Comment by Moss_Piglet on On saving the world · 2014-02-05T14:37:22.846Z · LW · GW

And yet not traditional enough to see any problem with the UK's disastrous immigration policy. The BNP exists pretty much entirely because the "conservative" party is more concerned with not being called racists than with doing what the majority of their constituents have demanding for decades.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Polling Thread · 2014-01-25T02:04:44.995Z · LW · GW

"Genuinely desirable" seems like the problem here, in that it's conflating base sexual attraction with a more pragmatic evaluation of someone's prospects.

Beta males certainly have many admirable qualities; they're reliable productive and civil, usually friendly and loyal as well. But those qualities, while again being very important, are simply not attractive.

Alpha males, on the other hand, are really quite a menace. The Dark Triad traits which make them attractive also mean they are shiftless and poor contributors to society, at least for the most part.

Hence the pattern of "Alpha fucks, Beta bucks." Women want to get the Alpha but will, if forced to by circumstances, trade sex to Betas for resources / security.

In that context, female "Betas" would be the low-risk women men settle for reluctantly while "Alphas" would be high-risk women who are highly sought after.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Tell Culture · 2014-01-21T02:38:04.534Z · LW · GW

The problem here is that, as far as I can tell, a "Tell" culture would immediately become a "Lie Ineptly" culture.

Most of the time, in my experience anyway, when you don't want to help someone it's usually for a reason you couldn't say without nuking or at least damaging the relationship. Even worse, the level of detail / emotion in the "Tell" is much higher than the straightforward "Ask" which makes the usual evasions seem hollow and requires more elaborate excuses. And most people suck at spontaneous deception, since usually the only ones of us who get any practice tend to get weeded out of normal society pretty quickly as is.

"Telling" sounds great if your goal is to quickly burn up your social capital for favors, which can be a smart move if you're not planning on seeing someone again anyway. But you can't really build a useful relationship that way; blunt honesty and bad lies aren't going to get you trust / comfort and without that you're fighting uphill for every little thing.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Division of cognitive labour in accordance with researchers' ability · 2014-01-16T19:26:58.860Z · LW · GW

Something which strikes me is that scientists having science as a job at all is a somewhat new idea; unless I'm wrong, it used to be that a lot of the great naturalists were either independently wealthy aristocrats and pursued scientific inquiry as a hobby, or were monks and were supported by the other brothers of their orders. On the one hand, they worked at their own paces and on topics close to their own interests (hard to imagine Mendel getting grant money, especially with his publishing rate), but on the other there are a lot of very bright people who aren't born into much money or a particularly religious bent who ought to at least consider science.

Still, I think a smart person could sort of split the difference; an ascetic or fraternal order devoted to naturalism might have some appeal and solve a few of the basic problems. New initiates could be put to work reproducing experiments which otherwise would be ignored in the rush to publish unique papers, established scientists who aren't cut out for corporate life or constant grant haggling could relax and focus on their actual jobs, the scientific community would be able to self-regulate with less direct interference by outsiders, and governments or rich individuals who want to appear smart or socially-conscious could patronize the order directly without the intermediary weirdness of setting up organizations of their own to vet applicants. There are concerns with group-think and corruption, but then again it's not like those would be novel issues given what happens in peer-reviewed journals or university departments.

Is this a terrible idea, and if not how would you sell it?

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Division of cognitive labour in accordance with researchers' ability · 2014-01-16T18:42:38.392Z · LW · GW

You jest, but from what I understand that's not far off. He wasn't exactly a polygamist, but at the very least a serial philanderer.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Stupid Questions Thread - January 2014 · 2014-01-16T18:35:59.914Z · LW · GW

Any problems here?

That people are stupefyingly irrational about risks, especially in regards to medicine.

As an example; my paternal grandmother died of a treatable cancer less than a year before I was born, out of a fear of doctors which she had picked up from post-war propaganda about the T4 euthenasia program. Now this is a woman who was otherwise as healthy as they come, living in America decades after the fact, refusing to go in for treatment because she was worried some oncologist was going to declare a full-blooded German immigrant as genetically impure and kill her to improve the Aryan race.

Now granted that's a rather extreme case, and she wasn't exactly stable on a good day from what I hear, but the point is that whatever bits of crazy we have get amplified completely out of proportion when medicine comes into it. People already get scared out of seeking treatment over rumors of mythical death panels or autism-causing vaccine programs, so you can only imagine how nutty they would get over even a small risk of actual government-sanctioned murder in hospitals.

(Not to mention that there are quite a lot of people with a perfectly legitimate reason to believe those RNGs might "just happen" to come up in their cases if they went in for treatment; it's not like American bureaucrats have never abused their power to target political enemies before.)

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Thought Crimes · 2014-01-15T19:55:01.425Z · LW · GW

Imagine an agent with an (incorrect) belief that only by killing everyone, would the world be the best place possible, and a prior against anything realistically causing it to update away. This would have to be stopped somehow, because of what it thinks (and what that causes it to do).

That doesn't quite follow.

Thinking something does not make it so, and there are a vanishingly small number of people who could realistically act on a desire to kill everyone. The only time you have to be deeply concerned about someone with those beliefs is if they managed to end up in a position of power, and even that just means "stricter controls on who gets access to world-ending power" rather than searching for thoughtcriminals specifically.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Stupid Questions Thread - January 2014 · 2014-01-15T17:32:32.610Z · LW · GW

So if we assume a measure is invalid, it is useless to us (as an accurate measure anyway; you already pointed out a possible rhetorical use)?

If you'll forgive my saying it, that seems like more of a tautology about measurements in general than an argument about this specific case. If you have evidence that general intelligence as-measured-by-IQ is invalid, or even evidence that people unfamiliar with the field like Dr Atran or Gould take issue with 'reifying' it, that would be closer to what the original question was looking for.

I realize this comes off as a bit rude, but this particular non sequitur keeps coming up and is becoming a bit of a sore spot.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [Link] Changelings, Infanticide and Nortwest European Guilt Culture · 2014-01-15T17:20:38.942Z · LW · GW

Not to mention that we don't know for sure that there even is a significant population difference here. It could just as easily be one of the things which humans seem to be generally consistent on as a species.

The point I was making, albeit ineptly, is that good research on the topic would be interesting and any potential ideological fallout shouldn't deter people from it.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Thought Crimes · 2014-01-15T17:11:35.177Z · LW · GW

There's a very commonly accepted line of thought around here whereby any sufficiently good digital approximation of a human brain is that human, in a sort of metaphysical way anyhow, because it uses the same underlying algorithms which describe how that brain works in it's model of the brain.

(It doesn't make much sense to me, since it seems to conflate the mathematical model with the physical reality, but as it's usually expressed as an ethical principle it isn't really under any obligation to make sense.)

The important thing is that once you identify sufficiently good simulations as moral agents you end up twisting yourself into ethical knots about things like how powerful beings in the far future treat the NPCs in their equivalent to video games. For that, and other reasons I'm not going to get into here, it seems like a fairly maladaptive belief even if it were accurate.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Stupid Questions Thread - January 2014 · 2014-01-15T04:12:43.925Z · LW · GW

From the OP:

What are your best arguments against the reality/validity/usefulness of IQ?


appeals that would limit testing or research even if IQ's validity is established are not [welcome].

Emphasis mine.

We all know the standard "that's racist" argument already, newerspeak is clearly asking for a factual reason why measures of general intelligence are not real / invalid / not useful. Not to mention that the post did not make any claims about, or even mention, heredity of intelligence or race / gender differences in intelligence.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on AALWA: Ask any LessWronger anything · 2014-01-15T00:59:49.315Z · LW · GW

It's funny to me that you would say that, because the way I read it was mainly that slave morality is built on resentment whereas master morality was built on self-improvement. The impulse to flee suffering or to inflict it (even on oneself) is the the difference between the lamb and the eagle, and thus the common and the aristocratic virtues. I wouldn't have thought to separate the two ideas.

But again, one of the reasons why he ought to be read more; two people reading it come away with five different opinions on it.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on AALWA: Ask any LessWronger anything · 2014-01-15T00:04:08.089Z · LW · GW

Maybe you can give some common misconceptions about how people recover from / don't recover from their addictions? That's the sort of topic you tend to hear a lot of noise about which makes it tough to tell the good information from the bad.

Do you have any thoughts on wireheading?

Have you tried any 19th/20th century reactionary authors? Everyone should read Nietzsche anyway, and his work is really interesting if a little dense. His conception of Master/slave morality and nihilism is a much more coherent explanation for how history has turned out than the Cathedral, not to mention that the superman (I always translate it as posthuman in my head) as beyond good and evil is interesting from a transhumanist perspective.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Dangers of steelmanning / principle of charity · 2014-01-14T22:08:01.875Z · LW · GW

The comparison doesn't have a great connotation, given that "fundamentalist" is typically an epithet, but it's not too far off in terms of the denotation.

Personally though, I would say it's more of an Exoteric / Esoteric split; conservatives seem to spend most of their effort preserving outward forms and rituals of their cultures in an effort to keep the fire going, where reactionaries see it as burnt out already and so look back for the essential (in both senses of the word) elements to spark a new one. A good example is comparing Chesterton's Catholic apology with Evola's promotion of Tradition, not to imply that you can't be a Catholic reactionary but just as an example of a differing mindset. Of course, esoterica being what it is, it's a bit tough to get a grip on and much easier to talk about than to understand fully.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Dangers of steelmanning / principle of charity · 2014-01-14T19:34:26.037Z · LW · GW

(Is there a notable difference between the politics held by someone described as "Reactionary" and someone described as "far-right"? I can't figure this out. "Reactionary" seems to me like basically meaning "far-right, but smart".)

"Far Right" implicitly invokes the Overton Window; most anything you can''t comfortably say in public anymore is Far Right, even if it is actually thought by the majority of people or was itself a leftist position a few decades ago. Saying something is Far Right or Far Left from an assumed neutral position can be useful to elucidate the boundaries of conventional thought, or to exploit anchoring in an unsophisticated audience, but provides little information on it's own.

In general, Reactionaries want to reboot society[1] to before some big event which symbolizes the beginning of visible civilizational decline (Like May 1968, Reconstruction, the French Revolution, the English Civil War, the Protestant Reformation, the Edict of Milan, etc.), whereas Conservatives try to keep the status quo from deteriorating further with constant patches. That said, today's conservatism becomes tomorrow's reaction as the traditions they failed to conserve are destroyed fully in the next Great Leap Forward.

I realize that's general to the point of vagueness but it's tough to hit a moving target in the first place even when you know what you're aiming at. Golden Dawn and the Tea Party are both "far right," and neither are particularly reactionary IMO, but they're also fairly dissimilar so comments about one don't apply much to the other.

[1]One big stumbling-block to understanding this is the wrongheaded idea that technological advance and moral "progress" are inseparable, seeing the return of (for example) an ancien-regime style aristocracy as somehow necessitating turning off the internet or throwing away antibiotics. Culture and technology are certainly linked, so you should expect large shifts in one to affect the other, but human nature itself changes fairly slowly and it is very suspicious to see alterations to social organization racing ahead of the demographic changes which naturally guide them.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on AALWA: Ask any LessWronger anything · 2014-01-12T15:47:53.996Z · LW · GW

Is this a fist-fight or can blacktrance use weapons?

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-08T20:56:58.631Z · LW · GW

You are absolutely correct on the facts, and in a saner world I could leave it at that, but you seem to have missed an unspoken part of the argument;

The common factor isn't genetics per se but rather an appeal to inherent nature. Whether that nature is the genetic legacy of selection for vastly different ancestral environments or due to the epigenetics of sexual dimorphism is very important in a scientific sense but not in the metaphysical sense of presenting a challenge to the ideals of "equality" or the "psychic unity of mankind."

When Dr Shalizi writes the rhetorical question "why it is so important to you that IQ be heritable and unchangeable?" in the context of "'human equality' and 'genetic identity'" his tone is not that of scientific skepticism of an unproven claim but rather an apologetic defense of an embattled creed. Really, why is it so important to you what the truth is? After all, we don't have any evidence to suggest that the doctrines are wrong, so why not just repeat the cant like everyone else? Who else but a heretic would feel need to ask uncomfortable questions?

For the most part, scientists writing against the hereditarian position don't bother debating the facts anymore; now that actual genetic evidence is starting to come out they know it'll just make them look foolish in a few years, and the psychometric evidence has survived four decades of concentrated attack already. It's all about implications and responsibility now, or in other words that the lie is too big to fail. It's hardly important to them if the truth at hand is a genetic or an hormonal inequality, they just want it to go away.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-08T00:31:10.914Z · LW · GW

You seem to ascribe a fair amount of bad faith to me and I'm not sure why. Maybe because this line of argument pattern-matches to MRA thought?

Anyway I didn't "abandon" the jobs point so much as point out that men are universally, even ignoring job choice, more likely to get into and be hurt in accidents. Accidental death and injury being far far more common than homicide and assault, that alone blows the "physical danger" argument out of the water. Not quite as dramatic as an industrial accident or a robbery-gone-wrong sure, but then again shark attacks are more dramatic than dying of heart disease.

And with regards to crime, your statistics do not say what you think they say. The national gang center says half of law enforcement agencies reported an increase in gang crime, not that ~50% of violent crimes were committed by gang members. Looking at the FBI unified crime reports, I can only find clear breakdowns of victims / circumstances in homicide, but it looks like even subtracting the entire number of gang-related deaths from the male death total still leaves them with more than three times the number of homicide victims that women have (9,917 male victims - 884 gang/institutional murder victims / 2,834 female victims = 3.19). And remember, the homicide rate today has been masked by medical advances for decades; male victimization rates are actually much higher than crime statistics indicate, and again most of these guys are 'civilians' rather than career criminals.

The whole point of my original post was this; it doesn't matter if you look at crime victimization or workplace injury or accidents or all of them or something else entirely, because by any and all reasonable measures a man is in more "physical danger" in his everyday life than a woman is (yes, even the mythical Average Man/Woman). There are a handful of crimes which women are at special risk from and need to be cautious of, but men will disproportionately die or be injured in pretty much any other way you could imagine.

(BTW, I'm not the one downvoting you. One of those times when an anonymous karma system is more of a pain than a positive.)

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-07T22:34:59.040Z · LW · GW

There's a very big difference between men being part of violent crime and dangerous jobs and needing to worry for your physical safety as you walk down the street.

No, no there isn't.

Most crimes, including most violent crimes, are not rape. Aside from rape, men are much more likely to be the victim of a crime, especially a violent crime. So if you're talking about how much someone should be worried about being the victim of a violent crime... how exactly is maleness supposed to protect someone when it predicts a much higher likelihood of being targeted by criminals?

And even beyond that, even mundane stuff like being hit by a car while on the shoulder of the road is more than twice as likely to kill a man as a woman. With no malice at all, a man is still in significantly more danger of dying or being injured just going about his everyday life, whether driving to work or walking down a flight of stairs. Again, no "dangerous job" needed; men are in greater physical danger even in commonplace situations.

Women have every reason to fear for their safety, and rape is a very serious problem, but it boggles the mind to see attitudes that men couldn't possibly understand how dangerous it is to be a woman when those very same men are the ones much much more likely to be hurt or killed "whenever he leaves the house".

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-07T20:37:01.750Z · LW · GW

a male [...] does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

With the exception of rape, which tends to be a special case in most senses, men are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of every other type of violent crime including homicide. In addition, men make up 92% of workplace deaths (and presumably a correspondingly high proportion of the injuries) and are also significantly more likely to die in an accident off the job (again, presumably a similar distribution of injuries).

The idea that men are somehow protected from physical danger by "male privilege" is simply a preposterous notion.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-06T18:10:37.174Z · LW · GW

Actually, that was pretty good; pithy and introduces actual object-level issues to debate rather than abstract ideological concerns.

Please take this into account when deciding whether to have children.

This is pretty important actually; you see a lot of EA talk around here which basically assumes children are fungible ("If I don't have any kids, but spend the money to save n African kids then I'm in the clear!") without taking into account that those n kids will likely need > 2n kids-worth of aid themselves in a few decades and you've squandered the human capital which would otherwise be able to support them.

If effective altruists can justify having a well paying full-time job for charity, why not raising morally-upright intelligent kids to be successful as well? It's a lot tougher to do emotionally and financially, but comparing one-time payouts to investments with reliable returns seems like a no-brainer.

Fellow HBDers! It is your moral duty to take up the white man's burden and donate to GiveWell today. If giving money directly to poor people in Kenya doesn't seem paternalistic enough then go for the deworming options.

You'd probably do better with a hook about condom distribution / vaccination; they're still very cheap ways to save a lot of lives, but also avoid compounding the population issues there by slightly reducing overall fertility. It doesn't make sense to "help" in a way which creates even more people in need of help further down the line unless you're actively aiming to enforce dependency.

Direct monetary handouts are a bad idea even ignoring time preference issues, simply because even relatively well-governed African countries like Kenya are institutionally corrupt to a degree it is difficult to picture without going there. A friend of mine just got back from an anthropological study in East Africa and it's really hard to believe. Giving aid in GM seed grains (thinking more Borlaug than Monsanto here) mosquito nets or condoms makes a lot more sense than sending cash electronics or herd animals (yup, an actual thing).

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist · 2014-01-06T17:41:12.068Z · LW · GW

If you want to increase your fish-size, articles / comment threads which generate lots of upvotes are a good way to do it. And since your fish-size is small already there's not much to lose if people don't like it.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on [Link] Changelings, Infanticide and Nortwest European Guilt Culture · 2014-01-03T17:35:12.928Z · LW · GW

The idea here is interesting, but I wonder if anyone has tried to actually put it to the test. Not out of any personal desire to replace reasoned argument with statistics, mind, but simply because it's pretty clear now that anything short of repeatedly replicated psychometric data will be dismissed without consideration if it disagrees with the doctrine of HNU.

Apparently there are such things as a Guilt Inventory, so assuming it's actually as reliable as it's supposed to be it seems to reason that one could take Guilt Inventories of various populations and see what shakes out.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on January 2014 Media Thread · 2014-01-03T16:57:08.703Z · LW · GW

Which one?

That it's a classic that everyone need to see and revolutionized the Super Robot genre, that it's unspeakably bizarre and will make you want to slap the annoying protagonist silly, or both, or some third reputation?

(I haven't actually seen it, but you can't swing a cat in some areas without hitting a bunch of people talking about it so there's been some osmosis.)

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open thread for December 17-23, 2013 · 2013-12-31T00:59:50.408Z · LW · GW

You and Eugine seem to be talking past one another;

He's saying that society tends to see it as (at worst) a bit of a faux pas for a gay man to try to get a straight to switch teams whereas a gay converter is one step off from an SS officer in terms of the hatred they get.

You, on the other hand, seem to be talking about how annoyed straight guys get when being harassed by gays trying to convert them, and presumably vice versa. That people get pissed off, with good reason, when people try to dictate terms to them on whom they desire.

Oddly enough, both of you are right. It is much more acceptable for gay men to be "straight chasers" and try to get straight guys to "come out" than it is for Christians to be "deconverters" and try to get gay guys to "find Jesus," at least everywhere I've lived (admittedly, my favorite cities tend to be pretty deep blue). People confronted with this kind of obnoxious behavior don't appreciate it in either case, but the straight guy has to be a lot more careful not to say anything "offensive" to the guy grabbing him (God forbid throwing a punch) than the gay guy who can tell the pastor to go to hell and walk off with the full force of the law / media behind him.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-28T01:23:25.010Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure if you've considered any of the various High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT / HIIE) type programs like Tabata which have been floating around, but they were a huge help for me in the last year or so. Essentially the idea is that you do short bursts of highly intense exercise separated by short rests, usually using a timer app, giving you a fairly compact (4-20 mins is typical) workout which is paradoxically very good at building muscular endurance.

In terms of credibility, it's pretty solid seeming; the Tabata program was developed by the eponymous scientist Izumi Tabata in the late nineties and looks to have accumulated a fair amount of confirming evidence (and avoided disconfirmation) as it and HIIT in general have become more popular and thoroughly researched since then. I'm not comfortable saying it's a sure thing, since I haven't really read much of the literature in detail and it's not really my field, but as I said before it seems solid from what I have read.

Usually people do this with traditionally aerobic exercises like running or cycling and tend to use treadmills and stationary bikes, although since the advantage is really just about the timing you can adapt it to use pretty much any exercise and don't need any equipment outside of a free app; I personally do body weight Squats/Push-Ups/Sit-Ups/Dips according to Tabata timing (20s on, 10s off, 8x sets per exercise), and it requires ~20mins my free smartphone app and a chair for the dips. Originally, I didn't even need the chair because I did jumping jacks in place of dips, but that leads into my next paragraph...

There is a real risk of injury doing any HIIT workout. The high intensity, especially with jumping/running type exercises, can be really tough on your joints so if you, say, have had undiagnosed tendinitis / bursitis for years it's generally a poor idea to do four minutes of high-intensity jumping jacks every day for six months. I got off fairly easy and am still doing a modified more-joint-friendly routine, but the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn't do it more than about 4x a week and watch out for any joint pain. Also don't think you have to jump in 100% right away; something like the 8-week plan at the bottom of this silly article can help you ease into it rather than leaping in blindly like I did.

I hope that helped, and either way good luck on your exercise routine.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Review of Scott Adams’ “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” · 2013-12-25T01:05:45.002Z · LW · GW

Likewise, a lot of that looks like nitpicking. Even if there's disagreement about when a problem should be said to be "fixed", a prerequisite for a problem being "fixed" is that it's not getting worse.

The thing is, that's sort of the problem; a lot of these disasters it's not clear what the parameters we're counting even are or even whose response we're looking at. I'm not trying to nitpick (I cut a lot out of my first comment's examples for that reason), I honestly don't know how we're supposed to slice most of these. And that seems rather important if we're going to judge whether issues are fixed in a timely manner.

Like, for example, "the Mongols"; the Mamluks did a really excellent job of putting together a defense once it was clear that Cairo would be next in line after Baghdad, the Song sat there and watched for decades as Genghis put his horde together before bothering to defend themselves, and the Mongols themselves did nothing to prevent their own wonky system of succession from predictably breaking their empire apart in between. That's three different Mongol disasters with three different responses by three different groups, each with different outcomes, and I have no idea which one we're even talking about (or if we're talking about a fourth one entirely).

The ones you pointed out from my previous comment, (European) slavery in Africa and smoking, have similar issues; what exactly is the disaster, how long is too long for a solution, and who is responsible for stopping it?

The Quakers decided slavery was immoral in 1783, founded the 'Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade' in 1787, and twenty years later had killed the slave trade in the British Empire (with the rest of the Europe's slave trade crumbling soon after). It's tough to see how they could have been more prompt once they had invented the modern concept of abolitionism, and it's pretty odd to call out earlier Christians for not responding to something only an abolitionist would even call a disaster in the first place. Sure we're all abolitionists now, but that's largely an accident of history; the idea is fairly non-obvious on it's own, especially from a consequentialist point of view.

With smoking, the death rates are increasing but primarily in the developing world where cigarette smoking is still pretty new. In the US, our regulatory incentives and education have done a good job reducing the death toll and nowadays people generally know the risks when they pick up a pack (as do their insurance companies) all in just a few decades; domestically, it looks like the main disaster now is that the people who do choose to risk their health are increasingly able to externalize the cost of that decision through the government. My guess is that those developing countries with functioning governments will probably follow our example and we'll see falling rates globally pretty soon as well, but even so it's not far-fetched to say the disaster here is dealt with and theirs are separate (albeit similar) crises.

If we're going to say people haven't responded to a disaster quickly enough, actually defining said disaster the timescale and who the responders are is fairly crucial. Slicing out big chunks of time and space where things we don't like are happening is easy, but for the purposes of understanding how people tend to respond to crises it makes more sense to try to cut as closely to the issue as possible.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Review of Scott Adams’ “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” · 2013-12-24T15:30:30.758Z · LW · GW

Well hold on a second; what does "didn't get fixed in time" even mean for most of these examples?

Was Hitler not "fixed in time" because he killed as many people as he did, or did he "get fixed" before he could kill the much larger number of people he would have preferred to kill in Eastern Europe? Was the (European; presumably we're ignoring the Arab slave trade) Slave Trade in Africa stopped "in time" for guys like the Mende tribesmen freed in the Amistad case, or not "in time" from the perspective of those already enslaved? Does it count as a "fix" if everyone smoking tobacco now knows the health risks or will it not count as fixed unless it is completely eliminated, and again when is the cutoff for being in time?

A lot of this looks like complaining that these things happened at all rather than whether the responses to them were reasonably prompt and effective.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-12-03T16:42:13.387Z · LW · GW

Market socialism was tried pretty extensively in Eastern Europe during the cold war; Joseph Stiglitz wrote a pretty thorough examination of it in his book 'Whither Socialism.'

The information problem which kills explicit central planning is still extant in market socialism because it is based on reductionist economic models which do not capture the full complexity of market behavior. In other words, neglecting easy-to-miss microeconomic issues (like information asymmetry in purchasing, to use the example he focuses on most) means creating systemic dysfunction on the macro scale. Economic models can be useful abstractions when it comes to predicting trends in real markets, but they are not what they symbolize and building a "market" around their assumptions leads to collapse.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-28T16:34:22.944Z · LW · GW

You'd be surprised how quickly even normally very rational people go to the "but... Versailles! Droit du seigneur!" emotive argument when someone suggests that there can be socioeconomic benefits to a high level of inequality.

The same scope insensitivity which makes people care more about a single sick puppy than millions of starving people makes it very difficult to see that the highly-visible opulence of the elite costs much less than the largely invisible 'welfare' superstructure which provides our underclass their bread and circuses. Not to mention that one produces value for society while the other annihilates it.

If a rationalist knows anything it should be how easy it is to forget to multiply or use inappropriately anchoring null hypotheses, especially when ideological sacred cows are involved.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-28T01:03:37.539Z · LW · GW

I understand the desire to make sure people aren't suffering, but can't we think about the suffering of future generations as well?

Paying for people to do nothing incentives doing nothing; fewer people will participate the more comfortable laying around gets compared to actual work. Worse, removing the natural selective pressures against low-IQ / high time-preference people means they will reproduce and leave the next generation with even more unproductive people for every productive person remaining to have to support. With IQ now negatively correlated with fertility, that's a recipe for genetic disaster and societal collapse.

Buying the happiness of our generation's underclass at the expense of who knows how many of their descendants when the system finally collapses under it's own weight is the opposite of compassion; it's just pushing the suffering far enough into the future that you hope you can't see it anymore. If we really cared about making people comfortable, why shouldn't we look for a solution where we promote the traits which lead people to build their own happiness in the long run?

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open Thread, November 23-30, 2013 · 2013-11-27T23:06:23.927Z · LW · GW

Actually, it turned out the problem was on my end. Sorry for the fuss.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on The Craft And The Community: The Basics: Apologizing · 2013-11-27T20:45:14.918Z · LW · GW

It looks like there are roughly one million legal immigrants a year plus another eight million visa seekers, just looking at the US numbers. A professionally administered IQ test can go for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars; it's hard to find a good number, but I've seen everything from $300 on the low end to $4000 on the high end. So it's not hyperbole to say that this is easily a multi-billion dollar a year commitment, just on the basis of the testing alone without thinking about administrative costs or government waste.

Now you're right to say that any individual tested would be worth more than that; either avoiding a burden or gaining a productive worker would more than make up the difference. But it seems that in most cases you could get the same decision with a resume and a color swatch; the value of the whole program dpeends on the corner cases where casual observation and psychometric tests disagree, and the shape of the normal curve implies that this region is a fairly small one to carry such a large price tag.

In other words, why not use the data we have rather than going through an expensive data collection process if that data is unlikely to change our decisions to a degree which would justify the costs?

Comment by Moss_Piglet on The Craft And The Community: The Basics: Apologizing · 2013-11-27T20:13:45.202Z · LW · GW

Please ignore my many typos; my computer is riddled with viruses and my smartphone appears to be possessed by some sort of evil text-eating demon.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on The Craft And The Community: The Basics: Apologizing · 2013-11-27T20:11:20.234Z · LW · GW

As my stats professor used to say "data costs money."

For every IQ test you need to pay a psychologist trained in using that test to administer and score it. And since this is supposed to be scaled up for millions of people that means paying full-time trainers, scoring committees, not to mention buying large amounts of testing materials from whichever company winds up winning the bidding process.

Race is a weak measure but it also happens to be a very cheap one. Setting quotas based on race and providing exceptions by educational/professional merit would let in most of the high-IQ workers we want while preventing dysgenic and culturally destabilizing mass immigration.

(This ignores, of course, the massive numbers of illegal immigrants who would still be free to come in at will and stay as long as they care to. That is a serious issue as well, and one unlikely to be resolved by psychometric testing.)

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open Thread, November 23-30, 2013 · 2013-11-27T16:12:53.927Z · LW · GW

What the hell is going on with all the ads here? I've got keywords highlighted in green that pop up ads when you mouse over them, stuff in the top and sidebars of the screen, popups when loading new pages... all of this since yesterday.

Normally I would think this sort of thing meant I had a virus (and I am scanning for one with everything I have) but other people have been complaining about stuff like this as well over the last few days.

I would be glad to donate if the site needs more money to stay up, but this is absolutely unacceptable.

[Edit: Never mind, it really was a virus.]

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open Thread, November 23-30, 2013 · 2013-11-26T14:54:42.272Z · LW · GW

One obvious problem with that system; what happens with habitually bad posters?

Let's say I write something so insipid and worthless that it's worth every downvote on the site... and then a better-quality poster writes an excellent point-by-point take-down of it and gets tons of upvotes for it. Should I then benefit from "generating" such a high quality rebuttal, or is that just going to weaken the already weak incentive structure the karma system is supposed to be creating?

I can think of a good case just in the last few days of a poor-quality poster who would seriously benefit from this system, and as a long time poster here you can probably think of more.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-25T21:16:03.697Z · LW · GW

Surely you can't actually believe that.

Very astute of you to notice that.

No, I'd go so far as to say that out of the six non-capitalist systems I mentioned only four were unarguably guilty of democide (the case against the mercantile powers relies on a stubborn refusal to understand how epidemiology works) and one of them is wholly innocent of murder on anything greater than the scale of a village.

The case for hunting and gathering just gets better and better.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-25T19:54:18.798Z · LW · GW

Well, "outside" of capitalism was pretty thoroughly explored in the 20th century and while they produced some really splendid music the 200 million dead by the hands of their own governments was admittedly a bit of a bummer. But maybe "before" has a better answer?

Well, capitalism's immediate predecessor, mercantilism, was a pretty sweet setup all told (although I doubt it would seem particularly appetizing to you). Divine right of Kings and the virtues of a natural aristocracy is admittedly a tough sell, but the results were pretty phenomenal; each of the great golden ages of the European empires, one after another, for centuries. But still, going a bit further back couldn't hurt.

Well now we're in pre-Renaissance times, pretty good for our third bullet point, but the results aren't so encouraging. Manorialism was a pretty inefficient system even in it's own time; it's probably for the best that the serfs were emancipated and all those usury laws got repealed, that would really put a damper on a post-industrial society. Still you can't argue that all those Castles and Gothic Cathedrals weren't a blast, and you could still find some un-enclosed Commons to farm if you wanted them. Put that one in the "maybe" column then.

Before that we're into the Classical era and they didn't even have a proper economic system, not to mention the way slavery choked off incentives for developing labor-saving technology. And the way masters choked off the slaves, er, literally... maybe best to just slide past that one too.

Maybe go all the way back to the Bronze Age; they must have had to have had something really interesting if they were cool enough to convince aliens to help build all those monuments. Well there was a lot of collective farming, that sounds right up your alley, although the whole Pharaoh thing seems like a bit of a drag. At least you get lots of nice pyramids and ziggurats, that's pretty bad-ass.

Well what about if we go Full Environmentalist; leave the neolithic behind and embrace the hunter gatherer! There's certainly something to be said about it nutritionally, that's to be sure, and there does seem to be a bit of truth to the idea that it builds a man's heroic character. Still, that doesn't seem likely to scale well for 10 billion people and there's that whole "no internet or penicillin" thing to consider too. I'm still a bit attached to looking at cat pictures and not dying of diarrhea, makes it hard to get into the back-to-the-earth spirit.

So I guess you were right; a little look at history really does put "the iniquities of capitalism" into perspective. Thanks!

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Links: so-called "knockout game" a "myth and a "bogus trend." · 2013-11-25T17:02:49.412Z · LW · GW

It's worse than not good; if you read the news about this, it looks like the whole thing got kicked off by UnitedHealth complaining about 23andMe's affordability to the FDA. Who, being the dutiful little stooges they are, immediately went and started making unreasonable demands to 23andMe leading up to today's nonsense.

My guess on the reasoning; since insurers aren't legally permitted to use DNA tests to determine rates or eligibility, letting consumers figure out their own disease risk cheaply would give us an advantage in selecting plans and thus drive down their bottom line. That's just speculation, but it seems to fit pretty well.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-25T16:42:15.858Z · LW · GW

I have to concur with Ms Lebovitz here; what do you mean living off the commons?

Talking about enclosure strongly implies farming/herding on public land, but that seems like an unlikely argument for you to make. What common goods have been privatized by Walmart in this situation, and how were people living off of them before?

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-25T16:19:33.167Z · LW · GW

I have no problem tabooing "living wage" in our discussion, but it is important to remember that the word has an actual definition in policy terms; if we talk about paying Walmart / Sam's Club employees a living wage that actually means one very specific thing in terms of how much money they are going to get, and it's not a particularly intuitive amount at that.

But that's a debate for the talking heads; if I understand you correctly, we just want to know if someone working at Walmart would starve without public assistance.

Let's assume for the moment that the Federal Poverty Line is the number we're trying to avoid here; above that you're still in a shitty position but you are not actually starving (technically you're probably not starving below it either, but I can't find good Cost of Basic Needs data for the first world). An average Walmart employee makes about $17,600 a year plus minimal benefits for 35 hours of work a week, which is piddling but also enough to support yourself and one other person by federal standards ($15,510 a year). With another 15 hours a week of work in a second job at the federal minimum wage (remember, most states have a higher minimum) a Walmart employee can support a family of four ($23,550 a year). This is also assuming only one person in the family of four is working, which is a bit of a spherical chicken these days.

So without any public assistance at all a single person with Walmart as their primary job can definitely support themselves and another person at a level above the Federal Poverty Line, and can support a family of four at that level with an additional part time minimum wage job. It would be an uncomfortable paycheck-to-paycheck kind of existence, but all of their basic survival needs would be met out of their own income.

Now don't misunderstand me; I'm not saying that Walmart is morally in the right here, or that their employees shouldn't have a more comfortable and secure way of life. On the contrary, I think it's disgraceful the way real wages have fallen in the last half-century and how many good blue-collar jobs have been destroyed by our ludicrous trade policies. But the question of whether Walmart employees would be starving without EBT is an empirical claim and one which is easily disproved.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2013-11-25T11:42:53.642Z · LW · GW

What constitutes a "living wage" has literally nothing to do with how much money it takes to meet your survival needs; it is an amount of money which is supposed to support your family at a "normal standard of living" in your area. The actual cost to survive is naturally quite a bit lower than that, and can be calculated with things like the 'Food Energy Intake' or 'Cost of Basic Needs' methods of establishing poverty lines.

Adding to this confusion is the fact that the Federal Poverty Line seems to be what most people use as their yardstick, despite it being an abstraction over the entire US with no allowance for regional cost-of-living differences and appears to be a relative measure of poverty based on mean income rather than an absolute measure based on the cost of survival needs.

[Edit] Surprisingly, the Federal Poverty Line does actually seem to be an absolute measure, although I still can't find exactly what goods are supposed to go into calculating it and there is still no allowance for regional price differences.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality · 2013-11-24T20:42:33.314Z · LW · GW

You seem to be saying that your choice is already made up from your prior mind-state, and there is no decision to be made after Omega presents you with the situation.

Not exactly; just because Omega knows what you will do beforehand with 1-epsilon certainty doesn't mean you don't have a choice, just that you will do what you'll choose to do.

You still make your decision, and just like every other decision you've ever made in your life it would be based on your goals values intuitions biases emotions and memories. The only difference is that someone else has already taken all of those things into account and made a projection beforehand. The decision is still real, and you're still the one who makes it, it's just that Omega has a faster clock rate and could figure out what that decision would likely be beforehand using the same initial conditions and laws of physics.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality · 2013-11-24T15:28:54.224Z · LW · GW

You seem to be confusing the effect with the cause; whether you will choose to one-box or two-box depends on your prior state of mind (personality/knowledge of various decision theories/mood/etc), and it is that prior state of mind which also determines where Omega leaves its money.

The choice doesn't "influence the past" at all; rather, your brain influences both your and Omega's future choices.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on How to choose a country/city? · 2013-11-21T19:59:08.758Z · LW · GW

I will not live and pay taxes in a country that has a monarchy or death penalty.

This is a rather interesting statement, so I hope you don't mind if I ask some questions for clarification;

I'm assuming that the no-monarchies position is ideological, based on it's proximity to your death penalty objection, but it's not entirely clear what the specific objection is. Could you answer which of these types of country you would / would not live in, assuming for the moment none of them had the death penalty?

  1. A representative democracy with a nominal ruler who in practice has little power, like the Commonwealth nations or Japan.
  2. A constitutional monarchy where there is representative democracy but the ruler does exercise political power, like Thailand or Liechtenstein.
  3. An absolute / near absolute monarchy with no significant democratic representation, like Dubai or Saudi Arabia.
  4. A de-facto non-hereditary dictatorship (i.e. 'President for Life') with limited democratic representation, like Venezuela or Russia.

I'm also curious about how strong those preferences are. For each of the above categories you listed as not being willing to live in, about how much money would you pay to avoid having to live in a country like that?

(I'm not debating for or against monarchy right now; personally I'm a monarchist, but I'm also a bit sick of debate. This is about curiosity rather than rhetoric.)

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Self-serving meta: Whoever keeps block-downvoting me, is there some way to negotiate peace? · 2013-11-20T00:06:52.000Z · LW · GW

It's interesting how this is developing;

  1. Eugene gets accused of block downvoting, based on the incontrovertible evidence of multiple posters not being terribly fond of him.
  2. You judge that he is not only guilty of block downvoting, but specifically targeting feminists because of his reactionary politics.
  3. shminux has been block downvoted, and once made a reply to a comment espousing a neoreactionary view of gender.
  4. Therefore, as the author of said comment, the implication is that I must have waited for "a few days" and then systematically downvoted all (or just most?) of shminux's comments. Because the comment did something to "aggregate" (aggravate?) me or maybe just out of solidarity with other reactionaries (because I guess that's what we do now?).

Now I did downvote that specific comment, because it was entirely content-free, but as a rule I try not to downvote people responding to me. And the idea of using mass downvoting to harass people I dislike is the kind of passive-aggressive thought policing nonsense which made me stop being a progressive in the first place (seriously, using anonymous voting to shut someone up by making them seem unpopular... how is that supposed to be right wing?).

As far as I'm concerned, the admins are free to look at my karma logs as much as they want, and I've supported anti-karma-assassin software for a while. But politically motivated mud-slinging and invocation of the mods to remove people you disagree with is absolutely beyond the pale. We are supposed to be better than that here.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on Open Thread, November 15-22, 2013 · 2013-11-19T22:46:38.900Z · LW · GW

High-status people feel like they deserve more, so it would be probably natural for them to extract as much value as possible, while "the bare minimum is good enough for me" would be a natural attitude of a low-status person.

I question that analysis.

High status can certainly create a sense of entitlement in some people, like how rich people generally leave awful tips, but at the same time you can see a sort of noblesse oblige in others which leads to huge charitable donations and voluntarily forgoing chances to improve their position (like sending their kids to public schools). Low status people generally have a lot less to lose and thus tend to be a lot more pragmatic in my experience.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on A Voting Puzzle, Some Political Science, and a Nerd Failure Mode · 2013-11-18T17:39:23.432Z · LW · GW

Yeah, the thing that really bugs me about that whole conflict was how careless everyone involved was. It really shouldn't have had to happen in the first place, and if the two sides had bothered to take other people's motives into account I suspect it wouldn't have. You shouldn't have to be told not to block off Churches and roads with barbed wire, or not to graze and water your cattle on another cattleman's land in a drought without asking the landowner permission.

That's part of why Chesterton's Fence seems like a valuable mental exercise to me, because it encourages thinking about why other people might be doing what they're doing before jumping in to change them.

Comment by Moss_Piglet on A Voting Puzzle, Some Political Science, and a Nerd Failure Mode · 2013-11-18T15:41:31.104Z · LW · GW

The thing is, that's just kicking the can down the road; why did the powerful person want it there badly enough to build it? While people do occasionally go mad with power, the groups which keep power in the long run are usually those who know how to preserve and increase it so there is some logic behind their actions.

A good example, involving actual fences no less, might be the Fence Cutting Wars in the late-nineteenth century Southwestern US. Landed ranchers put up barbed wire fences which often blocked off roads, prevented landless cowboys from easily grazing their cattle, and sometimes hemmed in public land in addition to their own property. So, seeing them as senseless and unjust, the cowboys went about cutting them en masse and burning the pastures of ranchers who tried to rebuild them.

Of course, the ranchers hadn't went through the effort of buying miles of barbed wire and planting tens of thousands of stakes in prairie sod out of spite; there was a drought on, and overgrazing of their land by trespassers meant risking losing their herds as well as the value of the land they had bought and worked. The seemingly senseless fences were there to prevent people with no stake in maintaining their property from using it up for their own profits, which the cowboys immediately started doing as soon as they cut the fences. Estimates at the time put damage due to the Fence War at $30 million (~$728 million in today's money) in property value just in Texas, as well as numerous lives lost fighting.

Congress's solution was something I think Chesterton would approve of; cutting fences was made illegal, while fences were required to only enclose one's own property and have gates where they crossed roads. Acknowledging the reason behind the fences construction and continued presence, while also making sensible changes to help them meet that goal with minimum disruption to others.