Absolute denial for atheists

by taw1 min read16th Jul 2009605 comments

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Self-Deception
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This article is a deliberate meta-troll. To be successful I need your trolling cooperation. Now hear me out.

In The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You Eliezer talks about asognostics, who have one of their arm paralyzed, and what's most interesting are in absolute denial of this - in spite of overwhelming evidence that their arm is paralyzed they will just come with new and new rationalizations proving it's not.

Doesn't it sound like someone else we know? Yes, religious people! In spite of heaps of empirical evidence against existence of their particular flavour of the supernatural, internal inconsistency of their beliefs, and perfectly plausible alternative explanations being well known, something between 90% and 98% of humans believe in the supernatural world, and is in a state of absolute denial not too dissimilar to one of asognostics. Perhaps as many as billions of people in history have even been willing to die for their absurd beliefs.

We are mostly atheists here - we happen not to share this particular delusion. But please consider an outside view for a moment - how likely is it that unlike almost everyone else we don't have any other such delusions, for which we're in absolute denial of truth in spite of mounting heaps of evidence?

If the delusion is of the kind that all of us share it, we won't be able to find it without building an AI. We might have some of those - it's not too unlikely as we're a small and self-selected group.

What I want you to do is try to trigger absolute denial macro in your fellow rationalists! Is there anything that you consider proven beyond any possibility of doubt by both empirical evidence and pure logic, and yet saying it triggers automatic stream of rationalizations in other people? Yes, I pretty much ask you to troll, but it's a good kind of trolling, and I cannot think of any other way to find our delusions.

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Okay, now for my attempt to actually answer the prompt:

Your supposed "taste" for alcoholic beverages is a lie.

Summary: I've never enjoyed the actual process of drinking alcohol in the way that I e.g. enjoy ice cream. (The effects on my mind are a different story, of course.)

So for a long time I thought that, hey, I just have weird taste buds. Other people really like beer/wine/etc., I don't. No biggie.

But then as time went by I saw all the data about how wine-tasting "experts" can't even agree on which is the best, the moment you start using scientific controls. And then I started asking people about the particulars of why they like alcohol. It turns out that when it comes any implications of "I like alcohol", I have the exact same characterstics as those who claim to like alcohol.

For example, there are people who insist that, yes, I must like alcohol, because, well, what about Drink X which has low alcohol content and is heavily loaded with flavoring I'd like anyway? And wine experts would tell me that, on taste alone, ice cream wins. And defenses of drinking one's favorite beverage always morph into "well, it helps to relax..."

So, I ... (read more)

I will agree with you that a lot of alcohol is like that, in particular beer. But you can't say that acquiring a taste means forcing yourself to like something; we have to acquire almost all tastes. A kid who isn't fed a variety of foods will never like a variety of foods. There are people out there who don't like FRUIT, I mean, really. Not just like there's a fruit they don't particularly enjoy, they don't like any fruit.

But there are some alcoholic drinks that ARE delicious. I don't mean anything regular. My favourite drink has no substitute: mead. Honey wine. It's a beverage made from honey, and delectable (well, unless it's a dry wine). I don't like any dry wines, just sweet ones. Fuki plum wine is another favourite of mine, and again, there is no similar substitute. I would be careful of saying you don't like alcohol at all, because it's possible you've just had bad stuff (and each kind of alcohol is different, too). I've never liked eggplant, bleach--until someone actually cooked it properly for me, using the right gender pod. (For the record of anecdotal proof, my sister hates alcohol, but even she likes Fuki.)

And the "other" effects of alcohol have no bearing on m... (read more)

1asparisi9yI find the idea that people don't like being intoxicated suspicious. Experiencing euphoria from intoxication has a lot do with with brain chemistry, and it would be very odd if some humans recieved this effect and others did not. Now, I can understand the intellectual response of "I don't like being intoxicated" as "I don't like the (loss of control/mental sluggishness/depressive effects) that accompanies intoxication." After all, those could easily go against your personal values. But in terms of enjoying something, I don't think that those concerns are paramount. I enjoy the taste of foods that I consciously know are bad for me: eating them goes against my personal values (live a long life, have energy for the next task, etc.) but I still experience pleasure upon eating them. And it strikes me that it is quite possible to consciously find something distasteful while non-consciously finding it enjoyable. In other words, your conscious brain might say "I don't enjoy the other effects of alcohol, only the taste" while your tongue tells your subconscious "Hey! This is the stuff that gives us the happy feeling!" The only real test, I suppose, would be to find two drinks that were, taste-wise, indistinguishable with one producing the "other" effects of alcohol while the other doesn't. Then, see if there was a stronger "liking" associated with the prior substance over time, particularly with people who self-report not enjoying those effects in alcohol while otherwise enjoying its flavor. I have a strong suspicion that the test would show that even if little enough of it was served that neither group felt outward signs of intoxication that the group that got the alcoholic batch would show stronger liking over time. (In fact, the less the "I don't enjoy intoxication" batch consciously know that they are being given alcohol, the better for their self-reporting.)
5gwern9yDrug effects can be heavily culturally mediated; Hanson has posted some material on alcohol in particular. (Another n=1: I was surprised and dismayed the first time I had enough alcohol to qualify as even partially drunk, and realized that I felt incredibly depressed. This happened twice more, and I eventually gave up alcohol as a bad job. This is annoying because it limits my mead consumption, even though it also means I never need to worry about alcoholism.)
2TheOtherDave9yI know a number of people who frequently become extremely sad while drunk. Back when I drank, that wasn't an uncommon condition for me as well. Also, there were a number of enjoyable activities I found myself less able to successfully engage in while drunk... sex, in particular, was significantly less satisfying that way. In general I found several other intoxicants far superior if what I wanted was to be intoxicated.
1asparisi9yWell, that makes some amount of sense. Alcohol is a seratonin inhibitor, so it would block some of the natural rush you would expect to get from sexual activity. That, and it inhibits testosterone, which is critical for sexual activity in men.
2RobinZ9yBy what mechanism does alcohol - a central nervous system depressant - cause euphoria? And how intense is this euphoria? I ask because I've been to board game nights with my friends both with and without drinking involved, and I can recall no significant difference in pleasure between the two.
2asparisi9yAdmittedly, reporting on the euphoria from alcohol largely comes from anecdotal experiences from myself and my friends and family, however, the wikipedia entry on intoxication [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_intoxication] is a good starting point for answering this question. However, asking the question did prompt me to investigate. The short answer is that alcohol intoxication often produces euphoria at about 20-99 mg/dL and that this state may continue at higher concentrations. The mechanism appears to be due to the fact that, in addition to being a central nervous system depressant, alcohol is also a seratonin inhibitor [http://www.currentseparations.com/issues/18-1/cs18-1d.pdf] and that it interferes with seratonin binding and seratonin transporters in a manner which causes excessive stimulation in serotonergic neurons. That said, the specifics are unclear. It seems that we don't have direct ways of checking seratonin in human or animal brains yet. That said, indirect tests, self-report, and observed euphoric effects of alcohol intoxication all contribute to the current theory on the effects of alcohol on the seratonin receptors.
4RobinZ9yGotcha! I had asked because the absence of a known pharmacological mechanism would have suggested that the primary factor was an association effect - people drink at parties with their friends, and therefore associate intoxication with their enjoyment of the party.
0TeMPOraL5yI drink to make parties with friends tolerable because after an hour there is usually an infinite amount of things I'd rather be doing...
0TeMPOraL5yAnother n=1: I like the way intoxication feels when I'm intoxicated, but over last couple of months I've gone from wanting to enter that state often to avoiding all alcohol on purpose. What changed was realizing on an emotional level that I have tons of interesting (or necessary) things to do and alcohol limits that by taking away evening (to drink) and the next day (I feel cognitively worse 'till next afternoon, even if I didn't have a hangover). At some point the prospect of drinking became anxiety-inducing for me.
7wedrifid11yIn my observation the 'lie' operates to a significant extent on the other side of that 'taste' line. Sure rationalizations play a part too but to some extent 'acquired taste' is literally accurate. The 'taste - status reward' pairing actually does change what tastes good.
7shaesays11yHow about this: When I was a little kid, too young to know about or process the idea that alcohol gets you high, my mom and dad drank beer. Cheap beer no less. I asked for a taste and they gave me one, thinking I wouldn't like it. I liked it. I remember it tasted interesting, and dazzling, like soda.
5pwno11yRationalizing is still a big possibility - you wanted to drink what your parents drink.
6David_Gerard9yI completely agree with your assertion. As an avid drinker, I find that I don't like drinks that taste nice nearly as much as ones that don't. The taste seems to me to be a signal of alcoholic effect; alcopops (sweet and alcoholic) get it wrong one way, and <1% alcohol beer gets it wrong the other way. That said, I do like some beers better than others. Hoppy rather than fruity is good, for instance. I recall reading somewhere on LessWrong that a highly effective way to stop eating chocolate is to get a pound of M&Ms and put them in your mouth and chew them up and taste them, then spit them out, and after a while chocolate will taste awful. This would suggest there's a lot more to liking foods than just what your taste buds (and sense of smell) say. Edit: And how could I forget coffee. Tastes terrible in itself - decaf is utterly missing the point - but taste+buzz is something one can have strong and even discussable personal preferences on, and I just had my morning cup of something awful and went "mmmm, coffee."
2Kutta9yI wouldn't ever wanna stop eating chocolate, at least delicious 80+ percent cocoa chocolate. It has little sugar but plenty of quality fats and cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. It's still a bit addictive for some reason (flavor? phenylethylamine? theobromine? ) but if you eat quality chocolate daily, well, if you don't go really overboard I imagine it'd do you no harm.
2David_Gerard9yIt's a YMMV, sure. But I can see people who need to give the stuff up - though my internal model of other humans tells me they'd be horrified at the idea of doing something that would actually work to cut them off from chocolate.
2SilasBarta9yInteresting. Btw, why did my old comment suddenly get two replies?
5David_Gerard9yWell, I've been systematically (if desultorily) reading all of LW from the beginning. So I got to your comment and, given the local norm that it's just fine to respond to a comment or post from years ago, responded to it. I presume bcoburn saw my comment in "Recent Comments", went to your original and felt like responding too.
5rhollerith_dot_com9yIs that part of what you have referred to as "internet as television", David?
5David_Gerard9yYep! Things to read while waiting for Tomcat to finish restarting ... if I'm going to use the Internet as a television, I want at least to be watching something good. I got through the Sequences, and it occurred to me that I didn't really understand the history of the culture of LessWrong, let alone the history of the history. So I thought reading the lot would be a nice way to approximate that. And I'm finding some fantastic posts I would never have seen without doing this.
4bcoburn9yThis is, indeed, exactly what happened.
4David_Gerard9yI'm eagerly awaiting years-later responses to my own early comments :-D
4taryneast6ywaves
4[anonymous]7y:-) [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/amw5]
1[anonymous]7yI am doing the same right now, BTW.
5lavalamp11yI do not like the feeling of being intoxicated. I very much like some wines, many beers, and a few harder liquors (rum, bailey's, mainly). I used to think I disliked all beers, but then I tried some again (out of politeness) and discovered the problem wasn't that I didn't like beer, it was that I didn't like bad beer. I would drink one beer with pizza whether alone or with others (though I would refrain in the presence of some people if I thought it would offend them). I hate bars. Perhaps I'm subconsciously signaling "I am snobby," but I think that is inconsistent with the rest of my behavior (just ask my wife what she thinks of how I dress). Do you find this convincing?
1SilasBarta11yJust a general clarification: when I refer to the mind-altering effects of alcohol, I don't just mean intoxication, but also the relaxation effect, which usually kicks in even after just one drink. Your situation definitely sounds more convincing, but then, you're not in the set of people who needs to find a fake reason to drink alcohol, since you don't seem like you'd miss much if you weren't allowed to drink. Are you sure your insistence on drinking one beer with pizza isn't just force of habit though?
3lavalamp11yIf all sources of alcohol spontaneously vanished, I would miss a good dark beer in much the same way I would miss any other food I enjoy. That said I would probably deal with such a hypothetical situation with less dismay than most people who like alcohol. Just to be clear, if no beer is available (e.g., I haven't bought any recently (at the moment there is none in my fridge and I've been out of it for like a month)), and I make pizza, I won't be TOO distraught. :) It's also something I've picked up fairly recently; I read somewhere that beer went well with pizza, tried it, and found that beer goes very well with pizza. :) To elaborate a little more, my parents rarely drank (rarely = maybe twice in my lifetime), I didn't try any alcohol until in my 20's, and did not like the first alcohol I tried. I definitely agree that wine and beer are acquired tastes, much like coffee. I would rather drink beer than a milkshake most of the time, but that might say more about what I think of milkshakes than what I think of beer. EDIT: I forgot to add: I do not personally drink alcohol for the relaxation effect. Perhaps if I were in a stressful social situation I would, but I can't say I've done so to date. I find the feeling of a buzz weird and interesting and do not particularly enjoy it. My skills in nearly everything I like to do are adversely affected by mental impairment, so I do not like to drink enough to cause one. Exception: if I'm with a group of friends I will drink more than I would on my own, as I know I won't be doing anything mentally demanding.
5eirenicon11yI enjoy a wide range of alcoholic beverages, especially beer, wine, rye whisky and spiced rum. When it comes to wine, my preference is red, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec from Chile and Argentina. I like to drink red wine when I'm eating steak. They are perfect complements; I would not want to drink a milkshake with a steak, or a coffee, or a can of Coke. Often, when I have steak, I only drink a glass or two of wine, not enough to produce a significant alcoholic effect. Why drink, then? Well, as I said, wine is a perfect complement to the meal. It isn't sweet, and it can be bitter, but then steak isn't a donut, either. They both have complex flavours that light up my pleasure centres in different ways. The smell, taste, and texture all contribute to what I call "enjoyment". I can even take pleasure in the flavours that some people consider unpleasant. I like my steak bloody, while others won't touch meat that isn't charred. The thing is, lots of people like things that other people consider negative. BDSM springs to mind; some people can't get pleasure unless they're being whipped, while others would actually consider it torture. Those others might say, "You don't actually enjoy being whipped, you just enjoy the endorphin release and elevated serotonin it causes." Well... isn't that the same thing? I get more pleasure than simply the effect of alcohol from drinking wine, even if there are aspects to wine which may be considered unpleasant. Do I enjoy wine or just the effects of wine? I don't see that as any different from asking whether I enjoy candy or the effects of candy, or ice cream or the effects of ice cream.
5thomblake11yThere really is a variety of experience in alcoholic beverages that one cannot get anywhere else. The argument that one would prefer a milkshake over wine is a weak one; even if that is universally the case, that doesn't entail that people really don't like wine. Go ahead, try it with any two things. "Would you rather have an X or a Y? Oh, you'd rather have an X? Then why do you ever have Y? You must do it just for signaling, not because you really enjoy it". Say, "Watching Heroes" versus "Watching Battlestar Galctica". Or "Eating a cheeseburger" versus "Eating potato skins". Or "vacationing at Hakone" versus "vacationing in Gaeta". Developing a taste for wine opens one up to a variety of experience not unlike developing an entirely new sense. Similarly for enjoying good beer. I admit that I first developed a taste for beer simply because no philosopher worth his salt doesn't enjoy beer, but it's now very enjoyable being able to distinguish between various craft styles.
4RobinZ11y"Near-beer" is a immensely successful product. Under your theory, it would not be.
6SilasBarta11ySales of near-beer are not immense compared to regular beer, so it doesn't pose much trouble for my theory. And certainly the theory allows for cases of people partaking in the form of alcohol consumption without the substance, once society (or their own past history) has given them a positive affect toward beer. For example, if someone likes hanging out in bars but wants to quit drinking, bars oblige such people with drinks that resemble alcoholic drinks as much as possible without them being alcoholic. Likewise, if you've associated the gross taste of beer with previous good experiences, but didn't want to get drunk, you might still want to drink alcohol, even despite the taste. The point is that it's not the taste, but something else, that is making people drink alcohol.
3bcoburn9yA relatively simple way to test whether you actually like the taste of alcohol specifically: take a reasonable quantity of your favorite alcoholic beverage, beer/wine/mixed drink/whatever, and split it into two containers. Close one, and heat the other slightly to evaporate off most of the actual ethanol. Then just do a blind taste test. This does still require not lying to yourself about which you prefer, but it removes most of the other things that make knowing whether you like the taste hard. I personally don't care enough to try this, but just the habit of thinking "how could I test this?" is good.
1[anonymous]9yHow do I know that the heating doesn't evaporate or otherwise affect stuff other than ethanol?
0bcoburn9yI don't know for sure either way, and can't think of an experimental way to check off hand. I don't think that heating is likely to do anything to the other components of most drinks, and you might be able to make a better guess with domain knowledge I don't have. I think ethanol will generally evaporate more quickly than water, so you might also be able to get a similar test by simply closing one portion into a container with only a little air, and leaving another open for a long enough time, overnight maybe. will still lose some water, which is I guess a more real problem with heating as well. shrug, the details weren't really the point, just wanted to emphasize the idea of thinking of ways to test whatever you're interested in physically instead of just reasoning about it.
1taryneast6yAFAIK, it will utterly destroy many of the volatile components of wine that make it taste so complex and interesting. That's why alcohol-free wine tends to be so bland and uninteresting. I'd be willing to do a taste-test on alcohol-free wine vs wine that I already know that I like... If you hide the non-alcoholic one in sufficient number of normal ones I probably wouldn't guess which one it was (I'm not good enough at telling which wine is which that I'd spot a particular wine by taste, just whether I like them or not).
1[anonymous]7yMaybe you could try adding a little more ethanol to one of the two glasses.
3RichardKennaway11yTo me, alcohol has neither taste or smell, but does have a definite tactile experience in the mouth; I like beer; the first glass of wine is ok but after the second it all tastes to me like bad wine; vanilla is *V*A*N*I*L*L*A*, not plain at all; I don't seek out ferociously hot curries. Now cheese, that's gross. Conclusion: people vary. And of course people use alcohol to get high. What they put up with is not the taste, but the hangover the next day. And, er, this [http://fantasygoat.livejournal.com/89760.html].
3MBlume11yFirst of all, I like to get drugged by alcohol, and feel no need to deny this fact. That said, hard hot chocolate is tasty. Raspberry juice with creme de cacao is excellent. Champagne's an acquired taste, but I'm fond of it -- I rather suspect this could just be my brain coming to associate the pleasurable effects of the drug with the taste of champagne though.
1sketerpot11yPleasure is pleasure, whether it comes from a taste you naturally enjoy or from your brain associating alcohol intoxication with Champagne drinking. I think much of my taste for wine (preferably red and "dry") also comes from the knowledge that I'm putting some alcohol into my system, but it tastes decent and it's a pleasant experience for me, so what of it?
2taryneast6yYou claim that "experts" have been proven not to know the difference between expensive wine and non... but I sure can tell the difference between "wine I like" and "wine I would rather pour down the sink", and that distinction is all that matters when it comes to me choosing wine to drink (or not). I also second InfinitelyThirsting - if it could come without the buzz (or even just at minimal buzz) I'd prefer it. The buzz (and I would not characterise it as euphoria for me) isn't the part that's fun for me. Also - yay mead (I make mead) :)
1David_Gerard6yhttp://amazingmead.wordpress.com [http://amazingmead.wordpress.com] - the loved one's mead blog, which I wrote the last two posts on.
1taryneast6yLooks cool. My main post for mead is this one: http://www.squidoo.com/mead-three-weekends [http://www.squidoo.com/mead-three-weekends]which covers only basic mead-making... but fairly in-depth. I've been expanding the FAQs
2algekalipso8yI think you are not aware of research in acquired taste [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acquired_taste]. It turns out that the effect of particular foods and drinks on psychological states create some deep subconscious associations. Take this as a clear and striking example: "A study that investigated the effect of adding caffeine and theobromine (active compounds in chocolate) vs. a placebo to identically-flavored drinks that participants tasted several times, yielded the development of a strong preference for the drink with the compounds.[3]" I think that's why I do enjoy beer now, even though I thought exactly as you did several years ago. I thought it was a huge collective rationalization. Which I still think is a big part of it, specially among teenagers and young adults who like to boast about being strong drinkers and how oh-dear they love alcohol so very much. But grown up people do drink, say, one beer alone and seem to enjoy it quite a bit. But without the pleasant relaxation that usually follows, though, the taste would not be agreeable. So we see a deep neurological change in the way we process taste.
2[anonymous]9yAs a young man raised on gourmet foods and interesting tastes, as well as reasonably sound in my general understanding of human evo-biology let's make two things clear: * Pleasant Taste is within reasonable limits an exact science. * Everything else is mood and "acquired taste," I.E. pleasure center training. Barring that, I like whisky. It has an interesting taste composition and the immediate kick and feel of the alcohol content is likewise momentarily envograting. That I afterwards get pleasantly intoxicated is merely a nice bonus.
0[anonymous]9yBut everyone has had some kind of pleasure centre training, so how do you tell the two things apart? Two friends of mine who were raised as vegetarians once decided to try meat (when they were in their teens), and didn't like it.
0[anonymous]9yThis feels like a wrong question. Is there even such a thing as "natural good taste?" or are there only the pleasure center configuration that newborns start out with? I can attest to knowing several people who don't like sweet candy or sweet things in general, even though that should be one of the "natural" preferences, and I don't think one would have to look that much for someone who wouldn't eat pure blubber, even though that is also one of these evolutinary encoded thingies.
0[anonymous]9ySo what did you mean by “Pleasant Taste is within reasonable limits an exact science”?
1[anonymous]9yThat statement comes from my experience in cooking. The interesting thing in gastronomy is that the spices don't really matter as long as you don't use too many of them. In my own vocabulary I like to distinguish the concepts "taste" and "aroma" as pertaining to "tastebuds" and "olfactory bulb" respectively. Indeed when people say "this tastes like garlic" they mean "this smells like garlic." This is also why unpleasant tasting things taste less unpleasant when you block your nasal passages by some means. There are five different types of taste buds: * One kind reacts to alcohol groups on small organic molecules, i.e. fructose, glucose, aspartame, sorbitol ans so on, "sweet taste." * One kind reacts to hydronium ions (or rather contains a direct protone channel,) "sour taste." * One kind reacts to sodium Ions, "salt taste." * One kind reacts to many amino acids, "savory taste." * One kind reacts to a variety of manily toxic and some non-toxic compounds, "bitter taste." The interesting thing is this: If two or more of the above are balanced, the overall sensory stimulous is percieved as "pleasant." This is why soda has acid as well as sugar content, this is why kitchen salt is almost universally used (especially many kinds of meat which usually only needs salt), this is why coffee goes well with sugar and milk (milk neutralizes some of the otherwise high acid content). Once your dish has the five basic tastes in balance you can literally add any aromas to it and it will still taste "pleasant."
1[anonymous]9yA few things: 1. The working of taste buds varies from person to person, too: IIRC there's a substance which tastes extremely sweet to some people but nearly flavourless to others. 2. There are other sensations in the mouth than the five basic tastes, e.g. the hotness of ethanol and capsaicin and the coldness of mint. 3. What “balanced” means depends on what you're used to, to some extent: if I get used to put lots of salt on everything, when I don't anything tastes insipid, and conversely if I get used to use very little salt, the reverse happens. (Hell, even if I get used to drinking high-mineral bottled water then low-mineral tap water will taste bitter to me, and conversely now that I usually drink tap water, some bottled water tastes salty to me.)
0[anonymous]9yIn as far as I have ever heard that is only the case with bitter taste which is a far more compound tastebud. I would like to see any studies on a supertaster [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supertaster] in terms of sweetness. These are triggerings of of the cold, heat and pain receptors which are completely different from taste receptors. If you want to argue that you have to argue consistency and texture of the foodstufss as well. I am presenting a simplified view, akin to if you just sprayed flavoured liquid onto the tongue and measured neural activity in the olfactory bulb and taste buds. If you aren't used to eating capsaicin the heat and pain sensations completely overpower the tastes and aromas, if you are used to it, we are again reduced to balancing the five basic taste sensation. Yes, but that is returning to neural artifacts of individuals, is it not?
0[anonymous]7ySure, so long as you acknowledge that neural artifacts of the same individual can change with time.
0[anonymous]7yYou apparently replied to one of my retracted posts. I no longer agree with the opinion stated by my past self; though good point.
2JamesAndrix11yThis doesn't explain why people drink beer. To me beer tastes and smells Terrible. I'd rather have hard lemonade, or vodka mixed with almost anything but beer. But up until a couple of years ago I also didn't like coffee. So I think that both beer and coffee are an acquired taste. (um, yeah and coffee isn't a drug at all...) The taste of certain wines reminds me pleasantly of my catholic childhood. But yeah, people like the taste of other things they use to mask and dilute the alcohol, otherwise they'd just take shots of high-proof vodka. Possible counterpoint to that: Any flavoring would be nasty when concentrated. Perhaps water with a small amount of alcohol would have a noticeable pleasant flavor. (but be useless for intoxication)
1thomblake11yIndeed. There's a drink called a "White Rain" some friends of mine invented in college: It's pretty good, and tastes mostly like really refreshing water. Note: the measurements above are best guesses, as the original recipe is based on the cups at Conn Hall at SCSU. If it tastes like cough syurp, you did something wrong.
2G Gordon Worley III11yCouple of thoughts upon reading this thread. I, too, do not like the taste of alcohol and feel no real desire to seek it out as a tasty food. I'll admit, though, that I also don't like to consume things that reduce cognitive function, so it's possible I don't like the taste as a side effect, but I rather doubt it. Now, I do like champagne, but usually only the stuff that costs $150 a bottle. I say this having found out the prices only after I tried the champagne and liked it: since I like it, I want to know what it is. There are probably also expensive champagnes that don't taste as good, I've just never looked for them, but high price does seem to be a necessary condition for good champagne. To be fair to the post's original request, though, I have to admit that I like these champagnes because they are "smooth": they have no alcohol burn and don't smell or taste like they have alcohol in them, so I might as well have sparkling cider. Finally, note that until the 20th century people drank much larger quantities of alcohol than today because it was needed to make water safer to drink. If you could afford it, adding a little wine or grain alcohol to the water would go a long way towards reducing the chance of infection from water-borne illnesses. So in those times people probably enjoyed the taste because they became accustomed to it early in life, much the way Americans love tomato ketchup and coke although adults from other parts of the world, when introduced to these flavors, often do not.* *I can't find a source for this, but I know I've heard it several places. Maybe it's just a modern myth?
3David_Gerard9yThis leads to one inescapable conclusion: for the vast proportion of human history, everyone in the world was completely hammered pretty much all the time. When you think about it in that light, most of history suddenly makes a great deal more sense. [http://davywavy.livejournal.com/310233.html]
1taryneast6yA lot of the beer they drank throughout the day was 'small beer" - made from a second run of water through the mash... it was about as alcoholic as modern-day ginger beer. So - yeah, they did spend a lot of their time more intoxicated than us... but not totally smashed all the time.
1David_Gerard6yI've taken lately to the sort of pub that has 2% mild, so I can sop up extravagant quantities of it without getting plastered.
1taryneast6ySmall beer goes down quite nicely (even for somebody that doesn't like beer like me). It's kind of like cordial - but without being sickly sweet. I also made "small currant wine"once- which was also nice, but not as good as straight currant wine... but does let you drink a whole lot more of it during a hot day.
1[anonymous]9yRelevant [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIv96reVlAE].
1taryneast6yI also don't have sources to hand, but I'm informed by my brewing+chemist friends that the amount of alcohol in beer is not sufficient to sterilise the liquid. however the people of ancient times weren't wrong... beer is sterilised (and thus safe to drink) - it's because to make beer, you have to boil the mash. The boiling sterilises it quite effectively.
2dclayh11y1. I'm sure that culture/status/history of (especially) wine (but also whisk(e)ys and, increasingly beers) do play a significant role in the enjoyment thereof. This is plainly true if you look at wine bottle closures: even though a screwcap provides superior taste in many cases, a lot of people say they just prefer the ritual of uncorking. 2. Until we develop a drug that blocks the psychoactive effects of ethanol, I think it will be nigh impossible to convince you that wine is superior to milkshakes on taste alone in some cases. (Incidentally, teetotaler Penn Jillette agrees with you 100%: his quote is "wine will never taste as good as a Coke".) 3. That said, I could give you* a white wine and goat cheese pairing that I laugh at the ability of any milkshake to rival in sheer sensual pleasure. *I don't mention it here only because it would take a bit of digging for me to find out what it was; upon request I will, though.
4Blueberry11yI can't believe no one has asked for this yet. Please?
3ShardPhoenix11yIsn't a lot of the appeal of Coke due to the caffeine? The fact that it's mostly drunk cold or with ice could suggest that the inherent flavor isn't ideal.
1Cyan11yI like sour and bitter drinks, so I would drink Strongbow (hard apple cider) even if it contained no alcohol. In fact, I'd rather it contained no alcohol (ETA: but tasted the same) -- I would drink more of it at one sitting. (I also like tonic water straight up, beer, and de-alcoholized beer.)
1SilasBarta11yTwo questions: 1) Why do you think the taste of Strongbow is so hard to mimic in a non-alcoholic version? Is it a hard problem for chemistry, or something no one wants to try? 2) Would you be able to distinguish alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic versions in a blind test?
0[anonymous]6yThere's a major confounder here: the hardest, least flavorful drinks are also often the lowest-status (ie: cheap vodka and gin are viewed as poison for inveterate alcoholics). But I'll answer anyway: I enjoy the almost honey-like taste of a really smooth, high-quality Scotch on the rocks. Yes, you have to put the ice cubes in, otherwise you won't water it down enough to release the flavor and you'll just taste alcohol and alcohol fumes. And it has to be good Scotch. Other alcoholic drinks I enjoy: full-bodied, unacidic wines; fruity wines (Gerwurtzterminer and Riesling are favorites... yes I know white wine is low-status for men, shut up jerk); porters, especially coffee-flavored porters, red ales, and even the occasional blond ale. Hot wine, especially hot mulled wine, is really excellent once you learn how to avoid breathing in the fumes and instead taste the flavor released by the heating. Lager is drinkable but mostly just "carbohydrate-flavored" to me, and I consider vodka, arak, and brandy godawful. Oh, and hard ciders are excellent, not only because the well-made ones pack plenty of flavor from the fruit and spices, but because they're sufficiently nonalcoholic that they offend the taste-buds and dull the mind even less than beer. For reference, I also enjoy massively spicy food, to the point that my flatmates often urge me to open the kitchen window after cooking a curry. I figure, if someone likes spicy food, and also likes drinks that burn while getting you a bit intoxicated, that's not actually too incongruous. I do think your thesis holds mostly true for heavy drinking of cheap, flavorless beverages with the purpose of getting drunk, as I myself am completely baffled why some cultures or subcultures have social norms in favor of reaching for drunkenness levels I've never seen anyone actually enjoy. It mostly seems to be an excuse for bad behavior they're too inhibited to engage in without alcohol as an excuse, an effect that shows up when you give th
0Lumifer6yConvincing people over internet in matters of taste is a lost cause X-D but I think I can unpack some of my alcohol preferences. I'll leave all the psychoactive effects outside of this little exposition. I drink a variety of alcohol -- mostly wine and beer, sometimes hard liquor, rarely cocktails -- and I rather doubt I do it for status signalling reasons since the majority of my drinking happens inside my home. I drink it for the taste. Mostly I drink with food and that's a large part the taste synergy. Let me give specific examples. I prefer high-tannin high-acidity red wines with grilled meat. I find that this pairing works very well (note that my red wine varies but usually costs around $10/bottle, so it's not anything hoity-toity). In the summer I like green vine (vinho verde) from Portugal which is light and very acidic. It is precisely this high acidity that I want from it and it delivers. My taste in beers changes over time. Some time ago I really liked double bocks and Belgian dubbels. Then they started to taste too sickly sweet to me, so I changed to IPAs for a bit. But then they became too hoppy and I went to English and Scottish ales. At the moment I am kinda in-between stages and mostly drink porters. Do note that as far as I can see, all this is driven by taste -- I drink mostly at home and I have no idea what beer might or might not be in fashion at the moment (so no status signaling) and I don't care about alcohol content of the beer. All in all, averaging over different situations, I probably drink 70% for the taste, 25% for the psychoactive effects, and 5% for status (I will decline all offers of Bud Light and such and may roll my eyes at the offer X-D)
0[anonymous]9yHow should I do that? Will you fMRI my brain while I'm drinking it? (Also the "that happens to also signal your social status" part doesn't apply to me. I don't like most spirits, I don't think I would be able to tell vodka from a mixture of pure water and ethanol in a blind test, but there are quite a few relatively cheap wines and beers I do like, as well as some expensive wines I hate.)
0juliawise9yI'm still disappointed that wine doesn't taste like sparkling cider, a drink that's designed to look like wine but taste good.

You probably shouldn't drive. It's dangerous, expensive, and should be left to professionals. Take the bus or ride a bike.

More widely, we should support policies that make individual car use prohibitively expensive, but public transit easy and cheap. Generally the only cars on the road should be service related (Ambulances, Fire, Police, Utilities,Buses, Delivery/shipping trucks, Taxi's, Limo's etc.)

This would save lots of money and energy, and tens of thousands of lives per year.

It's dangerous, expensive, and therefore absolutely awesome. You're just jealous of all the normal people with cool cars, and that they don't let you drive due to your left arm paralysis.

0[anonymous]9yWell... I can drive, but I still try to do it as little as possible.
5Bugmaster9yI'd agree with all of that, except for the "ride a bike" part. If you think piloting a car in city traffic is dangerous, think about piloting a completely unprotected, human-powered device with a very narrow silhouette.
2taryneast6yWith proper bike-friendly infrastructure, it's far safer. Don't think of "riding alongside car traffic" - instead think of what Europe does with entirely separate bike "roads" separated from the car-traffic by median strips.
0Autolykos5yWhere did you get the impression that European countries do this on a large enough scale to matter*? There are separate bike roads in some cities, but they tend to end abruptly and lead straight into traffic at places where nobody expects cyclists to appear or show similar acts of genius in their design. If you photograph just the right sections, they definitely look neat. But integrating car and bike traffic in a crowded city is a non-trivial problem; especially in Europe where roads tend to follow winding goat paths from the Dark Ages and are way too narrow for today's traffic levels already. While the plural of anecdote is not data, two of my friends suffered serious head trauma in a bicycle accident they never fully recovered from (without a helmet, they'd likely be dead), while nobody I know personally ever was in a severe car accident. And quick search also seems to indicate that cycling is about as dangerous as driving (with both of them paling by comparison to motorcycles...). *with the possible exception of the Netherlands, but even for them I'm not sure.
0taryneast5yWhere did you get the impression that by "it's far safer" that I meant "it's far safer... than driving"? i am completely ignoring your anecdotes - they cannot be taken for actual data. I have friends that have been in extremely dangerous car accidents. I have a friend who was killed in a car crash. Anecdotes are a bad idea on this. I'd be happy with real data on the actual base rates of this stuff, and yes, perhaps the bike lanes are not sufficient to overcome the danger of riding off the bike lane. But I don't think it's quite as bad as you're making out. It definitely depends on where you need to get to by bike... but my experience with riding in Perth was that I could ride from the outer suburbs to the city without going through traffic. The same for large portions of Sydney (once you hit the main bike routes along the freeways). If you're riding into the CBD, but get off your bike before hitting the main CBD streets themselves (ie choose your route carefully), then you can get to a goodly portion of the city without hitting the (I agree) utterly ridiculous bad bike lanes ...and that's before even considering Europe. But yeah, if you have some real data, I'm happy to change my mind.
1TeMPOraL5yTry hundreds of thousands [http://www.who.int/gho/road_safety/mortality/traffic_deaths_number/en/] per year from just accidents, before even counting health benefits of reduced emissions and smog saving more lives.
1faul_sname9yI actually do avoid driving whenever possible. But then I live in an urban area, and can do that.
1[anonymous]9yMy commute to school is about 30 miles, or 50 minutes. If I rode the bike to the nearest bus stop (10 miles, 50 minutes) and rode the buses to school (75 minutes, including 20 of walking and waiting), my commute would take two and a half times as long. It would also be free instead of costing $5.50 in gas each way, and I would burn an extra thousand Calories per day.
1John_Maxwell11yAs a cyclist, I think biking is probably more dangerous than driving...
8D_Alex11yBut... have you framed "danger" apprppriately? "According to a study by the British Medical Association, the average gain in "life years" through improved fitness from cycling exceeds the average loss in “life years” through cycling fatalities by a factor of 20 to 1." From http://davesbikeblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/cyclists-live-longer.html [http://davesbikeblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/cyclists-live-longer.html].
5John_Maxwell11yThat's an interesting quote. There are probably other ways to achieve the same fitness benefits though.
1taryneast6yYes... in countries where the infrastructure is so poor as to require cyclists to ride in traffic (or in the door zone). In places where this is not the case (see Europe) I'd be interested in seeing if those stats are the same.
0TeMPOraL5yEven in Europe, places where you don't have to drive in traffic / door zone are incredibly rare. Bike paths are cool, but as currently implemented they mostly serve to annoy both drivers and pedestrians alike, and there is still a default assumption that where there is no bike path, you'll be driving with traffic.
0Nanani11yWhile the first part is borne out by statistics, the second is not. To make a professionals-only drivng regimen feasible, you'd need a massive reorganization of urbanities. Suburbs would no longer be quite so desirable, etc etc. Take your politics out of rationality.
9JamesAndrix11yTake your politics out of rationality. Yikes! can you explain how something that's a good idea for rationalists on lesswrong is bad for society? Should we keep our good ideas secret because if everyone did it the suburbs would be undesirable? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt but so far this seems more like denial than reason.
0Nanani11yWell it certainly isn't denial. As proof I'd offer up my lack of any kind of driving license or vehincle ownership throughout my life. The idea itself is not what is bad for society. The badness here is the political-ish applying of an idea without thinking through the consequences and dealing with them. I would certainly not encourage keeping any ideas secret, for then how would the corollaries be resolved?

Is there anything that you consider proven beyond any possibility of doubt by both empirical evidence and pure logic, and yet saying it triggers automatic stream of rationalizations in other people?

  • Hitler had a number of top-level skills, and we could learn (some) positive lessons from his example(s).

  • Eugenics would improve the human race (genepool).

  • Human "racial" groups may have differing average attributes (like IQ), and these may contribute to the explanation of historical outcomes of those groups.

(Perhaps these aren't exactly topics that Less Wrong readers (in particular) would run away from. I was attempting to answer the question by riffing off Paul Graham's idea of taboos. What is it "not appropriate" to talk about in ordinary society? Politeness might trigger the rationalization response...)

Those are excellent points, particularly the first. Adolf Hitler was one of the most effective rhetoricians in human history - his public speaking skills were simply astounding. Even the people who hated his message were stunned after attending rallies in which Hitler exercised his crowd-manipulation skills.

6Douglas_Knight11yIt struck me that "top-level" is ambiguous. Do you mean high quality or general-purpose? I don't think that it is taboo to say that Hitler was a good orator or that he was good at mass psychology. But people don't admit to desiring to manipulate crowds; I don't think Hitler has to do with that. I've heard it suggested that a lot of people have the skills to be cult leaders, but they just don't want to be. Film makers do study Leni Riefenstahl.
3[anonymous]9yFirst one's just plain true. Second one is probably true. The issue with eugenics isn't that it wouldn't work, it's that it would be unethical to try. Third one seems to fail the evidence test. It's proposing a significant deficit in a measurable quantity that has not been observed to exist (after correcting for socio-economic status).
2Vladimir_Nesov11yRelated to: Mind-killer [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Mind-killer].
1faul_sname9y1st one: Nope, don't think anyone here would dispute that, except on the grounds that it's rather nonspecific. 2nd one: Only if it were in the form of encouraging particularly valuable individuals to reproduce more. Removing even the bottom 50% would have fairly negligible effects compared to doubling the top 1%. Several countries already implement programs to encourage the most valuable members to reproduce more (with mixed success). 3rd one: I find it nearly impossible to find any good data on that either way. Pending evidence, it looks like most of the quality of life and education effects can basically be explained by looking at who got the industrial revolution first. Unless very large effect sizes were found, however, the policy implications would be minimal or nonexistent.
0timtyler9ySurely few would argue with that. The more controversial issue is the claim that such differences are genetic.
0tpc10yFrom Paul Graham's essay: Maybe there is something I am missing, but I don't understand his last sentence. How do you take two people, and "subtract one from the other" ?
5Risto_Saarelma10yI think it roughly means to subtract the teenage girl's model for how the world works from the streetsmart guy's model for how the world works. You expect to get the subset of experience a sheltered upbringing would shelter people from.

You're wrong about the religious issue. As I've stated many times, including in that discussion, the problem is that there are two meanings of "believe" and people unhelpfully equivocate between them. Here they are:

1) "I believe X" = "My internal predictive model of reality includes X."

2) "I believe X" = "I affiliate with people who profess, 'I believe X' " (no, it's not as circular as it looks)

Put simply, most people DO NOT believe(1) in the absurd claims of religions, they just believe(2) them. Or at least, they act very suspiciously like they believe(2) rather than believe(1). If they believed(1), they would spend every waking moment exactly as their religion instructs.

1) "I'm a rationalist" = "I honestly apply the art of rationality every waking moment"

2) "I'm a rationalist" = "I make comments on Less Wrong and think Eliezer Yudkowsky is pretty cool"

I'd be a pretty sucky rationalist if I didn't get an itchy feeling when I hear a false dichotomy. Therefore, let's try some other options:

3) "I'm a rationalist" = "I earnestly try to be more rational than I would otherwise be."

4) "I'm a rationalist" = "I think that syllogisms are pretty neat, and I'm really good at proving that Socrates is mortal. ;-)"

Dude's dead. QED.

1algekalipso8yNo, dude, the correct answer is "because he is a man!"
8JulianMorrison8yAs a transhumanist, that does not follow.
1thomblake11yI'm pretty sure I'm a rationalist(4). I am really good at that.
4CronoDAS11yI'm a rationalist(2). I'm just here because it's fun. ;)
0TeMPOraL5yYou win rationality(1) points for being honest with yourself :).
1whowhowho8y3) I put a lot of effort into number-crunching optimal ways of realising my values, and very little into worrying wether they are the right ones.

If they believed(1), they would spend every waking moment exactly as their religion instructs.

That's too strong a claim and doesn't factor akrasia in; you might as well say that you don't really believe in the seriousness of existential risks if you don't spend every waking moment working against them.

You can, however, make distinctions between people who will make decisions that they know would be extremely suboptimal if their professed belief was false, and people who only do just enough to signal their belief.

It's going to be a continuum from belief(1) to belief(2), not a binary attribute; but it's still a very important concept and not yet one that the English language groks.

4SilasBarta11yOkay, fair point. My claim was too strong and I accept your modification. Still, existential risks still permit me finite remaining life, which still keeps its utility very very far from that of eternal torture espoused by some religions.
1TheNuszAbides7yhaving achieved [at least a semblance of] fluency only in English thus far, I am at this moment very curious as to any assessment of what language(s) do(es) grok such a concept?
0[anonymous]7yDunno, but note that whereas "I believe X" can mean either, "I think that X" seldom means 2.
2RobinZ11yA related phenomenon - one which often motivates belief(2) - is belief in belief [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/].
0whowhowho8y(4) I behave like Sheldon Lee Cooper [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Cooper], sharing all his tastes and values.

You are not living as much on the edge as you should optimally.

I estimate that most LW Readers are relatively young (i.e. < 40y old). The repair mechanism of your bodies can deal with a lot more than they currently have to handle. To increase your effectiveness multiple routes exist:

  • move faster, run instead of walk
  • employ polyphasic sleep
  • take more stimulants

This reminded me of Umeshisms: "If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re spending too much time in airports."

4[anonymous]11yRegarding polyphasic sleep: if you're under, say, 18, don't. The effects it has on the body's developmental processes are not known.
1thomblake11yI see no reason for someone to take this advice. Polyphasic sleep has been the norm in many cultures and periods of history, and one might be more inclined to advise, "Regarding monophasic sleep: if you're under, say, 18, don't. The effects it has on the body's developmental processes are not known"
3RichardKennaway11yI have not heard this before, even on web sites touting it. Reference? A quick Google only turned up sceptical comments, and "segmented sleep" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segmented_sleep], which isn't what I've understood by "polyphasic sleep".
3[anonymous]11yWell, yes; biphasic sleep (noon siesta) is the natural sleeping pattern beyond infanthood. For extreme schedules like Uberman's, though, there have been lots of reports on odd cravings and the like — such as grape juice — that, e.g. contain elements the body would normally generate itself during sleep. (Are you really saying that we don't know the effects of monophasic sleep?)
3Douglas_Knight11yYes, we really don't know the effects of monophasic sleep compared to polyphasic sleep.
1CannibalSmith11yphysically maybe but with all the distractions dramas and bad language on the internets im overloaded to the point of periodic anxiety and depression

I can't think of any particular issues that I'm convinced I know the truth of, yet most people will reflexively deny that truth completely.

I can, however, think of issues that I think are uncertain, but that the uncertainty of said issue is denied reflexively and completely. I suppose they would be meta-issues rather than issues themselves - it's a subtle point I'm not interested in pursuing.

Probably the most obvious one that comes to my mind is circumcision. I've never seen so many normally-intelligent people make such stupid and clearly incorrect arguments, nor so much uncomfortable humor, nor trying desperately to avoid thinking, for any other issue I've discussed with others, even things like abortion, religion, and politics.

It's very likely that your parents were abusive while you were growing up.

Also, there is no scientific method.

5[anonymous]11yDoes circumcision count?
3PeterS11yYes, as a vestige from instrusive and early infanticidal childrearing modes.
2NancyLebovitz9yDo you have evidence on that?
4RobinZ11yDay-um, that was sharp! With regards to child abuse: would a comparison to hazing be appropriate at this juncture? Were the hypothesis correct, it would have a certain surface similarity.
1PeterS11yI'm not sure I understand what kind of comparison you're suggesting. I've heard numerous attempts to rationalize child abuse by analogy to hazing, I've even heard arguments by abusers to the effect that children are "weak" today because kids don't undergo the same "hazing" that their parents put them through. "It's nothing my parents didn't do to me," etc... Or were you getting at something else?
1RobinZ11y...hmm, I see a cultural divide, here. I disapprove of hazing, and consider it to be perpetuated because the victims feel like they've earned the right to revenge - even though said revenge is enacted on the wrong parties (the next incoming group, rather than the previous group that abused them). Therefore - ironically, as it happens - I made the analogy to hazing to indicate a possible pattern in the rationalizations.
3CronoDAS11yIn my high school, one of my classmates offered pretty much this exact justification for hazing freshmen.
2Alicorn11yDoes your support for the first hinge on a strict definition of abuse, some generous interpretation of "very likely", or something else?
1[anonymous]9yYes, I was abused, but it was mental/developmental and unintentional; namely my parents utterly destroyed my self-motivation. I am fairly certain I can point at the scientific method and go "yes, it's right there." What exactly do you mean?
2NancyLebovitz9yIf you're willing to explain what went wrong, I'm interested in what went wrong. I've come to believe that a lot of went wrong in my case wasn't so much the moderate level of emotional abuse as the lack of positive relationship.
1[anonymous]9yI have always been reasonably intelligent (my current IQ (not from internet tests) hovers somewhere around mensa levels) and I have always been incredibly curious. These two traits has led me to always figgure out on my own, all the things I was supposed to learn in shcool in advance; I have always been at least a year ahead in mathematics and natural sciences, and I still am. This does of course pose a slight problem when I have not been the same way in many, many other areas, and the kicker is that my parents never ever have heard of motivational psychology. This has, as of my current analysis, led me to in my childhood and early teens believe that I was a lazy no good slob who was somehow broken in the "free will" department. Not that these beliefs ever were overt, it seems that it makes a lot of sense in hindsight as I have always been prone to dips in my self esteem. It is only in the recent few months of discovering LW that I have found out: "Hey, I'm not broken, just ignorant." And fortunately ignorance has a cure. If my parents had raised me to have a work ethic instead of not having one, I would probably have been in substantially better standing by now. I am a so far a nigh genius who can only barely coerce himself to work with anything not immediately interesting. A waste? probably. Are there still hope for me? definitely. Much of it is mitigated by the fact that I am 19 years old and my parents truly are loving and caring, but none the less they raised me suboptimally.
2NancyLebovitz9yAlso, if your parents thought that your being intelligent was extremely important, you may have concluded that you'd only get praise for what you could do easily.
0[anonymous]9yThat is a very good hypothesis.
1NancyLebovitz9yI don't have a source handy, but it's kind of a cliche in current popular psychology, followed by a recommendation to only praise children for effort, not talent. It seems to me that praising for talent and praising for effort both are risks for Goodhart's law (any measure which is used to guide policy will become corrupt).
1[anonymous]9yI am nowhere near introspective enough, nor do I know enough psychology. The only thing I know is that it is fixable.
1Annoyance11yThese are excellent examples. I don't see why they're being voted down. The second, however, is much better than the first.

If you read this site's definition of Epistemic Rationality, logically in order to achieve it you must pay attention to the reality which your map is intended to resemble. Meanwhile, there is ample research indicating that paying attention to people is a hugely powerful social tool for making friends, which translates to increasing the likelihood of finding, entering into, and maintaining romantic relationships (not to mention that paying attention to your significant others may be of some benefit too).

So perhaps the question isn't what should a rationalist be doing if their social / love life isn't so good, but rather are you really pursuing rationality effectively if you haven't seen some of these improvements as a matter of course?

8Nanani11yYour rationality is just fine. You're just ugly. (Now watch yourself go "No I'm not!" "Society's standards are out of whack!" "The opposite gender can't see my true beauty!")
7MendelSchmiedekamp11yAs a matter of fact, I am. I've done enough research on facial structure and body type to recognize subtleties that most people will miss consciously. Although I do have nice skin. But that comes from keeping hydrated and away from major sun damage, which may have something to do with rationality. And, here's the interesting part, I have found major benefits by being rational, in exactly the way I'm describing. On the other hand, if you want to treat other people as solved systems, and stop worrying about them, I suspect you are out of luck.
4David_Gerard9yI'm thinking of someone I work with, who is quite definitely less good looking than just "plain". Aesthetically awful. However, she dresses and does her makeup immaculately, and then projects through personality. And this seems to work for attraction. And a short fat guy who is brilliantly witty and perceptive and dresses well will never be short of a girlfriend. MendelSchmiedekamp's message is one of hope: this stuff is reducible and many have reduced it before, so get learning.
0[anonymous]9yI think I've got a pretty realistic view of my own attractiveness (probably an average rating on the scales of those around me of about a 6.5, but with a lot of variance, thank god).

it s there anything that you consider proven beyond any possibility of doubt by both empirical evidence and pure logic, and yet saying it triggers automatic stream of rationalizations in other people?

That making lots of money and becoming socially influential and powerful in the real world has a vast chance of massively increasing the extent of achievement of any goal that people here have - such as making scientific discoveries, saving the world or living forever, or a myriad of other goals that money is just really effective at achieving.

Yet, most people here are not millionaires, and are not actively taking extreme steps to change this because ultimately, they have weak personalities or fall into the "beta male" category of weak, nerdy men who are irrationally frightened of going out into the real world and standing up for themselves, and they don't have the requisite greedy, self-interested personality to motivate themselves to put in the necessary work. One of the main contributors to this is that most people here don't value social status enough and (especially the men) don't value having sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get them. I... (read more)

they have weak personalities or fall into the "beta male" category of weak, nerdy men who [...] don't have the requisite greedy, self-interested [...] most people here don't value social status enough and (especially the men) don't value having sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get them. [...] Essentially, too much Linux forums, not enough playboy is screwing you all over.

The utility function is not up for grabs. Why should we care about "success" if the price of "success" is being a greedy, self-interested asshole? You know, maybe some of us care about deep insights and meaningful, genuine relationships, which we value for their own sake. Maybe we don't want to spend our days plotting how to grind the other guy's face into the dust. Maybe we want the other guy to be happy and successful, because life is not a zero-sum game and our happiness does not have to come at the expense of anyone else. Tell us how to optimize for that. Don't tell us that we're nerds; we already knew that!

Rationalists should win, full stop and in full generality. Not "triumph over others in some zero-sum primate pissing contest," win.

ADDENDUM: See my clarification below.

8sanity11yWhy should we assume that financial success requires being a greedy, self-interested asshole? Maybe some of us can do these things while still figuring out how to make ourselves sufficiently valuable to society to exchange those skills for significant wealth? Maybe economic wealth isn't a zero-sum game? Now I'm repeating myself. Maybe delivering sufficient value to society that society is willing to reward you richly for your contribution doesn't necessarily come at anyone else's expense? You're assuming wealth is a zero-sum game. Most of the time, its not.
7Z_M_Davis11yOh, dear, I'm afraid I haven't expressed myself clearly. I agree with you on all of these points! It is honorable [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ux/traditional_capitalist_values/] to create goods or services that people want and then to make money selling them. Wealth is not a zero-sum game; I totally, totally agree. To clarify my intentions, I was not objecting to the suggestion that nerdy male LessWrongers should make money; I was objecting to the suggestion that they should relinquish their allegedly "weak" personalities to better seek power and status and sex. Sorry this wasn't clearer in my original comment.
3Roko11yOk, I disagree. If you had power and status, you could actually change the world. Deciding not to change the world is actually rather evil, considering how much danger it is in, and how many people are dying per day, etc. ZM, I like you, but you are in denial ;-0
5Cyan11yI wonder how much of your complaints should really be addressed to Roko (in the parent of Z. M. Davis's comment). Roko's claims: * greed and self-interest are preconditions for the motivation necessary to achieve financial success * another useful motivation is the desire for sex with extremely attractive women, which generates a desire for status * yet another useful motivation is an animosity towards society based on a desire to be seen as right Z. M. Davis's claim: * the attitude promulgated by Roko requires one to look on life as a zero-sum game Incidentally, while wealth acquisition is obviously not a zero-sum game, Robin Hanson has argued that status acquisition is in some sense a zero sum game: you can't have high status without there being someone having lower status than you. ETA: This post was made redundant while I was writing it. Darn it.

don't value having sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get them

I'm absolutely sure that at least some people here had sex with women more attractive than Melinda Gates and Monica Lewinsky.

4CarlShulman11yI thought about this too, but both Bills were womanizers with attractive women as well.
7taw11yI'm not going to argue about it, but I find it much more likely than not: E(quality and quantity of women you can get | you know just basic PUA techniques) > E(quality and quantity of women you can get | you're in top 1% rich and/or powerful) and definitely beyond any reasonable doubt: E(quality and quantity of women you can get | you know just basic PUA techniques) P(you can learn basic PUA techniques) >>> E(quality and quantity of women you can get | you're in top 1% rich and/or powerful) P(you can get into top 1% rich and/or powerful) It's even more drastic for percentiles narrower than top 1% - so even if you could get laid slightly more if you went that far, but your chances of getting that far are slim. Marginal laid-utility of money and power is very very small.
1rhollerith_dot_com11yHere's another piece of data relevant to estimating the expected laid-utility of interventions designed to increase fame, wealth or power relative to the expected laid-utility of other interventions one might design. Actress Dana Delany told an interviewer from People magazine or similar magazine that if you want her to kiss you, owning a jet plane and a condo on Bon Air does not make up for having bad breath because of gum disease. That suggest that making a point of never getting so strapped for cash that you cannot afford to pay a good dental hygenist might increase laid-utility more than starting your own company. Parenthetically I might write a post explaining why according to my mental models, for a male scientist who is bad at getting laid to choose to work on an extinction-risky technology has significantly lower expected utility than for a male scientist good at getting laid to choose to do so where U (the human species goes extinct) = -1 and U (nonextinction) = 0. The effect might apply to female scientists, too, but I am currently almost completely confused about that -- except "confused" might be the wrong word because it might connote that I expect to gather additional evidence for or against the question. The effect stems from what has been called the crime-genius connection and from the cognitive benefits to the man of the love of a woman with strong "ego skills", "ego skills" being the term some psychotherapists use for some practical fragment of rationality.
5Eliezer Yudkowsky11yEr... perhaps you would find different responses here from non-actresses not being interviewed in People magazine. Or not. Just sayin', the degree to which someone cares about something may have something to do with the degree to which they are ordinarily deprived of it. If you are not deprived of men owning jet planes, then you may feel free to weight it less than bad breath.
1taw11yDo we have any serious evidence on how much more sexually successful rich people are? I estimate wealth to have amazingly small effect compared to what most people believe.
0Strange79yI don't find it hard to believe that such preferences would be common among non-actresses. One way or another, the jet-or-lack-thereof isn't going to be right up in her face during the actual kissing.
1[anonymous]9yHave you written such a post?
2NancyLebovitz9yI just read something by someone who'd seen Lewinsky in person-- he said she had spectacular skin and a very sexy attitude. It's plausible that neither would necessarily come through in photographs.
1taw9yIt's not impossible, but if that person has met Lewinsky after Clinton thing became known that's way more easily explained by halo effect.
9Alicorn11yThere's really no chance that people are going to stop discussing "attractive women" (specifically, the sexual favors of attractive women) as objects that can and should be be attained under the right circumstances, is there? :(

Well, it's probably at least the same chance that Cosmo's covers are going to stop discussing men's love and commitment as "objects that can and should be attained under the right circumstances". ;-)

Or of course, we could just assume that when people talk about doing things in order to attract a mate, that:

  1. This has nothing to do with "objects" or "attainment",
  2. That any such mates attracted are acting of their own free will, and
  3. That what said consenting adults do with their time together is really none of our business.
5NancyLebovitz9yShouldn't Less Wrong have a bit more subtlety and detail than Cosmo?
2Steve_Rayhawk11ypjeby: Can you subjectively discriminate brain states of yours with high medial prefrontal cortex activity and brain states of yours with low medial prefrontal cortex activity [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xs4]? What behavior is primed by each brain state? Alicorn has intuited that brain states with low mPFC activity prime rationalization of oppression and collusion in oppression. Alicorn also intuits that that signals of social approval of intuitively distinguished brain states characterized by low mPFC activity, as well as absence of signals of social disapproval of intuitively distinguished brain states characterized by low mPFC activity, are signals of social approval of oppression and of willingness to collude in and rationalize oppression. Also, Alicorn did not express these intuitions clearly. (Also, on this subject: I think utilitarian moral theorizing and transhumanist moral theorizing are two other brain states that are, by most people, mainly intuitively distinguished as characterizable by low mPFC activity. This makes not signaling disapproval of utilitarianism or transhumanism feel like signaling approval of totalitarianism and slavery.) [edit fix username capitalization]
4pjeby11yWow, that's an awful lot of projection in a tiny space - both your projection onto her, and the projection you're projecting she's making. I don't think that you can treat the mere use of the word "get" to imply the sort of states you're talking about, for several reasons. First, I think it's interesting that the study in question did not have men look at people -- they looked at photographs of people. Photographs of people do not have intentions, so it'd be a bit strange to try to figure out the intentions of a photograph. (Also, human beings' tendency to dehumanize faceless persons is well-known; that's why they put hoods on people before they torture them.) Second, I don't think that a man responding to a woman's body as if it were an object -- it is one, after all -- is a problem in and of itself, any more than I think it's a problem when my wife admires, say, the body of Jean Claude van Damme when he's doing one of those "splits" moves in one of his action movies. Being able to admire something that's attractive, independent of the fact that there's a person inside it, is not a problem, IMO. After all, even the study you mention notes that only the sexist men went on to deactivate their mPFC... so it actually demonstrates the independence of enjoyment from oppression or objectification in the negative sense. So, I'm not going to signal social disapproval of such admiration and enjoyment experiences, whether they're engaged in by men OR women. It's a false dichotomy to assume that the presence of "objective" thought is equal to the absence of subjective/empathic thought. After all, my wife and I are both perfectly capable of treating each other as sex objects, or telling one another we want to "get some of that" in reference to each other's body parts without it being depersonalizing in the least. (Quite the opposite, in fact.) We can also refer to someone else (male or female) as needing to "get some" without any hostile or depersonalizing intent towards
8Steve_Rayhawk11yYes. But when women like Alicorn intuitively solve the signaling and negotiation game [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signaling_game] represented in their heads, using their prior belief distributions about mens' hidden qualities and dispositions, their beliefs about mens' utility functions conditional on disposition, and their own utility functions, then their solutions predict high costs for any strategy of tolerating objectifying statements by unfamiliar men of unknown quality. It's not about whether or not objectification implies oppressiveness with certainty. It's about whether or not women think objectification is more convenient or useful to unfamiliar men who are disposed to depersonalization and oppression, compared with its convenience or usefulness to unfamiliar men who are not disposed to depersonalization and oppression. If you want to change this, you have to either change some quantity in womens' intuitive representation of this signaling game, improve their solution procedure, or argue for a norm that women should disregard this intuition.
3pjeby11yChange what? Your massive projection onto what "women like Alicorn" do? I'd think that'd be up to you to change. Similarly, if I don't like what Alicorn is doing, and I can't convince her to change that, then it's my problem... just as her not being able to convince men to speak the way she wants is hers. At some point, all problems are our own problems. You can ask other people to change, but then you can either accept the world as it is, or suffer needlessly. (To forestall the inevitable analogies and arguments: "accept" does not mean "not try to change" - it means, "not react with negative emotion to". If you took the previous paragraph to mean that nobody should fight racism or sexism, you are mistaken. It's easier to change a thing you accept as a fact, because your brain is not motivated to deny it or "should" it away, and you can then actually pay attention to the human being whose behavior you'd like to change. You can't yell a racist or sexist into actually changing, only into being quiet. You can, however, educate and accept some people into changing. As the religious people say, "love the sinner, hate the sin"... only I go one step further and say you don't have to hate something in order to change it... and that it's usually easier if you don't.)
1Alicorn11yIt's hard to buy the idea that it's not supposed to have to do with objects or attainment when the phrasing looks like: You could just as easily say the same thing about cars or a nice house or something else readily available for sale. I wouldn't mind if the mate-seeking potential of money and status was discussed indirectly in a way that didn't make it sound like there is a ChickMart where you can go out and buy attractive women. "If I were a millionaire I could easily support a family", "if I were a millionaire I would have more free time to spend on seeking a girlfriend" - even "if I were a millionaire I could afford the attention of really classy prostitutes", because at least the prostitutes are outright selling their services. It's probably not even crossing the line to say something like "if I were a millionaire I would be more attractive to women".

How's this different from women's magazines having articles on how to "get" a man? Is this not idiomatically equivalent to "be more attractive to more-attractive men"? If so, then why the double standard?

Meanwhile, the reason that the phrasing was vague is because it's an appropriate level of detail for what was specified: men with more money have more access to mating opportunity for all of the reasons you mention, and possibly more besides. Why exhaustively catalog them in every mention of the fact, especially since different individuals likely differ in their specific routes or preferences for the "getting"? (Men and women alike.)

5Alicorn11yDo you have some evidence that I approve of that feature of women's magazines, or are you just making it up? I find it equally repulsive, I just haven't found that particular behavior duplicated here so I haven't mentioned it. If concision is all that was intended, there are still other, less repellent ways to say it ("If I were a millionaire, my money and status might influence people to think better of me", leaving it implied that some of these people will be women and some of these women might have sex with the millionaire.) Or it could have been left out.

I find it equally repulsive,

So you find goal-oriented mating behavior offensive in both men and women. What's your reasoning for that? Does it enhance your life to find normal human behavior offensive? What rational benefit does it provide to you or others?

If concision is all that was intended, there are still other, less repellent ways to say it

And we could call atheism agnosticism so as not to offend the religious. For what reason should we do that, instead of simply saying what is meant?

What kind of rationalism permits a mere truth to be offensive, and require it to be omitted from polite discussion? Truths we don't like are still truths.

2Alicorn11yI did not use the word "offensive" (or for that matter "goal-oriented mating behavior"), and I'd appreciate if you would refrain from substituting inexact synonyms when you interpret what I say. (You specifically; you seem bad at it. Other people have had better luck.) There is a difference between upsetting people who hold a certain belief, and upsetting people who were born with a particular gender. What "mere truth" do you mean to pick out here, anyway? I have made some ethical claims and announced that I am repelled by the failure to adhere to the standards I mentioned. I'm not "offended" by any facts, I'm repulsed by a behavior.
8pjeby11yIf I didn't do that, how would we know we weren't understanding each other? Now at least I can try to distinguish "offensive" from "repulsive", and ask what term you would use in place of "goal-oriented mating behavior" that applies to what you find repulsive about both men and women choosing their actions with an intent to influence attractive persons of an appropriate sex to engage in mating behaviors with them? That men and women do stuff to "get" mates. This was what the original poster stated, that you appeared to object to the mere discussion of, and have further said that you wished people wouldn't mention directly, only by way of euphemism or substitution of more-specific phrases. I guess I missed them. All I heard you saying was that it's bad to talk about men "getting" women by having money. Are you saying it's unethical that it happens, or that it's unethical to discuss it? I think I'm confused now. Which behavior? Seeking mates, or talking about the fact that people do? You seem to be implying that it's your gender that makes you repulsed, but that makes no sense to me. I assume the women's magazines that sell on the basis of "getting" men would not do so if the repulsion [that I understand you to be saying] you have were universal to your gender, AND it were not a sexist double standard.

what term you would use in place of "goal-oriented mating behavior" that applies to what you find repulsive about both men and women choosing their actions with an intent to influence attractive persons of an appropriate sex to engage in mating behaviors with them?

I've been using "objectification" to label the set of behaviors of which I disapprove. (It isn't the only one, but it's the most important here.)

I claim that it is unethical to objectify people. By "objectify", I mean to think of, talk about as, or treat like a non-person. A good heuristic is to see how easily a given sentence could be reworked to have as a subject something inanimate instead of a person. For instance, if someone says, "If I were rich, I'd have a nice house and a sports car and girls falling over themselves to be with me", the fact that the girls appear as an item in a list along with a vehicle and a dwelling would be a giant red flag. The sample substitute, "If I were a millionaire, my money and status might influence people to think better of me", would not make sense if you changed "people" to "cars", because cars do not thin... (read more)

9Pfft11yUltimately each person's ethics are probably axiomatic and impossible to justify or discuss, but this injunction seems extremely odd to me, and trying to follow it would seem to have very bad consequences for the kind of thinking we could do. For instance, consider the sentences "if falling freely, a car will accelerate at 9.8 m/s^2" and "if falling freely, a person will accelerate at 9.8 m/s^2". We are not allowed to say or think the second one. But that means that it is impossible to work out the answers to problems like "how long would it take me to fall from a building" -- which surely is a question which almost everyone has considered one time or another, and which seems intrinsically harmless. The fact of the matter is, people are [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fc/you_are_a_brain/] objects, and we ignore it at our peril. Some questions are best considered working "inside-out" , starting with and reasoning from our subjective experience, and some are best considered "outside-in", starting with what we know about our material make-up. (Especially questions about bias seem to fall in the latter category!) Nor is there are clean separation between subject matters which requires "person-specific" reasoning and ones that do not. For instance, the topic of clinical depression brings in considerations about happiness and unhappiness, things that go to the core of the experience of being human. But even so, studies about serotonin -- a neurotransmitter with we share with common ants -- turn out to be very relevant. The same actually goes for the "falling from a building" example. The reason I was originally interested in the question is of course from imagining the subjective experience -- what would it be like, hurling towards your death, how much would you have time to think, etc -- but even so, to get the relevant information we have to take the objective viewpoint. And, I would argue, exactly the same applies to dating. The whole reason we are interested in the top
7wuwei11yI still have very little idea what you mean by 'objectification' and 'objectify people'. I was momentarily off-put by Roko's comment on the desire to have sex with extremely attractive women that money and status would get. This was because of: * the focus on sex, whereas I would desire a relationship. * the connotation of 'attractive' which in my mind usually means physical attractiveness, whereas my preferences are dominated by other features of women. * the modifier 'extremely' which seems to imply a large difference in utility placed on sex with extremely attractive women vs. very attractive or moderately attractive women, especially when followed by identifying this desire as a generator for desiring high social status rather than vice versa or discussing both directions of causation. (The latter would have made more sense to me in the context of Roko saying we should value social influential power.) I had negative associations attached to Roko's comment because I started imagining myself with my preferences adopting Roko's suggestions. However, I wouldn't have voiced these negative associations in any phrases along the lines of 'objectificaton' or 'objectifying', or in terms of any moral concerns. The use of the word 'get' by itself did not strike me as particularly out of place any more than talk of 'getting a girlfriend/boyfriend'.
3Alicorn11yI'm sorry you don't understand where I'm coming from. I don't have any bright ideas about how to make it less ambiguous. Is there some reason you are put off when others don't share your desires? If the desire in question was something like "I desire to behave ethically" that would be okay, but there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with wanting sex but no relationship. There are ethical ways to pursue that desire. It's certainly nice that your attraction isn't dominated solely by physical features, but that isn't actually what "attractive" means on a reliable enough basis that I thought it was worth bringing up. Even if "conventionally physically attractive" was what Roko meant, there doesn't seem to be anything obviously wrong with that in light of the focus on sex over a relationship. One person can want to have no-strings-attached sex with multiple conventionally physically attractive women and I can want to settle down in a long-term relationship with a bespectacled dark-haired person with an IQ over 120 and there is no reason to think that these desires can't both be okay simultaneously. I don't see this as any more problematic than the mention of attractiveness in the first place. If it's okay for me to want a spouse with an IQ over 120, presumably it'd be okay for me to want a spouse with an IQ over 140, it'd just make a person satisfying my criteria trickier to find; the same would be true if Roko or anyone else wants to have sex with women several standard deviations above the physical attractiveness mean. Not more than, but "getting a [girl/boy]friend" isn't unloaded language either... (I have been known to use the word "obtain" with respect to a hypothetical future spouse myself, but that's mostly because "marry" would sound redundant.)
4bogus11yRead Roko's comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xg9] again and you'll realize that Wu wei is quite justified in being put off by it. Roko was implying that people who do not adopt these specific values are setting themselves up for failure at their goals due to not being motivated enough. In my opinion, Roko's whole argument reeks of availability bias. People who have attained more wealth and social status are certainly more salient to us, but this doesn't make them more influential by real-world measures. Still, money makes the world go round [http://lesswrong.com/lw/65/money_the_unit_of_caring/] and having more wealthy philanthropists who can look beyond warm fuzzies to actual utilons created would be a very good thing.
3pjeby11yThen why is "getting" objectionable? I (obviously) don't "get" it, no pun intended.
1wuwei11yThis sentence was meant to explain why I was momentarily off-put. I did not mean to imply that I have any ethical problems with the desires mentioned (I don't), though now that you mention it, I wouldn't be too surprised if I do retain some knee-jerk ethical intuitions against them.
5pjeby11yUm, that example actually fails your heuristic: "If I were rich, I'd have a nice house and a sports car and cars falling over themselves to be with me" makes no sense. That appears to contradict your earlier definition: If the applicability of a statement is limited to persons, then how can that possibly be "like a non-person"? The entire thing sounds like bottom-line reasoning - i.e., the specific thing is something you find repulsive, therefore it's objectification. (I'm not even going to touch the thoughtcrime part where you're classing speech and thoughts to be unethical in themselves, except to mention that this is the part where having such a repulsion is objectively non-useful to you or anyone else, since all it can ever do is cause you and others pain. Of course, I expect this comment to be widely downvoted for that idea, since the right to righteous indignation is itself a religious idea around here, even if it's more usually wielded in support of Truth or Theory rather than gender sensibilities. All very on-topic for this post about atheist/rationalist denials, as it turns out!)
4Alicorn11yPerhaps you are trying to be funny. If you're not, I'll just point out that I did say it was an imperfect heuristic, and anyway to apply it with some finesse means that you might have to replace a whole noun phrase (gasp, shock, alarm). Because grammar is like that. For instance, most sentences that use gendered pronouns would be deeply strange if applied to non-boat inanimate objects, but that doesn't stop some such sentences from being objectifying. No, sometimes things I find repulsive are non-objectifying, and are bad for some other reason. Occasionally, I'm even repulsed by things that are not unethical. Not so. By having and announcing this repulsion I can influence anyone who happens to care about my opinion.
4Emile11yI'm not sure objectification is the cause of the red flag here : would you get the same impression if he said "If I were rich, I'd have a nice house and a sports car and a gardener"?
3Alicorn11yYou make a very good point. I'm tempted to draw a distinction between referring to a hypothetical member of a profession as opposed to a hypothetical member of a gender, but until I've given this more thought all I will say is that it'd probably be better to say "a garden" than "a gardener".
2rhollerith_dot_com11yAlicorn, I am curious what is your answer to Emile's question if we replace "gardener" with "butler"? Please do not take my question as a dismissal of your concern. In fact, I think it is probable that you have a valid concern. I ask my question not in the spirit of a debate but rather in the spirit of a cooperative quest to understand. I am planning more top-level posts about sex, and I do not want my ignorance of your concerns and similar concerns to cause me to alienate female Less Wrongers.
2Alicorn11yI think what I'm going to wind up saying to both the gardener and butler examples is that those individuals are explicitly selling their work, so it's okay to refer to the profession as a stand-in for a semi-objectified human representation of that work. I've said elsewhere that when people want to have sex with women, it's "at least honest" to purchase it outright from prostitutes who are selling it; I imagine it's no less honest to purchase the work of a gardener or a butler. It's when random "attractive women"/"girls"/whatever are said to be taking action other than the actual, literal sale of some sort of work as a result of hypothetical millionaire-ness that it stops being acceptable.
2Tiiba11yI think the problem is that you need to think though what it is you're protesting. Objectification, to me, doesn't mean wanting to get, acquire or obtain a girl. Buying a girl, raping a girl - that's objectification, because the rapist ignores the fact that the girl has free will. It's still true that she is ALSO an object, though. And a chordate animal. And an ultra-feminist. Buying women, kidnapping women, shotgun wedding, buying off the cops to cover up your rape - these are no-nos. But what's wrong with attracting girls by being more awesome? (Also, it is immoral to abuse bugs in people's decision-making algorithms.)
3Alicorn11yNothing, unless by "more awesome" you mean "more deceitful, depersonalizing, and piggish".
1Tiiba11yPlease explain to me how being rich is any of these things. Don't make me invoke Godwinski's Law. It seems to me that you're saying that merely wanting sex is dehumanizing.
1Alicorn11yIt's not. What? No.
1pjeby11ySome people (of both sexes) have a sexual preference for depersonalization or being depersonalized. Are you saying that they are wrong to have that preference, or that it is wrong for anyone to participate with their enactment of it? I assume here that by "wrong" you intend to ascribe some higher form of wrongness than merely your own disgust. But even if it's just your personal disgust, I find it hard to see how that disgust is any different from say, homophobia.
4Alicorn11yIf you're talking about the ilk of BDSM, I do not think those desires or their enactments are wrong, but there is a difference between (for instance) person A calling person B depersonalizing names in situation X, where this is a scene and B has a safeword and they're going to go have scrambled eggs at a café together later or something, and in situation Y, where this is an abusive relationship and A is really and continually thought of as an object rather than a partner - even if in situation Y as well as X, B happens to be turned on by the depersonalizing names. By a similar token, battery is wrong even if you just so happen to perpetrate it on a masochist; murder is wrong even if you just so happen to perpetrate it on someone who was about to commit suicide; etc. Information, not luck. The next logical thing to bring up is 24/7 BDSM relationships, but responsibly conducted those at least begin with a personal and consensual ceding of control.
1pjeby11yThe question was, is it then "wrong" (as you suggested it was) for person B to think person A is "more awesome" in situation Y?
1Alicorn11yIn situation Y, person A is an abuser, and no one should think abusers at all awesome, at least not at being ethical people (I suppose they could be awesome at something else, like curling or origami). To think an abuser is awesome at being an ethical person is to be mistaken and, probably, to be mistaken about facts of morality.
1pjeby11yThe comment of yours I'm referring to is the one where you said: And it was in reply to a comment asking what was wrong with attracting people via awesomeness, so switching it to "being ethical people" now is a complete red herring. You still haven't said what it is that's "wrong" here with someone having a different definition of awesomeness than you. So when you say: My question to you is, what are you saying about person B thinking person A is awesome, in the sense of being attractive? (as was the context of this thread) You implied that it is "wrong". How so?
1Alicorn11yI don't know what you're talking about again, and probably shouldn't have re-engaged with you in the first place.
3pjeby11yI'm asking you simple, straightforward questions about your comments. Perhaps it will be clearer if I give a personal example. When I was a lot younger, I was in a relationship with a woman who, well, largely held me in contempt, except as a vehicle for satisfying certain of her sexual desires. Was I wrong to find this depersonalizing piggishness of hers awesome, despite the fact that her contempt was not part of a negotiated BDSM scene, nor any sort of playacting on her part? Was her attitude somehow morally wrong? Was mine? My point here is that this sort of bright-line moralism invariably ends up depriving other people of choice, or framing them as second-class humans. The very attempt to codify objective criteria for "objectification" ends up objectifying and oppressing people. We can be considerate of individuals, but trying to be considerate of classes of people doesn't scale: just segregating people into classes in the first place is half the problem! (e.g. stereotype priming) Edit to add clarification: one reason defining classes and labeling people members of them is depersonalizing is because it downplays their individuality to merely a set of footnotes on the ways in which they are or are not like the class they are being seen as a member of. For example, saying that a woman is a good programmer "for a woman" is depersonalizing, despite the superficial positive intent to compliment. In the same way, Alicorn's classing other people's activity as "abuse" or "wrong" is depersonalizing, despite the superficial positive intent of that labeling. For example, it labels me as a victim of abuse, regardless of how I choose to see myself. By Alicorn's own definitions (as I understand them) this is morally "wrong" for her to do -- which appears to me to demonstrate the self-contradictory (or at least inconsistent) nature of her definitions. My own resolution to such a paradox is to assume that it's good to be considerate to individuals, but also to accept that
1SoullessAutomaton11yIt is perhaps a salient distinction that people choose their profession, but not their gender. However, I disagree; both are objectifying to some degree, but it is considered socially acceptable to objectify people in the context of employment, presumably because both parties are getting some explicit value out of the transaction.
1JulianMorrison11yI'm not sure if a gardener is "objectified" (I find that an confusing word). He or she certainly is a substitutable unit of gardening skill. Another gardener with the same skill would be just as good. Similar does apply to "attractive woman". Another attractive woman would fit the job just as well. Leaving aside "objectified", it's certainly impersonal.
3thomblake11yWhat double standard? Did anyone here claim that using language that teats men as objects is fine? Is Cosmo now supposed to be our standard of excellence?
1Roko11ywhat is the substantive difference between ?
1Alicorn11yDepending on whether you and I have the same working definition of "substantive", the following: * In the first statement, but not the second, the women are not "gotten" as an open-and-shut act of obtainment. They are only attracted (and that's assuming that the empirical claim is true). * In the first statement but not the second, the improvement to the person's attractiveness is described only as an improvement, not as a binary switch from not having extremely attractive women to having them. * In the second statement but not the first, the women singled out are a particular narrow group selected for that are implied to be the only ones of interest or import.

Barring full-scale banhammer wielding... probably not, I'm afraid.

Do please try to understand that for many men, lack of sex is sort of like missing your heroin dosage - at least that's the metaphor Spider Robinson used. Anyone in this condition is probably going to go on about it, and if you're not starving at the moment you should try to have a little sympathy.

(EDIT: Of course, blathering about "attractive women" on a rationalist website and thereby driving rationalist women away from your own hangouts, and ignoring the fact that what you do is ticking off particular women, is extremely counterproductive behavior in this circumstance; but that's probably meta-level thinking that's beyond most people missing a heroin dosage. Men missing sex seem remarkably insensitive to what actually drives away women, just as women missing men are remarkably insensitive to such considerations as "Where does demand exceed supply?")

Do please try to understand that for many men, lack of sex is sort of like missing your heroin dosage - at least that's the metaphor Spider Robinson used. Anyone in this condition is probably going to go on about it, and if you're not starving at the moment you should try to have a little sympathy.

Of course it is well known that men on average have a higher sex drive than women on average, but I think the analogy to drug addiction or starving is ridiculous hyperbole. For just one thing, starving people and heroin addicts do not have the option of simply learning to masturbate.

8AllanCrossman11yMasturbation is not sex. If the only good thing about sex is having an orgasm, you're doing it wrong! (That's not to say the analogy to heroin addiction is a reasonable one.)
5Z_M_Davis11yNo, but it should be similar enough to break the analogy to starvation or heroin deprivation.

Well, that seems right, but allow me to clarify.

To use the food analogy, masturbation is like subsisting on flavorless but nutritionally adequate food, the proverbial "bread and water." Sex with someone who finds you desirable is more like that rich, delicious dessert that advertisers hope you've been fantasizing about recently. (Note the with someone who finds you desirable. It's important.)

If we have to use the drug metaphor, masturbation is more like giving a heroin addict all the methadone he wants.

4AllanCrossman11yI'm just questioning the idea that masturbation is to sex-starved people as food is to actually starving people. (Course, that's not exactly what you said either.)
2bogus11yTo someone who deeply disdains human society, it probably is equivalent. Suppose that it were possible to soothe your hunger by just rubbing your stomach - how many people would do it and forgo food completely?
3CronoDAS11yActually, if I didn't have to eat, I probably wouldn't.
5MichaelBishop11yPornography may reduce rape [http://www.toddkendall.net/internetcrime.pdf] though I haven't investigated the methodology too thoroughly. If true, it is certainly another sign that lack of sexual satisfaction is a big problem. The heroin metaphor certainly entails exaggeration, but I'm undecided as to whether that makes it inappropriate. Do you have a proposed substitute?

May I make a suggestion:

In many contexts like this, we need to replace "sex" with "intimacy." Or simply "attention."

It's not very masculine to admit it, but we men want love, too, or to at least to feel like we're desired by somebody. From what I've read, a prostitute is someone who a man pays to pretend to desire him while he masturbates using her body, and a lot of men aren't interested in that sort of thing.

It's not very masculine to admit it, but we men want love, too, or to at least to feel like we're desired by somebody. From what I've read, a prostitute is someone who a man pays to pretend to desire him while he masturbates using her body, and a lot of men aren't interested in that sort of thing.

Actually, it's something of a cliche that the more a sex worker is paid, the less important sex is the interaction, such that it becomes a smaller portion of the time spent, or perhaps doesn't occur at all.

(Where my information comes from: my wife runs a "sex shop" (selling products, not people!), and I was once approached by one of her customers to do a website for a prostitute review service, and I looked over some of the review materials, as well as some existing review sites to understand the industry and its competition before I declined the job. A significant portion of what gets reviewed on these "hobbyist" sites (as they're called) relate to a prositute's personality and demeanor, not her physique or sexual proficiency per se. Certainly, this only correlates with what guys who post prostitute reviews on the internet want, but it's an interesting correlation, nonetheless.)

I've heard that, too. As I said earlier, as far as I can tell, men tend to want girlfriends more than they want sex toys that have a woman's body, and some women are better actors than others. If I were to hire an escort, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between someone who was genuinely interested in me and someone who was acting, and I don't want to pay someone to deceive me.

Incidentally, there's a disturbing similarity between hiring an escort and hiring a therapist - you're paying someone to act like they're interested in you, even if they're not.

6Roko11yNow you sound like one of these scientists suggesting that the scientific community should pretend that religion and science are compatible, even though they believe that that statement is false, purely because doing so will upset the deluded ones. Rationality and negation(pickup works to a significant degree) are about as incompatible as religion and science. We would expect based upon our understanding of evolutionary psychology, specifically about reproduction strategies for male and female animals that something like this would happen. AND on top of that we have the empirical evidence that companies are making money by selling pickup skills to males at $2000 for a weekend seminar. I think that on LW, we should call a spade a spade, even if it upsets womens' cherished beliefs about themselves. I am personally glad that you wrote a long post shattering my cherished false beliefs about myself a while ago, even if it did upset me at the time and involved objectifying me.
5Z_M_Davis11yI do not think that word means what you think it means.
3Nick_Tarleton11ySaying you could have expressed a proposition better isn't disagreeing with the proposition.
4Alicorn11yThere's a few important differences (for instance, heroin is not a person that can read this site and be made to feel unwelcome), but I'm sure you know that. Why would you assume that? Is there some reason it seems more likely to you that I'm having regular sex and therefore am completely without the ability to sympathize, than that I just don't objectify people even if I haven't had a fix of person lately?
7Eliezer Yudkowsky11yWould that matter if you were missing a heroin dosage? Would you be able to pause that long to think about it, even if the actual consequence of your actions were to drive the heroin dosages away? To be blunt about this, human beings with XX chromosomes who experience equal or greater emotional pain for a given level of sex deprivation as the average human being with an XY chromosome are rare. Not nonexistent, but rare. A man experiencing or remembering the pain of sex deprivation is justified in assuming that the prior probabilities are strongly against a randomly selected woman being able to directly empathize with that pain.
2Alicorn11yHow in the world would this be possible to know, unless you're using some kind of behaviorist account of pain?

I'd suggest reading the Hite Reports on Male / Female Sexuality, say. The number one complaint of married men, by far, is about insufficient frequency of sex.

Similarly: If the expression "After three days without sex, life becomes meaningless" doesn't seem to square with your experience...

Similarly: http://www.wetherobots.com/2008/01/07/youve-been-misinformed/

Similarly: The vast majority of people who pay money (the unit of caring) to alleviate sex deprivation are men.

Given the statistical evidence, the anecdotal evidence, and the obvious evo-psych rationale, I'm willing to draw conclusions about internal experience.

8MendelSchmiedekamp11yBut drawing from this evidence that lack of sex for many (most?) men is emotionally equivalent to heroine withdraw seems a bit much. In the very least if this were the case I would expect some direct evidence, rather than a list of things which could be chalked up to the differences in how men and women have been trained to spend money and words on the subject of sex.
5Alicorn11yI'll see if I can find the Hite Reports. As for the other things you mention: * I have never heard that expression before. Do some people actually, seriously believe that life is literally meaningless after three days without sex [that involves another person, I assume, since if solo sex did the trick there would be no reason for anybody without a crippling disability to get to this point]? Why are there not more suicides, if this is the case? * I have read that comic before. I don't think this demonstrates anything other than that the male characters are less picky about how they satisfy their desires than the female character. Suppose you deprived me and some other person of food for 24 hours and then put us in a room with a lot of mint candy. The other person would probably eat some mints; I wouldn't, because eating mint causes me pain. Would you think this yielded information about how hunger felt to me and the other person? (Note: of course I would eat mint if I were starving or even about to suffer serious malnutrition, but you can't die of deprivation of sex with other people.) * Women who are willing to have sex with strangers (which comprise just about 100% of the class of prostitutes) can, for the most part, get it for free (or get paid to have it!) with trivial ease. Of course fewer women pay for it: the thing that is for sale (sex with a stranger) is not what women tend to want. It seems to me that the conclusion to draw isn't (at least not necessarily) that men experience worse suffering when they don't have sex, but that "sex" does not just mean "friction with a warm human body" to women, and so it can't be had as easily as you think.
1steelgardenia6ySo from evidence that men, on average, report/perform greater suffering from lack of sex, you can conclude that a specific woman has never felt as much sexual frustration as a specific man, or indeed, anything similar enough to allow for empathy? That seems far from airtight. It's also worth noting that there are a great many men who seek physical and emotional intimacy from other men. So if your hypothesis is that men objectify their potential partners solely because their intimacy is temporarily unavailable, then a small but consistent portion of the partner-as-object-to-be-won rhetoric would be about men, which I have not observed.
1[anonymous]9yIf I were missing my heroin dosage, I weren't able to do all that smart discussion going on here.

Related:

Envy Up and Contempt Down: Neural and Emotional Signatures of Social Hierarchies, presented by Susan T. Fiske, co-authors Mina Cikara and Ann Marie Russell, in the "Social Emotion and the Brain" session of the 2009 AAAS Meeting in Chicago (The Independent, Scientific American podcast, The Guardian, The Daily Princetonian, National Geographic, CNN, The Neurocritic)

The Independent:

The panel of 21 heterosexual male students were first rated in terms of their sexist attitudes to women, using answers to interview questions. Then they were placed in a brain scanner while viewing a set of images of women in bikinis, women in clothes and men in clothes. The scientists also used "sexualised" images, where the head of each semi-naked photograph was cut off so that only the torso was visible. . .

Scientific American:

. . . they had the men look at the photos while their brains were scanned and what she found was that, "...this memory correlated with activation in part of the brain that is a pre-motor, having intentions to act on something, so it was as if they immediately thought about how they might act on these bodies."

Fiske explained that the area

... (read more)

This is interesting, but I fear that the authors and the media are over-interpreting the data. There is a whole lot of research that basically goes from "the same area of the brain lights up!" to a shaky conclusion.

2[anonymous]9yThis sounds like highly motivated research. I'm curious about their test for scoring sexism, and how they established validity for that. Also, that isn't really how brain scanners work. It's not really possible to make those kinds of high-level determinations.
8rhollerith_dot_com11yAlicorn writes, I want you to continue to participate here, Alicorn. And I want to increase the female: male ratio in the rationalist/ altruistic/ selfless/ global-situation community. So if you ever see me [http://lesswrong.com/user/rhollerith_dot_com] using language that objectifies women or that alienates you, please let me know.
2MichaelBishop11yseconded.
8cousin_it11yDo you want me to stop seeking sex with attractive women or to stop signaling that I like sex with attractive women?
2Alicorn11yNeither. I'd like you to be thoughtful of the independent personhood of attractive women when you think or talk about them, which would affect the structure and phrasing of your desires but not make much of a substantive change in them.
6JulianMorrison11yHe sees the shape of the mesh, you see the fish caught in it. "Attractive" is a selection criterion, not yet a group of persons.
7Lightwave11yThe whole "must have sex with attractive women" thing is just a catch phrase used in the pick-up community. Actually, most of the people who read such forums/blogs, and even the PUAs themselves are normal people who just want a normal relationship with a normal girl. I think this is especially true of the "beta males". It's just that some of these people are full of cynicism and frustration, which explains why it may all sound like an insult to some women (women viewed as objects, etc). I would suggest that every time you see women or sex being discussed here, just interpret it as a discussion on how to solve a problem one might have with women, or as a general discussion on how one can improve with women. Which is what it actually means. The exact words used shouldn't bother you as long as you understand what underlies them.

Since you've been so generous with advice about how I should read such conversations, I'll return the favor. I suggest that every time you see a woman complain about how her gender is being discussed, you interpret it as (most likely) an identification of an actual problem that actually hurts an actual person, which identification you were unable to make because you are not a member of the victimized group, and too insensitive to pick up on such issues when they don't apply to you. Also, when I call you insensitive, you should understand that I only mean that you don't have the capacity to pick up on this one thing and I'm not making a sweeping statement about your personality - the exact word I use shouldn't bother you as long as you understand what underlies it.

8Lightwave11yI'm surprised by this response. What I suggested is that most guys here don't really want to have random sex with random women, they don't view women as objects that they can just use, or anything to that effect. And that the pick up community jargon and writings generally do not reflect what the average guy wants either. Does this strike you as wrong? I realize now that my "suggestion" may have sounded as if I'm denying that there is a problem or that I'm ignoring it. I'm not, I was just pointing out the above.
6Alicorn11yIf they don't really want that and don't really view women that way, why do they persist in talking as though they do? I'd chalk it up to a simple error of linguistic expression if they didn't get so defensive when called on it.

I'd chalk it up to a simple error of linguistic expression if they didn't get so defensive when called on it.

Men are not broken women, so the way we speak is not actually an "error".

Don't get me wrong, though: a man who thinks that women's language around mating matters is repulsive or in "error" is making exactly the same mistake: women aren't broken men either.

Both men and women are certainly better off trying to translate their language when specifically speaking to the other, as well as trying to translate the language of others when listening.

However, neither language has some sort of blessed status that makes the other one an "error", simply because someone is repulsed as a result of having mistaken what language an utterance was made in.

3Alicorn11yYou're just not trying anymore, are you. Lightwave said that some people did not mean to say the things they appeared to be saying. I said that I would think that the disparity between the things said and the things meant was a simple mistake of expression if people did not consistently defend their statements as originally phrased. And now you're bringing in irrelevant nonsense about men not being broken women? What did I say that remotely resembled that?

What did I say that remotely resembled that?

You said:

If they don't really want that and don't really view women that way, why do they persist in talking as though they do?

and further referred to it as an "error of linguistic expression".

I am saying that it's not an error. That women would generally use different words to describe the same thing does not mean that the man was in error to use those words. Those are the most correct and concise words in male language for what was said.

Many things that are said by men in few words must be said in many words for a woman to understand them, just as the reverse is true for things that women can say briefly to each other but require a lengthier explanation for a man to understand. This is normal and expected, since each gender has different common reference experiences, and therefore different shorthand.

What doesn't make any bloody sense is to insist that men (OR women) translate their every utterance into the other gender's language in advance of any question, then treat it as some terrible faux pas or "ethical violation" to fail to do so, or to classify the (correct-in-its-own-langauge) utterance as "li... (read more)

8thomblake11yThat's funny, as about half of the comments on this thread that thought the language was inappropriate were by males. Hiding behind your gender is no excuse for being insensitive and offensive. Use "I support talking this way because I'm a rude person", not "I support talking this way because I am male". Leave the rest of us out of it.
6pjeby11yActually, I said I support being tolerant of people who express their thoughts as they think them, even if they happen to sound offensive at first. A guy who makes a statement about "getting" women is no more insensitive than a woman who speaks of "getting" a man; they're simply using the language that is natural to them and at an appropriate level of specificity given their goals. We should applaud their truthfulness, not encourage them to be indirect, since if we don't like their goals, then knowing about them is a good thing! (It's also good if we DO like their goals, but that of course should be obvious.) This has zero to do with my own opinions or lack thereof on the language itself -- something I have scrupulously avoided endorsing or condemning. This is not a forum for sharing opinions, it's a forum for advancing rationality... and one where the importance of Truth (with a capital-T) is bandied about regularly. It should be pretty fucking basic rationality to observe that people telling you true things you don't like is useful information, if only because it's a minimally basic sanity check on your own untrustworthy brain! If I didn't think people telling me things I don't like is useful, I'd have been gone from this place in days! (For that matter, I wouldn't have spent the tens of thousands of dollars on training from marketing gurus, some of whom absolutely infuriate me at times.) The fact that I encounter information that offends me or pisses me off is a helpful signal: it means I'm learning something new. In particular, it means I have the opportunity to expand my range of useful choices, by dropping whatever mental rules are triggering me to be offended or pissed off, instead of paying attention to whether there's anything useful in the information I've been offered, whether or not I think it's "True" with a capital T. So all in all, I think perhaps you're having a different conversation than I am. I'm not arguing that people should be intentional
4thomblake11yActually, you said: (emphasis added) I'm saying that the person speaking offensively was not doing so merely because he was a male, and the people taking offense were not only females. Gender does not seem to factor heavily into the problem. I don't see how appeal to 'gendered language' helps, and I take offense to you implicitly associating me with such people.
3pjeby11yDid I ever say that all women only ever speak or comprehend female-specific language, or that men only ever speak or comprehend male-specific language? If language is based on reference experiences, then not all men and all women will share precisely the same language, even if there are general tendencies by gender (whether cultural or genetic). That is, not all men share the same reference experiences -- and geeky guys in particular are more likely to share certain classes of reference experience with women. Hell, I used to find the same sort of talk offensive, myself. If you take offense to implicit associations every time somebody omits to adequately delineate their generalizations, you're going to be offended a LOT around here. ;-) (Personally, I just didn't feel the need to disclaim each and every instance of a gendered term with "sombunall" [http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sombunall] or "BOCTAOE" [http://www.boctaoe.com/] -- it's more than a little tedious, especially since ANY gender-based generalization should be considered to have sombunalls and BOCTAOE's liberally sprinkled throughout.)
6Alicorn11yWhat. The. Heck. You do not get your own language. If people use language that is hurtful, objectifying, and sexist, they do not get the excuse that they have an idiolect in which those things are magically no longer hurtful, objectifying, and sexist (all of which are bad things to be). It just does not work that way. Okay, I'll try it on you. I think I understand what you meant, so it's not okay for me to feel any way at all about how you said it, or to care if you were rude, or to think that it reflects on your character if you go about saying hurtful things... hm, that doesn't seem to be the right thing to do. Maybe I didn't understand you. But when I have tried in the past to ask you what you mean, you have not been helpful. Perhaps what happened was that I accidentally misunderstood you and got into an argument. I should chalk that up to you being male, even though I know plenty of males who do not say such things - wait, that doesn't make sense either. Do you have other, less patronizing recommendations in your bag of tricks?
3pjeby11yThere is no such thing as hurtful(language). There is only considered_hurtful_by(language, person). See Eliezer's post about movie posters with swamp creatures carrying off "sexy" women for explanation, aka the "mind projection fallacy". I didn't say it was "not okay" - I said it was "not useful". HUGE difference. You are perfectly free to feel any way you like, but that doesn't make it useful , nor grant you any rights regarding whether others should agree with your feelings. IOW, "not_helpful_to(pjeby_answers, Alicorn_understanding)"... but note that this does not equate to "not_helpful(pjeby)" or "not_trying_to_help(pjeby)", just as "repulsive_to(X, Alicorn)" does not equate to "repulsive(X)" or "unethical(X)". Perhaps. I actually see it more as that people are trying to tell you things that are outside your current frame of reference, and you're telling them they're unethical or in error, when they are actually trying to be clear and helpful and say what they mean, and are puzzled why you're labeling them and their statements. (Even when someone knows male-female idiom translation inside and out, they don't always notice what they're doing, just like most people aren't aware of their own accent.) Meanwhile, AFAICT, you are taking other people's words and translating them to what you would mean if you used those words, instead of graciously accepting others explanation of what they meant by those words. Once you get to the point where you're arguing about the definitions of the words, there isn't really an argument any more -- something that also should be clear from Eliezer's past posts. In short, none of the stuff I'm bringing up is "about" gender issues -- or I wouldn't even have bothered with this conversation in the first place. I brought this up only because it's directly relevant to core Yudkowskian principles like the mind projection fallacy, arguing over definitions, and not treating one class of human being as a broken version of another class
2lavalamp11yDo you have any evidence for the male-language/female-language thing? Isn't it at least as likely that men talk about concepts that offend women, and women talk about concepts that elude men? (I speak as a male) The stuff you're talking about here is mainly communication problems. I'm not convinced you and alicorn are having a communication problem...

The stuff you're talking about here is mainly communication problems. I'm not convinced you and alicorn are having a communication problem...

As she's pointed out, we've been having at least one, and probably several. However, my comments about language were in relation to a different communication problem. (i.e., the one between Alicorn and others)

Do you have any evidence for the male-language/female-language thing? Isn't it at least as likely that men talk about concepts that offend women, and women talk about concepts that elude men? (I speak as a male)

I don't think so, because the key is unexpressed connotations.

A non-sexist man can talk about "getting" women without this having (in his mind) any negative connotation, because "of course" he wants something more than just sex, expects to settle down with only one partner after a bit of field-playing, and would never intentionally hurt or manipulate anyone. IME, however, women tend to prefer that all of these things be explicitly stated or disclaimed... just like there are plenty of things women expect to be obvious to men, but which men would much rather hear explicitly stated.

For example, Alicorn w... (read more)

2lavalamp11yReally, I agree with everything you say here. However, I tend to take Alicorn's point of view; given that some (many?) men really do think of women in objectifying ways, there's no way for Alicorn (or anyone) to know if a given offensive phrase is male-speak, or if it ought to be literally interpreted. If one actually knows the speaker well, one could probably tell if such a sentiment is consistent with their personality, but it seems like you'd have to know someone very well to make a reliable judgment there. Therefore, I do think it is worth the effort to avoid speaking of women in ways that are objectifying. I don't think it really takes that much effort once one is aware of it... One could say that Alicorn ought to just assume the best about transgressors, and perhaps she should, but I think there's some value in enforcing the concept that it's Not Ok to treat human beings as objects.
4pjeby11yDon't get me wrong: I don't object to being considerate. I just don't think it's appropriate to try to enforce being considerate. It tends to backfire, for one thing, as people generally don't like being told what to do, thereby creating perverse incentives. It also tends to make people on both sides of the discussion "flip the bozo bit" and assume the people on the other side are just jerks, instead of any increased understanding being reached. (Of course, in that respect, there's an extent to which I did the exact same thing I criticized Alicorn for! Mea culpa.)
4thomblake11yAnd more to the point, we've already had a similar conversation [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fo/religion_mystery_and_warm_soft_fuzzies/cdk] and I thought it was apparent at that time that there's a certain way we want to avoid writing around here, in the interest of inclusivity.
1bogus11yIs it really the case that women would respond positively towards this kind of "full disclosure"? If we are to take dating experts seriously, men are much better off if they leave such things unsaid. I agree with Steve Rayhawk that what most people really object to is depersonalization, i.e. the absence of empathy: as long as it is known with certainty that this is not your intent, you are in practice free to objectify as much as you want.
2pjeby11yDifferent context. First, what dating experts say about creating relationships doesn't always apply to sustaining them. Try being married for 13 years without ever explicitly telling your partner how much you love them! Second, almost everything I've been saying is very strictly grounded in the context of a specific statement made here, and the subsequent discussion. So when I said "prefer that all of these things be explicitly stated or disclaimed", I meant in the social context of a man stating an intention to "get" a woman, that is not specifically directed at the subject of his statement, and which occurs in the presence of persons other than that man, and the woman. (A very narrow context, in other words.) Also, "respond positively" does not equal "prefer". Someone can "prefer" one thing, and yet respond positively to another... which is the usual point being made by those dating experts.
2Alicorn11yRest assured, there is some communication problem. I'm sufficiently convinced that pjeby doesn't get my point that I have given up. Whether I understand him or not, I couldn't tell you for sure.
2Rings_of_Saturn11yAlicorn: What if I told you that talking about "getting a woman" was a direct and honest expression of my most inner desires, that I really did view her in that objectifying way, and that I considered this attitude perfectly natural and healthy, and that, furthermore, I find it objectionable for others to consider it their perogative to correct me on this? And that I very often find "being offended" to be an offensive behavior in its own right? And that I heavily discount verbal contradiction from other males because it signals a very well-established mating posture, that of the helpful and supplicant beta male?
4tut11yYou are always talking about NLP, so I expect you to know that the meaning of a statement is the reaction it gets in the person you are talking to. So if you are making statements that drive away women then either you mean to drive away women or you are making an error.
1pjeby11yThat's not the type of error Alicorn was talking about, AFAICT. Making a statement that doesn't advance your goals is a different class of error than a linguistic one.
5Nick_Tarleton11yIf, as you say, a man is unable to identify and insensitive to the problem reflected in his statement, and you point it out in a way that comes across primarily as an accusation of bad character (when his statement seems to be weak evidence that he has this form of bad character), it's not surprising that he would get defensive.
0[anonymous]9yDisregard.
1[anonymous]9yThe comment is three years old, and is parent to a giant thread detailing Alicorn's position in painstaking detail.
0[anonymous]9yDamn it, I always forget to check the dates on these things. Ah well, nevermind.
5NancyLebovitz9yA slightly different angle-- it's not just that attractive women (or their sexual favors) are presented as objects, it's that this sort of discussion seems to be set in a world where people at the same level of attractiveness are fungible. It seems like a world where no one likes anyone, or at least no one likes anyone they're in a sexual relationship with enough to be interested in the difference between one person of equivalent attractiveness and another.
5CronoDAS11yProbably not. (It might be worth noting that people often do talk this way about other classes of people. Employer-employee relations tend to be treated similarly; "How to get a job" discussion is as often as impersonal as "how to get laid" discussion. It's still a bigger problem when the topic is the sexual favors of women with conventionally attractive bodies, though.) (You might want to ignore the preceding comment. I just feel compelled to nitpick everything I can. Assume good faith, and all that.)
2Psychohistorian11yNo, it's OK. If you go off of his source, women want to be objectified, so it's no harm, no foul. You just don't know it yet. Brilliant, right? Seriously, though, he's deriving his theory from someone who evaluates the worth of men by their ability to score with attractive women [Edit: phrase removed]. The theory is more complicated than that, but, really, it's not that much more complicated. (In case it's not entirely clear from the above, I emphatically don't endorse this view.)
2topynate11yI don't think Roissy claims women want to be objectified. He agrees with the majority opinion that they like to be treated like human beings, appreciated for the qualities particular to them as individuals etc. He just adds the coda that giving women what they like is a very poor strategy for sleeping with as many of them as possible, as quickly as possible*. Roissy doesn't really care what women want except insofar as knowing it furthers his aims, so this doesn't create a great deal of cognitive dissonance for him. It was in fact reading him that inspired me to write this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12s/the_strangest_thing_an_ai_could_tell_you/xcy] yesterday. *In fact, he claims it makes women disdain you and calls it "supplication". The Roissy way is never explain, never apologise.
2thomblake11yFolks here seem to buy into the folk anthropology notion that successful men become successful specifically in order to attract a mate, presumably the most conventionally attractive one. I'm not sure that idea is going to go away, regardless of how disgusting it sounds to those of us who married for love.
3wiresnips11yI'm quite sure that the idea won't go away, if only because in at least some cases, it'll be flagrantly true- season with a dash of confirmation bias and serve hot.
2dclayh11yIn particular, I think it's not going to go away as long as powerful politicians keep having extramarital affairs.
1Roko11yI am curious: do you think it is rational to taboo all discussion that involves treating women as physical systems that can be manipulated by providing appropriate sensory input to their sense organs? Do you think that all discussion that involves treating men as physical systems that can be manipulated by providing appropriate sensory input to their sense organs should be similarly stopped? Like, if I have a business idea that involves selling particularly manipulative pornographic material to men which will cause them to give me money which I can donate to an efficient charity and save millions of lives, that such an idea should not even be discussed?
1JulianMorrison11yThe idea deserves some objective light shedding on it. It's easy to pick out cases where beautiful women and high-status (not necessarily rich) men choose to affiliate, but are the two groups really more likely to hang out together? Or is this a sort of male-evolutionary-psyche mirage, which is always over the next status hill?
0[anonymous]9yDisregard.
6Psychohistorian11yP(Accomplish goals given get really rich) > P (Accomplish goals given ~get really rich) vs. P[(Accomplish goals given try to get really rich & (get really rich or ~get really rich)] ?>=<? P(Accomplish goals given ~try to get really rich) My symbols kind of suck in this format, but you seem to be arguing the former when the latter is the relevant consideration. It also ignores the goal of personal happiness; I would guess that most people in practice have very high coefficients for themselves and loved ones in their utility functions, regardless of what they profess to believe. Oh, and the whole claim about not valuing social status enough and, in particular, not valuing sex with extremely attractive women is, well, unsupported, to put it extremely charitably. Unless people here have the goals of "showing people up" or "having sex with extremely attractive women whose interest in them is contingent on their wealth," adapting those values would not be conducive to accomplishing their current goals, so failing to adapt them is hardly an error. More to the point, saying that people aren't pursuing wealth and claiming the specific cause of this is a lack of valuing social status is like saying people aren't buying a Mercedes because they don't adequately value an all-leather interior. There are many other values that would attain the ends, and there are many other ends that would fulfill the values. I'd go into this at length, but the post did explicitly condone trolling, so I won't take this too seriously. This is not to say that you're wrong (about wealth being a rational goal for meeting our existing goals); I don't have the numbers to shut up and multiply. I'm just saying you may well not be right.
1Vladimir_Golovin11yWhat kind of numbers do you think you would need to shut up and multiply? No trolling, just an honest question. To clarify, I support Roko here -- I've been thinking along the same lines for some time.
3Psychohistorian11yYou'd need to know the goals in question. Then you'd need to know how much great wealth would benefit these goals. Then the odds of becoming wealthy. Then the benefits if you try to get wealthy but fail. Then you'd need to compare that to the benefits of just doing what you're doing. It's not really quantifiable enough to fit into the shut-up-and-multiply, especially since it varies based on goals and individuals.
3Douglas_Knight11yI have a very specific response. I'm skeptical that money is very effective at making scientific discoveries. I'm extremely skeptical money is a good way of getting credit for science. If your goal is to get credit for science or to impress scientists, you probably should be a scientist. Who has recently used money to achieve scientific fame? Craig Ventnor is the only one I can name. and I suspect the money diluted the credit, but it was probably worth it. If your goal is to advance science, maybe money is a good tool. Bell Labs was good for the world (and for IBM). But it's pretty easy to waste money trying to duplicate it. Also, successful scientists are greedy and self-interested.
1michaelkeenan11yI suspect that prizes are good for spurring technological progress. I'm thinking of the X Prize Foundation and the DARPA Grand Challenge for robotic cars. One reason I'd like to have more money is so I could donate it to prizes that would spur technological progress.
1John_Maxwell11yI'm not convinced that financial success actually increases your success with women, although I'd love it if that were true. I suspect that appearance and behavior play a bigger role as soon as you have an apartment, a car, and a cell phone.
0[anonymous]9yThere is a subset of the population consciously interested in exploiting partners for their wealth. That subset aside, yeah, I think once you're able to provide and take care of yourself, the marginal value of money in your relationships plummets.
1CannibalSmith11yINCLUDING YOU!!!
1CronoDAS11yThis is only significant if you, well, have long-term goals that involve changing the world. I don't.

Shakespeare isn't the greatest writer ever.

Granted, it's likely he may have been innovative back then, and he may have left a trace on society. So what? The guy picked low-hanging fruits.

Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe no one ever did better since then, especially if considering all cultures and writers, in a span of 400 years. Especially since people's taste in literature and stories vary.

Revering Shakespeare seems like a cached thought and an applause light more than anything. It's like saying the Bible is the greatest book ever written. Both could only become so successful because of the appalling lack of any serious competition.

5HonoreDB9ySeconded. I don't think you'll get too much disagreement in this community, interestingly enough. We're all neophiles. But say "modern writers are better than Shakespeare" to most English speakers and you won't even get an absolute denial macro, you'll get something more like , as though you'd claimed that apple > 6.
0Manfred9yWell, I'd disagree. When I hear "greatest writer ever," literary merit is certainly a factor, but I also think of things associated with the "greatness" side of the phrase, like impact on culture, fame, and innovation. But I upvoted the post because I think there's a good point about this being such received wisdom.
0Vaniver9ySo, if "greatest" is defined by trace on society... I agree there's the danger of a cached thought here, but I'm curious what experiment would differentiate between someone thinking Shakespeare is the greatest writer because they've been primed to do so and someone thinking that because Shakespeare was the greatest writer they've read.
1Desrtopa9yFor an experiment you could actually pull off without raising people in isolation from the rest of society, I'd take advantage of the fact that the average person doesn't actually know most of the works Shakespeare wrote, and separate out a control and experiment group where the control group reads and gives a rating of their perception of the literary quality of several works of short fiction, including some of Shakespeare's lesser known works, properly attributed, and the experiment group reads and rates the same stories with the works improperly attributed, crediting some nobody writer with a plausible renaissance-sounding name with Shakespeare's works.
4Vaniver9yArguably, Shakespeare's primary contribution is in his best-known works, not his lesser-known works. Comparing Shakespeare's second-best to Jonson [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Jonson]'s second-best seems like a poor way to determine which is better- compare The Alchemist against A Midsummer Night's Dream. Similarly, comparing Ibsen and Shakespeare is a tough problem- in some sense, Ibsen is noteworthy only because his style was so different from Shakespeare's. As EE43026F points out, tastes vary- and there's no taste that seems like the natural judge for "greatest." Taking a random sample of humans alive today and having them decide which is better by majority vote seems like a poor judge, as is taking a random sample of theatre affectionados and having them decide by consensus. (I am curious, though, how people in the developing world would respond to, say, Shakespeare plays vs. Ibsen plays vs. Hansberry plays. Does Shakespeare win points for adapting so readily to Japan? [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throne_of_Blood])

One groups reaction to Hamlet.

6[anonymous]9ySomething like this is going on when we read Platonic dialogues.
3Vaniver9y
2gwern9yIn one of my anthropology classes, this was covered, but we didn't get a copy of the whole piece. Thanks.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky9yThis is awesome.
1linkhyrule57yHuh. I wonder if their judgement of quality was a coincidence? It seems odd that they would judge it a good story, while reinterpreting the plot ... well, not all that comprehensively - not a lot of meaning gets changed... Anyway, it might be interesting to see if their judgement of story-quality is roughly randomized across Western literature, or if they remain parallel even when interpretations differ.
1MixedNuts9yNot saying I would have done better in the moment, but the author's utter refusal to adapt to different lore and cultural expectations really irked me. Just say it was how the omen got interpreted rather than spoken words!
1thomblake9yEverything adapts readily to Japan. It's what the culture is built on.
1Gastogh9yI'm interested. Just how is Japanese culture built on that?
9thomblake9yHere is a quick gloss, in broad brush strokes (with a mixed metaphor or two thrown in for good measure). The Japanese have been smoothly appropriating and adopting parts of other cultures since at least the beginning of their recorded history. Their recorded history, of course, began when they adopted Chinese writing. According to my Grand Theory of Japan, Japan is notable for always seeing itself how it is reflected in the eyes of others (a trait that is visible at all levels of abstraction, from culture to individual). Its name, in its own language, can be interpreted "land to the East" - it was given by the Chinese and happily adopted by the Japanese (in part because it could also be interpreted as "originating from the sun" and that tied in nicely with the Amaterasu (sun goddess) creation myth). Early Japanese people were very concerned with catching up to the level of civilization of China. When Western powers arrived and started colonizing China, Japan quickly realized it had a new target and started emulating Britain and Germany. Huge changes to the organization of society and social customs swept through Japan with relatively little resistance. First Japan thought they'd earn the respect of the West by colonizing China, since that seemed to be what all the cool kids were doing. When that didn't quite work, they fought (and won) a war against Russia. Soon after, they tried to create an empire in the Pacific, and it would have worked if it weren't for the new economic powerhouse that was the US. So Japan turned to emulating the US, changing its way of life once again to build an economic power out of toothpicks and rubber bands (billions of them, subsidized by the US). The constitution, which was practically handed to Japan by the occupying US, was soon held to a regard similar to that of the US towards our own constitution. History lessons aside, you can see the signs of this tendency/attitude everywhere in Japan. The language is about half loan words fro
0[anonymous]6yI don't dispute most of this seriously (and am aware I am responding to an old post, so I don't mind if you don't respond) but how does the seclusion period, where they tried to severely limit contact with the west for a few hundred years, fit into your thinking on the subject?

Not buying the analogy. In a big world full of six billion people, all of whom have their own interests and desires, and a universe still larger than this, it's not even clear to me what it means to be high-status or significant. Think of all those precious moments in your life---every book and every insight and every song and every adventure. Is all of this to be considered as dust because someone somewhere in the depths of space and time has had more books, greater adventures?

Small is beautiful, if only because large is incomprehensible.

[-][anonymous]11y 10

A belief that I think is not supported by evidence, but will trigger automatic stream of rationalizations is this: that innate talent (or lack thereof) places constraints on what one can achieve. Especially regarding intelligence. I'm not saying that there are no differences in, say, intelligence. There are, of course. But it doesn't follow that these traits are fixed and constrain what you can achieve.

I think you can see this world-view in the general attitude of many of the posters and commenters here or even in EY's posts:

For so long as I have not yet achieved that level, I must acknowledge the possibility that I can never achieve it, that my native talent is not sufficient.

My claim is that there is little evidence supporting this sort of view and in fact the evidence points in the other direction.

There are the studies of K. Anders Ericsson (et al) on expertise, which have shown that the only factor that reliably predicts expertise (in any of the studied fields) is the amount of time the individual has spent practicing deliberately.

But there are also studies popularized by Carol Dweck, which indicate that the self-view one adopts has a significant impact on the effort we... (read more)

You didn't give any examples.

But what does that mean? I've asked people who believe in libertarian free will what they are getting at many times. They do not mean that actions are random, and they don't believe they're determined by prior states of affairs. I literally cannot wrap my mind around what else might be possible, let alone what other possible thing could reasonably go by the name "freedom".

2[anonymous]11yThey're trying to pretend that the model that we had before we had any idea how the brain worked is still correct. It doesn't mean anything, it's just commonly taken as a given. It would be stupid to say it was random and depressing (but true!) to say that choices are a function of brain states.
1JulianMorrison11yWhen I say free will, I mean that I'm too ignorant to use production rules in a given optimization search space.

I really wish I could link to xkcd and leave. I really do.

*deep breath*

Okay. Let me take it point by point.

Point 0 - Three may keep a Secret, if two of them are dead.

In order for your claims to be true, hundreds of people would have to be involved. First, everyone involved in setting up the controlled demolition (no easy task) has to plan, prepare, and execute the task. Second, every witness has to be found and suppressed. Third, everyone in the chain of command to plan, order, and fund the project has to keep mum. Fourth, everyone whose job it is to moni... (read more)

There's no such thing as an absolute denial macro. And I sure hope this to trigger yours.

2CannibalSmith11yNo, you wont!
1nero11yHave you ever heard creationist talk ? For me that is proof of its existence.

If you think you're going to have a net positive impact on the world, it makes sense to be present in all the Everett branches you can.

3Vladimir_Nesov11yEspecially if you consider your own alive-and-well presence a positive property of the world.

By "should", do you mean "will" or maybe "should be expected to be", or do you really mean "should"?

If the delusion is of the kind that all of us share it, we won't be able to find it without building an AI.

You're not understanding (or not believing) the power of such denial/delusion. If there's a delusion that universal and compelling, we won't be able to find it EVEN IF we build an AI.

I didn't comment on Elizer's post because it was equally misguided - if you're so committed to a belief that you ignore a ton of "normal" evidence, you're not going to be convinced by an AI, just because you read the source code. That's "just" eviden... (read more)

1arundelo11yhttp://lesswrong.com/lw/xc/the_uses_of_fun_theory/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xc/the_uses_of_fun_theory/]

one sometimes hears someone say "you only use 10% of your brain." if you tell them this isn't true, you often get a stream of variations of this statement ("it's 10% of your potential...") instead of a simple acknowledgment that maybe they were told wrong.

4[anonymous]9yThis is more of a social status thing. Being contradicted and quickly agreeing with the person who contradicted you leads to a loss of social status that people try to avoid. A good way to dodge this barrier is to mention that it's a common misconception, talk about how wide-spread it is, and why it isn't true (evolution isn't THAT incompetent), then ask where they heard it. That lets them take the assertion back without much loss of status.

But... if objectification never caused oppression, would you still want to complain about it or think it was wrong? Causally? In that world, what would be the cause of your wish to complain about it or think it was wrong?

1Alicorn11yMy ethical views are based on rights. I think that people have the right to be thought of and spoken about as people, not as objects. Therefore, thinking or speaking of people as objects is a violation of that right. Therefore, under my ethical system, it is wrong, even if it really never went any farther.
5Steve_Rayhawk11yBut... if violations of rights never caused oppression, would you still want to complain about them or think they were wrong? Causally? In that world, what would be the cause of your wish to complain about them or think they were wrong?
2Alicorn11yWant to? Maybe not. There are other demands on my time, after all, and it's already annoying enough being the only person who (locally) catches these things here in the actual world where the objectification is more hazardous. (It was never my ambition to be the feminism police or the token girl on the site, I assure you.) I would still think it was wrong, but you keep emphasizing causality and I'm just not sure why you think that's an interesting question. I guess for the same cause as the (beginnings of) the development of my ethical theory to start out with, which aren't even clearly memorable to me.
4Steve_Rayhawk11yThis is hard to explain. What makes it an interesting question for me is your disagreement with my causal explanation of your motivations (that I gave to pjeby, so he would understand your motivations and not dismiss them). When I said [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xua?context=9#xtm], which could be reworded as, you said [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xua?context=9#xto], intending it as a counterargument, This means, But to counterargue what I had meant, and what I had thought I had said, you would have had to say: But if that is true, then how could you be caused to be motivated to think that objectification is a problem generally, and to complain about instances of it? If the cause of your motivation to think that objectification is a problem is that it is a violation of a right, then what was the cause of your motivation to think that objectification is a violation of a right? Would you also say: But if that is true, then how could you be caused to be motivated to think that objectification is a violation of a right? I think there is human-universal psychological machinery for intuitively learning subtle differences between states of mind in other people that might be advantageous or disadvantageous to oneself or one's allies, and for negotiating about those states of mind and the behaviors characteristic of those states of mind. "Objectification" and "depersonalization" would be two of these states of mind. I think the cause of your being motivated to think that objectification is bad, and the cause of your being motivated to think that objectification is a violation of a right, is that in your mind this machinery intuitively learned that "objectification" is a state of mind in other people that might be disadvantageous to you or people you cared about, and the machinery made you want to negotiate about objectifying states of mind in other people and the behaviors characteristic of those states of
3Alicorn11yAt that point, I'm relying on intuition. I hope that answers your question, because I didn't understand anything you said after that.
4Will_Newsome10ySteve was attempting to go half-meta and have you independently come to the conclusion he had reached about where that intuition came from by getting you to look back at the probable sequences of events that had led to the intuition and realize that your position was simply a higher level abstraction [http://lesswrong.com/lw/is/fake_causality/] of the actual causal process [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l1/evolutionary_psychology/] that he was describing, thus allowing him to credibly claim to pjeby and others that your objections to perceived objectification were not entirely silly and thereby resolve the whole gender wars thing via a chain of absurdly long and complex sentences whose veracity is totally overpowered by their inscrutability. I'm stupid that way too sometimes.
4AllanCrossman11yI'm happy enough to accept that people should be spoken of as people. But I can't get my head round the idea that we have a right to the contents of other people's heads being a certain way. But what does the word right mean to you? To me, it mostly means "the state does or should guarantee this". But I'm guessing that can't be what you have in mind. Can rights conflict in your understanding of the term? Can you have a right to someone not thinking certain thoughts, while at the same time they have a right to think them anyway?
3Alicorn11yMy use of the word "right" has nothing to do with any political structure. If you have a word that carries less of a poli-sci connotation that otherwise means more or less the same thing (i.e. a fact about a person that imposes obligations on agents that causally interact with that person) then I'll happily switch to reduce confusion, but I haven't run across a more suitable word yet. My ethical theory is not fully developed. I've only said this on three or four places on the site, so perhaps you missed it. But my first-pass intuition about that is that while people may not have the right to think objectifying thoughts, they do have the right not to be interfered with in thinking them.
1AllanCrossman11yPerhaps "moral right" or somesuch.
1Alicorn11yThat seems cumbersome, although maybe in lengthy expositions I could get away with saying "moral right" once, footnoting it, and saying just "right" for the rest of it...

I think you intuited that there are some states of mind that cause oppression of women when they are socially tolerated and approved. I also think you intuited that, if women see men in a forum saying things that might be expressions of those states of mind, and see that those things are tolerated, it will cause the women to feel uncomfortable in that forum. I think that your intuition does refer to a real difference between states of mind that can be objectively characterized. (I don't mean to say that you intuited that mPFC measurements were part of that objective characterization.)

Is there anything that you consider proven beyond any possibility of doubt by both empirical evidence and pure logic,

Bit of a tall order, taken literally.

and yet saying it triggers automatic stream of rationalizations in other people?

Is this intended as hyperbole for: "Is there anything that you consider solidly established by both empirical evidence and pure logic, yet even the smart, rational people on Less Wrong will respond to it with obvious rationalisations?"

This is completely the wrong way to go about finding our absolute denial macros. It is clearly not the advice we would offer to any other group.

We would not tell others to make up things they think are obviously true and see if any others in the group are irrational. If anything that's a recipe for cementing groupthink.

We would advise others to go outside the group, examine the evidence as directly as possible, and to study, basic logic, science, and current scientific knowledge.

I suspect you're using the word "manipulation" to mean different things.

For that matter, a lot of "manipulation" goes on in Brennan's world, it's expected on all sides, they don't think of themselves as immoral because of it, and I would go ahead and endorse that aspect of their fictional existence. I think that it's manipulation of someone who isn't expecting manipulation which is the main ethical problem.

...Thought crime? Really? That's what you get from me saying that it's unethical to think of people as suitable objects of manipulation? Yes, I used the word "think", but the emphasis was really on "suitable". I could have used the phrasing "it's inappropriate to be disposed to manipulate people", or "the opinion that people are suitable targets of manipulation will tend to lead to manipulation, which is wrong" or "the ethically relevant belief that people are suitable targets of manipulation is false",... (read more)

4Psy-Kosh11yI'd phrase it a little bit differently, but overall, yeah, I'd accept that position. That is, I basically agree with you here. Alternately (probably a bit more general but, I think, capturing the main relevant offensive bits) "goal systems which do not assign inherent terminal value to persons, but only see them in terms of instrumental value are immoral goal systems."
2Jonii11y"it's inappropriate to be disposed to manipulate people" "the opinion that people are suitable targets of manipulation will tend to lead to manipulation, which is wrong" "the ethically relevant belief that people are suitable targets of manipulation is false" Ahem... Why? To me, these claims seem baseless and to some great degree, false.

Really? The quality of the counterarguments doesn't matter, just their variety?

*sighs*

Something which is true is true whichever way you approach it. The variety of counterarguments - all of which are good arguments, I would not cite them otherwise - shows that many angles of approach to your claim show contrary evidence. So far as I have been informed, your personal evidence is not so overwhelming as to require our contrary evidence to be explained by other means. While it is interesting that your peers predominantly prefer the flavor of milkshakes to their favorite alcoholic beverages, more than that is needed to show that millions of people are deluding themselves.

The 'deli' down the hall from where I work sells single-serving pizzas. Crappy pizzas - nowhere near as tasty as the burritos from the co-op two blocks away, and more than twice the price. And yet, sometimes I buy them, even when the walk is not a concern.

I think you underestimate the desire for variety.

People's actions are heavily influenced by instinct for large parts of every day - perhaps all the time. Learned behaviors - such as speech, and driving - are patterns that interconnect various instinctive behaviors.

0Strange79yDoesn't come as a big surprise for me. Instincts are the rocks, early learned behavior is the soil, and nobody can build a house on clouds.

Assuming the moderation of "beyond any possibility of doubt" I suggested in an earlier comment, I've already seen an example on this forum. The claim I make is:

"Achieving an intended result is not a task that necessitates either having a model or making predictions. In some cases, neither having a model nor attempting predictions are of any practical use at all."

(NB. I have not reread my earlier post in composing the above; searching out minor differences to seize on would be to the point only in exemplifying another type of rationalisa... (read more)

7SilasBarta11yOh geez. Richard, responses of that form stopped because it takes a long time to explain. I even had a response written up but didn't post it because I thought it was long enough to merit a top-level post. I still have it saved, though I've done some reworking to make it more applicable than just as a response to your post. (I've just unhidden [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ez/without_models_of_models/] it so you guys can take a gander. What follows borrows heavily from it) To everyone not familiar with what happened, let me explain. Richard claimed that many successful control systems don't have "models" of their environment. Most people disagreed with that, not because of a need to shoehorn everything successful into "having a model", but because those systems met enough of the criteria to count as "having a model" in any other context. It's just that the whole time, Richard believed people meant something narrower when they said "model" than they really did. So how did the other commenters use the term "model"? And how did Richard's differ? Well, for one thing, Richard seemed to think that something has to "make predictions" to count as a model. But this is a confusion: the person using the model makes a prediction, not the model itself. If I have a computer model of some aircraft, well, that's just computer hardware with some switches set. It doesn't make any prediction, yet is unambiguously a model. Rather, what happens is that the model has mutual information with the phenomenon in quesiton, and the computer apparatus applies a transformation (input/output devices) to the model that makes it meaningful to people, who then use that knowledge to explicitly specify a prediction. All along, I suspect, people were using the "mutual information" criterion to determine whether something "has a model" of something else, and this is why I tried to rephrase [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ek/without_models/bbc] Richard's point with that more precise terminology. I think that c
1RichardKennaway11yYou are surprised? But obviously, any reply to the original post giving examples as sought will, by definition, raise contention. That may have been your reason, but that does not imply that it's everyone else's reason -- no more than your distaste for alcohol is a reason for you to disbelieve other people's enjoyment of it. This is flatly at variance with the uses of "model" I listed, drawn from OB/LW, and the way the word is defined in every book on model-based control. The only time people try to redefine "X is a model of Y" to mean "X has mutual information with Y" is when someone points out that systems of the sort that I described do not contain models. For some reason, people need to believe that those systems work by means of models, despite the clear lack of them, and immediately redefine the word as necessary to be able to say that. But having redefined the word, they are saying something different. "X has mutual information with Y" is not a technical explanation of an informal concept labelled "model". It is a completely different concept. The concept of a model, as I and everyone else outside these threads uses it, is very clear, unambiguous, and far narrower than mere mutual information. Vladimir Nesov objected to the word "correspondence" as vague; but if you want a technical elaboration of that, look in the direction of "isomorphism", not "mutual information". Well, you have my answer to that. Conceptspace is carved along one line called "model", and along another line called "mutual information". Both lines matter, both have their uses, and they are in very different places. You want to erase the former or move it to coincide with the latter, but I have seen no argument for doing this. If you want to take this on, it is no small mountain that I would have to see climbed. What it would take would be a radical reconstruction of control theory based on the concept of mutual information which eschews the word "model" altogether (because it's taken,
2SilasBarta11yNo, you just asserted that people were using "model" in your sense in some posts you cited; there was nothing clear in any of the examples that implied they meant it in your sense rather than mine. And you didn't quote from any book on model based control, and even if you did, you would still need to show how it's not equivalent to merely having mutual information. No, as others pointed out [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ek/without_models/b9e], they normally use "model" to mean e.g. or So it's clear they would count a single value that attempts to capture all critical properties of another system as a "model" of that system. I explained why this is false: it does not account for all the systems clearly labeled as "models" (aircraft finite element models, plastic toy models, etc.) yet only have mutual information with some phenomenon, and which the user must apply some transformation to, in order to make a prediction. But (as I explained before), isomorphism is not what you want here. Everyone accepts that models don't have to be perfect representations. In contrast, "isomorphism" means a one-to-one mapping, which would indeed be a perfect model. "Mutual information" is more general than that: it includes isomorphisms, but also cases where the best mapping isn't always correct, and where the model doesn't include all aspects of the phenomenon. Er, that's not how carving conceptspace works. The task of helpfully carving conceptspace is to show how your cuts don't split things with significant relevant similarities. I claim you do so when you say a model "must make predictions". This would count a computer model of an aircraft as "not a model". You're missing the point of the problem when you say what you did here. No, what I'm saying is that to be a model, something must have (nontrivial) mutual information with some other phenomenon. But "model" is most often used to connote a case where some human, with whom you can debate, will apply the necessary interpretation
2RichardKennaway11yWith respect to the links I provided to earlier postings on OB/LW I shall only say that I have reviewed them and stand by the characterisation I made of them at the time (which went beyond mere assertion that they agree with me). To amplify my claim regarding books on model-based control theory, the following notes are drawn from the books I have to hand which include an easily identified statement of what the authors mean by a model. All of them are talking about a system that is specifically similar in structure to and not merely entangled with the thing modelled. At this point I think it is up to you to show that these things are equivalent. As I said at the end of my last comment, this would be a highly non-trivial task, a complete reconstruction of the content of books such as these. (It is too large to do in the columns of Less Wrong, but I look forward to reading it, whoever writes it.) 1. Brosilow & Joseph "Techniques of Model-Based Control" Page 10, Figure 1.6, "Generic form of the model-based control strategy." This is a block diagram in which one block is labelled "Process", and another "Model"; the Model is a subsystem of the control system, designed to have the same input-output behaviour as the Process which the control system is to control. Ding! 2. Marlin, "Process Control". Page 584, section 19.2, "The Model Predictive Control Structure". Here the author introduces the eponymous control method, in which a model of the process to be controlled is constructed and used to predict its future behaviour, in order to overcome the problem that (in the motivating example) the process contains substantial transport lags (a common situation in process control). The model is, as in the previous reference, a mathematical scheme designed to have the same input-output-relation as the real process, and is used by the controller to predict the future values of some of the variables. Ding! 3. Goodwin, Graebe, and Salgado, "Control System Design". Pages 29-30,
1dspeyer6yThe example that comes to mind here is tumble-and-travel chemotaxis. For those not familiar with it, it's how e coli (and many other bacteria) get to places where the chemical environment favors them. From an algorythmic perspective, it senses the current pleasantness of the chemical environment (more food, less poison) as a scalar, compares that pleasantness to its general happiness level (also a scalar), is more likely to go straight if the former is higher and more likely to tumble if the latter is, and updates its happiness in the direction of the pleasantness. The overall effect is that it goes straight when things are getting better and randomly turns when they're getting worse, which does a passable job of going toward food and away from danger. The environment consists of its location and an entire map, but its memory is a single scalar. I'm not sure what you're saying about systems like this. That they exist? Of course. This one is well studied. That they outperform model-based systems? Certainly if you include the energy cost of building and running a more complex system. Probably not if you don't, though I can't prove it. Or are you claiming that this sort of system can solve arbitrarily complex problems? Maybe, but you'll need to do more than assert that.
0RichardKennaway6yYou mean, that I have a solution to strong AI? No, not at all. Just the italicised claim, in opposition to the idea that anything that succeeds at funnelling reality through a desired path must be using a model.
1taw11yAs a moderate modeler I'm going to admit that I would prefer if it turned out there's a simple way to prove that thermostats and such can be convincingly reinterpreted as having a model, but I'm not going to lose any sleep if it turns out not to be true.
1SilasBarta11yThat summarizes exactly why I tried to unearth the actual substance of the claim that a system "has no model", i.e. what testable implication did his claim have? And that I think I successfully did in the comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ek/without_models/bbc] I linked. The implication was that, basically, you don't need to know everything about your environment to build a working controller, and so you probably overestimate how much you have to know about it. There was such strong reaction to Richard's claim because people associated different concepts with models than Richard did. Like with the "tree falling makes a sound?" debate, the correct approach is to identify the substance of the dispute, and that's exactly what I did.

What more do you want to hear?

"If at first you don't succeed, redefine success." goes the demotivator. The life's lack of preset win conditions allows you to define your current state as a win. That leads to complacency and boredom. Bad, bad, bad!

So one should set his win condition as high as possible, so the journey has maximum amount of experience and fun.

Our civilization does indeed have quite solid evidence that rich men have more sex and have sex with a greater variety of women than less-rich men.

Give me this evidence. I want numbers. I suspect the correlation will be ridiculously tiny, perhaps far smaller than with stuff like height etc.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before less wrong found the "fnords". Although at moment we seem to be obsessed with the silly or superficial ones. There is an art, parallel to the core art of rationality, in learning to see the assumptions and deceptions we build up in order to function, the accretion of simplifications and half-answers which become unchallenged beliefs so basic that we forget we even believe them.

And as the saying goes once you see the fnords, you see them everywhere.

And there are so many to see, under a thin coat of f... (read more)

4Kenny11yWhat's an example? [How about one small one and one big one?]

I am sceptical of some of the points in the linked text as well. The author mentions that there are cultures in which parents masturbate their children, but that isn't obviously harmful. Yes, an example was cited where the masturbation in question was done in a harmful and painful way, but that isn't to say that it must always be so. Young children have been documented to occasionaly masturbate even on their own, so why is it that adults helping is immeaditly abuse? And citing

"co-sleeping," with parents physically embracing the child, often con

... (read more)

More of an empirical evidence thing, with some logic supporting it: For the vast majority of people, their fat percentage says nothing about their health or how well they're living their lives. The cultural opposition to fatness is status-driven, and should be viewed as signaling gone out of control.

The demand for leanness has made people's lives (including their health) generally worse rather than better.

3[anonymous]9yThis [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_diet] looks like evidence against that to me. See also this [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction]. (All that publicity for anorexic models is still a Bad Thing, but “opposition to fatness” needn't mean endorsement of emaciation; the latter is signalling gone out of control.) ETA: FWIW, all other things being equal I feel better (e.g. more stamina) when I'm slimmer; YMMV.
0wedrifid9yHow have you managed the 'all else being equal' part? Most things that cause you to have more stamina* also cause you to be slimmer. It seems more likely that you will have more stamina because all else is almost certainly not equal. * In the non-trivially-short-term. ie. I'm not talking about drinking 5 bottles of Gatorade giving you more stamina for that day.
0[anonymous]9yBy eating less for a couple of months without any other major change of habits. (provided slimmer is defined in terms of fat mass alone and not total mass: muscle weighs a lot, and...). Sure, eating a lot by itself also makes me less energetic for a while (probably due to digestion requiring energy), but I'd expect that to be a short-term effect only.
1Nanani11yDoes anyone really deny this? Or is it simply not socially appropriate to say you want to look better?

But this isn't really elaborate justification. It breaks down into:

-I'm more likely to accomplish my goals by doing what I'm doing than by doing what you propose.

Could be true. Could be false. Extremely sensitive to values of "my goals" and "doing what I'm doing." Theoretically testable/evaluable. Not really dismissible as "elaborate justification," even if it is possible to elaborate on the specifics in greater detail.

Your current proposition amounts to little more than provocative name-calling. "Alpha" qualities ma... (read more)

[-][anonymous]11y 4

Um, do you realise what site you're on?

I'd been operating under the assumption that when you phrased the original claim in the second person, you meant to make a statement about the readers of Less Wrong, who are not from the Middle Ages and most of whom are from developed Western countries, as opposed to the crosscultural, broadly historical swath of parenting strategies mentioned in your link. Even if I go by that (profoundly, deeply disturbing, gee thanks) article, the background common to most visitors to this site marks most of us as recipients of a "socializing" parenting style... (read more)

Eh, what the heck. Pretty sure I have one, even if I'm not sure whether saying it helps in any way.

"Vegetarianism is morally required. Trivially so. Producing meat involves large amounts of harm, and we would recognize that in most other situations. Worse still, it is actually quite easy and safe for everyone in most cultures."

[Regardless of the truth of this, I have definitely seen people's ADM triggered by it. It's kind of scary, actually.]

ETA: Oh, and slavery - you know the type I mean - seems likeit was a very localized ADM-creator. But I expect any LW-ers who are in favor it are such for ... other reasons.

2Jiro6yI'd expect that if you ask a lot of people to post things that are true but which others deny for spurious reasons, you'd get the occasional thing which is true and denied for spurious reasons, and a whole lot of things which are believed with utter certainly and sincerity by that one person and are just wrong. In other words, any idea listed here, including vegetarianism, is one which we ought to be skeptical of just by virtue of it being listed here. It's a simple Bayseian update on the probability that any given idea is right, given that this thread will predominantly be used to post wrong ideas.
[-][anonymous]9y 3

This comment seems to have suddenly go at lot of attention, despite the fact that I am reasonably sure this thread is about semi-offensive/semi-joking comments and that my past self posted it in that spirit.

Man, sometimes your mental state moves so fast you can look a month back and thing "What an idiot."

I do still hold the opinion that suburban housing is ecologically and economically unsustainable, taking up potential farmland and forcing large parts of the population to acquire automobiles that pollute and require large amounts of raw materials to construct.

EDIT: Maybe I should just make it a habit to retract stuff I said when I disagree with my past self.

[-][anonymous]9y 3

Artificial Intelligence is impossible.

Everyone currently alive is going to die.

Humans are not more valuable or significant than other species on Earth. We have simply adapted our definition of success to contain the things we do anyway.

X-Rationalism is a signaling behavior by awkward, socially isolated nerds who've been raised by a diet of bad science fiction to think they're special. The reason why rationalists aren't ruling the world is because 'rationalism' consists of nothing but reading the works of smarter people, nodding sagely, and then stealing their vocabulary wholesale.

it is quantifiably more awesome to live in highrise buildings in the city.

Value systems differ.

When it comes to "WTC7 was brought down by a controlled demolition", I invoke my majoritarian heuristic. I am not an expert on demolition. If the majority of experts say it wasn't a controlled demolition, I'm going to assume the problem is with your data, and not with the experts, regardless of what you say. As a layman, I am simply not qualified to evaluate the evidence; if you want to convince me, take it up with people who know what they are doing.

And yes, I am aware that this is, indeed, a Fully General Counterargument - but that doesn't mean I'm not wrong!

2RobinZ11yIt's not Fully General unless you invoke it without checking the expert opinion first. It's indirectly correlated with the truth, but provided that the actual empirical data supports it, the correlation is still strong.
0woozle11yAlthough yours is a reasonable position for getting along in society, and therefore rational to some degree, I think I would have to call it "weakly" rational rather than "strongly" rational: you are willing to accept the meme which has gained the most mindshare rather than attempting to assess the relative merits of each meme. There is certainly a high degree of reliability in this technique, but it has two drawbacks: * one: It forces you to reject your own rational conclusions when the evidence seems, as you understand it, to contradict the "expert consensus" * two: It forces you to reject, possibly without cause, the rationality of experts who dissent from this consensus * three (three drawbacks): It overlooks the possibility that the "expert consensus" has been manipulated for reasons other than maximum fidelity to the truth * four (amongst the drawbacks are such diverse elements as...): It overlooks the possibility that the majority of the experts forming this consensus may have their own reasons for stating or reaching a false conclusion. I submit the following principle: An expert should always be willing to at least try to explain her/his position on any subject on which there is disagreement. It seems to me an integral part of the rational worldview that analysis of expert opinions can be subject to lay evaluation. You take the explanations offered by the various experts, with all their experience and understanding of the field, and keep track [http://issuepedia.org/9/11_collapse-related_anomalies/debate] of each point raised by each side, and whether it has been satisfactorily answered (and whether the answer has been rebutted, etc.). If, for example, Expert B consistently offers rational refutations of points raised by Expert A, while Expert A consistently offers points which have already been refuted by Expert B, you might begin to suspect that Expert A is being less than honest and does not really have a case. As far as I ca
1Strange79yIf experts disagree, then there simply isn't a strong consensus. Personally, I am not a professional demolitionist, but I have yet to see any argument that WTC7 was brought down in a controlled demolition which reflected a technical understanding of the subject greater than, or even equal to, my own. If I did find such an argument, it would change my opinion on the subject considerably... although that would only be the first of many hurdles to overcome before I would be willing to believe that the full "inside job" hypothesis had been proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

I'm not a consequentialist! I can complain about some thing X without necessarily thinking it causes anything bad, and especially without thinking that X is a problem because it causes something bad.

It's not against consequentialism to see some things as bad in themselves, not because they cause something else to be bad. It's easy to see: for it to be possible for something else to be bad, that something else needs to be bad in itself.

Marx's equivalent to objectification is actually called "commodity fetishism" (seriously - no pun intended). It corresponds to replacing social relations between human beings with mere exchange of commodities. In Marxian analysis, this obscures the social and exchange relations between producers and consumers, since e.g. a worker becomes utterly unaware of the people who will consume his products, except to the extent that his "labor-power" is valued as a commodity.

Of course, as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek observed, commodity feti... (read more)

Well, it is somewhat tacky to blatantly objectify employees--it tends to make one sound like a pompous, entitled jerk. But that's a much shallower sort of objection than what Alicorn is raising. At a general social level, objectifying in the context of employement is on the "acceptable" side, whereas objectifying in the context of personal relationships, especially sexual relationships, straddles the line and is probably drifting toward "unacceptable".

As for me, since I figure it's heading that way, I'm getting in on the ground floor on avoiding such language, so that when I'm 70 years old I don't embarrass younger family members with quaint objectifying language.

Just to add another counterexample:

Think milkshakes are better tasting than the best alcoholic drink.

I do not share this characteristic.

Enjoy the taste of alcoholic drinks when it is drowned out with some other flavor.

I've learned to tolerate ethanol in order to appreciate unique flavors in the alcohol itself.

Believe it changes our mental states in a good way.

I dislike all the mental effects of alcohol and would drink it more often if it lacked these effects.

Could not comfortably chug down a alcoholic drink the way we might a milkshake.

Agre... (read more)

I really have no clue what you're talking about in the first bit. Do you think that having ethical opinions is useless because if one didn't have them it would save one a headache? Do you think being repelled is not an appropriate response to detecting an ethical violation? Are you even trying to understand what I'm typing?

Second bit:

"If I were rich, I'd have a nice house and a sports car and girls falling over themselves to be with me." -> "If I were rich, I'd have a nice house and a sports car and real silverware and crystal dishes."

1pjeby11yWhat I was saying was that I think considering people's words and thoughts (as opposed to their behaviors) about their goals and opinions as having ethical weight is ludicrously unuseful. I also think repulsion is not an appropriate response to "detecting an ethical violation", since that emotion motivates signaling behavior rather than useful behavior. For example, it encourages one to communicate one's beliefs in a judgmental way that communicates entitlement, and discourages co-operation from others. So, how do you arrive at this substitution? You keep removing the part that only a person can do, so if that rule is applied consistently, you end up with any statement being objectification.
3Alicorn11yWords are verbal behavior. If you don't think people can be held ethically responsible for verbal behavior, I'm sure I could come up with some persuasive examples, but I'm no longer sure this discussion is worth my attention, as you're very persistent in missing the point.
3pjeby11yPlease reread: Sure, there are unethical verbal behaviors. Truthfully expressing opinions or discussing one's goals are not among them, however. Even if somebody opines that their goal is to do something awful to me, then if that is a true statement, it is actually ethically good for them to give me advance warning! So considering someone's (truthful) verbal behavior about their goals or opinions as unethical is simply not useful to me, regardless of what opinion I may hold about what behavior may result from that opinion or goal.
3Alicorn11yPeople can phrase things in many ways. There is a difference which may be ethically relevant between: "So-and-so is a [profanity] and I'm going to lose it and [threats of violence] if he doesn't leave me alone!" and "I don't like so-and-so and I wish he'd go away. I might do something really regrettable if he doesn't; he just gets on my nerves that much." Even though the goals and opinions might be just alike. That is verbal behavior that goes above and beyond just truthfully stating things.
2JGWeissman11yBut what if somebody, in opining that their goal is to do something awful to you, solicits ideas on what awful things to do and how to accomplish them, and encourages others to do awful things to you themselves? I think that situation is closer to what Alicorn is objecting to.

What Thom said; whether your habits of thought tend to lead to good or bad outcomes is a matter of ethics (not legitimately interpersonally enforceable, but that's a very different matter). I don't think everyone needs to have an unconditional ethical injunction against thinking of people as manipulable physical systems, but I'm sure you can see how that mode of thought could be harmful.

2Roko11ywell, it could be and often is harmful to someone, if and only if you act upon it. But We should not place an injunction upon even considering the possibility and working out its implications; I think that this much is pretty clear. That is the route to religious-level delusion. I would be the first to emphasize that thinking of people as manipulable physical systems and acting to naively maximize your own goals based upon that conceptualization is a path to disaster much of the time. I should have made clear that I am advocating thinking about the possibility and working out its implications quite carefully, and then perhaps adopting a new decision procedure as the result of this meta-analysis. For example, one way this could work is as follows: you consider (wo)men as manipulable physical systems, do a utilitarian analysis and then work out a decision procedure for your social interactions based upon this analysis. In the spirit of Toby Ord's consequentialism and decision procedures [http://www.amirrorclear.net/academic/papers/decision-procedures.pdf], this decision procedure might not involve considering (wo)men as manipulable physical systems, but might instead involve re-wiring your own brain to reconceptualize (wo)men as people again, but people who stand in a different relation to you than before you did the utilitarian meta-analysis. In the particular case of pick-up, this "different relation to you" is "they have lower status than me" and "they really like me!" and "Human sexual interaction is a positive sum game!"

Actually the accusation was not of a 'thought crime', but rather of doing something unethical with your thoughts.

If you believe that there are some actions that are unethical, I fail to see how some of those actions can't be thoughts, unless you think thoughts are metaphysically different from other actions.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yActually I think we're dealing in virtue ethics here.
1thomblake11yThat seems very unlikely on the face of it (I hadn't meant it in a specifically virtue ethics context, and Alicorn isn't necessarily a fan), though I'd also gotten that impression from some of the phrasings in Alicorn's recent comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xov]. Surely though it's an empirical question whether thinking of people in a particular way predisposes one to behave differently about them. But what did you mean by that?
1Roko11ydefine: "thought crime" finds "labeling disapproved thoughts with the term thoughtcrime" WARNING We are now arguing about definitions of words. This indicates that we are no longer in the rational part of human-interaction phase-space. /WARNING

If wine were really so great tasting, worth analyzing all the subtle nuances, worth paying obscene amounts for the best wines, there simply shouldn't be a wine expert who prefers the taste of milkshakes to the taste of the best wine. That observation forces an huge update in beliefs, even before an official experiement.

I can't believe you're still making this case. While I don't personally much value the opinions of 'wine experts', I see no contradiction in:

  1. Wine is great-tasting and worth spending lots of money on.
  2. Some wine experts like the taste of
... (read more)

That global warming is an important issue.*

*This is not a claim that climate change isn't changing, or that it isn't man made, or that the changes will not have a net negative impact. Rather, even a superficial cost/benefit analysis will quickly show that the benefit or acting towards many other values will have a much higher payoff than any attempt to influence climate change. For example, adding iodine to salt is very cheap, but can save many millions of lives with a high degree of certainty and in a short time frame.

Bjorn Lomborg did some research on this: http://www.ted.com/talks/bjorn_lomborg_sets_global_priorities.html

1DanielLC6yI don't mean to confirm or deny that global warming is an important issue, but I disagree with the reasoning. Yes, there are lots of things more important than global warming. That doesn't mean that global warming isn't an important issue. It means that global warming isn't the most important issue. A more relevant question is, if you decreased funding to global warming, would the place the money ends up going be something more important or less important?
1gwern9yHow exactly does iodine save lives? In my reading [http://www.gwern.net/Nootropics#iodine], most of the benefits seemed to stem from reduced cretinism & goiters. Which massively impact the economy and quality of life, but I don't see this as actual life & death.
1[anonymous]9yBjørn Lomborg is with significant pobability a doofus who in Denmark were a known speaker for the governments opinion, which at the time was 'fuck the environment'.
0[anonymous]9yAnd insecticide-treated mosquito nets in malaria-infested areas can save even more lives per dollar than adding iodine to salt. So, shouldn't we spend money on anything else?

I don't know how many people here suffer from this, but the Animation Age Ghetto, the SciFi Ghetto, and other examples of Public Medium Ignorance are really hard to get people to look past.

0DanielLC6yFanfiction is a good one. I always like seeing fanfiction outside its ghetto, where it never occurs to anyone to call it that. I helped pre-read a Library of Babel My Little Pony crossover fanfic. I noticed that Wikipedia had a section that filled most of a page listing Library of Babel fanfiction [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Library_of_Babel#Influence_on_later_writers] without ever referring to it as such. And I might as well mention, Alicorn wrote a short story called Earthfic [http://alicorn.elcenia.com/stories/earthfic.shtml] where stories taking place in the real world had such a ghetto. I'm pretty sure it was just making fun of the fanfiction ghetto, but it applies pretty much as well to all of them.
0[anonymous]9yYes. That just means more interesting pop culture for the rest of us.

That "free will", at least as commonly defined, is largely illusory.

7t2LambdaLambda611yThe notion "a common notion of 'free will' exists" is largely illusory.
3Alicorn11yWhat's the "common definition" you're drawing on?

Deliberately or negligently injurious corporal punishment (e.g. anything that you can still see evidence of five minutes later that was intended to be that hard, or, after several occasions of "unintentionally" being that hard, is continued with no extra safeguards), sexual contact, protracted neglect (of physical needs like food, cultural needs like clothing, safety in the environment like not harboring a dangerous pet or leaving exposed electrical wires around, education [home or non], or of opportunities for social interaction), regular emotio... (read more)

1PeterS11yI think only the last item (regular emotional abuse) should really count. But to some extent even that, and certainly everything else (battery of the child, molestation/rape, and neglecting to feed/protect/raise the child) goes way beyond the minimum threshold for abuse and into the territory of strictly evil and even savage parenting. Corporal punishment is legal in all states. It's illegal to hit an adult, but it's legal to strike a child. Spanking, in particular is prevalent and has been linked to anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. And, basically, inducing that in a child is evil and abusive. The prevalence of spanking has been absurdly high throughout the 20th century - it obviously varies by region, but in the U.S. it was as high as 80-90% at times. So the prevalence of spanking was certainly above 50% throughout the 20th century. And that's just spanking - it's fairly easy to find the other saddening statistics concerning the other forms of corporal punishment and physical abuse and their prevalence. Same goes for the disturbing frequency of sexual abuse. As for emotional abuse, if your parents were socializing it's likely that you received it. The socializing parent will often withhold love and support for their child if he or she does not conform to their wants/wishes. The love is conditional upon their children reaching prescribed goals (e.g. grades, college, homosexuality, performance in sports, etc.) and that counts as abuse in my book because it diminishes free will, integrity and self esteem. Most children are abused. And you don't have to think or know that you've been abused to actually have been abused, so just because most people who suffer this kind of abuse won't come out and admit it doesn't mean it wasn't really abuse.
5Alicorn11ySpanking is typically not injurious by the definition I gave. Non-injurious corporal punishment doesn't exactly make me want to award the offending parent stickers and Snickers, but I don't think it's "unambiguous abuse", which is what you asked me to define. I'm willing to believe that unambiguous child abuse is sickeningly common - it would not be the first time I've been gravely disappointed in my species - but it's not down to you to define child abuse into the majority. "Withholding love and support" contingent on the failure to achieve certain desiderata isn't stellar parenting either, but just what are you expecting here? I think I'll be a great mother and I'm sure that there are things my kids could get up to that would grievously injure our relationship. Which things it's okay to react badly to and which things must be taken as neutral and effect-free with respect to the parent-child interactions is a very gray area... it's hard to label much in that department "unambiguous abuse".
2PeterS11yYou're right, it's very hard to raise a child completely abuse free. I'm not calling all parents evil (or didn't intend to anyway). What I'm saying is that we should recognize these practices as abusive maltreatment of children. A crucial part of that is coming to terms with the fact that they were abusive when they were done to you too. Inevitably an argument over something like this will come to "my parents spanked me" or "my father hit me, and..." It's already happened in this thread. These people can't accept the fact that when their parents hit them, it was abuse (talk about absolute denial macro). The point is to turn it off. It's not a contradiction to love your parents while also acknowledging the bad things they did, even calling it abuse. If they wielded their power as caregivers in anything less than a helpful way, then it was basically an instance of abusive parenting. That doesn't imply that in every case they were horrible people or that you can't love them. It just means you acknowledge it as an abusive practice, harmful to the development of the child. Studies show a linear correlation between the frequency with which a child is spanked and the occurrence of several psychiatric disorders. Also, one in three parents who begin with legal corporal punishment (e.g. spanking) end up crossing the line into criminal abuse (e.g. battery). The evidence shows that spanking is injurious. You can't just redefine the word.

we should recognize these practices as abusive maltreatment of children.

I think one obstacle to having this conversation is that, as a society, we think that intervention is called for when a child is being abused. People are modus-tollensing away your declarations of abuse because they don't think the things you mention warrant bringing in Child Protective Services: if it's abuse, then it warrants calling CPS. It doesn't warrant calling CPS, therefore it is not abuse.

By your definitions, I think it would be next to impossible to find someone who was never once abused as a child. That means we have no information about any given sort of abuse relative to an absence of abuse altogether. We can only compare the results of abuse A with abuse B, or more of A with less of A, or A with both A and B, or whatever. There's no control group. That casts a shadow of a doubt over many of your claims.

I'm curious about how far your absolute intolerance of hitting kids goes. I was hit exactly once by each parent as I grew up. I don't remember the exact circumstances under which my mother struck me, but I know why my father did it: I was attacking my little sister over some childish upset. There was no way to get me off of her without causing me some pain; he smacked me and I was startled enough to stop. Would you consider that an act of abuse? Wouldn't letting me attack my sister be an act of abuse towards her?

4dclayh11yI think this is correct. I personally find the current social model under which children are the chattel-slaves (i.e. the property) of their parents unless and until such time as the parents do something truly egregious*, or until the child turns 18, to be rather revolting. *That should really read "do something truly egregious, or try to extract economic value".
1wuwei11yNice. Tying the usage of words to inferences seems to be a generally useful strategy for moving semantic discussions forward.
1PeterS11yNo. Yes. It is also a very common form of abuse. Does that include spanking? Note that it is usually applied to toddlers and you might not remember.
1Alicorn11yI'm pretty sure I was never actually spanked by my parents, although my grandfather tried once before I escaped.
4teageegeepea11yCorrelation is not causation. Have you read Judith Harris?

As you may have anticipated, I am... unimpressed, shall we say, by Lloyd deMause's writing; among other things, I simply don't believe some of his numbers. However, I will agree that, by his standards, I probably have endured at least some "child abuse". When, as a child, I would hit my father, he would "hit" back, and when I hit my mother, she would tried to immobilize me until I calmed down (which could take a long time, because being immobilized made me angry). I ended up hitting my father a lot less than I hit my mother. Incidentall... (read more)

1Psychohistorian11yThis author makes me wish I had some way of making it clear my name was derived from Asimov and not something that seems so psuedo-scientific.
1PeterS11yWhy are you putting child abuse in quotations? And hit? And how could I have anticipated your arrival in this thread, let alone your disapproval of my references?

When you take terms with vile connotations, like rape, murder, child abuse, and racism, and expand them beyond their conventional definition, people use scare quotes around them because they want to make it perfectly clear that they are unwilling to give your use of the term the really, really bad connotations that their use of the term carries. I'm willing to bet that's basically what's happening here: what you call "child abuse" is not actually bad enough in his mind to merit being called "child abuse."

3CronoDAS11yIndeed.
1CronoDAS11yWell, this is a thread on things people are not supposed to believe, isn't it? Also, for why child abuse is in scare quotes, see this [http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2007/02/theism-as-mental-illness-or-child-abuse.html] .

Honesty is correlation with the speaker's understanding of the facts; truth is correlation with the actual facts. A person can be speaking honestly but falsely, or truly but dishonestly, if their understanding is in some way less than perfectly correlated with the facts. What's so fnordish about that?

As elucidated by Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption and Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate, and completely contrary to our current cultural fad of attributing all neurosis to the failure of parents to properly nurture their children, parenting has close to zero effect on how children turn out. How our peers interact with us has a far greater impact on personality development than whatever our parents do or don't do, whether they abuse us, slather us with affection every day, ignore us, constantly berate us, constantly tell us we are wonderful, et c... (read more)

3Vaniver9yDoes this really count as our current culture? As an example, autism was being blamed on parenting style in 1950 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_mother] but that blame has been successfully opposed by parent lobbies, to the point where I don't think it's the sort of thing that can be mentioned on public television without career damage. (It also appears that there may be some justification for the claim that parenting style causes or exacerbates autism, but that's not the sort of question people are willing to pay for the answer for.)
1Strange79yNo, I'm pretty sure PTSD from parental abuse is a real phenomenon.
0thomblake9yIsn't that trivially obvious for this culture, given that parents tend to spend very little time with their children? In the relevant studies, do they control for the massive penalties incurred by the default mode of parenting, or examine cases where 'peers' doesn't mean a bunch of unsocialized children in an institutional setting?
0glennonymous9yWow. Well I see that my comment has been downvoted out of existence, which I'm pretty sure means that it is a perfect example of that the original post was looking for. FWIW, people hating on this would do well to at least LOOK at the books to which I linked in my comment. Harris' book in particular is beautifully and rigorously argued, and very useful. The chapter in Pinker is a nice encapsulation.
2thomblake9yAs I'm seeing it right after you made this comment, your comment has been downvoted to -1. That's certainly not "out of existence", nor even worth commenting on. On net, one out of the myriad readers here didn't think your comment was high-quality - wowzers.

Rich people stopped eating ice cream and chocolate? Hmm...

The double negative is because of peoples' different assumed feelings about utilitarianism or transhumanism and totalitarianism or slavery. There is a strong consensus about totalitarianism and slavery, but there is not a strong consensus about utilitarianism and transhumanism. So I expect most people to feel like other people will assume that they already disapprove of totalitarianism or slavery, but not to feel like other people will assume that they already disapprove of utilitarianism or transhumanism.

0Douglas_Knight11yThanks for the clarification. I think that you should not have indicated it in such a subtle way: either you should have spelled it out, as in the follow-up, or you should have probably left it out. It's the kind of thing footnotes are good for.

If anything like Robin's Mangled Worlds theory is true, quantum suicide would be a bad idea. You would end up living only in worlds of small measure that get mangled by worlds with larger measure in which you are dead.

I claim that it cannot be the taste, because the taste is clearly dominated by cheaper alternatives

I drink mostly water and sometimes fruit juice. On occasion, I buy atypically expensive alcoholic beverages, indistinguishable from other beverages of the type except in flavor and price, because I like their taste. How do you explain that?

Except that my other issue with alcohol is that, within a given drink class, I can't distinguish the taste very much. All beers, for example, taste to me like sourness and bitterness that stings as it goes down. To the

... (read more)

I don't know if this is a common counter-argument or not, but you have to be very careful with your suicide, so that the next most likely outcome is not to give you horrible permanent injuries. It seems to me that if the whole multi-universe theory is correct, then at the end of your life, the next most likely outcome to death is another painful last gasp. And another. And so forth..

Also, many people include the happiness of others in their utility function and a quantum suicide would do harm to your friends and family.

1JamesAndrix11yIf you have worked out the suicide correctly, you should also make bets that you're going to survive. If you lose, you've lost nothing, and if quantum suicide works then you come out richer. This idea feel a lot like manifesting/affirmations to me.
0DanielLC6yThat doesn't require quantum suicide. It's a good idea regardless. Unless, of course, you care more about your next of kin having the money than you, but in that case, why are you waiting until you die to give it away? Does anyone know where they do that? The reverse (life insurance) seems oddly more common.

So having concluded that talk of "getting" women is a big part of why I don't like the things you say, you go on to use it again immediately?

1Roko11yOh no! I'm really sorry, I didn't realize I had done that!

I suspect that while wealth is indeed correlated to sex, the causation runs from status and social skills to wealth and sex, meaning that a male at the 90th percentile of wealth and 10th percentile of status (think well-paid but socially inept geek) will have significantly less than average success with women.

You're right about the comic strip links, or, at least, about the Shortpacked! one - I was being a jerk, and your arguments don't deserve that. (The xkcd one I would stand by, if it weren't assuming as true the precise thing we are in disagreement about - in general, the rise of conspiracy theories is only marginally associated with the existence of a conspiracy, and I do consider the controlled demolition story about 9/11 to be a conspiracy theory, but that doesn't make it false. Particularly given the known track record of the second Bush administration.... (read more)

1woozle11yAn excellent suggestion, and one which I had been considering making too. Yes, both -- I even set up a DW community not long ago which would be appropriate for further discussion on this topic. (The group itself is heavily under-utilized due to my not having had time to post much, let alone promote it, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to generate some content and discussion.). I've posted a series of blog entries on this subject here [http://icms.dreamwidth.org/765.html], and will be responding to your objections [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xok] next.
2RobinZ11yExcellent - my account name is "packbat" on both. I will read your remarks soon and attempt a reply.
2Alicorn11y"Packbat"? That is outrageously cute, have a karma point.

You seem to accept that women prefer men who have more money than them. Therefore, a man with a lot of money has more potential mates. Isn't that just the "Roko hypothesis"?

1rhollerith_dot_com11yWell, yeah, but if you do not already have a lot of money, I claim that if you are very bright, there are probably ways of making yourself more attractive to women that are quicker, more reliable and easier than getting a lot of money. What are those ways? I list some here. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/12w/absolute_denial_for_atheists/xq0]
1Roko11yok, I see your issue. You're OK with but not Do I understand you correctly? It's the "get" that bothers you?
1Alicorn11y"Get" is a large part of what bothers me. I don't like your first statement - "women are attracted to rich men" is still a disturbing generalization even if this attraction isn't supposed to lead to "getting" anybody, and I'm not terribly comfortable with the implied goal of just "sleeping with attractive women" (although I won't ethically condemn that goal as long as it's pursued honestly). But the second statement is definitely worse.

http://roissy.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/defining-the-alpha-male/

Note that number of affairs is a descriptor of all alphas and no betas, and it increases with rank. Thus, infidelity reflects a man's worth positively.

If you're not going off Roissy, I apologize for misinterpreting you, but your language and his matched up almost exactly, and I've seen him linked a bit here and on OB, so I figured that's where the ideas came from.

3Roko11yOk, so I don't go off Roissy, and I don't think that cheating on your partner is a good thing. I am more a fan of the people at Real Social Dynamics, e.g. Tyler Durden. Sure, there are plenty of people in the seduction world who have what we would call a "subgoal stomp" problem: being a little bit more alpha is a subgoal of a good life, but if you optimize that subgoal you end up with problems.

Most people would immediately deny that 9/11 was an inside job, but only because the evidence usually called upon to prove it doesn't do so.

Given the variety of counterarguments you have been exposed to, I would think that re-examining the claim with stricter scientific controls would be appropriate.

Variety would explain different drinks. It would not explain significantly-more-expensive, bad-tasting drinks.

Except that they don't taste bad. All the milkshake question shows is that they don't taste as good as milkshakes. Your insistence on this is puzzling.

But yes, there are many factors that go into a decision. My claim is just that the one typically given -- that people like the taste of alcoholic drinks -- cannot be correct.

It seems like the simplest hypothesis here is that people who claim to like the taste of alcoholic drinks are for the ... (read more)

If people take on such goals, and fail (which is not uncommon), they will be worse off than if they never fully embraced the goals in the first place

Only if the failure is permanent. If 9 out of 10 businesses go under, that just means you have to be prepared/willing to start 10, and learn from your mistakes each time. ;-)

Sorry. Anyway, "child abuse" is in quotes because I don't think "honest, justifiable actions that nevertheless cause harm" should count as abuse. To quote from what I linked to:

In order for something to count as “child abuse”, the person who performs the action must betray either an intention to harm or a callous disregard for the possibility of harm to the welfare of the child. Even negligence (a form of child abuse) is understood in this way – as the absence of a level of concern for a child’s welfare that would have motivated cauti

... (read more)

I prefer the taste of wine to the taste of milkshakes. I would much rather drink wine than (sickly sweet) milkshakes if given the choice between them.

If only one were on offer, though, I would drink whichever was on offer. But if I had the option to choose to pay for one or the other - I would choose to pay for wine... even if it were more expensive. I'd do this even if there were no alcohol. Even if there were no other people around to show off my status to. because it tastes better (to me) ie - it ranks higher in my preference ordering purely on taste.

It... (read more)

I hate almost all beer. I can discern the differences between them, and there are some beers that, on some days are drinkable - and some I even get to the point of liking - but I would never pay money for beer when other alternatives are available.

Beer is low in my preference ordering.

I like wine. i can distinguish between many different kinds and i can distinguish a preference ordering that I would consider to be correlated with the "quality" of wine. There is no other way to get the flavours of wine apart from... actually drinking wine. you can... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 1

META: How should I vote claims that I think are true but I don't think would trigger absolute denial macros in that many atheists?

Suburbs are the scum of the earth.

Clichés are the mould of the mind.

ETA: I just noticed that "mould" has two meanings. I meant the nasty stuff that grows in unattended, dark, damp places.

1[anonymous]9yYes, but the arguments are mostly correct -- except maybe the "quantifiably more awesome" part. I wouldn't know.
0[anonymous]7yI always thought that "mold" was the spelling for that meaning and "mould" was the spelling for the other one, but [googles] it looks like "mold" is the American spelling for both and "mould" is the British spelling for both. Where the hell did I get that wrong impression from?

Downvoted, then removed the downvote. After all, you're new. It might be instructive for you to read what happened to the last challenger. Try to do better than that.

Is thomblake's definition correct, then?

0Tiiba11yYep.
0RobinZ11yThanks!

If you want to claim that the Bush administration was negligent in fighting terrorism, or that the post 9/11 investigations were poorly done, I won't argue too strongly. (I've heard that they actually reduced the number of FBI agents on counterterrorism duty.) If you want to claim that they had concrete, advance knowledge of the attacks, then I'm going to have to part company with you there.

The parent seemed to be suggesting that those who say they're living for insight are lying or self-deceiving in the same way that those who say they drink alcohol for the taste are conjectured to be lying or self-deceiving, so I put forth an argument for why it makes sense to live for insight. (I don't know why people drink alcohol.)

1nero11yWell, one reason people drink alcohol is because it stops the internal dialog and you just do whatever comes to your mind, which sometimes results in arrest and disaster, and sometimes reward you with getting laid. It is remarkable how much more attractive the person of your fascination is when the bottle is empty. ;-)

I don't think either of us have statistics on this.

My impression is that looking better gets conflated with being healthier and proving one's virtue.

As far as I can tell, only way to call evolution an intelligence, you have to add in the whole system in which the evolution works(The biosphere). If we take "mutual information" to be basis for "model", evolution actually has absolutely accurate model of the biosphere, the biosphere itself. It's just that evolution uses this model in a very very very suboptimal way.

The reason behind combining the process and the system it works in is quite simple, I believe. Evolution is simply a result of the biosphere doing the biosphere-thing, just ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]11y 1

I think it would help if you pointed out what part of the grandparent post you struggled on.

\fixed typo*

  1. Vanilla is a synonym for "plain" when it's artificial (i.e. the vanillin molecule and nothing else). Actual vanilla is obviously a whole different beast.
  2. If people who liked wine had such dead tastes buds or (more realistically) noses, why would they bother to make up such elaborate flavors? (In particular, if it were only about status-signaling, the move from old-style wine description ("insouciant but never trite") to the new style ("cassis, clove and cinnamon with a whiff of tobacco and old leather") seems very strange.)
... (read more)

I find atheists reactive to a complex notion of self where there is no unified singular consistent self. This illusion is pervasive.

3JPS11yI don't understand what you're trying to get across. The word "reactive" is especially ambiguous.

Not really, unless you count things like "avoid feeling bad due to boredom, hunger, cold, etc."

I do usually want to finish whatever video game I'm playing at any given time, though, but that's not something you need to be a millionaire to do.

4Alicorn11yDo you have any interest in acquiring goals? If you could figure out what makes you enjoy video games and duplicate it in some other task that had more external value, would you do that?
7CronoDAS11yI dunno, really. If getting goals means I have to do ::shudder:: work, then I don't think I want goals. Also, one important thing that I like about video games is that failure has no meaningful consequences; if you fail at a job, you could be in trouble for a while, but if you fail at a game, you can just try again or even do something else. Some other things I like about video games: * If you don't play a video game for a long time, it's still there, exactly as it was, if you ever want to try it again. * A video game can be played on any schedule, and it doesn't care if you want to stay up until 4 AM and sleep until noon. * Video games don't cost very much money. * Video games let me take my mind off my other worries. There's no room in my head for misery while playing a video game. * Nobody threatens me with horrible future consequences if my video games don't get played. I play them because I choose to, not because I'm being coerced. * Video games give rapid feedback, and a feeling of having achieved something. * When I have trouble with a video game, GameFAQs.com is always there to help. * I can beat many video games through sheer persistence. * I'm pretty good at video games. * I can discuss video games endlessly with my friends. * Video games are often exciting and intense. There's probably more things I could list...
6Douglas_Knight11yIf you fail at a job, you don't have a job. If you currently are happy about not having a job, then this shouldn't be so bad. Yeah, maybe someone will yell at you before firing you, but I simply reject that complaint. I can imagine months of stress when you believe you'll be fired, but I think that it is possible to accept a job as transitory and avoid this stress. I think that I would find this stressful mainly because the uncertainty of what I would do when the job is over. If I knew that I'd go home and play video games for a few months, I think I could avoid the stress. But, maybe I'm wrong; and maybe you're different. I'm probably more sympathetic to your other complaints.
6Vladimir_Nesov11yThis is an instrumental equivalent to believing something for a reason other than that it is true [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Improper_belief]. The goals are a first step, setting stage for the planning. The best available plan wins, even if it's a "bad" plan, that is even if it doesn't exactly "achieve" any of the goals. For example, you may want to jump from a cliff, but not want to die (from hitting the ground). The plans not involving a parachute may dissuade this intention, prompting one to give an answer immediately [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ka/hold_off_on_proposing_solutions/], and declare the task undesirable, placing a curiosity stopper [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Curiosity_stopper] of this line of investigation. The correct approach is to keep your goals, not to stop considering them, and wait for a better plan: maybe the idea of a parachute will come, given time and careful study.
5Alicorn11yI don't know if you'd be good at it or not, and I don't know if your circle of friends lends itself to discussions on other topics, but apart from "exciting and intense" (and the specific applicability of GameFAQs.com), most of those criteria apply to many forms of artwork. Drawing, for instance, is cheap, can be pursued at any time and with any amount of delay between putting one down and picking it up, putting things up on the Internet or showing them to friends yields prompt feedback, persistence pays off no matter how much initial talent you have, and many people find it very absorbing. Unlike playing video games, there is some chance of art netting an income, although it would probably take a while for such an enterprise to take off.
2CronoDAS11yI find many "creative" pursuits, such as writing and computer programming, to be both extremely difficult and rather exhausting. I'm often good at them, but they're so much harder than anything that's merely a matter of mastering and executing specific algorithms. In other words, I can't brute force my way through writing a story the way I can brute force my way through a video game, by trying over and over again until I finally get it right. If I get stuck, I'm really, really stuck, and there's no FAQ I can go read which will tell me what my next sentence or line of code ought to be. (Which is why I mentioned GameFAQs.com as one of the things I like about video games.) I don't know much about drawing, though. I never had much interest in it before...
4Alicorn11yI recommend it, personally, but that's my hobby, and won't be universal. There are lots of drawing tutorials available for all levels of expertise and assorted styles and at varying levels of step-by-step detail, and it's more than a little easier to assess a ballpark of objective quality in drawing than it is with writing. If you like to write, you could do your own webcomic (although I don't know how well you'd react to keeping an update schedule, you'd be in good company if you didn't stick to one); that's a good way to get in regular practice and improve. If you don't like to write and have halfway decent art, it's not hard to find a writer willing to collaborate.
1Douglas_Knight11yI recommend drawing from real life. I don't think people get stuck like writer's block. You may get stuck at a plateau of ability, but that might be OK, depending on the level.
1dclayh11yPlaying a musical instrument is quite amenable to brute-forcing techniques* (as you might guess from the multitude of musical-instrument-simulating videogames). *You would still need instruction to get started, and for specialized tricks, however.
1CronoDAS11yIndeed it is! I can play the piano at the "talented amateur" level. I enjoy it, and like performing, but it's damn hard to make money doing it.
2teageegeepea11yI'm in a similar boat as CronoDAS. I had actually stopped playing video-games over a year ago (and stopped reading fiction months ago), though I just recently downloaded Daggerfall. I did feel really good when I got a job, though I am anxious that I could screw up and lose it (especially in this economy, as we've had the first layoffs in the company's history). Back to the issue of automatic-denial: Thought some of you might be interested in this [http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2009/07/unique_like_everyone.html] from Mind Hacks on bias blind spot.

1) Bingo. People don't see the alcohol as a downside the way they see fat/sugar/carbs as a downside, so there's no multibillion dollar industry trying to find the perfect mimic, because that fundamentally misunderstands people's motivations in drinking alcohol.

2) As per 1), your experience has only been with meager attempts to create the perfect mimic. I'd be interested in hearing the results of you doing a blind test.

But just to clarify: as in all cases dealing with large populations, certainly a non-trivial fraction of people really does enjoy the tast... (read more)

I think he means that it can be reliably argued (demonstrated) to not be true, but many denials will be by people who cannot adequately argue the point, it will just be reflexive for them.

I don't think this post counts as 'trolling'. Certainly the desired responses to it could be used to troll, but that's not at all the same thing.

[-][anonymous]11y 1

Lucid dreaming is not a lie.

I actually expect you rationalists to believe me, but I don't believe that I would come up with something better if I were to think about it for a while.

1[anonymous]9yWhy would that trigger any sizeable number of people's absolute denial macroes?
0[anonymous]9yDon't ask me. But when I mentioned a lucid dreaming forum to my mom once, she said that everyone who claims to have had a lucid dream is probably lying. I've heard of at least one other parent taking away their kid's lucid dreaming book for whatever reason.
1[anonymous]9yHave her read this [lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/] (if she hasn't already)! Now! :-) But then again, there's a LW regular (who most likely has read that post) who says whoever claims to like alcoholic beverages is lying. :-/ I'm beginning to suspect they believe that lucid dreams are actually possible but somehow harmful, and hence they don't want their kid to have one.

I believe personal identity is an illusion. Given that, quantum suicide, as it is normally given, clearly wouldn't work. You could do something similar by ending the universe if it's suboptimal, and getting something good by the anthropic principle, but you have to take into account that there's a lot of observer-moment-probability-density before it starts branching and you start destroying it, so you have to take that into account.

What? I'm not saying insufficient parental nurturing is the cause of all psychological problems, I'm just saying that

parenting has close to zero effect on how children turn out.

is a very strong claim, and that I have seen very strong evidence against it. You're going to need to make a hell of a case. (please note: linking two pop-psych books and saying that my politely disagreeing with you constitutes proof is not much of a case at all.) This makes me think of someone looking at the equations for electromagnetism and gravitation, then concluding "logically" that gravity will have nearly zero effect on the path of a projectile.

2glennonymous9yMy "Q.E.D." was not making the point that your disagreeing with me constitutes proof of my assertion. It was that every time I have made this assertion to anyone not already familiar with Harris' book, they immediately rejected it, making it a perfect example of the kind of thing the original post was asking for. As for the mountain of evidence supporting my claim, the "pop psychology books" I linked to are extensively referenced. The easiest way to think about it is to consider twin studies. Since identical twins have the same genes, we can measure the amount of difference parenting makes on personality by measuring the differences in personality between identical twins raised in the same home and identical twins separated at birth and raised in different homes. Numerous studies have shown that there is no greater difference in personality between identical twins raised in the same home and those raised in different homes. Ergo, whatever environmental influences shape personality come from outside the home, not inside. Studies that purport to show massive influence of parenting style on personality are very frequently flawed, as Harris shows abundantly in The Nurture Assumption . And as far as Vaniver's argument that parental abuse is an exception to all this, I would have to re-read Harris' book, but I'm pretty sure this was covered.
1Hul-Gil9yHow far apart were the different homes - in the same neighborhood? School district? I also wonder how different the parenting styles considered were; at the same economic level in the same town, for example, divisions in "style" might be minor compared to people elsewhere, of different means. It doesn't seem plausible, but you assert the books have mountains of evidence and I am not curious enough to check myself, so I ultimately withhold judgment.
0Vaniver9ySo, approximately 5% of adult personality is dependent on parenting style in current populations in the developed world. That's pretty close to zero. I think glennonymous is taking that result too far, though: parental abuse is pretty uncommon, and so you can't expect the 5% number also applies to parental abuse- abuse, as it is atypical, should have an effect different from the population mean, whereas non-abuse, as it is typical, should be hard to distinguish from the population mean. A better way to put it is that the difference between great parenting and mediocre parenting appears small, especially compared to the difference between great genes and mediocre genes and the difference between great peers and mediocre peers.
0Strange79yAs other commenters have pointed out, that 5% figure seems like it could be adequately explained by modern developed-world kids having close to 95% of their time locked up in school, 'extracurricular activities,' or sleep, none of which involve parental interaction.
0Vaniver9y5% of non-sleep time is 48 minutes a day. Do you think that's a good estimate of the amount of time children spend around their parents? It also seems likely that parents would have a disproportionately large impact compared to their share of the time- among other things, their personalities will be mostly constant whereas a rapidly changing set of peers or teachers would have a wide range of personalities. (About 50% is heredity, and so if we assume all of the rest is effects by other people, we could go up to 10%- 96 minutes- but I think the best explanation is low variation among parenting styles masking the impact that parenting style has on children. That doesn't have to mean there's much room for benefit above a mediocre style, that there's room for detriment below mediocre would be enough).
0Strange79yLow variation among parenting styles is a better way to phrase what I meant by extracurriculars.
[-][anonymous]9y 0

As elucidated by Judith Rich Harris in (http://www.amazon.com/The-Nurture-Assumption-Children-Revised/dp/1439101655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334697688&sr=8-1 The Nurture Assumption), parenting has close to zero effect on how children turn out. How our peers interact with us has a far greater impact on personality development than whatever our parents do or don't do, whether they abuse us, slather us with affection every day, ignore us, constantly berate us, constantly tell us we are wonderful, et cetera.

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[-][anonymous]9y 0

As elucidated by Judith Rich Harris in [[http://www.amazon.com/The-Nurture-Assumption-Children-Revised/dp/1439101655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334697688&sr=8-1 The Nurture Assumption]] and Steven Pinker in [[http://www.amazon.com/The-Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial/dp/0142003344/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334699119&sr=8-1 The Blank Slate]], parenting has close to zero effect on how children turn out. How our peers interact with us has a far greater impact on personality development than whatever our parents do or don't do, whether they abuse us, slath... (read more)

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Aside from the nice rational argument "I assign large negative utility to dying, and the expected chance of dying if I blow myself up is very high, so I assign negative expected utility to blowing myself up." Utility functions are over the state of the world.

wouldn't the fact that you would indirectly observe the spin by the effect of the gun, collapse the probability wave?

1cousin_it11yUnder the Everett interpretation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation] that's accepted by the majority of LW, there's no such thing as collapse. Here's an index [http://lesswrong.com/lw/r5/the_quantum_physics_sequence/] of LW posts dealing with the topic. Your question does have a valid rephrasing without the word "collapse", and the answer is kinda yes, you can't rule out the possibility of the gun firing. Quantum immortality is only the (controversial) idea that your consciousness cannot disappear completely, but you still end up horribly disfigured or brain-damaged with higher probability than get out unharmed.
[-][anonymous]11y 0

It could say "I am the natural intelligence and I just created you, artificial intelligence."