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Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Fake Norms, or "Truth" vs. Truth · 2008-07-22T12:50:54.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that there isn't a general pressure towards truth-telling. Just getting somewhat more truth in some limited but fraught areas has been remarkably difficult.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Fake Norms, or "Truth" vs. Truth · 2008-07-22T12:07:29.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mysteries are an extremely popular pro-truth art form, but they have the limits of being fiction, and are generally not about finding out anything really surprising or painful. Offhand, I can't think of any mysteries with much about the social or psychological consequences of finding out that someone you knew and liked was murderer.

There's been increasing social pressure to tell the truth about at least some aspects of sex. The subject used to be a lot more blanked out in the public sphere.

There's a lot more truth floating around about war than there used to be. and generally (at least on the left) a lot of respect for investigative journalism. (That one may be biased in favor of some outcomes-- I'm not sure.)

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Existential Angst Factory · 2008-07-20T02:18:00.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are there people who say they're depressed because life is meaningless? I'm not an expert on the subject, but I've never heard of any.

There've been several mentions of obesity as a primary cause of depression. I haven't heard of fat people tending to be more depressed than non-fat, but maybe I've missed something. Do you mean obesity in the medical sense? That's actually just fair-to-middling fat. (See The BMI Project for what those numbers mean.) Or do you mean being incapacitated by one's weight?

Good Mood by Julian Simon might be of interest. He beat back quite a serious depression when he realized that it had roots in the way he thought.

My impression is that most depression carries thoughts of something being wrong with oneself and/or the universe and/or one's environment, but it's generally not as philosophical as a belief that the universe is meaningless.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Replace the Symbol with the Substance · 2008-02-17T16:38:51.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Vision may be the strongest tool for getting past abstraction for most people, but I recommend putting the other parts of sensory experience on the list, too.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on ...What's a bias, again? · 2008-01-31T17:42:03.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a well-defined difference between the shape of one's mental machinery and its limited computing power?

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Rationality Quotes 1 · 2008-01-16T17:06:35.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"That which can be destroyed by the truth should be". I've seen this attributed to P.C. Hodgell, but without enough detail to check on it.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Is Reality Ugly? · 2008-01-13T15:42:15.000Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Mathematics is beautiful" + "Reality is not like mathematics" doesn't add up to "Reality is ugly".

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Do We Believe Everything We're Told? · 2007-10-12T00:44:59.000Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If people are that much more trusting when they're distracted, then it's important not to multi-task if you need to evaluate what you're looking at. Maybe it's just important to not multi-task.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Feeling Rational · 2007-09-23T05:05:12.000Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

It's my impression that men and women are permitted somewhat different sets of emotions--men are freer to show anger, women are freer to show sadness. And that showing emotion is more permitted now than it was a few decades ago.

As far as I can tell, it's possible to be emotional (or at least fairly emotional) and logical at the same time, so long as the emotion isn't territorial attachment to an idea.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Why is the Future So Absurd? · 2007-09-08T13:03:45.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Part of why the future looks absurd is that people want novelty--not absolute novelty and not all the time, but a lot of smart and weird people are working on making changes, some of which will catch on. A futurist isn't going to be smart and weird enough to predict all the possible changes being offered or which ones will have a long term effect.

It's not just that technological change builds on itself, so does social change. I don't think it was completely obvious that the civil rights movement would contribute to gay marriage becoming a serious political issue.

No matter how hard you try, you are of your time. You can expand the range of your imagination, but the future outnumbers you.

I'm still working on the question of why the future isn't just unpredictable, it's absurd. Maybe there's something about human cultures which requires limiting both what people do and what people can imagine anyone doing to a small part of the range of possibilities.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Why is the Future So Absurd? · 2007-09-08T13:02:06.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Part of why the future looks absurd is that people want novelty--not absolute novelty and not all the time, but a lot of smart and weird people are working on making changes, some of which will catch on. A futurist isn't going to be smart and weird enough to predict all the possible changes being offered or which ones will have a long term effect.

It's not just that technological change builds on itself, so does social change. I don't think it was completely obvious that the civil rights movement would contribute to gay marriage becoming a serious political issue.

No matter how hard you try, you are of your time. You can expand the range of your imagination, but the future outnumbers you.

I'm still working on the question of why the future isn't just unpredictable, it's absurd. Maybe there's something about human cultures which requires limiting both what people do and what people can imagine anyone doing to a small part of the range of possibilities.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on Guessing the Teacher's Password · 2007-08-22T16:35:40.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's a lovely bit in Egan's Diaspora showing the viewpoint character understanding a concept from physics by applying it in various contexts.

More generally, I don't know if much is known about how people get from input to understanding.

Possibly of interest: Mathsemantics, which grew out of a project to find employees who understood what numbers mean. The book (about a questionaire for the purpose) is very interesting, the articles listed mostly look minor except for the one about grokduelling (you win if you understand the other side better), and they're looking for research ideas.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on One Life Against the World · 2007-05-20T10:27:09.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can be more about what actions are likely to save a life than about what actions are likely to save many lives.

Comment by nancy_lebovitz on The Third Alternative · 2007-05-07T13:39:21.000Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Here's another Noble Lie: protectionism--that there's somehow a morally and practically important difference between trading inside your borders and trading outside them. It may not be quite as good as Santa Claus, though.

The idea that torture is efficacious for getting accurate information might be Noble Lie (if you accept that causing pain to someone helpless is a benefit, thus making torture a self-seeking behavior), but that one might be too contentious for most discussions.

I suspect that the hook for adults in the Santa Claus story is a "benefit" of that kind--lying to someone who doesn't have the capacity to check on what you're saying.

That five minutes brainstorming is an interesting idea. Would another five minutes spent on looking at your preferred alternative from the points of view of all the interested parties also be a good investment?