Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015

by Gondolinian1 min read2nd Feb 2015257 comments

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Posting for the first time because I feel I could maybe use some help. [And yes, I know of the Welcome Thread, but I think the Open Thread gets more attention so I'm posting first here. Maybe later I'll post in the Welcome Thread.]

I come from a very religious family and community, but I'm a closet atheist. (More accurately, I'd label myself agnostic leaning atheist with regard to the existence of one or more intelligent world-designer(s), but I give almost no credence to any religious claims beyond that. In any case, for simplicity I'm just going to refer to myself here as an atheist.)

I have only a single very close friend who knows of my atheism. 5 or 6 other people know I disagree with all the standard religious arguments, but they think that I've opted for "blind faith" and I'm still religious. Most of my family and friends, however, although they know that I'm unusually open-minded and intellectual for my close-minded religious community (and they look at me a bit strangely for that), still think that I'm fully religious.

A bit of background: I started doubting in high school, but it didn't turn into a full-fledged crisis of faith until I was about 18 or 19. Eventually... (read more)

Paul Graham wrote an article called What You Can't Say that seems somewhat relevant to your position, and in particular engages with the instrumental rationality of epistemic rationality. I bring that one up specifically because his conclusion is mostly "figure out what you can't say, and then don't say it." But he's also a startup guy, and is well aware of the exception that many good startup ideas seem unacceptable, because if they were acceptable ideas they'd already be mature industries. So many heresies are not worth endorsing publicly, even if you privately believe them, but some heresies are (mainly, if you expect significant instrumental gains from doing so).

I grew up in a Christian household and realized in my early teens that I was a gay atheist; I put off telling people for a long time and I'm not sure how much I got from doing so. (Both of my parents were understanding.) Most of my friends were from school anyway, and it was easy to just stop going to church when I left town for college, and then go when I'm visiting my parents out of family solidarity.

My suspicion is that your wife would prefer knowing sooner rather than later. I also predict that it is not going to get easier to tell her or your children as time goes on--if anything, as your children age and absorb more and more religious memes and norms, the more your public deconversion would affect them.

I think that your edit clarified things for me substantially. I read the entire article that you linked. I regret my earlier post for reasons that you will hopefully see.

I have a relevant anecdote about a simpler situation. I was with two friends. The One thought that it would be preferable for there to be less and/or simpler technology in the world, and the Other thought that the opposite was true. The One believed that technology causes people to live meaningless lives, and the Other conceded that he believed this to be true but also believed that technology has so many other benefits that this is acceptable. The One would always cite examples of how technology was used for entertainment, and the Other, examples of how technology was used for work. I stepped in and pointed out the patterns in their respective examples. I said that there were times when I had wasted time by using technology. I pointed out that if a person were like the One, and thus felt that they were leading a less meaningful life by the use of technology, then they should stop. It would be harmful were I to prescribe that a person like the One indiscriminately use technology. I then said that, through technolog... (read more)

7maxikov6yThe opposite should be true for a rational agent, but humans aren't rational agents, and may or may not benefit from false beliefs. There is some evidence that religion could be beneficial for humans while being completely and utterly false: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2153599X.2011.647849 [http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2153599X.2011.647849] http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Folly/NewSciGod/De%20Botton.pdf [http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Folly/NewSciGod/De%20Botton.pdf] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0003679 [http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0003679] Of course, this is not "checkmate, atheists", and doesn't mean we should all convert to Christianity. There are ways to mitigate the negative impact of false beliefs while preserving the benefits of letting the wiring of the brain do what it wants to do. Unitarian Universalists from the religious side, and Raemon's Solstice from the atheist side are trying to approach this nice zone with the amount of epistemological symbolism and rituals optimal for real humans, until we found a way to rewire everyone. But in general, unless you value truth for its own sake, you may be better off in life with certain false beliefs.
0[anonymous]6yGood point, maxikov. I agree that instrumental rationality > epistemic rationality once you have enough epistemic rationality to understand why and not have it backfire and inadvertently make you less rational in both senses. As I said before, life is always lived in practice.
1Torello6yYour discussion of failure modes at the bottom of this comment is excellent. Do you have any recommend books or articles on the topic? Has there already been a post about these failure modes on the main page? If not, please expand this into a main post. Too all other readers, please feel free to share books or articles on the topic.
0Gram_Stone6yThanks, Torello. Like many good things, they're really short and sweet summaries of things that Eliezer and others have been saying for years. The list is by no means exhaustive. I'm not very far into the Sequences, and this is just what I've pieced together, so someone else would probably be able to point you to relevant LW posts. I know far less than I appear to know. I haven't read it, but my guess is that Gary Drescher's Good and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics [http://www.amazon.com/Good-Real-Demystifying-Paradoxes-Bradford/dp/0262042339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422978006&sr=8-1&keywords=good+and+real] would be what you're looking for. I know for a fact that it explains why no absolute morality != moral relativism or moral nihilism, and why determinism != fatalism. As for the second, from what I understand, reductionism is the key to solving most of our Old Hard Unsolved Problems, so he'll talk about that, but I don't know if he'll talk about people weirdly losing all hope when they see that reductionism is the way to go. I don't know about the fourth item, but I don't see Drescher successfully avoiding it. The fifth item in the list probably did not merit discussion in Drescher's book. I don't think it merits its own post, even in discussion. It's not really novel here, except perhaps in presentation.

I have never been in a situation similar to yours, so my advice may be wrong, but here it is anyway.

When people change their opinion, they sometimes go from one extreme to the opposite extreme, as if to make sure they would not drift back to their old position. But there is no need for sudden large changes. Unlike religious people, atheists do not have a duty to proselytize everyone to their non-belief. To put it bluntly, you are allowed to lie and deceive, if it is necessary for your survival. I do not support lying in general, because it has its cost, but sometimes telling the truth (at the wrong moment) has a much greater cost. The cost of lying is weakening the relationship with people you lie to. So I think you should try to be open with your wife (but be careful about your coming out), but lying to everyone else is an option.

When explaining how you feel, focus on the positive parts, not the negative parts. Rejecting religion is the negative part. It is not your terminal value to be non-religious. You probably still like some aspects of the religious culture; and that's okay. (Atheists are free to celebrate Christmas, if they choose to.) It's just that your positive values are... (read more)

3Jiro6yAssuming that you don't already do this, doing this signals "I am trying to convince you of something which I don't want to talk about". People notice when you act in ways that you haven't before.

(I take it "follow me" means "stay married to me despite the overt religious difference" rather than "deconvert along with me".)

Keeping secrets from your wife seems like a really bad idea. Are there ways for you to test the waters a little? (Admit to having serious doubts about your religion, maybe?) Perhaps there's something you can do along those lines that will both (1) give you some indication of what you can tell her without hurting her / making her file for leave you / ... and (2) prepare her mind so that when you tell her more it isn't such a shock.

My situation somewhat parallels yours -- formerly quite seriously religious, now very definitely (and openly) atheist, married to someone who is still seriously and actively religious. But my guess, from how you describe the situation, is that your family and friends are likely to be more bothered by irreligion than mine. (In particular, both I and my wife have plenty of friends and family who are not religious.) So I can tell you that it's all worked out OK for me so far, but I wouldn't advise you to take that as very strong evidence that openness about your (ir)religious opinions would work out well for you.

Even so, my guess is that it wouldn't be as terrible as you think it would. But, again, I don't think there's any reason for you to trust my guesses.

9mwengler6yLie. Maybe you'll lie for the whole rest of your life. Maybe you will lie until your kids are out of the house. Maybe you'll lie for another few weeks or years and then decide the truth is important enough to you that Shulem's story no longer seems worse to you than living with the lie. People lie all the time, and I think it would be foolish to try to craft a life in which you never lie, or in which you feel horribly guilty about lying. Maybe there is some society in which it makes sense not to lie for everybody, but maybe there isn't, either. Certainly a society such as your own is NOT that society. Your society enforces an appearance of conformity of agreement on certain matters of "fact" which are not obviously matters of fact at all. For you to fall foul of this enforcement is a purely voluntary action on your part. I suppose if there were a magical creature who could read your mind and who would punish you for lying, one might make the case that your best bet would be to tell the truth and take the societal consequences which are less severe than the consequences imposed by the magical creature. In some sense, this is analogous to choosing to one-box in the Newcomb's box problem: rationality means winning. For you to take societal consequences for telling the truth when the truth you are telling is that there is no magical creature reading your mind and enforcing rules about what it must contain, well, that is irrational to the extent that it involves making a choice to lose. To the extent I can imagine being in your situation, my main concern would be getting my kids out. In my own personal lying, I never lie to my kids except if I think it is for their own good, not mine. Of course, you obviously love your Hasidic life so much that you mgiht believe that lying to your kids to keep them in theirs is for their own good, and far be it from me to tell you you would be wrong. I am very aware that for me, an intelligent physicist engineer, the "cost" of false
6Gram_Stone6yHey there, Parmenides. I am totally cool with you venting at me. I take this especially seriously. Leaving the tribe is hard, especially when it has tangible benefits and costs. I think this is the biggest thing that the rationalist community has yet to fully address insofar as it seeks to compete with other communities in traditional domains, but certainly not for lack of awareness. I think I'll link this video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUl2oFSWcEU] I found of William and Divia Eden's wedding ceremony. I kind of feel like a creep for doing that, but this is a great example of how rationalists are making their own communities and institutions and rituals. Eliezer makes a bunch of science jokes and implicitly jabs traditional everything, as he is wont to do; the spouses agree that they totally love each other and are in it for as long as they both think they should be and that both of those things are cool; they keep the usual wedding trappings because wedding trappings are fun, and fun is cool; they change their last name to Eden because Eden is a cool last name; and there's a general feeling in the air that being cool about most stuff when it's cool to do so is generally the coolest way to go. Basically they do everything possible to avoid the kind of shitty problem that you're in now. (That is not to say that you could have avoided it through some superior exercise of personal integrity.) You might also dig these Skepticon panels on how rationalists deal with relationships [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_SqdKZeEmk] and death [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd0yF2ucFbE]. I highly recommend the one on relationships because there's an atheist on the panel who to my knowledge is a former fundamentalist Christian and is in a relationship with a woman whose entire family are devout Christians. I say all of this because you can find a new community or have a hand in making a new one. LessWrong is one such community. I have said before that most LessWrongi
5Alicorn6yYou don't say how old your children are. Is the timing on this revelation to your wife, if it occurs, likely to affect whether they are brought up religious, or is that ship sailed now?
2Unknowns6yLike many of the others, I would advise you to tell your wife, but not necessarily others, at least until it seems more convenient to do so. But it is important that you make it clear to her that you are expressing your own position, and not attempting to convince her of it. As long as that is clear, I think there is no significant danger of losing her. Consider the one friend who already knows; if they did not abandon you over your beliefs, why would your wife do so? On the other hand coming out and openly trying to convert her to atheism is almost certainly a bad idea, and would definitely result in a significant risk of losing her. Also, I think this situation is quite common in social groups which are strongly religious, and that while you may overestimate the harm that would be done by simply being open with everyone, many of the comments here dramatically underestimate that harm, because most of the commenters were never in such situations in the first place. And I think it is very, very wrong and harmful to suggest "well, if they would react badly, then ** them all, abandon everyone you know and join a new community."
2torekp6yI'm just going to focus on this, because if I were in your position it would just loom over everything. My wife made me swear not to keep secrets from her, because of her personal history with an ex. But even if she hadn't ... that's just too big and too relevant to your relationship. Having a secret like that damages your relationship, even apart from your own painful awareness. It just flies in the face of core values of marriage, or even friendship. It's disrespectful to her. You have a lot to lose. But you also have a lot to gain, if you can repair this break. Are you (ex-)Christian? If so, she should at least be able to stay married, given what the New Testament says about divorce. Being in open disagreement would feel worse, but I don't think it would actually be worse, it would actually be a closer relationship. And as you imply, that could be temporary. Which means you'd have to listen to her attempts to bring you back into the fold, with a mind as open as you can stretch it, and go over the whole religion question all over again. An ordeal, and a steal at twice the price.
2ChristianKl6yWithout knowing the social environment in which you are operating it's hard to tell, but are you really sure you would lose all your friends? People don't have to follow you. It's quite okay when you believe different things then people around you.
1Squark6yParmenides, hello. I am deeply touched by your story. I can't imagine how hard it must be on your place, for which reason I feel I have no right to tell you anything. However, you asked for advice, so here are my 5 cents. I think that your most urgent moral obligation is towards your children. You shouldn't let them be raised believing in blatant falsehoods. I don't know how old they are which obviously makes a big difference. But I would make deconverting them a priority. I would seriously consider telling my wife. I'm almost physically incapable of keeping secrets from my wife. I know it would be killing me if I did. But then, I don't know you, your wife or your relationship. Make atheist friends. I don't know where you live so it's hard to be specific. Is there a LessWrong meetup nearby? Some other atheist community? Atheist people you know from other places: work, schools you went to? If you want an e-mail friend, feel welcome to write me any time: top.squark@gmail.com. I wish you the best of luck. I think I don't speak only for myself when I say LessWrong is rooting for you.
3gjm6yClearly you are a super partner [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sfermion].
1polymathwannabe6yMovements like the Brights [http://www.the-brights.net/] can give you ideas for your current situation. For an online community of like-minded people (of any faith or none), I recommend Beliefnet [http://www.beliefnet.com/].

Large multipurpose charities like Oxfam are difficult to evaluate and (perhaps mostly for that reason, perhaps not) don't get recommendations from organizations like Givewell.

Is there anything resembling a consensus on the effectiveness of any of these charities? Better still, a comparison of them with (one or more of, or a crude estimate of the effectiveness of) Givewell's top charities?

This seems like it might be useful for at least four reasons.

Firstly, for reasons similar to Holden Karnofsky's for skepticism about questionable high-EV causes, some givers might prefer to give to a charity that does lots of obviously-probably-valuable things rather than one that does a single thing that seems to be very valuable but where some single error (e.g., it turns out that distributing mosquito nets just results in mosquitos evolving resistance and after a couple of years the nets no longer do much good and other ways of dealing with the mosquitos have become less effective) could make it hugely less valuable or even harmful. So if it turns out that Oxfam is half as effective (in expectation) as AMF, you might still prefer Oxfam on these grounds.

Secondly, some givers may be uneasy about w... (read more)

How would you respond if I said I'm a rationalist, however I don't feel a strong motivation to make the world a better place?

To be clear, I do recognize making the world a better place a good thing, I just don't feel much intrinsic motivation to actually do it.

I guess in part it's because I expect genuinely trying to improve things (rather than making a token effort) to be a rather difficult and thankless task.

Also, as far as I can tell, my psychological makeup is such that feeling, thinking or being told that I'm "obligated" to do something actually decreases my motivation. So the idea that "I'm supposed do that because it's the ethical thing to do" doesn't work for me either.

I do like the idea of making the world a better place as long as I can do that while doing something that inspires me or that I feel good about doing. Part of the reason, I think, is that I don't see myself being able to do something I really don't enjoy for long enough that it produces meaningful results. So in order for it work, it pretty much has to be something I actually like doing.

In the end, I estimate that I'm more likely to accomplish things with social benefit if I focus on my ow... (read more)

The standard pledge for people in the rationalist sphere trying to make the world a better place is 10% of income to efficient charities, which if you're making the typical kind of money for this site's demographics, is closer to "token" than "difficult and thankless task", even if it's loads more than most people do.

Personally, my own response was to notice how little guilt I felt for not living up to moral obligations and decide I was evil and functionally become an egoist while still thinking of utilitarianism as "the true morality".

2ZT56yThat's interesting, and I can relate to some of what you said. Thank you for sharing.
9Lumifer6yThere is no connection between being a rationalist and trying to make the world a better place. What is a "better place" is a function of your values, anyway. People tend to disagree about that and occasionally go to war to figure out their disagreement :-/
8mwengler6yMy own desire to "make the world a better place" is rather attenuated, rather local, generally restricted to people I know and like. In my own case, I have concluded that human morality is purely inherited sentiment. So I do stuff that feels good to me and skip the rest. So I gave $5 and a hamburger to a homeless guy I saw at a fast food place I frequent, but feel no particular desire to identify a charity which is effective at feeding other homeless people. The guy I supported made it to a position in front of my face, which is all I need to get sentimental. I love my family and my children and my friends. I'll help them with stuff in interesting ways. If you want my help, figure out how to become my friend. Don't try to convince me abstractly that you "deserve" it or that helping you is more "effective" then helping my already fairly well off family and friends. So yeah, I think it is quite possible to be rational in the sense of wanting to figure out truth from falsehood, and to not be particularly altruistic in an abstract sense.
8Viliam_Bur6yWhat you feel is perfectly normal. Humans are not automatically strategic [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2p5/humans_are_not_automatically_strategic/]; we use adaptations instead of maximizing values [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0/adaptationexecuters_not_fitnessmaximizers/]. Think about your brain as a machine built with some heuristics... it works okay on average, in the ancient jungle. Do not overestimate it; it does not have the magical power of doing the right thing. As a rationalist, you should see the limitations of your own mind. If we want to achieve more, we have to be strategic (or have luck). Find out what realistically motivates you: (1) punishments and rewards, (2) peer pressure. This is your environment. It may support you in your goals, it may actively work against your goals, or it may just move you in a random direction. And you do not have a magical power to overcome that pressure. All you can do is find a few moments of extraordinary willpower and clearness of mind, and use those moments strategically to (a) steer your life towards a better future, and (b) increase the probability of having these lucid moments in the future. For example, if your environment works against your goals, you may change your environment so it works less against you in the future. Or try to create a habit that would push you in the direction you want to be pushed. If you do it strategically for a longer time, these small changes may add together, and your life may change. This is what a human brain does when it does not receive social rewards (and possibly receives social punishments) for thinking about making the world a better place. I guess in the past "being told you are obligated to something" was probably a good predictor of coming punishment (if you fail to fulfill your obligation). Also "obligation" often means that if you do it successfully, you will not receive a reward because, hey, you merely did your duty. Of course you hate these all-pain-no-gain obligations. Th
0ZT56yI think your analysis is largely correct. A lot of this is very accurate, and a little depressing since I probably do need a social reward system, or a support network - and I don't see an easy way to create one right now. :/ I do like having more clarity though, and understanding of what actually is the problem here.
4Viliam_Bur6yAs an example, I want to make a computer game. Programming has an advantage of providing a quick feedback, if you are doing it well. I decide to add a new feature, I write it, then I run the game, and I see the feature is there. I get some reward in form of seeing the new feature that works. (And "doing it well" in this context means developing the program in small steps, where each step gives you some visible outcome. Small iterations. As opposed to doing some complex step that would take a lot of time while providing you no results until it is completed. Note that "visible outcome" does not necessarily mean something that is displayed on the screen during the normal run of the program. It is something that you as a programmer can see, for example a successful unit test result of a function that usually does not interact with the screen. I suspect that the impact of unit test on programmer's morale is more important than its impact on the correctness of the code.) But this is still just a feedback from a computer. There is no social feedback here. So I need another support layer to get that. I have friends who are also computer programmers. So whenever I add some new feature to the program, I send them the program along with the source code by e-mail. I do not expect them to inspect the source code too much; usually just to start the program and click on the new feature I have added. But I know they are programmers, and that the possibility of looking at the source code is there. Also, as programmers they can better understand and appreciate the features I have added. (To a non-programmer often trivial stuff seems very hard, but with the hard stuff they sometimes even don't understand why that had to be done.) So now my programming has a social dimension, long before the program is finished. And we do it by e-mail (and a Skype talk once in a while, and meeting in person once in a month), so even everyday geographical proximity is not needed. Of course meeting mor
4ZT56yThat's interesting. Thank you for a detailed explanation of this. I can agree a lot with the "only positive/neutral feedback" rule. I'm not sure, but this got me thinking in a good way. I like this question.
4CellBioGuy6yMy own position is closer to 'a human making the world a better place is only a reliable task in incremental local ways and inevitably goes wrong at large scales because our world map is inevitiably horribly horribly flawed no matter how hard we try to perfect it outisde extraordinarily narrow areas' than 'not much motivation to do it'. Totally get what you are saying though and it can result in similar results. There are a few simple ways to throw a bit of money around if that exists though (EG givewell) which are exactly such incremental local things. Incidentally I would actually call for dissensus on how to make the world a better place. The more things people are trying the better the odds that something will actually work and then get picked up on.
4[anonymous]6yIf I were to take a reductionalist approach, what's the connection between rationality and making the world a better place.
5ZT56yI understand that a rationalist can potentially have any kind of goals, not necessary altruistic ones. The reason for bringing this up is that I want to see if this kind of topic can be discussed here on LW, at all. And me being an (aspiring) rationalist is very relevant information to this.
-1[anonymous]6yAsking questions is one of the most rational things you can do. So screw "LessWrong". If some people aren't willing to discuss an issue with you like adults then you can't really call them rational. They should just quit to a photography blog or something.
1[anonymous]6yA few thoughts here: 1. There's a concept called "Right Action" - Acting by using your logic to fulfill your values. We all have things that scare us, bore us , etc, but ultimately you can make the choice to act on what youultimately value. Sometimes, you just choose to do what you think is right, regardless of how you feel. 2. One thing that could help is to remove the word "should" for your mental vocabulary - As per above, every moment is a choice. You get to choose whether to act on what you value. This takes "saving the world" from something that is repelling because of obligation, to something that is compelling because of choice. 3. One other thing that might help is to remove any thoughts of "making the world a better place" out of your mind. This is a huge goal, it's daunting, and it's not actionable. Instead, what might work is to focus on a particular project, and even then, only the very next action to take. I have a long term plan to make the world a better place, but "making the world a better place" almost never enters my day to day thoughts except as a reminder of WHY i'm taking those small, individual actions. 4. Finally, something that's helped me is to think about emotional and willpower sustainability (which you talk about at the very bottom). There's a few things you can do in that regard. Firstly, find a project to focus on that excites you and is mostly work that you enjoy. Secondly, if you're doing something that is boring/scary/unfulfilling to you (as every project sometimes requires) see if you can delegate it. Thirdly, If you can't delegate it, make sure to take breaks and give yourself permission to do things that recharge you.
1adamzerner6yHuman beings derive joy from doing good. Studies on happiness find that this is one of the bigger correlates of happiness. If you're at all normal, there's probably a lot of room for you to do more good and be happier. As for intrinsic motivation and System I... it's difficult, updating your System I isn't as straightforward as updating your System 2 (aka using evidence to update your beliefs). One day I plan on writing a post about this... However, there are some things I'd like to note: I don't think it's that difficult or thankless (although I'm definitely in the minority here and I don't know anyone as optimistic on this front as I am, so take that for what you will). For example, take this very website/community. There's tons of relatively simple and straightforward improvements that could be made that I think would have a relatively high impact. Like making the website easier to use and including new features. For example, adding a section that makes it easy for LWers to brainstorm and collaborate on projects. That's a high level action [http://lesswrong.com/lw/58g/levels_of_action/] that I could see trickling down and having a big impact. And if you're talking "genuinely" as in making fundamental changes to the way things work... I've got some thoughts here [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/lw/lh6/the_superstar_effect/]. Me too :/. I think that it's easy to give this spite too much weight as you make decisions. To some extent, I think it's ok to "let the spite be". Trying to exert complete control over these sorts of emotions is too stressful. Whatever marginal gains you make in making your emotions "more accurate", it's probably outweighed by the stress it causes. Finding the right balance is difficult though. I think that you'd be more motivated if a) you thought you had a better chance at succeeding and b) recognized how big an impact altruism probably has on your happiness. For the record, I admire your honest attempts at introspection and truth.
1RichardKennaway6yThat's pretty much my attitude as well.
1MathiasZaman6yWith just this information, I'd likely say that being an aspiring rationalist doesn't really have anything to do with your goals, as its mostly about methods of reaching your goals, rather than telling you what your goals should be. Following it up with this: Confuses me a bit, however. If one of your goals is making the world a better place (that's how I'd rephrase the statement: "I do recognize making the world a better place is a good thing," saying as saying things like "X is good" generally means "X is a desirable state of the world we should strive for), your intrinsic motivation shouldn't matter one bit. I have little intrinsic motivation of eating healthy. Preparing food is boring to me and I don't particularly enjoy eating most healthy things. I still try to eat healthy, because one of my goals is living for a very, very long time. One the one hand: How difficult is it to give 10% (or even 5 or 1 percent, if your income is very low) to an effective charity? On the other hand: So fucking what? You know how the world becomes a better place? By people doing things that are difficult and thankless because those things need to be done. The world doesn't become a better place by people sitting around waiting for the brief moment of inspiration in which they sorta want to solve a local problem. This is one of the many reasons why effective altruism works. It allows you to contribute to big problems, while you're doing something you enjoy and are good at. (Or we can wait for /u/blacktrance to come in and try to convince you that egoism is the right way to go.)
3emr6yHistorical, isn't that exactly how the world became a better place? Better technology and better institutions are the ingredients of reduced suffering, and both of these see to have developed by people pursuing solutions to their own (very local) problems, like how to make money and how to stop the government from abusing you. Even scientists who work far upstream of any application seem to be more motivated by curiosity and fame than a desire to reduce global suffering. Of course, modern wealth disparities may have changed the situation. But we should be clear, if we think that we've entered a new historical phase in which the largest future reductions in suffering are going to come from globally-altruistic motivations.
0Lumifer6yCompared to what, medieval Europe?
2emr6yYes. Richer states can afford to transfer more wealth. We see this in the size of modern (domestic) welfare states, which could not have been shouldered even a century ago.
0alienist6yWell, Rome was basically a welfare state two millennia ago.
0ZT56yThat's not exactly what I meant, but nevertheless this is a good point. Ok, let's play this out. As I already said, I have good reason to believe that "should-based" motivation wouldn't work for me. So what I'm wondering is, am I allowed to say "due to the way my mind currently works I'm choosing to optimize X by not actively committing to doing X" without running into the "you're not trying hard enough" kind of argument? Just because some people do things in a particular way doesn't mean I can or should to try and do things the same way. It may simply not work for me. This may include thinking in a certain way or having a particular mindset.
4MathiasZaman6yI'd say yes, even if it would only be to prevent worse things. To quote one of Yvain's recent posts: This might be a similar situation. If you choice is doing nothing vs doing something, doing something is pretty much always better. (Assuming you do useful things, but let's take that for granted for now.) If you follow the standard Less Wrong interpretation of utilitarianism, you're pretty much never doing enough to improve the world. Of course no-one actually holds you to such unreasonable standards, because doing so would be pretty insane. If you tried to be a perfect utility maximizer, you'd end up paralyzed with decision fear, anxiety and/or depression and that doesn't get us anywhere at all. Since I'm quoting people, here's a useful quote to have come out the tumblr rationalists: To make that more specific to your own situation: Maybe saying "Alright, I'll give 10% of my income and we call it that," doesn't work for you, for whatever reason. Of course you're allowed to figure out something else that does work for you. That's what rationality is all about. Reaching your goals, even if the standard approach doesn't work for me. That being said, it might still be interesting to see if changing the way your mind works isn't easier. (It probably isn't, but just in case...) From what you describe, it sounds like a form of akrasia which you might be able to work around in other ways than a variant of planned procrastination [http://dirtsimple.org/2006/09/power-of-planned-procrastination.html]

To any of you football fans out there, I think the outrage over the Seahawks' decision to throw it on the goal line is a classic example of hindsight bias. Throwing on the goal line is hardly unheard of, and they couldn't run it 3 times anyway. This FiveThirtyEight article explains why throwing actually was a good decision. Anyway, everyone thinks that the decision to throw it was terrible, and I think that they're being victims to the hindsight bias.

3Ander6yI agree. Given that they had one remaining timeout, the sequence of pass, run (timeout), gave them three chances to score instead of 2. Still, its quite possible that a less risky throw might have been superior, even if it was lower chance of success. As it was, that throw was inches away from being the game winning touchdown instead of the game losing interception.
1Salemicus6yThe 538 article is exactly the kind of context-free argument that justly gives 'statistics' and 'rationalism' a bad name. Yes, in game-theoretic terms you want to pass a certain amount of the time. Yes, there is a good argument for calling pass on that specific down. But the issue is not whether 'pass' in the abstract was a good decision, but whether the specific play-calling actions in their particular context were good. And they were not. They were indefensible. * Firstly, Seattle went out in a 3 WR group, thinking that this would get New England out of goal-line defense (and thus make it easier for the run play). This didn't work, and they were foolish to think it would. This put Seattle in an awkward position where they would either have to run without enough blockers, or put the ball in the hands of poor players. * Secondly, Seattle ran the play out of the shotgun, making clear their intention to pass. There was no play-action or roll-out. This gives up all the game-theoretic part. If you are going to inform the opponent of your choice, you need to go with your strongest possible choice, whereas... * Thirdly, Seattle ignored their most favourable matchup. Seattle were the second-best offense in power-rushing playing the worst defense in stopping power runs. And instead... * Fourthly, Seattle went with a very unfavourable matchup in very unfavourable circumstances. They asked a receiver known for his downfield speed (and not much else) to fight for the ball on the goal-line. With the centre of the field cluttered, and all the defenders short, they called a quick slant into the centre of the field. Yes, that play normally doesn't result in an interception. Yes, there's an element of bad luck there. But it's also an example of really poor decision-making that ended up with Seattle essentially running the play New England would have chosen for them. They screwed up, and it's embarrassing seeing the lengths people go to t
2adamzerner6yAre you sure? That sounds exaggerated. It definitely wasn't context-free. Some examples: * "Let’s spot the Pats some yards, then, and assume the Patriots win1 about as often as a typical team in the AFA model would2 if they started on the 40-yard line. That would give them a 14 percent chance. Maybe that’s generous, but we’re looking for an upper bound." * "But the Seahawks don’t have an average rusher; they have Beast Mode..." An awkward position? They couldn't have ran on all three plays and if you have to have a pass play, 3 WR against a goal line defense is a good place to use your passing play.
2Salemicus6yNone of which consider the specific pass play that they chose to run, nor the specifics of the personnel matchup. In a vacuum, it could be a good place! But in the specific context it wasn't, because New England still easily overmatched the Seattle receivers. Neither Baldwin or Kearse was ever going to get open against that coverage (and they didn't), which meant that Wilson had one viable target - a downfield specialist not a possession receiver, covered by a specialist corner, running an inside slant (possibly the riskiest possible route in that situation). And all this from the shotgun, meaning there was no worry about a run. Carroll and Bevell knew all this before the snap, but they still chose to run that play. I think they must have known they'd been out-thought, but didn't want to call a timeout there, and so went ahead anyway. Suppose Seattle had done the kind of thing teams normally do when they pass from the 1-yard-line - come out showing run, then run a play-action, say with Wilson rolling out, with one tight end and one receiver to look for plus the chance of running it in himself, plus the easy option of throwing the ball away. Then 538's analysis would make sense. But that's not at all what happened. 538 doesn't mention the passing numbers in that situation from shotgun formation. It's like putting your money in penny stocks [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_stock], and then defending your decision with the generic claim that equities are a good investment.
1adamzerner6yI see. I thought that you meant context as in Seattle/NE but it seems that you mean the formation and stuff. I think that what you're saying makes sense now. Personally I'd give more weight to: * The threat of running it from the shotgun. * The chances that a SEA receiver gets open vs. that goal line defense. ... and so I still don't think it's an awful decision. I think Wilson should have understood the situation and only made a really safe throw, and so the play call wasn't that risky. But I do agree with you that play action would have been better, especially with a roll out.
1mwengler6yI have always thought that any discussion of sports was sort of a playground for human bias and human error. So much passion for no real purpose. Affiliating with a team? The opposite of taking a principled position. I guess it never occurred to me before that actually making this thought explicit might be valuable. But since discussion of the pass has reached less wrong, here it is.
1adamzerner6yWhat does have "real purpose"? Could you elaborate on this? My thoughts are that most things we do for fun don't really have "purpose", that sports are no different, and that they're an underrated way (amongst this community and most of society) to accomplish the goals of having fun, being in good shape and being happy.
0emr6yAh! I may have a meta-contrarian position to contribute: This is not useful -> This is useful for having fun -> Fun is a valid goal, but this is a fairly ineffective way to have fun. In the same way that people are routinely in error about how to improve everything else, they are routinely in error about what things are good at actually providing fun. And there is a familiar resistance to the direct application of thought to the problem, which relies on the normal excuses ("Isn't it all subjective?", "But thinking is incompatible with feeling! Haven't you seen Spock?"). Playing sports looks really good from an "effective hedonism" standpoint, even up to several hours a week. But for most people, I'm skeptical that regularly watching sports provides a decent long-term return, when done for more than a few hours every month or year. Tangentially related: My local baseball team is far funner to watch than the top teams, because they make more mistakes, which leads to more unpredictable and exciting plays, but at the same time they're still athletic enough that you're not just watching children flounder around. In the same way, I really enjoyed the last superbowl.
0adamzerner6yGood points. Particularly about watching vs. playing. I'm a lot more skeptical about the value of watching.

On LessWrong, or on blogs by LWers, advice has been given on how to become bisexual, or polyamorous.

However, there is no advice on LessWrong for how to stop liking something. Yet there are many stories of people having great difficulty giving up such things as video games and internet distractions. It seems to be easier to acquire a taste than to relinquish it.

All the advice on resisting video games and the like (internet blockers, social support) has been on using tricks of one sort or another to restrict the act, not the desire. Even when experimenting with specific deeds, it is easier to try something in spite of aversion than to forego it in spite of attraction.

Are there effective methods of ceasing to enjoy some activity, or of refraining from enjoyable things? What presently enjoyable activities would you use them on?

All the advice on resisting video games and the like (internet blockers, social support) has been on using tricks of one sort or another to restrict the act, not the desire.

Some advice is about substitution, i.e. you identify the emotional need driving a stubborn behavior, and find a more approved behavior than satisfies the same need.

6hesperidia6yInteresting concept. I read about something similar in the book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing The New Domesticity [http://www.amazon.com/Homeward-Bound-Women-Embracing-Domesticity/dp/145166544X] - the author recounts that when working at a dead-end job with no challenge her impulse for creativity got shunted into "DIY" projects of questionable value like stenciling pictures of frogs onto her microwave, and that once she got into a job that stretched her abilities the desire for "DIY" evaporated.
4gjm6yFor me, becoming able to like a new thing seems like a much more positive change than stopping liking an old thing. The latter -- even if it would be beneficial overall -- feels like an impairment, a harm. If others feel the same way -- I don't know whether they do -- then they would be less inclined to offer advice on how to impair yourself than on how to enlarge your range of pleasures. And if others are expected to feel the same way, advice-givers might refrain from offering advice that would be perceived as "how to impair yourself". (A perfectly rational agent would scarcely ever want to lose the ability to like something, since that would always lower their utility. The exceptions would be game-theory-ish ones where being known not to like something would help others not fear that they'd seize it. Of course, we are very far from being perfectly rational agents and for many of us it might well be beneficial overall to lose the ability to enjoy clickbait articles or sugary desserts or riding a motorcycle at 100mph.)
3Lumifer6yI concur with gjm. The difference between "I like X" and "I am addicted to X" might be relevant here.
2RichardKennaway6yWhat is a perfectly rational self-modifying agent? I don't think anyone has an answer to that, although surely it is something that MIRI studies. The same argument that proves that it is never rational to cease liking something, proves that it must always be rational to acquire a liking for anything. You end up with wireheading.
2ChristianKl6yFor food items you can create distaste by mixing the food item with something that makes you throw up.
3Viliam_Bur6yOr just start eating Soylent all day long. And have no other food at home. For a month. It is easier to avoid eating something, if you simply do not have it at home. And if you live on Soylent, you don't even go to food shops. This may be generalizing from one example, but it works for me. When I am on Soylent, my cravings for other food just somehow disappear.
0Mollie6yThis comment made me wonder if trigger warnings might have a place on Less Wrong. Probably not, because I suspect that the utility gains would not be worth the controversy of trying to change norms in that direction.
5JoshuaZ6yThis seems if anything like an argument against it: it isn't considered a commonly triggering issue. This shows one of the fundamental problems with trigger warnings: it is unclear and often highly subjective what should get such a warning.
0Mollie6yI agree that "unclear and often highly subjective" are downsides to categories of content that warrant trigger warnings, but this exchange (below) would pretty clearly warrant a trigger warning for eating disorders if it was on a site that used trigger warnings.
4JoshuaZ6yBut if anything that actually shows how subjective this is and how much of an issue it is. It is one thing to say that trigger warnings should apply to issues that may involve PTSD. It is quite another thing to suggest that they should involve mentions of every possible mental health issue.
3ChristianKl6yDid the comment trigger you in a bad way?
5Mollie6yNo, my eating disorder hasn't been an active problem for ~8 years. Thank you for your concern.
0MathiasZaman6yContent warnings/notes for threads might be worth it (and not that hard to do, seeing as threads already support tags), but doing so for individual comments would be mostly annoying.
1RomeoStevens6yCue Extinction http://www.asitrainingonline.com/cue-extinction/ [http://www.asitrainingonline.com/cue-extinction/]
1[anonymous]6yThat seems like bad advice. Your preferences are what they are. "Giving advice on how to become bisexual, or polyamorous" seems just as bad as "giving advice on how to become heterosexual, or monogamous." This does seem like an issue that needs discussion however. I took the hard route myself, but maybe my story is interested. Perhaps later when I have time I can be proded to give an overview of how I transformed my preferences over the last 15 years.

What's wrong with "giving advice on how to become heterosexual, or monogamous" to someone who wants to become heterosexual or monogamous?

5pianoforte6116yNothing if the advice worked, but it doesn't [http://www.drdoughaldeman.com/doc/ScientificExamination.pdf].
0Unknowns6yIt may not always work, or even usually, but it worked for someone I know.
4Izeinwinter6yEh, it's not that it has a 100% failure rate, the main issue is that it very frequently has utterly catastrophic mental health consequences. Trying to change your sexuality is dangerous. As in "has a significant chance of killing you". There are reasons the lbgt community is so down on attempts at curing the gay - "suicides and mental breakdowns". I'm not aware of any statistics on the results of people trying to become gay, but a: I would be surprised if enough people have tried this to make a valid sample. and b: I do not recommend the experiment for obvious reasons of safety. There are safe..ish. ways to turn sexuality off entirely, but just being gay is not generally enough for people to want to volunteer for those. I've met enough people who reported their sexuality changing over time that I wouldn't be shocked if tommorow a pharma announced an novel sideeffect / off-label use for the latest anti-depressant of resetting your sexuality to "Healthy adult humans" but the history of attempts at deliberate intervention in this field is horrifying.
1alienist6yAs opposed to, you know, ordinary tribal feelings against defection. There are elements in the deaf community that oppose attempts to cure deafness as well.
2Izeinwinter6yThose too, but the negative impact and severe paucity of efficiency are quite real enough. About the only people still trying this today are religiously motivated quacks, with predictably depressing results, but even the historical attempts by people honestly trying to help as opposed to following the mandates of their imaginary friends in the sky had very bad results. Sometimes sexuality shifts over time. We have nothing even resembling a clue why, or how to do that deliberately. If you tell me you know people conversion therapy worked for, I will not doubt you. People given chalk tablets for treatment routinely get better from very fatal diseases in double blind studies Not often, but it happens. This does not mean chalk tablets are a panacea. Or, you know, medicine at all.
0NancyLebovitz6yDetails? What exactly did they do, and how large was the change? How long ago was it?
-1alienist6yOr rather anyone who claims it does is branded an "evil homophobe" thus no one would dare publish a stady claiming it does.
7gjm6yPeople have been trying to "cure" homosexuality since times when attitudes to homosexuality were very different from what they are now. If it's curable then there should (at least) be credible studies from earlier years saying so. Are there? (Robert Spitzer published a study as recently as 2001 claiming to find evidence that some homosexual people can become heterosexual, so evidently it was possible to dare to do that then. He has since publicly changed his mind, which of course can be interpreted in different ways.)
5JoshuaZ6yWhy? That might make sense if a preference is part of a terminal value. But if it isn't this may not be that different than advice on say how to enjoy eating healthy foods (in my own case the answer for spinach was eat it frequently with tasty cheese). For that matter, there might well be circumstances where it would make sense to try to adjust one's preferences to becoming closer to monogamous (say one is dating someone who is strongly monogamous).
4RichardKennaway6yPreferences change: sexual development is an obvious example. Preferences can be changed: "cultivating a taste" is a thing. Although in line with my original question, the only stock phrase I can think of that comes close to the opposite of "cultivating a taste" is "overcoming temptation". A taste, once acquired, is seen as something that can only be suppressed by a continuing effort, never removed. An alternative approach might be described as "enlightening one's self-interest": learning to perceive the harm of something clearly enough that one is no longer inclined to indulge it.
2ChristianKl6yPreferences can be quite complex. Most people do like the idea of having sex with multiple people but might dislike the idea that there partner has sex with multiple people at the start. Being polyarmous needs specific skills such as dealing with jealousy that aren't needed to the same extend by people who aren't poly. Some people are in love with a person who"s poly a person might want to become poly themselves to be in that relationship.
-7[anonymous]6y

A thought about heritability and malleability:

The heritability of height has increased, because the nutritional environment has become more uniform. To be very specific, "more equal" means both that people have more similar sets of options, and that they exercise similar preferences among these options.

This is interesting, because the increased heritability has coincided exactly with an increased importance of environmental factors from a decision making standpoint. In other words, a contemporary parent picking from {underfeed kids, don't underf... (read more)

4mwengler6yI heard something years ago that stuck with me. In an optimum environment, 100% of human variation on everything would be genetic. So if you do everything you can environmentally to improve your kids intelligence, 100% of the variation left must be genetic. Similarly with height, musical ability, etc etc. So whenever one finds that less than 100% of the variation in some positive trait is genetic, it means at least some of the population is not optimizing the environment to bring out that trait. Not obviously relevant to the comment above, but on the same topic so I stuck it here.

Hello open thread!

I am going to be in San Francisco on the 8th of February, and I will have the rest of the day to spend in town before heading onward for a work trip. It will be my first time in the US (coming from New Zealand), and I would be delighted to get in contact with some LWers.

Unsure if I should post an email or something, but do leave a comment if you know of any happenings, or are just keen to meet up.

Might it be reasonable to think of the anti-vaccination movement as people trying to take heroic responsibility without having good judgement?

7JoshuaZ6yIs there some reason you consider the anti-vaccination movement as closer to this than any other alternative health movement?
0NancyLebovitz6yThe level of urgency seems a lot higher.
2JoshuaZ6yOne sees similar urgency claims in the extreme end of the organic food movement and similar purity focused food ideas.
0Torello6yI think she means urgency from the perspective of the general population; many people are at risk if a growing number of people stop getting vaccines. I think members of the organic food movement feel that their cause is urgent, but members of the general population are not put in danger by their decision to eat organic food and therefore don't have urgent feelings about it.
6Strangeattractor6yIn Pakistan, people are suspicious of health workers because the CIA used vaccination programs as cover stories for their agents. Some people in Africa say that being vaccinated wreaked havoc on their psychic perception, and advise others not to do it. Some people are allergic to ingredients used to make vaccines. Some people object to having a medical procedure forced upon them. It is tough to track down primary sources of information on this issue. Even if you go to a university library, many of the scientific papers are from an era that has not been digitized. Vaccine manufacturers do not release all of the information that is relevant. Getting enough good information to develop an informed opinion is not as straightforward and easy as one might expect. People encounter problems in the medical system and do not have their concerns adequately addressed. There are a variety of reasons that people have reservations about getting vaccinated. I think that to understand this in more depth, thinking of a monolithic "anti-vaccination movement" is probably not going to help. In other words, it is possible that some people who object to vaccines could be more or less described as "trying to take heroic responsibility without having good judgement" but I don't think that description would be applicable to people who object to vaccines as a whole.
3ChristianKl6yI think most of the people in the anti-vaccination movement have peer that are also in the movement. Going with peer opinion isn't taking heroic responsibility.
3Viliam_Bur6yI can imagine different people in the anti-vaccination movement having different psychological motives. For some of them, it may be just the "purity" instinct. Others may have studied the topic a lot, unfortunately from bad sources or with bad understanding. (The difference is that the latter could have reached an opposite conclusion if presented with different literature and/or peer pressure, while the former would always opt for "not doing anything against the nature".) Then it is an empirical question of which ones are how frequent.
2[anonymous]6yTemporal discounting plus low contingency seems like a strong candidate. Parents see a strong immediate negative effect when they give their child the shots. There's a low probability long-term positive effect from receiving the shot. It's a fairly typical reaction to incentives.
0[anonymous]6yThis seems reasonable to me for many of the people joining. I'd put religious proselytizers in the same camp.
0polymathwannabe6yTwo [http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120877/disneyland-measles-outbreak-caused-distrust-american-society] other possible [http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.skepticalob.com/2015/01/what-everyone-gets-wrong-about-anti-vaccine-parents.html] explanations.
-1Emily6yI think the anti-abortion movement fits this description quite well in many ways (though obviously this is an even more politically-charged view). PS. Not in the mood for an abortion debate here/now; sorry in advance for not replying to any comments along debating lines.

I've recently had a discussion about ethics here in this thread, and the conclusion I've arrived at is that a big reason for my lack of motivation is lack of social support.

I don't know if this is the right place to post this, nor am I fully clear on what kind of response I am expecting. I guess I would like advice and emotional support with this issue.

I have basically been in shutdown mode for the past year because I'm not getting the kind of support I need, and I have my doubts I will ever get the kind of support I need.

I am in my mid-twenties, highly in... (read more)

4MrMind6yWhat have you already tried? What hasn't worked in those approaches?
1[anonymous]6yThis is the most relevant question I think. What specific suggested strategies did you experiment with that didn't work?
1MrMind6y... and the only one which won't be answered.
4MathiasZaman6yThe obvious suggestion is going to (or starting) a local Less Wrong meetup. They're a good way to meet people who can become your "tribe." Another option (and one that worked very well for me for quite a while) was to move most of my in-group needs online. I don't make a strong distinction between cyberspace and meatspace friendships, so this worked out pretty well. The "bonobo rationalists" of tumblr have a skype group that has general conversation, if you need something to try out. What is important to keep in mind is that "having a tribe," means that most of your interactions will (and maybe should?) be trivial and banal. You need to build a rapport with the people, so that your brain will more readily accept their praise and advice.
5ZT56yI agree, and I would definitely visit one if there was one nearby (note: I don't live in the US. Edited the original post to reflect that). As for trying to start a meetup - intuitively I feel there are several reasons why that might be problematic. And I don't know if there are enough (or any) rationalists in my area. Thank you for sharing. Thanks for the suggestion. I believe I have found the contact information for that. I don't know if I need that. Maybe other people need to have trivial interactions with me to see me as in-group, I don't know. My experience with that is that the trivial interactions are not a reliable indicator for the quality of non-trivial interactions. ... I have a feeling that the implication here is that the way to form connections is to have a bunch of casual interactions (that's my prior expectation for how many kinds of connections work, anyway). Maybe that's not really the implication, so I might be going on a tangent here... but I'd like to share this anyway. Casual interactions work very poorly for me, and I have a feeling that that way to connect select against my particular mindset. The problem with casual interactions (the way I see it) is that they put too much weight on similarity and agreement about relatively unimportant things. It's signalling "I'm similar to you in a lot of ways" as a proxy for signalling "I'm not crazy, trustworthy, have reasonable values, etc etc...". I think it's kind of like using "academic achievement" as a proxy for "learning", because trying to measure "learning" directly is too inconvenient. (I don't know what the term here is, lost purpose [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le/lost_purposes/]?). I'd rather have people directly tell me what they expect, so I can tell them whether I think I can live up to that - rather than having to signal that indirectly. The problem with signalling is that a lot of standard signals people are simply not true for me (and there's dishonesty and self-deception invol
4Lumifer6yI understand what you mean, but think of causal interactions as a fast, cheap filter. Finding people you'd really like to connect to will necessary involve a lot of trial and error. You would like to minimize the costs (in time and effort) of the trials and the errors. Causal connections basically allow you to do this: you have a limited, surface contact with a person and in the majority of cases that will be enough for you to filter that person out and continue looking. Don't think of small talk as a way to bond -- think of it as ritualized low-effort behavior one engages in while evaluating the other person.
1ZT56yI was in fact referring to casual interactions as way to bond and build rapport, because a lot of people do it that way, and I also think that's what MathiasZaman suggested (though maybe he meant it in a different way?). Oh wait. Is that what you mean by small talk? I think my understanding of the concept just shifted. I was thinking of small talk as "that boring thing people do when they don't want to talk about serious stuff". But of course I use it in the fashion that you described, and it's actually quite fun when done that way.
8Lumifer6yIf you actually want to bond, you don't want casual interactions -- you want highly emotional shared experiences.
3ZT56yThat sounds right. Thank you for pointing out the distinction.
3ChristianKl6yA mental health professional that get's angry at you for pointing out that some advice doesn't work is either unskilled or is using anger as an alternative strategy to create pressure to change. I'm myself not a mental health professional but do have quite a bit of coaching training and would never get angry at someone for him finding advice not useful. It's not even in my reservoir of choices if I think it would be helpful. Unfortunately I don't think that a majority of academically trained psychologists have enough control over their own emotions to not get angry for bad reasons and go into self-justification. I don't know whether your state reaches depression but to the extend that it does exercise is very important. Do you do exercise? After exercise the second highest rated intervention on curetogether [http://curetogether.com/depression/ig/treatment-effectiveness-vs-popularity] is to spend time with a pet. In the absence of human interaction, a dog can fill some of that niche. It can give you the feeling that there somebody who accepts you like you are. Otherwise find a tribe. LW meetups are good. Joining a sports team is also good.
5ZT56yIn my experience that is accurate. To be fair, as long as people stick to the psychologist-client script, and have more-or-less typical problems, they probably will get acceptable treatment. However, pointing out that what the mental health person is doing isn't working for me, for reasons that person doesn't immediately recognize as valid isn't sticking to the script. (and probably just being more intelligent than that person and having genuinely non-standard opinions isn't sticking to the script either). That varies. To some extent, yes. I do regular exercise. That's interesting. I think that might work for me, but I have I doubts about my ability to arrange for that to happen. Don't have one in my area (in responding to MathiasZaman's comment, I edited the my original post to reflect that I'm not located in the US). I would go if there was a meetup in my area. Merely doing things along other people is typically not enough for me to form connections. And it doesn't sounds interesting or fun enough to me to be worth doing for its own sake.
3[anonymous]6yWhy do you find it hard to meet like-minded people? Have you tried meetup.com? The only solution to not having a group of people you like is to meet more people. You're certainly not lacking for options. It sounds like you just need a better searching method.
3ZT56yI like having reasonable suggestions - at the very least it's a good idea to consider these things if I haven't tried them before. I don't know why you seem to think it would be easy to find like-minded people, though. Inferential distance? [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Inferential_distance] That seems to be hard by default, unless you're living in an area with a high density of like-minded people. Anyway, I am familiar with meetup.com. I have some meetups I could potentially participate in, though they seem to be mostly for people who want to socialize rather than specific groups for things I am interested in. And simply meeting people at random seems like a poor way for me to try and find like-minded people. I might do that anyway for the social experience, but it seems to be a rather low return-on-investment strategy.
3[anonymous]6yRandom has to generally be deliberately planned for. Any kind of search is likely to be non-random, and there are multiple methods for increasing filtering even before you meet the person. A chess club will result in very different encounters than a soccer team. You could also change your culling methods when evaluating people to improve hits. It's possible that you're over or under filtering in casual encounters or that your search parameters are poorly tuned. Studying personality types can help with that. Still, there's nothing better than just to increase your number of interactions.
1ChristianKl6yWhat are you interested in?
0[anonymous]6yI do some meetup groups available nearby (though I'd have to commute for quite a bit). There's isn't much choice of what kind of people I can meet via meetup.com. The base rate for people I would consider like-minded is really low, so trying to meet people randomly (or by applying a simple filter) seems like a low-value strategy. That doesn't automatically imply it is optimal or even reasonable for me to try and maximize the amount of people I meet short-term. I think everyone has options. That doesn't mean that the options are viable. I do also think it's a good idea to go over the possible strategies I might be using. I'm not seeing any options that I'm willing to use immediately. So I think the best thing I can do right now is simply to think more about this - and see if I can find a reasonable way around the objections to have to using these options, or if I can find new options I like better.
1ChristianKl6yWhere are you from?
3ZT56yI'm located in Sweden.
3Izeinwinter6yBased of that the most obvious moves, depending on what you are currently doing. Universal: Take up a sport or other hobby. The clubs associated with them are a pretty ready made social network compatible with most any lifestyle. To work, this requires you to pick one you enjoy, and with a culture you do to. There is a lot of variety on offer here - Ive been (briefly) in soccer teams that were essentially an excuse to get drunk after the game, and in hiking clubs that were quasi-military in their dedication to proper planning and preparation, and once rather memorably in a cooking club that unofficially doubled as an dating mixer. (12 people. many more pairings than was at all reasonable before it imploded) If you want to hit reboot on your life in total, sign up for university. You're a swede, so it's free, but before you do, go hang out. Different courses of study have very different cultures. You should be able to find one which is a match. Next step is important. Make sure to join or create a good study group. Also combines pretty well with first option. Final option, if you simply want structure above all else, the military will do that for you. It's not a lifetime solution unless you make it a lifetime career, but.. giving aim to the aimless is something it has a lot of practice at.

Since, neither is listed on the best textbooks thread, can anyone recommend good textbooks for

1) Social psychology

2) Cognitive psychology

?

I think polyamory is big in the rationalist community; what is the consensus on the effects of experimenting with it on later satisfaction with monogamy?

8MathiasZaman6yI'm not sure how useful the question is (but I'm still curious how people with that particular experience might answer). From my discussions on polyamory with people who are polyamorous, it seems to be rather like an orientation. Some people are only happy in polyamorous relationships, others are only happy in monogamous relationships, while still others don't have a strong preference. A person with a strong preference for polyamory would likely be unsatisfied with a monogamous relationship, while someone with a monogamous preferences would be happy to not be polyamorous anymore. What I'm trying to say is: This is a bit like asking: What is the effects of experimenting with sexual intercourse with people of the same sex on later satisfaction with sexual intercourse with people of a different sex? The answer's going to vary widely depending on whether people are homo-, bi-, or heterosexual.
3Adele_L6yI don't think there are enough people who have tried it and then gone back to being monogamous for there to be a consensus - but there are a few people who have, for example, Patri Friedman [http://patrissimo.livejournal.com/1499649.html#]. I would guess that these people will find monogamy more satisfying after going back to it.
2[anonymous]6yFor me, it's made me more able to cope with all sorts of issues, a better communicator etc, but didn't change overall satisfaction secondary to those effects.
1CellBioGuy6yQuestion seconded.
0fubarobfusco6ySomething to think about: Although the rate of polyamory within the LW-space is higher than in the general populace (IIRC, last survey had ~15% poly, ~30% unsure, >50% monogamous within LW), the rate of cheating among ostensible monogamists is quite high in the general population — and possibly also within LW as well. (We shouldn't assume that LWers are more fundamentally honest than everyone else.)

Disclaimer: the identity theory that I actually alieve is the most common intuitionist one, and it's philosophically inconsistent: I regard as death teleportation but not sleeping. This comment, however, is written from System 2 perspective, that can operate even with concepts that I don't alieve

The basic idea behind timeless identity is that "I" can only be meaningfully defined inductively as "an entity that has experience continuity with my current self". Thus, we can safely replace "I value my life" with "I value the e... (read more)

3Manfred6yDepend on how you feel about anthropically selfish preferences [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lg2/treating_anthropic_selfish_preferences_as_an/], and altruistic preferences that try to satisfy other peoples' selfish preferences. I, for instance, do not think it's okay to kill a copy of me even if I know I will live on. In the earth-mars teleporter thought experiment, the missing piece is the idea that people care selfishly about their causal descendants (though this phrase is obscuring a lot of unsolved questions about what kind of causation counts). If the teleporter annihilates a person as it scans them, the person who get annihilated has a direct causal descendant on the other side. If it waits ten minutes, gives the original some tea and cake, and then annihilates them, the person who gets annihilated has no direct causal descendant - they really are getting killed off in a way that matters more to them than before.
0maxikov6yNot OK in what sense - as in morally wrong to kill sapient beings or as terrifying as getting killed? I tend to care more about people who are closer to me, so by induction I will probably care about my copy more than any other human, but I still alieve the experience of getting killed to be fundamentally different and fundamentally more terrifying than the experience of my copy getting killed. From the linked post: If I understand correctly, the argument of timeless identity is that your copy is you in absolutely any meaningful sense, and therefore prioritizing one copy (original) over the others isn't just wrong, but even meaningless, and cannot be defined very well. I'm totally not buying that on gut level, but at the same time I don't see any strong logical arguments against it, even if I operate with 100% selfish 0% altruistic ethics. I don't quite get this part - can you elaborate? What's about the thought experiment with erasing memories though? I doesn't physically violate causality, but from the experience perspective it does - suddenly the person loses a chunk of their experience, and they're basically replaced with an earlier version of themselves, even though the universe has moved on. This experience may not be very pleasant, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as getting cake and death in the Earth-Mars experiment. Yet it's hard to distinguish them on the logical level.
2Manfred6yThe first one - they're just a close relative :) TDT says to treat the world as a causal diagram that has as its input your decision algorithm, and outputs (among other things) whether you're a copy (at least, iff your decision changes how many copies of you there are). So you should literally evaluate the choices as if your action controlled whether or not you are a copy. As to erasing memories - yeah I'm not sure either, but I'm learning towards it being somewhere between "almost a causal descendant" and "about as bad as being killed and a copy from earlier being saved."
0maxikov6yOK, I'll have to read deeper into TDT to understand why that happens, currently that seems counterintuitive as heck.

In a previous thread, I brought up the subject of entropy being subjective and got a lot of interesting responses. One point of contention was that if you know the positions and velocities of all the molecules in a hot cup of tea, then its temperature is actually at absolute zero (!). I realized that the explanation of this in usual terms is a bit clumsy and awkward. I'm thinking maybe if this could be explained in terms of reversible operations on strings of bits (abstracting away from molecules and any solid physical grounding), it might be easier to pre... (read more)

Isn't all this just punning on definitions? If the particle velocities in a gas are Maxwell-Boltzmann distributed for some parameter T, we can say that the gas has "Maxwell-Boltzmann temperature T". Then there is a separate Jaynes-style definition about "temperature" in terms of the knowledge someone has about the gas. If all you know is that the velocities follow a certain distribution, then the two definitions coincide. But if you happen to know more about it, it is still the case that almost all interesting properties follow from the coarse-grained velocity distribution (the gas will still melt icecubes and so on), so rather than saying that it has zero temperature, should we not just note that the information-based definition no longer captures the ordinary notion of temperate?

1passive_fist6yYou are essentially right. The point is that 'average kinetic energy of particles' is just a special case that happens to correspond to the Jaynes-style definition, for some types of systems. But the Jaynes-style definition is the 'true' definition that is valid for all systems. Again, as I mentioned in my previous replies, the gas will melt ice cubes, but is only in thermal equilibrium with 0 K ice cubes.
4Pfft6yThis claim seems dubious to me. Like, the "original, naive" definition of thermal equilibrium is that two systems are out of equilibrium if, when put them in contact with each other, heat will flow from one to the other. If you have a 0K icecube one one hand and a gas and piece of RAM encoding that state of the gas on the other, then they certainly do not seem to be in equilibrium in this sense: when you remove the partitioning wall, the gas atoms will start bouncing against the cube, the ice atoms will start moving, and the energy of the ice cube atoms increases. Heat energy was transferred from one system to the other. I am not claiming that there is some other temperature T such that an icecube at T would be in equilibrium with the system; rather, it seems the gas+RAM system is itself not in thermal equilibrium, and therefore does not have a temperature? My more general point is that one can not just claim by fiat that the Jaynes-style definition is the "true" one; if there are multiple ones in play and they sometimes disagree, then one has see which one is more useful. Thermodynamics was originally motivated by heat energy flowing between different gases. It seems that in these (highly artificial) examples, the information-based definition no longer describes heat flow well, which would be a mark against it...
1passive_fist6ygas+RAM is not in thermal equilibrium with the ice cube, because a large enough stick of RAM to hold this information would itself have entropy, and a lot of it (far, far larger than the information it is storing). This is actually the reason why Maxwell demons are impossible in practice - storing the information becomes a very difficult problem, and the entropy of the system becomes entirely contained within the storage medium. If the storage medium is assumed to be immaterial (an implicit assumption which we are making in this example), then the total system entropy is 0 and it's at 0 K. It is true for the same reason that Bayesian updating is the only true method for updating beliefs; any other method is either suboptimal or inconsistent or both. In fact it is the very same reason, because the entropy of a physical system is literally the entropy of the Bayesian posterior distribution of the parameters of the system according to some model.
4mwengler6yAt least if you are talking about Physics, whether you know the position and velocity of every atom in a system or not is irrelevant to what its temperature is. The point of thermodynamics is that under a broad range of conditions, there are statistical quantities which are predictable, such as the average kinetic energy of components after "enough" time has passed (enough time to reach thermal equilibrium in a given experiment),and of course it is not only the average kinetic energy, but the distribution of energies which are known. There may be interesting or even amusing information theoretic senses in which tracking the microscopic details can be said to have zero entropy, but these do not impact the physics of the system. IF the system is one in which the conditions for thermal equilibrium being reached are there, then we will be able to predict the same distribution of kinetic energies in the system whether or not we are tracking every single molecules velocities and positions, or not. As to whether or not a 0 K ice cube will melt, it will melt if your put it in contact with a gas that has enough kinetic energy in it such that when that energy is divided by all the molecules in the system, the average energy per molecule is greater than k*274 K where k is boltzmann's constant. Your detailed knowledge of every molecules position and velocity will not stop the ice cube from transitioning to its liquid state as kinetic energy from the gas is transferred into the ice cube. NO matter how entertaining alternative definitions of entropy and temperature might be, they are completely irrelevant to the time-evolution of liquids, gases, and solids interacting under the conditions in which they are described to good accuracy by thermodynamics. There is nothing arbitrary or "in the mind' about thermodynamics, it is a simplified map of a large range of real situations, a map whos accuracy is not affected by having additional knowledge of the terrain being mapped.
1passive_fist6yYes this is the entire point; entropy seems to be disassociated from what's "out there." And no one has said otherwise. But if you consider gas+information together, you can no longer consistently say it's at anything other than 0 K. I think you're misunderstanding what "in the mind" means. It does not mean that our thoughts can influence physics. Rather, it means that quantities like entropy and temperature depend (to you) on the physical model in which you're viewing the system.
4mwengler6yI don't think I am misunderstanding anything. But it is possible that i am merely not misunderstanding the physics, I suppose. But I participated in the other threads and I am pretty sure I know what we are talking about. To the extent that you want to define something that allows you to characterize a boiling pot of water as having either zero entropy or zero temperature, define away. I will "merely" point out that the words entropy and temperature have already been applied to that situation by others who have come before you and in a way which is not altered by any knowledge you may have beyond the extensive quantities of the boiling pot of water. I will point out that your quantities of "entropy" and "temperature" break the laws of thermodynamics in probably every respect. In your system, energy can flow from a colder object to a hotter object. In your system, entropy can decrease in a closed system. In summary, not only are your definitions of entropy and temperature confusing a rather difficult but unconfused subject, but they are also violating all the relationships that people versed in thermodynamics carry around about entropy and temperature. So what is the possible point of calling your newly defined quantities entropy and temperature? It seems to me the only point is to piggyback your relatively useless concepts on the well-deserved reputation of entropy and temperature in order to get them an attention they do not deserve. No matter how much information I have about a pot of boiling water, it is still capable of turning a turbine with its steam, cooking rice, and melting ice cubes. If you redefine temperature so that the boiling water is at 0 K but still melting ice cubes by transferring energy to the ice even though the ice is at a much hotter 250 K, then I sure wish you would call this thing that has nothing to do with average kinetic energy and which direction energy will flow something else.
3passive_fist6yIt's not an arbitrary definition made for fun. It is - as I've pointed out - the only definition that is consistent. Any other set of definitions will lead to 'paradoxes', like Maxwell's demon or various other 'violations' of the 2nd law. On the contrary, they are the only consistent way of looking at thermodynamics. And why not? Every time a battery powers an (incandescent) flashlight, energy is flowing from a colder object to a hotter object. The point is to put thermodynamics on a rigorous and general footing. That's why Jaynes and others proposed MaxEnt thermodynamics. These things you speak of are due to the energy in the boiling water, not the temperature, and energy is not changed no matter how much you know about the system. A system at 0 K can still carry energy. There is nothing in the laws of physics that prevents this.
-2mwengler6yActually, no. The temperature of the electrons moving in the current is quite high. At least according to the uncontroversial definitions generally used. These electrons have a lot of kinetic energy. Actually there is. 0 K is the state where no further energy can be extracted from the system. So a 0 K system can't do work on any system, whether the other system is at 0 K also, or not. Do you have in mind that a motor could be cooled down to 0 K and then run, or that a battery could be cooled down to 0 K and then run? It could be that parts of a battery or motor are at 0 K, perhaps the metal rods or cylinders of a motor are at 0 K, but the motor still turns to produce energy. But the motor itself is not at 0 K, it has motion, kinetic energy, which can be lower by its stopping running. By the way, do you have any links to anything substantial that puts the temperature of microscopically known boiling water at 0 K? So far I've been contradicting your assertions without seeing the details that might lie behind them.
2passive_fist6yI have to say, that definition is quite new to me. The electron temperature in a piece of copper is pretty much the same as the rest of the copper, even when it's carrying many amps of current. But to give an even more straightforward example, think of a cold flywheel turning a hot flywheel. I suppose you're going to say that the cold flywheel is 'hot' because it's turning. I'm sorry but that's not how thermodynamics works. What is the exact law that says this? I'd really like to see it. The thermodynamics you're talking about seems drastically different from the thermodynamics I learned in school. Forget a motor, just imagine an object at 0 K moving linearly through outer space. EY gives plenty of references in his linked sequences on this.
-4mwengler6yThe equipartition theorem says that a system in thermal equilibrium has energy k*T/2 per degree of freedom. Consider a rigid flywheel weighing 1 kg and spinning at "around" 1 m/s so that its kinetic energy from it's rotation is 1 J. I'd like to say this system has 1 degree of freedom, spinning of the flywheel, and so its temperature is 1/k = 7e22 K. But in case you point out that the flywheel can be flying through space as well as spinning on any one of three axes, lets say its temperature is 7e22/6 = about 1e22 K. A macroscopic rigid system has massively more weight than molecules in a gas but not very many degrees of freedom. If temperatures can be assigned to these at all, they are MASSIVE temperatures. But it is not a rigid body you say, it is a solid made of atoms that can vibrate. Indeed the solid flywheel might be made of a piece of metal which is at 200 K or 300 K or whatever temperature you want to have heated it up to. But an experiment with a flywheel made of metal at 300 K which flywheel is being spun and unspun: the energy of the spinning is not "thermalizing" with the internal vibrational energy of the flywheel. It is not thermalizing which means these are thermodynamically uncoupled systems which means the effective temperature of the macroscopic rotation of the flywheel is in the 1e22 kind of range. This IS how thermodynamics works. We don't usually talk about thermo of macroscopic objects with very few degrees of freedom. That doesn't mean we can't, or even that we shouldn't. See for example http://physics.about.com/od/glossary/g/absolutezero.htm [http://physics.about.com/od/glossary/g/absolutezero.htm] "Absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature, at which point the atoms of a substance transmit no thermal energy - they are completely at rest." OK. As with the flywheel, a 1 kg object moving at 1 m/s through space has 1 J of kinetic energy. Even if we attribute 6 degrees of freedom to this object, that kinetic energy corresponds to abo
2passive_fist6yLet me see if I can pick apart your misconceptions. About the flywheel example, no, rotation does not lead to temperature, because the rotational energy of the flywheel is not thermal energy. You seem to be mixing up thermal with non-thermal energy. In thermodynamics we assign several different kinds of energy to a system: 1. Total energy: Internal energy + Potential energy + Kinetic energy 2. Potential energy: Energy due to external force fields (gravity, electromagnetism, etc.) 3. Kinetic energy: Energy due to motion of the system as a whole (linear motion, rotational motion, etc.) 4. Internal energy/thermal energy: The energy that is responsible for the temperature of a system. But here's the kicker: The division between these concepts is not a fundamental law of nature, but depends on your model. So yes, you could build a model where rotation is included in thermal energy. But then, rotation would be part of the entropy as well, so at nonzero temperature you could not model it as rotating at a fixed speed! You'd have to model the rotation as a random variable. Clearly this contradicts with rotation at a fixed speed. That is, unless you also set the temperature to 0 K, in which entropy would be zero and so you could set the rotation to a fixed speed. Now about the relationship between internal energy and degrees of freedom. You're misunderstanding what a degree of freedom is. The equipartition theorem says that the average energy of a particle with n degrees of freedom is nkT/2, but even if you included rotational energy as thermal energy, a large spinning object has much more than one degree of freedom. It has degrees of freedom associated with its many vibrational modes. It has so many vibrational modes that the associated 'temperature' is actually very low, not high as you describe. Indeed, if it were to 'thermalize' (say, through friction), it would not warm up the object that much. If it were true that the temperature due to rotation is 1
0mwengler6yOk, I have a PhD in Applied Physics. I have learned thermo and statistical mechanics a few times including two graduate level courses. I have recently been analyzing internal and external combustion engines as part of my job, and have relearned some parts of thermo for that. It may be that despite my background, I have not done a good job of explaining what is going on with thermo. But what I am explaining here is, at worst, the way a working physicist would see thermo, informed by a science that explains a shitload of reality, and in a way which is no more subjective than the "spooky action at a distance" of electromagnetic and gravitational fields. I realize appealing to my credentials is hardly an argument. However, I am pretty sure that I am right and I am pretty sure that what I have been claiming are all within spitting distance of discussions and examples of thermo and stat mech calculations and considerations that we really talked about when I was learning this stuff. My confidence in my position is not undermined by anything you have said, so far. I have asked you for a link to something with some kind of detail that explicates the 0 K 0 entropy boiling water position, or some version of the broken concepts you are speaking generally about. You have referred only to things already linked in the thread, or in the sequence on this topic, and i have found no links in the thread that were relevant. I have asked you again to link me to something and you haven't. But despite your not giving me anything to work with from your side, I have believed I understand what you are claiming. For the entropy side I would characterize it this way. Standard entropy makes a list of all states at the appropriate energy of an isolated system and say there is equal probability of the system being in any of these. And so the entropy at this energy of this isolated system is log(N(E)) where N(E) is the number of states that have energy E. I think what you are saying is that i
2passive_fist6yCredentials aren't very relevant here, but if we're going to talk about them, I have a PhD in engineering and a BS in math (minor in physics). Again, as I've pointed out at least once before, entropy is not subjective. Being dependent on model and information does not mean it is subjective. Right off the bat, this is wrong. In a continuous system the state space could be continuous (uncountably infinite) and so N(E) makes no sense. "Logarithm of the number of states of the system" is just a loose way of describing what entropy is, not a precise way. The number of states a system can be in is always 1! A system (a classical system, at least) can never be in more than one state at a time. The 'number of states', insofar as it is loosely used, means the size of the state space according to our model and our information about the system. There are several things wrong with this. First of all, it assumes the ergodic hypothesis (time average = space average) and the ergodic hypothesis is not required for thermodynamics to work (although it does make a lot of physical systems easier to analyze). But it also has another problem in that it makes entropy dependent on time scale. That is, choosing a fine time scale would decrease entropy. This is not how entropy works. And at any rate, it's not what entropy measures anyway. But I'm not assuming a rigid body. You are. There is no reason to assume a rigid body. I offered an example of a cold flywheel turning a hot flywheel, as a system where energy moves from a cold object to a hot object. You decided for some reason that the flywheels must be rigid bodies. They aren't, at least not in my example.
0mwengler6yA finite system at finite energy has a finite number of states in quantum. So if we restrict ourselves only to any kind of situation which could ever be realized by human investigators in our universe, conclusions reached using discrete states are valid. No, I am considering all possible states N(E) of the system at energy E. Many of these states will be highly spatially anisotropic, and I am still including them in the count. Since you won't show me in any detail the calculation that leads to water having 0 temperature or 0 energy if you have special knowledge of it, I can only work from my guesses about what you are talking about. And my guess is that you achieve low entropy, 0 entropy, because with sufficient special knowledge you reduce the number of possible states to 1 at any instant, the state that the system is actually in at that instant. But if you count the number of states the system has been in as time goes by, ever time two things collide and change velocity you bounce to another state, and so even with perfect knowledge of the time evolution over a long enough time, you still cover all possible N(E) states. But over an insufficiently long time you cover a smaller number of states. In fact, the behavior of states looked at on time-scales too short to get "thermalization," that is too short to allow the system to change through a significant fraction of the available states might possibly be describably with an entropy that depended on time, but the last thing I want to do is define new things and call them entropy when they do not have the properties of the classic entropy I have been advocating for through this entire thread. Given the length of this thread, I think it would be better if you read all the sentences in each paragraph rather than responding to one out of context. Seriously, can't you give me an example of your 0 K 0 entropy boiling water and tell me what you hope to know from this example that we don't know already? We have prob
4Manfred6yNope, sorry. Also, I still don't buy the claim about the temperature. You said in the linked comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lk6/open_thread_jan_19_jan_25_2015/bvum] that putting a known-microstate cup of tea in contact with an unknown-microstate cup of tea wouldn't really be thermal equilibrium because it would be "not using all the information at your disposal. And if you don't use the information it's as if you didn't have it." If I know the exact state of a cup of tea, and am able to predict how that state will evolve in the future, the cup of tea has zero entropy. Then suppose I take a glass of water that is Boltzmann-distributed. It has some spread over possible microstates - the bigger the spread, the higher entropy (And also temperature, for Boltzmann-distributed things). Then you put the tea and the water in thermal contact. Now, for every possible microstate of the glass of water, the combined system evolves to a single final microstate (only one, because you know the exact state of the tea). The combined sytem is no longer Boltzmann in either subsytem, and has the same entropy as the original glass of water, just moved into different microstates. Note that it didn't matter what the water's temperature was - all that mattered was that the tea's distribution had zero entropy. The fact that there has been no increase in entropy is the proof that all the information has been used. If the water had the same average energy as the tea, so that no macroscopic amount of energy was exchanged, then these thing would be in thermal equilibrium by your standards.
2spxtr6yAfter you put the glass of water in contact with the cup of tea, you will quickly become uncertain about the state of the tea. In order to still know the microstate, you need to be fed more information.
1Manfred6yIf you have a Boltzmann distribution, you still know all the microstates - you just have a probability distribution over them. Time evolution in contact with a zero-entropy object moves probability from one microstate to another in a predictable way, with neither compression nor spreading of the probability distribution. Sure, this requires obscene amounts of processing power to keep track of, but not particularly more than it took to play Maxwell's demon with a known cup of tea.
-1passive_fist6yThat's wrong on both counts. Firstly, even if you actually had a block of ice at 0 K and put it in thermal contact with a warm glass of water, the total system entropy would increase over time. It is completely false that the number of initial and final microstates are the same. Entropy depends on volume as well as temperature. (To see why this is the case, consider that you're dealing with a continuous phase space, not a discrete one). Additionally, your example doesn't apply to what I'm talking about, because nowhere are you using the information about the cup of tea. Again, as I said, if you don't use the information it's as if you didn't have it. I am fully aware that saying it in this way is clumsy and hard to understand (and not 100% convincing, even though it really is true). That's why I'm looking for a more abstract, theoretical way of saying it.
0Manfred6yI'm not really sure why you say volume is changing here. I don't understand how you want information to be used, if not to calculate a final distribution over microstates, or what you think "losing information" is if not an increase in entropy. If we're having some sort of disconnect I'd be happy to talk more, but if you're trolling me I would like to not be trolled.
0passive_fist6yThink about putting a packet of gas next to a vacuum and allowing it to expand. In this case it's even easier to see that the requirements of your thought experiment hold - you know the exact state of the vacuum, because it has no microstates. Yet the total system entropy will still increase as the molecules of gas expand to fill the vacuum. Even if you have perfect information about the gas at the beginning (zero entropy), at the end of the experiment you will not. You will have some uncertainty. This is because the phase space itself has expanded. I think we are. I suggest becoming familiar with R Landauer and C H Bennet's work. I'd be happy to discuss this further if we are on the same page.
0Manfred6yOh, I see, you're thinking of particle exchange, like if one dumped the water into the tea. This case is not what I intended - by thermal contact I just mean exchange of energy. With identical particles, the case with particle exchange gets complicated. There might even be some interesting physics there.
0passive_fist6yThe thermodynamics of energy exchange and mass exchange are actually similar. You still get the increase in entropy, even if you are just exchanging energy.
3Manfred6yOne the one hand, this is a good point that points out a weakness in my argument - if states are continuous rather than discrete, one can increase or decrease entropy even with deterministic time-evolution by spreading out or squeezing probability mass. But I don't know how far outside the microcanonical this analogy you're making holds. Exchanging energy definitely works like exchanging particles when all you know is the total energy, but there's no entropy increase when both are in a single microstate, or when both have the same Boltzmann distribution (hm, or is there?). I'll think about it too.
0Epictetus6yThe lesson is that statistical methods are superfluous if you know everything with certainty. It's worth noting that classical mechanics is completely symmetric with respect to time (does not have a distinguished "arrow of time"), whereas thermodynamics has a definite arrow of time. You run into problems if you assume that everything behaves classically and try to apply thermodynamic notions. Landau and Lifshitz's Statistical Physics has some discussion of issues with entropy.
0passive_fist6yI understand what you're saying and I agree. Though it's worth mentioning that the 'arrow of time' in thermodynamics actually doesn't exist for closed, reversible systems.
0[anonymous]6yI'm pretty sure Manfred is right. You drop a block of ice of unknown configuration into a cup of tea of known configuration, then your uncertainty about the system will grow over time. Of course entropy != temperature. You coudl say that the tea has zero entropy, but not zero temperature. But what's the point of this thought exercise?
0passive_fist6yThe block of ice is not of unknown configuration. The block of ice in my example is at 0 K, which means it has zero entropy (all molecules rigidly locked in a regular periodic lattice) and thus its configuration is completely known.

The LessWrong logo seems to be broken at http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind.

(more generally, there's no clear place to post about technical issues)

Link - effects of partisanship on perceptions of bias. The bottom line is unsurprising given the institutional factors at work.

My last vaccination was when I was 8 in Germany. There was noone in my teenage years. I'm now 28. I'm male. To what extend is it worthwhile for me to go to a doctor now for vaccination?

5Nornagest6yThat depends what vaccines you got as a child. In the States, the HPV and MVC4 vaccines are normally given after age eight, along with tetanus booster shots every decade or so, but I have no idea how Europeans do it. It's something to ask a real doctor, but I do think it'd be worth asking -- assuming a similar schedule, there's a good chance you missed a couple of shots, and you're certainly due for a tetanus booster.
0alienist6yMy understanding is that the US schedule is much more aggressive than the European one.
3polymathwannabe6yHPV vaccination is important, especially as men are the carrier-transmitters.
2fubarobfusco6y"Worthwhile" implies cost-benefit analysis. What's the cost to you? In the U.S., if you have health insurance, vaccinations are typically covered. So the cost is pretty much an hour or so of your time and some minor discomfort.
2ChristianKl6yI live in Germany, so I do have health insurance.
2fubarobfusco6yAh, I misunderstood — you wrote "when I was 8 in Germany" so I took that to mean that you weren't in Germany any more, so I fell back to the prior probability. Anyway, go see a doctor. :)
2ChristianKl6yI wrote that to point out that I do have the kind of vaccinations that German people usually have at age 8.
-1Lumifer6yThis question makes no sense for vaccination "in general" -- each vaccination against a specific disease is its own separate decision driven, I guess, by how likely do you think you'll find yourself exposed to these specific pathogens.

Should we be concerned about the exposure to RF radiation? I always assumed that no, since it doesn't affect humans beyond heating, but then I found this:

http://www.emfhealthy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2012SummaryforthePublic.pdf

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354

The only mechanism they suggest for non-thermal effects is:

changes to protein conformations and binding properties, and an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that may lead to DNA damage (Challis, 2005 and La Vignera et al., 2012)

One ... (read more)

9Manfred6yYou shouldn't be worried. Because of the low low energy of radio waves, all chemical transitions they could cause in your body are already happening due to random thermal motion. If the amplitude is high enough, though, radio waves can still move ions around. So it's possible that standing next to an AM antenna would have some psychoactive effects, similar to transcranial magnetic or DC stimulation (though the existence of a similar effect for RF, that shows up before the heat input becomes dangerous, is far from certain). But these would be be chemical changes and have nothing to do with cancer. Also, you're totally right about radio waves warming things up.
0Lumifer6yThe question is too general. If you find yourself in front of a microwave antenna dish, yes, you should be very much concerned about RF radiation X-D and there's not much doubt about that. The cell-phones-cause-brain-cancer scare was successfully debunked, wasn't it?
2maxikov6yIf the effect of RF doesn't go beyond thermal, then you probably shouldn't be concerned about sitting next to an antenna dish any more than about sitting next to light bulb of the equal power. At the same time, even if the effect is purely thermal, it may be different from the light bulb since RF penetrates deeper in tissues, and the organism may or may not react differently to the heat that comes from inside rather than from outside. Or it may not matter - I don't know. And apparently, there is a noticeable body of research, in which I can poke some holes, but which at least adheres to basic standards of peer-reviewed journals, that suggests the existence of non-thermal effects, and links to various medical conditions. However, my background in medicine and biology is not enough to thoroughly evaluate this research, beyond noticing that there are some apparent problems with that, but it doesn't appear to be obviously false either.
1kpreid6yNitpick: A dish antenna is directional, a typical light bulb is not. For a fair comparison, specify a spotlight bulb.

If cars were just invented yesterday, knowing what you know about humans, would you think that it'd be sane to let people drive the way they currently do (speeds, traffic, conditions...)? I wouldn't.

4DanielLC6yI would people to drive cars unrestricted. If I find that people are using cars significantly more dangerously than they should, I'd require insurance. If there is public outcry regardless of insurance (perhaps due to people considering life to be a sacred value, and there being lives lost), I'd put a price floor on insurance.
3ZankerH6yProbably not the way it's done in the USA (from what I gather, drivers' licences are basically being handed out like candy), but the way it's handled in most European countries - requiring comprehensive education, practical exercise and independent examination on trafic laws, behaving in traffic and operating a car. The one thing we can learn from the US, though, is the absolute stigma against drunk driving, which is just not present to that extent. If cars were invented today, that's the one thing that'd probably change mechanically - a simple suite of sensors and a switch that shuts the engine down and engages the parking brake if the driver is drunk, fatigued or otherwise impaired.
3Lumifer6yI don't have appropriate statistics at hand, but from personal experience making driver's licenses really expensive and inconvenient to get does not result in better drivers.
2Douglas_Knight6yAnd yet, Americans have fewer accidents per mile than Europeans. This was true even 30 years ago, before the push against drunk driving. Added: Actually, according to this [http://internationaltransportforum.org/Pub/pdf/14IrtadReport.pdf] (p 22), most of Europe has, over the course of the 21st century, overtaken America. Much of that is catching up to the American approach to drunk driving, but there are other things going on, since (as the chart says) America was ahead in 1970, before it became concerned with drunk driving. Anyhow, I doubt that rigorous license standards are new.
4gjm6y(I haven't verified that that statistic is correct; I'm taking it on trust.) The US is much less densely populated than Europe. Are more of those miles that Americans drive on nice straight wide near-deserted roads? Europe and the US are both big varied places. I bet those accident rates are highly variable. What do you see if you break them down by population density, urban versus rural, rich versus poor, etc.?
1ChristianKl6yEuropeans are more likely to live in cities. City traffic produces more accidents per mile.
2emr6yWe should probably concern ourselves with fatality rates (serious disability rates probably tracks this). Because of differences in average speed, I expect the typical rural accident to be much more severe.
2RichardKennaway6yThat's been tried, but there's been no uptake. You could say, ok, have the government require it and that will solve the problem. We have seat belt laws, and breathalysers, why not mandatory automated breath testing before letting a car start? Well, here's [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_traffic_laws] something that various governments once tried, but it didn't last. You don't have to be any sort of libertarian to understand that making people do what they ought isn't a magic wand. In democracies, the people who are making the people do what the people ought are, in the end, the people themselves. In the other parts of the world, you don't get to say what the government should make people do.
0alienist6yIn the USA you also need to pass a test that includes both an exam on traffic laws and a road test. As far as, handing them out "like candy", true you generally don't hear of people who couldn't pass the test, but do Europeans regularly have problems passing the exam?
3Emily6yI'm in the UK. I know a handful of people who've taken 8 tries or more to pass the practical test. They're not the norm, but I'd say passing it on your first go is regarded as mildly surprising! I'd guess two attempts is possibly the mode? It's an expensive undertaking, too, so most people aren't just throwing themselves at the test well before they're ready in the hope of getting lucky.
2Emily6y(On the other hand, the theory test (a prerequisite for attempting the practical) is widely regarded as a bit of a joke. I don't know whether this is because I have a social circle that is good at passing written exams, though. Maybe it's more challenging for the less academically inclined?)
3MathiasZaman6yThe particulars of the exam will vary from country to country, but Belgium supposedly has one of the more lax ones and even here you routinely hear of people failing their driving exam. I actually looked it up because of your question and according to wikipedia [http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rijbewijs#Categorie_B:_enkele_cijfers]: * About 47% of the written (theoretical) exams are successes. It's hard to say how many people fail, since you can try several times (and fail all of them). * Around 56% of the road tests are successful. Again, people can take multiple tests per year if they fail (although this is limited somewhat in that you need to spend time and money after failing every second attempt).
2Lumifer6yIn many European countries getting the driver's license is very expensive -- we're talking hundreds and thousands of euros.
0is4junk6yIt would depend on how bad travel was without cars yesterday. Historically, it was horses which must have been really bad. I think if they knew back then about speeds, traffic, and conditions they still would have done it. Parts of China and India have proved it quite recently (last 50 years). Now if we had most people in high density housing, good transport (both public and private), and online ordering/delivery then maybe cars would be very restricted.

What's LessWrong's collective mind's opinion on efficient markets hypothesis? From Facebook feed I vaguely recall Eliezer being its supporter, it also appeared in some of the Sequences. On the other hand, there is a post published here called A guide to rational investing, which states that "the EMH is now the noble lie of the economics profession".

I have a well-read layman's understanding of both the hypothesis and various arguments for and agains it and would like to know what this community's opinion is.

False: There are no $20 bills lying on the ground because someone would have picked them up already.

True: If there are a lot of people scanning the ground with high-powered money detectors, you are not going to find enough $20 bills with your naked eye to make a living on.

5[anonymous]6yWhat is it, even? [http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/01/which-economic-theories-are-especially-widely-misunderstood.html]
3Ander6yI don't believe in the strong form of the efficient market hypothesis. (I agree with some weaker versions of it). If all humans made all investing decisions from a perfectly rational state, then the efficient market hypothesis would probably hold true, but in reality people sometimes become either overly confident or overly fearful, creating opportunities to exploit them by being more rational. That said, in order to beat the market you must be better than the average participant (which is a high bar), and you must be enough better that you overcome trading fees. This is similar to playing poker, you must be significantly better than the average of the other players at the table in order to beat both them and the rake. For the average person, the advice to simply buy index funds with a portion of every paycheck is the advice that will bring them the most utility, and one could be considered to be doing them a service by convincing them that the efficient market hypothesis was true, even if it isn't.
2[anonymous]6yMy family has been investing for as far back as anyone can remember, and consistently beating the market for as far back as anyone can remember. Hell, my mother compares herself to the indices -- which makes perfect sense: if you're not beating the S&P 500, you may as well just buy whatever is on that. She's not buying whatever is on that. We have methods that have been handed down for as far back as anyone can remember, supplemented by the books that back up our methods, some of which are about exploiting systemic holes in the way large funds work -- relative legibility, inability of large funds to invest in small companies, etc. So no. (Disclaimer: I haven't invested at all because I don't have the money to. Once I have a regular and sufficiently large income, I plan to stick it in an index fund until I've joined an investment club, spent several years studying the methods, etc., and only start picking stocks after that.)
2Salemicus6yAs Lumifer says, the truth value of the EMH depends on the exact formulation, and there are several variations even within the typical 'strong/semi-strong/weak' divisions. But let me put it this way - I don't take people who argue against the weak-form EMH seriously, unless they own a yacht.
1emr6yWhile we're here: How do real-world incentive structures interact with the EMH? In the same way that "No one was ever fired for buying IBM", is it true that "No one was ever fired for selling when everyone else was"? And would that mean someone without these external social incentives will have an edge on the market? For example, what about a rule like "put money into an index fund whenever the market went down for X consecutive days and everyone is sufficiently gloomy"?
0alienist6yThe so-called "weak efficient market hypothesis" is more-or-less correct. The "strong efficient market hypothesis" falls apart once you attempt to taboo "efficient". Another way to phrase this is that in some strict sense market "inefficiencies" exist, finding them is a hard problem. (The general case of this problem is NP-hard.)
0Lumifer6yIt's debated occasionally. I don't think there is a consensus on LW. It might be useful for you to distinguish various forms of EMH (e.g. strong, semi-strong, and weak). Many people hold different opinions about different forms.

What are some papers arguing that one shouldn't dedicate almost all efforts to decrease existential risk? I ask this because all the papers I've read have made extremely good arguments on why decreasing x-risk is important, but I've found none saying that it's not so important, and I want to be informed before spending so much time and effort decreasing x-risk.

1ChristianKl6yhttps://intelligence.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/01-16-2014-conversation-on-existential-risk.pdf [https://intelligence.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/01-16-2014-conversation-on-existential-risk.pdf] is a discussion between Eliezer, Holden and Luke where Holden argues for thinking about Global Catastrophic Risks instead of xrisks.

For a couple of days, I've been trying to explain to pinyaka why minds-in-general, and specifically, maximizers, are not necessarily reward maximizers. It's really forced me to flesh out my current understanding of AGI. I wrote the most detailed natural language explanation of why minds-in-general and maximizers are not necessarily reward maximizers that I could muster in my most recent reply, and just in case it still didn't click for pinyaka, I thought I'd prepare a pseudocode example since I had a sense that I could do it. Then I thought that instead of... (read more)

This columnist argues that more personal freedom is worth a few more sick people dying. In other words, preventing death from disease is not a terminal goal for him; it's sacrificeable for his actual terminal goal of less government intrusion. Setting aside the mindkill potential over Obamacare, I find his choice of terminal goals worrying.

preventing death from disease is not a terminal goal for him; it's sacrificeable

You're using a wrong framework which assumes that in every choice there must be only one terminal goal, if you sacrifice anything that sacrifice is not terminal.

A more useful framework would recognize that there is a network of terminal (and other) goals and that most decisions involve trade-offs. It's very common to give up a measure of satisfaction of some terminal goals in order to achieve satisfaction of other terminal goals.

In this specific case, trading off death from disease against government intrusion sounds like a normal balance to me -- your choice is a function of your values and how much death prevention you get/avoid in exchange for how much of government intrustion. In specific situations I can see myself leaning either this way or that way.

I find your worry over the trade-off between terminal goals worrying :-P

2is4junk6yAre you worried about his ethics or is he making a mistake in logic? The columnist says "This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time." Is that the part you disagree with?
-2polymathwannabe6yIt's his ethics I object to. If we accept his ethics, his argument makes perfect logical sense. But I cannot acept an ethical system where life-and-death is trade-off-able for anything that is not life-and-death.

If you drive, cross the road, eat desserts, etc., then you are (for yourself) trading off your own prospects of life and death against other things.

2ChristianKl6yBasically you call for terrorists to be tortured when it can prevent people from dying?
2[anonymous]6yJack Bauer utilitarianism has all sorts of proponents.
0polymathwannabe6yHow do you conclude that from my wording?
2ChristianKl6yI got the impression that you consider life-and-death to be the ultimate terminal value. In the West we forbid governments from torturing but not from killing. Our laws consider the value of not torturing to be higher than not killing. When we act in a way to accept deaths for preventing torture we are trading of values against each other.
0polymathwannabe6yI oppose torture too, even if death penalty is worse. In the West [https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d0/Capital_punishment.PNG/800px-Capital_punishment.PNG] , death penalty is actually disappearing. The only exception that still gives the West a bad name is the U.S., which by now should stand for "Usual Suspect."
2ChristianKl6yThen why wouldn't you accept that it's okay to trade of issues of life and death against other values such as having no torture?
2polymathwannabe6yI'm sorry for the time I've taken to respond to this one. You have asked a very difficult question. Please don't think I've been evading it; it's a question nobody should afford to evade. Prevention of torture is almost as important to me as prevention of death. I would not torture a suspect to obtain information that might save lives; I support a legal system that grants detainees and convicts full legal rights like everyone else has. I include neither torture nor death penalty in my definition of a civilized society. So I wouldn't trade pain for a life. Having been suicidal in the past, I now know not to trade life for pain, either.
0ChristianKl6yLet's say you are a cop with a gun. There a criminal who threatens to cut of someone's finger and then hand itself in. Should the cop be allowed to kill the criminal by shooting him? Our laws say, yes. It's a defensive act. Killing the criminal to prevent the finger from being cut of is right. With torture it's a different matter. If a criminal did hid a hostage somewhere, we don't allow the cop to torture the criminal to give up the location of the hostage. We value the good of not torturing higher than the good of not killing. If you look at the US constitution you will find a list of values. Those are all important. You won't find "don't kill" in that list, just "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".
0gjm6ySo, if I understand you correctly: * Death is so bad that you would never accept one extra death, whatever the compensating gains. * Torture is so bad that you would never accept one extra instance of torture, whatever the compensating gains. What do you do when you're in the unfortunate position of having to choose between deaths and tortures? E.g., some crazed criminal has set up an infernal machine that will either torture M people or kill N people, it's boobytrapped so that if you try to break it or otherwise stop it doing one of those it will torture M+N people and then kill them, but you do have the option to flip the switch from "torture" to "death" or vice versa. Your comment above suggests you wouldn't accept any extra torture even to save multiple lives; since you say that preventing torture is (only) almost as important to you as preventing death, I guess you also wouldn't accept any extra deaths even to prevent multiple tortures. But that leaves you in a situation where, e.g., you wouldn't switch from 1000 tortures to 1 death, nor from 1000 deaths to 1 torture. That's pretty counterintuitive, to say the least. Here's one striking consequence: suppose you have a room with two such machines (operating on completely disjoint sets of people). One is currently set to "1000 tortures" (other option: 1 death) and the other to "1000 deaths" (other option: 1 torture). It seems like you have to either (1) endorse leaving them set that way even though switching both switches takes you from 1000D+1000T to 1D+1T, or (2) endorse at least one of the individual switchings even though it trades off torture against death, or (3) say that it's wrong to switch either switch alone but right to switch both, even though the two switches affect completely different people. All of those seem to me like very painful bullets to bite. Oh, but in real life you would never have to make such an artificial choice between torture and death! Really? If permitting versus prohib
0polymathwannabe6yI'm sorry; that syntax is not clear to me.
2ChristianKl6ySorry sentence was messed up. I corrected it.

Almost half of all DNA present on the NYC subway’s surfaces matches no known organism. (source)

Heh :-D

[-][anonymous]6y 2

Anyone know how to start a mutual-aid society?

4Transfuturist6yWell, first you have to know how to start a society in the first place.
-1[anonymous]6yIt's a specific kind of nonprofit organization.
-4Transfuturist6y...Interesting.
0CellBioGuy6ySimilar to the fraternal organizations, like the Freemasons or Oddfellows?
0[anonymous]6yNot so much. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_society]
0ChristianKl6yThe wikipedia articles does include them in it's description:

How can you learn to calibrate long term predictions, when it takes so long to get feedback?

In college, I had a professor ask us to pick any subject, make-up any 'facts', and try to make a compelling argument. He then had us evaluate others peoples essays. Let's just say I wasn't impressed with some of my fellow classmate's arguments.

Sometimes you see this in the courtroom as a failure to state a claim

Would it be interesting to have an open thread where we try this out?

[pollid:814]

0fubarobfusco6yHow does this differ from the rationalization game?
3is4junk6yI am not sure. A quick search on LessWrong only lead me to Meet Up: Pittsburgh: Rationalization Game [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/da] What I am proposing would be more of an exercise in argument structure. Either the 'facts' are irrelevant to the given argument or there are more 'facts' needed to support the conclusion.
4fubarobfusco6yHuh ... I had thought that it had been posted here. Oops! Anyway, the rationalization game is an exercise for learning to notice what it feels like to rationalize your existing beliefs rather than looking for evidence. It pretty much amounts to taking an arbitrary proposition as your "bottom line" and trying to come up with "support" for it. The goal is to be aware of what sorts of arguments you use when you rationalize, so you can try to stop doing it.
[-][anonymous]6y 0

Can anyone please fill me in on what's the big damn deal with PUA on Lesswrong? It seems to be geared toward screwing women who are only as deep as their genitals get. Who the hell cares? Pretty sure every guy here would love a girl to have fun conversations with. Pretty sure

Most of the stuff I've seen against it is about scaring people or making LW a semi-cult or some other non-solution to a problem some guys REALLY want to solve here, without going to /r/socialskills and following an endless recursion of useless pathetic nonsense, as per my experience. M... (read more)

9Viliam_Bur6ySimilarly to political topics, label "PUA" refers to a diverse set of beliefs and techniques. In such situations, humans have an instinct to choose one of the following options: "accept all beliefs" or "reject all beliefs" (internally represented as "the label is good" or "the label is bad"). Therefore whenever we start debating the topic, it quickly becomes a debate about whether PUAs are good or bad. To prove that PUAs are good: select one belief that makes sense, preferably one that many people ignore. Then say "this is the real PUA". To prove that PUAs are bad: select one belief that seems harmful and is offensive to many people. Then say "this is the real PUA". We have already played a few rounds of this game, and it wasn't productive.
2ChristianKl6yI think there are two separate issues: (1) The label PUA and who uses it for what purpose. (2) Individual beliefs hold by the crowd that calls itself PUA. I have a handful facebook friends who I have meet face to face who make money in the male dating advise market. I have got to know them in different personal development contexts. Not one of them likes to be called a PUA and there are reasons for why that's the case. It often happens that guys who have little success with women read PUA material and then buy into the marketing promise. They want to believe and then argue for PUA. At that point it can make sense to point out that they have a false idea of what PUA happens to be. Look at Mystery, he's an archtypical PUA, who self labels that way. The guy can approach. He even can do it successfully. As far as I know he never lost approach anxiety. That's in itself no big deal, but the guy is depressed. His fate is not a state that the usual person who buys into the PUA marketing myth wants to achieve. Quite many guys, also don't have the consciousness required to even get those kinds of results. That's the label. When it comes to individual techniques and beliefs, you don't need to use the PUA label to discuss them. It's useful to discuss social skills and we do so from time to time.
2bogus6yI agree that the "PUA" label has some problems, but I'd still consider it very much worthwhile. Talking about "dating advice" just doesn't pinpoint much about what cluster of beliefs, techniques and attitudes you're referring to. Yes, some folks may have false expectations about PUA, but a broader and more confusing label is likely to score worse on this metric, not better. Also, Mystery is definitely not a typical case among PUAs. The book The Game describes his depression in detail, in a way that makes this quite clear. Overall, PUA 'gurus', people who are driven to expend a lot of effort on the training and techniques, are likely to be weirder than most. But it's not clear that this should put off average folks.
4ChristianKl6yTucker Max had feminists demonstrating against him for advocating misogyny. When he gives evolutionary psychology based male dating advice by teaming up with evolutionary psychology professor Geoffrey Miller, the impulse to cluster him as PUA comes easily. At the same time he rejects the label. He thinks that PUAs wrongly objectify women. He thinks that it's important to understand the female perspective as women articulate it themselves. There are good reasons why misogyny is associated with the label. It worthwhile to distance oneself from that. For ethical reasons, for reasons of building a genuine connection and for general emotional wellbeing. I don't think you get anywhere with that framework if you aren't driven to expend a lot of effort. Quite a few people spend time going to PUA lairs and reading PUA material but not getting any results because they don't really put in the effort. I don't know the mental state of everybody of Project Hollywood but Tyler was also depressed. Both of them were also depressed 5 years later.
2bogus6yAs Villiam_Bur said above, you can prove anything simply by selecting biased samples. Some PUAs definitely have unhelpful attitudes towards women, and PUA jargon clearly shows a legacy of bad attitudes from past "gurus". But AIUI, many PUA gurus nowadays understand that these are not just ethically problematic, but also have very real drawbacks for their more specific goals. At the same time, we have a new "red pill" label for folks who are even more misogynistic than PUAs used to be. Yes, but a PUA "guru" is still someone who is putting in a lot more effort than most. Many people only engage with PUA as far as they strictly need to. Once they've gotten a few dates and started a LTR, they just drop out of the scene. I'd argue that these should count as successes.
4ChristianKl6yThe point is that even some people who do have speaking slots at PUA events don't like to be called a PUA to disassociate from those values. If you read David Burns "The Feel Good handbook" he makes the point that showing vunerability is a condition to get someone to love you. A lot of behavior that a lot of beginning PUA's adopt go in the other direction and might make it less likely that the person get's into a long term relationship. If you listen to Tucker Max et al podcast you will find the advice to have a clean flat to signal consciousness when a woman comes over. For most people here, that's likely good advice. On the other hand most self labeled PUA will tell you that thinks like that don't matter. They have gotten women over when their flat was in an awful state and things still worked. Tucker Max et al did run a study on mechanical turk to see what kind of shoes woman prefer men to wear on dates. The result is that leather shoes are good but the price doesn't really matter. I could go with a PUA who tells you to peacock or that looks don't matter but if you are a nerd, then likely just wearing leather shoes is a good bet. Telling people to clean their flat and wear leather shoes doesn't help with selling bootcamps. Telling people to go cold approach in bars and clubs does. It's produces a lot of painful anxiety and makes guys think that it's important do spent large sums of money to learn to deal with it. If someone who gives seminars to teach social skills uses vocabulary that has effects that he doesn't want, that says something about that persons abilities. In my experience the people I know who are skilled with language don't do that.
2RichardKennaway6yWhat does "vulnerable" mean in this context? People use the word a lot, but nothing listed against it in the dictionary strikes me as a positive thing: susceptible of receiving wounds or physical injury, open to attack or injury of a non-physical nature, in need of special care because of age, disability, risk of abuse or neglect. The general Google hits on the word are even more unattractive.
4Good_Burning_Plastic6yI think he means it in Mark Manson's sense [http://markmanson.net/vulnerability] .
0RichardKennaway6yAh. I'll pass.
4Epictetus6yExactly what the dictionary says: open to attack or injury of a non-physical nature. It doesn't sound very good when put in those terms, granted, but the main idea is that showing vulnerability is a way of signalling trust. You give someone the power to harm you, but you trust them not to abuse it. One form is sharing secrets or personal details (if you read HPMOR, this point comes up).
2ChristianKl6yYou do need to be open to injury of a non-physical nature to empathize in a way with another person where you feel their pain. The act of caring about another person opens you up to feel bad when they get hurt. But the openness for negative emotions also means an openness for positive emotions. You feel good when the other person feels good. If you are vulnerable to a girl and she smiles to you in deep happiness that feels good. The ability to do that makes the girl feel agentship. She's not just an object but an agent. A lot of that is also unconscious. Emotional flow is part of most healthy relationships and a lot of people have barrier against that.
2bogus6yIt's a balancing act. Most people are a lot more likely to show too much vulnerability as opposed to too little, so the advice to appear less vulnerable would seem to be justified. Similarly, a lot of the things PUAs say "don't matter" actually do matter, but only as a last resort. It's silly to put a lot of extra effort into things like making your flat extra squeaky clean, when you can pick the low hanging fruit of improvements in your social image and attitude. And if PUA always involved spending "large sums of money" on bootcamps or proprietary material, you'd be quite right - it wouldn't be nearly as interesting as it is. But much basic advice is freely available online, although it may require some time and effort to find the best communities. (And that's one reason why I think one should be aware of the label, despite its problems: it's an easy way to find interesting material.)
2ChristianKl6yI don't think that's true. Openly and directly speaking about one's desires for example isn't an easy skill. Many guys are tense because they are afraid to fail or to be rejected and put up a lot of barriers towards genuine intimacy. It's also worth noting that you speak about "appearing vulnerable" while I speak about vulnerability. If a woman touches you, do you tense up or do you relax? If you tense up because you are afraid of intimacy, it's going to make connection harder. It's even worse if you engage in physical contact because you read on the internet that you should and then tense up because you are afraid of physical contact. There are many sources for improving social image and attitude. It's happens frequently that people who start with PUA start to behave in a way that burns existing social connections. I didn't say "extra squeaky clean" I just said clean. Don't strawman. A lot of woman openly state that they judge man by their shoes. Wearing leather shoes instead of sneakers isn't a high hanging fruit. Much of that basic advice is given in a way to maximize bootcamp attendence.
2bogus6yThat's a higher-level skill though. What makes this possible in the first place is having a secure and well-defined "frame", which is an intended result of pursuing what you call "lower vulnerability". Perhaps the term "vulnerability" is simply too ambiguous. You're right about this pitfall of physical contact; somewhat ironically, this is one thing that can be easily spotted and addressed by an actual PUA coach, while it's really hard to self-correct on one's own. You say that PUAs seek to "maximize bootcamp attendance" and this makes their free advice less than trustworthy, but that just doesn't reflect my experience. There's quite a bit of annoying commercialism, but overall development of the community largely occurs through free-ranging discussion. Sure, but how many of these sources are as clear and (loosely) empirically based? (One of the tenets of PUA is A/B field testing of every innovation: this is the actual underlying reason for their focus on the unforgiving bar- and club-environment. It's not about making it harder for newcomers and selling more bootcamps - that's just a convenient side effect.)
0Good_Burning_Plastic6yBut the former is what people whose flat is already clean are likely to hear when you say the latter -- which is why one should reverse all the advice that one hears [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/24/should-you-reverse-any-advice-you-hear/].
2ChristianKl6yThe main point is about sources of advice and not about advising the reader to adopt a specific behavior. Tucker Max does go into more detail on his podcast [http://thematinggrounds.com/how-to-be-attractive-to-women-pt-9-get-your-life-together-willpower-conscientiousness/] . Even if we go on advice level, the advice is to signal conscientiousness. Not cleaning your dishes for three days and having them pile up in the kitchen signals low conscientiousness. The difference between clean and "extra squeaky clean" doesn't signal additional conscientiousness but being neurotic. The great thing about seeing that you signal conscientiousness towards woman is that developing conscientiousness is useful in general in life. Impressing woman happens a quite good motivator. Following advice without understanding the reasons behind the advice is seldom optimal. It leads to cargo-culting. Especially for online advice it's foolish. In person I can ask a lot of question to understand what someone's issue happens to be and then give targeted advice. Giving advice is usually not the main goal when I write something on LW. It's intellectual exchange. Also dialectics.
4bogus6yThe kind of folks who are going to follow through with this sort of advice in the first place are likely to be more conscientious than average, not less. Given that, signaling conscientiousness is not necessarily good advice - such folks may be better off developing other skills, which are also valuable in other contexts. Saying that you should "impress women" strikes me as the kind of truism that's common in bad dating advice. There are many ways of being impressive, and knowing which are best for you in any given context is a useful skill to have.
2ChristianKl6yBeing better than average doesn't mean that it's useless to improve on it. Developing conscientiousness usually doesn't stand in the way of developing other skills. I didn't. Most heterosexual guys already spent energy on "impressing women", my recommendation is about challenging that energy productively. Adding two woman to a group of ten males, the behavior of that group changes. They suddenly optimize more for the image they are projecting.
0[anonymous]6ySeems like a likely way to describe it considering the people you described are trying to say that their opinion's right, rather than trying to reach a conclusion.
3ChristianKl6yPlenty of people here engage with the topic more deeply and it's not the headline matters. As far as those two go, if the goal is to overcome anxiety than the highly anxiety inducing activity of cold approaching woman in bars, likely isn't the most straightforward way to do so. You find that sentiment even from people like Tucker Max [http://thematinggrounds.com/]. If your target is anxiety you could go and take a message workshop. There are also plenty other options.
2[anonymous]6yIt was a way to include the middle, where we solve anxiety problems LW-style and not completely alienate certain populations, despite what I think is some sort of participation anxiety on their behalf. And I'd very like it if the people who "engage" it more "deeply" comment here. I have proper opinions regarding the matter and would like to have a discussion about it. Lastly, in regards to cold approach, a friend of mine told me I need to visit the Red Light District because I'm cool with the guys but a bit dry with the girls. That's even more extreme than the cold approach, but at the same time I think they both flow in the same river. I do wonder if there is some truth in those kind of things.
2ChristianKl6yThe second sentence looks like you don't have a formed opinion about the issue. I didn't criticize cold approaching for being extreme. That's a strawman. The fact that you make it suggest that you don't have a "proper opinion" on the issue. You didn't engage with the issue of cold approaching producing anxiety.
[-][anonymous]6y 0

For a couple of days, I've been trying to explain to pinyaka why not all maximizers are reward maximizers. It's really forced me to flesh out my current understanding of AGI. I wrote the most detailed natural language explanation of why not all maximizers are reward maximizers that I could muster in my most recent reply, and just in case it still didn't click for him, I thought I'd prepare a pseudocode example since I had a sense that I could do it. Then I thought that instead of just leaving it on my hard drive or at the bottom of a comment thread, it mig... (read more)

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[-][anonymous]6y 0

For a couple of days, I've been trying to explain to pinyaka why not all maximizers are reward maximizers. It's really forced me to flesh out my current understanding of AGI. I wrote the most detailed natural language explanation of why not all maximizers are reward maximizers that I could muster in my most recent reply, and just in case it still didn't click for him, I thought I'd prepare a pseudocode example since I had a sense that I could do it. Then I thought that instead of just leaving it on my hard drive or at the bottom of a comment thread, it mig... (read more)

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[+][anonymous]6y -16