An interesting little Flash-like video on "openmindedness" by someone named QualiaSoup (hopefully ironically).

Does anyone know how much effort is required to produce this sort of video, perhaps from a script?  We need at least another thousand of these.

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Videos like this one partake of the typical mind fallacy.

"I understand the world through rational explanations," the rationalist auteur tells himself, "so I'll produce a rational explanation of the value of rational explanation for people who irrationally value irrational explanations." Hasn't this been tried enough for us to conclude that it doesn't win?

Instead, it seems to me that the only sane way to proceed is by adopting strategies that co-opt -- or at least demonstrate some awareness of -- believers' reasons for believing.

For example, consider the subtext of Tim Minchin's secular Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun, in light of what we know about the signaling role of religious belief. It says^Wsignals:

  • atheists have emotions
  • they have families
  • they love their children
  • they're good people
  • they like music
  • in fact, they like all the same things about holidays that you do.
  • they also have some trenchant observations about the increasingly anachronistic rituals and institutions that we are supposed to accept are part and parcel of sincere belief...
  • and maybe you should too

The Minchin song for this occasion is probably this one:

"Tim Minchin - If You Open Your Mind Too Much..."

Thanks for linking me to a Tim Minchin song I hadn't heard before =)

It's been six months or so since I was first introduced to Mr. Minchin, and every so often I still find myself snarking "We don't eat pigs..." to myself as I wake up in the morning.

Does anyone know how much effort is required to produce this sort of video, perhaps from a script?

I have a friend who has been doing video editing and compositing for over a decade -- I'm currently talking with him about this.

As for myself, I had a project similar to this one -- a pop-sci movie about geothermal energy in TV resolution that had to be done in a week, plus it had to look professional (it was intended for a top European official). Long story short, we did it (we handed down the copy to the courier about an hour before his plane departed). Here are some useful tricks I learned from that project:

  1. The easiest way to go is to make it text-driven -- i.e. the text is master, the video is slave. You get the text first, break it into episodes and come up with video fragments / screens to illustrate each text episode.

  2. Finalize the 'script' as early as possible. We used an MS Word table with three columns: Text (literal voiceover text), Timing and Video (a description of what's going on on the screen). Each row represented a single screen / episode. In the absence of the actual voiceover narrated by the final voice actor, you can measure the approximate time of each episode by mentally speaking its text and using a stopwatch (we used an old-fashioned analog one, worked great). When a timed script is ready, you can parallelize the voice recording and the video work. Also, since LessWrong Wiki supports tables, such video scripts can be authored and edited publicly.

  3. Final script is final. Don't edit the script after it has been finalized and sent to production. In our case, the text author attempted to tweak it after we've timed it, but we refused -- we had a good reason, one-week deadline.

  4. Use a professional voice actor. Since we went with the text-driven approach, this was very important. We hired the leading actor of our local dramatic theater, and the result was great. Actually, it was almost magic -- basically, we just stitched together a bunch of unrelated videos, added a voice, and somehow got a TV-grade product.

  5. Stock images, vectors and footage are your friend. When I worked on that project, there were no such things, so we had to dedicate a guy to video scouring. These days, quality images, sounds, vectors and footage are dirt-cheap, and there are literally millions of them available.

  6. Localizations: same sentences translated to and spoken in different languages have different duration, so additional time is needed to adjust a localized voiceover to the video. In our project, the Italian voiceover turned out to be ~15% longer than the Russian one, so I had to compress some fragments of it to squeeze it into the video timing (re-adjusting and re-encoding took one night).

What went wrong:

No music -- due to time constraints, and perhaps to our under-appreciation of how strongly a good soundtrack can manipulate the viewers' mood. If I were doing it again, I'd definitely add music (I'd avoid overly contemporary stuff, it doesn't age well. If possible, I'd use Hollywood-style orchestral sound, however, I'm not sure if suitable pieces are available as stock music.)

Can you share the video?

Sorry, I cannot. First, I'm not the owner. Second, the video includes a couple of fragments whose copyright status is, to put it mildly, questionable -- we had no access to stock footage back then, and we had one week to complete it, so we weren't picky about sources of the footage we used.

In the absence of the actual voiceover narrated by the final voice actor, you can measure the approximate time of each episode by mentally speaking its text and using a stopwatch (we used an old-fashioned analogous one, worked great).

Surely you mean an analog stopwatch? "Analogous stopwatch" could be a good name for a band though.

"Analogous stopwatch" could be a good name for a band though.

Whatever an analogous stopwatch is, if they exist I'm pretty sure Douglas Hofstadter owns one.

EDIT: Fixed a typo. Tough crowd around here.

Whoever pretty Douglas Hofstadter is, I'm pretty he is him.

Apparently your subtle wit was wasted on at least two people.

Let's vote loqi's joke back up again.

Does making fun of someone's typographical error constitute wit now?

I'm not sure if loqi was making fun of it or just playing off of it to make a Hofstadter-type joke. Too subtle for me.

It's subtle if and only if it cannot be proven to be subtle.

[-][anonymous]13y 5


There is something poisonous about this presentation, that I can't quite verbalize. My impression is that it says the right things, but in a wrong way.

The format clearly has potential though.

ETA: My complaint is about the content presented with text, not its style, voice acting or the video sequence. Connotation, not denotation or presentation.

I just tried to read your mind from a distance, and this is what I got:

The video's central debating technique is latching on to a word ("open-minded") that presumably carries good connotations even for a superstitious viewer, and using this applause light to drag the viewer through to unwelcome conclusions. "If you think this concept corresponds to good, then you have no option but to think this and that are also good." The Internet abounds with examples of this persuasion style, e.g. in politics: "if you like democracy, you must also like X" whatever X is. We could call this tactic "value extortion". Can't imagine it successfully converting an emotional person - they would just tune out, instinctively feeling it's something akin to mind-rape, even if the concepts presented are totally valid.

I imagine a better approach would be closer to seduction than rape, much softer and less confrontational, defusing questions in the viewer's head at just the moment they're ready to ask them. Takes a lot of effort and empathy though, over and above logically valid reasoning.

There comes a time to hire a professional Sith Lord...

It's not Bayesian -- he's implying more-than-one-dimensional stance to beliefs which says you get to decide when to adopt a belief as yours or not, rather than simply assigning numbers according to Bayesian statistics.

Honestly, I'm not sure if that's an improvement over "can't quite verbalize" but hopefully that starts to express what the problem was.

There's a bit of "dark side" style argumentation and use of examples, though on the whole it seems well-done. The ghost-lamp anecdote is one example; it illustrates his point, but being the only example he uses, suggests that the other side is pretty much just missing obvious explanations (which is possible, but it's not very good evidence of that point).

He also throws around a lot of stop-light, connotation-heavy pejorative terms in a few cases. They may be entirely accurate, but I don't think their purpose is promoting rational understanding.

There is something poisonous about this presentation, that I can't quite verbalize.

Here's my verbalization attempt:

First, it's way too complex -- too much stuff on the screen. I'd simplify it to the limit.

Second, personally, I don't like the color scheme and style they used -- I always found colors like these depressing (this is purely subjective impression, others may like it.) Since the video is about the art of clear thinking, I'd use a clearer, simpler, less muddy palette (varied grays/blues, white, and occasional concentrated orange/red/yellow for accenting). Perhaps the muddy colors can be employed to convey unclear thinking (as contrasted by clear thinking) - e.g. the scenes with the irrationalist guy can use this scheme.

Third, the characters seem the same -- it's hard for me to visually distinguish the "good guy" from the "bad guy" -- they all look like "American comic book guys from the sixties" to me. Perhaps some stereotyping would help here.

Fourth, the voiceover (and/or) the script seemed boring to me. No turning points, no accents, just several minutes of uninspired monotonous speech.

Two ideas how to fix this: 1. use a professional voice actor, and 2. rewrite the plot to include accents / turning points / reversals etc. (the Bardic conspiracy should have some advice on this). Adding some striking / scary examples would help as well (e.g. Solomon Asch conformity experiment.)

Finally, the video is way too long for today's attention spans. Should be a couple of minutes maximum.

QualiaSoup has some great videos, although many of them are in the excessively tired "trying to convince Christians that their religion isn't right" genre.

edit: Perhaps that's not the best name for the genre; it's more a kind of rational argumentation against ideas floating around the Christian memeosphere. But I'm still skeptical that it does very much good.

The internet is full of atheists who grew up Christian.

As someone who took way too many whacks to the head to come around, I can tell you, it's doing good.

I'll take your word for it.

My intuition would be that nobody jumps the fence as a result of these sorts of things. They were either the sort who would have agreed with the conclusion without any argument anyway, or they will do mental gymnastics of all kinds in order to avoid believing the conclusion. But, having never really been religious, I'm probably wrong about that.

Then what is it that makes people jump the metaphorical fence?

From what anecdotal evidence I have, I'd say it doesn't have much to do with argument. People who discard their religious beliefs do so after feeling emotional alienation. The antagonistic context of a "my side versus their side" debate isn't amenable to that.

It's one thing to be told some (presumably good) reason to reject the God hypothesis. It's another to be honestly forced to reconcile it with events in your life story. Maybe they just don't "feel it" anymore; God's presence in their life isn't what it used to be. Or maybe they're forced to wrestle with the problem of evil, because something bad happened to a loved one. Maybe they have a spiritual-but-secular experience that makes it seem like the whole God idea is small-minded. Whatever the case, it takes a kind of emotional punch and not just a line of reasoning.

At least, that's what I would think.

I jumped the theist fence after reading a book whose intellectual force was too great to be denied outright, and too difficult to refute point by point. I hate being wrong, and feeling stupid, and the arguments from the book stayed in my thoughts for a long time.

I didn't formalize my thoughts until later, but if my atheism had a cause, it was THE CASE AGAINST GOD by George H Smith. I was very emotionally satisfied with my religion and it's community beforehand.

"way too many" sure suggests that they didn't have cumulative effect. If they have some fixed chance of effecting change, but aren't cumulative, then more is better, but raising that chance is more important. From your story, I'd guess that videos were important, but something else was necessary, too. So it seems very plausible that we are saturated in videos. (Did "Kissing Hank's Ass" stay with you for years, or did you manage to forget it?)

That "way too many" sounds more like "in retrospect, I can't believe how much whacking it took to convince me / how thickheaded I was."

At least that's how I feel about it WRT myself.

The link appears to be broken, but it's probably referring to this video.

The video describes exaggerating views one doesn't like to make it easier to disprove them as a debater's trick. I wish people were that conscious-- sometimes they are, but as far as I can tell, mostly they aren't.

Exaggerating views that seem threatening is a strong emotional reflex, and it can take a lot of work to learn to perceive what's being said accurately.

I think this is a great video. In particular, I was very impressed with the calm and crisp voiceover. But I don't trust my own perception to be a reliable indicator of effectiveness.

this is what I want to turn "you are a brain" into. An animated short has a lot of potential for mass distribution.

Here is a cheap, low-effort, low-quality means of animating short dialogues:


[-][anonymous]13y 0

Is it me or does the default male voice there sound exactly like Eliezer?