[Inspired by a few of the science bits in HP:MOR, and far more so by the discussions between Draco and Harry about "social skills". Shared because I suspect it's an insight some people would benefit from.]
One of the more prominent theories on the evolution of human intelligence suggests that humans involved intelligence, not to deal with their environment, but rather to deal with each other. A small intellectual edge would foster competition, and it would result in the sort of recursive, escalating loop that's required to explain why we're so SUBSTANTIALLY smarter than every other species on the planet.
If you accept that premise, it's obvious that intelligence should, naturally, come with a desire to compete against other humans. It should be equally obvious from looking at human history that, indeed, we seem to do exactly that.
Posit, then, that, linked to intelligence, there's a trait for politics - using intelligence to compete against other humans, to try and establish dominance via cunning instead of brawn.
And, like everything that the Blind Idiot God Evolution has created, imagine that there are humans who LACK this trait for politics, but still have intelligence.
Think about the humans who, instead of looking inwards at humanity for competition, instead turn outwards to the vast uncaring universe of physics and chemistry. Other humans are an obtainable target - a little evolutionary push, and your tribe can outsmart any other tribe. The universe is not nearly so easily cowed, though. The universe is, often, undefeatable, or at least, we have not come close to mastering it. Six thousand years and people still die to storms and drought and famine. Six thousand years, and we have just touched on the moon, just begun to even SEE other planets that might contain life like ours.
I never understood other people before, because I'm missing that trait.
And I finally, finally, understand that this trait even exists, and what it must BE like, to have the trait.
We are genetic, chemical beings. I believe this with every ounce of myself. There isn't a soul that defies physics, there is not a consciousness that defies neurology. The world, even ourselves, can be measured. Anger comes from a part of this mixture, as does happiness and love. They are not lesser for this. They are not!
This is not an interlude. It is woven in to the meaning of what I realized. If you have this trait, then part of your values, as fundamental to yourself as eating and breathing and drinking, is the desire for status, to assert a certain form of dominance. Intelligence can almost be measured by status and cunning, and those who try to cheat and use crass physical violence are indeed generally condemned for it.
I don't have this trait. I don't value status in and of itself. It's useful, because it lets me do other things. It opens doors. So I invest in still having status, but status is not a goal; Status is to me, as a fork is to hunger - merely a means to an end.
So I have never, not once in my life, been able to comprehend the simple truth: 90% of the people I meet, quite possibly more, value status, as an intrinsic thing. Indeed, they are meant to use their intelligence as a tool to obtain this status. It is how we rose to where we are in the world.
I don't know what to make of this. It means everything I'd pieced together about people is utterly, utterly wrong, because it assumed that they all valued truth, and understanding - the pursuits of intelligence when you don't have the political trait.
I am, for a moment, deeply, deeply lost.
But, I notice, I am no longer confused.
"Truth" and "understanding" seem to work as applause lights in this sentence. "Status" is used to the opposite effect throughout the post.
I think you're premise is a little confused. It sounds like you previously viewed status-seeking as the emotional equivalent of immoral, but now you don't because you realize it has adaptational advantages. I find it strange that you feel evolutionary causation is adequate to justify something, but I guess I won't question that.
More to the point, I think you're misjudging status. Status isn't as simple Machiavellian plays for power. It's generally assumed that only sociopaths play for dominance in and of itself. The term "status" feels kinda dirty when you analyze human interaction from afar. There's always the subtext that if you play for it, you're a bad person. That's not the way it feels when you're actually talking to other people.
Seeking status can fee... (read more)
Are you certain of this? Don't get me wrong it seems possible. But that paragraph will be seen by many people as a grab for status in the LessWrong community.
Which statement in this context would one consider as evidence for not valuing status?
This statement is evidence for not valuing status. Curiously, given the way evidence works, this is entirely compatible with Konkvistador's claim and also with the interpretation he suggests many will have.
As an example consider p(has this trait) raising from 0.001 to 0.01. It would still be most likely that this was a status move but there has been an update in favor of "has this trait".
Terminal vs. Instrumental valuing something is a tricky distinction to make in humans! I have to shrug and say I don't know.
Not seeming to care about status on the other hand is quite easy to detect. The argument wouldn't have shown much optimization for making the author look high status. For example an opportunity to talk about positive traits the author has may be passed up.
Also note I wasn't claiming the paragraph was evidence, just that it would be seen as a status grab. It is after all status raising if taken as an accurate description of a person in our community.
I had genuinely not considered that it would ACTUALLY raise my status to make that claim. This was originally written for a more mainstream audience, where that claim would (I presume) be low status. A friend of mine even commented in a bit of shock that this wasn't an obvious fact of the world to me.
I find it amusing that my accidental status grab has been subverted by you, and turned in to a potential loss of status :)
4) I value status similarly to most people, but believe otherwise because this value is implemented by areas of my mind that are opaque to me
5) I value status similarly to most people, but have acquired the alief that truth and understanding are high status and this has crowded out most of the behaviors that would normally be associated with status-optimizing.
Try replacing the word "status" with the word "respect" in this post.
Yes, that's the point. Most humans do not care about status, they care about respect, admiration, love, etc. There are very few people on this earth whose goal is to lord it over other people.
You just scavenged an antelope carcass. You're slightly hungry, but nothing that can't be fixed by gathering a few berries. You have one of three options:
-Eat it all yourself.
-Give it to Mark, who's hungry and has three hungry kids
-Give it to Stacey, who's not in any particular need.
Option 1 - Everyone sort of dislikes you now. One of Mark's children dies of starvation. People do not share their resources with you anymore.
Option 2 - Mark is super grateful*4, and Stacey is mildly impressed by your generosity. Mark is willing to help you in the future. One of his children provides one of your children with a mate.
Option 3 - Mark really hates you now. Stacey is mildly grateful. Being smarter than you, she gives the carcass to mark, who is supergrateful*4 to her and willing to help her out in the future. One of his children provide one of her children with a mate.
That simple, obvious (to you, a human with a giant social brain) decision to give the antelope carcass to Mark creates a significant e... (read more)
How do you gain knowledge of other people's terminal values, or even your own?
I don't believe status is my terminal value. I don't think it's a value at all. I think it's a useful umbrella term for all the lower level optimization processes that the blind idiot god decided to throw in.
Do you not value praise or criticism? Do you not care if you're useful to others? Do you not care if you get to delegate instead of DIY? Do you not care if you get to choose your sexual partners? Etc...
I cautiously suggest some of these hint at the actual terminal values under the umbrella.
I wish I could say that I don't value status. But whom would I be kidding. It gives me warm fuzzies when people I value appreciate and respect me. My guess is that this trait is mostly innate, rather then acquired.
I think politics is a good word here, because status and politics are not quite the same.
It was apparent to me long ago that there was a social competition going on, much of which I had no interest in and found annoying, but I've seen that it has effects on me that I shouldn't ignore. It's a zero sum social war, but the bullets are real.
I'd rather spend time with people who competed for status by production of some good or excellence in truth, as opposed to disinformation and in group jockeying used to tear people down. How do I better arrange that?
No, people don't all value that. And the news gets worse - it appears to me that people who believe in epistemic truth lose to people who believe in social truth; that not surprisingly, people who believe in social truth have a social advantage.
Status perceptions are tricksy things
It seems to me that a lot of people read status moves into just about every action. The way that a lot of people define it is not to define it at all - everything becomes connected with status. If you behave in just about any way at all, it will be perceived as desired or undesired, and that gets added into the status evaluation. The way some people use it, it's like they're trying to create the ultimate hasty generalization.
Considering the all-encompassing nature of status perceptions, I don't see a way to invalid... (read more)
Can't a person value status and truth and understanding?
Speaking from a male perspective, I view status as an instrumental value for sex. You say in the comment below (above?) that a terminal value is so when you trade other values for it: do you see often men exchanging sex for status? I think status remains an instrumental value because underneath every calculation there's the question: "If I do this, I'll have access to more females". Also I'm not surprised that as a female you're not concerned with status (besides some very rare alpha females, aka queen bees, females don't). So:
a) I don't value s... (read more)
Phil Goetz had a nice post about how status makes FAI difficult:
H: Person x has no desire for status
E: Person x writes a post about how she's unlike most other people.
You already assigned P(H) as 0.1 (or quite possibly lower). Now you only need to estimate P(E|H) and P(E|~H), plug it all into Bayes rule, and you'll see why people are not really buying it. It doesn't mean you're wrong - it's just unlikely that you're right.
The word "status" needs some disambiguation here. A person's status is (A) the amount of power they have, (B) the level of accomplishment and skill they have, (C) other peoples' perceptions of A and B, (D) their own perception of A-C, and (E) the signals they give off based on D. People execute adaptations that optimize C, by controlling D and E, but it's not as straightforward as trying to maximize it; in a more primitive society, that would just get you killed.
Taking an acting class may do interesting things to the way you value status. Based on my limited experience, having everyone in the class play low and high status roles can create a highly compassionate, cooperative, and egalitarian environment.
Actually, what you may wonder is whether utility of increased status just has a complex shape for you.
For example, I can imagine some situation of having too little status, but in most cases I get what is enough personally for me before even trying.
Hm. I know that the biological term may not be quite right here (although the brain is biological, scaling this idea up may be problematic) but I have wondered if certain psychological traits are not epigenetic: that is, it isn't that you are some strange mutant if you express terminal value X strongly and someone else expresses it weakly. Rather, that our brain structures lead to a certain common set of shared values but that different environmental conditions lead to those values being expressed in a stronger or weaker sense.
So, for instance, if "st... (read more)
I think that status probably acts like a terminal goal in my decision making (status is an abstraction, I know). I've mostly gotten over feeling that is a bad thing. It's just another need I have to satisfy, and being aware of it as a distinct value really helps to optimize getting it and helps with not compromising other goals when I am pursuing it.
What would evidence for or against 'people in general view status as a terminal goal' look like?
When we hear of people seeking status, we recall the consequences of pursuit of status (loneliness, strife), rather than what status itself causes for the people who achieve it (freedom, sense of having done something important). Since the action of imagining that status could mean the latter is made impossible due to awareness of the former, the feeling of lostness arises, from a lack of a reference point to empathize with the feelings of others that believe these things.... (read more)
Well, why are you sharing this discovery? What makes you present yourself in positive light as thinking outwards, even though that distracts from the point you're trying to make? Yes, indeed, the status may be a terminal value for most people, and furthermore, what if most people are unaware of that?