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Week Of Wednesday, June 24th 2020
Week Of Wed, Jun 24th 2020

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16Connor_Flexman2moI’ve understood episteme, techne, and metis for awhile, and the vital importance of each, but I’ve been missing this understanding of gnosis. I now think I've been bouncing off the implication that’s bundled into the idea of gnosis: that knowledge of spiritual mysteries is universal, or won’t be overturned later, or is “correct”. But I think that’s a wrong way to look at things. For example, consider “life philosophies”. People put a ton of energy thinking about existentialism and what to do about the fact that we’re all going to die. The important thing people get from it isn’t some sort of episteme; nor techne; nor metis. They process it, learn to cope, learn how their values interact with the world—and the big insights here feel spiritual. Likewise, with love. People develop philosophies around love that are clearly not built on the other 3 kinds of knowledge: they often contain things like “my heart yearns for that kind of thing”. The statement “my heart yearns for that kind of thing” is episteme, the decisionless following of the heart is techne, the fact that you should follow your heart is metis, but finding that your heart yearns for the thing is gnosis. It was a spiritual mystery what your heart yearned for, and you figured it out, and to find one of these feels just as spiritual as they say. I can sort of see how meditation can give rise to these, cutting yourself off from synthetic logical direction and just allowing natural internal annealing to propagate all sorts of updates about your deep values and how to cope with the nature of reality. I can sort of see why people go to “find themselves spiritually” by traveling, letting new values come out and the standard constraints get loosened, and the resulting depth growing spiritual knowledge. I can sort of see why drugs, dancing, and sexuality were often used in pagan religious ceremonies meant to cause a revealing of the spirit and an estuary where deep values intermingled. But all these spiritual ins
8ozziegooen2moTHE 4TH ESTATE HEAVILY RELIES ON EXTERNALITIES, AND THAT'S PRECARIOUS. There's a fair bit of discussion of how much of journalism has died with local newspapers, and separately how the proliferation of news past 3 channels has been harmful for discourse. In both of these cases, the argument seems to be that a particular type of business transaction resulted in tremendous positive national externalities. It seems to me very precarious to expect that society at large to only work because of a handful of accidental and temporary externalities. In the longer term, I'm more optimistic about setups where people pay for the ultimate value, instead of this being an externality. For instance, instead of buying newspapers, which helps in small part to pay for good journalism, people donate to nonprofits that directly optimize the government reform process. If you think about it, the process of: * People buy newspapers, a fraction of which are interested in causing change. * Great journalists come across things around government or society that should be changed, and write about them. * A bunch of people occasionally get really upset about some of the findings, and report this to authorities or vote differently. ... is all really inefficient and roundabout compared to what's possible. There's very little division of expertise among the public for instance, there's no coordination where readers realize that there are 20 things that deserve equal attention, so split into 20 subgroups. This is very real work the readers aren't getting compensated for, so they'll do whatever they personally care the most about at the moment. Basically, my impression is that the US is set up so that a well functioning 4th estate is crucial to making sure things don't spiral out of control. But this places great demands on the 4th estate that few people now are willing to pay for. Historically this functioned by positive externalities, but that's a sketchy place to be. If we develop
8Rudi C2moReading AI alignment posts on here has made me realize how a lot of these ideas can potentially also apply to societal structures. Our social institutions are kind of like an AI system that uses humans for its computing units. Unfortunately, our institutions are not that “friendly”. In fact, badly aligned institutions are probably a major cause of unprogress in the developing world. Has there been much thought/discussion on these topics? Is there potential for adapting AI safety research to social mechanism design?
7Douglas_Knight2moA common pedagogical example of the perils of correlation analysis that ice cream consumption is correlated with homicide. The common cause is seasonal variation. This is usually presented as an absurd example, a mistake no one would make, but there is an extremely similar example that was nationally prominent. Polio was blamed on ice cream consumption because they had the same seasonal pattern. I wonder if the standard example was engineered from the real example. Perhaps it is better (eg, more absurd), but one doesn't have to choose just one example; surely it is better to also include the historical example.
7Bob Jacobs2moI was writing a post about how you can get more fuzzies [https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Fuzzies] (=personal happiness) out of your altruism, but decided that it would be better as a shortform. I know the general advice is to purchase your fuzzies and utilons separately [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/3p3CYauiX8oLjmwRF/purchase-fuzzies-and-utilons-separately] but if you're going to do altruism anyway, and there are ways to increase your happiness of doing so without sacrificing altruistic output, then I would argue you should try to increase that happiness. After all, if altruism makes you miserable you're less likely to do it in the future and if it makes you happy you will be more likely to do it in the future (and personal happiness is obviously good in general). The most obvious way to do it is with conditioning e.g giving yourself a cookie, doing a handpump motion every time you donate etc. Since there's already a boatload of stuff written about conditioning I won't expand on it further. I then wanted to adapt the tips from Lukeprog's the science of winning at life [https://www.lesswrong.com/s/oi873FWi6pHWxswSa] to this particular topic, but I don't really have anything to add so you can probably just read it and apply it to doing altruism. The only purely original thing I wanted to advice is to diversify your altruistic output. I found out there have already been defenses [https://concepts.effectivealtruism.org/concepts/philanthropic-diversification/] made in favor of this concept but I would like to give additional arguments. The primary one being that it will keep you personally emotionally engaged with different parts of the world. When you invest something (e.g time/money) into a cause you become more emotionally attached to said cause. So someone who only donates to malaria bednets will (on average) be less emotionally invested into deworming even though these are both equally important projects. While I know on an intellectual level that donating 50