Rational Romantic Relationships, Part 1: Relationship Styles and Attraction Basics

by lukeprog27 min read5th Nov 20111554 comments

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Relationships (Interpersonal)
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Part of the Sequence: The Science of Winning at Life. Co-authored with Minda Myers and Hugh Ristik. Also see: Polyhacking.

When things fell apart between me (Luke) and my first girlfriend, I decided that kind of relationship wasn't ideal for me.

I didn't like the jealous feelings that had arisen within me. I didn't like the desperate, codependent 'madness' that popular love songs celebrate. I had moral objections to the idea of owning somebody else's sexuality, and to the idea of somebody else owning mine. Some of my culture's scripts for what a man-woman relationship should look like didn't fit my own goals very well.

I needed to design romantic relationships that made sense (decision-theoretically) for me, rather than simply falling into whatever relationship model my culture happened to offer. (The ladies of Sex and the City weren't too good with decision theory, but they certainly invested time figuring out which relationship styles worked for them.) For a while, this new approach led me into a series of short-lived flings. After that, I chose 4 months of contented celibacy. After that, polyamory. After that...

Anyway, the results have been wonderful. Rationality and decision theory work for relationships, too!

We humans compartmentalize by default. Brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation, and aren't configured to do so. Cached thoughts and cached selves can remain even after one has applied the lessons of the core sequences to particular parts of one's life. That's why it helps to explicitly examine what happens when you apply rationality to new areas of your life  from disease to goodness to morality. Today, we apply rationality to relationships.

 

Relationships Styles

When Minda had her first relationship with a woman, she found that the cultural scripts for heterosexual relationships didn't work for a homosexual relationship style. For example, in heterosexual dating (in the USA) the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself.

In the queer community, Minda quickly found that if she passively waited for a woman to hit on her, she'd be waiting all night! When she met her first girlfriend, Minda had to ask for the date. Minda writes:

On dates, I didn't know if I should pay for the date or hold the door or what I was supposed to do! Each interaction required thought and negotiation that hadn't been necessary before. And this was really kind of neat. We had the opportunity to create a relationship that worked for us and represented us as unique and individual human beings. And when it came to sexual interactions, I found it easy to ask for and engage in exactly what I wanted. And I have since brought these practices into my relationships with men. 

But you don't need to have an 'alternative' relationship in order to decide you want to set aside some cultural scripts and design a relationship style that works for you. You can choose relationship styles that work for you now.

With regard to which type(s) of romantic partner(s) you want, there are many possibilities.

No partners:

  • Asexuality. Asexuals don't experience sexual attraction. They comprise perhaps 1% of the population,1 and include notables like Paul Erdos, Morrissey, and Janeane Garofalo. There is a network (AVEN) for asexuality awareness and acceptance.
  • Celibacy. Celibates feel sexual attraction, but abstain from sex. Some choose to abstain for medical, financial, psychological, or philosophical reasons. Others choose celibacy so they have more time to achieve other goals, as I (Luke) did for a time. Others are involuntarily celibate; perhaps they can't find or attract suitable mates. This problem can often be solved by learning and practicing social skills.

One partner:

  • Monogamy. Having one sexual partner at a time is a standard cultural script, and may be over-used due to the status quo bias. Long-term monogamy should not be done on the pretense that attraction and arousal for one's partner won't fade. It will.2 Still, there may be many people for whom monogamy is optimal. 

Many partners:

  • Singlehood. Singlehood can be a good way to get to know yourself and experience a variety of short-term partners. About 78% of college students have had at least one 'one-night stand', and most such encounters were preceded by alcohol or drug use.3 Indeed, many young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4
  • Friendship 'with benefits'. Friends are often people you already enjoy and respect, and thus may also make excellent sexual partners. According to one study, 60% of undergraduates have been a 'friend with benefits' for someone at one time.5
  • Polyamory.6 In a polyamorous relationship, partners are clear about their freedom to pursue multiple partners. Couples communicate their boundaries and make agreements about what is and isn't allowed. Polyamory often requires partners to de-program jealousy. In my experience, polyamory is much more common in the rationality community than in the general population.

Hugh points out that your limbic system may not agree (at least initially) with your cognitive choice of a relationship style. Some women say they want a long-term relationship but date 'bad boys' who are unlikely to become long-term mates. Someone may think they want polyamorous relationships but find it impossible to leave jealousy behind.7

 

The Science of Attraction

A key skillset required for having the relationships you want is that of building and maintaining attraction in potential mates.

Guys seeking girls may wonder: Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"? Girls seeking rationalist guys are at an advantage because the gender ratio lies in their favor, but they still might wonder: What can I do to attract the best mates? Those seeking same-sex partners may wonder how attraction can differ from heterosexual norms.

How do you build and maintain attraction in others? A lot can be learned by trying different things and seeing what works. This is often better than polling people, because people's verbal reports about what attracts them don't always match their actual behavior.8

To get you started, the virtues of scholarship and empiricism will serve you well. Social psychology has a wealth of knowledge to offer on successful relationships.9 For example, here are some things that, according to the latest research, will tend to make people more attracted to you:

  • Proximity and familiarity. Study after study shows that we tend to like those who live near us, partly due to availability,10 and partly because repeated exposure to almost anything increases liking.11 A Taiwanese man once demonstrated the power of proximity and repeated exposure when he wrote over 700 letters to his girlfriend, urging her to marry him. She married the mail carrier.12
  • Similarity. We tend to like people who are similar to us.13 We like people with faces similar to our own.14 We are even more likely to marry someone with a similar-sounding name.15 Similarity makes attraction endure longer.16 Also, similar people are more likely to react to events the same way, thus reducing the odds of conflict.17
  • Physical attractiveness. Both men and women prefer good-looking mates.18 Partly, this is because the halo effect: we automatically assume that more attractive people are also healthier, happier, more sensitive, more successful, and more socially skilled (but not necessarily more honest or compassionate).19 Some of these assumptions are correct: Attractive and well-dressed people are more likely to impress employers and succeed occupationally.20 But isn't beauty relative? Some standards of beauty vary from culture to culture, but many are universal.21 Men generally prefer women who exhibit signs of youth and fertility.22 Women generally prefer men who (1) display possession of abundant resources,23 (2) display high social status,24 (3) exhibit a 'manly' face (large jaw, thick eyebrows, visible beard stubble)25 and physique,26 and (4) are tall.27 Both genders generally prefer (1) agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion,28 (2) 'average' and symmetrical faces with features that are neither unusually small or large,29 (2) large smiles,30 (3) pupil dilation,31 and some other things (more on this later).
  • Liking others. Liking someone makes them more attracted to you.32
  • Arousing others. Whether aroused by fright, exercise, stand-up comedy, or erotica, we are more likely to be attracted to an attractive person when we are generally aroused than when we are not generally aroused.33 As David Myers writes, "Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder."34 This may explain why rollercoasters and horror movies are such a popular date night choice.

But this barely scratches the surface of attraction science. In a later post, we'll examine how attraction works in more detail, and draw up a science-supported game plan for building attraction in others.

 

Attractiveness: Mean and Variance

Remember that increasing your average attractiveness (by appealing to more people) may not be an optimal strategy.

Marketers know that it's often better to sacrifice broad appeal in order for a product to have very strong appeal to a niche market. The Appunto doesn't appeal to most men, but it appeals strongly enough to some men that they are willing to pay the outrageous $200 price for it.

Similarly, you may have the best success in dating if you appeal very strongly to some people, even if this makes you less appealing to most people  that is, if you adopt a niche marketing strategy in the dating world.35

As long as you can find those few people who find you very attractive, it won't matter (for dating) that most people aren't attracted to you. And because one can switch between niche appeal and broad appeal using fashion and behavior, you can simply use clothing and behavior with mainstream appeal during the day (to have general appeal in professional environments) and use alternative clothing and behavior when you're socializing (to have strong appeal to a small subset of people whom you've sought out).

To visualize this point, consider two attraction strategies. Both strategies employ phenomena that are (almost) universally attractive, but the blue strategy aims to maximize the frequency of somewhat positive responses while the red strategy aims to maximize the frequency of highly positive responses. The red strategy (e.g. using mainstream fashion) increases one's mean attractiveness, while the blue strategy (e.g. using alternative fashion) increases one's attractiveness variance. Hugh Ristik offers the following chart:

This goth guy and I (Luke) can illustrate this phenomenon. I aim for mainstream appeal; he wears goth clothing when socializing. My mainstream look turns off almost no one, and is attractive to most women, but doesn't get that many strong reactions right away unless I employ other high-variance strategies.36 In contrast, I would bet the goth guy's alternative look turns off many people and is less attractive to most women than my look is, but has a higher frequency of extremely positive reactions in women.

In one's professional life, it may be better to have broad appeal. But in dating, the goal is to find people who find you extremely attractive. The goth guy sacrifices his mean attractiveness to increase his attractiveness variance (and thus the frequency of very positive responses), and this works well for him in the dating scene.

High-variance strategies like this are a good way to filter for people who are strongly attracted to you, and thus avoid wasting your time with potential mates who only feel lukewarm toward you.

 

Up next

In future posts we'll develop an action plan for using the science of attraction to create successful romantic relationships. We'll also explain how rationality helps with relationship maintenance37 and relationship satisfaction.

 

Previous post: The Power of Reinforcement

 

 

Notes

1 Bogaert (2004).

2 About half of romantic relationships of all types end within a few years (Sprecher 1994; Kirkpatrick & Davis 1994; Hill et al 1976), and even relationships that last exhibit diminishing attraction and arousal (Aron et al. 2006; Kurdek 2005; Miller et al. 2007). Note that even if attraction and arousal fades, romantic love can exist in long-term closed monogamy and it is associated with relationship satisfaction (Acevedo & Aron, 2009).

3 Paul et al. (2000); Grello et al. (2006).

4 Bogle (2008).

5 Bisson & Levine (2009).

6 Two introductory books on the theory and practice of polyamory are: Easton & Hardy (2009) and Taormino (2008).

7 See work on 'conditional mating strategies' aka 'strategic pluralism' (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).

8 Sprecher & Felmlee (2008); Eastwick & Finkel (2008). Likewise, there is a difference between what people publicly report as being the cause of a breakup, what they actually think caused a breakup, and what actually caused a breakup (Powell & Fine, 2009). Also see Inferring Our Desires.

9 For overviews of this research, see: Bradbury & Karney (2010); Miller & Perlman (2008); Vangelisti & Perlman (2006); Sprecher et al. (2008); Weiten et al. (2011), chs. 8-12. For a history of personal relationships research, see Perlman & Duck (2006).

10 Goodfriend (2009).

11 This is called the mere exposure effect. See Le (2009); Moreland & Zajonc (1982); Nuttin (1987); Zajonc (1968, 2001); Moreland & Beach (1992). The limits of this effect are explored in Bornstein (1989, 1999); Swap (1977).

12 Steinberg (1993).

13 Zajonc (1998); Devine (1995); Rosenbaum (1986); Surra et al. (2006); Morry (2007, 2009); Peplau & Fingerhut (2007); Ledbetter et al. (2007); Montoya et al. (2008); Simpson & Harris (1994).

14 DeBruine (2002, 2004); Bailenson et al. (2005).

15 Jones et al. (2004).

16 Byrne (1971); Ireland et al. (2011).

17 Gonzaga (2009). For an overview of the research on self-disclosure, see Greene et al. (2006).

18 Langlois et al. (2000); Walster et al. (1966); Feingold (1990); Woll (1986); Belot & Francesconi (2006); Finkel & Eastwick (2008); Neff (2009); Peretti & Abplanalp (2004); Buss et al. (2001); Fehr (2009); Lee et al. (2008); Reis et al. (1980). This is also true for homosexuals: Peplau & Spalding (2000). Even infants prefer attractive faces: Langlois et al. (1987); Langlois et al. (1990); Slater et al. (1998). Note that women report that the physical attractiveness is less important to their mate preferences than it actually is: Sprecher (1989).

19 Eagly et al. (1991); Feingold (1992a); Hatfield & Sprecher (1986); Smith et al. (1999); Dion et al. (1972).

20 Cash & Janda (1984); Langlois et al. (2000); Solomon (1987).

21 Cunningham et al. (1995); Cross & Cross (1971); Jackson (1992); Jones (1996); Thakerar & Iwawaki (1979).

22 Men certainly prefer youth (Buss 1989a; Kenrick & Keefe 1992; Kenrick et al. 1996; Ben Hamida et al. 1998). Signs of fertility that men prefer include clear and smooth skin (Sugiyama 2005; Singh & Bronstad 1997; Fink & Neave 2005; Fink et al. 2008; Ford & Beach 1951; Symons 1995), facial femininity (Cunningham 2009; Gangestad & Scheyd 2005; Schaefer et al. 2006; Rhodes 2006), long legs (Fielding et al. 2008; Sorokowski & Pawlowski 2008; Bertamini & Bennett 2009; Swami et al. 2006), and a low waist-to-hip ratio (Singh 1993, 2000; Singh & Young 1995; Jasienska et al. 2004; Singh & Randall 2007; Connolly et al 2000; Furnham et al 1997; Franzoi & Herzog 1987; Grabe & Samson 2010). Even men blind from birth prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio (Karremans et al. 2010).

23 Buss et al. (1990); Buss & Schmitt (1993); Khallad (2005); Gottschall et al. (2003); Gottschall et al. (2004); Kenrick et al. (1990); Gustavsson & Johnsson (2008); Wiederman (1993); Badahdah & Tiemann (2005); Marlowe (2004); Fisman et al. (2006); Asendorpf et al. (2010); Bokek-Cohen et al. (2007); Pettay et al. (2007); Goode (1996).

24 Feingold (1990, 1992b).

25 Cunningham (2009); Cunningham et al. (1990).

26 Singh (1995); Martins et al. (2007).

27 Lynn & Shurgot (1984); Ellis (1992); Gregor (1985); Kurzban & Weeden (2005); Swami & Furnham (2008). In contrast, men prefer women who are about 4.5 inches shorter than themselves: Gillis & Avis (1980).

28 Figueredo et al. (2006).

29 Langlois & Roggman (1990); Rhodes et al. (1999); Singh (1995); Thornhill & Gangestad (1994, 1999). We may have evolved to be attracted to symmetrical faces because they predict physical and mental health (Thornhill & Moller, 1997).

30 Cunningham (2009).

31 Cunningham (2009).

32 This is called reciprocal liking. See Curtis & Miller (1986); Aron et al (2006); Berscheid & Walster (1978); Smith & Caprariello (2009); Backman & Secord (1959).

33 Carducci et al. (1978); Dermer & Pszczynski (1978); White & Knight (1984); Dutton & Aron (1974).

34 Myers (2010), p. 710.

35 One example of a high-variance strategy for heterosexual men in the dating context is a bold opening line like "You look familiar. Have we had sex?" Most women will be turned off by such a line, but those who react positively are (by selection and/or by the confidence of the opening line) usually very attracted. 

36 In business, this is often said as "not everyone is your customer": 1, 2, 3.

37 For discussions of relationship maintenance in general, see: Ballard-Reisch & Wiegel (1999); Dinda & Baxter (1987); Haas & Stafford (1998).

 

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How on Earth do you come up with this stuff?

First you misrepresent the statements of this woman, whose name I don't even want to mention in such an ugly context in a public discussion. Rather than claiming that the problematic beliefs are a matter of consensus, she expressed a mere lack of certainty that the opposite is the case, and this takes only a few seconds to check by googling. Making incorrect attributions to people in public on such a sensitive topic and under their real names is, at best, callously irresponsible.

Then you go on and say that I have "said the same things openly," thus dragging me into this controversy, about which I have said nothing at all in this thread -- and about which I have never written anything here, to the best of my recollection, that would make this characterization correct under any reasonable interpretation. That this nonsense has been upvoted has lowered my opinion of LW more than probably anything else I ever saw here before.

And then people wonder why I may be reluctant to speak openly on controversial matters.

Asexuals don't experience sexual or romantic attraction.

What?! Most asexuals experience romantic attraction. Some asexuals are aromantic, but that's not the same thing.

Oops fixed thanks.

I should just have my own shortcut for that. OFT or something. :)

[-][anonymous]10y 27

I think the causation may be going the other way: it's that men who are willing to rape are more likely to enjoy rape jokes, not that men who read rape jokes thereby become more willing to rape.

Another theory I've heard (although not one relevant to this particular study, except maybe in an ecological sense) is that rape jokes signal to predators that non-predatory men aren't going to socially punish them.

5Emile10yVery plausible, similar things could be said of racist jokes. I can't think of a negative interpretation of blonde jokes though.

Do you mean negative interpretations in general, or that particular sort of negative interpretation?

I would think ill of someone who told blonde jokes, especially if they told a bunch of them. To my mind, anyone who gives a lot of time to blonde jokes is probably making themselves less able to see intelligence in blonde women. I haven't tested this belief, I'm just going on plausibility.

Why do girls say they want "nice guys" but date only "jerks"?

I find that claim bewildering because the partnered men I know aren't jerks. It could be that I'm filtering for non-jerkness, but my tentative alternate theory is that the maybe the most conspicuously attractive women prefer jerks, and the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women. Or possibly a preference for jerks really is common in "girls"-- not children, but women below some level of maturity (age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?), and some men are imprinted on what they saw in high school.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean? What proportion of women are you talking about? Is there academic research to back this up? What have you seen in your social circle?

This is a terrible debate and you should all feel bad for having it. Now let me join in.

The research on this topic is split into "completely useless" and "mostly useless". In the former category we have studies that, with a straight face, purport to show that women like nice guys by asking women to self-report on their preferences. To illuminate just how silly this is, consider the mirror case of asking men "So, do you like witty charming girls with good personalities, or supermodels with big breasts?" When this was actually done, men rated "physical attractiveness" only their 22nd most important criterion for a mate - number one was "sincerity", and number nineteen was "good manners". And yet there are no websites where you can spend $9.95 per month to stream videos of well-mannered girls asking men to please pass the salad fork, and there are no spinster apartments full of broken-hearted supermodels who just didn't have enough sincerity. So self-reports are right out.

Other-reports may be slightly less silly. Herold and Milhausen, 1999, found that 56% of university women believed that women in general were more likely to ... (read more)

After talking to a couple of people about this, I should qualify/partially-retract the original comment.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

I would find this person annoying, and although I hope I would be kind enough not to lash out against her in quite the terms I mentioned above, I would understand the motivations of someone who did, instead of having to classify him as having some sort of weird Martian brain design that makes him a moral monster.

The obesity metaphor is especially relevant. Since there are people out there who think becoming skinny is as easy as "just eat less food", I can imagine people who think becoming socially assertive really is as easy as "just talk to people and be more confident".

For people who honestly believe those things, and there seem to be a lot of them, the obese woman and the socially awkward man would reduce to the case of the woman who never showered but constantly complained about how superficial men were to reject her over her smell - annoying and without any redeeming value.

Some people have suggested to me that the best metaphor a man can use to understand how women think about "nice guys" isn't an ugly duckling woman who gets turned down by the men she likes, but a grossly obese woman who never showers or shaves her legs, and who goes around complaining loudly to everyone she knows that men are all vapid pigs who are only interested in looks.

That would seem to apply better if at least some (but not all) of the significant elements of gross obesity and bad hygiene were rewarded with approval and reinforced with verbal exhortations for a significant proportion of the woman's lives. So basically the metaphor is a crock. Mind you the insult would quite possibly do the recipient good to hear anyway unless they happen to be the kind of person who will reject advice that is clearly wrong without first reconstructing what the advice should have been, minus the part that is obviously nonsense.

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

People are really bad at measuring their own levels of altruism, which is hardly surprising. Those in this cluster of peoplespace are worse than average at reading social cues and others' assessments of them, and are apt to interpret "nice" and its congnates as "particularly kind and proscial," instead of what it usually means, which is "boring, but not actively offensive enough to merit an explicitly negative description." (Consider what it usually means when you describe your mother's watercolors or the like as "nice," sans any emphatic phrasing.) Likewise, we halo bad predicates onto those whom we resent - "jerk" is the male equivalent of "slut," in this sense.

What's creepy about this group is precisely the entitled attitude on display - that they deserve to enjoy sexual relations with those on whom they crush merely for being around them and not actively offending, or indeed in some cases for doing what in other contexts wou... (read more)

This is taking the unfortunate/entitled/nice/beta/shibboleth-of-your-choice males' complaint too far at face value - i.e., that they are sexually unsuccessful on account of being kind and prosocial.

I used to believe this, but after doing some research, and further experience, I changed my mind.

First, the available research doesn't show a disadvantage of altruism, agreeableness, and prosocial tendencies for men.

I used to experience agreeableness and altruism as disadvantages. Now I experience agreeableness as sometimes a big advantage, and sometimes a moderate disadvantage. Altruism is neutral, as long as I can suppress it to normal population levels (I have excessive altruistic tendencies).

Hypotheses that reconcile this data and anecdata:

  • Prosocial tendencies are orthogonal to attractiveness
  • Prosocial tendencies have a non-linear relationships to attractiveness (e.g. it's good to be average, or maybe even a bit above average, but any higher or lower is a disadvantage
  • The relationship between prosocial tendencies and attractiveness is moderated by another variable. For instance, perhaps prosocial tendencies are an advantage for extraverted men, but a disadvantage for introverts
... (read more)
4John_D8yI suspect that while dark triad traits are desirable to women, they aren't the only desirable traits. As you said, research shows that agreeableness and altruism also tend to be attractive, and conscientious and agreeable men tend to be better dancers, and thus more attractive. (quick google search) I suspect that there are multiple types of attractive men, or you can still possess all these traits. Then again, it is important to know how the dark triad is measured to begin with. I am not sure if this is the actual test, but it looks legitimate. While saying disagree to all or most of the questions that measured lying and callousness, I still managed to score high on Machiavellianism and above average in Narcissism. (low on psychopathy) This also calls into question how "dark" some of these traits are, since outside of psychopathy, the other questions were related to self-esteem and a desire for influence, which isn't inherently evil, and can still coincide with agreeable and prosocial personalities. http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-dark-triad-test-1 [http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-dark-triad-test-1]
2lessdazed10yI said [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/56ve] , which was given some implicit endorsement (I think):
2wedrifid10yIt is doing no such thing. Make no mistake - I don't conflate altruism with approval seeking niceness and I recommend "quit being a pussy" as a far more practical bite of self talk for people in the category you describe to use than the "women only like jerks" message; I'm clearly not rejecting the analogy because I'm supporting a sob story. No, what I am doing is rejecting one soldier [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Arguments_as_soldiers] that happens to be on the opposite extreme to the one above. Because it is a false analogy. I don't give any approval for this either, but I don't do it out of judgement or blame [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_phenomenon]. I don't [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/57g8] give approval or sympathy because that would be counterproductive to their own goals.

For what it's worth, my reflex before reading a bunch of stuff here was closer to hearing "socially awkward man who can't manage to attract women" was closer to thinking of various annoying men who have hung around me, who I find unattractive (sometimes at the skin-crawling level [1]), but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

After reading these discussions, I conclude that my preconception was a case of availability bias (possibly amplified by a desire to not know how painful things are), and so I use a more abstract category.

[1] To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid. If I were, I'd be handling things differently. It also turned out to my surprise, that at least some men have never had the experience of that sort of revulsion. It seems to me that it's not quite the same as not wanting to be around someone who just about everyone would think was overtly ugly, though women frequently agree (independently, I think) about some men being uncomfortable to be around.

It wouldn't surprise me if there are specific elements of body language or facial expression which cause that sort of revulsion, but I don't know what they are.

To repeat something from a previous discussion, this isn't about being physically afraid.

My understanding is that it is an instinct intended to protect you from threats to your reproductive success, not threats to your survival. ie. I expect it to tend to encourage behaviors that will prevent pregnancy to losers more so than behaviors that prevent losers from killing you.

5NancyLebovitz10yI don't think people are highly optimized. Evolution aims for good enough, rather than best hypothetically possible, and when I say hypothetically possible, I mean hypotheses generated by people from a time when no one knows the limits of what's evolutionarily possible. I've had the skin crawl effect from men of varying status, though I admit the average status is on the low side.

I don't think people are highly optimized.

Having a 'repulsion/creepiness' response to supplement an 'attraction' response seems like something to expect as an early, basic optimization. Something that would begin to be optimized before even bothering with things like human level intelligence.

7NancyLebovitz10yHas anything like the repulsion response been seen in animals? Something I don't think I've seen discussed is that the men who set off the repulsion response seem to be pretty rare. I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically. If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

If PUA helps, it might not distinguish between men who have been ignored and men who have been actively avoided.

From what I understand of the philosophy a personal development program based on PUA would be expected and intended to reduce the amount that the guy is placed in the 'ignored' category while actually increasing the 'actively avoided' category. Because being ignored is useless (and 'no fun') while being actively avoided actually just saves time. Bell curves and blue and red charts apply.

There tends to be some lessons on how to reduce 'creepiness' in general because obviously being creepy in general is going to be a hindrance to the intended goals.

I haven't heard of the response being studied scientifically.

My brief searching for 'creepiness research' didn't turn up much either. But to be honest I don't really know where to look. :)

2cousin_it10yThanks a lot! Your comment made something click for me.

but who never cross a line to the point where I feel justified in telling them to go away. This can go on for years. It is no fun.

The obvious conclusion from these premises: If you had the belief that "This could go on for years and is no fun" is a valid justification for telling someone to go away then your life would contain less 'no fun'.

7wedrifid10yAnd it is that easy. Just like becoming an engineer is as easy as "getting a degree and being better at math".
5Eugine_Nier10yThere's a community of men how are in fact to find effective ways to be socially assertive in a way that's attractive to women, it's called PUA.
4[anonymous]10yBecoming skinny is [http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/] as easy as "just eat less food" -- as someone once pointed out, were there many plump fellows among the Auschwitz inmates liberated by the Allies? The problem is that for some people just eating less food is itself not terribly easy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/a6/the_unfinished_mystery_of_the_shangrila_diet/6pg].
2pwno10yRight, but more specifically, the annoying parts are their denial of the problem and reluctance to improve. We'd all be a lot more sympathetic otherwise.
8FiftyTwo10yI suspect a large number of upvotes were purely for this line. I approve.

Unfortunately I can't provide sources at the moment (Luke probably can), but I have seen research both sociological and anthropological showing that women and female higher primates in general have a tendency to try to mate with multiple dominate highly masculine males, sometimes secretly, while they tend to have long term pairings with less dominate, less masculine males. The theory is that the genes of the more masculine men lead to more fecund offspring, while the parenting of the less masculine men leads to higher offspring survival. In society this works out to women dating more masculine men (and testosterone is of course linked to the aggressiveness and risk taking we associate with "bad boys") prior to marriage, and then marrying less masculine men (nice guys). And if they cheat, they tend to cheat with "bad boys" and have their "nice guys" raise those kids.

EDIT: For pure anecdote, I am a nice guy (I think) who always complained about the "bad boy" thing, and now I am raising a step-daughter from my wife's youthful short term relationship with a guy everyone would still call a "bad boy." My wife is winning at natural selection! As is that jerk :(

[-][anonymous]10y 18

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection (no offence intended to any LWer with many children or your wife).

If it makes you feel better all sorts of unpleasant people are currently winning at natural selection

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

I have a hard time understanding how this would make anyone feel better.

Suffering is often ameliorated somewhat by knowing you are not alone in your situation.

3Strange79yIt can also be made worse by knowing that the suffering is a direct and inevitable result of forces they cannot plausibly alter.
7DoubleReed10yThat reminds me of that game that girls sometimes play "Given three choices of guys, which would you sleep with, date, or marry?"
8Insert_Idionym_Here10yGuys play it too.
3pedanterrific10yThe criteria are a little different, though.
3FiftyTwo10yI've played it in mixed groups, its generally about perceived personality features rather than subjective attractiveness.
9pedanterrific10yI wouldn't expect this to be a recipe for honesty.
3JoshuaZ10yI would expect this sort of game to have difficult honesty issues even when it is a single gender. For example, if some individual has a fetish that is in some way connected to one of the individuals (say for example a celebrity that frequently wears some sort of clothing, or only one of the three falls into a racial group they have a fetish for) how likely is it that someone is going to be honest about that motivation. That said, I agree that mixed groups will likely have more severe honesty issues.
2FiftyTwo10yI've never treated the game as a data collection exercise. IT is more suited to social bonding and conversation stimulation. For more statistically useful data okcupid has done studies, as have hotornot and its various imitators.
2Blueberry10yWhy would you do that? Have you thought about killing the step-daughter or something of that nature? (People, please don't reflexively downvote that suggestion.)
4wedrifid10yWait... you mean it as a suggestion, not a query?
2Blueberry10yThat made me laugh hysterically for no good reason. Oh, LW and wedrifid, how I missed ye. No, I'm not literally suggesting murder. But it's what most animals would do.
1[anonymous]10yReading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5f/bayesians_vs_barbarians/]. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior. (I also thought about what would happen if nice guys switched to a jerk strategy until they were ready to settle down and then switched back, since that mixed strategy appeared to dominate either pure strategy, but then I realized that that would reduce the number of childless women for guys to marry, thus leading to a tragedy of the commons.)

Reading this anecdote made me wonder if it would be possible for a group of rational "nice guys" to cooperate with each other, refusing relationships with and shunning women who had previously been involved with and fathered children by "bad boys" even though each one of them would have to sacrifice the benefit they would individually get from entering into such a relationship. The idea being to make having a later father care for a baby sired by a jerk not a viable strategy for women, thus incentivizing them away from that behavior.

Roughly speaking you seem to be describing the norm for a lot of historical civilisations that I'm familiar with. The consequences for siring bastard children by bad boys is far lower now than it often has been.

the men who resent the pattern aren't noticing most women

Seems most plausible to me.

I have had several friends who went to bars to meet women, and then were disappointed that the only women they met were the ones who enjoyed going to bars.

People think/do strange things.

For those of you who believe that women prefer jerks, what sort of behavior do you actually mean?

An accurate analysis of this issue would require unpacking the cluster of traits implied by the word "jerk," and then dividing them into several categories:

  • Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

  • Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

  • Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

This is further complicated by the fact that behaviors and attitudes seemingly identical to a side-observer (especially a male one) can in fact be perceived radically differently depending on subtle details, or even just on the context. This makes it easy to answer accurate observations with jeering and purported reductio ad absurdum in a rhetorically effective way.

What proportion of women are you talking about?

This question further complicates th... (read more)

and then dividing them into several categories:

Traits that are indeed actively attractive to women, or some subset thereof.

Traits that are neutral per se, but have a positive correlation with others that are attractive, or negative correlation with others that are unattractive.

Traits that are unattractive, but easily overshadowed by other less obvious (or less mentionable) traits, which produces striking but misleading examples where it looks like the "jerk" traits are in fact the attractive ones.

Here's a couple more:

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people in their mating interaction during one-on-one interaction with a potential partner (e.g. initiation or receptiveness).

  • Traits that are neutral or unattractive, but help people compete with others of their same gender

In sexual selection, there is a difference between intersexual choice, and intrasexual competition. "Women go for jerks" or "nice guys finish last" might not be a primarily a claim about the traits that women are attracted to; rather, it could be a claim about the traits necessary to initiate with women and compete with other men. All this stuff partially overlap... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 13

IOW the reason jerks are more successful might be that they cockblock other guys. It makes perfect sense to me and, in retrospect, I'm surprised that it took so long for someone to hypothesise this.

I wish you'd just spit out whatever unPC stuff you thinks going on, even if it was rot13'd or only PM'd to people who volunteered to read it out of curiosity.

A few bullet-points on what I see as the likely contributing factors to the "women prefer jerks" meme:

  • Romantic relationships often expose you to the worst of what people are capable of, and often end in unpleasant circumstances. If you ask someone about their most recent ex, they'll probably have more nasty stories than nice ones to tell about them.

  • If the competition for the object of my affections is charming and confident, I'm going to say he's manipulative and arrogant.

  • Making poor decisions about people you're attracted to, and systematically overlooking your partner's negative qualities, are well-established behaviour patterns in both sexes.

  • Romantic underdogs feel like they bend over backwards to be noticed by women, whereas romantically successful men seem by comparison to put in relatively little work to achieve the same goal. This perceived effort is conflated with caring or worthiness.

It strikes me that the nice-guy/jerk idiom has an analogue in the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. I was going to comment on how I'd never seen mention of this in any of the numerous feminist treatments of "nice guy syndrome" I've seen, but a cursory Google suggests it's not a new idea.

(age 25? 30? whatever it takes to get tired of being mistreated?),

Whatever age it takes to get past peak attractiveness and fertility.

2[anonymous]10ySeems [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/the-wall/] relevant [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/category/hitting-the-wall/].

I remember as an high school kid PUA seemed sensible. (I had a nerdy straight male friend into it, and no personal interest since if I wanted to get laid I could use boobies.) I mostly took home "People, especially women, dig confidence, and will chase rather than be chased. 'Bitches ain't shit' is therefore a desirable mindset.".

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious. Not because I'm supposed to want sex with hot women and nothing else, but because their idea of "hot women" isn't hot at all. Why would I ever want that?

I get that liking androgyny and brains and being neutral to fat and small breasts are rather idiosyncratic traits. But what kind of guy wants a girl just old enough to legally consent who never swears, dresses sexy and fashionable without actually caring about it, same for sports, and has the exact three kinds of sex they show in cookie-cutter porn? That's not a person. That's what you get if you ask RealDoll's research department for a toy that reconciles your horror of sluts with your hatred of prudes.

...also, the hot photo is supposed to be the one on the left, right?

And then just today I looked into it again, starting with the Dating market value test for women. I had trouble believing it was serious.

That's because it's a "blue line" test. At the beginning, it explicitly points out it's orienting on averages, and defining market value in terms of breadth of appeal. It doesn't mean lots of people will like a high scorer, it means lots of people won't rule out the high scorer.

In other words, the person who scores perfectly on this test will probably not be hideously offensive to anyone -- which means they don't get ruled out early in the selection process. But a low score just means they're more likely to need a "red line" strategy, aiming at strong appeal to a narrower audience, at the cost of turning more people off. (i.e., emphasizing one's supposed "defects" would attract people who like those qualities, while turning away more of those who don't)

(Ugh. I can't believe I'm defending that misogynist a*hole, but I don't see anything wrong with the test itself, just the conclusions/connotations being drawn from it.)

2Barry_Cotter10yAn exaggeration of a real , very common type. The better the description fits the less common the type. Practically no one who reads this site would fall in that category (I think/hope) if only because boring people are boring.
2[anonymous]10yYes.

I will respect properly written articles on almost any subject. Not these.

One thing I demand from authors claiming to be supported by "science" is that they won't make me stop thinking in mid read. The articles behind these links do not respect the reader's opinion. Instead of making you think, they seek to shock, trump and convince. I've seen this style and these patterns before in articles about climate denial, xenophobia and religious fundamentalists. (Seriously, a lifestyle article is not a valid citation.)

I'm not saying the author has not done his fair share of reading. I'm saying he should stop waving the "this is science"-sign with one hand and be clubbing down his readers with the other.

8taryneast10yWhile it's definitely interesting to point out the correlation between egg-bank and attractiveness, I have to say that my god but that site is chauvanistic! Apparently, after "hitting the wall" a woman is "sexually worthless" o_O I do not agree.
5taryneast10yHmmm - my comment has been quite severely downvoted. Quite interesting. I'd like to know why. perhaps I should point out the obvious mind projection fallacy inherent in the "sexually worthless" comment, instead of leaving it as an exercise to the reader... ? After all, he didn't say "Due to my own personal predilections, i find that a woman over the age of 40 is no longer at all sexually attractive for me", but instead made his value judgment and considers it to be some kind of inherent value of the woman (ie value == 0) completely oblivious to the fact that other men (and possibly women) may have a different value-judgment of that woman. I disagree with his assessment because her worth is not 0... just his own personal map-value for that woman.
[-][anonymous]10y 12

I don't take Roissy all that seriously but have read quite a bit of his stuff. I've never understood him as comparing women's value as people, but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

The sexual value is something determined by "the sexual marketplace". Sure some people like the less likeable, but they are pretty rare and thus on average the person with these traits will need to be less picky, since she/he runs into those interested in them less often.

but rather their sexual value or dating value from the perspective of the (sort of) median man.

Yep, I can understand that. though his phraseology is very clearly as though it is an inherent value of her worth as a (sexual) person... which is what I found so unappetising.

I also disagree with his valuation. I know from... well knowing 40 YO women (and older), that they do indeed suffer from diminished sexual appeal - but certainly nowhere near zero. 40YOlds get it on all the time... therefore his valuation is wrong. It is limited by his own personal perspective - and that of the average young-ish man who is himself high up on the "sexual appeal" rating.

I can definitely understand that for a man who can "get anybody" - that they would try almost exclusively for younger women, and that therefore an older woman would hold no sex appeal for them... but for anybody not an alpha male... (especially 40-50YO average men), a 40YO woman would still hold some interest.

Her "value" on the marketplace is not zero.

5HughRistik10yWhile mean sexual value is an important concept, as lukeprog points out with my graph, sometimes it is not relevant. The relevant metric of success in attracting people is something like "being over a cutoff of attractiveness for a subset of the population that you desire and that you can find, and where you don't face a punishing gender ratio in that niche." For instance, regardless of your average attractiveness, you could be doing great even if 0.1% of the population is attracted to you, as long as (a) you know how to find them, (b) they fit your criteria, and (c) there isn't an oversaturation of people like you that you're competing with.
2Oligopsony10yIt's not the content of what you said (though, given the topic we're on, people are getting offended, this being one of the things LessWrong can't really discuss without exploding and drawing battle lines) but the way in which you said it; your online habitus automatically marks you as an outsider. Lurk a bit more and you'll get an idea of how to phrase things.
6taryneast10yThank you for responding. :) Firstly - can you define "online habitus" in this context? the dictionary gives me "physical characteristics", but I'm not sure exactly how that relates here, but I've taken a stab at it: ie that it was the emotive content of my comment that was objected to. I', surprised that the reaction against my personal expression of shock was disliked so much so that I was downvoted. Surely rational people are allowed to be offended too? :) Am I allowed to personally respond to a site that objectifies women and rates their value as objects (and values them at literally zero) in a way that shows that I do not agree? How should I have expressed my reaction in a way that would not have offended?

that site is chauvanistic

I upvoted your original comment but I disfavored this statement because it sounded like arguing against something by saying something other than "it isn't true".

If someone tells me "Japanese-Americans have average IQs 70 points higher than Korean-Americans," I don't have to try and refute that by saying "that's racist," because I have available the refutation "that's false". When I want to disfavor or shun a true idea that's unpopular, and can't say "that's false," I will have to say something else, such as "that's racist". Observers should notice when I do that, and estimate depending on the context how likely I was to respond with a negation like that had it been available.

7christina10yFactual incorrectness is not the only objection a person could have to something. In many cases, people present what they believe to be the facts and then give their response to those facts. For example, someone says that Amy is 80 years old. They could then decide: 1.) Amy should be treated with unquestioning respect--they want to live in a society that respects their elders. 2.) Suggest that Amy should treat her children with unquestioning respect since they will have to take care of her. 3.) Say that Amy should be accorded respect, but not unquestioning respect because their preference is to treat others in an egalitarian way. 4.) Any number of other things. You could then have objections to either the fact they stated (if it is not true), or to preferences they stated (if yours differ), or to both. Preferences can reference facts, especially if they are contingent on facts to achieve other, more central, preferences. And so sometimes you can use facts to show that someone's preferences are not in accordance with their core preferences. But a person's core preferences only convey a fact about the person holding them, not a fact about the world. The world has no preference about what happens to us. Only we do.
7ArisKatsaris10yFirst of all, let me say I didn't downvote you. Or upvote you either. Secondly, there's some confusion of terminology here. a) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about the state of the world. (Epistemological agreement - ("is" statements) b) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared beliefs about how the world should be. (Moral agreement - "ought" statements) c) There's "agreement" in the sense of shared preferences. (Agreement in taste - "like" statements) (a)s have objective truth value. (c)s are subjective. (b)s have people always debate about their objectivity/subjectivity thereof. Now the three types aren't always clearly distinct. If someone makes a statement about "attractiveness" it's both a (c) statement about preferences, but it may also be a statement about what real-life people like on average -- in which case it can be an (a) statement about the distribution of preferences in a population, which has a truth value. So, if someone calls someone else "sexually worthless", and you say you don't agree -- do you mean that you simply have different preferences -- are you making a (c) statement? That you believe his statement factually false -- you're making an (a) statement about the distribution of attraction feelings towards such women in the real world? Or do you mean that you consider it MORALLY WRONG for him to speak and behave in such a rude way? If the last of these, then "I morally object to such an attitude" is obviously a clearer way of talking about your objection rather than "I do not agree" which is vague and imprecise.
3[anonymous]10yThis dosen't deserve down votes. Roissy's style (aesthetically pleasing but quite outrageous) and persona are hard to stomach (at first?).

at first.

Um, for many people (e.g. me) , it is hard to stomach at all, and I'm a het male, the sort of entity he is nominally writing for. The reason for this is simple: at a certain point style does reflect substance, and moreover, Sapir-Worf issues come into play.

Sometimes the persona comes across as fake and bizarre. Take this article on frame control. It's completely reasonable, and meshes well with what you'd read here or in books on social skills. Then he lazily throws in

Remember, girls don’t operate in a logical universe; they abide their emotions first and foremost.

and continues talking about framing, having reminded his readership that bitches be crazy. Maybe the equivalents reminders on LW ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our biased emotions first and foremost") and social skills books ("Remember, humans don't operate in a logical universe; we abide by our emotions first and foremost, and that makes us wonderful beings because rationality means Spock") sound as artificial when you're not used to them?

8NancyLebovitz10yForever.. Ok, probability one minus epsilon. I see the "just jealous" claim as equivalent to A attempting to lower B's status, and when B says they don't like it, A says "you just don't like having your status lowered, so your point should be ignored".
5NancyLebovitz10yWhy did you link to Roissy rather than laying out his argument in more neutral terms?
5[anonymous]10yThe comment was clearly something user CharlieSheen picked up from Roissy.

(Caveats: Small N, college-age subjects, and WEIRD) Believe it or not, someone actually tried to test the jerk theory empirically and found support for it

Hat tip: Eric Barker.

Another caveat is surrogate behavior-- what's tested is which photographs women chose, not which men.

It's occurring to me that part of what annoys me about the "women prefer jerks" meme is the implication that women are distinctively irrational. There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

Just on the notion level, but I've wondered whether some women (especially young women) choose bad news men for the same reason that some men (especially young men) ride motorcycles-- risk and excitement. From what I've heard, one of the reasons women chose difficult men is the hope of being able to change them.

Another possibility is availability bias-- the stereotype is the woman who spends years complaining about the awful men in her life to a patient male friend who's wondering why she never chooses him. Women who are happy with their relationships aren't going to do as nearly as much complaining about them, and probably aren't going to be talking in comparable detail about how good the relationship is.

There are men who chose women who mistreat them, sometimes one such woman after another, but I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches".

There, now you have. According to the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, it is currently ranked #560 overall in the Books category, #1 in Dating , #2 in Mate Seeking, and #4 in Love & Romance. Surely the idea isn't unheard of.

I've never heard anyone say "men prefer bitches"

Partially this is because men are less often the one whose preference is at the center of the relationship (the standard cultural trope is a man pursues a woman, attempting to make her prefer him) and so there is less scrutiny of men's preference by both parties, and much more scrutiny of women's preference by men (in order to understand better how to make a woman prefer him).

Partially this is also because male attraction is determined less strongly by personality, and the "bitch/jerk" adjective is about personality.

Isn't there a stereotype whereby men prefer women who play by The Rules, which apparently consist of guidelines for emotional manipulation? That counts as bitchy in my book.

Also, can someone explain the "patient male friend" part of stereotype? I think it's one of these cases:

  • Nice Guy never expresses interest; Woman assumes he's happy with friendship, including his role as confidant. He wonders why she never chooses him... because he assumes telepathy on her part?
  • Nice Guy hits on Woman repeatedly despite constant rejections on her part. She keeps having him as a friend and telling him about her relationships... because she can't get a male friend who's genuinely happy with that?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He genuinely wants the friendship but doesn't ask "please don't tell me about your relationships while I'm carrying a torch for you"... because he doesn't know how to do that without sinking the friendship as well?
  • Nice Guy expresses interest, gets rejected. He won't be satisfied with the friendship but doesn't walk away... because he hopes Woman will magically change her mind?
4NancyLebovitz10yIt occurs to me that a common factor might be that the two of them are both highly pessimistic about relationships-- neither of them is looking for someone they can be happy with.
8wedrifid10yReally? That belief isn't all that uncommon, and for reasons somewhat similar to the 'jerk' idea. Mind you the (overwhelmingly justified) belief that men are less picky than women when it comes to their mate selection makes such beliefs less emphasised.
6HughRistik10yI think the hypothesis would be that women choose men who are "jerks" partly because they are jerks, while men choose women who are "jerks" because they just don't care so much about personality traits, and/or despite those women being jerks. Examining this hypothesis would require an operationalization of "jerk."

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

Perhaps this behavior is less common among women who would rather have a 15% chance of $1,000,000 than a certainty of $500 (because most random women I've tested choose the certain $500, but every single woman in our community that I've asked, regardless of math level or wealth level or economic literacy or their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, takes the 15% chance of $1M.)

Or maybe "jerk" is being used in some sense other than what I associate it with, i.e., wearing motorcycle jackets, rather than not caring about who else you hurt.

Now, admittedly I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence in this area, but I've seen some, and I couldn't name a single woman I know personally who has ever, in my presence or by report that I've heard, gone for a jerk.

I could name a fair number (in the "doesn't care about hurting others" sense, not the "wears motorcycle jackets" sense,) but none of them have been girls or women I would want to date me instead.

I suspect that the perceived trend owes a lot to a horns effect that guys build up around other guys who're dating girls they want to be dating.

7lionhearted10yWhoa. A majority of people choose $500 in EV instead of $150,000? That's scary. Have you written about this before? If not, care to give us rough numbers of how many people you've talked to about it? That blows my mind that a majority of people wouldn't get it when it's so far apart.

Keep in mind that utility isn't linear in money.

No, but I doubt it's so non-linear for most people that it remotely justifies such a choice.

If someone e.g. urgently needs a life-saving surgery that requires 500$, then they may be justified to choose a certainty of $500 over a 15% probability of a million dollars. But outside such made-up scenarios, I very seriously doubt it.

6Zack_M_Davis10yConsider item g in the first chart on page 10 of "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making [http://psych.fullerton.edu/mbirnbaum/psych466/articles/Frederick_CRT_2005.pdf]" by Shane Fredrick. In this study, 31% of subjects with low scores on a "cognitive reflection test" took the 15% chance of the million dollars, whereas 60% of high-scoring subjects did. The p-value was less than 0.0001.
3dbaupp10yI would suggest that it is very easy to concentrate on the 85% chance of getting nothing, and so ignore the difference in EV.
4lionhearted10yIndeed yeah. But we're not talking $500 vs. $900, we're talking orders of magnitude...
9[anonymous]10yDoes Chapter “You Just Ask Them” in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman count as academic research? :-)
7[anonymous]10yFrom what I understand Dark triad [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad] traits have been shown to be sexually attractive. Edit: Damn you gwern! [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/55zw] :)
6adamisom10yTo quote another user, Scott H Young, "superficial would be the right word to describe most aphorisms, as being merely pointers to a more nuanced set of beliefs". So I'm sure it just has to do with the fact that of the bundle of qualities aggregately known as "jerks", some of those qualities are attractive. Check out the blog Hooking Up Smart for more nuanced stuff on the idea of nice men vs jerks.
1zslastman8yWhy does this debate always assume that the causal arrow points from being a jerk to sexual success? We know that power over others tends to make you a jerk. Sexual attractiveness is power. Thus, attractive jerks.

On a tangential note, if a man said to a woman that he wanted to slap her as a reaction to some offensive statement she made, would you consider it acceptable?

Mind you, I have no problem in principle with social norms that set different boundaries for the behavior of men and women. (In particular, if someone wants men's threats of violence to women, even humorous and hyperbolic ones, to be judged more harshly than vice versa, I certainly find it a defensible position.) I just find it funny to see egalitarians who profess principled opposition to such norms caught in inconsistencies, like for example here, where very few (if any) of them would react to your statement with the same visceral horror and outrage as if the sexes were reversed.

3[anonymous]10yI don't know who you're talking about, but it isn't me. My husband sometimes jokes about beating me. I laugh.

I'm glad to hear that the two of you share a sense of humor, but the relevant comparison would be how you'd feel if a strange man mentioned slapping you in response to something you said, whether in the context of a public debate such as here or elsewhere. I would be surprised if you would be willing to take that nonchalantly. And even if you are an exception in this regard, there is no denying that the usual standards of discourse are highly asymmetric here, since there is no way that a similar statement by a man to a woman would not have caused firestorms of outrage.

Now, as I explained, I have no problem with this standard in principle. I am not expressing any condemnation of your words or attitudes. I am just using this opportunity to highlight the apparent contradiction with the general principle held by the contemporary respectable opinion that sex-asymmetric social norms are morally dubious, or worse -- and not because I wish to score a petty rhetorical point, but because I believe that if adequately considered, it would open some very important and general questions.

3[anonymous]10yI don't consider this to be established, for one thing. For another, what I said hasn't exactly passed without comment, so I'm not very sympathetic right now to the idea that women get a free pass. But though I think your example is weak, I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that double standards in both directions continue to flourish. I'm not sure why that's relevant here, or why people think they have to be so shady about saying this kind of thing on LW. It all seems sort of melodramatic to me; I live in the southern US, and there's probably no disreputable idea you'd dare hint at that I don't hear proudly trumpeted by many of my neighbors, and nobody seems to beat them up or fire them for it. (On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)
[-][anonymous]10y 14

(On the other hand, if you gesture towards disreputable ideas, but don't state your position clearly or provide evidence, I'm liable to pattern-match you to rednecks. I won't do it on purpose, but I'm human, and it'll probably happen. Consider this!)

I think VM is quite open about the fact that his secret beliefs are low status. I've been wondering for a while, but I haven't been able to think of examples of ideas so reviled that they warrant secrecy besides "redneck ideas." I think it's interesting that you similarly lack examples. Maybe this is the only source of reviled beliefs, or maybe it's a US blind-spot.

Well, beliefs don't even need to be in the "reviled" category for one to conclude that it might be prudent not to express them openly. One might simply conclude that they're apt to break down the discourse, as has indeed happened on LW many times with statements that might be controversial, but fall short of "reviled" in the broader society.

Also, I think you're applying some popular but grossly inaccurate heuristics here. I can easily think of several beliefs that: (1) are squarely in the "reviled" category in today's respectable discourse in Western societies, (2) have been held by a large number of people historically, or are still held by a large number of people worldwide, and (3) are practically nonexistent, or exceptionally rare, among the segment of the U.S. population that can be labeled "rednecks" by any reasonable definition. (For beliefs that make sense only given some cultural background, I mean "exceptionally" relative to other local cultures that provide this background.)

In any case, think about the following. For any human society in history about which you have some reasonably accurate picture, except the present ... (read more)

6lessdazed10yLet's link to it again: Paul Grahm's What You Can't Say [http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html].
7ArisKatsaris10yCannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality. Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

Cannibalism. Incest. Human sacrifice. Bestiality.

Any open supporter of any of the above would probably do well to hide it (at least if they're using their real-life name), but I wouldn't call any of the above "redneck ideas" (by which I understand you to mean racism/sexism/homophobia/etc)

I don't have any objection to bestiality. Having sex with animals seems like a less harmful thing to do to an animal than killing it and eating it. I also don't object to other people who are consenting adults ignoring taboos regarding incest so long as they ensure that negative reproductive outcomes are avoided. For that matter cannibalism is fine by me as long as murder isn't involved (although I suggest avoiding the brain). Human sacrifice is a big no no though!

9Emile10yAlso: pedophilia; the Idea that the Chinese government system (technocratic dictatorship) is better (in terms of outcomes) than the US Government system.

Also: pedophilia

"Sex between adults and young teenagers, as long as there is no obvious coercion involved, is not nearly as harmful as generally supposed" is definitely something that you can't say - and the fact that you can't say it has been demonstrated experimentally.

5Prismattic10yTo clarify terminology here, pedophilia is sexual attraction to prepubescent children. There is a different word, which is escaping me at the moment, for a sexual preference for adolescents.
5Atelos10yhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia] or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia] depending on which stage of adolescence you're talking about.
3[anonymous]10yI've no disagreement with your comment Atelos, but - why do those words exist? Is there a cluster of human minds in thingspace that have "sexual preference of adults for mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19"? Do they share any other properties in common? Eliezer on the subject of words that should not exist [http://lesswrong.com/lw/o2/mutual_information_and_density_in_thingspace]: Eliezer also suggests [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ny/sneaking_in_connotations] a reason why someone might coin such a word: in order to sneak in connotations. Also note that 15-25 and 18-21 are typically given as the prime age ranges of female physical attractiveness by Roissy [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/an-alpha-male-and-his-women] and his commenters (although since these are arbitrary cut-offs, there's no need to give them a name). The 15-19 age range of "ephebophilia" cuts across this age range seemingly at random. The same goes for hebephilia, attraction to 11-14 year-olds. There is no discontinuity in the characteristics of a typical human between 14 and 15 years of age, and I don't see why hebephiles should form a compact cluster in thingspace either. On the other hand paedophilia does seem a valid word, because attraction to pre-pubescents seems qualititatively different from attraction to fertile human beings (there are evolutionary considerations at play, and there are great physical changes in a short space of time during puberty). Properties shared in common by paedophiles are presumably qualitative differences in "brain wiring" in comparison to humans of typical sexuality. Interestingly, Robin Hanson misuses the word pedophile in this post [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/10/pedophiles-are-long-term-maters.html]. The regular conflation of attraction to young fertile humans and attraction to prepubescent children in this way is another strange definitional phenomenon that calls for explanation.
6wedrifid10yThere are people with a sexual preference for people from the age of their birth right up to and even past the age of their death. Since there are many such people it is easier to have words that give a ballpark to their sexual preference than to say "someone with a specific sexual preference for humans between the ages of X and Y" every single time. The sexual preference for people of a given age is more than enough to make the word relevant. That detail is predictive of all sorts of things. Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with. The terms are defined in terms of physical development rather than age and are as good a division as you can expect for a process of transition which is gradual yet clearly does represent a change. There really is a place for a word (ephebophilia) that means "not particularly sexually attracted to adults but definitely sexually attracted to people that have only recently reached the stage where they are obviously reproductively viable". (With the caveat that it is stupid to use the same word for the preference for males and females at this stage. Both groups are more similar to adults of their sex than they are to each other!) Or, in this case, the opposite. In most cases injecting the word ephebophile into a context will expunge connotations rather than introducing them. In the case of a sexually active ephobophile using the word ensures that all "people who have sex with those who are under the age at which it is legally permissible to have sex with them" aren't lumped in together. Because they aren't @#@%ing pedophiles and because while both practices are illegal they have entirely different moral connotations. For that matter the active practice of the various illegal chronophilias also have different practical implications. Counter-intuitively (unless you think about it) in the case of rape I seem to recall that a rape of a girl that is sexually mature does greater ps
4[anonymous]10yConfining the discussion to females (which seems sensible given that the terms ephebophilia, paedophilia etc. seem to be most often used in the context of male attraction to females) the age range 15-19 is rather close to the widely agreed-upon (by men) 5-year age range of females in their physical prime of roughly 18-22. 15-year olds have been reproductively viable for about 4 years on average. 19-year-old women are about as attractive as they’ll ever be! I struggle to imagine when someone would really want to use this word ephebophilia. “He’s an ephebophile; I bet he wants to have sex with that cute 19-year-old” – absurd. There’s just too much overlap between ephebophilia and normal male sexuality for it to be a useful predictor. Even if the girl in quesiton is 15, it seems that the extent to which an older man might target her as a mate in today’s society depends more on how up-tight, how scrupulous or how socialised he is – whether he prefers slightly younger (by 3 years) women than the average man would generally be difficult to tell from outside, and being “normal” in this regard doesn’t preclude attraction to a 15-year-old any more than it does attraction to a 25-year-old in any case. There are words like “creeper” and “pervert” that might be used to describe the type of person who appears to pay undue attention to younger teenage girls. This seems to exhaust the social utility of having a word for someone who prefers slightly younger women than does the average man. Note that this concept is also highly contingent; plenty of human societies would consider overt sexual attraction to young teenage girls, insofar as sexual attraction is acceptable in general, to be unremarkable (as Hanson’s piece points out). Ephebophilia therefore appears to be useful, if at all, as a scientific term only. And in that case, where is the evidence that ephebophiles form a meaningful category? Why not have special words for adults who are attracted to 22-25 year-olds in part
3wedrifid10yHave you read the wikipedia article behind the link? Apart from giving examples of where the word is actually useful it also makes clear that your example would be a misunderstanding. Being attracted to cute 19 year old girls - or even cute 15 year old girls - isn't the point. It is being attracted to young adolescent girls to the exclusion of or with strong dominance over any attraction to adults. So a prediction that would be somewhat more reasonable to make would be that the ephebophiliac would be less attracted to a 23 year old supermodel than to a fairly average 15 year old girl. fat. veryfat. obese. Reference class tennis. I reject the argument by analogy. If you actually did wonder that back through the analogy you would probably look at the third sentence of the wikipedia article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia] and follow the link [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronophilia]. If a matter of sexual preference is significant enough that it ensures that someone will never be able to legally satisfy his (or her) preferences anywhere within our entire culture then it is @#%@ well worth a word too.
2[anonymous]10yThe point is about arbitrary "scientific" gradings pulled out of thin air. Short, very short, diminutive - they are vague context-dependent categorisations that are suitable given the continuous nature and contingent relevance of the variation in question. This is not comparable to rigid, highly specific classifications like my putative "veryshortman", which is how I would characterise words like ephebophilia. There should be a good reason for the existence of such a term, and that reason is not apparent. The other problem with the specificity of “ephebophilia” is also that it overlaps with the typical 5-year window in which an average male would find a female most physically attractive. Therefore it can’t even be justified on the grounds that the psychologists are binning males into continuous but arbitrarily demarcated categories of “normal”, “ephebophile” and “hebephile”. You said: "Most crudely it is a prediction of which people the chronophile in question will try to have sex with". I pointed out that this alleged use to which the word might be put is redundant, since 15-19 year-old women are among the most attractive to men in any case. Generally the large majority of heterosexual men would want to have sex, if the conditions were right, with an attractive girl of this age, particularly a 19-year-old! I went on to point out that if we look at the other extreme (15-year-olds) scrupulousness and other character traits probably play a bigger role than ephebophilia in assessing the likelihood of a man attempting to mate with a girl of that age, in this society. That sounds about as reasonable, given the definition of ephebophile, as suggesting that an average man would be more attracted to a plain 18-year-old than to a 27-year-old supermodel. I.e. unreasonable, unless I missed the part where it is defined as exlusive attraction to 15-19 year-olds (in which case I would ask for some evidence that such people even exist). I did so already, and noticed that tel
2wedrifid10yFascinating. Following those links I just discovered I'm a teleiophile. Also a gynephile but I probably could have guessed that one myself. I'm somewhat nonplussed with having the word ephebophilia refer to a preference for either females of approximately 14-16 or for males of an equivalent level of development (so slightly older). Unless for some reason people with one preference have a particularly high chance of also having the other preference. Because by this age it is an entirely different kind of preference so if you are going to go to all the trouble of making up names for various categories you may as well have "likes young men" different to "likes young women". Having just one word for pedophilia and perhaps hebophilia makes somewhat more sense given the much smaller difference between sexes at the younger ages.

It's very bad to have a single word that many people will interpret as "being attracted to people you can't have sex with, and having to live with a lot of fear and shame and stigma", and many other people interpret as "raping particularly vulnerable people".

No disagreement on that, though I suspect that even if everybody understood the first meaning, it would still be reviled.

(I know a (non-practicing) pedophile who attempted to "reclaim the word" by outing himself and distancing himself from child molesters. It - unsurprisingly - still didn't go well for him).

This guy is a hero. Okay, not a very effective hero, but still.

6TheOtherDave10yUnsurprisingly indeed. Still, somebody has to be first, and I admire his willingness to do so.
5Vaniver10yThis opinion is widely held by many active participants in mainstream US culture. "Reviled" should be replaced with "reviled by ___" in order for this conversation to be precise.
4dlthomas10yI briefly read that as a colon...
5steven046110yIt sounds to me like you picked ideas that were maximally superficially offensive under the constraint that at least one person might defend them, rather than ideas that were maximally defensible under the constraint that they were offensive. Focusing on the ideas that are held by people stupid enough to blurt them out leaves you vulnerable to a selection effect. If there were classes of political ideas such that anyone rational enough to believe them was also rational enough not to tell, how would you know?
4ArisKatsaris10yWas the latter what was desired? Then I could mention ideas like eugenics, weighting voting power by IQ, banning theism in general or monotheism in particular, panopticon cities (or other means for global surveillance). I don't support the last two, but I bet I could make some good arguments about them. The first two I'd probably actually approve of, depending on the specific implementation. But are these ideas really so offensive that it'd be dangerous for people to reveal them? I don't think so. Right now the maximally defensible political idea that I'd not feel very safe to discuss in Greece is that my country should recognize the Republic of Macedonia under that name. I don't think that idea is offensive to anyone here, even though it's synonymous with treason in Greece. Science fiction is useful in allowing people to describe political ideas but maintain plausible deniability. Building Weirdtopia [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xm/building_weirdtopia/] may be a relevant thread, though it'd be wrong for people to think that I actually support the weird ideas I mentioned there.
3JoshuaZ10yI'll come out and say I have no problem with cannibalism if the individual being cannibalized consented to it before they died. (Otherwise one is using property from their estate without permission and that's theft.) An argument can be made that in societies without abundant food, a cannibalism taboo is more useful, but that obviously doesn't apply today. Incest I have more mixed views on, but assuming one is talking about adult siblings who are consenting and not going to have children, I don't see an issue, even though I personally find it disgusting. Parent-offspring incest even when they are both adults isn't ok because it is extremely difficult to remove the power-imbalance issues. In practice, difficult to tell when an animal is consenting. But if we could confirm consent then I'd be ok with it. But, my view here isn't really fully consistent in that by this logic I should be worried about ducks not consenting to each other (a very large fraction of duck sex is rape). Regardless, whether or not I find it disgusting, consenting individuals should be allowed to do it. Willing victim, sure why not? If we think it is ok for a Jehovah Witness to refuse blood transfusions or an Orthodox Jew to refuse a heart transplant, why not allow active sacrifice? In this case it might even have positive results. As Ellie Arroway observed, celibate clergy could help reduce inherited predispositions to fanaticism, and this might have a similar selective effect.
2Strange79yCannibalism comes with some very nasty disease-transmission issues. It's possible to be consistent about considering duck-on-duck rape bad and still assigning a relatively low priority to preventing it, compared to other societal problems, or more personal objectives.
3[anonymous]10yI wouldn't call any of the above "ideas" at all. You are listing outlawed practices, not tabooed beliefs. True, "support for incest" is an idea, but if there is a covert ideology behind it it is not nearly as extensive and widespread as the ideology behind e.g. sexism.
3DoubleReed10yAw, no mention of Necrophilia? It's even a victimless crime!
8Vladimir_M10yHaha, I think you're displaying some serious prejudice (in multiple directions) by thinking that I'm supposed to mind this so badly.
2[anonymous]10y"Prejudice" may not be the mot juste. If I filled one pickup truck with rednecks, and another with members of my own family, I'm not sure you'd be able to tell the difference. Hell, a few people would probably have to go in both trucks. It wasn't so much that I expected you to be viscerally horrified by the association with low-SES rural Southern whites, as that being pattern-matched to rednecks has what I thought were obvious drawbacks. Just for one: this being Less Wrong, I'm pretty confident you don't think zygotes have souls. No doubt there are many other, less obviously incongruent beliefs in the redneck belief cluster you wouldn't remotely endorse.
7[anonymous]10yNot being American or part of the Anglosphere or Western European derived culture I read this as:
4[anonymous]10yNoticed you assumed I'm a Yankee, considered challenging you to a duel, decided with this crowd it probably wouldn't go over.
5[anonymous]10yAh sorry, then it was just classism! :)
2[anonymous]10yThere's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought. These are people, by and large, who in coming of age and seeking to support themselves, didn't break through all their barriers to self-actualization or realize their wildest dreams of success, but managed to get some kind of payoff for their effort in terms of making ends meet (even if it's difficult and provides no insulation from suffering or strife in their lives), and certainly don't feel like they directly benefitted from any unethical practices or prejudices (even passively-conferred ones common in society). Since humans tend to model the emotions of others from their own baseline, they find it difficult to believe that anyone could genuinely have it that much worse, and conclude that activist groups of women and minorities are out to demonize them and censor them. They find it difficult to conceive that anybody else's life, at least in their own cultural sphere, could really be that bad, unless the person had just failed on merits, and wanted to blame someone else or hijack the fruits of their own effort out of laziness. Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it

There's a certain subset of mostly Western, white men, largely middle-class rather than extremely wealthy or poor, who see the existence of civil rights activism on behalf of various minorities and the fact that it has succeeded in making it somewhat more costly to signal prejudice socially in polite company, and quite a bit moreso to do so openly in an institutional capacity, and conclude that this therefore means that it is now beyond the pale to do anything other than adhere to rigid standards of political correctness for the sake of controlling thought.

The rhetorical sleight of hand here is that "prejudice" is used with an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, this word is used for any application of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people, which are deemed to be immoral according to a certain ideological view. On the other hand, it is supposed to refer to the use of conditional probabilities about people that are inaccurate due to biases caused by ignorance or malice. Now, it is logically possible that the latter category just happens to subsume the former -- but the real world, of course, is never so convenient.

And if the latter category does not ... (read more)

3[anonymous]10yI apologize for the confusion -- you seem to think that my using the noun constitutes an attempt to bill some unspecified set of statements and ideas as examples of the first thing you listed. What I'm actually doing, just so you can read my post accurately, is saying that prejudice is a thing (as per your second definition which you apparently thought I was being sneaky about), that it exists (I presume this at least is uncontentious to you?), and that in general it's a true statement it's now more costly to signal certain forms of that openly, according to prevailing social mores. In other words, if you have no objection to the assertion: "An employer in the US these days cannot generally refuse a job applicant by openly referring to the applicant's race as a disqualifying factor, without expecting some form of social reprisal", then you now understand what I meant when I used the word prejudice in that sentence. So, just to be sure I'm absolutely clear, since this is apparently confusing: When I say I mean that it is now more difficult to signal certain forms of prejudice (not specific as to what particular things constitute prejudice; pick an example you find unobjectionable) casually or irrespective of one's audience, without garnering some social risk.
9Vladimir_M10yYou are still obscuring the issue. Yes, of course that people frequently hold prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice, and that some categories of such beliefs (though by no means all) have become more costly to signal in recent history. The question, however, is whether there are also some true beliefs, or uncertain beliefs that may turn out to be true given the present state of knowledge, that are also costly to express (or even just to signal indirectly) nowadays. Would you really assert that the answer to that question is no? And if your answer to that question is yes, then what basis do you have for asserting that "a broader social pattern into which [you] see [my] behavior falling" consists of people who are unhappy because they find it costly to express prejudiced beliefs that are biased due to ignorance or malice?
5[anonymous]10yI would not. I am doubting your claim that your beliefs are really so beyond the pale to the social mores of your peers here, that you'd be unfairly suppressed and/or censored, or otherwise hurt "the cause" of LW any moreso than you might be saying what you already do freely. I could be wrong about that, but I also have different estimates of the real, net social cost to signalling something unpopular, especially for someone who consistently signal-boosts in your observed patterns in this environment. I would be unsurprised to learn you believe that IQ represents general intelligence and that it is primarily genetic, and that all personality traits are ultimately genetic or inconsequential in the scheme of things, and that they are linked to race, and that this could get people upset at you if you just said it at random at a party. I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly. Or arrested, or fired from your job, or targeted by a group like Anonymous for ongoing harassment... However, based on what you've said about your reasons for not revealing some subset of your beliefs here, you appear to fear consequences considerably more significant than just someone being mad at something you said on the internet, and this seems...disproportionate, incorrect, biased -- a skewed misunderstanding of the reality of your likely risks and costs.

I would be very surprised if it got you successfully sued, persecuted in a tangible way, or indeed anything worse than flamed on the internet for voicing this openly.

What do you think happened to Stephanie Grace - don't you think a private email sent to a few friends has affected her career prospects ? James Watson and Lawrence Summers also got lynched for their opinions.

I don't think anybody risks getting sued or arrested, but they can have their careers harmed.

Having certain topics discussed too openly on Lesswrong could result in several unfortunate things happening.

  1. It could make certain potential rationalists be deterred from participating in the community.

  2. It could attract the attention of certain contrarians who are less-than-rational and, for various reasons, should not necessarily be considered potential rationalists.

  3. Most importantly, from the standpoint of the Singularity Institute (or, at least, what I think is its standpoint), it could increase the probability of human extinction by harming the SI's reputation.

5[anonymous]10yMm, those reasons do make some sense. I think as far as 1 goes, it seems to me like that's already happening -- I know a few people not on this site (who discovered it independently of myself, none of whom know each other), and many more I've encountered about online, who explicitly view LW as essentially compromised by 2, hence they have no interest in being here. YMMV how much those people are reachable or desireable, of course, but it's difficult for me to disagree with their basic perception that this place is already full of contrarian-cluster types who're intellectuals but still quite biased. I also wonder about signalling now, re: "less-than-rational" -- given what I understand of rationality as it's described and the reasons humans don't tend to display that trait most of the time, it seems like it's only asymptotically-reachable -- you can reduce the frequency of incorrect decisions and amend certain biases in short or long-term ways, but you probably can't get rid of it altogether. Who here is truly "rational?" Even Eliezer Yudkowsky still has his own biases -- the most you can hope for is, well, "less wrong", and that is work to achieve. So assuming (big assumption here!) that I understand the about rationality and how LW views it, and why it's desireable and how much realistically a human being can self-optimize for that trait, it seems like "less than rational" should probably be avoided. Aren't we all? Aren't we all going to be until such time as we come up with some kind of game-breaking thing that allows a person to really just run rationality full-time if that's what they want?
8NancyLebovitz10yTrent Lott's [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trent_Lott] Senate career was destroyed because he praised Strom Thurmond. I'm not saying that sort of thing happens often, but it's not nothing. I wish more people would extrapolate from their own vulnerability to insults to the idea that people in general are vulnerable to insults, but this doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.
1CharlieSheen10yYou forgot cis-hetero.
2[anonymous]10yObligatory XKCD [http://www.xkcd.com/248/] explaining how hypothetical situations work.

Further comments by you may be deleted without warning or notice. Please leave Less Wrong.

Please go away. You've earned yourself -262 Karma points in the last 30 days; you should take the hint.

(Relevant post.)

This comment might not be popular on a quick knee-jerk level, but it's worth getting out there for accuracy.

Under "Many partners" you've got Singlehood, Friendship 'with benefits', Polyamory.

You're missing one of the most common historical kinds of relationships - monogamous commitment from woman to man, man taking care of multiple households in a committed way.

The first Tokugawa Shogun, for instance -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_Ieyasu#Ieyasu_as_a_person

16 children with 11 wives and concubines.

King Ts'ao Ts'ao of Wei -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_Cao#Family

Muhammad -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad#Wives_and_children

It's not a Western tradition. The West has a strong romantic/platonic love ideal, that moves into monogamy under Christianity, and some non-monogamy later built on some mix of liberalism, enlightenment values, and humanism.

But still, it's been a very common family/dating/relationship through history. It still persists, though it doesn't get much media coverage.

Current Sheik of Dubai -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammed_bin_Rashid_Al_Maktoum#Personal_life_and_education

Current Prime Minister of Italy -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Be... (read more)

8JoachimSchipper10yHonest question: has this ever been common? All the cases you list are "king" of their time and place. I thought you were going to point out that adultery was the classical way of having multiple partners...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/?single_page=true

Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

4[anonymous]10yWell, there is woman shortage in China, so...
5lix10yI am told this relationship style (polygynous with multiple households) is common in Latin America, and I do know several males there who have engaged in it. These males are middle-class - doctors and the like. Polygyny also occurs in other Western cultures, although more covertly, in the form of the prestigious man and his "bit on the side" (who is usually non-reproductive, monogamous and hoping to oust the current alpha female - in the absence of contraception this would probably end up with multiple households). So I'm inclined to think it happens whenever there are massive power inequalities both between males (such that a woman is better off with a fraction of the resources of a wealthy man than with all the resources of a poor man) - and between males and females (such that wealthy men are better off "collecting" multiple poor women than marrying one wealthy one).
3Paradrop10yIt's probably hard to answer that accurately. I've read arguments about how commonplace polygamy and harems were and they usually go like this: a) Old sources rarely take interest in the lives of common men, but we know that society tolerated multiple wifes and households in extraordinary people. b) Household requires wealth. More households require more wealth. c) Common men could support one household at most, if any. d) Monogamy was de-facto standard (for economic reasons). Hope this helps.
2Vaniver10yI've heard that absolute rulers liked to keep everyone else down, to cement their own position. This often involved limiting the number of wives other men could have, and limiting how closely they could marry (oftentimes the emperor would ban cousin marriage for everyone else, but then marry his own cousins and sisters, to prevent having to lose anything by way of dowry).
5dbaupp10yI don't think "taking care" is always the best description, especially in the case of Berlusconi, for example.

I quite liked the post, I only have one niggle:

"For example, in heterosexual dating the man is expected to ask for the date, plan the date, and escalate sexual interaction. A woman expects that she will be pursued and not have to approach men, that on a date she should be passive and follow the man's lead, and that she shouldn't initiate sex herself."

this is an extremely US-centric view of dating culture.

In Aus, women do not expect men to pay for dates, and while the bias is still weighted towards the men being more likely to ask woman out or to initiate sexual advancement... it's not the expectation.

It's only one data point, but most of my BFs I pursued, rather than the other way around - and most of my girl-friends have similar stories.

3lukeprog10yFixed, thanks.
3taryneast10yJust wanted to say - I'm impressed by your dedication to improving your writing style - both in the amount of reference-reading you're doing to fuel your topics, and in how much you're willing to take on board the feedback from the community.
[-][anonymous]10y 16

The plans for the Death Ray are already out there. The two possible discussions are, first, whether it's ethical to kill someone with a Death Ray.

The second discussion asks whether the effectiveness of the Death Ray (compared to just punching someone) can be attributed to the placebo effect. Or maybe the Death Ray only works on the sort of people that evil villains want to kill, but when it comes time to protagonists, our opponents are mostly invulnerable to Death Rays. It's also possible that the Death Ray doesn't really work better than chance, but it gives villains the confidence to step up and shoot someone who's about to have a heart attack, anyway. Then again, maybe a lot of people prefer to be shot with Death Rays and it's hypocritical to say that the tried-and-true method of punching someone to death is better just because it doesn't involve any mechanical devices...

This doesn't mark it as a natural explanation. By the same pattern, I don't have a tail because I'm not a kangaroo.

8thomblake10yBut in fact, you don't have a tail because you're not a kangaroo. And if we were all fairly familiar with kangaroos and thought they were fairly analogous to Vladimir_Nesovs, then we would make note of the distinction.

I would like to propose that any post immediately become locked once its number of comments reaches 1337.

Having read every single one of the 1337 comments, I have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from any further comments that might be added, and that the above solution should be applied immediately so as not to waste anyone else's time or karma.

8lukeprog10yOn December 7th, your prediction was falsified [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/5eov].
2CronoDAS10yWow.
2lessdazed10yThe greater the value of your comment, the greater benefit there has been from allowing more than 1337 comments on posts. But seriously, I don't think the risk of this discussion being continued in an unrelated, peaceful post is worth it.

Risky: If we're going to discuss "how to stick your dick in people", which is an important subtopic of PUA, and completely ignore ethics, we're going to discuss rape.

If the subject was "How to stick your dick in people" then rape would come into it. But it isn't. If you are going to rape people then you don't need PUA. It'd be kind of redundant. That this kind of disingenuous argument is tolerated in this context (parent was +1 when I encountered it, not -10) is why I am not against tabooing all related subject matter unilaterally. If people can get away with this something is wrong.

Potentially risky: A core part of PUA is creating and signalling high status. This is often done by lowering one's opinion of women. While LWers are unlikely to start endorsing the verbal belief that women who have sex on the first date are worthless

What on earth are you talking about? That's approximately the opposite of the kind of belief that is useful for a PUA. Which illustrates the problem with having the majority of any discussion dominated by 'ethics'. It is roughly speaking an excuse for people who are completely ill informed to throw opinions around that are based on an almost entirely fictional reality.

4PhilosophyTutor10yThis is a false dichotomy, and the child post asking for clarification should not have been voted down. PUA, if it worked, would be an excellent way for a date-rapist to get women alone in circumstances such that there might be reasonable doubt in a subsequent court case as to whether or not the victim consented to sex. Hence the idea that if you are going to rape people then PUA is of no use to you is trivially false. Also it should go without saying that an agent whose goal is to maximise the amount of sex they get disregarding all ethical concerns is an agent that will date-rape under some circumstances, specifically those circumstances where they get a woman alone, are not successful in obtaining consensual sex at that time and are not otherwise unable to commit rape safely. I think what this actually illustrates is the mind-killing power of the PUA topic. Obviously fallacious arguments are getting voted up heavily because they defend PUA and attack ethics, which is extremely concerning. I am moving towards the opinion that this is not a fixable problem and that it's indeed the utility-maximising move from the larger LW perspective to sweep the PUA community and their views back under a rug and taboo them from emerging.
3wedrifid10yYes, PUA skills are generalizable to a certain extent. Rather than use them to seduce people you could use them to rape people, kidnap them and harvest their organs to sell on the black market or to try to convince them to buy some steak knives. But again, as you quoted: If the subject was "How to stick your dick in people" then rape would come into it. But it isn't. Yes, and conventional rape without the pesky hassle of pick up too - and I'm honestly not sure which kind of rape comes with the greatest risk of getting caught. But nobody has ever suggested that we discuss how to maximise sex. That is the whole point being made here - that equivocation in the great-grandparent just isn't acceptable. I have a similar concern - at least in as much as it troubles me that sloppy thinking tends to be accepted based on the fact that it is talking about a moral/ethical/social-political position. I have made rather different observations about how the trend seems to flow. It is one thing to suggest tabooing a subject - and with the caveat that it must be relationship and dating advice that is tabooed (so as not to allow a distorted reality to remain) a lot of people agree. But it is an entirely different thing to try to declare just the opposing view (or your stereotype thereof) to be unacceptable. Now I'm curious. The account PhilosophyTutor [http://lesswrong.com/user/PhilosophyTutor/] is a new account which has more or less contributed only via PUA-ethical debate. Yet I'm getting the impression here that you are coming from, well, a "larger LW perspective". Is PhilosophyTutor a dummy account for more generally active member so that you can get involved in the subject without it looking bad for your primary identity or are you actually a new user who thus far has mostly been interested in dating-ethics?
2lessdazed10yDisagreeing with your specific moral prescriptions for everyone is not attacking ethics in general.
2MixedNuts10yWhat I'm talking about is techniques that get people to let you stick your dick in them. Many of these techniques grow more effective as they are intensified, but also less ethical after a certain point. "Get them drunk" is an example, but not PUA. Better examples would be persevering (necessary to pass simple shit-tests, but nagging too much will make people so desperate to be left alone they may well agree to sex), and intermittent reinforcement (ranging from not being a spineless, clingy sycophant, to emotional abuse). Consider the difference between the slut [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/its-easy-to-identify-a-slut/] and the quality girl [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/quality-girl/]. Also the phrase "pumped and dumped". This belief is useful because if a woman agrees to sex early, you can think that you're worth more than her, and display related behaviors (making her chase you and fear competition); moreover, if you get sex by promising to call the next day but don't, you don't have to feel guilty because she's just a slut anyway.
[-][anonymous]10y 11

(..., but nagging too much will make people so desperate to be left alone they may well agree to sex)

I have a very hard time imagining this working. Women and men of high social status have very effective ways of getting rid of people that fall short of sex. Also constant "nagging" signals horrible things about you in pure fitness terms, it much reduces one's attractiveness, I can't see why this would be rewarded with sex.

Sex with a woman might happen in spite of nagging, not because of it.

Seriously, stop feeding the troll. I am downvoting replies to sam0345's comments, and encourage others to do so as well.

4Vladimir_Nesov10y(I was following this strategy was a while too.)
[-][anonymous]10y 15

So basically this series will try to do this but systematically avoid any PUA references and trying to find ways to find some relevance to a few extra groups of people (besides heterosexual males) in order to avoid mind killing?

2fburnaby10yYour comment sounds like a complaint. Is it?
[-][anonymous]10y 19

Partially yes. Some PUA concepts are really neatly formulated, a fraction of LWers are familiar with them and at the end of the day the original synthesis was done by the PUA community, having a bottom line partially written by X, then searching for academic papers to help write up stuff to fill the void once X is cut out is an easy way to stumble rationality-wise once or twice along the way, and thus is bad practice, but mostly I was just curious.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

It was mean more in a "oh I see what you did there, am I right?" way.

Generally I think avoiding mindkillers is a good thing for the community in my mind, and the comment section of this discussion is better than I expected, so perhaps the comment is coming of harsher than intended.

I think your comment was quite appropriate. Even under the best imaginable scenario, these articles and their follow-up discussions will suffer from at least two problems.

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit (and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter). It's as if someone wanted to talk about electronics but insisted that the only legitimate references should be from pure academic quantum theory, and the nuts-and-bolts work of tech entrepreneurs and ind... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 24

Yet since in our culture the discussion (let alone practical use) of certain kinds of conditional probabilities about people is considered immoral, discussing these things while remaining within the contemporary inoffensive bounds is as if one wanted to discuss sexual techniques while respecting the prudery norms of 17th century puritanism.

And this was the reason why, I didn't expect a direct response to the original question, from any of the authors. But as well as your opinions stated here resonate with my own, I feel I do need to play the devil's (who is a thoroughly socialized chap) advocate:

People still realized when sex was talked about. And some information was distributed in this way.

While obviously this is not necessarily a stable situation, besides the euphemism treadmill people do eventually shorten the useful inference gaps. Indeed I would argue that cycles form around these sorts of things, perhaps 19th century Victorian society with its anomalous attitude to discussing sexuality is an example of such a spiral and I think in the 20th century there are also to be found potential examples of such spirals in some places.

This premise however is flawed, and those who

... (read more)

Generally some information is better than no information and I would say that for all intents and purposes mainstream advice on dating and relations between the sexes is more or less no information.

Actually, I'd say there's a whole lot of strongly misleading information, and the situation is much worse than in most other areas of life. For example, in the conventional wisdom about job hunting there is certainly a lot of trite and suboptimal information, and truly great advice is always a matter of insider information to which few people are privy -- but there is nothing like, say, the respectable opinion telling you that it's best to show up for the job interview drunk and puke on the interviewer's desk. Whereas in dating and inter-sex relations in general, a lot of the respectable opinion, if taken at face value, advises equivalently bad acts of self-sabotage.

Now, a body of advice whose quality is a mixed bag may be on the net either good or bad. If you're given ten tips about driving, nine of which will make you a somewhat better driver but one of which will vastly increase your probability of getting killed in an accident, we'd probably agree that the "some information... (read more)

3lessdazed10yIn the past people have obviously retrospectively looked for academic sources to support PUA ideas. It's instrumentally fine, just a bad habit. Also, it is easy to hint at what is unsaid by saying it would be offensive, and hinting at exactly how offensive it would or wouldn't be. Imagine a map of the world where every feature north of 35 degrees latitude was only described (Canada? Way north, I can't put that on the map, it's not even close! Korea? Look, that's just not the sort of thing that can be boldly painted on the map. I'll sketch a rough outline in pencil, OK?) Such a map would not be misleading.

certain things can not be said due to "decency".

The reason that convention is difficult to use here is that the taking of offense all goes one way. If one says "Because it is mind-killing, I will not speak of the temporal order, quantity, and relative amount of coercion involved in all property dispossessions in the Middle East since 1800," one does not thereby share much about one's opinion.

If one says "Because it is mind killing, I will not discuss the relationship between sexual attractiveness and time for men and women," it may be that one believes that they are the same, or that there isn't a steep fall for anyone, or whatever, and merely doesn't want to provoke people into speaking of a counterargument. But usually not.

Only one side takes offense regarding this issue, so to say that one's opinions are offensive, and especially the degree to which they are, is to reveal them. People are neither motivated to, nor good at, using the same language for "I will not share my opinion because people will take offense," and "I will not share my opinion because the way some people discuss the topic is offensive." In both cases, people take the opportunity to signal and communicate rather than maintain an ambiguous neutral convention to end conversations.

7[anonymous]10y"Mindkilling" refers to the idea that it is particularly hard (although not impossible) for humans to discuss politically or ideologically controversial subjects without succumbing to bias. The implicit prohibition on "mindkilling" political discussion seems to have worked well here in creating a very civilised discussion forum. On the other hand, you would redefine mindkilling as dissent from the ideological mainstream. This is unwise, because this merely priviliges a certain view of things at the expense of truth-seeking - it enshrines bias, since the ideological mainstream (American?) view of all things cannot be considered true or rational by definition. To merely acknowledge that "indecency" (dissent) is forbidden, so caveat lector does little to counteract the inherent bias of the arrangement, since people are still going to read articles on a rationality forum expecting them to be essentially accurate, which they will not be to the extent that the dissenting view of things is the only fully accurate view. In other words this acknowledgement is hardly going to cancel out the persuasive force of a biased article unless the caveat is written in massive bold letters at the top of every such article "This Is Not True", which is clearly unsatisfactory. In other words the choices are: 1) Allow no discussion of ideologically controversial matters (to minimise mindkilling, but limit the scope of the forum) 2) Your solution, i.e. permit only the mainstream view (also minimising the possibility of mindkilling arguments, but legitimising bias) 3) Anything goes (possibly degrading the civility and in the long term the rationality of the forum) Since the prohibitions are in fact only implicit, luckily there is no need to actually make a choice and some kind of uneasy equilibrium between 2 and 3 can exist (in which dissent is allowed, but is only encouraged in small and perhaps euphemistic doses). But I think this clarifies the point Vladimir_M is making.

I, for one, find obscurantist posts hinting that there are unspoken-because-unpalatable-to-the-mainstream truths to be far more irritating than posts explicitly saying things that I personally find distasteful. The former leaves the dissident view just amorphous enough to be impossible to subject to scrutiny. Given that, even in cases where the mainstream view is wrong, the implied dissident view may also be wrong in some important regard, the obscurantism is highly suboptimal.

I haven't been downvoting for this phenomenon so far, but I'm going to start doing so if it keeps happening.

To whoever is upvoting this, it seems like you must be taking one of the following positions:

  1. It is safe to post any view on LessWrong. Doing so will not get you in trouble, or cause blowups.
  2. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, but if you hold such a view, you are morally obliged to argue for it and suffer the punishment (possibly at the hands of me or my allies).
  3. It is unsafe to post certain views on LessWrong, and you are allowed not to argue for them, but you are not allowed to suggest that this unsafety has any sort of distorting effect on the resulting discussion.

Could you guys clarify?

I upvoted Prismatic, and I'm taking this position: 4. It may or may not be safe to post certain views on Less Wrong, but whatever they are, I precommit that I will not be part of a blowup over them. If your views are justified, I will update on them, and if they are not, I will calmly state my objections, but I will not punish you for dissent. If other people punish you unfairly for dissent, I will punish them. I would rather you post your dissenting views than hide them, and I will support you for doing so.

If enough of Less Wrong takes this position, eventually position 1. will be correct. I hope to bring about this state of affairs.

9Prismattic10yI always appreciate when someone else comes along and explains my position better than I did, so thanks.

Isn't is possible that Prismattic's comment could be receiving so many upvotes because other people also find comments of the sort described irritating and are embracing the opportunity to signal that irritation? Like Prismattic, I don't generally downvote comments on this basis alone. But I'm definitely tired of seeing the types of comments described, especially in those instances when, at least to my eyes, the commenters seem to be affecting a certain world-weary sorrow and wisdom while hinting at the profound truths that could be freely discussed but for -alas!- the terrible tyranny of modern social norms. But because the commenters are hiding the exact substance of their own views, there's no basis on which to judge whether these views are, as Prismattic suggests, actually more correct than the mainstream view, or perhaps equally or even more wrong in some different direction.

7steven046110yIf what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore I win the debate", I agree that's unreasonable. If what's suggested is "You guys would punish me for stating my arguments, therefore no real debate has taken place", I think that's far more reasonable.
8Wei_Dai10yWhy not publish the "unsafe" arguments under a pseudonym (or an alternate pseudonym if your main identity is already a pseudonym)?
8steven046110yTo do so consistently and stay safe, you'd need to take the unusual or otherwise identifiable parts of your set of concepts, favorite examples, verbal quirks, patterns of reasoning, and so on, and split everything into two: one part for use under your true identity, and one part for pseudonymous use. Even then, each of your novel ideas could taint each of your other novel ideas. There would also still be the harm to LessWrong's reputation as a whole. And what would it accomplish? It's notoriously hard to get people to change their minds on these topics, even here, and if you do there's no clear causal path from that to better long-term future outcomes. I'd rather just collectively give up.
7Wei_Dai10yI do wonder why Luke puts so much effort into writing about romantic relationships, given all the other things on his to do list. Perhaps he wants to demonstrate that rationality has big concrete, immediate benefits, as a way to help expand our community? I think that's unlikely, unless someone who wants to see it happen makes a big push for it (e.g., get Eliezer to declare it a rule, or write a really convincing top-level post arguing for it and build the necessary consensus). My suggestion was made under the assumption of the current status quo.
7Vladimir_M10yI second this question.
5dlthomas10yTrying to put words to my own intuitions on the matter, I would stipulate a modified 3: It may be unsafe (in terms of image/status/etc - I would certainly expect and hope not physically) to express certain views, particularly those sufficiently far from both societal mainstream and LW mainstream, and particularly those that touch too heavily on mind-killing topics. It is reasonably within norms to acknowledge this, particularly with an eye to reducing its effect. What is decidedly a violation of norms, I think, is to do so in a self-serving manner. "Norms forbid honest discussion of my pet issue X, therefor X" is obviously flawed. "Norms forbid discussion of my pet issue X, and I have strong evidence for X but can't share it because of those norms, so just trust me that X" amounts to the same thing, in terms of what kinds of discussions are possible. It is also, to some degree, inconsistent - it is unlikely that we forbid evidence for a proposition while allowing discussion otherwise implying/assuming it.
9[anonymous]10yYes, why should the heretic have the right to remain silent! If he speaks truth the good doctors of the holy mother church will surely update their theological arguments accordingly and if not, well why is he risking his immortal soul by relying only on his feeble and fallible mind?
9Vladimir_M10ySo you prefer the situation in which a dubious mainstream view remains entirely unchallenged to a situation where a doubter, instead of remaining silent, states that it is likely wrong but that spelling out an explicit argument why it is so would violate social norms? As far as I see, the information made available in the second case is a proper superset of the information available in the former. So how can this constitute "obscurantism" in any reasonable sense of the term?

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

ETA: I also see the widespread use on Lesswrong of "politically correct" as an attribution that prima facie proves something is wrong to be problematic. Society functions on polite fictions, but that does not mean that everything that is polite is inherently false.

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

Do you upvote people that do?

I have mostly grown tired of making comments where I mention a contrarian position. I get asked to explain myself; it sometimes leads to an argument, and I put a lot of work into comments that often end up at negative karma. I suspect those threads add to LW, but the feedback I'm getting is that they don't.

8pedanterrific10yI'll understand if you refuse, but... would you mind terribly saving me the work of searching for an example of what you're talking about? Cause, see, if I'm right about what you're referring to (something I'm not sure of, hence the question) I generally do upvote things like that. Also I've only been here, like, two months, so if you have some kind of reputation I'm not aware of it.
6Vaniver10yThe most recent example would be my comment that everyone becoming bisexual might lead to a net social loss [http://lesswrong.com/lw/88b/disability_culture_meets_the_transhumanist/54ty], although the karma scores have gone up since that discussion happened (and so maybe I just need to wait before updating on the karma of contrarian comments). I spent way too long looking through other comments I've made, and only really came across this example. I suspect this was misapplying discontent caused by other arguments. I had already noticed a while back that when I made a sloppy comment it would often get downvoted, although I would be able to make up the karma by explaining myself downthread. The only other significant example I can think of was in a thread about infanticide [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l/closet_survey_1/30hv] where I accidentally implied that I could be for the criminalization of abortion, and that comment got kicked down to -3 karma, with +1 karma from my following comments. (It's hard to decide how that whole thread contributes to this question, because the person who said "well, I can't say this many places, but I'm in favor of infanticide" got upvoted to 41 karma. That suggests to me their position isn't contrarian locally, but I suspect it is contrarian globally.)
5thomblake10yIn general, it's been observed that a comment on a controversial topic will be downvoted heavily in a quick flurry but then usually recovers; high-quality such comments tend to end up significantly positive.
3wedrifid10yAnd now I have seen it observed by someone who isn't me. Good to hear external confirmation! :)
7thomblake10yCareful - if you've stated it out loud, the observation noted above might be your own.
2thomblake10yBy the way, +1 for noting the tension between "Is that your true rejection" and "Policy debates should not appear one-sided".

I'd prefer social norms be violated.

It sounds, then, as though you should be talking to the people punishing norm violations, not to the people responding rationally to such punishment.

I'd prefer social norms be violated. Asserting that a proposition is wrong without explaining why one has reached that conclusion or presenting an alternative is not a behavior that is generally viewed as beneficial in any other context on Lesswrong.

This does not answer my question. You claim that a situation in which information X and Y is made available constitutes "obscurantism" relative to the situation where only information X is provided. Now you say that you would prefer that not just X and Y, but also information Z be provided. That's fair enough, but it doesn't explain why (X and Y) is worse than just (X), if (X and Y and Z) is better than just (X and Y). What is this definition of "obscurantism," according to which the level of obscurantism can rise with the amount of information about one's beliefs that one makes available?

I still consider myself relatively new here, only been around for a year -- but in that year I haven't seen any actual fact presented in LessWrong that's enflamed spirits one tenth as much as the obscure half-hints by trolls like sam and his "I can't say things, because you politically correct morons will downvote me into oblivion, but be sure that my arguments would be crushing, if I was allowed to make them, which I'm not, therefore I'm not making them" style of debate.

The "obscurantism" that Prismatic is talking about isn't yet as bad as that, but it has that same flavour, to a lesser degree. This sort of thing is... annoying -- hinting at evidence, but refusing to provide it -- and blaming this obscurity at the hypothetical actions by people who haven't actually done them yet.

If the issue is e.g. whether science seems to indicate that the statistical distribution of physical and intellectual characteristic isn't identical across racially-defined subgroups of the human race, or across genders, or across whatever, then it can be discussed politely, if the participants actually seek a polite discussion, instead of just finding the most insulting way possible t... (read more)

If the topic can't be discussed, then don't discuss it or hint at it at all.

You are presenting the situation as if such hints were coming out of the blue in discussions of unrelated topics. In reality, however, I have seen (or given) such hints only in situations where a problematic topic has already been opened and discussed by others. In such situations, the commenter giving the hint is faced with a very unpleasant choice, where each option has very serious downsides. It seems to me that the optimal choice in some situations is to announce clearly that the topic is in fact deeply problematic, and there is no way to have a no-holds-barred rational discussion about it that wouldn't offend some sensibilities. (And thus even if it doesn't break down the discourse here, it would make the forum look bad to the outside world.)

At the very least, this can have the beneficial effect of lowering people's confidence in the biased conclusions of the existing discussion, thus making their beliefs more accurate, even in a purely reactive way. However, you seem to deny that this choice could ever be optimal. Yet I really don't see how you can write off the possibility that both alternatives ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 14

(And thus even if it doesn't break down the discourse here, it would make the forum look bad to the outside world.)

This.

I really really don't want such discussion to be very prominent, because they attract the wrong contrarian cluster. But I don't want LW loosing ground rationality wise with debates that are based on some silly premises, especially ones that are continually reinforced by new arrivals and happy death spirals!

Attracting the wrong people, and alienating some of the "right" people is a bigger concern to me than the reputation of the site as a whole (though that counts too). Another concern is that hot-button issues might eat up the conversations and get too important (they are not issues I care that much about debating here).

The current compromise of avoiding some hot-button issue, and having some controversial things buried in comment threads or couched in indirect academese seems reasonable enough to me.

[-][anonymous]10y 16

I agree with this. But I wish to emphasise:

The current compromise of avoiding some hot-button issue, and having some controversial things buried in comment threads or couched in indirect academese seems reasonable enough to me.

Some of us look at the state of LW and fear that punishment of this appropriate behaviour is slowly escalating, while evaporative cooling is eliminating the rewards.

Some of us look at the state of LW and fear that punishment of this appropriate behaviour is slowly escalating, while evaporative cooling is eliminating the rewards.

I concur with this diagnosis -- and I would add that the process has already led to some huge happy death spirals of a sort that would not be allowed to develop, say, a year an a half ago when I first started commenting here. In some cases, the situation has become so bad that attacking these death spirals head-on is no longer feasible without looking like a quarrelsome and disruptive troll.

8Swimmer9639yCould you give some examples? I don't like the thought of my brain being happy-death-spiralled without my noticing. I promise to upvote your comment even if it makes me angry.
3Multiheaded9y(Eh, he's been inactive for the last three months anyway.)
8[anonymous]10ySam dosen't do that. Sam trolls by stating his opinions fully. He then refuses to provide evidence. Race differences have already been explicitly discussed with little problem, if not prominently so, do a search. Gender, sexuality and sexual norms are the great unPC problem of LessWrong. Dishonest generalization, find two posters in addition to Sam who do this. I will wait. Now contrast this to the average (even average anon double log in account) pro-hereditarian LW-er who brings up such points. There are far more Quirrells than Sams here, and Sams get heavily downvoted except on the rare occasions they make more reasonable posts (though the particular poster has probably burned out some people's patience and will get downvoted no matter what he says because he has consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to adapt to our norms). This is quickly devolving into the worst kind of politicking one finds on otherwise intelligent forums. But it is other people who keep dragging them up and discussing them. Politely stating that you disagree and they are wrong, getting then heavily up voted (which indicates a significant if far from majority fraction of LWers agree with the comment) is surely better than not interrupting what you see as a happy death spiral? Have we been visiting the same forum? I have often up-voted your responses to Sam0345's posts, indeed you nearly always successfully rebuke him. But I think your extensive interactions with him may be leading you to mistake an individual for a group.
6ArisKatsaris10yI've decided to bow out of this thread -- as I've not significantly studied either PUA, nor cared to read about previous PUA-related threads in LessWrong, I can barely understand what you're talking about. Perhaps you've noticed a real problem that I haven't, exactly because you're focusing on different type of threads than I do. The thing I had in mind was things like e.g. the guy who repeatedly and deliberately kept using the diminutive word "girls" to refer to female rationalists but "men" to refer to the male counterparts. This by itself -- when I perceived he intended to belittle women in this fashion, or at least didn't give a damn about not insulting them -- prevented any meaningful discussion of the actual argument he was engaged in, (whether a male-only meetup would be useful or detrimental for the purposes of LessWrong).
5[anonymous]10yHe really shouldn't have done that.
4[anonymous]10yOB and early LW consistently blew up whenever PUA and related issues where discussed.
5Nisan10yI appreciate your point here, but you could have chosen a better example. Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness. They have the same content and are compatible with the same presuppositions and connotations. They just use different language. Now perhaps there are people who, upon seeing "women suck at math", read "boo women!", and upon seeing words like "causal" and "Y chromosome", think about causes and effects. So if you're talking to one of those people, you'll want to use the fancier language. But not everyone is like that. I care about this because I want to be able to talk about why so few of my mathematician colleagues are female, and why they feel so weird about it, and what can be done about it, without gratuitously offending people.

Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness. They have the same content and are compatible with the same presuppositions and connotations. They just use different language.

I am really curious how you can demonstrate equivalence between a question that follows the pattern "Why is (X) the case?" and a question that follows the pattern "Is (Y) the case?" -- even if (Y) is arguably equivalent to (X), only phrased in more polite language.

As far as I see, the first one asks for the explanation of something that is presumed to be an established fact, while the second one expresses uncertainty about whether (arguably) the same fact is true. How on Earth can these two be said to have "the same content" and be "compatible with the same presuppositions"?

However, you are quite right that these two questions have the same potential for offensiveness, in that outside a few quirky places like LW, neither the polite phrasing nor the expression of uncertainty will get you off the hook, contrary to what Aris Katsaris seems to believe.

8Nisan10yAh, I see, you're right; the content of the two questions are different. I noticed there was a substantial difference in language, and assumed that was the point of the example.
[-][anonymous]10y 11

Those two questions have the same capacity for offensiveness.

Surely that's a hyperbole. Now, I know lots of people would be offended by both questions, but I doubt most people would be equally offended by both, and plenty of people would be offended by one but not the other. As a woman who doesn't suck at math, I am down to discuss the first question, but the second one makes me want to slap you.

(Of course, by declaring myself a woman who doesn't suck at math, I have already proven my own nonexistence, so my opinion can, no doubt, safely be ignored.;) )

As a woman who doesn't suck at math, I am down to discuss the first question, but the second one makes me want to slap you.

Is it ok to threaten (or declare the desire to do) physical violence upon someone if you don't get your way simply because you are a woman? Careful which stereotypes you support. You don't usually get "heh. Female violence is harmless and cute!" without a whole lot of paternalism bundled in.

2dlthomas10ySlaps, generally, are relatively harmless. Unfulfilled desires to slap, even more so.
6NancyLebovitz10yOn the other hand, hasn't there been some discussion of the idea that you have to believe something, however briefly, to understand it? Even though expressing a desire to slap has no macro bodily effect [1], it still has an emotional effect which is going to affect how a conversation goes, however slightly. [2] [1] Tentative phrasing used to respect the idea that everything is physical, including thoughts and emotions, but that some things affect people physically more than others. [2] I believe that "just ignore it" leaves out that ignoring things is work.

That's uncalled-for. I am not asking either question. It's okay if you're offended by one but not the other.

Again, I care about this because I want to be able to talk about why so few of my colleagues are female, and why they feel so weird about it, and what can be done about it — without gratuitously offending people.

6ArisKatsaris10ySame capacity for offensiveness, perhaps -- in that some overly defensive people will surely choose to feel attacked ("be offended") just as much by either question. But same average offensiveness? I seriously doubt it. Signalling is important. "Offensiveness" functions by signalling you an enemy. If you signal strongly enough that your question is about a desire to understand neurobiological causes of a statistical phenomenon, not about an attempt to attack groups of people, fewer people will feel attacked. Now some people will surely argue that people just "ought grow tougher skins" instead. But that's an "ought"-argument, and I'm referring to an "is"-question, which choice of words and sentences leads to a better discussion.
4Prismattic10yThose questions are not remotely equivalent. I suppose as a second order implication, if you assume that the average man is not very good at math, you could also assume that the average women is really not very good at math, but obviously both the male and female distributions have people above their respective means. In any case, "Why and how do women suck at math" sounds to me like "Why do all women suck at math," not like "Why does the average woman suck at math," even if the latter question was based on an accurate presupposition.
4Prismattic10yWhat am referring to as obscurantism are (usually implied) claims that "I possess information that refutes a mainstream view, but I'm not going to share it, because most people can't handle the truth in a nonmindkilling fashion." cf. Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obscurantism]
9Vladimir_M10yThat's not necessarily the claim (explicit or implied). It can also be that even if the information were to be handled in a non-mind-killing fashion, the resulting conclusions would be beyond the pale of what is acceptable under the current social norms. As for the definition of obscurantism you gave, this is definitely not obscurantism under (1), since it withholds less information to the public than if one remains completely silent. As for (2), it doesn't involve abstruseness, deliberate or not, since the claim is in fact very simple (as e.g. spelled out above). The most you can say is that it involves deliberate vagueness, but even there, the purpose of the vagueness is not to mislead, confuse, or perform some rhetorical legerdemain, but merely to hand out a limited but perfectly clear piece of information.
9RomanDavis10yIt'd be interesting to see some sort of dumping ground of allegedly useful, but socially unacceptable ideas, which may or may not be true, and then have a group of people discuss and test them. Doesn't seem completely outside the territority of lesswrong, but if you think these subjects are that hazardous, and that lesswrong is too useful to be risked, then a different site that did something along those lines is something I'd like to see.
[-][anonymous]10y 14

A invitation based mailing list of a group of high karma non-ideological LWers seems the better route.

A site devoted to discussing impolite but probable ideas will well... disappoint very quickly. Have you ever seen the comment section of a major news site?

9Nick_Tarleton10yA non-archived mailing list, I think, to greatly reduce the potential cost of adding new members.
5Vladimir_M10yTrouble is, everything transported over the internet is archived one way or another. That is actually the main reason why I've been reluctant to push forward with this initiative lately.
8wedrifid10yEverything? I don't believe that. I am highly confident that I have transported plenty of things over the internet that were never archived and could not have been archived without my knowledge. Unless someone is a whole lot better with large primes than I believe possible.
6Vladimir_M10yYes, of course, it's not literally true. But working under that assumption is a useful heuristic for avoiding all sorts of trouble, unless you have very detailed and reliable technical knowledge of what exactly is going on under the hood.
7Bugmaster10yI agree with you completely regarding privacy. If you feel that you must absolutely prevent some piece of information from leaking out into the world for all to see, you must treat every communication medium -- and the Internet specifically -- as insecure. The world is littered with dead political careers of people who did not heed this warning. That said though (to paraphrase the old adage), are we rationalists or are we mice ? If you hold some beliefs that can get you burned at the stake (figuratively speaking... hopefully...), then isn't it all the more important to determine if these beliefs are true ? And how are you going to do that all by yourself, with no one to critique your ideas and to expose your biases ?
3[anonymous]10yThis is just a quibble because I don't disagree with your conclusion, but the traffic could conceivably be archived in its encrypted state for decryption later.
1wedrifid10yYes, I theoretically have to consider how good people from the distant future who particularly want to know what I said now are at playing with large primes. Because there is always the possibility that a man in the middle is saving the encrypted data stream just in case it becomes possible to decipher in the future.
5Nick_Tarleton10yDo you mean in users' inboxes, or something else?
6Vladimir_M10yYes, in this case the inboxes would be the obvious problem, but there might be others too, depending on the implementation. In any case, I don't think it would be possible to assume lack of permanent record, the way it would be possible with non-recorded private conversation.
8Normal_Anomaly10yI support this proposal and would like to join the mailing list if one becomes available. But why do you think a mailing list would fare better than a website? Because of restricted access?
6pedanterrific10yI guess it has more of a "secret society" vibe to it. Oooh, ooh, can we call it the Political Conspiracy? Is 1100 enough karma? I've tried to stay out of ideological debates, but I don't know precisely what the criteria would be. (And who would decide, anyway?)

I guess it has more of a "secret society" vibe to it.

Yes, that's another way in which it just doesn't look like a good idea. When you're organizing people in a way that has a secret society vibe, chances are you're doing something either really childish or really dangerous.

[-][anonymous]10y 11

Come now LWers don't make more of this proposal than there is.

I didn't perceive a secret society vibe at all in what amounts to a bunch of people having a topic restricted private correspondence.

Everyone has some email correspondences he wouldn't be comfortable posting in public. Private correspondences as well as physical meetings restricted to friends or colleagues have been a staple of intellectual life for centuries and are nothing to be a priori discouraged. In effect nearly every LW meet up is a private affair, since people don't seem to be recording them. Privacy matters in order to preserve the signal to noise ration (technical mailing lists) and so that people feel more comfortable saying things that can be taken out of context as well as be somewhat protected from ideological or religious persecution.

Also quite frankly lots of the people in such a mailing list have probably written on such ideas in some digital format or another before, either corresponding with friends, commenting in a shady on-line community or just writing out some notes for their own use.

Everyone has some email correspondences he wouldn't be comfortable posting in public.

Yes, but having semi-public statements on the record is a very different situation, where the set of people who may get to see them is open-ended.

This thread certainly hasn't made me more optimistic. Observe that even though I have made the utmost effort to avoid making any concrete controversial statements, there is already a poster -- and a decently upvoted LW poster, not some random individual -- who has confabulated that I have made such statements about an extremely charged topic ("openly," at that), and is presently conducting a subthread under this premise. Makes you think twice on what may happen if you are actually on the record for having made such statements.

7Emile10yThe comment sections on iSteve and Roissy are not great places either.

In the period roughly from 2006 until 2009, there was a flourishing scene of a number of loosely connected contrarian blogs with excellent comment sections. This includes the early years of Roissy's blog. (Curiously, the golden age of Overcoming Bias also occurred within this time period, although I don't count it as a part of this scene.)

All of these blogs, however, have shut down or gone completely downhill since then (or, at best, become nearly abandoned), and I can't think of anything remotely comparable nowadays. I can also only speculate on what lucky confluence led to their brief flourishing and whether all such places on the internet are doomed to a fairly quick decay and disintegration. I can certainly think of some plausible reasons why this might be so.

I'm inclined to think that unusual goodness in social groups is very fragile, partly because it takes people being unhabitual so that there's freshness to the interactions.

I can believe that this is more fragile online than in person-- a happy family has more incentives and more kinds of interaction to help maintain itself.

2HughRistik10yAs a contrasting data point, my contrarian group blog [http://www.feministcritics.org/blog] started during that time, and we are still going, with more readers than ever. Apparently there is a niche for people who are interested in mostly dry, slightly polemical, relatively rigorous discussion of gender politics.
4Eugine_Nier10yI've looked at your blog. You seem to be spending a lot of effort to bend over backwards to PC orthodoxy, the "No Hostility" threads being the most blatant examples of this. Also, your posts also have an almost apologetic undertone, as if you believe you need to apologize to feminists for criticizing them.
6lessdazed10yFrom I Don't Know [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gs/i_dont_know/]: If I'm dealing with someone who doesn't think politics, the mind killer, requires an effort towards calm and careful thought, and has beliefs primarily as attire rather than anticipation controllers, and who doesn't understand that policy debates should not be one sided, and who is dealing with non-allied interlocutors by assuming they are innately evil and pattern matching them to evil groups with heavily motivated cognition, and sometimes reasons that enemies are innately evil in violation of conservation of evidence, and sees a negative halo around any concept within shooting distance of the point I am trying to make, and doesn't strive to think non-cached thoughts, then the truth is that I automatically know s/he's wrong. The truth is not enough; if one were to use the words that best represent these ideas to one's self, a significant portion of the audience would believe things less aligned with truth than they do after one does one's best to accommodate their thought patterns, as the blog is now.
5Eugine_Nier10yAgreed, one must be careful when dealing with non-rationalists. However, Vladimir_M was talking about blogs where people who were already sufficiently rational not to get mind-killed by the topic got together in an attempt to find the truth, as opposed to blogs like HughRistik's that focus more on appealing to people who aren't yet rational.
2thomblake10yThere's a hypothesis I've seen tossed around that good blogs during that period existed because lots of people were blogging, and fewer people are blogging now because of microblogging. I haven't seen whether the relevant facts cited there are even true, and I can't find a reference to the hypothesis.

My own pet hypothesis is that after blogs became a popular and mainstream phenomenon sometime around the early-to-mid-oughts, there was a huge outburst of enthusiasm by a lot of smart contrarians with interesting ideas, who though this would be a new medium capable of breaking the monopoly on significant and respectable public discourse held by the mainstream media and academia. This enthusiasm was naive and misguided for a number of reasons that now seem obvious in retrospect, and faced with reality it petered out fairly quickly. But while it lasted, it resulted in some very interesting output.

5[anonymous]10yIndeed, that's my point.
5steven046110yThis was previously discussed here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6vq/on_the_unpopularity_of_cryonics_life_sucks_but_at/4ktd] . Right now, it's sounding like whatever (if anything) comes out of this will fail by being overly inclusive. My guess is that if this sort of thing ends up working well, it will be because some small group of people who happen to have good taste end up making decisions on a "trust me" basis, rather than because LessWrong as a community successfully applies some attempt at a transparently fair algorithm.
6Anatoly_Vorobey10yYour question rests on an assumption that obscurantism must decrease information, but I see that assumption as incorrect. In fact, under this assumption I should never regard anything said to me as obscurantist, as it should never decrease the amount of information available to me. Wikipedia defines "obscurantism" as "the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known", and it seems to fit the bill. Of course, it may be useful or beneficial species of obscurantism, though I agree with Prismatic that it is not. The situation as you describe it seems pre-biased by postulating that the mainstream view is dubious. This may be obvious to you, but to me, the person who's faced with the "hints" as described, it is not - if it were, I shouldn't need the hints to begin with. I think it's incorrect to condition on the dubiousness of the mainstream view. If I am to decide on how to best to take into account hints of that nature, the possibility that the mainstream view is correct after all, and the hint entirely specious, should not be disregarded. In fact, in real-life situations where such hints are offered, this may be the more frequent scenario. The hint that says "this view is incorrect, but I will not explain why, for doing that will violate a social norm" is annoying and distracting; it engages my attention, bringing no real evidence for its claims. Because it posits a mystery, I'm likely to err on the side of giving it more attention than it deserves. The benefit is that it may cause me to investigate the view more thoroughly than I would otherwise have, and realize it is incorrect. If I precommit to ignoring such signals, I will miss some chances of that, and I will also avoid giving my attention, and more closely investigating, all those views that are correct after all, and where the signal was specious. The bargain may well be worth it.
4Vladimir_M10yWhat makes obscurantism a relevant category is that certain ways of withholding information and intentional abstruseness can be very effective for misleading people and producing convictions without evidence. In LW parlance, it is a particular kind of Dark Arts. Now, of course, it makes no sense to debate definitions when there is a true disagreement about them, but I think it shouldn't be controversial to insist that the normal meaning of "obscurantism" involves this Dark Arts element. In other words, it involves withholding information with the intent to mislead and produce mistaken or unsubstantiated beliefs, and it cannot be applied to every act of withholding information intentionally. I do think the Wikipedia definition you quoted is unreasonably overbroad, considering the standard usage of the word. It would cover all sorts of completely honest, reasonable, and non-misleading acts of communication where one chooses to limit the amount of information given -- for example, saying that you got a new job but not disclosing the salary, or writing blog comments under a pseudonym. It is not true that it brings no significant evidence, if the source of the hint is someone about whom you have other information -- and information about the intellectual abilities, knowledge, and likely biases of frequent commenters is easy to get in a forum like this one (if you don't in fact have it already). And you can always simply ignore such hits if you believe you have insufficient information, or you don't feel like looking for it, the way you presumably ignore any other comments that are not of interest to you. Also, I note that your complaint here doesn't state that these hits are misleading and apt to trigger biases leading to incorrect beliefs, so you must indeed be working with the broadest possible (and I would say overbroad) definition of "obscurantism." It may indeed -- but why precommit unconditionally, without considering the source of these signals?
8wedrifid10yNot technically true. It is possible to make a perfectly rational mind produce worse predictions about the world by providing it with selected information. This relies on it having insufficient information about your obscuring tendencies or motives. The new probabilities that the rational agent has will necessarily be a subjectively objective [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s6/probability_is_subjectively_objective/] improvement but can still produce worse predictions of the relevant aspects of the world in an objective sense.
7Vladimir_M10yYou're right, of course. I edited away that part, which is not relevant for the main point anyway.
5[anonymous]10yWhat is obscurantist exactly? What I said is perfectly clear, if you look at the context of the two preceding posts. No particular claim about male-female relations was intended (although if you want to know I endorse Roissy's view [http://heartiste.wordpress.com] of male-female relations, if not his value-set); I was objecting to the idea that "mindkilling" should be redefined as "saying things likely to offend mainstream sensibilities". Mindkilling [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller] refers to the effect of political content on human reasoning powers in general, and the suggested redefinition struck me as Orwellian.
2Prismattic10yIt is not your post that I think is obscurantist. I was commenting on the undesirability of posts that presuppose option 2 has been selected and proceed to imply that the mainstream view is false without actually making explict what alternative is being proposed. I think the alpha-beta classification is excessively reductive. I would say that I am fairly physically intimidating to a majority of other males, but this doesn't translate into automatic adoration by nearby females.
7[anonymous]10yAn acknowledgement that something can't be said because of decency implies that practical and true things could be said in the absence of decency. This is indeed a real concern. But I would say that a sentence like : Would have a positive effect on Lesswrong.
[-][anonymous]10y 32

this is the closest I can go without touching mindkillers

The point I was making is that "mindkillers", under its original definition, refers to political content in general. If someone writes about male-female relations and excludes "politically offensive" material, this does not mean that their article has no political content. It just means that it is the mainstream political line!

In the Soviet Union, Mendelism might have been considered indecent. On the Soviet rationalist forum, Lysenkoist articles might have a caveat attached that political indecency is omitted. Nonetheless it is hardly fair to say that the Mendelism is a mindkiller and Lysenkoism is not in this context - the label "mindkilling" properly applies to the subject of heredity in general, given that it is politically controversial in this scenario.

Likewise if there is political sensitivity involved in the subject of male-female relations, then the subject in general is a mindkiller. The mainstream line is no less "mindkilling" than the dissenting position - it just happens to enjoy hegemony.

The distinction is that mindkilling argument can be avoided if dissent from the mai... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 14

mindkilling is a property of ideologically controversial subjects in general.

Ah I finally clearly see your objection now. I misused the term "mindkiller" in a way that suggested that the "indecent" explanation was the mindkilling one rather than the field or subject itself.

If mindkilling is subtly redefined to mean dissent, people might grow to believe that it is dissent that is the mindkiller, not subjects of political controversy in general, and they should therefore steer clear of it.

Indeed something like this could happen if people where not careful with the usage.

Yes you are right, a different formulation needs to be found otherwise my arguments for why such a situation might be better than pure taboo is mostly invalid in the long run.

I wanted something like: "This is as far as I will go in this contribution on the subject on LessWrong for the sake of the community, but it is by no means the full rationalist approach, if anyone wants to discuss this in private or research it on their own and I would in fact encourage this/there is nothing wrong with that. This subject is pretty mindkilling and so these precautions are needed."

5sam034510yMany modern PC beliefs about women first showed up in Victorian times, which beliefs were I to mention them would be get me as down voted now as much as they would get a Victorian gentlemen in trouble. Before Victorian times, pretty much everyone agreed with the position taken by Chateau Heartiste [http://heartiste.wordpress.com/] - that the alarmingly powerful, reckless, irresponsible, and immoral sexual urges of women, unless restrained, would destroy civilization.
[-][anonymous]10y 26

Many modern PC beliefs about women first showed up in Victorian times, which beliefs were I to mention them would be get me as down voted now as much as they would get a Victorian gentlemen in trouble.

Women's motives are generally purer than men's. Women are much more often good mothers than men are good fathers. Women are nearly always more interested in committed relationships than just sex with the most attractive male. Women should be held much less accountable for their criminal and unscrupulous actions than men. Women are always the victims never the abusers. Women do not lie about rape. Women are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to virtuous men (noticeable echo's of Calvinism in this). A woman's complaints and grievances are generally reasonable, while a man's are generally not. Women's sexual instincts are benign to society while men's sexual instincts are malign. Women are more altruistic and fair than men. ect.

Most of this is obviously bunk and most of this is also obviously implicitly accepted though it may be denied.

And Sam, I don't think I will get down voted for stating this.

8[anonymous]10yIn practice however if I wasn't very careful when challenging a argument that implicitly rested on two or more of the above as an axiom I might get down voted on LW (but less so than many other places).
2lessdazed10yThat follows the pattern of a clever way of phrasing arguments such that they can be interpreted as either tautologies or meaning something stupid. It's more insidious than just unambiguously stupid arguments.
4RomanDavis10yA solution might be to make a sort of subforum for mindkilling topics, and associating them with some karma cost. Doesn't eliminate the mindkilling aspect, but hopefully makes it so that people with low karmas are kept out, which is hopefully correlated with some minimal rational ability. Or maybe not. Holding off on that sort of thing is sometimes a good idea.

Yes, "lynch" is hyperbole, probably unnecessary ("vilified" seems a bit weak. You might want to tell off these websites for incorrect use of the term "lynching").

You spend a lot of time addressing the issue of Race and IQ; I am mostly concerned of how Stephanie Grace was treated for what was a quite reasonable private email. In an ancestor comment you wrote:

Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it might happen to them.

To me, it's very clear "what": what happened to Stephanie Grace. It's unlikely, but a small chance of having your career ruined is not a risk most people are willing to take. Those chances increase if one of the people involved becomes somewhat famous, or if some well meaning anti-racist (or other) activist takes interest in the discussion. Nobody wants a Google search of their name return a hate page on the first page of results.

What surprises me the most is that you find this unclear, that you don't understand how that can be a concern for somebody.

To me, it's very clear "what": what happened to Stephanie Grace.

Some people she didn't know said she was a bad person, and then her life went on. She got the job she was intending to get, and hardly anyone will remember the 'scandal'.

Recent story mentioning her

3MadDrNesbit10yInteresting, thanks; I had briefly googled for that kind of info but hadn't found any. She is probably somewhat helped by having a pretty common name and surname, but I'm still updating my estimate of "negative consequences for being target of a hate campaign" downwards a bit.
2wedrifid10yIs a word missing there? 'scandal'?

Yes - "her hamster" is an interesting way of saying "women aren't rational, they just rationalise everything away".

it's an unfalsifiable proposition. Have you had a look at the list of things that he says women say? Yep - they could indeed be rationalisations... or they could in fact be the truth... how can you tell the difference? well - you can't. That's because this, as I said, is a fully-general counterargument.

No matter what his (as he says) "screechy feminist kvetches" about... he can just say "that's just a rationalisation" and not think any further or take it into account. he never has to update on anything a woman says to him ever. Also, i note that he seem to think that female rationalisation is a totally different species to male rationalisation... and doesn't even mention instances of the latter.

As to "boners don't lie" - this is demonstrably untrue any time somebody is turned on by a picture. There are no doubt objective criteria which have high correlation with the average male's likely attraction to a woman. Studies into facial symmetry, smooth complexion etc etc have clearly shown this. yes, you can compare averag... (read more)

2[anonymous]10yYes he is saying that. About as sound as the argument you characterised.
2taryneast10yThanks for letting me rant about it a bit :)

Again, where did I say that it was "gross"?

I said it would make it harder for the woman to get dates with men, but is that really in doubt? Do you need me to find statistics showing that (American) men in general rate women who don't shave their legs as less attractive? And I was using it as an example of something that shouldn't matter, but does.

You don't get to say that because 90% of people who used it in the context you did would be using it seriously, and because accusing someone of being a bad person for being sexist is more of a trigger point than accusing someone of having a bad debate.

9dlthomas10yWhen you give a list of three attributes, people tend assume the salient features are common for all three or different for all three. The attributes you gave were obese, poor hygiene, and unshaved. Two of these, obese and poor hygiene, are problematic for reasons other than simple lack of social acceptance, and people thus feel more confident calling them "gross" - for which they were also primed by your use of the term in it's other sense. As I see it: no, you didn't say it, but I completely understand why they heard it.
3MixedNuts10yUh. Okay. I guess I far underestimated the proportion of people who would seriously call you a bad person on LW. My bad.
3wedrifid10yFor what it is worth I appreciated the tongue in cheek nature of your call and only object to the 'being wrong about what what Yvain said' part, not the 'bad' part. I can't help you in finding an explanation on how you managed to get to -4. Perhaps you could edit that one part out and see if you get back up to 0? People often seem to approve of retraction-edits.

How does your original description not cover the Stephanie Grace case?

Then, in an environment dominated numerically by similar people, they find it similarly plausible to think that if they voice a belief that is uncharitable towards, or does not reflect well upon, some social minority or other, they will be...well, it's not clear what. Censored? Hunted down and sued? I'm not sure what they're really afraid of, but they're angry about the idea that it might happen to them.

It's clear to me that Stephanie Grace should have been aware that even if in her environment people think like her, voicing a belief that doesn't reflect well upon blacks is dangerous. No, she won't be censored or sued, but her prospects will take a sharp turn downwards. She should have been afraid, and maybe angry about what might happen to her if she dared speak honestly, even in a private email.

And yet, you seem to think that she had nothing to be afraid of, and that her being afraid or angry would have been kind of silly and stupid on her behalf (or at least, that's the impression I get from the way you write).

(Note that I'm not saying this is the main reason sensitive topics should be avoided on LessWrong. There are better reasons to avoid those topics.)

Eh? That term means "cat" to me.

EDIT: In fact, wedrifid's meaning has a different etymology from either yours or mine.

5Prismattic10yTerms meaning cat have been slang for the female genitalia in more than one language, or so The Great Cat Massacre [http://www.amazon.com/Great-Cat-Massacre-Episodes-Cultural/dp/0394729277] claims about "le chatte" in French, at any rate..
5JoshuaZ10yHuh. Interesting. I did not realize what the etymology of that word was. The fact that it is used almost exclusively to target males rather than females suggests that there's been some etymological bleed over.
9Oligopsony10yAnd at no niggardly pace, either.
6dlthomas10yWhile I don't doubt that there has been some bleed over, I am not sure this is actually suggestive of it; typical gender roles would have "pampered" or "soft" also be seen as more negative when directed at a male, and I don't think there is any related bleeding going on there.
2wedrifid10yThanks, I wasn't aware of the origins of, well, any of the various usages for that word.

Not to speak for lessdazed, but what I understood them to be saying is that when I argue against a proposition P solely by pointing to the consequences of believing P, I am implicitly asserting the truth of P. I would agree with that.

I would say further that it's best not to implicitly assert the truth of false propositions, given a choice.

It follows that it's better for me to say "P is false, and also has bad consequences" than to say "P has bad consequences."

NOT discussing the moral implications here, but I saw this study and found it relevant. One of the arguments re: PUA is that there have been no scientific studies as to whether it works or not. Apparently, that isnt true. Here is a link to an article about a study that shows that a light non-sexual touch (what the PUA folks would call "kino") ups the chances that a woman will give you her phone number.

The relevant part is #7 "Touch for a Date". Excerpt:

Perhaps more surprisingly women also responded well to a light touch on the arm when being asked for their phone number by a man in the street (Gueguen, 2007). This may be because women associated a light 1 or 2-second touch with greater dominance. (Bear in mind, though, that this research was in France again!)

I can't access the full text of the actual study, but maybe some of the university students here can read and summarize.

By giving us no reason to think that you're capable of non-motivated cognition.

I voted you down for saying "Also, you're a bad person for saying a woman who doesn't shave her legs is gross" when I never said anything of the sort. Maybe you misunderstood the term "grossly obese" (which uses 'gross' in the sense of 'large')? I don't know.

Even if I had said that, there would have to be a nicer way to correct it.

You make a very good point here. But you see, women don't find men who try to be nice to them attractive. They call it "clingy", "creepy" behavior. Human male-female interaction is actually a signalling game, where the man being nice simply sends a signal of weakness. Women are genetically programmed to only let alpha sperm in, and the alpha is not a character who goes around being nice to strangers.

Oversimplified to the extent that it is basically not true.

1usedToPost10yYou comment would be more useful if you said which ways it is oversimplified, and which additions and caveats you think are most important to restore it to being true.
1anonymous25910yAnd yet I would bet that it is still closer to true than I approve of. In particular, closer to true than the mental model used by the naive "nice guy"/"beta".

I think the most important question is "Is it ethical to obtain sex by deliberately faking social signals, given what we know of the consequences for both parties of this behaviour?".

"Deliberately faking social signals"? But, but, that barely makes any sense. They are signals. You give the best ones you can. Everybody else knows that you are trying to give the best signals that you can and so can make conclusions about your ability to send signals and also what other signals you will most likely give to them and others in the future. That is more or less what socializing is. I suppose blatant lies in a context where lying isn't appropriate and elaborate creation of false high status identities could be qualify - but in those case I would probably use a more specific description.

A close second would be "Is it ethical to engage in dominance-seeking behaviour in a romantic relationship?".

A third would be "could the majority of humans have a romantic relationship without dominance-seeking behavior?" and the fourth : "would most people find romantic relationships anywhere near as satisfying without dominance-seeking behavior?" (My money is on the "No"s.)

4NancyLebovitz10yOne more question: What principles would help establish how much dominance seeking behavior is enough to break the relationship or in some other way cause more damage than it's worth, considering that part of dominance is ignoring feedback that it's unwelcome?"
4wedrifid10yYes, that part is hard, even on a micro scale. I have been frequently surprised that I underestimate how much dominance seeking would be optimal. I attribute this to mind-projection [http://lesswrong.com/lw/oi/mind_projection_fallacy/]. ie "This means she would prefer me to do that? Wow. I'd never take that shit if it was directed at me. Hmm... I'm going do that for her benefit and be sure not to send any signal that I am doing it for compliance. It's actually kind of fun." (Here I do mean actual unambiguous messages - verbal or through blatantly obvious social signalling by the partner. I don't mean just "some source says that's what women want".) Fortunately we can choose which dominance seeking behaviors to accept and reject at the level of individual behavioral trait. We could also, if it was necessary for a particular relationship, play the role of someone who is ignoring feedback but actually absorb everything and process it in order to form the most useful model of how to navigate the relationship optimally. On the flip side we can signal and screen to avoid dominance seeking behaviors that we particularly don't want and seek out and naturally reward those that we do want.

No, that's called sex slavery.

Not unless sex slaves are able to divorce you and take most of your stuff if you piss them off.

The ability to terminate a contract at will means that the other party can coerce you to the extent that you value the continuation of the contract more than they do. Calling a marriage contract with a rather unusual "always willing to have sex" clause sex slavery is a massive insult to sex slaves.

Within the limits of how efficiently of how divorce is set up in the contract, effectively the contract in question is actually equivalent to "have sex with me enough or the relationship is over". Basically that is how relationships work implicitly anyway. You just aren't supposed to talk about it that overtly (because that almost never works.) Basically the arrangement sounds a whole lot worse than it is because we aren't used to thinking about relationships in terms that fully account for all our game theoretic options.

9TheOtherDave10yModulo the time that it takes to implement contract termination, I suppose. That is, the situation where my husband gets to have sex with me whenever he wants unless I say "I'm terminating our marriage!" (at which point he no longer does) is different from the situation where he gets to have sex with me whenever he wants unless I have previously spent some non-zero amount of time obtaining a divorce decree. In the latter case, my husband can coerce me regardless of our relative valuation of the contract. It's also worth noting that, even if we posit that the marriage contract (M1) implies an obligation for sex on demand, it also involves enough other clauses as well that it is easy to imagine a second kind of contract, M2, that was almost indistinguishable from M1 except that it did not include such an obligation. One could imagine a culture that started out with a cultural norm of M1 for marriages, and later came to develop a cultural norm for M2 instead. If that culture were truly foolish, it might even allow/encourage couples to sign a marriage contract without actually specifying what obligations it entailed... or, even more absurdly, having the contractual obligations vary as the couple moved around the country, or as time went by, based on changes in local or federal law. In such an absurd scenario, it's entirely possible that some people would think they'd signed an M1 contract while others -- perhaps even their spouses -- thought they'd signed an M2 contract. There might even be no discernible fact of the matter. When a contractual relationship gets that implicitly defined by cultural norms and social expectations and historical remnants, and gets embedded in a culture with conflicting norms and expectations, it becomes a very non-prototypical example of a contractual relationship, and it's perhaps best to stop expecting my intuitions about contracts to apply to it cleanly.
3wedrifid10yWhen a contractual relationship gets that implicitly defined by cultural norms and social expectations and historical remnants, and gets embedded in a culture with conflicting norms and expectations, it becomes a very non-prototypical example of a contractual relationship, and it's perhaps best to avoid getting entangled in that kind of contractual relationship. (Unless you are somehow sure that the contract is in your favor.) Mind you in my experience actually telling a girlfriend that in the general case getting married seems to be a terrible idea meets with mixed results. Something to do with wanting to play dress-ups with white dresses and so forth. :P

For rationality's sake, people.

I think you probably should have used the conditional: "would make me want to slap you".

[-][anonymous]10y 10

Probably, but then I would have missed out on the surreal experience of getting jumped all over for admitting that I am offended by a statement that was intended as an example of something offensive, in a thread about how impossible it is to have a conversation about these things without getting jumped all over. It's been great so far!

[-][anonymous]10y 12

Don't want to be rude, but are you American?

Its always fascinating to me how American minds rush so quickly to race with any mention of appearance (and indeed often any topic whatsoever), from the outside it seems like a society wide obsession.

3pedanterrific10yIt does from the inside, too. (I wonder if South Africans have a similar tendency?)
6DoubleReed10yYes, I am American. Certainly I'm rushing to race, but that's the point I was having trouble with. If I didn't consider race, then I don't see how I would have found it so surprising in the first place. Regardless of American's obsession with race, race is still a simple example of this. Race. :D

I'm hoping that people here have gotten enough stronger that my rather non-contentious handling of this subject doesn't lead to a blow-up. So far, it hasn't.

I'm hoping that people here have gotten enough stronger that my rather non-contentious handling of this subject doesn't lead to a blow-up.

Trouble is, blow-ups are in fact the less bad failure mode in discussions of this sort. A much less bad one.

If it is indeed the case that, as you suggest, spelling out the truth on these topics requires breaking strong taboos, then there's a third failure mode, where LessWrongers actually succeed at spelling out the taboo truth, and this causes the site to be pegged as a hate site and lose influence on the cold-button topics that actually matter.

If it's a choice between 1) don't talk about these issues and risk forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly, 2) talk about these issues in an inoffensive way and risk creating a false consensus of the kind you describe, 3) talk about these issues in an offensive way and risk becoming a hate site (as well as presumably having more blowups), I really would much rather choose 1.

If you're mistaken and we can be both non-taboo and accurate, then wanting to have the discussion becomes more reasonable. But many people don't seem to think you're mistaken, and I don't understand why these people aren't helping me root for option 1.

If it's a choice between 1) don't talk about these issues and risk forgoing some minor novel insights on a topic that affects most people's life decisions only very indirectly, 2) talk about these issues in an inoffensive way and risk creating a false consensus of the kind you describe, 3) talk about these issues in an offensive way and risk becoming a hate site (as well as presumably having more blowups), I really would much rather choose 1.

I remember we once had a disagreement about this, but in the meantime I have moved closer to your view.

Basically, the problem is that the idea of a general forum that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics is unworkable. It will either lead to people questioning all kinds of high-status ideological beliefs and purveyors of official truth, thus giving the forum a wacky extremist reputation (and inevitably generating a lot of ugly quarrels in the process) -- or it will converge towards ersatz "rationality" that incorporates all the biases inherent to the contemporary respectable high-status beliefs and institutions as its integral part. What is needed to salvage the situation is a clear sta... (read more)

5lessdazed10yI object to your use of "questioning" here, because it has become ambiguous. I suppose you mean "espousing low-status opinions as the result of questioning". Notice how and why nothing like this has been necessary for traditional politics. People post political manifestos and are often told both that the content is inappropriate because of its subject and that they have made specific severe errors of thought. I don't remember a case in which the political poster kept pushing and ultimately only the first response was given, because it isn't really true, it's just that if content is political, the outside view is that it is flawed. The point of the forum is to develop thinking techniques that are useful because they can be widely applicable. Apolitical examples are part of the training, but eventually one only cares about applying the system of thought when it reaches correct conclusions that otherwise would not have been reached, and it will inevitably deviate from what other systems would conclude. Allow me to float an idea: post a disclaimer on the site that as a test and to prevent cultishness, one (or perhaps a few) deceptively wrong idea (wrong as unanimously agreed upon by a number of demonstrably masterful people) is advocated as if it were the mainstream opinion here, and aspiring rationalists are expected to reach the unpopular (here) opinion. The masters - most,but not all of them - argue for the popular (here) opinion that is low-status in society. Anyone who objects that an aspect of the site has a plurality of evilly inclined and majority of wrongly thinking people on a topic (say, PUA) can be told that that subject is suspected to be the (or one of the) ones on which the best thinkers not only disagree with the local majority opinion, but do so unanimously. It goes without saying that...well, it really does go without saying, so I won't say it.
3Strange79yCollege physics professor gives a weekly lecture. Toward the end of the first day, a student in the first row points out an elementary mistake in one of the equations. Prof congratulates the student, announces that every day there will be an error in the lecture. The midterm and final exams will consist of a list of lecture dates, and the only way to pass a given question is to point out the error in the corresponding day's lecture. Prof gets into progressively more complex subjects. Everybody takes good notes. After the final, that student from the front row visits the prof's office, apologetically explains that nobody could figure out the mistake in the last lecture. Prof says "That's alright, I can't either."
5steven046110yWhat's scarier, the idea of a conceptual apparatus that attempts to apply no-holds-barred rational thinking to all sorts of sundry topics may to an extent be unworkable. If the deniers of high-status-falsehood-1 all started using some catchy phrase (of the sort that LW has lots of), and then the deniers of high-status-falsehood-2 started using that phrase too, both would start smelling like the other and seem crazier for it. (This is one of the considerations that make me not want to try getting around these restrictions with pseudonyms.) On the other hand, of course, there are a number of concepts to fall back on that basically can't be corrupted because they're used all the time by e.g. probability theorists obviously lacking any agenda. When I said that, I was thinking of the "do women like nice guys or jerks" question specifically. I wouldn't say politically-charged topics hardly affect people's lives as a blanket statement, though I think it's true in a great many cases. But your reading was the more natural one and I apologize for being unclear.
2CronoDAS10yIt's really hard to actually know when the "respectable" opinion is severely delusional... and even if the consensus view is indeed totally wrong, most minority opinions are usually even wronger than that. Saying the Sun orbits the Earth is much less crazy that saying that the Sun orbits the Moon half the time and Mars the other half of the time. See also. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/28i/what_is_bunk/]
3Vladimir_M10yI disagree. Of course, it's hard to know this with consistent reliability across the board, but there are plenty of particular cases where this is perfectly clear. Many of these cases don't even involve topics that are ideologically charged to such extremes that contrarian conclusions would be outright scandalous. (Though of course the purveyors of the respectable opinion and the officially accredited truth wouldn't be pleased, and certainly wouldn't be willing to accept the contrarian discourse as legitimate.) To give a concrete example, it is clear that, say, mainstream economics falls into this latter category.
2CronoDAS10yJust watch out that when you say "The experts on X are wrong; don't believe them" that you aren't telling people to sell nonapples [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Nonapples]. "Don't believe in YHVH" doesn't mean that you should go believe in Zenu.
6Vladimir_M10yI don't mean rejecting the mainstream view in favor of some existing contrarian position -- of which the majority are indeed unavoidably wrong, no matter what the merits of the mainstream view -- but merely applying the very basic tools of common sense and rational thinking to see if the justification for the mainstream view can stand up to scrutiny. My point is that often the mainstream view fails as soon as it's checked against the elementary laws of logic and the most basic and uncontroversial principles of sound epistemology. It really isn't hard.
6HughRistik10yI have appreciated your non-contentious handling of these subjects, both here and elsewhere.
2wedrifid10yI have to second that. NancyLebovitz comes across as positively sane and relaxing to converse with (and read) - a valuable and somewhat rare trait in this subject area.
4steven046110yBlowups seem like they can be quite damaging even if they occur only a fraction of the time. Even without blowups, there's still the waste of space and collective attention. As I see it, the recent comments page is to some extent a commons that a minority of LWers are tempted to spend on their pet topic, and that a majority of LWers would like to see spent on topics more directly related to the site's theme, but the minority is here in the thread voting and the majority is not. On the other hand, the vote numbers here are extreme enough that I find them surprising. Should I conclude that, as a community, we've decided to stop having on-topic and anti-mind-killing norms? Or is it the way I said it?
7lessdazed10yObviously, mind-killingness is a joint property of an idea and a mind, and not the sole property of ideas. This thread has gone well.
6NancyLebovitz10yI'm not sure why you got so many downvotes-- I'm not one of the people who supplied them. Since "women prefer jerks" is something which is commonly believed but which may not have a lot of evidence supporting it (especially if 'women' isn't quantified and 'jerks' isn't defined), I don't think it's off-topic to discuss it. What topics would you like to see more of?
7steven046110yThat could describe anyone's pet issue. The math, psychology, philosophy, and economics of rationality, careful futurism, the singularity, existential risks, optimal philanthropy, strategies for rationalists and their organizations, considerations relevant to common life decisions that human biases cause to be ignored elsewhere or that benefit unusually from using our conceptual tools.
5Luke_A_Somers10yIt seems to me that this topic falls squarely into the last category.
4lessdazed10yI disagree insofar as it's not obvious what that phrase means. Assuming everyone who believes "it" actually has beliefs that provide predictions, it's not obvious that those believers make common predictions. I think the phrase stands in for widely varying sets of different actual beliefs, rather than either meaning just one sort of thing or usually being just emotive, but I don't believe that too firmly.
5wedrifid10yWomen are, on average, more attracted to men who are more selfish and aggressive than they are compliant and cooperative.
4thomblake10yOr disagree that it is off-topic or mind-killing.

"Indeed, most young people today no longer go on 'dates' to get to know a potential partner. Instead, they meet each other at a social event, 'hook up', and then go on dates (if the hookup went well).4"

Can you provide more back up on the "most" here? I tried to find more information, and while I could only locate reviews of the Bogle book online, none of them even mentioned any numbers. However they did make it sound like Bogle did not get a representative sample of "young people today." If there is not sufficient empirical back up to say " most," you might instead say "many" or "a growing portion."

4lukeprog10yChanged to 'many'.

I find it difficult to believe Vladimir_M, who is posting anonymously, will suffer consequences more unpleasant than a lengthy argument he doesn't want to have with somebody who does not agree with him.

As far as anonymity goes Vladimir_M isn't really really up there. Enough comments to earn 7k karma gives away rather a lot of information. And I wasn't aware Vladimir_M was a pseudonym.

Writing stuff you don't want associated with you on the internet is a terrible idea.

This is starting to remind me of what happened to nutritional advice in the 1980s:

In nutrition "complex carbohydrates good! fats bad!" was widely promulgated

In dating "niceness/agreeableness good! alpha behavior bad!" was widely promulgated

in about the same time frame - and looks like it was comparably bad advice...

Lukeprog, you have produced exactly that which we have been warned against: an article and a paradigm which has all the appearances and dressings of rationality (lots of citations, links to articles on decision theory, rationalist lingo), but which spectacularly fails to actually pursue the truth.

Vladimir_M puts it better than I could:

First, there is the conspicuous omission of any references to the PUA elephant in the room. The body of insight developed by this particular sort of people, whatever its faults, is of supreme practical importance for anyone who wants to formulate practical advice in this area. Without referencing it explicitly, one can either ignore it altogether and thus inevitably talk nonsense, or pretend to speak based solely on official academic literature, which is disingenuous and unfair in its failure to attribute credit and also misleading for those who would like to pursue their own research in the matter.....

he continues:

On the whole, the article is based on the premise that an accurate and no-nonsense analysis of the topic will result in something that sounds not just inoffensive, but actually strongly in line with various fashionable and high-sta

... (read more)

Thank you for the positive mention, but I'm afraid I disagree with your model of me. Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

Luke originally tried to write an article referring to PUA. People told him this was controversial, not just among ignorant people but among long-time readers of this site, that it had always led to unpleasant flame wars in the past, and that it was making us look bad "abroad".

Now he seems to be writing more or less the same thing, but communicating it in a less offensive way. I don't fault him for leaving anything out yet because it's only been one post in a series. I don't think anything he wrote is actually false (well, I have issues with the 'Mean and Variance' section, but he retracted the meat of that). And I think he made the right decision in trying to pitch it to a wider audience.

Luke is a far braver man than I to even enter this minefield; I won't condemn him for not dancing a merry jig on top of it too.

He's not entering a minefield so much as dragging it back to his village.

2usedToPost10yYes, I would also like to congratulate Lukeprog for caving in to social pressure and posting information which is deliberately misleading. I am sure that all the (male) people who read this article, and start using his politically correct nonsense to improve their dating lives will really appreciate it too! (As for female dating advice, I don't know what I am talking about, so I will shut up) Since the advice given in the article is actively harmful, a better solution would be for Lukeprog to just tell people to google pick up [http://lmgtfy.com/?q=pick+up+artist]. That way, nobody could flame him on LW, and he wouldn't be spreading actively harmful information. he is telling people to display "agreeableness" - pretty much the opposite of PUA advice, he is telling you to "like" others - a dangerous piece of advice which could quickly turn into desperate, supplicative behavior, complimenting, etc. He is emphasizing physical looks over dominance and alpha-male behavior, again the opposite of PUA advice. I will edit my comment to take account of what you said.

Your point about agreeableness is well taken, so I looked up his reference, Figueredo et al. (2006).

First, keep in mind he's using agreeableness in the OCEAN sense, not in the sense of "a person who always agrees to everything". So it's not diametrically opposed to PUA belief, although I agree there's still a problem that has to be explained.

That brings us to the reference. Figueredo's study itself found no impact of agreeableness, but in the introduction, it cites eight previous studies that it said found "extraversion, openness, and agreeableness are reliably correlated with mating success". I looked up one of these studies, and it was on the success of long-term marital relationships, which is a whole different kettle of fish than the PUA's usual focus. So depending on the other seven studies I didn't have the energy to look up, they could both be right. It would have been nice if Luke had qualified that in his post, but really the fault was on Figueredo and not him.

Other than that, I would honestly like to hear what advice of Luke's you consider misleading. Again aside from the "Mean and Variance" section, it all seems pretty well referenced and backed up.

3usedToPost10yI would consider the article misleading in the sense that "Women like alpha males, men like beautiful women" is the central truth of dating, in the same sense that evolution is the central truth of biology. A creationist pamphlet which briefly mentioned a watered-down version of evolution - such as "microevolution"- in small print on page 7 is seriously misleading a student. Likewise, this article briefly mentions status, but then gives a lot of contradictory tips about being "agreeable" and "liking her", both of which are low-status behaviours, all in amongst a morass of irrelevant, non-field-tested nonsense. Academics who write papers on dating "science" are simply not in the same kind of tight feedback relationship with reality that pickup artists are, so they produce a collection of half truths and irrelevant effects, as well as missing out the most important aspects of the game. So the fact that he has referenced this stuff is pretty useless. Far better to take a look at what others who have tried stuff have found. The PU community can be thought of as a giant social psychology experiment, except without the arbitrary restrictions of academic science. Mystery is rumoured to have done 10,000 cold approaches and sexed 200-300 women. All the way from meet to penis-in-vagina, with a sample size of 10,000. Then multiply that by all the hundreds of highly successful PU artists. Compare that to a social science experiment which has a small sample size (~30) and only looks at one aspect of relationships and dating, and probably looks at correlations rather than causation. By the way, props for actually pursuing these references. It is a shame that this is hard and tiring to do.
5JoachimSchipper10yI'm confused - you seem to take it as a given that PUA techniques are the only/best tool for pursuing the many forms of relationship mentioned in the article. I'm by no means an expert, but I'd be surprised if PUA worked as well for, say, a woman trying to extend her list of partners with a man with a shared interest in classical music. (Quickly glancing at some lists, "get out there and meet people" seems to be good advice; but quickly approaching lots of partners may not work well in this case.) Isn't it possible that the broader scope of this article justifies de-emphasizing pickup artistry? Even if you don't think that PUA should be avoided for its mind-killing properties, shouldn't we at least give lukeprog the benefit of the doubt? If nothing else, there may be follow-up articles dealing with this.
2PhilosophyTutor10yI should disclose immediately that I am one of the people who find the PUA community distasteful on a variety of levels, intellectual and ethical, and this may colour my viewpoint. The PUA community may present themselves, and think of themselves, as a "disreputable source of accurate information" but in the absence of controlled trials I don't think the claim to accuracy is well-founded. Sticking strictly to the scientific literature is not so much ignoring the elephant in the room as suspending judgment as to whether the elephant exists until we can turn the lights on. If it's been said already I apologise, but it seems obvious to me that an ethical rationalist's goals in relationship-seeking should be to seek a relationship that creates maximal utility for both parties, and that scientific evidence about how to find suitable partners and behave in the relationship so as to maximise utility for both partners is a great potential source of human happiness. It's obvious from even the briefest perusal of PUA texts that the PUA community are concerned very much with maximising their own utility and talking down the status of male outgroup members and women in general, but not with honestly seeking means to maximise the utility of all stakeholders. Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning and their attitudes incompatible with maximising global utility for all sentient stakeholders, I think it's quite correct to leave their claims out of a LW analysis of human sexual relationships.

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

They write stuff on their version of ArXiv (called pick-up forums) then they go out and try it, and if it works repeatably it is incorporated into PU-lore.

What definition of science did you have in mind that this doesn't fit?

There are a significant number of methodological problems with their evidence-gathering.

PUAs don't change just one variable at a time, nor do they keep strict track of what they change and when so they can do a multivariate regression analysis. Instead they change lots of variables at once. A PUA would advocate that a "beta" change their clothes, scent, social environment(s), social signalling strategies and so forth all at once and see if their sexual success rate changed. However if this works you don't know which changes did what.

The people doing the observation are the same people conducting the experiment which is obviously incompatible with proper blinding.

The people reporting the data stand to gain social status in the PUA hierarchy if they report success, and hence have an incentive to misreport their actual data. When a PUA reports that they successfully obtained coitus on one out of six attempts using a given methodology it is reasonable to suspect that some such reports come from people who actually took sixteen attempts, or from people who failed to obtain coitus given sixteen attempts and went home to angrily masturbate and then post on a PUA forum that they ... (read more)

7steven046110yYou're assuming that there's no feedback other than a single yes/no bit per approach.
3pjeby10yNote that this may be a feature, not a bug: a PUA with unwavering belief in their method will likely exude more confidence, regardless of the method employed. I remember one pickup guru describing how when he was younger, he'd found this poem online that was supposed to be the perfect pickup line... and the first few times he used it, it was, because he utterly believed it would work. Later, he had to find other methods that allowed him to have a similar level of belief. As has been mentioned elsewhere on LW, belief causes people to act differently -- often in ways that would be difficult or impossible to convincingly fake if you lacked the belief. (e.g. microexpressions, muscle tension, and similar cues) To put it another way, even the falsifiability of PUA theory is subject to testing: i.e., do falsifiable PUA theories work better or worse than unfalsifiable ones? If unfalsifiable ones produce better results, then it's a feature, not a bug. ;-)
8PhilosophyTutor10yOnly in the same sense that the placebo effect is a "feature" of evidence-based medicine. It's okay if evidence-based medicine gets a tiny, tiny additional boost from the placebo effect. It's good, in fact. However when we are trying to figure out whether or not a treatment works we have to be absolutely sure we have ruled out the placebo effect as the causative factor. If we don't do that then we can never find out which are the good treatments that have a real effect plus a placebo effect, and which are the fake treatments that only have a placebo effect. Only if it turned out that method absolutely, totally did not matter and only confidence in the method mattered would it be rational to abandon the search for the truth and settle for belief in an unfalsifiable confidence-booster. It seems far more likely to me that there will in fact be approach methods that work better than others, and that only by disentangling the confounding factor of confidence from the real effect could you figure out what the real effect was and how strong it was.
3pjeby10yThis really, really underestimates the number of confounding factors. For any given man, the useful piece of information is what method will work for him, for women that: 1. Would be happy with him, and 2. He would be happy with (Where "with" is defined as whatever sort of relationship both are happy with.) This is a lot of confounding factors, and it's pretty central to the tradeoff described in this post: do you go for something that's inoffensive to lots of people, but not very attractive to anyone, or something that's actually offensive to most people, but very attractive to your target audience? You can't do group randomized controls with something where individuality actually does count. This is especially true of PUA advice like, "be in the moment" and "say something that amuses you". How would you test these bits of advice, for example, while holding all other variables unchanged? By their very definition, they're going to produce different behavior virtually every time you act on them .
2PhilosophyTutor10yThere are two classes of claim here we need to divide up, but they share a common problem. First the classes, then the problem. The first class is claims that are simply unfalsifiable. If there is no way even in theory that a proposition could be confirmed or falsified then that proposition is simply vacuous. There is nothing to say about it except that rational agents should discard the claim as meaningless and move on. If any element of PUA doctrine falls into this category then for LW purposes we should simply flag it as unfalsifiable and move on. The second class is claims that are hard to prove or disprove because there are multiple confounding factors, but which with proper controls and a sufficiently large sample size we could in theory confirm or disconfirm. If a moderate amount of cologne works better than none at all or a large amount of cologne, for example, then if we got enough men to approach enough women then eventually if there's a real effect we should be able to get a data pool that shows statistical significance despite those confounding effects. The common problem both classes of claims have is that a rationalist is immediately going to ask someone who proposes such a claim "How do you think you know this?". If a given claim is terribly difficult to confirm or disconfirm, and nobody has yet done the arduous legwork to check it, it's very hard to see how a rational agent could think it is true or false. The same goes except more strongly for unfalsifiable claims. For a PUA to argue that X is true, but that X is impossible to prove, is to open themselves up to the response "How do you know that, if it's impossible to prove?".
6pjeby10ySure... as long as you separate predictions from theory. When you reduce a PUA theory to what behaviors you expect someone believing that theory would produce, or what behaviors, if successful, would result in people believing such theories, you then have something suitable for testing, even if the theory is nonsensical on its face. Lots of people believe in "The Secret" because it appears to produce results, despite the theory being utter garbage. But then, it turns out that some of what's said is consistent with what actually makes people "luckier"... so there was a falsifiable prediction after all, buried under the nonsense. If a group of people claim to produce results, then reduce their theory to more concrete predictions first, then test that. After all, if you discard alchemy because the theory is bunk, you miss the chance to discover chemistry. Or, in more LW-ish speak: theories are not evidence, but even biased reports of actual experience are evidence of something. A Bayesian reductionist should be able to reduce even the craziest "woo" into some sort of useful probabilistic information... and there's a substantial body of PUA material that's considerably less "woo" than the average self-help book. In the simplest form, this reduction could be just: person A claims that they were unsuccessful with women prior to adopting some set of PUA-trained behaviors. If the individual has numbers (even if somewhat imprecise) and there are a large number of people similar to person A, then this represents usable Bayesian evidence for that set of behaviors (or the training itself) being useful to persons with similar needs and desires as person A. This is perfectly usable evidence that doesn't require us to address the theory or its falsifiability at all. Now, it is not necessarily evidence for the validity of person A's favorite PUA theory! Rather, it is evidence that something person A did differently was helpful for person A... and it remains an open question

Given that their methodology is incompatible with scientific reasoning

Not something you have shown (or something that appears remotely credible).

and their attitudes incompatible with maximising global utility for all sentient stakeholders,

Not much better and also not a particularly good reason to exclude an information source from an analysis. (An example of a good reason would be "people say a bunch of prejudicial nonsense for all sorts of reasons and everybody concerned ends up finding it really, really annoying").

8Vaniver10yIt is not clear to me that utilities can be easily compared. What tradeoff between my satisfaction and my partner's satisfaction should I be willing to accept? I can see how to elicit my preferences (for things like partner happiness, relationship duration, and so on) and try to predict how the consequences of my actions will impact my preferences, but I don't quite see how to add utilities, or compare the amount of satisfaction I could provide to multiple potential partners. It's not clear that they want to talk down the status of women in general. Men becoming more attractive and less annoying to women seems to be better for women, and there's quite a bit in the PUA literature of how to keep a long-term relationship going, if that's what you want to do.
1PhilosophyTutor10yYou are absolutely right that utilities cannot be easily compared and that this is a fundamental problem for utilitarian ethics. We can approximate a comparison in some cases using proxies like money, or in some cases by assuming that if we average enough people's considered preferences we can approach a real average preference. However these do not solve the fundamental problem that there is no way of measuring human happiness such that we could say with confidence "Action A will produce a net 10 units of happiness, and Action B will produce a net 11 units of happiness". In the case of human sexual relationships what you'd really have to do is conduct a longitudinal study looking at variables like reported happiness, incidence of mental illness, incidence of suicide, partner-assisted orgasms per unit time, longevity and so on. That said this difficulty in totalling up net utilities is not a moral blank cheque. If women report distress after a one night stand with a PUA followed by cessation of contact then that has to be taken as evidence of caused disutility, and you can't remove the moral burden that entails by pointing out that calculating net utility is difficult or postulating that their distress is their fault because they are "entitled"/"in denial"/etc.
4Vaniver10yWhile this would give people more knowledge about how their actions turn into consequences, this doesn't help people decide which consequences they prefer, and so only weakly helps them decide which actions they prefer. So, let's drop the term utility, here, and see if that clarifies the moral burden. Suppose Bob and Alice go to a bar and meet; they both apply seduction techniques; they have sex that night. Alice's interest in Bob increases; Bob's interest in Alice decreases. What moral burdens are on each of them, and where did those moral burdens come from?

.... (wall of references at the end).... I am mystified by this. How the how the heck do you even skim all of that? I think it's awesome to have all these references, but can somebody enlighten me as to how one can do this?

9Nominull10ySome people read faster than others, and there's a skill to reading academic writing that can improve your speed on that particular genre.
3BenLowell10yLuke also has the advantage of that this is his job. It is not uncommon for research articles to have 50+ references, and review articles often have over 300 references. Edit: Luke's articles do have way more than the usual number of references. This article has approximately 120 sentences, with 37 notes and about 150 references, which doesn't make sense the way that I am familiar with. I am used to references referring to cited sources, and am not sure how Luke is using it. If it is a list of works consulted that makes sense.

I would presume that most papers will include a number of references to sources that the authors have only briefly skimmed, only read the abstract, or not actually read at all.

I saw an article somewhere (I wish I'd remembere where) about a widely-read paper making a mistake when it cited one of its sources, claiming that the source said something which it didn't. A number of later papers by other authors then repeated this mistaken claim, presumably because their authors didn't bother checking whether the prestigious paper was correct in its cite.

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

I'm about .90 confident that Luke hasn't actually read all of his cites in entirety.

Correct. You win some Bayes points.

7Plasmon10y"source X claims/proves statement Y" - the author should have read source X carefully "For general background information on subject A, see e.g. source B" - the author tries to make the paper more accessible to people from other fields by providing some context, but they do not need to have read source B in detail. Not reading all of your sources is not necessarily evil
2Kaj_Sotala10yThis is quite true, and I didn't mean to imply that it was evil.
6RichardKennaway10yI think it is not rare for errors in citing to be repeated because no-one bothers to go back to the original source. Not reading the paper at all can be dangerous. I once read a paper in which the authors had unwittingly rediscovered, but in inferior form, mathematical results that were already proved in one of the papers they cited. Fortunately for the authors, I was refereeing their paper, and had read the paper they cited, so I was able to save them the embarrassment of publication.
7lukeprog10yThough, this particular post was actually written before I was hired by SIAI at the beginning of September.
2falenas10810yWell, a huge part of it is the section with the bullet poins where literally every sentence needed a citation to back it up.

This isn't really true. To give the most prominent example, Holocaust denial is heavily suppressed in Western societies, in many even with criminal penalties, although its falsity is not in any doubt whatsoever outside of the small fringe scene of people who espouse it. (And indeed, it really doesn't stand up even to the most basic scrutiny.) For most beliefs that the respectable opinion regards as deserving of suppression, respectable people are similarly convinced in their falsity with equal confidence, regardless of how much truth there might actually be in them.

Now, sometimes it does happen that certain claims are clearly true but at the same time so inflammatory and ideologically unacceptable that respectable people simply cannot bring themselves to admit it, even when the alternative requires a staggering level of doublethink and rationalization. In these situations, contrarians who provoke them by waving the obvious and incontrovertible evidence in front of their eyes will induce a special kind of rage. But these are fairly exceptional situations.

2lessdazed10yHow do people respond to the claims? I acknowledge that any response other than just "that's false" de-emphasizes the falsity of it, but if the response is "That's a lie and illegal," that's a different sort of thing to say than "That's classist," or the like for other claims. If people respond with "The powerful Jews will lock you up for saying such a thing, by the way I think it's 15% likely true," then that's an interesting case too, one that isn't a counterexample. In one sense legal coercion is at the far end of a single scale from mild disapproval to ostracization to illegalization,but in another sense it is qualitatively different. A country within which saying something is illegal might have most endorse the illegal idea, or most oppose it by simply calling it "false", or most oppose it by emphasizing its illegality and somewhat mentioning its illegality, etc., or no majority of any type. What's important here is the social climate around the statements, for which the laws on the books are important evidence but alone don't make an example or counterexample of a country.

That works for the future.

If you find something that works for the past please let me know. That would be awesome. Kind of like timer-turner hack for relationships. You wouldn't have to guess which relationships would work, you would just automatically select a relationship that would work by virtue of all the counterfactual bad relationships being pre-empted by the techniques that work for the past!

You have to somehow acquire that belief in the first place, and it seems like something that would be hard to learn any way but experience.

Or, like with many life lessons, by having good friends, role models and mentors. They help you notice that you're making a silly mistake when you've been making it for an order of weeks not an order of years!

Please don't use the word "rationality" or "rational" simply as a buzzword or applause light.

Actually, general criticism of democracy isn't such a big problem. It can make you look wacky and eccentric, but it's unlikely to get you categorized among the truly evil people who must be consistently fought and ostracized by all decent persons. There are even some respectable academic and scholarly ways to trash democracy, most notably the public choice theory.

Criticisms of democracy are really dangerous only when they touch (directly or by clear implication) on some of the central great taboos. Of course, respectable scholars who take aim at democracy would never dare touch any of these with a ten foot pole, which necessarily takes most teeth out of their criticism.

I think criticism of democracy goes over less well if you have something specific that you want to replace it with.

That is true, but you get into truly dangerous territory once you drop the implicit assumption that your criticism applies to democracy in all places and times, and start analyzing what exactly correlates with it functioning better or worse.

5NancyLebovitz10yI expect it depends on what distinctions you're using for what corelates with how democracies do. For example, claiming that there's an optimal size for democracies that's smaller than a lot of existing countries could get contentious, but I don't think it would blow up as hard as what I suspect you're thinking of.
4Vladimir_M10yYes, of course, my above characterization was imprecise in this regard.

Also his main argument is basically that "boners don't lie". A large enough men find a specific subset of women on average more sexually desirable

Freudian slip?

[-][anonymous]10y 10

Actually it is introgression that is an excellent reason to mix if you want to maximise genetic fitness (because of kin selection effects if your group gets some new genes), you just don't need a whole lot of mixing to acheive it.

And hybrid vigour is a reason in its favour if you want to just make people with neat traits, while outbreeding depression is a reason against.

The effects I mention as colourfully illustrated by Oligopsony change the overall effect of mixing. Under different selective pressures (which may well be caused by dominant cultural preference for visible phenotype!) group A and B may mix at about the same rate in all universes, yet in one universe group A may be 80% of the population (with a few introgressed genes from B) several generations later, while under a different set of pressures it may be 5% of the population, and an AB hybrid could be anything from 1% to 90%. Indeed mixing would not nesecarilly be created equal, it is perfectly possible that 400 years later, even if marriage between the groups was symmetrical 95% of Y chromosomes are variants that group B possessed and 80% of the mDNA is that which was possessed by A. It is even possible that group A... (read more)

I would if he asked. Until then I can't be sure he wants to know.

2DaFranker9yAww, too bad he never invoked Crocker's Rules. That would give you immediate license and confirmation that he does want to know.

The notion that there is information to be gained by categorizing things after they are fully described is useless from a utilitarian perspective.

For example, if we know exactly what the process of waterboarding is, and how unpleasant it is, the answer to the question "Is waterboarding really torture," tells us nothing about the morality of doing it. At least that question might have some relevance when posed to presidential candidates, since "torture" is a legal category and saying "Yes, it is torture," might imply an obligat... (read more)

6cousin_it10yRelevant LW posts: How An Algorithm Feels From Inside [http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/], Diseased Thinking [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/]. Kudos for noticing that the dangling categorization mistake sometimes also serves as a rhetorical trick. Do other biases also double as rhetorical tricks?
7lessdazed10yI'm going to skim the transcript from the Republican Presidential candidates' debate a few days ago for five minutes and see what biases I find that aren't prominent logical fallacies. I might find none, but I'm writing this now so that a later statement on what I found or didn't find will be more meaningful. Wish me luck, I'm going in! ETA: What a disaster. Most problems look simply like classic fallacies, but not all. I'll elaborate later.
4Emile10yThanks for this short phrasing for something I often want to say. I agree with your connotation etc. - but I think the question "Is waterboarding really torture?" does have moral implications beyond presidential candidates: whether or not it is torture can determine whether or not waterboarding goes against a preexisting law or even informal promise ("No ma, I promise I won't torture anybody in Iraq"), and breach of agreement is morally relevant. More generally, categorizing things even after they are fully described can still be a gain of information if the category label is mentioned in some outside agreement. For another example, if Professor Witkins the Mineralogist told you "I'll give you $10 for each blegg you bring back from the mine, but nothing for rube.", and you're considering whether to put a purplish weird-shaped rock in your bag, even if you have full information on it you might still wonder if a Mineralogist would classify it as a blegg or a rube (Even if you know Witkins wants the bleggs for their vanadium, you still expect him to pay you for vanadiumless bleggs).
2CuSithBell10yI guess I Agree Denotationally But Disagree Connotationally. As in, that is technically true in a hypothetical situation wherein you can fully describe a situation, but a human is unlikely to find themself in such a situation (at least for the time being), and my question was not an attempt to categorize a described thing - rather, it was an attempt to elicit a description for a categorized thing. It is relevant to a discussion with wedrifid, regarding rape, what wedrifid means by the term. I do not believe PUA is rape. I do not believe that "acting confident and suppressing nervousness is rape". I do believe that sex coerced without the threat of sexual violence can still "count" as rape. To say that PUA techniques and theories regarding persuasion necessarily count as rape is, to me, absurd. To say that they could not be used in a coercive manner seems equally absurd (like saying "if you're going to trick people you don't need psychology" (and therefore the study of psychology, divorced from ethical concerns, would not teach people how to trick others)).

Edit: I don't understand the downvotes. wedrifid's objection is true, but it wasn't my main point. Is it because I'm telling people to hit on people who aren't their first choice? Or is it the "how dare you want the same characteristics everyone wants" undertones? Or did I just plain miss Yvain's point?

I would say you missed his point. The description was meant to be analogous to the sort of men who're held up as having entitlement complexes. If she doesn't meet many men's preferences, her dating prospects are going to be slim, and she can try... (read more)

8NancyLebovitz10yI think part of the situation is that both the very fat woman and the shy man feel rightly that they're on the receiving end of a hostile conspiracy. It isn't just that people are spontaneously unattracted to them, it's that there's a lot of public material which portrays people like them (and perhaps especially in the case of the very fat woman) anyone who's attracted to them as objects of mockery. Thinking about the dominance thing.... there are heterosexual couples (actually, now that I think about it, the examples I know best are poly) where the woman is dominant. If a man is temperamentally in the not-dominant to submissive range, would looking for a compatible dominant woman be a good strategy?

If a man is temperamentally in the not-dominant to submissive range, would looking for a compatible dominant woman be a good strategy?

There are many more submissive men than there are dominant women. On top of that, in the poly community I seem to have noticed a pattern where dominant women end up primaries with even more dominant men (with both taking more submissive people as secondaries, etc).

So the prospects for a submissive male can be slim.

3MixedNuts10yThanks!

I would have voted it down were it not for the rest of the paragraph cited, which basically comes down to "anecdotes are Bayesian evidence, but with caveats related to the base rate, and not always positive evidence". Which is, as best I can tell, correct. In isolation, the opening sentence does seem to incorrectly imply that anecdotes don't count at all, and so I'd have phrased it differently if I was trying to make the same point, but a false start isn't enough for a downvote if the full post is well-argued and not obviously wrong.

that the outcomes of the combined arsenal of PUA tips and techniques cannot currently be distinguished from the outcomes of a change of clothes, a little personal grooming and asking a bunch of women to go out with you.

Even if that were true (and I don't think that's anywhere near the case), you keep dropping out the critical meta-level for actual human beings to achieve instrumental results: i.e., motivation.

That is, even if "a change of clothes, a little grooming, and asking a bunch of women out" were actually the best possible approach, it'... (read more)

1PhilosophyTutor10ySpeaking broadly, if the goal is Rational Romantic Relationships than any advice which doesn't have actual existing evidence to back it up is not advice rational people should be taking. If a whole bunch of different gurus are each flogging different techniques and none of them have evidence, then a rationalist should dismiss them all until they do have some evidence, just as we dismiss the alt-med gurus who flog different forms of alternative medicine without evidence. Without evidence PUA is no more the elephant in the Rationalist Romantic Relationship room than ayurveda is an elephant in the medical science room. As far as the superstition/placebo distinction you are making I think you are simply wrong linguistically speaking. Nothing stops a superstition being a placebo, and in fact almost all of alternative medicine could legitimately be described as placebo and superstition. Superstitions arise because of faulty cause/effect reasoning and may indeed have a placebo effect, like the red scarf you mention. I suspect but cannot prove that some parts of PUA doctrine arise in exactly the same way that belief in a lucky scarf arises. Someone tries it, they get lucky that time, and so from then on they try it every time and believe it helps. If some pieces of PUA technique are testable, that's great. They should test them and publish the results. Until they do their beliefs don't really have a place if we're talking about Rational Romantic Relationships. If they aren't testable, then they're unfalsifiable beliefs and rationalists should be committed to discarding unfalsifiable beliefs. PUA looks to me more like folklore than science, at this stage.
6pjeby10yI agree with this statement... but as previously discussed, I mean Bayesian reductionist evidence. Which means, anecdotes count, even if they still count for less than numbers and double-blind tests. You're using a very non-LW definition of "rational" here, since the principles of Something To Protect, and avoiding the Failures Of Eld Science would say that it's your job to find something and test it, not to demand that people bring you only advice that's already vetted. If you wait for Richard Wiseman to turn "The Secret" into "Luck Theory", and you actually needed the instrumental result, then you lost. That is, you lost the utility you could have had by doing the testing yourself. For medical outcomes, doing the testing yourself is a bad idea because the worst-case scenario isn't that you don't get your goal, it's that you do damage to yourself or die. But for testing PUA or anything in personal development, your personal testing costs are ridiculously low, and the worst case is just that you don't get the goal you were after. This means that if the goal is actually important, and whatever scientifically-validated information you have isn't getting you the goal, then you don't just sit on your ass and wait for someone to hand you the research on a platter. Anything else isn't rational, where rational is defined (as on LW) as "winning".
7PhilosophyTutor10yI think this is a misunderstanding of the correct application of Bayes' Theorem. Bayes is not a magic wand, and GIGO still applies. Anecdotal evidence counts but you have to correctly estimate the probability that you would hear that anecdote in a world where PUA methods were just placebos sold to the sex-starved and nerdy, as opposed to the probability that you would hear that anecdote in a world where PUA methods have some objectively measurable effect. I think most of the time the correct estimate is that those probabilities are barely distinguishable at best. A rationalist should have a clear distinction between Things That Are Probably True, and Things That Might Be True and Would Be Interesting To Try. The goal of the OP was to sum up the state of human knowledge with regard to Things That Are Probably True, which is the standard scholarly starting point in research. It seemed to me that PUA techniques, lacking any objective evidence to back them up, should be filed under Things That Might Be True and Would Be Interesting To Try but that their devotees were claiming that they were the elephant in the OP's room and that they had been unjustly excluded from the set of Things That Are Probably True. I'm not against the ethos of going out and trying these things, as long as the testing costs really are low (i.e. you don't pay good money for them). They might work, and even if they are just placebos you might get lucky anyway. However it's not rational to actually believe they probably work in the absence of proper evidence, as opposed to going along with them for the sake of experiment, or to try to squeeze them in to a list of Things That Are Probably True.
2dlthomas10yAlso, better placebo than nothing at all.
4wedrifid10y(And sometimes hearing them counts as evidence against the phenomenon!)
[-][anonymous]10y 9

It's hard not to take something personally when the pronoun in the direct object is "you".

For the purposes of anyone reading: When someone makes a list of two dozen supposed "rules", then they must also offer a method to prioritize between them -- or their claims become unfalsifiable and "not even wrong", since by cherrypicking rules, one can then explain anything.

E.g. sam says people are not allowed to "criticize blacks, women, homosexuals" -- and yet at other times he accuses people of only being allowed to praise Romney (a white man), but attack Cain (a black man) and Palin (a woman). To explain this he can appl... (read more)

4wedrifid10yThey explain less, to the extent that the rules contradict each other. It is unlikely that they explain nothing - in fact they would probably have to be explicitly contrived for that purpose.
2thomblake10yUpvote for pedantry

It's perfectly fine, for me at least, but I prefer moral objections to be specified more clearly than "I do not agree", which seem more appropriate for the disputing of factual statements. I discuss this in further detail in a comment of mine above.

2taryneast10yYep - this is a good point. I realise that my statement was ambiguous about how/why I disagreed. I left it up to the reader. I did this, at the time, because I was quite angry at the things said on the website, and the way they were said. I was not in any fit state to argue my reasoning. I've since clarified in the followon comments... after sufficient time passed.

I don't know if this sort of information is wanted, but your post keeps setting off my sarcasm detector.

We humans compartmentalize by default, because brains don't automatically enforce belief propagation.

Belief propagation is an exact computation that brains can't be expected to perform (or even represent a problem statement for). Pointing to (absence of) it as an explanation for compartmentalization feels rather arbitrary (similarly with the reference to decision theory).

This might come out a little harsh, but...

whining about having been rejected, in public, in front of the woman who rejected you, is not exactly a turn on, I suppose.

2EphemeralNight9yThere aren't enough italics in the world to sufficiently emphasize how much whining about being rejected was not the intent of my comment.
5RichardKennaway9yIt may not have been the intent, but that was what it looked like to me also.
2[anonymous]9yWell, it didn't sound like that to me. (Mmm... Should I start up a karma poll to know how it sounded to other people?)
2DaFranker9yI have a hack which usually gets such points across efficiently, though: "How did you - that's exactly, completely what I was thinking! You're totally right! ...(short pause)... Now put that in parenthesis, and put a minus sign in front. You'll see what I mean." I'd also add that the whining itself could not possibly have caused the rejection, since you'd have some kind of causal loop. I agree on the implied denotation that such a general attitude, if applied in other circumstances, would be detrimental. I disagree about the also-implicit conclusion that EphemeralNight does use that attitude in general. Nothing in particular seems to indicate that this person is prone to whining about rejection in general. We've only seen one single instance of some person kicking the soda machine, without knowing about their brother that just got arrested and the 5K$ debt they just learned about - to reuse an old example.

Not that I think it would save this thread at this point, but I suggest that you and everyone you are arguing with here would benefit from dropping the question of "Are some PUA tactics rape" and sticking to the question "Are some PUA tactics wrong". This conversation has totally derailed (if it hadn't already) on semantic issues about rape. You can argue that obtaining sex by deception or bullying is immoral regardless of whether or not it is rape.

Obtaining sex by deception, or bullying which does not involve physical violence or the threat thereof, for example, is still going to get you charged with rape in most places.

This is not an accurate statement of the law in common-law jurisdictions, nor, I suspect, of the law in most other Western countries. With some narrow exceptions -- such as impersonating the victim's husband, performing sexual acts under a false pretense of medical treatment, or failing to disclose a sexually transmitted disease -- enticing people into sex by false pretenses is us... (read more)

I have purposefully stayed out of the PUA discussion so far, but as it is still going on and no one seems to have taken a macro view, I am going to just this once give some of my opinion on it:

I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a general egalitarianism between the sexes. I’m not saying that I think men and women are completely equal in all ways, but rather that I think that women making 80 cents to the dollar is bad. Males growing up being taught to be ashamed to talk about feelings (especially in cases like PTSD or suicide) is bad... (read more)

8lessdazed10yThat phrase doesn't mean just one thing. I think that the vast majority of people on this site want a fair system of college admissions. That just means the label "fair", like "general egalitarianism" points inward at the speaker towards the speaker's values. "General" backs away from meaning anything too specific, and its use provides the opportunity for readers to insert their own idea of reasonableness.
5[anonymous]10y.
[-][anonymous]10y 12

I can talk to anyone, you're engaging, he's a creepy PUA?

1[anonymous]10y.
4NancyLebovitz9yYou'd probably be interested in Clarisse Thorn's Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007I5HRQU/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=clarthor-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B007I5HRQU] . She spent quite a bit of time researching PUA, both in theory and in practice. Short version: There are a lot of kinds of PUA, ranging from types which are generally benevolent through types which are iffy to flat out misogyny. PUA is probably better for men who learn some skills, then leave the subculture(s). Having a strong habit of maintaining "strategic ambiguity" (I think this is Thorn's phrase) can lead to loneliness, no matter how many people it attracts. Note: there's a section about Thorn's relationship with a PUA which isn't terribly interesting. You may want to skip to the end which gets back to good stuff. She's aware of the problem with the section, but no one could agree on what needed to be cut. She says that feminists have been working on explicit verbal consent, and PUAs have been working on understanding non-verbal consent, and the two groups have useful things to learn from each other.
2[anonymous]9yThat's already been proposed. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/298/way_to_learn_social_skills_without_the_pua/]
2Viliam_Bur10yAfter reading your comment, my thoughts are somewhat confused. The first half seemed like a censorship by association: "some people feel that X is related to Y, we agree that Y is bad, therefore we should never tolerate a discussion about X". Then, the last paragraph seemed very reasonable, which makes me wonder whether the rest of the comment was just one huge disclaimer necessary to remove the guilt of speaking about X (which as we know is associated with Y, which is bad). Now on the topic -- Teaching about general social skills, with some gender-specific sidenotes, seems to me like a great idea. But I feel that this version somehow removes the most motivating part for some people. The "you should learn this because it can make your life awesome!!!" motivation turns into rather anemic "you should learn this because we told you so". Is this a necessary cost? It is even allowed to discuss things that seem awesome to a typical guy but not to a typical girl, or does any such discussion automatically deepen gender inequality? Seems to me that focusing too much on inequality leads to a zero-sum worldview. Generally, creating a positive utility for some people and zero utility for other people seems like a net improvement; but if it happens to statistically deepen some inequality, should we percieve it as bad and try to avoid it? So even things that highly motivate men to learn social skills should be replaced by their less attractive alternatives, simply because men are already having it too awesome today.
6Strange79yIf people are willing to learn calculus, so that they can learn physics, so that they can go out and actually do engineering, I think it would be feasible to have entry-level training in general etiquette and ethics as a prerequisite before someone can learn rigorously scientific flirting.
[-][anonymous]10y 8

Obviously pressured sex happens.

I am simply saying its not a good tactic in the context of situations that PUA usually focuses on.

Note that pressure =/= nagging. For it to be pressure you need to have some social or physical leverage over the other person. Nagging dosen't imply you have either and in their absence the word brings up associations of begging. It is hard to gain great leverage on people of high social status.

1CuSithBell10yMy point was not about PUA. You said: You also talked about PUA, but the above is a simple claim of fact which is incorrect.
4[anonymous]10yThe post was a response to: This was given as a better example of a potential PUA tactic that could be unethical. I was implicitly taking and critiquing the course of action as a tactic a PUA would or would not adopt based on how effective or ineffective it was. I thought it obvious, but looking back I see I should have made an explicit mention of PUA in the comment.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to go further and say that in large part the whole point of PUA is to bed Carols. Alices are up for a one night stand anyway, so manipulating them to suspend their usual protective strategies and engage in a one night stand with you would be as pointless as peeling a banana twice.

That sounds wrong. I dabbled in pickup a little bit and I would gladly accept a 2x boost in my attractiveness to Alices in exchange for total loss of attractiveness to Carols. If you think success with Alices is easy, I'd guess that either you didn't try a lot, or you're extremely attractive and don't know it :-)

When you click on the envelope underneath your karma score in the right sidebar, you are taken to a page that displays both private messages as well as replies to your comments.

Also, please stop posting. It has become clear that the Less Wrong community is not interested in what you have to say. You might consider seeking out another internet forum that will be more receptive to your contributions; I expect this will be more satisfying from both your perspective and ours.

Now that this thread has gathered around a thousand comments, and with presumably two more such threads ahead of us, let's have a poll to help us figure out whether deciding to discuss such subjects as gender and politics was a good idea.

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

See the child comments for the poll options. If neither applies, don't vote.

Vote this comment up if this comment thread has made LessWrong less valuable to you.

All things considered, has this comment thread made LessWrong more or less valuable to you? (ETA: This is excluding Luke's original post, and relative to what you would have expected the site to be like if the comment thread had not taken place, not relative to what it would be like if the comment thread disappeared now.)

Less. A bunch of bickering about ethics with almost no actual practical content describing the world. Basically it is embarrassing to be associated with.

3achiral10yI agree that this whole thread, while admittedly I have been following it myself, is a net negative for LW. It's my contention that (1) some people will be attracted to PUA tenets with a largely negative outlook regarding women, (2) some people will be attracted to PUA tenets with a largely positive outlook regarding women (3) some people will just organically figure it out without any significant use of literature and (4) people that enjoy reading/writing/debating about this will continue to do that and may or may not actually pursue relationships. I don't think lukeprog's writing is going to substantially change anyone's inclinations or abilities in this area because relationships and dating are something one learns by doing and becoming, not talking and thinking.

Thank you for this poll!

I would like to endorse an idea that there should be a separate PUA discussion post. It's acceptable if LW-ers want to discuss PUA at length, but the main disutility I get from it, is that it seems to constantly rear its head in posts that aren't explicitly about PUA (such as this one.)

I would have loved to have been involved in a discussion on the original post topic, and do not at all think that the subjects of gender and relationships should be discouraged. I just think it would make more sense if there were a separate thread for PUA-related discussion, and any time someone tried to bring up