Pecking Order and Flight Leadership

2019-04-29T20:30:01.168Z · score: 44 (16 votes)

The Forces of Blandness and the Disagreeable Majority

2019-04-28T19:44:42.177Z · score: 81 (27 votes)

Degrees of Freedom

2019-04-02T21:10:00.516Z · score: 101 (31 votes)

Personalized Medicine For Real

2019-03-04T22:40:00.351Z · score: 197 (75 votes)

The Tale of Alice Almost: Strategies for Dealing With Pretty Good People

2019-02-27T19:34:03.906Z · score: 61 (23 votes)

Humans Who Are Not Concentrating Are Not General Intelligences

2019-02-25T20:40:00.940Z · score: 119 (63 votes)

The Relationship Between Hierarchy and Wealth

2019-01-23T02:00:00.467Z · score: 58 (27 votes)

Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes

2019-01-10T21:40:04.163Z · score: 49 (21 votes)

Contrite Strategies and The Need For Standards

2018-12-24T18:30:00.480Z · score: 103 (36 votes)

The Pavlov Strategy

2018-12-20T16:20:00.542Z · score: 177 (67 votes)

Argue Politics* With Your Best Friends

2018-12-15T19:00:00.549Z · score: 28 (12 votes)

Introducing the Longevity Research Institute

2018-12-14T20:20:00.532Z · score: 82 (28 votes)

Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics

2018-12-14T19:40:00.520Z · score: 58 (20 votes)

Norms of Membership for Voluntary Groups

2018-12-11T22:10:00.975Z · score: 183 (60 votes)

Playing Politics

2018-12-05T00:30:00.996Z · score: 92 (37 votes)

“She Wanted It”

2018-11-11T22:00:01.645Z · score: 76 (39 votes)

Things I Learned From Working With A Marketing Advisor

2018-10-09T00:10:01.320Z · score: 68 (27 votes)

Fasting Mimicking Diet Looks Pretty Good

2018-10-04T19:50:00.695Z · score: 79 (30 votes)

Reflections on Being 30

2018-10-02T19:30:01.585Z · score: 52 (34 votes)

Direct Primary Care

2018-09-25T18:00:01.747Z · score: 46 (14 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Tactical vs. Strategic Cooperation · 2018-08-12T20:54:48.703Z · score: 28 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not actually asking for people to do a thing for me, at this point. I think the closest to a request I have here is "please discuss the general topic and help me think about how to apply or fix these thoughts."

I don't think all communication is about requests (that's a kind of straw-NVC) only that when you are making a request it's often easier to get what you want by asking than by indirectly pressuring.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Are ethical asymmetries from property rights? · 2018-08-12T19:10:04.372Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's flattering to Rawls, but is it actually what he meant?

Or did he just assume that you don't need a mutually acceptable protocol for deciding how to allocate resources, and you can just skip right to enforcing the desirable outcome?

Tactical vs. Strategic Cooperation

2018-08-12T16:41:40.005Z · score: 76 (35 votes)

Oops on Commodity Prices

2018-06-10T15:40:00.499Z · score: 148 (48 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-04T02:55:57.250Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can you explain why return on cash vs. return on equity matters?

Comment by sarahconstantin on Three types of "should" · 2018-06-03T19:00:23.027Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm struck by the assumption in this essay that you have a clear distinction between your own values and other people's.

I think that having a clear sense of personal identity can be difficult and not everyone may be able to hold on to their own perspective. I am concerned that this might be especially hard in an era of social media, when opinions are shared almost as soon as they are formed. Think of a blog/tumblr/fb that consists almost entirely of content copied from other sources: it is nominally a space curated/created by "you", but really it is a lot of other people's thoughts aggregated with very little personal modification. That could be a recipe for really poor internal coherence.

It's pretty standard psychologist's advice to have a journal where you write truly private reflections, shared with literally nobody else. I imagine this helps in constructing a self with boundaries.

Relatedly, "self-affirmation" (really kind of a misnomer: it means writing essays about what values are priorities for you) has a large psychology literature showing lots of good effects, and I find it extremely helpful for my own thoughts. A lot of self-help seems to boil down to "sit down and write reflections on what your priorities are." Complice is this in productivity-app form, The Desire Map is this in book form, etc.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-03T18:39:30.088Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Note that the examples in the essay of mechanisms that produce inefficiency are union work rules, non-compete agreements between firms, tariffs, and occupational licensing laws. The former three are not federal regulations on industries, and so would not show up in a comparison of industry dynamism vs. regulatory stringency.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-03T18:29:42.971Z · score: 33 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, this is a counterargument I want to make sure I understand.

Is the following a good representation of what you believe?

When you divide GDP by a commodity price, when the commodity has a nearly-fixed supply (like gold or land) we'd expect the price of the commodity to go up over time in a society that's getting richer -- in other words, if you have better tech and better and more abundant goods, but not more gold or land, you'd expect that other goods would become cheaper relative to gold or land. Thus, a GDP/gold or GDP/land value that doesn't increase over time is totally consistent with a society with increasing "true" wealth, and thus doesn't indicate stagnation.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-03T18:22:26.868Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that Carnegie's US Steel is not the type of "monopoly" that I consider socially harmful. I seem to remember that there is empirical evidence (though I don't know where) that monopolies due to superior product quality/price are actually fragile, and long-term monopolies must be maintained by legal privileges to survive. (If anybody remembers where, I'd appreciate a reference.)

Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post

2018-05-31T18:40:00.479Z · score: 84 (28 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Personal relationships with goodness · 2018-05-15T00:57:10.654Z · score: 48 (12 votes) · LW · GW

In this context, thinking about whether you are "good" is not "constructive."

Thinking about whether you're doing something "constructive" is, by contrast, extremely constructive.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Personal relationships with goodness · 2018-05-15T00:43:29.738Z · score: 47 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Here's my trajectory:

1.) Worry a lot about "I'm not good"

2.) Improve in some dimensions, also refactor my moral priorities so that I no longer believe some of my 'bad traits' are really bad

3.) Still worry a lot about "I'm not good" where "good" refers to some eldritch horror that I no longer literally endorse

4.) Learn the mental motion of going "fuck it", where I just rest my brain and self-soothe. Do that until I deeply do not give a fuck whether I'm good or not.

5.) Notice a mild but consistent desire to do things that are, not "good", but "constructive" -- i.e. contribute to the construction of a nice thing that takes time and effort to complete.

6.) Notice that the people around me mostly like it when I do "constructive" things, and call them "good."

Comment by sarahconstantin on Introducing the Longevity Research Institute · 2018-05-14T15:27:00.875Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a little more optimistic about calorie restriction mimetics than Aubrey, but I think everybody sensible has pretty low confidence about this.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Introducing the Longevity Research Institute · 2018-05-14T15:22:06.719Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Practical constraints. The main contributor to the cost of a lifespan study is the cost of upkeep for the mice -- so it's proportional to number of mice and length of the study. Testing 50 compounds at once means raising 50x the money at once (which is out of reach at the moment) and may also run into constraints of the capacity of labs/CROs.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Introducing the Longevity Research Institute · 2018-05-14T15:18:15.221Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, that is my position.

(I've talked a bunch with Aubrey de Grey and he is very much supportive of the LRI's program. We're complements, not substitutes.)

Comment by sarahconstantin on Mental Illness Is Not Evidence Against Abuse Allegations · 2018-05-14T15:14:42.764Z · score: 77 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks; I think I was just wrong here, I didn't think of that.

Mental Illness Is Not Evidence Against Abuse Allegations

2018-05-13T19:50:42.645Z · score: 26 (16 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Duncan Sabien: "In Defense of Punch Bug" · 2018-05-13T19:12:30.563Z · score: 66 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This is not normal behavior on her part. This is domestic violence. The standard advice is to leave people who hit you. Possibly after clearly stating that you are not okay with being hit and you will leave if it continues, and giving her a chance to change her ways. Maybe she should work with a professional to help with her anger problems. But there is a significant risk that a person who regularly attacks you will escalate.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Introducing the Longevity Research Institute · 2018-05-08T21:01:29.704Z · score: 32 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Vaniver is right.

The mainstream biogerontology perspective is that there's an evolutionarily conserved "survival program", probably developed for surviving famines, that can slow the aging process somewhat. This is the stuff you'll find in Cynthia Kenyon's research, for instance. The hope is that you can find drugs that stimulate these pathways, and thereby slow down the incidence of age-related diseases. This is the approach LRI is taking.

The SENS position, as I understand, is that this won't work. As you go up from yeast to nematodes to flies to mice, "long-lived" mutants live less long, and perhaps by the time we get to humans these genetic alterations (or drugs that simulate them) won't be long-lived at all. SENS instead wants to work on reversing the damage caused by aging.

I don't know with high confidence whether SENS's skepticism is right; but even if they are, their research program seems to involve a lot of open questions in basic science that would take a long time to resolve.

Give to SENS if you want to invest in basic research that might one day reverse aging altogether; give to LRI to accelerate translational research into treatments that might lead to modest healthspan extension in the next decade or two. (Or give to both!) They're complementary strategies.

Introducing the Longevity Research Institute

2018-05-08T03:30:00.768Z · score: 134 (35 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Noticing the Taste of Lotus · 2018-05-06T17:23:50.799Z · score: 36 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I really don't relate to the externalization people use about "lotus-eating", like, "Facebook is making me addicted, even though I want to be productive." Implicitly that means the "real" me is into "good" meaningful stuff. And that's not how it feels. It feels like I have very strong drives towards the bad stuff (like "contacting exes to annoy them") and Facebook is just a tool that enables me to do what I want, which is why I deleted my account a year ago, because some of my wants harm other people. But the wanting is mine.

In fact, sometimes I feel like "I want to do something cravey but I don't have anything cravey to do!" That comes up pretty often, tbh: food is only cravey when I'm hungry, videogames and shopping do nothing for me, I quit social media, etc.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Models of human relationships - tools to understand people · 2018-04-26T21:21:53.569Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can usually tailor the level of jargon correctly. What I can't do that well is figure out how to not make my presence burdensome -- I can feel that I need to "come up with something to say" that makes it worth talking to me, and I'm not great at coming up with those quickly. (When a kid says "tell me a story", I can't do that either. I'm great at discussions, where you have to speak off the cuff in relation to some subject, but open-ended improv is hell.)

Comment by sarahconstantin on Models of human relationships - tools to understand people · 2018-04-25T18:11:23.071Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I really like this.

Let me try to apply it to an example in my own life. I'm frequently telling people about a project I'm working on. I'd like it to be well received, to make a good impression, and also to enlist help or advice.

This is probably consultation, collaboration, or delegation, depending on whom I'm talking to, right?

And "how to win people to your way of thinking" clearly seems to apply.

"Never say you're wrong" confuses me -- yes, there are people you can't afford to flatly contradict, but what do you do if you actually need to accomplish a task and the thing they're suggesting seems like a bad idea? There are cases where "do it their way without complaint" is unwise. So far I've been trying to ask a lot of questions to make sure I haven't misunderstood them, but sooner or later it's inevitable to encounter someone who really is wrong.

"Let the other person do most of the talking" -- I use this often (it's also a good social anxiety hack to take the pressure off myself!) but it seems to be more difficult in a scenario where you only have a few minutes of their time and need to "pitch" an idea. Is it wrong to launch into a quick summary in such cases?

"Get the other person saying 'yes, yes' right away" -- I know to transition gradually from claims that I know will be agreed with towards claims that might be more controversial or doubtful, but I think I probably err too much on the side of never bringing up things that I don't expect to get agreement on. Any advice on how to incrementally push further without skipping all the way to becoming shocking/offensive?

"Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view" -- this is just straight up hard for me, especially if I'm talking to a stranger and am also just trying to keep track of the content of what I'm saying and he's saying, while avoiding social faux pas. It seems about as hard as "remember to multiply three-digit numbers in your head while you have your conversation!" Am I missing something?

Wrongology 101

2018-04-25T00:00:00.991Z · score: 75 (19 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Good News for Immunostimulants · 2018-04-20T15:46:35.197Z · score: 18 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And...yep, 33% objective response rates, which is great.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Good News for Immunostimulants · 2018-04-20T15:41:32.033Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wanted to make a testable prediction that would be resolved soon.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Some Simple Observations Five Years After Starting Mindfulness Meditation · 2018-04-20T15:40:09.412Z · score: 37 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You took the update “subjective emotional states aren’t very important, because they can happen when objectively everything is fine.” From the same observation, I took the update “objective conditions aren’t very important, because I can still feel lousy when objectively everything is fine, or great when it isn’t.” Is there a reason you took the former approach?

Comment by sarahconstantin on Good News for Immunostimulants · 2018-04-16T22:36:38.034Z · score: 55 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"You can't pick winners in drug development" rhymes with a cluster of memes that are popular in the zeitgeist today:

  • "Complicated things can't be understood from first principles"
  • "Collecting a lot of data without models is better than building models"
  • "People don't engage in abstract reasoning much, they do things by feel and instinct"
  • "Don't overthink it"
  • "What it means to be human" refers to what distinguishes us from machines, not what distinguishes us from animals

Once you clarify any of these claims down to a specific proposition, sometimes they're true. But there is a general sense that you can get social approval from saying things whose upshot is "Thinking: it's not that great after all!"

Comment by sarahconstantin on Good News for Immunostimulants · 2018-04-16T22:14:22.905Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe so (at least I've never heard of a public one; sometimes large companies have internal prediction markets).

Good News for Immunostimulants

2018-04-16T16:10:00.575Z · score: 69 (17 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-07T19:38:15.103Z · score: 33 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I think this absolutely does count as rhetoric in the classical sense (being concise, expressing the right points, good body language and good delivery.)

See here:

It’s not meaningless if you view rhetoric as “how to speak well” rather than “how to speak artificially and misleadingly.”

Comment by sarahconstantin on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-07T16:34:50.652Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The best persuasive speakers I’ve ever seen in person are, unsurprisingly, lawyers. I saw Robert P. George speak once and thought “This is an atom bomb in the form of a man; I want that power.”

It’s not mere demagoguery. There’s structure to the arguments. And I’m pretty sure the same places that trained him to make arguments also trained him to speak effectively.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-07T15:55:16.702Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I read it and didn’t see much there I didn’t know before, but I can give it another shot.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-07T15:53:49.461Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I kind of want to learn elocution — any thoughts on how?

Is Rhetoric Worth Learning?

2018-04-06T22:03:47.918Z · score: 138 (50 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on The Math Learning Experiment · 2018-03-25T03:27:17.679Z · score: 50 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This matches my experience.

I think academic math has a problem where it's more culturally valorized to *be really smart* than to teach well, to the point that effective communication actually gets stigmatized as catering too much to dumb people.

Having left academic math, I am no longer terrified of revealing my stupidity, so I can now admit that I learned intro probability theory from a class in the operations research department (that used an actual syllabus and lecture notes! unlike most math classes!), that I learned more about solving ODEs from my economics classes than from my ODEs class, that I only grokked Fourier analysis when I revisited it in a signal processing context, and that my favorite introduction to representation theory is Shlomo Sternberg's *Group Theory and Physics.*

Concrete examples are easier for some people to learn from!

Naming the Nameless

2018-03-22T00:35:55.634Z · score: 120 (37 votes)

Naming the Nameless

2018-03-22T00:20:00.426Z · score: 16 (4 votes)
Comment by sarahconstantin on [deleted post] 2018-03-19T05:02:45.633Z

I did update away from believing Dragon Army was dangerous after visiting there.

It was all people whom I’d expect to be able to hold their own against strong personalities. And they clearly didn’t have a strongly authoritarian culture by global or historical standards.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Expertise Exchange · 2018-03-15T20:00:49.946Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The gland thing seems weird to me. Most internet sources associate the first chakra with the adrenals, which sit on top of the kidneys and aren’t physically anywhere near the usually pictured location of the first chakra (at the base of your spine.) Most sources associate second chakra with the ovaries (which are in the right place) or testes (which aren’t, afaik, in anyone’s lower belly area.) I’d been thinking of second chakra as basically my uterus, but altering hip posture is relevant for e.g. relieving uterine pain.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Expertise Exchange · 2018-03-14T19:31:10.824Z · score: 36 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Chakra stuff that seems empirically true to me:

*The pelvic floor (first chakra) is connected to the emotional sense of safety. You instinctively tighten it when nervous and relax it when secure.

Learning to feel and move your pelvic floor is useful; the correct way to push in childbirth is to tense your abs but relax your pelvic floor, and having practiced this a lot beforehand was helpful for me since it's counterintuitive for most people.

*Your abs (roughly third chakra) are obviously connected to willpower and strength, since you use them for all full-body challenging exercises. There's a similar tight connection between *feeling* willful and tightening those muscles as there is between feeling safe and loosening the pelvic floor.

*I suspect that there's a "softening" thing you can do with your lower belly/hips (second chakra) that has a similar emotional connection to feelings of vulnerability. I'm less confident about this, though; I am "bad at" second chakra in some sense. (Pregnancy made it clear to me that I'm worse than average at feeling sensations in my uterus.)

In general, I believe that muscles and emotions are pretty tightly linked. There are times when the only way to move a muscle in a particular tricky way is to evoke an emotion, and there are times when the only way to evoke an emotion is to move (or clench or unclench) in a particular way.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Expertise Exchange · 2018-03-14T19:12:07.169Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd really love a friendly, narrative-style introduction to military history or space travel. (Audio, video, book, blog, in-person infodumping, all welcome.)

I have simple questions like "what are the parts of a rocket and how do they work?" and "what actually made Napoleon a great general?" and would like a level of depth that's higher than children's books but lower than Wikipedia.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Looking and the no-self · 2018-03-14T19:03:56.099Z · score: 15 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can you clarify what you mean by "renunciation of the self"?

In David Chapman's writing, I think he makes the claim that selves do not exist, and he's a Tantra practitioner. (My perspective is that he has a different definition of "exist" than me, but that we're pointing at the same observations.) He doesn't believe in, and Tantra doesn't preach, a renunciate lifestyle -- they think it's okay to eat meat, have sex, earn money, and so on.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Misery Pits · 2018-03-13T06:09:38.409Z · score: 50 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Things I've learned over the years related to this:

  1. If someone argues with great force and convincingness that you shouldn't help them because they'll never get better, believe them.
  2. Never, ever hire someone for a job they can't do as a "favor." This causes more trouble than simply giving them money.
  3. You can be friends with someone who has serious life problems. (It would be awful and callous if you couldn't.) But you need to both acknowledge that you probably won't be able to singlehandedly fix their whole life, and you need to spend some of your time just about enjoying each other's company, independently from you trying to help them.
  4. You probably can't, in the long term, be totally dependent on others to take care of you, if you're an adult; people will eventually just refuse to do that. This includes depending on emotional handholding. Even if you have a persistent problem like a lifelong mental illness that does require long-term help, you're eventually going to have to transition to "managing your problem responsibly" rather than being a perpetual damsel in distress. It's ultimately in your interest to become good at coping with life, despite how much better it can feel in the moment to be rescued.
Comment by sarahconstantin on A Taxonomy of Weirdness · 2018-03-13T05:42:16.711Z · score: 23 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure exactly what "weird" is made of, on a gears level.

I do have a guess, taken from personal experience. I remember recently being in the orientation session for a new job, and I resolved to fit in and get along with people. Within a few days, though, I was "out of step" with the group and was very clearly more isolated than others.

It wasn't that I had done something especially shocking or unconventional, though. I decided that I wanted to get up early and exercise, so I went to the gym one morning; as a result, I was a few minutes late to the first event of the day and didn't arrive in a group with others. Another time, I got hungry and got myself lunch on my own when I felt like it. My natural inclination was to get my needs met by myself, instead of coordinating with someone first, and those quickly added up and within a few days I had gone from "indistinguishable from anybody else in the cohort" to "clearly the loner." Even though there's nothing intrinsically "weird" about going to the gym or eating.

Weirdness is clearly somehow about not imitating others "enough", but I'm not sure what "enough" really means here -- is it about how frequently you "check in" to make sure your behavior conforms, or about the size of the nonconformity, or something else? And what about leadership? Sometimes you can get other people to imitate you, and I don't know how that fits into my model of "not being weird means doing as others do."

Comment by sarahconstantin on Mythic Mode · 2018-02-24T19:38:41.288Z · score: 45 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The problems with believing in fate or Providence start to become real when bad things happen to you.

If you imagine that the universe is conspiring to help you when things go right, you can also imagine that the universe is conspiring to hurt you when things go wrong, and that’s terrifying. Ordinary failure and misfortune is easier to recover from than the creeping fear that you’ve angered God. I’ve been there; it sucks.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Two types of mathematician · 2018-02-24T03:04:10.543Z · score: 19 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, here’s a 2x2 that captures a lot of the variation in OP:

abstract/concrete x intuitive/methodical.

Intuitive vs. Methodical is what Atiyah, Klein, and Poincare are talking about. Abstract vs Concrete is what Gowers, Rota, and Dyson are talking about.

Abstract and intuitive is like Grothendieck.

Concrete and intuitive is like geometry or combinatorics.

Concrete and methodical is like analysis.

Abstract and methodical — I don’t know what goes in this space.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Two types of mathematician · 2018-02-23T21:54:23.912Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The chakra thing sounds right; another way of putting it is that algebra is more verbal & geometry is more visual/spatial. (IMO, analysis is visual/spatial too.)

Comment by sarahconstantin on Happiness Is a Chore · 2018-02-23T21:48:43.690Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for quantifying!

Yep, I can do that too.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Two types of mathematician · 2018-02-23T21:22:27.502Z · score: 21 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I eat corn like an an analyst, and I am an analyst. I also use vim over emacs, like Lisp, and find object-oriented programming weirdly distasteful.

However I don’t think analysis and algebra are usually lumped together and opposed to geometry; my understanding was that traditionally algebra, analysis, and geometry were the three main fields of math.

I tend to think of the distinctions within math as about how much we posit that we know about the objects we work with. The objects of study of mathematical logic are very general and thus can be very “perverse”; the objects of study of algebra and topology are also quite general; the objects of study of geometry are more pinned down because you have a metric; the objects of study of analysis are the ”best behaved” of all, because they have smoothness and integrability properties.

I find analysis much easier than algebra because I rely a lot on the concreteness of being able to measure, estimate, and (sometimes) visualize. People who are more algebra-oriented are more likely than me to become irritated by doing fiddly computations, but they have more ability to reason about very abstract objects.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Are you the rider or the elephant? · 2018-02-23T17:42:04.725Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I think that’s a difference between us. I hear that kind of language not as saying something denotatively, but as more like “casting a spell” on the audience. It doesn’t throw up the “error: that doesn’t make sense/seem fair” response because I’m not expecting it to be communication in the first place.

Someone who wants me to relax, say, and is putting verbal and nonverbal optimization pressure into getting me to relax, is going to cause me to relax, just because I want to be compliant in general. For me, only a totally expressionless and artificially dry request would be free of the ”hypnotic” social pressure and would be interpreted as a mere request without the “hoodoo.” I think you probably have a less sensitive “hoodoo-detector” and so you read more things as communication rather than influence.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Are you the rider or the elephant? · 2018-02-23T17:11:02.865Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW


You aren’t in fact charmed (or overawed) by people who use feelings-heavy, mystical, or salesy talk — you instead hear it as an explicit/denotative request for you to be charmed, which you think is unjustified. Is that right?

Comment by sarahconstantin on Are you the rider or the elephant? · 2018-02-23T16:42:01.065Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I’m trying to pinpoint where you think asking leading questions like “how do you feel” is different from smiles, dance, and poetry. They do seem different, but I’m not sure why.

Comment by sarahconstantin on The Intelligent Social Web · 2018-02-23T06:06:47.596Z · score: 73 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Just posting to record that this post successfully alarmed me, by raising the possibility that I might be missing really important things.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T08:06:42.611Z · score: 37 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, to me it feels like "sure, you can do 'magic' and make me cry and hug and shudder, but that has very little to do with my long-term behavior patterns, it's just a transient effect." It feels like being flipped onto the mat by a skilled martial artist; I'm being a guinea pig for someone to demonstrate a cool trick.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T06:10:42.052Z · score: 39 (9 votes) · LW · GW


You can prompt someone to "open up" about their desires or inner experiences in order to know them better, and knowing them better allows you to more precisely and smoothly do nice things for them.

Can this feel scary and vulnerable? Yep! I totally feel uncomfortable when someone is learning all about me in order to, unprompted, do me favors. Somebody who wanted to hurt me could definitely use that knowledge maliciously. It's just that sometimes that fear is unfounded.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T05:27:50.908Z · score: 44 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The #1 example of "social manipulation as a force for good" is helping people, of course.

Someone might try to suss out how your mind and emotions work in order to better give you gifts or do you favors that will make you the happiest. People seek emotional closeness in order to give and receive kindness.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T04:23:02.960Z · score: 45 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Here's an analogy.

When I was first getting into lifting weights, I got a lot of ha-ha-only-serious comments about how "now you'll be able to beat me up" or "don't you identify with the violent villains in this movie now?"

It got annoying.

It's not just that I am not, in fact, violent. It's not just "not all weightlifters." It's that beating people up is like...totally not the point of physical strength. I was lifting in order to be healthier and happier and look better and be able to do more physical feats and set myself a challenge. And if you keep coming back to "but violence, amirite? you're totally gonna be a violent felon now, lol" it makes it sound like you don't get it, you haven't let it sunk in that I actually get a lot of positive value out of exercise, and you just want to keep reiterating how little you relate to me.

It seems to me like constantly harping on "but you could use social skills for evil" is the same kind of point-missing as "but you could use muscles to beat me up." Sure, you could, and some people (a minority) do, but aaaah there's a kind of willful blindness in making that your only focus.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T04:04:16.050Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW

More like the latter. I think that the primary or most common purpose of social influence/manipulation is not to hurt anyone, but simply to get what one wants. It‘s like a knife: sure, it can be a weapon, but the vast majority of knife-uses are just using the knife as a tool.

Comment by sarahconstantin on Circling · 2018-02-19T03:41:57.390Z · score: 14 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possible, yes, but I think it’s unwise. For me at least, there are just too many good people who do lots of social manipulation for me to be willing to cut them all out of my life.

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