[ Question ]

Should we write more about social life?

by AllAmericanBreakfast1 min read19th Aug 202012 comments



Social life is a thorny subject. Writings on that topic can be noxious, for a variety of reasons. Yet we live in a social world, and instrumental rationality ought to make us better at navigating it. Furthermore, if status competition is a war of all against all, and "all warfare is based on deception," as Sun Tzu says, then we should expect that this is one of the areas where rationality might be especially helpful. On this website, people post self-help advice through a rationalist lens all the time. Yet I rarely see rationalist self-help advice on topics such as how to have a thriving social life, get along with your parents, strike up a conversation with a stranger, build a blog audience, or field a disagreement without lying, submitting, or looking like a jerk.

I'd consider the following to be virtues of posts about social life:

  1. Striving for generality as much as (but no more than) is possible.
  2. Avoiding moral judgments and political resentments.
  3. Balancing a basically positive and constructive attitude with a healthy skepticism towards platitudes.

Do you agree that this forum might benefit from more posts on social life? What would you be most interested in writing or reading about? What do you tend to find most frustrating when reading people's takes on social life, here or elsewhere?

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I really like posts about social life. More so when it’s framed as “this is the weird shit that works for me” and less when it’s framed as “All must obey my Grand Abstract Theory.” Because we all have theories about social life, right, and there’s no particular reason to believe one anonymous person on the internet has it figured out more than another.

The line between politics and "social life" is a bit fuzzy. And there's a lot of variance in culture and relationships, causing agents to need different models of "social life" for different situations.

Both of these make it difficult to generalize in useful ways - either you're hiding the "real" topic you want to talk about, or you're saying things without specificity, or you're giving such contrived examples that there's no way to tell if the discussion is real or evpsych just-so stories.

My direct answer: No, I don't think this forum will benefit from more posts on social life. It _MAY_ benefit from some posts on specific aspects of social life for truth-seeking humans. I prefer to bias against the topic, and make exceptions when something is particularly clear or interesting.

I would strongly prefer a Lesswrong that is completely devoid of this.

Half the time it ends up in spiritual vaguery, of which there's already too much on Lesswrong. The other half ends up being toxic male-centric dating advice.

Good posts about social life are valuable but like bad political posts there's a higher cost to bad posts about social life as well in contrast to bad post about topics that aren't charged. 

How do you avoid it being just rational toothpaste?