In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump 2021-01-11T18:08:38.190Z
IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon 2017-03-28T22:37:01.702Z


Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-12T15:31:01.758Z · LW · GW

Again, Trump wasn't banned for his ideas. He was banned for actively inciting violence and for a long history of poisoning the well. 

Neither of us know what Twitter's "real" motivations were. Heck, the executives of Twitter might not know what their real motivations were. 

The real question is whether it is proper for a major media platform to remove a major political figure for ostensibly breaking the code of conduct associated with the platform and for actively engaging in incitement to violence. That activity ought not to be protected by free speech or society as a whole.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T21:33:23.112Z · LW · GW

If there is not a "state actor," then the First Amendment does not apply. 

I'm not a First-Amendment scholar. There is literature and case law on this subject, but I wouldn't be able to summarize it well. That said, I'm fairly certain that government officials pressuring private platforms to remove certain content would not implicate the First Amendment. But it is a closer call than the Trump situation.

And, to be clear, I'm not in favor of all forms of platform censorship. I'm simply defending this instance of banning Trump from Twitter. 

Without question, this is a hard question. Too many rationalists assume it is easy. 


Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T20:47:34.882Z · LW · GW

This post once had 11 Karma and then went down to 4, so clearly this is not a popular take among rationalists. 

I feel as if too many rationalists struggle to see past the "but what about the slippery slope?" argument and fail to see the evil that's right in front of them.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T18:44:20.883Z · LW · GW

This strikes me as a weak slippery slope argument. There is no "homogeneity of acceptable discourse" on Twitter. Even after Trump's ban, far-right wing politicians such as Hawley and Boebart still use the platform. He wasn't removed for ideological reasons. He was banned because he was actively inciting a violent insurrection and aspired to continue to incite such an insurrection. 

Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T18:37:27.927Z · LW · GW

Fair point re: #2, but the ultimate point is unchanged. For the same reasons that Less Wrong and SSC engage in content moderation, Twitter does the same. Banning Trump, on balance, will not be harmful.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T18:26:07.975Z · LW · GW

Point 7 is a response to Yudkowsky retweeting on Jan 8 Ryan Lackey's post that said:

"If you wanted to increase the odds of an actual civil war in the next decade, pushing 10-50 mm people into a somewhat segregated communications system actively forced to evolve to resist aggressive censorship is an important first step."


Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-31T16:08:47.781Z · LW · GW

If you take a pair of variables which are correlated r>=0.25, you have, pretty much by definition, found that one >variable 'matters' more than any other single variable can, simply because it has explained/predicted the majority of >the variance (sqrt(0.25)=0.5). Another variable can't explain more of the variance.

I agree that g is probably more predictive of success than any other single variable. Cumulatively, other factors may matter more. But it is likely true that no one factor matters more. But I think that debate is tangential to the original post.

The original post had two points.

The “first thesis” was to argue that intelligence is more like athleticism than height.

The “second thesis” was to focus on the sub-components of intelligence as better predictors of domain-specific high-level success than the general factor.

I have not been dissuaded on either thesis.

The more I read about this, the more I believe that both of these theses are supported by CHC theory, which, according to a 2005 paper by Alfonso, Flanagan, and Radwan, is, “the most comprehensive and empirically supported psychometric theory of the structure of cognitive and academic abilities to date.” (Thanks, 9eB1!) The paper goes on to say:

Others, however, believe that g is the most important ability to assess because it predicts the lion’s share of the >variance in multiple outcomes, both academic and occupational (e.g., Glutting, Watkins, & Youngstrom, 2003). >Notwithstanding one’s position on the importance of g in understanding various outcomes (particularly academic), >there is considerable evidence that both broad and narrow CHC cognitive abilities explain a significant portion of >variance in specific academic abilities, over and above the variance accounted for by g (e.g., McGrew, Flanagan, >Keith, & Vanderwood, 1997; Vanderwood, McGrew, Flanagan, & Keith, 2002).

I’m not sure whether you would disagree with the last sentence of that paragraph, but that’s really what I was trying to get at with thesis 2.

With thesis 1, I think CHC theory provides further support for my belief that athleticism is a much better analogy for intelligence than a simple variable such as height. According to the paper, “CHC theory currently consists of 10 broad cognitive abilities and more than 70 narrow abilities.” These are all subsumed in two strata below the general factor.

To me, it would be very easy to imagine breaking down athleticism into 10 general categories and 70 narrow abilities as well. I think by breaking down athleticism into those subcategories, you could explain a significant portion of variance in specific athletic outcomes, over and above the variance accounted for by athleticism generally.

But how could you possibly break down height into 10 general categories and 70 narrow abilities? Trying to break down height into 70 sub-categories would be equal parts useless and meaningless. What could you explain or predict by breaking down height into 70 subcategories?

I think the answer is nothing.

Of course, since IQ is relatively easy to measure via SATs and grades (look at how easy TIP/SMPY were to do - >picking out future movers and shakers from millions of kids using just a cut-down SAT - please appreciate how >astounding it is that you can just administer a short pencil-and-paper test to millions of kids and taking the top >thousand or so, get such an incredible enrichment, with huge odds ratios for accomplishment), it is easy to create >these selected extremes, and so we have a pleasant problem:

I don’t disagree with any of this.

Openness and Conscientiousness do not outpredict IQ, and are not causally more important for accomplishment.

I’m not arguing that, either.

What I am arguing, is that by breaking down intelligence into various subcategories, researchers are better able to predict who will do well at what specific tasks. That the breakdown of the subcategories of Carlsen’s intelligence would likely provide much better insight into his abilities than his raw IQ.

Since we’re all NBA fans here, I’ll continue working with that theme. If you look at any given player in the NBA, it’s obvious why they are there. 5’11” Allen Iverson had one in a billion-ish speed and agility. Yao Ming had one in a billion-ish height and coordination. Lebron James has a one in 10 billion-ish combination of strength, speed, size, and coordination (there may never have been anyone in human history with his combination of those talents). They’re all Hall of Famers or will be eventually. They’re all genetic freaks. But they are very different kinds of genetic freaks.

Just as the sub-categories of athleticism will predict whether someone will be better suited to point guard or center, so, too, will sub-categories of intelligence better explain whether someone will be better suited English literature or chess. And that sub-categories may even be capable of predicting prodigies, savants, and geniuses in given fields.

As we break down the top tiny fraction of 1% of the population, those nuances in what constitutes their sub-categories athleticism and intelligence are what makes them interesting and likely to accomplish extraordinary things at any given task.

Ultimately, I would guess that further exploration of the sub-categories of intelligence are likely to reveal much more about Einsteins, Musks, Carlsens, and Mozarts. And that improved understanding and modeling of the sub-categories will eventually enable us to have a much better understand about what makes them who they are -- and perhaps predict future versions of them. But I think it will be the more nuanced understanding of these sub-categories, not further emphasis on the general factor, that will enhance this understanding.

From the same Alfonso paper:

Future research will probably continue to examine the importance of specific cognitive abilities in the explanation of academic outcomes, above and beyond the variance explained by g. Also, it is hoped >that future research in the field of learning disabilities will be guided by CHC theory, and that the search for aptitude–achievement interactions will be revisited using CHC constructs as opposed to Wechsler’s traditional clinical composites (i.e., Verbal and Performance IQs)

(emphasis added)

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-30T17:27:11.500Z · LW · GW

I suppose that's a fair criticism. But you have cherry picked these examples. In my defense, I also reference SSC and a 448-page book by Stephen Jay Gould on IQ, which is entirely about the history of psychometrics.

It's an area of interest, not necessarily an area of expertise. I wrote a post to get feedback and improve my understanding of the topic. I have a richer understanding of the issue than I had two days ago. And so I accomplished what I aspired to do.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T18:49:17.278Z · LW · GW

First of all, I very much enjoy your blog and writing in general. So thank you for commenting.

The existence of successful scientists or chess players whose rank-percentile in IQ is less than their rank-percentile in >scientific accomplishment or chess playing does not shed any light on what the neurological basis of IQ, as this is a general >phenomenon of regression to the mean and the extreme order statistics of two variables which are correlated r I'm not sure how this is relevant to any discussions of what >neurological features IQ is caused by or what the causal nature of IQ is - but looking at the extremes doesn't tell us >anything I can think of.

I had not seen this before. I appreciate that this piece does a better job of explaining (at least part of) what I was trying to get at in my second thesis than I did in my original post.

I think what what Thrasymachus articulates well is that is that when we are looking to explain stratospheric performance in any given field, other factors matter more than raw IQ.

No, it won't; it will depend on how you measure it and when and where and by whom, just like a LSAT will be highly >correlated with but not identical with an IQ test.

Ok - everything has measurement error in it. But the degree of variation when measuring intelligence is far greater than when measuring height. Perhaps that's because it's merely harder to measure, but it might also be attributable to differences in what's being measured.

I'm not saying that intelligence isn't real any more than I was suggesting that athleticism isn't real. Just that they are best understood as composite measures.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T17:44:25.117Z · LW · GW

Wrong. For example, Raven's Progressive Matrices only have one category.

Ok. Fair point. But nearly all intelligence tests use a variety sub-tests. And I think the consensus among psychometricians is that more tests provide a better measure of intelligence.

My point isn't that IQ is stupid. My goal is to explore its boundaries and limitations.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T17:21:56.816Z · LW · GW

First of all, thank you, 9eB1. This is exactly the kind of a charitable, informed, and thoughtful response I was hoping for. I appreciate your feedback. Also, you clearly know more about psychometrics than I do, so I will tread carefully in response.

The tallest player to ever play in the NBA was Gheorghe Mureșan, who was 7'7". He was not very good. Manute Bol was >almost as tall and he was good but not great. By contrast, the best basketball player of all time was 6'6" [citation needed]. In >fact, perhaps an athletic quotient would be better for predicting top-end performance than height, since Jordon, Lebron and >Kareem are all way more athletic than Muresan and Bol.

Not sure this is true. The average great athlete is probably around average height. And there are only a few of those in the NBA.

That said, NBA teams are pretty savvy about breaking down the specific characteristics that lead to NBA success. Not just height, but speed, quickness, vertical leap, ability to jump up and down multiple times, wingspan, shooting ability at different distances. There is plenty of specificity in NBA talent analysis. Height matters, but other factors matter, too. And those factors can and have been quantified.

Cardio ability and muscular strength are at odds, so that would be at least two plausible stable factors. This argument is on >Wikipedia here. Personally, in light of the dramatic differences there are between the different parts of an IQ test battery, I >find this fact surprising and underappreciated. Most people do not realize this, and the folk wisdom is that there are very >clear different types of intelligence.

Based on my quick research, I'm not sure that it is true that cardio and muscular strength are at odds.

I agree that IQ is plenty interesting by itself. My goal with this article was to explore the boundaries of that usefulness and explore the ways in which the correlations break down. And your feedback helps me a get a better sense of where those areas are.

To be honest, I very much doubt that actual IQ researchers would disagree with your second thesis. My argument would be >that for most fields there is enough randomness that you would not expect the most intelligent person to also be the most >lauded. Even Einstein had to have the luck to have the insights he did, and there were undoubtedly many people who were >just as smart but had different circumstances that led to them not having those insights.

I agree that luck plays a huge role in Einstein being Einstein. But I also think that to achieve the top levels of success at any specific endeavor, other factors besides IQ matter a lot, too. Hard work, intransigence, contrarianism -- these personality characteristics were probably determinative in him becoming who he was.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T16:35:23.502Z · LW · GW

Understood. I didn't articulate this well. My point was merely to say that soccer, basketball, and other sports have arbitrary and sport-specific constraints, whereas the decathlon was explicitly constructed to test a battery of physical abilities. And perhaps that the composite well-rounded athlete is usually less interesting than someone who is a freak in a specific discipline.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-28T23:01:02.338Z · LW · GW

"Figure 2 provides a basis for anticipating the unique value spatial ability might contribute to understanding intellectually talented youth. In the late 1970s, because of his interest in identifying and developing scientific talent—and knowing that by utilizing exclusively a general ability measure, Terman assessed and missed two Nobel Laurates (viz., Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, see Shurkin, 1992) Stanley gave a group of 563 SMPY participants tests of spatial ability designed for high school seniors."

"Clearly, the creative outcomes under analysis are supported by different configurations of intellectual talent. For example, among participants who secure patents, their spatial ability is commensurate with those who publish in STEM, but the latter are more impressive in mathematical and verbal reasoning. Participants who publish in Art–Humanities–Law–Social Sciences are the lowest in spatial ability of all four groups. This graph is psychologically informative, depicting the intellectual design space of creative thought."

I think this really hits at the main purpose of what I wrote -- that by over-emphasizing general intelligence, we may be missing opportunities to find more domain-specific talent indicators. Of course more general ability matters. But more specific ability applied to the right field probably matters even more.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on Why Don't Rationalists Win? · 2017-02-28T17:55:22.777Z · LW · GW

Forgive me, as I am brand new to LW. Where is it defined that an epistemic rationalist can't seek epistemic rationality as a means of living a good life (or for some other reason) rather than as a terminal goal? Is there an Académie française of rationalists that takes away your card if you use ER as a means to an end?

I'm working off this quote from EY as my definition of ER. This definition seems silent on the means-end question.

Epistemic rationality: believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory. The art of obtaining beliefs that correspond to reality as closely as possible. This correspondence is commonly termed "truth" or "accuracy", and we're happy to call it that.

This definition is agnostic on motivations for seeking rationality. Epistemic rationality is just seeking truth. You can do this because you want to get rich or get laid or get status or go to the moon or establish a better government or business. People's motivations for doing what they do are complex. Try as I might, I don't think I'll ever fully understand why my primate brain does it what it does. And I don't think anyone's primate brain is seeking truth for its own sake and for no other reasons.

Also, arguing about definitions is the least useful form of philosophy, so if that's the direction we're going, I'm tapping out.

But I will say that if the only people the Académie française of rationalists deems worthy of calling themselves epistemic rationalists are those with pure, untainted motivations of seeking truth for its own sake and for no other reasons, then I suspect that the class of epistemic rationalists is an empty set.

[And yes, I understand that instrumentality is about the actions you choose. But my point is about motivations, not actions.]

Comment by ragintumbleweed on Why Don't Rationalists Win? · 2017-02-27T21:03:32.321Z · LW · GW

You are pretty much saying that the knowledge can sometimes be instrumentally useful. But that does not show epistemic rationality is about winning..

What I'm saying is that all things being equal, individuals, firms, and governments with high ER will outperform those with lower ER. That strikes me as both important and central to why ER matters.

I believe you seem to be saying high ER or having beliefs that correspond to reality is valuable for its own sake. That Truth matters for its own sake. I agree, but that's not the only reason it's valuable.

In your society with Offler the Crocodile God, yes, irrational behavior will be rewarded.

But the society where devotion to Offler is rewarded over engineering prowess will have dilapidated bridges or no bridges at all. Even in the Offler society, medicine based on science will save more lives than medicine based on Offler's teachings. The doctors might be killed by the high priests of Offler for practicing that way, but it's still a better way to practice medicine. Those irrational beliefs may be rewarded for some short term, but they will make everyone's life worse off as a result. (Perhaps in the land of Offler's high priests, clandestine ER is the wisest approach).

If the neighboring society of Rational-landia builds better bridges, has better medical practices, and creates better weapons with sophisticated knowledge of projectile physics, it will probably overtake and conquer Offler's people.

In North Korea today, the best way to survive might be to pledge complete loyalty to the supreme leader. But the total lack of ER in the public sphere has set it back centuries in human progress.

NASA wasn't just trying to figure out rocket science for its own sake in the 1960s. It was trying to get to the moon.

If the terminal goal is to live the best possible life ("winning"), then pursuing ER will be incredibly beneficial in achieving that aim. But ER does not obligate those who seek it to make it their terminal goal.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on Why Don't Rationalists Win? · 2017-02-25T00:08:57.436Z · LW · GW

Epistemic rationality isn’t about winning?

Demonstrated, context-appropriate epistemic rationality is incredibly valuable and should lead to higher status and -- to the extent that I understand Less-Wrong jargon --“winning.”

Think about markets: If you have accurate and non-consensus opinions about the values of assets or asset classes, you should be able to acquire great wealth. In that vein, there are plenty of rationalists who apply epistemic rationality to market opinions and do very well for themselves. Think Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, or Jeff Bezos. Winning!

If you know better than most who will win NBA games, you can make money betting on the games. E.g., Haralabos Voulgaris. Winning!

Know what health trends, diet trends, and exercise trends improve your chances for a longer life? Winning!

If you have an accurate and well-honed understanding of what pleases the crowd at Less Wrong, and you can articulate those points well, you’ll get Karma points and higher status in the community. Winning!

Economic markets, betting markets, health, and certain status-competitions are all contexts where epistemic rationality is potentially valuable.

Occasionally, however, epistemic rationality can be demonstrated in ways that are context-inappropriate – and thus lead to lower status. Not winning!

For example, if you correct someone’s grammar the first time you meet him or her at a cocktail party. Not winning!

Demonstrate that your boss is dead wrong in front of a group of peers in way that embarrasses her? Not winning!

Constantly argue about LW-type topics with people who don’t like to argue? Not winning!

Epistemic rationality is a tool. It gives you power to do things you couldn’t do otherwise. But status-games require a deft understanding of when it is appropriate and when it is not appropriate to demonstrate the greater coherence of one’s beliefs to reality to others (which itself strikes me as a form of epistemic rationality of social awareness). Those who get it right are the winners. Those who do not are the losers.

Comment by ragintumbleweed on Welcome to LessWrong (10th Thread, January 2017) (Thread A) · 2017-02-24T18:00:07.475Z · LW · GW

Been lurking for a while and figured I’d go ahead and jump into the mix.

I studied philosophy (and foreign languages) in undergrad. Went to Duke for law school. Worked at one of the biggest and most hardcore law firms in the world for six years, and now I run my own shop with another lawyer in Denver. We focus on startups and tech legal work.

I only recently discovered LW through Kevin Simler’s blog Melting Asphalt and Slate Star Codex. Figured I’d come here to see if it was worthwhile to participate. I’m working my way through the Sequences.

I’m in the process of writing a law review article on automation, AI, and legal ethics.

I’ve been to a couple of Less Wrong meetups in Denver, but now I live in a remote mountain town 2.5 hours southwest of Front Range. It’s a beautiful town, and I love it. But it’s not large enough to foster a LW community.

I have a blog(!) where I post every couple of weeks or so. It’s called Joyous and Swift. Not a very LW-ish name, I suppose. But I like it.

I don’t spend a lot of time surfing online, and I’m not in the habit of frequenting comment threads. But I’ll do my best to respond to any comments directed at me (if any) in the coming weeks.

The decorum and community code here sounds entrenched and complex. I apologize in advance for any missteps. Feel free to chide me when necessary. I'd much appreciate warm guidance on how to be a good LW citizen. I will respect your norms as soon as I learn them.