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Comment by nate_rausch on Inadequacy and Modesty · 2017-10-30T05:15:14.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another key difference between startup idea / medican research and financial markets is that the latter is a bounded problem.

It is possible to know every relevant supply and demand-factor regarding a currently priced asset. However, the possible startup ideas now or in the future is probably infinite, or at least many orders of magnitude larger than the space of possible information to know about the pricing of a current asset.

And so, we should and likely do have much less modesty concerning medical research and startup ideas, than we have concerning asset prices.

Comment by nate_rausch on Open thread, Apr. 03 - Apr. 09, 2017 · 2017-04-05T20:15:25.099Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, yes, but couldn't one just make a new religion without those attributes. For example the first of the 10 commandments could be: Question everything, including these texts. Be a student, not a follower. Finding fault in ourself is the highest virtue, free speech etc. ? :-)

Comment by nate_rausch on Open thread, Apr. 03 - Apr. 09, 2017 · 2017-04-05T20:13:12.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point, well I don't think romantic love is worthy of sacred status in the irrationality religion. Tough those four neither seemed quite to fit the love I had in mind.

Perhaps something closer the buddhist concept of bodhisattva, meaning altruistic love for all sentient beings?

Comment by nate_rausch on Open thread, Apr. 03 - Apr. 09, 2017 · 2017-04-05T04:35:56.475Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A bit tongue-in-cheeck, but how about taking Tyler's unfair label as a proposal?

We could start the rationality religion, without the metaphysics or ideology of ordinary religion. Our God could be everything we do not know. We worship love. Our savior is the truth. We embrace forgiveness as the game-theoretical optimal modified tit-for-tat solution to a repeated game. And so on.

We thoroughly investigate and aggregate the best knowledge humanity currently has on how to live. And we create Rationality Temples worldwide. There will be weekly congregations, with talks on a sequence, with following discussions, on topics such as signalling, bayesian thinking, cognitive biases. We propose a three step way to heaven on earth: identifying worthwhile causes, charting effective solutions and taking actions to achieve it. Lifetime goal is writing a sequence. Compassion meditation and visualisation prayer once per day. Haha, okay perhaps I'm overdoing it.

Using the well-established concepts, rituals and memes of religion is easy to mock, but what if it is also an effective way to build our community and reach our goals?

Comment by nate_rausch on Which areas of rationality are underexplored? - Discussion Thread · 2016-12-09T19:32:53.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the "dark arts" might deserve a second look.

We shouldn't pivot too far. Politics clearly is a mind-killer, and exploiting human weaknesses to further your cause is not inherently good.

But I think we have grouped too many things into one basket. In order for rationality to succeed, we must manage to find the balance between being effective and being pure in our ideals.

We do not want to be the stereotypical investment banker, without any morals who will do whatever works. Yet we also don't want to be the environmentalist who don't do anything that works, because people should just care about the environment.

Instead, I think, we need to be a bit nuanced with what works. Some actions work and are clearly immoral - like lying. Others work and are not in conflict with any value, like making people feel good.

I think a good model for this is Elon Musk. He seems to be as idealistic as is possible within a framework of getting things done. He does not lie, but he does care a lot about building a good product, for example, unlike a lot of other enviromentalist entrepreneurs.

So I think we need to open this conversation. What is effective to influencing people? What is effective towards garnering resources to a cause? What is effective in capturing people's attention?

And then when we have the answers, and the details of the strategies, then we can compare them against our values and rule out the ones that are in direct conflict.

Comment by nate_rausch on Open thread, Dec. 05 - Dec. 11, 2016 · 2016-12-09T19:14:35.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was re-reading the meditations of moloch the other day, and it dawned on me that our situation is kind of relevant when it comes to information spreading on the internet.

The current state of competition on the internet seems to be quite clearly in disalignment with what we deem as good, like truth or insight. It feels like we are mid-way towards an equilibrium that is far worse. Unless something is done, we should expect the volume of fake narratives, fake news and lies of all sorts to grow going forward. On the positive side, we should expect to see far more information that confirms with our group's opinions and rattles our emotions, especially anger or awe.

And this seem to me to be serious. Beliefs matter. People act on what they think they know about the world. To bring the incentives a bit more back in alignment, we likely need some new institutions. It's unclear to me if we currently have any internet- institutions that is working on verification. Wikipedia might count, but it is quite weak and easily subverted. The factchecker-websites have been helpful, but they seem to be overrun, and mostly used when it confirms a group's beliefs, ironically.

On a website like Quora it feels like total entropy. Like the entire internet is suffering a sort of eternal september, and in some way it is, with 2 out of the 3 billion coming online since 2009. And everywhere you turn, people despair about lies and not knowing who to trust. There is a civilizational need (and perhaps also a market) for truth.

So, I wanted to ask you, how do we fundamentally confirm that something is true? And if we had that method, how would an institution strong enough to actual alter the incentives of online publisers look like?

I can thing a few candidate themes

  1. Source-reputation: how would we go about analyzing and ranking websites for their reputation for truth?
  2. The science method: conjecture, criticism and testing seems viable. Can this be applied universally?
  3. The bayesian method: every time a claim was made, we updated the probability of its truth, weighted for source or strength of information. Unclear if it is viable to boil down texts to essence of the belief or claim, even less clear if comparing is even possible.

(PS: I find myself thinking that I personally, somehow, am a great evaluator of truth. If I really am, or you are. There should be some very simple habit to discover from that, that maybe can be applied widely.

Yet what I do seem mundane. I curate my information sources: SSC, Marginalrevolution, WBW, Overcoming Bias, LW. (But also Reddit, Twitter, Quora.) And I even observe myselfupvoting things I agree with and emotionally engage with on Reddit, without any source-checking. I sort of rely on previous knowledge, I think, critique what I just read using existing knowledge and making a snap judgement.

Do you have personal habits of truth-seeking or evaluation information?)

Comment by nate_rausch on Is arguing worth it? If so, when and when not? Also, how do I become less arrogant? · 2014-11-30T20:33:05.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you are to exert influence on the world, you have to state your opinions to people. But you also have to be rational about it.

Start with asking yourself:

  1. Am I wrong? (Honestly examine your position and see things from the other persons point of view)
  2. Is the topic important? (Cause prioritization)
  3. Am I convincing the live person or the audience? (Different tactics)
  4. Is success a possible outcome?

Let's say the answers in a given scenario are no, yes, person and yes. Convincing another person is hard because of confirmation bias. Added to that is the social dynamics of you telling another person that she is wrong, perhaps while others are listening. Both of these challenges have to be overcome in order to succeed.

Some suggestions from my personal experience (as a politican, inspired from Carnegies book):

  1. Ask questions throughout, preferrably questions that makes the other person respond positively. Make sure you understand the other persons position. Show respect for her opinions, never say "You are wrong". "Interesting. Would this be applicable in scenario X?"

  2. Begin in a friendly way, with praise and emphasize where you agree with the other person. "Yes, I very much agree with you on X. That's a precise observation".

  3. Call attention to the other persons mistakes indirectly and talk about your own mistakes first. If you yourself have said something wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. "I actually used to think Y myself, but then I discovered Z"

  4. Minimize the points where you disagree (make the fault minor / seem easy to correct) and let the other person save face "Of course, we both have the same intentions here. Whether Z is true or not is a minor issue"

Some tricks up your sleeve:

  • Give the other person a reputation to live up to "This is of course familiar to a person to a knowledgeable person such as yourself"
  • Let the other person feel the idea is hers "Excactly. It is as you said, X segment, which in turn is Y and Z."
  • Dramatize your ideas with enthusiasm and stories.

Lastly, as I can see that you already know, arguing is not a winning social strategy. Very few arguments improve the relationship you have with the person you are arguing with. There are many ways to talk about interesting topics without pointing at points of disagreement. Save the arguments for when it is strictly neccesary.