Comment by sherrinford on Coherent decisions imply consistent utilities · 2019-05-13T08:29:13.730Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I don't find completeness so problematic, I got quite confused by Eliezer's post. Firstly, it would make much more sense to first explain what "utility" is, in the sense that it is used here. Secondly, the justification of transitivity is common, but using a word like "dominated strategy" there does not make much sense, because you can only evaluate strategies if you know the utility functions (and it also mixes up words). Thirdly, it's necessary to discuss all axioms and their implications. For example, in standard preferences theory under certainty, it's possible to have preferences that are complete and transitive but you cannot get a utility function from. Fourthly, I am still confused whether this talk about expected utility is only normative or also a positive description of humans, or kinda both.

Comment by sherrinford on Moving to a World Beyond “p < 0.05” · 2019-04-24T17:47:48.444Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"2) Funding by NSF and similar public money grant program."

Based on both what I heard and what I experienced, it's private foundations that would have the lower standards, because they are agenda-driven and the people who work there have the mission to find scientists doing research on whatever the topic-of-the-year is.

Comment by sherrinford on Moving to a World Beyond “p < 0.05” · 2019-04-22T11:00:22.402Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here is a summary of John Ioannidis on the topic, kind of defending the usage of p: http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/

Comment by sherrinford on Robin Hanson on Simple, Evidence Backed Models · 2019-04-17T11:30:09.998Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that "supply and demand" for economists means that the demand curve is derived from consumer optimization (price = marginal utility), that the supply curve is derived from firms' profit maximization (price = marginal cost), both assuming price-taking behavior, that it implicitly assumes that trade actually takes place where the curves intersect (my impression is that a large literature on adjustment processes has basically disappeared because the assumption that we only care about equilibria in this sense became the norm).

People who hear that this is simple may confuse it with the claims that consumers demand less when the price is lower and that firms offer less when the price is higher (and that trade actually takes place where the curves intersect), which are claims that can be backed by different underlying models. You can derive a demand curve either by assuming that everybody buys more when the price increases (the standard reasoning), or that everybody buys exactly one unit if the price is below her individual willingness to pay.

It seems that a model which assumes that firms are price-takers in this sense and supply at marginal cost is not simpler than a model which assumes that firms always have a mark-up of 20% on their marginal cost. Sure, the mark-up demands an explanation, but this way you don't need the profit-maximization arguments (which makes the model simpler).

Finally, often we are not sure whether a simpler or a certain more complex model actually applies well to any given situation. So we have to worry that people argue in favor of simpler models mainly to justify their preferred policies - because the policy-implications of certain simpler models are well-known.

Comment by sherrinford on What societies have ever had legal or accepted blackmail? · 2019-03-21T14:54:11.788Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So now it seems that there is a debate about the pros and cons of blackmail, and it is based on anecdotal evidence and vague impressions.

Comment by sherrinford on What societies have ever had legal or accepted blackmail? · 2019-03-18T08:26:55.806Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know that?

Comment by sherrinford on What societies have ever had legal or accepted blackmail? · 2019-03-17T17:04:10.993Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have not really followed the debates. So: How do you know it is "rarely enforced", in particular compared to other crimes?

Comment by sherrinford on A theory of human values · 2019-03-13T19:07:41.508Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am relatively new to the (large number of) utility / preference discussions on Lesswrong. Can you please tell me what a reasonable and relatively short introductions to the foundations would be?

My problem is that the discussion or research project seems to be detached from the economics literature. I also do not see any discussion of "contribution to the literature" in your post, so it is hard for me to see the starting point.

Just to give a little background to see where I am starting. The following is my understanding of welfare evaluations in economics. I hope I do not misuse your post too much, because my comment may have little concrete relation to what you write.

In theoretical Microeconomics, there are basically four approaches:

1. Understanding utility as preferences. This is completely ordinal, and it's unclear how utility between people should be compared. From a welfare-maximization perspective, this is very problematic, as shown by Arrow's impossibility theorem.

2. von-Neumann-Morgenstern expected utility. Here, utility functions are cardinal, but expected utility is ordinal and again it's not clear how utility could be compared. So I guess that the impossibility theorem still applies.

3. Welfare economics. Here we just ignore the problem by adding up market surplus, implicitly or explicitly assuming that all utility functions are quasi-linear, and linear in income. And additionally, we implicitly assume almost always that it is not a problem that people are not compensated compared to a pre-policy state of the world, as long as the winners could compensate the losers (Kaldor-Hicks criterion). This is a value assumption, though I have read economists that have claimed that the opposite would be a value assumption. Welfare economics includes an expected-value version, which is no problem because everything is cardinal.

4. Prospect theory and similar approaches that include reference points (of a person's consumption, income, whatever). While there is a lot of evidence that this is more successful at explaing behavior, I am not sure whether there is any accepted welfare theory based on that. I guess the problem is that if reference points and social preferences enter the utility function, strange implications may arise. If there are rich and poor people, then redistribution has to take into account their reference points, which would limit redistribution, which seems unfair. Additionally, if I can somehow convince myself that I deserve more money, and a benevolent utilitarian planner would be omniscient and thus see my conviction, then he should give me more money.

Reading Kahneman's research summarized in Thinking, Fast and Slow also leads to weird conclusions, because when people evaluate their life, their evaluations are weird. Kahneman writes, for example, that people evaluate the pain suffered in some span of time by the pain at the end and the highest value of pain. Which makes people choose "60 seconds of strong pain plus 30 seconds of moderate pain" over "60 seconds of strong pain".

Then there are many welfare discussions that use macroeconomic models, i.e., assuming a cardinal utility function of a representative agent (usually expected utilitarian discounted utility, sometimes max-min / Rawlsian). I think there is no real theoretical foundation.

Finally, there are empirical redistibution preferences that show that people have a preference for given money to people who "deserve" it by some measure. This could be understood as similar to welfare evaluations based on prospect theory, but it additionally tells us where the reference points would come from.

Comment by sherrinford on A Strange Situation · 2019-02-20T23:17:42.563Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hm... I will get a little more concrete.

I would recommend reading the career guide https://80000hours.org/career-guide/ because it is a good document for anyone thinking about what to do with his life, but I would definitely recommend reading other things on the same topic as well.

Moreover, I would recommend reading: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/TNHQLZK5pHbxdnz4e/references-and-resources-for-lesswrong if the question is more about what to read next.

Comment by sherrinford on A Strange Situation · 2019-02-18T22:27:00.185Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe you should try https://80000hours.org/

Comment by sherrinford on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T14:29:40.709Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I do not know the Gillette ad, but your posting's title caught my attention and so I read the first section ("Boys Will Be Boys"). I stopped reading there because it gets confusing.

1. You seem to find categories like "traditional male" quite important. But then you seem to reserve the word "traditional male" for things that you like. But equating "traditional" with "of the things that have, for at least some decades, been seen as characteristics of what men should do, those that we still like today and don't find toxic" kind of needs a redefition of the word "traditional". This seems to me a bit like a true-scotsman definition.

2. You list some "traits and behaviors" that you consider "remarkably traditional male traits and behaviors". But:

a) Not all are only "present and praised among men". So why should I call them male? Is accountability "male"? Why should be more "male" than "female"?

b) Nor are they the only "traditional male traits and behaviors". (see above)

c) Nor can all men comply with this list. If you have no superior strength, then you cannot "Using your superior strength to break up fights between smaller males." It will be hard to "demonstratively protect women from other men", or from anybody.

d) Fatherhood without any qualifiers sure is "behavior" if it only means "men having children". It is by definition only "male", but you can just replace it by writing "parenthood" and then it's not even gender-specific: The praiseworthy behavior then would be praiseworthy for both men and women. (See a) above) Similarly, you can just rephrase "Using your superior strength to break up fights between smaller males." into "Using your superior strength to break up fights", and rephrase "demonstratively protect women from other men" to "demonstratively protect weak people". (This is more a superhero trait than a male trait, and even if it has been traditionally been identified with being men, I don't know why to defend this identification.)

f) "Teaching all of the above to your son." is also unnecessarily narrowly defined. If we rephrase the terms as I did, I can also teach it to my daughter.

3. Summarizing, I see why your selective categorization is useful if you like to promote the concept of masculinity (and I can imagine that this is also useful for a company that needs customer loyalty of a target group, and collective identity helps in getting there). But if we want to use words like "traditional" with their... traditional meaning, then I don't find your categorization particularly convincing. On the other hand, if this helps people to behave better because they identify as "traditional males" and search for lists of traits and behaviors for that, that's ok.

4. Nonetheless, in the last paragraph in that section you talk about an "APA’s attack on traditional manhood", referring to your other list:

Here is a list of things APA considers “harmful”, under the umbrella term of “traditional masculinity”:
Stoicism.
Competitiveness.
Aggression.
Dominance.
Anti-femininity.
Achievement.
Adventure and risk.
Violence.
Providing for loved ones (if you’re a black man).

That made me curious, so I googled to find the document (https://www.apa.org/about/policy/boys-men-practice-guidelines.pdf) where the APA does that. I searched for "stoicism". It appears in the following contexts:

"Psychologists strive to use a variety of methods to promote the development of male-to-male relationships. Toward addressing this goal, psychologists recognize and challenge socialization pressures on boys and men to be hypercompetitive and hyper aggressive with one another to help boys and men develop healthy same-sex friendships. Interactive all-male groups, (Levant, 1996; Mortola, Hiton, & Grant, 2007), self-help books (Garfield, 2015 Smiler, 2016), and educational videos (Hurt & Gordon, 2007; Katz & Earp, 2013) may be helpful or utilized. Psychologists also strive to create psychoeducational classes and workshops designed to promote gender empathy, respectful behavior, and communication skills that enhance cross-sex friendships, and to raise awareness about, and solutions for, problematic behaviors such as sexual harassment that deter cross-sex friendships (Wilson, 2006). Psychologists can discuss with boys and men the messages they have received about withholding affection from other males to help them understand how components of traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance, and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers (Brooks, 1998; Smiler, 2016). In that vein, psychologists strive to develop in boys and men a greater understanding of the diverse and healthy ways that they can demonstrate their masculinities in relationships." (p. 11)

and

"Psychologists also strive to reduce mental health stigma for men by acknowledging and challenging socialized messages related to men’s mental health stigma (e.g., male stoicism, self-reliance)." (p. 18)

So in both contexts, that does not say whether stoicism is good or bad in itself. It says there may be problems caused by it (in particular, in the context of people who have mental-health problems). First, stoicism may be a problem when men would like to form "close relationships with male peers", and it may increase the perceived stigma of mental-health problems, and both things may need to be addressed.

Competitiveness? See the p.-11 paragraph above. "Hypercompetitive" behavior is seen as a potential cause of problems, "and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers", and neither statement implies that you should drop all competitiveness (and not even that competitiveness should not be seen as a positive value in general). The word also appears on page 13:

"Psychologists can promote strengths of father involvement. For instance, active play and physical exercise with their children have been linked to higher levels of father involvement and better child health (Berg, 2010; Fletcher, Morgan, May, Lubans, & St. George, 2011; Garfield & Isacco, 2012). According to Bogels and Phares (2008), active play between fathers and children has a functional element correlated with several positive child outcomes, such as competitiveness without aggression, cooperation that buffers anxiety, healthy experimentation, social competence, peer acceptance and popularity, and a sense of autonomy."

To me this sounds a lot like the behavior that your own lists imply.

So up to here it seems a bit like the APA describes problems that may be caused by some parts of what is traditionally part of the umbrella term "masculinity", and then you say: "Naming such traits and kinds of behavior is bad, because I like the term 'masculinity' and want to fill it with my own values." (But that would imply the opposite meaning of the word "traditional" compared to parts of the definition in https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/traditional ). So if you state there is an "attack on traditional manhood", which meaning of the word "traditional" you use here, and where I can see this attack. (But maybe you are referring to a different document by the APA?)

Comment by sherrinford on Book Trilogy Review: Remembrance of Earth’s Past (The Three Body Problem) · 2019-01-30T14:16:22.377Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've read the first book and considering to buy the second, but unsure. Even with slightly below 400 pages (epub), I found the story was often quite dryly told. The best parts were those playing in Chinese 20th century history.

Then, there was so much implausible stuff. The recruitment of people via the computer game seemed relatively absurd (how fast can you play this game, why do they only let people into their club who are able to figure out the three-body problem is the problem, where did they get all the information to design the game). Another point: A planet breaking in two parts, but still the same civilization just restarts? What about lower gravity, and the atmosphere? The Panama canal thing seemed really convenient and anticlimatic. And the idea of AI in protons that travel between solar systems? How do you even commnicate with these systems? And all this stuff about intelligence on some microdimension level? And folding the proton around the planet?

I don't know if things in book 2 are better, or if I missed some metaphor level stuff.

Comment by sherrinford on Why is this utilitarian calculus wrong? Or is it? · 2019-01-28T09:30:24.519Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the producer can charge $100, then you don't have to buy a widget, because well, as you said, he can charge $100. So someone seems to be willing to buy the stuff at that price.

So the question should be reframed and the model expanded. There is a firm owned by workers (or something like that) and other standard firms. You value the widget at $30. You can get it at $20. Suppose the workers of that firm are the poorest people in the world. Then you can just buy the widget at $20 at the market and give them however you like (or directly buy it from them if the price they charge is not higher than $20 + what you would like to transfer). If they are not the poorest people in the world, then the harder question is whether you value their product extra for being from a worker-owned firm etc.

Comment by sherrinford on Some Thoughts on My Psychiatry Practice · 2019-01-17T13:22:14.384Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's why I am asking. Probably because I am not an American or native English speaker, I assume that "psychoanalysis" is just that school of thought, and the therapists I know really want to distance themselves from that Freud's couch image and just say psychotherapy or CBT.

Comment by sherrinford on Some Thoughts on My Psychiatry Practice · 2019-01-17T09:28:17.038Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting. May I ask whether by "psychoanalysis" you mean that as referring to the school of thought founded by Freud, or just as a general description referring to a get-to-know-yourself process?

Comment by sherrinford on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-14T10:39:20.675Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that the intuitive economic model you have in mind does not work.

1) In the moment when you sell a thing, its development costs are sunk. That is, you have to explain the price via market conditions at the moment when things are offered at the market. You can argue that development is a fixed cost, therefore less firms will enter the market, therefore the price is higher. But this is independent of the development costs for future processors.

2) Basically, see 1) ...?

3) If I don't expect that my computer becomes obsolete in two years, I am willing to pay more. Thus, the demand curve moves upwards. So the price of the processor may be higher. (But this also depends on supply, i.e., points 1) and 2))

4) Ok, but this is independent of whether Moore's law does or does not hold. That is, if you have some processor type X1, at some point its patent expires and people can offer it cheaply (because they don't have to cover the costs discussed in point 1).

Comment by sherrinford on Noisy Poll Results And Reptilian Muslim Climatologists from Mars · 2019-01-10T19:52:25.788Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

After having been accepted, the paper is retracted but Frontiers in Psychology says it "did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article."

Comment by sherrinford on Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism? · 2019-01-08T12:39:55.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the suggestion, I will consider it.

Moral intuition is often helpful, but not quite what I am searching for.

Comment by sherrinford on Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism? · 2019-01-08T12:37:58.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find your answer to the question about wild animals very interesting. However, I am unsure what it implies. What would be the preferences of a deer itself if it could think of its own future as humans do? It would surely want to continue living in its natural habit, but would it want to die the way it can expect to do so in nature? Would it prefer that kind of death to being shot? (Or do you think none of these questions has ethical significance?) And actually, I don't know whether there is a literature on the ethics of cannibalism, but I would guess that there are reasons of biological and cultural evolution why this does not exist. So I assume people would find the idea disgusting, and many vegetarians find the idea of eating animals disgusting, but this does not really say much about (normative) ethics, or does it?

Comment by sherrinford on Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism? · 2019-01-08T12:23:38.500Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
"I suggest you read Peter Singer's book, "Animal Ethics", which goes into great detail on the ethics of consuming animal products within the framework of utilitarianism."

I guess you mean either "Animal Liberation" and "Practical Ethics"?

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer#Publications)

Comment by sherrinford on Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism? · 2019-01-08T12:19:14.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also thought this may be the reason, but so we have a calculator that is only applicable to animals of which we judge that their life has negative value to themselves.

Comment by sherrinford on What is a reasonable outside view for the fate of social movements? · 2019-01-08T12:16:45.965Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Always good to see data on such things, data which I neglected. That at least reduces the survivorship bias of observation.

Comment by sherrinford on About: LessWrong · 2019-01-06T15:52:38.269Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And here is something else which also talks about the rationality community:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/04/the-ideology-is-not-the-movement/

Comment by sherrinford on What is a reasonable outside view for the fate of social movements? · 2019-01-04T08:10:13.988Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

First of all, what is failure? If you compare what many social-democratic parties were able to get to what they talked about when they were founded, I assume they have failed. But if you consider the growth of welfare states, they might have succeeded (though causality is hard to attribute). And if you consider that they as parties have often been in power, they might have succeeded. Social movements, including parties, drastically change when they get closer to power. They lose members, gain new ones, change their platform and their criteria for success.

Secondly, what is the population of social movements from which we want to have examples? Consider Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation started the Arab Spring. I assume there were and are many politically-caused suicides who cause nothing like that. You could see each one of them as a social movement that failed.

Thirdly, the observation problem. I guess for every J. K. Rowling, there are thousands of manuscripts not even accepted by publishers. But it would be hard to list even one of them except if you wrote them yourself.

Comment by sherrinford on Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism? · 2019-01-03T18:53:52.797Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting, though I don't fully understand it. For instance, extending the lifetime in the calculator always increases total suffering, which does not seem to make much sense to me.

Is there a standard discussion of vegetarianism/veganism?

2018-12-30T20:22:33.330Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Comment by sherrinford on A hundred Shakespeares · 2018-12-12T09:10:51.281Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Part of what people may call a superstar effect in science is called the "Matthew effect" by sociologists.

Comment by sherrinford on Why should EA care about rationality (and vice-versa)? · 2018-12-10T11:13:01.409Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this GM chicken example just a thought experiment?

Comment by sherrinford on deluks917 on Online Weirdos · 2018-11-25T21:05:28.894Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Additionally, the world is less horrible compare to some plausible counterfactual worlds. Trying to change the world to the better can end up like the plan to bring democracy to Iraq or Afghanistan (assuming that was the plan in these cases).

On the current developments in China, also see

https://www.economist.com/china/2018/11/24/the-west-begins-to-stir-over-chinas-massive-abuse-of-muslims

(Though I think the comment on Guantánamo there is not convincing.)

Comment by sherrinford on deluks917 on Online Weirdos · 2018-11-24T19:43:33.336Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"And then if you say that it’s actually fine because overall this US-led world order is pretty good they’ll ask what the fuck you’re talking about, it’s horrible!"

I am not very confident about this US international order thing, but there is a difference between knowing that things are bad compared to some ideal world and having an idea how to get there.

Comment by sherrinford on On Doing the Improbable · 2018-10-29T06:56:37.055Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"People don't want to do new things."

Uhm, depends. I think many people are quite enthusiastic if they think they can contribute to something exciting and new, and then lose interest if turns out to be less exciting, less new, and is hard, boring work.

Comment by sherrinford on Starting Meditation · 2018-10-25T21:17:06.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your reply. I have read Dan Harris' 10% book, and found it quite entertaining, though in fact the parts that really tell you about meditation are a small share. I also read half of Suzuki's book. To be honest, it seemed to me like the kind of text where people start to believe they are into something but mostly because things seem so deep. I respect the insight that some things cannot be taught by theory, but then I expect that the example of those who practice Zen for a while must be something that can be useful for demonstrating what a valuable practice Zen is?

Comment by sherrinford on Starting Meditation · 2018-10-25T12:05:36.833Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you explain what happens during such a meetup? Do people just meet and meditate to have a fixed time to do it? At my university there was a Zen-Buddhist group, but its meetings usually took place when I had other obligations, and then one time I went there out of curiosity, I did not find it very convincing. Basically the same things that I also found weird in the Suzuki book "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind": Posture is everything, so sit correctly and everything will follow.

Comment by sherrinford on Book review: Why we sleep · 2018-09-20T09:56:24.939Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the interesting review summary. Does he say a bit more about the effects of napping / biphasic sleep vs monophasic sleep?

Comment by sherrinford on Open Thread September 2018 · 2018-09-04T15:31:47.887Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here is a review: https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/09/01/big-data-is-reshaping-humanity-says-yuval-noah-harari

Comment by sherrinford on About: LessWrong · 2018-09-01T20:38:24.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is useful, even though it is old:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/TNHQLZK5pHbxdnz4e/references-and-resources-for-lesswrong

Comment by sherrinford on Open Thread August 2018 · 2018-08-27T10:02:19.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Feature Idea: It would be good if all posts had an abstract (maybe up to three sentences) at the beginning.

Comment by sherrinford on Cargo Cult, Self-Improvement, and What to Do · 2018-08-08T11:16:28.900Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Done. Thanks for pointing this out.

Comment by sherrinford on Cargo Cult, Self-Improvement, and What to Do · 2018-08-08T08:40:22.425Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a fair point, and I find it interesting that you did this and came to the conclusion "nothing short of trying it seems to have any predictive ability of whether or not it is helpful". When you hand somebody a self-helf book, it is hard to say what the exact treatment should be that will be tested. If the treatment is just handing out the book, then it may be that bad writing keeps the treatment effects low. If the treatment is applying all techniques, then the test for some of the books will be very expensive, and the author can make up excuses why something does not work.

A topic I considered to cover but postponed is cognitive dissonance; if people have invested time into following a technique, they want to find it useful afterwards. Basically, people then apply the same biases that make them prey to cold reading and other con-artist techniques: They attribute positive developments to having read the book, and ignore counter-evidence. Some of the self-help authors have a large cult around them, probably starting with Napoleon Hill. Cognitive dissonance also applies to self-help communities without a guru at the center, because fans mutually reinforce their beliefs. Eye training may be an example.

But of course not everything under the book-shelve label "self-help" is like that. The following things should make you very suspicious:

- The author writes in a very obscure style, and it is hard to grasp what he is talking about.

- The author claims to have discovered a magical secret, as opposed to either scientifically-based advice or commonsense observations.

- You decide to apply the techniques, do it for a while, but nothing happens (of which it is not more likely that it has nothing to do with the book).

- The techniques are basically not applicable.

- The techniques depend strongly on belief (If you don't believe it, it doesn't work.)

The epistemic problem here is that many of these things can "work" on some level, like a mental placebo. But they work because e.g. you have decided to change your life, become more confident etc. and not because of some magic the author describes. Maybe you just feel better because you took time to read a book instead of just sitting there worrying. Maybe you imagined yourself in a better state and that made you feel better. I find it hard even to define a placebo for that. In all these cases, the willingness to start is more important than the content of the book, which of course poses a testability problem for the content. (I believe this is also a problem for the testability of recognized psychotherapies.)

Cargo Cult, Self-Improvement, and What to Do

2018-08-07T12:45:30.661Z · score: 18 (12 votes)
Comment by sherrinford on About: LessWrong · 2018-08-01T21:45:10.052Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Some time ago, I stumbled over this rationality community thing, and over the last months, I read some texts of it here and there. However, I am still a bit puzzled by what the rationality community really is.

May I note that this "community" at first glance does not seem to be very inviting, if even this "about" page kind of presupposes that visitors to this page either know what the "rationality community" is, or do not need a clear explanation? (Or is this mostly meant to be read by "insiders" anyways?)