as it goes, I'm in favor of preserving opportunities for all sorts of people to work, because it's humanizing and it makes people happy. We're all in favor of that, right?

But I also don't think there's been historic, organized pressure to keep low-IQ people from finding useful labor, and while such people deserve the protection of the law, it's not illuminating to compare their plight to a group of people who were denied the ability to find employment they were very capable of using intimidation, violence, and bad-faith law.... which, and this is sad, were very much still in use when the Civil Right Act was passed, and would still be in use today if it had never been passed.

Racial "classes"--not sets of corresponding genetic polymorphisms, which science tells us about, but race as we understand it in America, which is both more and less complicated--were not created by the Civil Rights Act, or the civil rights movement. They were created long before that, to justify cruelty, and to deny the continuing effect of that social construction would have been, in the the judgment of the majority of our Congress in 1964 and our Supreme Court since then, counterproductive.

All other things being equal, is anyone disagreeing with this?

Not at all. It's a very rationalist sort of argument. There are many like it. I think it would be terrific if we spent more time exploring those, possibly at the expense of focusing heavily on arguments that seem a little less than disinterested.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-22T03:54:19.395Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I would be very surprised if IQ correlates at .6 with, say, wealth or income. Parental wealth and income possibly correlate no more than 0.5 to childrens' incomes, and it would be frankly remarkable for IQ to be (1) transmitted intergenerationally to a large degree, and (2) more closely correlated to financial outcomes than one's parent's financial outcomes, since your parents often give you not only your genes, but your inheritance/early support, financial assumptions, and first set of career contacts.

Comment by metastable on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-21T19:42:19.886Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The complexity of software is an essential property, not an accidental one. Hence, descriptions of a software entity that abstract away its complexity often abstract away its essence.

Fred P. Brooks, No Silver Bullet

Comment by metastable on Open thread, August 19-25, 2013 · 2013-08-21T19:16:22.074Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I feel these objections, and I don't think your heuristic is bad. I would say, though, and I hold no brief for CFAR, never having donated or attended a workshop, that there is another heuristic possibly worth considering: generally more valuable products are not free. There are many exceptions to this, and it is possible for sellers to counterhack this common heuristic by using higher prices to falsely signal higher quality to consumers. But the heuristic is not worthless, it just has to be applied carefully.

Comment by metastable on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-21T19:02:35.084Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Ah. I read that one as a reference to the tendency to let tribal affiliation trump realistic evaluation of outcomes.

Comment by metastable on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-21T14:56:02.008Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A demonstration of the gray fallacy. The opinions of Ariel Castro are not equidistant from the truth with those of the rest of society, and we don't find the truth by finding a middle ground between his claims and those of everybody else.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T14:34:43.296Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Even if this were true, it would not follow that there is no countervailing incentive to remove barriers to employment for disadvantaged classes of people. Is it not possible that society has an interest in broad employment, especially among people disadvantaged by such tests? Two thoughts:

1) IQ tests have a history of being used deliberately to weed out applicants of certain races. This was not an incidental effect: it was the entire purpose of the test, much like literacy tests for voting. The odds of them being used this way again, were changes made in the law, seem extremely high.

2) It is interesting that LW sees so many rational arguments for policies that would give more resources to whites or Asians, especially white or Asian males with high test scores who may not have gone to college. While these arguments are phrased as both logical and obvious, LW rarely (ever?) entertains the easily constructed, similarly phrased arguments that would push resources away from LW's typical membership. For example: "It's been known for generations that physical strength has a positive impact statistically on outcomes in basically every sort of violent encounter, so as a default, in a world where couples and families could be attacked, people should assume a necessity for bigger, more muscular men as romantic partners." Or how's this: "It's been known for generations that religious identification with the in-group eases working relationships and obviates friction over expressions of belief, so employers should as a default prefer employees share their religions."

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T04:29:52.285Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I said it was conceivable but unlikely. You disagree?

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T03:38:32.474Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you look at the history of law, philosophical arguments end up influencing legal arguments all the time.

I absolutely agree. It is conceivable that in the future, arguments could change the courts' regard for this doctrine. But it is unlikely. The law has been in place for fifty years, and the doctrine has seen a ton of challenges in court.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T03:35:21.002Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a somewhat fundamentalist view of the law, and I am guessing many federal judges at all levels, and regulatory bodies of technical experts, would add something to your definition. I agree with you that the statutory basis for these court rulings is very clear.

But it's also pretty clear that the doctrine of disparate impact, which is what he asked about, has been clarified and nuanced through litigation of those statutes. My point was that over many decades, the courts have not overturned this doctrine due to any philosophical objections of litigants.

Comment by metastable on Open thread, August 19-25, 2013 · 2013-08-21T03:17:32.364Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! Do consequentialist kind of port the first axiom (completeness) from the VN-M utility theorem, changing it from decision theory to meta-ethics?

And for others, to put my original question another way: before we start comparing utilons or utility functions, insofar as consequentialists begin with moral intuitions and reason the existence of utility, is one of their starting intuitions that all moral questions have correct answers? Or am I just making this up? And has anybody written about this?

To put that in one popular context: in the Trolley Switch and Fat Man problem, it seems like most people start with the assumption that there exists a right answer (or preferable, or best, whatever your terminology), and that it could never be the case that an agent will do the wrong/immoral/unethical thing no matter what he or she chooses. Am I right that this assumption exists?

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T02:58:25.119Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you asking rhetorically?

The American legal justification for the disparate impact doctrine, and for declaring race a protected category, is the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the legislative justification for that was a history of massive mistreatment of individuals based on skin color.

I gather from the thrust of arguments in this thread that you may be strongly opposed to government protection of racial minorities in the United States, and that you may not believe that racial bigotry is--or possibly even was--a problem that needed legal redress. It is worthwhile to note that the legal basis for these doctrines is well established and, through the wonders of litigation, much studied and highly nuanced. That does not speak to any philosophical objections you have but, frankly, no philosophical objections you make have any bearing on the legal justification.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T01:05:17.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. For "main debate" please read "pertinent legal question."

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T00:32:00.359Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure the courts have allowed that IQ-like tests are acceptable in many situations for many types of employment. It's not a hypothetical. I guess I'm saying the question of the "validity of the tests" is a red herring, even if it's an ideological hot potato. I think the main debate these days is not at all about the validity of the tests, it's a debate over business necessity versus disparate impact.

Comment by metastable on Open thread, August 19-25, 2013 · 2013-08-21T00:18:21.064Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do consequentialists generally hold as axiomatic that there must be a morally preferable choice (or conceivably multiple equally preferable choices) in a given situation? If so, could somebody point me to a deeper discussion of this axiom (it probably has a name, which I don't know.)

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T00:10:32.140Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the legal rationale for restricting the use of such tests in certain kinds of hiring is not that they're invalid. If you proved to the courts that they were "valid," meaning an accurate reflection of crystallized intelligence/abstract reasoning/g/whatever, this would not undermine the central legal argument against them, which is that they produce disparate impacts on protected classes.

Comment by metastable on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-20T20:34:07.492Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

But Naaman was wroth, and went away...And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

2 Kings 5: 11-13

Comment by metastable on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-20T17:41:28.621Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What's the goal of rationalism as a movement?

Comment by metastable on Open thread, August 19-25, 2013 · 2013-08-20T05:21:15.343Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to hear more about possibilities in China, if you've got more. Everything I've read lately suggests that they've extensively overbuilt their infrastructure, much of it with bad debt, in the rush to create urban jobs. And it seems like they're teetering on the edge of a land-development bubble, and that urbanization has already started slowing. But they do get rights-of-way trivially, as you say, and they're geographically a lot more like the US than Europe.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-20T00:00:44.139Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Most Native American cultures felt awesome about killing enemies in battle.

Weren't you just saying there's a lot of mythologizing of the NA past?

Did you know there are specific Navajo rituals designed to cleanse warriors returning from war before they re-enter the community, to prevent their violence from infecting the community? And that these rituals have counterparts in cultures around the world, and are of interest to modern trauma researchers?

It is helpful to separate desirable status as a successful warrior from desire for war. It is very common for very successful warriors to prefer peace, in tribal societies as in modern. That's not to say young guys don't want to make their bones and old guys don't see the need to take care of business: it's to say that only a totally deranged person kills without any barriers, and very few people are totally deranged.

It's interesting that you adduce the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in this context. I am very certain that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are capable of empathy for each other. This doesn't mean they wouldn't shell each other or commit atrocities. But you're arguing a hard line: that tribes attach "zero or negative" utility to each other's continued existence.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-19T11:50:56.780Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Like I said, I really am sure you can refute these! That is beside the point. I doubt very much you can show that your refutations are what people actually believe about the texts.

I am not arguing the text is true. I am not even arguing that a certain interpretation of the text is correct. I am pointing out that people believe certain interpretations of the text.

This is not like arguing with William Lane Craig about creationism. This is like trying to tell William Lane Craig that nobody believes in creationism.

We may have reached the point of diminishing returns. Arguments are soldiers. Mine need a vacation. Enjoy your day.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-19T11:39:23.690Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mmmm. Clicked the wrong reply button. Sorry....

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-19T02:53:51.953Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Which means that many doctrinal authorities are capable of making stuff up.

Friend, I'm assuming you believe all/most of religion is made up anyway, right? I mean, you might think some of it was made up sincerely and some was made up cynically. But you know with an extraordinarily high degree of certainty it's all made up. Right? So who cares who made it up. It's there. Some people take it seriously.

It doesn't threaten non-theism at all to concede that religions define their own interpretations and belief systems. This concession is actually the bread and butter of non-theism. Really the only person who gets to contest that is the theist with an alternate interpretation, because he can appeal to a higher authority.

Even though I said I didn't want to sling scripture, and I really don't: why don't you muzzle the ox that treadeth out the grain? Why were the fifth and sixth days of creation declared good? Why was man created on the same day as the beasts of the field? Why was man originally given plants to eat, not flesh? Why was man specifically forbidden to eat "the life" of the animal? Why did you have to rest beasts of burden on the Sabbath? Why couldn't you disturb mother birds on their eggs? Why did fallen beasts of burden have to be helped up? Why were the animals saved with Noah during the flood? Why doesn't God forget sparrows? Why does God feed the birds of the air? Why is it that animals only become carnivorous after the exit from Eden? What does it mean that the lion will lie down with the lamb and that a little child shall lead them? Why are humans constantly portrayed as animals in scriptural metaphor?

Now, I totally believe you have answers for all these questions that acknowledge the scriptural references but manage to discredit their supposed connection to any sort of authorial concern for animal welfare or the environment. The problem is, that's not enough. You have to show that your answers were the one that audiences have understood and adopted over centuries. That will be difficult. It certainly appears that St. Francis and St. Augustine and St. Aquinas and Cardinal Manning and Tolkien and John Paul II disagree with you, and I'm inclined to say that their readings carry more popular weight than yours.

But you're not following the implications of this.

Oh, no, I get it. Respect for nature != concern for the pain of creatures with nervous systems. Spiritual environmentalism is nothing like utilitarian environmentalism. I just don't care about that very much. I am much more interested in whether some secular environmentalists will eventually develop secular justifications for assigning "rights" or something very like that to aspects of the environment that lack nervous systems. Probably not worth chasing that rabbit, tho.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T23:15:33.243Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, though I've seen small-scale family farms ensure that their stock live pleasantly and are slaughtered humanely, and I myself have tried to make sure food animals I've killed died quickly and painlessly.

Mileage will vary. There are a lot of true horror stories about farming and ranching, and they're not all from industrial feedlots.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T22:43:23.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A minimal investment of time would convince anybody willing to be convinced that at the very least there are many doctrinal authorities on record in every large strain of western monotheism against cruelty to animals, and that these authorities adduce evidence from ancient holy texts to support their pronouncements. Feel free to disagree with Aquinas, eastern patriarchs, a large body of hadiths, and many rabbinical rulings about the faiths they represent. There is a hermeneutical constellation of belief systems that posits texts speaking for themselves without any interpretation and announces that meanings are clear to the newcomer, or outsider, or even the barely literate, in ways they were never clear to bodies of scholars who gave their lives to the study of the same texts. I'm not sure you want to be in that constellation. That is Constellation Fundamentalism, though to be fair to the actual fundamentalists, they don't seem to be amenable to animal bloodsports at all.

I grant zero weight to the well-being of clothes, but that doesn't mean I go around destroying my clothes

Clothes aren't a threat to ambush you, and aren't eating tapirs you could eat. I assume you would burn them if you feared ambush or starvation.

doesn't make something else worse that you do care about (such as risking death to your own tribesmen in war)

Total war doesn't mean you can't be tactical in your approach, obviously. Dissembling and biding time are smart.

What I mean about the tribes being in constant total war is that since, as was pointed out, they are in competition for resources with neighboring tribes, they would kill neighbors whenever they thought they could get away with it if they attached zero utility to these people's survival. And we see that's not the case, not at all. Hunter-gatherers trade, they intermarry, they feast together, they form friendships and alliances between tribes, they do a bunch of things that would be socially impossible if there were not any empathy at all. Sometimes they betray and murder. But by no means all the time. Napoleon Chagnon's accounts of the Yanomamo, where most of this stuff about violent stone-agers comes from recently, are quite clear that elders intervene to stop axe fights some times, and that the Yanomamo are mostly just terrified by the violence around them.

What we know from the psych side is that empathy appears to be basic in humans. Our researchers would have to be pretty consistently wrong about something very large if Stone Age people, just because they were Stone Age, were incapable of empathy with people outside their immediate kin group.

I wonder how many of the cultures who pray to the spirit of the animal also pray to the spirit of the plants, rocks, the sun, or other things that even vegetarians don't think have any rights.

Yeah, this is pretty interesting to me, too. I suspect, though, that a lot of people into deep ecology and Christian environmentalism and similar forms of environmentalism have...analogous?...attitudes toward the parts of nature that lack nervous systems. Not inside the rationalist/hedonic calculus/Peter Singer/utilitarian communities, probably, because there's so much emphasis on pleasure and pain there. But it wouldn't surprise me terribly if the "expanding circle of concern" eventually encompassed or re-encompassed things like trees and rivers.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T18:58:34.090Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's people who live in cities who join PETA.

The developed world is thoroughly urbanized. Des Moines is as far from animals as Manhattan. I think what you mean is that a certain politique ascendant on both coasts is much more likely to purchase animal rights as an expansion pack. Which is not to pre-judge the add-on, but to say it has very little to do with the size of your skyscrapers.

That said, I'm not disputing at all that modern agribusiness commodifies animals and that many of today's farmers and ranchers are pretty insulated from the things they eat.

There are many accounts of prayers to animals. One of the best-attested is of the Ainu prayers to the bears they worship (and kill.)

I'm not aware of any Western religion that says cruelty to animals is a sin

Well, that does exclude Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, which famously do have animal ethics. But even if we're just talking the western religions, then yeah, they do, too.

Without getting into a nasty debate involving proof-texting and what Atheists say the Bible says versus what Theists say the Bible says: if you go ask a few questions in the pertinent parts of Stack Exchange of Muslim, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Orthodox Jewish thinkers, I guarantee they will answer back that wanton cruelty to animals is wrong. And the same would be true if you started reading random imams, theologians, patriarchs, and pastors.

Individual interpretations, maybe

Unfortunately, there is no possible answer to this.

The Anglican Church was fine with bear-baiting. I don't think the Catholic Church complained about vivisection.

While the first and loudest opposition to cock-fighting and bear-baiting came from Puritans and Methodists, outside the Church of England's mainstream, these people were indisputably Anglicans at the beginning. And a voice of conscience from the margins of the culture is very common, and usually just means that the center of the culture has been captured by self-interest.

Catholics leaders were present at the beginning of the anti-vivisection movement.

it's certainly true that tribal cultures gave zero or negative weight to the well-being of competing tribes.

If this were true, tribes would be in constant total war, which is actually a foreign concept to most tribal societies. Read Napoleon Chagnon again. They kill out of self-interest, and out of revenge, but it's not constant and it's not something they feel awesome about.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T16:36:02.945Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I'm not cynical?

People have to eat. It's consistent to feel that animal life has value but to know that your tribe needs meat, and to prioritize the second over the first. The fact that you value an animal life doesn't mean you value it above all else. And the fact that humans wiped out the Giant Sloth/Mammoth/whatever only necessitates that we were really good hunters. It says nothing about our motivations.

Also, I think you would find it really hard to disentangle cuteness from empathy, if that's what you're trying to do.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T07:35:11.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

fit your utility function to your friends and decide what is best for them based on that, rather than letting them to their own alien utility functions and helping them to get what they really want rather than what you think they should want.

The definition of want here is ambiguous, and that makes this is a little hard to parse. How are you defining "want" with respect to "utility function"? Do you mean to make them equivalent?

If by "want" you mean desire in accord with their appropriately calibrated utility functions, then, well, sure. A friend is selfish by any common understanding if he doesn't care about his buddies' needs.

But it seems like you might be saying that he's a bad friend for not helping his friends get what they want regardless of what he thinks they need. While this is one view of friendship, it is not nearly as common, and I can make a strong case against it. Such a view would require that you help addicts continue to use, that you help self-destructive people harm themselves, that you never argue with a friend over a toxic relationship you can see, and that you never really try to convince a friend to try anything he or she doesn't think he or she will like.

I will lie about my intentions. I will not trust you. It doesn't matter if your heart's in the right place.

Sadly, this happens. If you're saying you think it should happen more, okay. But I would consider a friend pretty poor if he or she weren't willing to risk a little alienation because of genuine concern.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T04:30:45.309Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Most people in time and space have considered it strange to take the well-being of non-humans into account

I think this is wrong in an interesting way: it's an Industrial Age blind spot. Only people who've never hunted or herded and buy their meat wrapped in plastic have never thought about animal welfare. Many indigenous hunting cultures ask forgiveness when taking food animals. Countless cultures have taboos about killing certain animals. Many animal species' names translate to "people of the __." As far as I can tell, all major religions consider wanton cruelty to animals a sin, and have for thousands of years, though obviously, people dispute the definition of cruelty.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-18T04:23:58.853Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There are many indigenous cultures (with some hunters still around today) who ask forgiveness upon killing food animals. And history's full of bear cults, and animal species with names that translate into "people of the _," and taboos on harming various animals. I think the notion that humans have mostly only cared for the concerns of humans is the product of an industrial-age blind spot: only people who've never hunted or husbanded, and eat their meat from the slaughterhouse, have never thought about animal welfare.

Comment by metastable on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 26, chapter 97 · 2013-08-17T22:22:32.759Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

1) Same reason muskets trump trained knights and longbowmen. Even though heavy plate was actually effective against primitive firearms, and longbows worked more reliably and with excellent range, you could kit out a peasant with an arquebus for much less than the cost of mounting and armoring a knight, and a fraction of the training (you had to train for years to be able to fight effectively in mail or on horseback and drawing a longbow was an elite skill that required extreme muscle hypertrophy. It took a few hours to learn how to operate your firearm, and a few weeks to learn how to coordinate with other peasants.) Similarly, even if wizards were significantly more lethal and/or survivable than dudes with carbines, they'd be incredibly outnumbered.

2) In the Harry Potter World, combat magic is really weak. It's almost all short range and slow, often nonlethal, rarely provides area effects, and nobody really trains it. Automatic weapons have cyclic rates of hundreds or even thousands of rounds per minute, and trained operators can hit a target at half a mile or more. And that's just small arms. They wouldn't even need special anti-magic weapons, unless the wizards were extremely well organized.

Comment by metastable on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-17T19:59:35.923Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is it inconceivable that this could ever be the case?

Comment by metastable on Engaging Intellectual Elites at Less Wrong · 2013-08-17T07:10:23.321Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I meant cryonics. Thanks.

You realize best and better are subjective in this case, right? I mean, you could maybe make an argument about "higher-level" being objective, but you're never going to win that fight. People will just walk away, which is the higher-level response.

EDSBS and Power and Bulk focus on college football and powerlifting, respectively. TNC's Horde pulls in commentary on everything from the Thirty Years War to Egypt's current conflict. They all shade into occasional discussions of Poetry and the Human Condition. I'm not a contributing member at any of these sites, so I don't have a dog in this fight. But LW is not even the only site with extensive, didactic, deeply felt fanfiction. All forums developed past a certain point express their values through epic.

I read a tiny fraction of the internet, like most of us, so I'm sure there are myriad discussions out there I would enjoy even more.

There's no disputing taste, and higher-level sounds a lot like an expression of taste to me so, by all means, enjoy LW. This seems like a great place for people interested in the things LW is interested in. I would totally buy a claim that this is the best forum for rationalist transhumanists interested in AI. Just remember, whenever you think that everyone would acknowledge your place's awesomeness if only they knew about it, that, as is true for each person, The Place Where You Are From Sucks.

Comment by metastable on Open thread, August 12-18, 2013 · 2013-08-17T01:49:59.837Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, I do, and it's informed by religion, but I'll try to phrase it as LW-friendly as possible: to free somebody else of claims I have against them.

It's not an emotional state I enter or something self-centered (the "I refuse to ruminate about what you did to me" pop song thing), though sometimes it produces the same effects. The psychological benefits are secondary, even though they're very strong for me. I usually feel much more free and much more peaceful when I've forgiven someone, but forgiveness causes my state of mind, not vice versa. It's like exercise: you did it and it was good even if you didn't get your runner's high.

Other useful aspects, from the most blandly general perspective: it's allowed me to salvage relationships, and it's increased the well-being of people I've forgiven. I've been the beneficiary of forgiveness from others, and it's increased my subjective well-being enormously.

From a very specific, personal perspective: every time I experience or give forgiveness, it reminds me of divine forgiveness, and that reminder makes me happier.

Comment by metastable on Humans are utility monsters · 2013-08-17T01:04:17.026Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

As a lone question, it could be, but the point of his post is that even stipulating utilitarianism it does not follow that you or I should maximize the utils of Mr. Utility Monster.

Comment by metastable on Biases of Intuitive and Logical Thinkers · 2013-08-15T15:59:43.152Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm asking whether "gut judgments" are accurate, and how accurate they are.

I have very little experience with WoW, so it's interesting to hear how deliberate and reasoned a high-level raid is. I have a little experience with sports, combat, and combat sports.

It's pretty surprising that our brains handle abstractions as well as they do. It's not at all surprising that they can process and integrate sensory information as fast as they can, because that trait is crucial to survival for most animals.

When Kevin Durant fakes a pass and then shoots from 30 feet away, he's doing something he's done thousands of times before. It's a pattern. But he's adjusting that pattern for many things that weren't present in practice, and no two shots are exactly alike. His brain is calculating a trajectory much faster than any of us could with pencil and paper, and his cerebellum is "answering" hundreds of individual questions about muscle opposition that our roboticists might not be able to coordinate at all. He misses some shots, of course. But insofar as a made shot counts for accuracy or right judgment, he probably has better accuracy in much less than a second than anybody could achieve with reflection.