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This should belong to the stupid questions thread but anyway... why don't bars, inns, taverns, pubs, whatevers work in reality the same way they do in fiction, or, better question, under what conditions, when and where do or would they work like that?

You travel to another city on a business trip, say, to visit a trade show the next day. Same country or different doesn't matter but let's assume you speak the language. You check in your hotel. You have a free evening and go exploring. You go to the hotels bar or another bars, inns, taverns, pubs. What will happen? Exactly nothing. You will probably a have a drink or three alone, or if you don't drink alcohol it will be even more boring, have some dinner, perhaps sight-see as long as it is not dark then retire to your room early because you are bored. The point is, nobody will socialize with you, nor give you the signs that you are welcome to socialize with them. You will get to know exactly zero locals. You will not participate in their lives. You will be an outsider, it will feel like staring at an aquarium. You sit in a bar in a corner, nursing a beer, while you watch the locals come and go, greet each other, chat with each other, ... (read more)

Less serious answer: If you walk into a bar wearing ringmail under a travel-stained cloak and loudly ask the bartender, "What news from the North?" you may actually entice people to approach you. Likewise if you're wearing a tuxedo for no apparent reason. But nobody cares about some tired-looking guy in wrinkled khakis.

More serious answer: I've known two or three individuals in my life who were so shameless in engaging with strangers that they could legitimately go into any random bar and in short order they were the life of the party. This requires a rare type of extreme extroversion that I've often envied.

Addressing the actual question: Currently most bars are implicitly meant to be either gathering places for small groups of friends or places for opposite-sex courtship stuff. Structural changes that would motivate a more fictionesque milieu would be providing long trestle tables and a corresponding lack of private booths, more open-form, quick games to play (less billiards, more darts), "group rate" alcohol (pitchers of beer rather than individual mugs always promote sharing), and I daresay marketing the tavern as a place specifically for open socialization could help.

In my experience hostels are a lot more like the fictional bars you describe.

I can confirm this. I stayed in a hostel in London for a week last month, and got way more social interaction than I was expecting and about as much as my introverted self could stand. Including one invitation to dinner that may or may not have been a date.

under what conditions, when and where do or would they work like that?

At science fiction conventions.

At Esperanto meetings.

tl;dr: go to places with conversation potential and show that you have value and interest.

Business travel + city destination is a significant obstacle already. Locals may well be highly jaded with "interchangeable" business travellers who are fatigued on the road and may not be at their best socially.

And usually business travellers stay in places that are convenient for their work destinations, be it office, site or conference centre ... nearby establishments are far more likely to attract after-work crowds (catching up socially with friends, or continuing workplace conversations), not very good opportunity for an outsider to get involved.

So it's no surprise that this happens:

You sit in a bar in a corner, nursing a beer, while you watch the locals come and go.

I see loads of people like this in the nearest pubs and hotel bars to my workplace: dozens of solo travelers who are not engaged/engaging with the locals in the slightest. There are various ways to improve on this but it requires social effort. First, choice of destination is key. I travel a lot for work, and always try to find a pub or bar away from the main business areas, ideally with a good reputation fo... (read more)

1. Perhaps an open place - square, street, park - is better than a bar, since the bystander effect isn't so strong and people feel reasonably sure they can run away from you. 2. How weird are you ready to look?
This is a fantastic and important point.
Freedom of expression comes with a cost. I can't remember a single sober or just less weird person who has tried to start a conversation when I was abroad being weird. I don't like it - think Sam meeting Strider.
Wearing Vibriams is a good way to encourage strangers to start talking to you.
Or any interesting piece of clothing; people are often choosing who they approach based on their look
Of course other pieces of clothing can also encourage people to approach but Vibriams offer the other person a conversation starter in way that most other pieces of clothing don't. Or at least I don't know of another piece of clothing that has a similar effect.
For me, the most responses came from a cheap khaki blazer of all things. The highest responses I've ever seen among my friends were from a backpack with juggling clubs sticking out the back.
I do understand how juggling clubs can lead to a conversation. What kind of responses does a khaki blazer produce?
They wouldn't directly comment on it unless they knew me, but just a general impression my friends and I got. One friend jokingly tried to take it off of me so he could wear it himself after he saw two hot girls strike up a conversation with me just by me ordering a drink while standing next to them. It was a few years before guys overdressing became the "in" thing at night clubs, so it was probably because I was trendsetting.
I think there are two different things: 1) Wearing an item to signal that you are a person worth talking to. 2) Wearing an item that makes it easy for someone to talk to you because it gives them a conversation starter. At a night club I can see how a trendy khaki blazer encourages people to talk to you. I however don't see how it will encourage a person to talk to you while you ride the tram or are otherwise in a situation where talking to strangers isn't standard behavior.
The past was a more small-town place. If you were travelling and went to an inn, the exoticism of being from out-of-town would have been greater. People would have been more willing to socialise with you for the novelty, and also to try and take advantage of you. Basically, if you have high value in some sense, people will want to come chat to you. This could be because they want to sleep with you (as in the "attractive female" example above) but could be because they want to sell things to you, rob you, divert you from this bar to the one they own down the street, get your advice, get you to write a letter for them, get you to marry their sister, and so on. This stuff doesn't work so well in Western countries these days because the law is stronger, bars are better at excluding miscreants, and our society is more atomised. But go to a third-world country, look like a rich Westerner - or, even better, a rich Westerner with ties to their culture - and you'll see it constantly.
I think there is a growing trend toward social atomization/social withdrawal that makes these kinds of interactions less likely than they were in the past. As a kid, I remember biking around with friends to different neighborhoods, meeting different groups of kids of varying ages, playing elaborate, adventurous games we had invented, going to their houses, going to different shops and arcades, deciding on fun activities to do together, etc. Visiting the old neighborhoods near where I grew up, I almost never see kids. It's not that there are zero kids in the neighborhood anymore(though there are fewer, certainly), but they're either cooped up at home or being chauffeured to their scheduled playdates by "helicopter parents."
I wonder how parents have time for that. Since I rarely get home from work before 18:30, we ended up finding a kindergarten near where my wife works and we are very lucky that we live in Austria and there is a law that mothers can choose their own hours of working freely until their children are 6. She will choose 5 hours a day and that will be compatible with a kindergarten schedule. But if different legislation or financial needs required us to work 8 hours both, I have no idea how would be manage. I know in the US a lot of women simply stay at home but I guess you need to be significantly rich for that like making 3 or 4 times the minimum wage and it is pretty rare here, even in engineering etc. jobs. The pay difference between a burger flipper and accountant here is about 2x. Besides, our experience is that it made my mother hugely depressed to have nobody to talk to half day and then the child only the other half, and the first year of staying at home before kindergarten is making my wife similarly depressed, the utter lack of communication and socialization and basically feeling like locked into an apartment like locked into a monastery is taking a huge psychological toll. It can be incredibly lonely. For this reason I think helicopter parenting will not be an issue for us because we will be at work, even if we could financially afford not to, the simple truth is you can talk to people at work and talking people at home in the neighborhood is almost impossible.
Random ideas: * have friends visit you at home * have a Skype talk with friends
No, the problem of moms staying at home is the same as the problem of unemployed people: their friends or relatives are all at work.
Any friends in different time zones? Oops, USA probably wouldn't work because 12:00 in Vienna = 3 AM in San Francisco. You would probably need someone in India or China. Okay, this is probably not a good idea. On the other hand, maybe you could pay someone in India to talk with you. Other friends who are also moms at home? Former classmates?
This happens? I guess then we must not be very social people. Friend is a matter of definition, there is one non-relative who relatively frequently calls her the phone, for me that is zero but OK as never pick up the phone anyway, and she has about two, I have about three non-relatives who reply to emails or facebook messages although rarely initiate the exchange themselves. I guess these people can be considered friends, but the definition may vary. In my experience, socializing with people at work does not carry over into socializing after work, I think people guard their privacy rather jealously and we too, I remember two occasions in five years non-relatives entering our apartment and it felt awkward for both. For this reason, as socializing with coworkers does not carry over into evenings, and not really having hobbies or meeting people after work, the people mentioned above who can be defined as friends are former classmates, and as we approach 40 that kind of number naturally reduces. This is why it is very important to not stay home from work. BTW my mothers case was exactly the same in the 1980's, staying at home and occasionally talking on the phone with 1-2 ex-classmates, so she welcomed when she was offered to open a fast food stand and talk to customers. Socializing at work and being home with the family in the evening and weekends can be a tolerable combination. No idea what would be more than tolerable, I always figured it is more natural to hang with relatives, perhaps kinship based tribes should be reinvented. (Not necessarily about "blood", but more about having shared role models and so on.)
What? Having friends, or having friends in different time zones? a) Yes, it does. b) In general population, I would guess it doesn't; unless there are specific circumstances, e.g. your relatives moved to a different part of the planet. But here on LessWrong we have an international community, and some people visit meetups in different countries. There are probably only a few who have travelled to a sufficiently distant time zone. But you don't have to be one of those; only to be a friend with one of those. Sure; if we taboo "friends" it means something like "people whom you trust enough to do together X". For different values of X you get different sets of people. (X = "have fun together" or X = "start a conspiracy to overthrow the government") Similar for me, 2 exceptions in 20 years. I usually socialize with my neighbors, with people I have or had some hobby in common (such as LessWrong), and sometimes I meet friends of my friends and they become my friends. Of course with my neighbors the expectations are low: generally just being nice to each other in case someone will need a little help from the other, and to keep communication lines ready in case there will be a shared problem to solve. Saying hello to each other, bringing cookies, sharing a glass of wine once in a few months. With people I found through my hobby I expect to talk about the hobby, and later about other topics; and if the relations are good, maybe even spend some vacation together. I was thinking along similar lines once, but almost everyone from my family lives in a different city than me, so it's not an option. But generally, "relatives" and "friends" are two different categories; I cannot realistically expect my relatives to have similar hobies as I do. With them, it is a different way of spending time; just being together, being a tribe. With friends, it is talking about hobbies, making hobby-related plans, and later also being a kind of a tribe -- though this part is more difficult b
I've seen occasional suggestions that extended families are having a renaissance in the UK & US, if that counts.
I think the business-travel milieu is the main obstacle here, though I can't rule out quirks of your psychology. When I go to another city for pleasure rather than business, I find myself far more willing to approach people and the people I approach far more receptive. I don't know exactly why, and I don't know how well it generalizes, but I suspect it has something to do with mostly-subconscious differences in attitude driven by contextual explore/exploit wiring in my head. Big city vs. small town doesn't seem to make much of a difference, although some towns are friendlier than others. (For context, I'm neither particularly extroverted nor particularly introverted.) Business travel is another story. Hotel bars for business travelers aren't geared toward random socialization in the first place, but more importantly I don't think they set off the same unfamiliarity signals, likely because cube farms and airports and midrange contemporary hotel bars look the same from Manila to Milan; it's less like conventional travel and more like a trip into the Business Class Dimension. My advice: get out of the hotel, get out of the hotel district, and go looking on Yelp or the local equivalent for a popular night spot that suits your goals and personality. (I've had good luck near local universities; YMMV.) You won't be as hammered with unfamiliarity as you would be if you were traveling on your own time, but the locals won't be expecting interchangeable business travelers and you'll probably get a little further out of that headspace yourself.
I don't know anything about bars, but I have pretty bad social anxiety and that describes my situation everywhere. On the other hand my dad will often start conversations with random strangers wherever he goes. Not at bars, just random people going about their day. He has zero fear of rejection and I never understood how.
There are efforts to make it easier for interested locals to socialize with tourists and foreigners. I joined the Couchsurfing group in our city and they host weekly drinks at local pubs/bars to get exactly this type of socializing to happen, and it seems to be very successful. When you explicitly set the mood to 'meet new people from around the world', you get a lot of interaction, as opposed to the usual mood in pubs, which is 'getting drinks with friends after work.'
Interesting, it sounds like Couchsurfing became sort of a big thing? In my mind it was always fringe, because I assumed not so many people would be willing to endure the awkwardness of accepting a favor from complete strangers when a hostel bed is not expensive at all, for people who can afford plane tickets, I mean. I mean accepting a favor of getting a bed for free instead of renting one in a hostel sounded to me always very much like panhandling, beggaring, and thus shameful and awkward, but maybe I am seeing it differently, at 37 it is getting harder to understand the mentality of people much younger. I think 15 years ago my generation would have seen this as beggaring...
There are various reasons people do it, not all of them have to do with cost. However, many of the participants in the 'socializing' sessions don't actually participate in the actual couchsurfing bit, and that's fine.
If you are an attractive female and go into the bar, the men there will indeed try to socialize with you if you let them.
I think even this is only true in specific pick-up bars, with music and suchlike, disco balls and colored lights and DJs, during the night. Pretty sure nobody tries to hit on an attractive woman in a hotel bar at 16:00 at least I never tried to, as it would be a breach of social etiquette, since these are not hunting grounds and these are not hunting times, if she wants to pair off she will got to a music bar at 22:00 and everybody respects that. Or at the very least, it can happen in fashionable bars in gentrified areas, but the average common (European) bar with retired working class types nursing their alcoholism, attractive women won't even go there, usually. Disclaimer: my experience is limited to Europe, and I think the whole phenomenon that median ages go well into the forties and not to put a too fine point on it but for white non-immigrant folks easily into the fifties colors the picture a lot. It seems almost like people young enough to be attractive basically make their own special subcultures and average typical places are old people places.
I spent about two weeks sight seeing with such a woman and she was being approached constantly. On the other hand she is significantly more attractive than average.
I don't think Europe is a uniform place in that regard. Different European countries have quite different norms. In my experience the amount of conversations I have with strangers in daily life depends almost entirely on how open I am to be approached be other people. It seems to be hard to fake signal I give out via body language. Unfortunately it comes and goes for periods of a time and it's not easily changeable. That's probably says more about what you consider a typical place then about how young people want to spend their time. That said in the age of meetup.com you can simply pick a relevant meetup where people with whom you share an interest congregate.
My experience ranges from Scotland to Ukraine, Denmark to Italy and frankly haven't seen a huge difference. You see, modern culture became incredibly uniform. Global trends from TV made sure pretty much everywhere people are drinking the same drinks, listening to the same music, wearing the same clothes. I actually find it boring and no longer travel to cities when I am travelling for pleasure, not business, because today the only real difference between say Amsterdam and Rome is pretty old buildings. But otherwise people became "global people" everywhere. The most interesting part is that I think we (EU) have evolved our own dialect of English, a non-native yet distinct dialect, which has its own words/terms like "wellness hotel" which don't exist in the native dialects (or were borrowed back recently). It differs even in pronounciation, "th" in words like think or three tends so sound like "s" in the EUnglish dialect, while in most native ones it is actually closer to "t".
I don't think Europe is a uniform place in that regard. Different European countries have quite different norms. In my experience the amount of conversations I have with strangers in daily life depends almost entirely on how open I am to be approached be other people. It seems to be hard to fake signal I give out via body language. Unfortunately it comes and goes for periods of a time and it's not easily changeable. That's probably says more about what you consider a typical place then about how young people want to spend their time. That said in the age of meetup.com you can simply pick a relevant meetup where people with whom you share an interest congregate.

A new study suggests that experts may be less politically biased than non-experts at least in some limited circumstances. The study looked at lay people, law students, lawyers and judges, while giving them questions where their ideology might cause them to answer the questions differently even as a close reading would cause them to have the same answers. As one increased the expertise levels, there was less sign of ideological bias. There's a summary of the research here. The study itself can be found here. It should be interesting to see if this is replicated in similar ways either again in the legal context or with other professions.

This research suggests that for ideologically or politically involved topics, looking to expert opinion may be a good heuristic. On the other hand, it isn't always clear how to tell who should be an expert, and ideological gatekeepers could make it so that experts are already chosen from one set of ideologies.

Economics might make you more biased. Economics might make you less biased. Economics might make you conservative. Economics might make you less grounded in reality.
But they are all a law experts, not all kinds of experts. Economists are famously partisan. Sociologists too. Law is fairly obviously a different field, because they are focusing on the details of legislation and that is a moderating effect. Let me give you an example. If you spend an inordinate amount of time geeking into the technical details of (association) football, you probably cannot really be a harcore hooligan / ultra type supporter. What the ultras worship is an ideal of the game, an ideal of a team. While you care about the minute details. Economists, sociologists, unlike law experts, do not focus on the minutiae of legislation but rather they subscribe to sweeping schools of thought that promise to offer answers to a wide variety of deep social problems. They have a bit too much of a zoomed-out view. They are more saviours than tweakers.
I'm not sure to what extend that public perception if fully accurate. Partisanship makes for easy news.
I think there's a valid distinction you are making here, but only up to a point. Even among economists there are broad swaths of agreement, especially where microeconomics is concerned. For example, pretty much all economists agree that barring a small set of circumstances if the number of copies of an available good go down and demand remains the same, then the selling price of the good will go up. If anything, this situation seems similar, in that judges agree on the basics of statuotory interpretation even as there are very large ideological disagreements on other issues, such as how much weight (if any) to give to legislative statements of intent that are not part of a statute, or how to interpret constitutional questions. So the situations here may be pretty similar, and an appearance otherwise may be due to one simply knowing more about econ than legal issues. It would be very interesting to do a variant of this study where it is a constitutional rather than legislative question and see if that makes the judges more ideological. My guess is strongly that it will but that the judges will still be the least ideological weighted of any of the four groups.
Microeconomics is obviously nonpartisan, because microeconomics is almost completely apolitical. The gloves come off with macro. I mean, if you look at the history of macro, it is pretty bombastic. For while all that exists is the "classical" school (and, less relevant, the proto-Austrian). Economics is a curiosity for the elite. Then Marx suddenly calls for the pitchforks. Suddenly, things get interesting. Austrians become famous via Menger demonstrating how Marxian exploitation theory doesn't account for the subjective price of time. Of course, subjective vs. labor values are a skirmish in themselves. The major political frontline is already drawn and it is not even 1900 yet. WWI, revolutions and all that happen, and of course everybody blames Marxian macro for the Bolsheviks, right or wrong, then the Great Depression suddenly makes the Classical school distrusted. During the GD macroeconomics is redefined from a detached intellectual curiosity to a popular Save People From Unemployment Right Bleedin' Now kind of thing. Keynes steps up to it, proposing something like a Marx Light, basically proposing to save capitalism from itself based on a low aggregate demand theory that can really only happen if workers are paid far too little and is thus basically Marxian exploitation theory in different words. In the meantime, Austrians gather steam largely on Hayek's works and Mises's popularity in America (Duck Tales' Ludwig Von Drake is named after him, he was seen as the textbook eccentric professor) and Hazlitt delivers a tremendous fisking to Keynes in The Failure Of The New Economics, claiming that Keynes does not even understand the meaning of the term "function". Meanwhile, a more polite but not much less radical Neoclassical counter-attack is brewing, and in the seventies even Sweden capitulates to neo-capitalist theiry by dropping a Nobel on Hayek. Keynesians awaken from their curve-fitting 1950's slumber and actually pay attention to Neoclassical ideas, arriving
In this regard, the situation here is very similar though to the situation with legal issues. There are issues of simply how to read statues which are almost completely apolitical and there are areas where the gloves come off, like for constitutional issues. I suspect that you could do the same sort of study as this one but with microecon questions and get a similar result where the economists had less ideological bias for those questions. So the situations seem more similar.
"Microeconomics is obviously nonpartisan, because microeconomics is almost completely apolitical. The gloves come off with macro." Not really Price fixing... pigovian taxation.... sales taxes > income taxes.... zoning laws... free trade... licensing regulations... immigration.... lots of political issues where economists agree on a great deal because of microecon Krugman and Delong are much more combative than the typical economist. You'll get a very skewed picture if you only read Krugman and the people Krugman links to. He's in the public eye so that tends to have, I think, a very negative impact on his popular writing.
Perhaps this offers a partial explanation for why judges do not always appear to follow the ideology of those who appointed them.

After talking it over with some friends recently, I have given serious consideration to crossing over to the Dark Side by seeing a legal prostitute in Nevada this summer to try to have just one successful sexual experience in my life (at the age of 55).

I discovered an interesting spread of experiences in talking to these friends, guys around my age or somewhat older. One of them had a sex-negative upbringing like mine, and he said he had his sexual debut in his early 30’s, but with a woman he knew socially. Another told me that he started to see prostitutes in his teens, and that he has had a lot of experiences with them.

I wish I didn’t have to do this so “late in life,” according to current definitions of human lifespans, and with a prostitute. I couldn’t make this happen organically, in the social environment I grew up in 40 years ago; and I have a lot of empathy for the younger men who have had faced similar problems which have interfered with forming sexual relationships starting at appropriate ages. (I know this sounds out of character for me, because I don’t feel much empathy in general.)

What about She Who Must Not Be Named? You might happen to know her. She provided the opp... (read more)

To improve my position in the male hierarchy

To add the experience

To start the process of developing

Farther down the line

To me all of these seems rationalizazions.
I feel there's nothing wrong in wanting to satisfy your impulse, sex is a need and should not be disregarded. No need to label it Dark Side, there's nothing dark in it.

My current inexperience and discomfort with women mean that I give off weird “tells,”

I don't think is inexperience that gives off uncomfortable vibes, I would bet that it's rather anxiety and repressed desire.

Good for you for breaking the chains. And there is nothing dark-side-ish about patronizing a sex worker, as long as you treat her as well as you would anyone else you hire, say, a massage therapist or a physio. And if it helps you connect with women without an explicit pay-for-sex contract, that's a bonus.
I'm half your age and I've also been strongly considering using an escort to just get it over with, for many of the same reasons you listed. I'd rejected the idea in the past because I didn't want to resort to prostitution, but the more I think about it the more I feel that's more a product of my own vanity than any moral reservation (especially since I stopped being a Christian around the new year). I don't foresee anything happening in the near future that's going to significantly improve my chances.* On the contrary, I've noticed a steep decline in prospects since leaving the dorm room environment in college. My social circle does not contain any known prospects. I figure I could wait for a random encounter, try some kind of online dating service, spend my evenings frequenting bars looking for a casual encounter, or use a prostitute. * There are certain aspects of my situation which differ from yours and regarding which I have made some progress in the last few months. However, the issues with anxiety and inexperience still remain and are unlikely to fix themselves.
Well, whatever you do, please don't go on an omega male rampage like Elliot Rodger last year. I just find our boy-rearing practices odd. We can see starting in middle school, or its equivalent in your country, which boys readily attract girls. They get girlfriends early, they get the best looking girls, they get more girls in general, and they start having sexual experiences and relationships in their teens. The rest of us as young men, by contrast, receive the seemingly well meaning advice from our elders to "develop ourselves and wait," so that perhaps, possibly, some day, conceivably, young women will give us a turn with them. I know this happens because I heard this crap from my mother at that age. Funny how our elders don't tell the naturally bangable boys that they have to "develop themselves and wait." At best the elders might advise these youngsters to slow down and bang more carefully to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But otherwise these guys can do pretty much whatever they want with girls because the girls let them with their parents' complicity. It looks almost as if a tacit understanding exists that adults need to set the sexually unfavored boys aside somehow so that they don't get in the way of the bangable boys, who have the pleasant task of breaking in, sexually speaking, the girls in their generation. The rest of the young men have to wait until these girls, now young women, have to turn to them, reluctantly and without enthusiasm, for their "mature" relationships and sexually sparing marriages.

It's not a conspiracy, they just don't know what to tell you.

Early sexual experience is bad news. This is mostly due to common causes. Parents (ala EDT) might be hesitant to push their offspring in that direction, and at the very least (ala CDT) they probably don't want their offspring to pair up with an early-breeder. This is particularly (perhaps only?) true of parents with traits that tend to produce those very offspring who aren't getting laid in middle school.
Multiple reasons for this. Partially, as Ilya said, it's difficult to explain. Some fathers do not have any good strategy; maybe they just had a lucky set of circumstances once, so their advice is for you to wait and hope that a similar lucky situation happens to you, too. Some fathers do have a good strategy, but are bad at explaining it by words; being a good teacher is a skill that many people simply do not have. Expecting a mother to give a reasonable advice does not make sense; unless she is a lesbian, she has no experience in the area of picking up girls. Her opinions in this area never had to pay rent, so they don't have to reflect reality. The remaining part is that other people do not care about your utility function as much as they do. Just because you don't get pleasure from sex, it does not make their lives worse. Only your complaining is annoying. The advice "develop yourself and wait" simply means "quit annoying me". It seems to make evolutionary sense to not help other people's sons reproduce.
Mothers who manage to come up with good pick-up advice for sons might wind up with more grandkids on average. To the extent that accurate pick-up advice (or the ability to think of accurate pick-up advice) passes from one generation to the next, I'd expect parents to have otherwise-mysteriously accurate pick-up advice.
Not my mother. I tried to talk to her about my dating problems in my early 20's, and Mom came up with, "Ask out the fat and ugly girls. They don't have boyfriends." Needless to say, this "advice" astonished me, and in a bad way. You don't normally expect your mother to express open contempt towards you.
I have a friend who is very sexually experienced. I asked him how he did it and he said, "Lower your standards".
To be sure, even if the selection effect I mention is non-negligible, it evidently isn't strong enough to drive pick-up knowledge to fixation. I suspect I'm missing something but I don't discern that in what you quoted (although it does sound simplistic & exaggerated).
Well, if you would have started with the less attractive girls, you could have gained more confidence and experience and slowly progress towards the more attractive ones. Imagine a parallel universe where you did exactly that. Which one of these universes would you rather be in, now? (I am not sure if "starting here, then progressing there" was a part of the original advice, but I am trying to be charitable here. It is not necessarily a bad advice, maybe just not explained sufficiently.) Also, the "fat and ugly" doesn't have to be taken into extreme. There are many average girls without boyfriends simply because the boys around them fight for the few most attractive ones. Some of those boys will lose in the competition, and those who win will often get a spoiled princess that will probably cheat on them soon because she will get many attractive offers. If you go for "average in attractiveness, but has a few traits that I personally prefer (traits that are not generally popular; such as being a nerd)", you can get rather close to the optimal outcome... and yet as an overconfident young guy this would probable seem to you like settling down, because you imagine getting a princess plus the traits you personally prefer. Which is not impossible, just less likely, especially if are not one of the most attractive guys. (Similar advice applies to women, too; and most of them also hate to hear it.)
If only my mother had told me that. She could have said, ask out the average looking girls, preferably ones within a range of healthy weight, and then when you get your experience and confidence built up, try working your way up. And I would have found that advice helpful and constructive, and a signal that Mom thought that I had a shot at getting some of the better things in life. No, in the context she meant that she thought I didn't deserve any better. When I told this story to my friends at the time who had met my mother, they came away with the same impression. Decades later Mom wonders why I never had a girlfriend, I never got married and she doesn't have any grandchildren. Mom's advice made no sense for another reason: How could I get sexual experience with fat and ugly women if the physiology on my end refused to cooperate? All along I would have wanted to have some sexual experiences with average looking, even "nerdy," women. But apparently in this iteration of the Matrix I had an unreasonable goal. So in my 50's I have to budget money for a trip to a legal bordello in Nevada.
My father was 31 when he married my mother, aged 19, in 1958. I was born in November of 1959, so I don't think Grandpa Langley had to stand behind Dad with his shotgun at the altar or anything like that. Dad told me very little about his adult life before he married Mom, and I suspect he just had little to tell in terms of experiences with women in his teens and 20's. He might even have been a virgin when he got married. Yet he had a pharmacy degree and he worked as a pharmacist, so he knew more about biology and medicine than most men in his generation. He must have filled prescriptions for contraceptives as well, so I can't attribute his discomfort with advising me about sex to ignorance. That leaves relative inexperience as an explanation. I suppose religion played a role in this sex-negativity, but we stopped going to church (a Southern Baptist one) when I was 14 (I never inquired into the reason, and I didn't miss it); and the family just wasn't overtly religious afterwards.
The most "bangable boys" as you put it is a constantly shifting target. The most successful boys in high school are the ones who are naturally good-looking and extroverted. As you grow older, income and conscientiousness play bigger factors. A guy with no money is perceived poorly by dates and will frequently be left with only one night stands. An undisciplined guy will gradually pack on weight and this will hurt his chances. Introverts, with practice, will get better at forcing themselves to make small talk and the extrovert advantage will diminish. Hard-working guys will have a higher income and stay in better shape, and can force themselves to learn how to approach girls in the right way. There are some constants like height, but a lot of your life choices can dramatically increase your chances. Genetics are a factor, but any guy with well above average intelligence born into a first world country (IE 90% of the LW community) already has been given the two biggest advantages possible.
I wonder about this. It wouldn't surprise me if popularity at 15 strongly correlated with popularity throughout life.
Losing your virginity at a young age seems to predict increased sexual experience, but not in a good way. More akin to what you're referring to: I'm not sure how they're distinguishing between short-term and long-term because I can't find an ungated copy. It also seems to be the case that our society discourages sex at an early age. I certainly don't envy the kids who were most sexually active in high school.
The whole calibration thing definitely fits my experience. I think you just have to build up some comfort with being in a sexual situation. Regardless of fault, it's not rational to drag your parents or your upbringing into the situation at this point. They may have been the root cause of the problem, but they can do nothing to fix it for you now. However, it IS within your power to do that. This can help, but I think it's just confidence in general that will help you in social situations. Fake it until you make it (become it). Your self image is largely impacted by your behavior even if the behavior is forced (look up some of the research done by Amy Cuddy, it's interesting stuff). As for the “Weird Tells,” remember that what's going on in your head is a mystery to others. Someone with only part of the information is going to assume the worst. You see some attractive woman you'd like to talk to, but you don't know what to say or how to break the ice. So you don't say anything and now you feel uncomfortable. She sees this uncomfortable, anxious looking dude who seems to be paying way too much attention to her... Danger Will Robinson! Danger! I think it's better to be awkward and open than awkward and withdrawn. The first makes you seem less of a threat and the second lets the imagination go crazy. Either case exposes you to a lot of potential negative feedback, so just accept that as a given and drive on. I'd like to say something along the lines of “you should try with women that you may actually be able to form a relationship with.” To be honest though, If I were in your shoes, I know I'd be looking pretty seriously at Nevada right about now. Finally, there's no dark side here, and it's not irrational. Thinking that you shouldn't have, shouldn't want, or don't deserve what 7 billion other people have and want is pretty irrational. Make the map fit the territory. MrMind is right, you don't need to rationalize doing something that's perfectly rational to begin w
Psychotherapist Albert Ellis writes in one of his autobiographical recollections that he had tremendous anxiety as a young man about talking to women. So, anticipating the kinds of advice given by today's self-styled dating coaches and pickup artists, he forced himself to try to start conversations with 100 consecutive women he didn't know in public places. After this exercise, he writes that he lost all approach anxiety. I think today's pickup instructors call this something like "day game." However, I can see a problem with this in the current culture. PUA's in training have become common enough in some cities to draw attention to the phenomenon, and feminists have started to complain about day game as a form of harassment.
Thanks for your support. I've gotten encouragement from others I talked to.
Thanks for the openness. I have also received negative views on sex during childhood. I wasn't even sure if women do derive any pleasure from sex, or whether they merely do it to achieve something else (e.g. to have children, to have a relationship, to conform to social pressure, etc.). Of course if you can't model the other person even approximately, then it is difficult to propose win/win solutions in situations when there is a social taboo to debate things openly. And as a nice guy (unlike how the sociopathic online warriors define the term, I simply mean a person who genuinely cares about how other people feel), I wouldn't propose anyone a deal I wouldn't believe they would like. -- But the truth is, many people do enjoy sex a lot, both men and women. Whatever the sex-negative people say, it may describe a fraction of population they belong to, or maybe they just say it because it is their idea of how to conform to their political or religious views; I never had the courage to ask. I was perhaps lucky that one day I was in a situation where all other men in the group were even more "omega" than me, so the environment selected me for the role of the "local alpha", and I happened to date the only girl in the group. And we had enough time and patience to experiment. She was curious too. -- But when the relationship was over, despite the lack of tension about sex, I still didn't have the proper seduction skills. That I only learned a few years later, reading some online stuff (during the beginning of the "seduction industry", when people were still trying to provide useful advice to their online friends, instead of trying to win more customers by doing something even more outrageous than all their competitors). Yes, social skills can be learned from textbooks, if you are willing to try it in real life later. And an imperfect textbook is better than no textbook at all. Your strategy seems reasonable to me. Just wanted to warn you that "not feeling tension about se
Where? How? I'm interested, but lack knowledge so very thoroughly that I don't know what to Google or how to judge the results of a best-guess Google search beyond "bellydancing is not for me... probably."
I would start googling "dancing lessons" + your city. My favourite dances: Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot-Quickstep, Jive, Cha-cha, Salsa. If you could find a course that teaches exactly these, I would totally recommend it. You need Waltz for 3/4 music (Viennese Waltz for quick music), and the rest of them can be used for 2/4 or 4/4 music. Quickstep, Jive, and Cha-cha are rather flexible for both quicker and slower music. Ten lessons and you are ready to go. Salsa is the most difficult of these, but is seems very popular. If it is popular in your area, Polka is also a good choice. But this advice probably only applies to central Europe. There may be other cultural differences I am not aware of.
2Adam Zerner
You know how in some sort of therapies they gradually increase exposure rather than all at once? It just occurred to me that learning to dance before learning to attract women is probably a good idea for the same reason why those therapies use gradual exposure. I've heard the advice learning to dance will make women more interested in you, but I never made the inference that learning to dance also has the benefit of allowing you to make gradual progress.
Just thinking: what would be even more gradual approach? I know a guy who is already scared by the idea of dancing. Probably something where you have to move your body, alone. Preferably not repeating the same simple two or three moves all the time, but something more varying, in the best case something where you could get skill and then you become proud of having that body skill. Yoga? Parkour? Volleyball? Anything like this is probably better than nothing.
I was scared of dancing before I started Salsa dancing. It wasn't easy at the beginning as someone who didn't do any sport beforehand but I managed with time. As far as non-dancing physical activity goes there martial arts which is scary for other reasons. I would recommend Western body work systems like Feldenkrais and Alexanders Method over Yoga. Yoga isn't bad as such as such, but there a lot of unquestioned dogma involved. Things are done in a certain way because they are thought to have been done that way 1000 years ago in India.
1Adam Zerner
If he's scared of dancing for social reasons, I would think that the underlying causes of that would have to be addressed. Off the top of my head, this might be a good gradual behavioral approach (but wouldn't address any of the underlying cognitive causes): 1. Pen pal. 2. Do something that involves cooperation in person, but not socializing. 3. Go to a meetup that is like semi-professional and semi-social. 4. Go to a social meetup. 5. Toastmasters. 6. Learn to dance. 7. Initiate small talk in acceptable situations (with the barber, taxi driver, contextual comments to the person sitting next to you). 8. Initiate in a more random way. Ex. Hey, I like your glasses, where'd you get them? Something tells me that you're a fan - did you see the game last night? If his fear is more specific to physical activity, then I agree with you about starting off with something like Yoga. Some other ideas: Racquetball, Running, Ping Pong.
When you've known the same people for over two decades and you don't show up to social gatherings with a woman on your arm, they can figure it out. That would work against me. Not coordinated enough, and I wear size 15 shoes.
Unless it is a health problem that cannot be fixed, this seems like another good place to start. And it's totally uncontroversial. You could start by visiting a physiotherapist and asking them: "uhm, I'm generally uncoordinated, and I was wondering if it can be fixed". They are people who study this stuff all their lives; if they can help a victim of some horrible accident, they can probably help you too. And even partial results may be worth it. And when your coordination improves, people are likely to notice that "something is different" about you, although they will have no idea why. There is no reason to tell them truth, because this will provide beautiful "evidence" for any story you might decide to tell them instead. (Or just blush and say "sorry guys, this is private". And if they start torturing you, admit that you are fucking a married woman, so you must be 100% discrete.)
Did you consider a sexual surrogate?
The sex therapist I mentioned, who has his practice in Orange County, CA, works with surrogates. I couldn't afford it at the time, I lived too far away (about a three hour drive from the Inland Empire), and it felt a bit icky for some reason. I live in another state now which apparently doesn't allow the practice of sexual surrogacy.
I don't have a lot to add except to say, I can't think of a single reason why not to do it. Which makes me just a bit confused, because it's unlikely that this is the only time that society has generated a widespread taboo against a thing for literally no reason.
The reason in the past was probably disease and/or unintended pregnancy, and both of those can be fixed now. Also concerns about making sure women wouldn't cheat on their husbands and leave them raising someone else's kid, I think. The third reason, which is still applicable today, is that hiring a sex worker signals "can't get sex without paying, therefore undesirable" but that's probably not too big of a deal.
I'm a virgin at 25 (which is not the same as being a virgin at 55). One reason I haven't used a prostitute is that I don't want to admit to losing my virginity to a prostitute, and I also don't want to lie about it.
As I told Epictetus, please don't go on an omega male rampage like Elliot Rodger. I can see why regular women feel ambivalent about prostitutes, BTW. On the one hand prostitutes handle the load of sexually satisfying the kinds of men regular women find repulsive. But on the other hand prostitutes seem to demonstrate that women can function sexually with almost any man through an act of will, without invoking the mystical claim about needing to feel "chemistry" with the man first.
Also, especially when monogamy is a strong social norm, prostitutes break up a wife's monopoly on sex for her husband. What I can't figure out is why some noticeable proportion of heterosexual men hate prostitutes.
My bet is that they process it as a purity/sacredness violation.
"I want to have lots of sex, and can't find anyone who wants to do it with me. But look, here are these people who not only get all the sex anyone could want -- they even get paid for it! How dare they! Why should they so easily get what I want and can't get?" (For the avoidance of doubt: I am not in any way endorsing either the opinions or attitudes expressed there.)
It's hard to know large numbers of other people's motivations. My first guess is that some men really resent that they can't get sex for their intrinsic wonderfulness, and prostitutes remind them of that fact. On the other hand, I don't know whether men who hate prostitutes don't have non-monetary sex. Looking at it from the outside, it's just weird-- it's like resenting restaurant cooks because they aren't making home-cooked meals for their families. So far as money is concerned, I've seen a man describing women as "sitting on the bank", but that seems to be resentment of women for having a source of financial security that men don't have.
There's a big difference between 'function sexually' and 'getting what she wants from the encounter in itself'. There's a big difference between the prostitute/client relationship and between lovers, just as there's a big difference between an accountant/client relationship and a married couple, one of whom has balanced the books (or better, after they balanced their books together). A woman's sheer ability to perform can require only an act of will (in some cases), but for it to be part of the basis of a relationship requires a lot more things, which are what they mean by 'chemistry'.
For anybody reading this: save for one very lucky encounter at 18, I was too. It happens. Three years later, I've spent nearly all that time in sexual relationships, sometimes more than one at once. The turn-around can come really quickly. I'm not sure I have enough information to pinpoint the changes I need to make, though.
Why do you see this as "the dark side"?
I resisted the idea for a long time, obviously, because it conflicts with my upbringing. My late father definitely would not approve my seeing a prostitute. If I can carry out my plan, I have thought of telling my mother about it afterwards to see her reaction.
If you no longer agree with the views of your father, I would recommend consciously changing the language you use when you talk about it to others as well as in your own head. If you see a prostitute and then feel unnecessarily guilty, it could do more harm than good.
0Adam Zerner
I like to think about these situations from two perspectives: System 1 and System 2. System 2 - In my evaluation of the options and their costs and benefits, what should I do? System 1: a) What is my System 1 currently telling me? (I think that making this explicit is helpful) b) Why is it telling me this? (Knowing why your brain does what it does makes it easier to trust and control it) c) How does the information System 1 provided me with affect my cost-benefit analysis? d) How can I massage System 1 to help motivate me to do what I want to do? ---------------------------------------- (joke; maybe it'll make you smile) So it seems that: 1) You have a mysterious dark side. 2) Bad things happened when your "magic" "interacted" with She Who Must Not Be Named. Are you The Boy Who Lived??
Can someone translate this into plain English for me?
The idea is your brain has a fast and slow part. System 1 is 'fast, instinctive, and emotional'. System 2 is 'slower, deliberative and logical'. You have much better introspection of System 2 than of System 1. The first part of the post is suggesting you focus on introspecting these automatic quick reactions and strategizing around them. The last part of the post is a not-very-funny joke based on HPMoR.

How to be polite, and why

A friend and I came up with a game called Raconteur. You pair up with another Raconteur at a party and talk to everyone you can. You score points by getting people to disclose something about their lives. If you dominate the conversation, you lose a point. The two raconteurs communicate using hand signals and keep a tally on a sheet of paper or in their minds. You’d think people would notice but they are so amused by the attention that the fact you’re playing Raconteur escapes their attention.

In case you didn't encounter it on Facebook, here is an excellent logic puzzle from Singapore:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.

May 15, May 16, May 19

June 17, June 18

July 14, July 16

August 14, August 15, August 17

Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively, so Albert knows the month while Bernard knows the day.

Albert: I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.

Bernard: At first I didn’t know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know now.

Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl's birthday is.

When is Cheryl's birthday?

Poll: How long did it take you to solve this problem? [pollid:853]
SPOILER ALERT: Here is the solution I just came up with. 1) Albert says "I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too." If the birthday had been May 19 or June 18, then Bernard would have known it immediately after being told the day, because those days only appear once. In order for Albert to know this about Bernard's knowledge, he must know that the month is not May or June. (Becuase if the month was either may or June, Bernard might know the birthday right away). Therefore the birthday is not in May or June. 2) Bernard says: "At first I didn’t know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know now." After Albert gives Bernard the information that it is either July or August, Bernard learns the exact date. This indicates that the day is not the 14th, because the 14th is present in both July and August. In order for Bernard's information to not remain ambiguous, it must be one of July 16, August 15, or August 17, because those three have a unique day value out of the remaining possibilities. 3) Albert says: "Then I also know when Cheryl's birthday is." This indicates that for our three remaining possibilities, the month is not ambiguous, and therefore it must be July. (Because August had two possibilities left, while July had one). Therefore the birthday is on July 16. I found it fairly easy, but I am experienced with logic puzzles, including those where characters in the puzzle use their knowledge about the knowledge of others in the puzzle in order to solve it. If someone wasn't experienced with these kinds of logic puzzles it would probably seem very hard. (The first time I encountered one of these I think I agonized over it for many hours).
Instead of writing spoiler alert using rot13 is better.
This is known as a "common knowledge" puzzle. For an example of a much more difficult (IMO) puzzle involving common knowledge, take a look at this one. (Although my admission here that the puzzle involves common knowledge might actually make it significantly easier.)
Can it be solved using probabilities? I mean, if, for example, the Guru says 'I see nobody on this island who has blue eyes', then the whole 100 brown-eyed people can pack and leave at once. If the Guru says 'I see at least one blue-eyed person' AND thereare two BE present, neither of them leaves that night and so next morning they both know they are BE and can leave the following night, and so on?
The approach you describe is sensible, but I don't see what it has to do with probabilities; all the probabilities involved are either 0 or 1.
I mean, the 'perfect logicians' part put me into thinking like '...and if there are 3 BlE and 100 BrE, and the Guru says 'I see at least 1 BlE', then at that moment each one of the three BlE thinks there's 2/3 chances she means either of the other two, so next time just before noon, when they converge again, one of the three BlE finds the other two and goes away without saying anything. Then if next morning the two others are found to have left, he knows he's chance of being the only BlE left has gone up and presents himself for inspection. When he is confirmed as BlE, next time it automatically releases all BrE. Now let's consider the case of four BlE present...' etc. I doubt it can be done easily for large groups of people, though, unless they cooperate. The easiest way to do it is to appear before the Guru in pairs:)
Another one that seems of similar difficulty to Cheryl's birthday is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_Three_Children_puzzle (the article contains spoilers): What are the ages of the children? I actually remember finding blue eyes easier than three children, but I don't remember my relative ages when I first heard them, and I discussed both with my family at the time. But blue eyes had an "obvious" approach which worked after routine application, and three children/Cheryl require you to extract a different insight from every step of the puzzle.
I found it easy enough to solve (the same way you did), and I'm not very experienced with logic puzzles. Solving it instead of giving up and looking up the answer made me feel good!
(Posted without looking at the replies.) For Bernard to be unable to determine Cheryl's birthday upon being told the day, the day must be insufficient to specify the month. In other words, the day has to be one of the numbers that appears more than once in the list. This immediately rules out 18 and 19, which both only appear once. Moreover, for Albert to know that Bernard doesn't know Cheryl's birthday, the month he was given must not contain either 18 or 19 as a possible day; otherwise, it would have been possible for Bernard to figure out the month from the date, and Albert could not know that Bernard did not know Cheryl's birthday. This rules out May (which contains 19) and June (which contains 18). Upon hearing that Albert knew he did not know Cheryl's birthday, Bernard would gain the above information, and know that Cheryl's birthday falls in either July or August. This means that the information he was given must be sufficient to discriminate between these two months, i.e. whatever the day Cheryl gave him, it cannot appear in both months. This rules out 14. The remaining possibilities are July 16, August 15, and August 17. This is where I got stuck. There doesn't seem to be any more information in the problem that would allow further discrimination between these three possibilities. Moreover, this makes Albert's assertion that he now knows Cheryl's birthday after hearing Bernard absurd; how could he possibly know which month it is? I'm still unsure how to proceed right now. I'll give it ten or so more minutes of thought, and if I fail to come up with anything after that, I'll look at the answer. EDIT: Man, I feel stupid. The answer came to me right after I commented, and it turns that my mistake was that I had unconsciously conflated Albert with the reader. The reader doesn't know the month, and therefore without further information, it's impossible to determine which of the three possibilities Cheryl's birthday actually falls on. However, Albert does kn
Perhaps a monthly puzzle thread.
Raymond Smullyan calls these sorts of puzzles (where characters' ability to solve the puzzle is used by the reader to solve the puzzle) "metapuzzles". There are some more examples in his books.
August 17? Edit: I made the mistake of discarding June but not May.
SPOILER: here is why it's not Aug 17.

Weird: more gender equality correlating with not less, but more psychological gender differences:

"high gender egalitarian nations also exhibit larger sex differences in Big Five personality traits and the Dark Triad traits of Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and psychopathy; in romantic attachment and love styles; in sociopolitical attitudes and personal values; in clinical depression rates and crying behavior; in tested cognitive and mental abilities; and in physical attributes such as height and blood pressure[51]. If the sociopolitical gender egalit... (read more)

Wealth seems like the best explanation, since it empowers self-expression in a general sense. One of the main comparisons I saw focused on comparing Scandinavia and India / China, and asking the women why they went into whatever career they went into. Indian or Chinese women go into STEM fields not because they like them more than alternatives, but because they represent a stable, high-status job or a path to America or so on.* Scandinavian women are happy being nurses because the job is more enjoyable and they're wealthy enough to want a larger share of their compensation in job satisfaction instead of money. *It's not the thing I read on gender differences, but Peter Chang's story seems interesting and relevant. The government decided that he would go to culinary school, and he wasn't interested, since he wanted to be a scholar, not a chef. His dying grandmother gave him advice to learn any skill at all: And then he goes on to become a master chef and gets to America and is now running a chain of restaurants. But the advice seems very un-Scandinavian.

John Adams, one of America's Founding Fathers, reportedly wrote in one of his letters:

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

Very Confucian, family first, no individualism. I respect that, actually, my own culture suffers from being in the middle, longing for the idea of an extended family tribe / gang, but yet too focused on individual desires to actually make that happen. Funny thing is, it is not immediately obvious, but both red-stater American, and social democratic Scandinavian cultures are individualists. They just differ in the opinion of what kind of economic setup brings the most individual freedom. One is more about focusing on not letting anything taken away from you, the other focusing on having everything given to you that you may need to live according to your individual desires. A properly non-individualist culture is not actually socialist or social democratic in the modern sense. It is more tribal. Share, but only with people I am closely tied to. Sharing with millions of strangers can only be justified by a form of individualism: they did not earn by being part of your tribe, they earned by being individuals who need it and repay it. I am just saying it because I am kinda tired about debates about individualism vs. socialism. This is a non-issue. The issue is individualist socialism vs. individualist non-socialism vs. communal tribalism.
I don't think this is true about Scandinavia. Not sure about the Finns, but both Norwegian and Swedish culture have been described as enforcing a LOT of conformism. Sounds like an oxymoron to me.
I am fairly astonished - this is a fairly obvious definition of modern social democracy / social liberalism? Old, collectivist socialism was about common social goals of basically the pyramid-building type. Enter liberal individualism. Everybody lives for their own goals. At some point people realize that the current distribution of wealth does not lead to the maximization of individual goal achievement. Some people want to be artists, but it is hard to make a living that way unless you are really good. Some people want to play the business mogul, but they own five businesss and they could still play it if they owned only one. So four (or their profits) can be redistributed to the artists. Of course it is a highly theoretical unreal example, but just making a point. Socialist, because the wealth belongs to the society, not the individual, can be spread around. Individualist, because the goal is not pyramid-building but enabling individuals to get the resources to live as they want to. Sort of look at like this: individualism is people living for hobbies, personal goals, not socially determined duties. Socialist wealth redistribution is about enabling more people to live for a hobby instead of doing what it takes to make a living. Disclaimer: not an endorsement, but a description of other people's goals
It seems to me that this rests on a bad model of motivations. Not bad because inaccurate, though; it's a simplified model but it's about as accurate as any equivalently simple one. Bad because it creates bad incentives. I've met a ton of people that want to be artists, i.e. to fill the social role of "artist", and I've also met a ton of people that want to be entrepreneurs, i.e. to fill the social role of Tony Stark. (You can't swing a dead cat in California without hitting one or the other.) Most of them stop at wanting, but the ones that don't universally produce bad art and bad companies. Good art comes from the people that want to produce good art, which is hard, takes a lot of directed effort, and doesn't actually have much to do with the social role. One could argue, of course, that that implies extrinsic policy goals and you're rather concerned with intrinsics. I don't live in these people's heads, so I don't know how intrinsically satisfied they are, and I haven't seen any research covering that ground either; but even if we're concerned only with pure hedonics, I can't help but wonder how good an idea it is to set people up to be frustrated in their ambitions.
Nope, not to me. Not in any "modern social democracy" that I know. I feel you're confusing feel-good propaganda with how things actually work in real life. This calls for a quote usually attributed to Maggie Thatcher: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." To redistribute wealth you first need to create it and "people living for hobbies" tend not to create much.
Again: I am reporting it, not endorsing it. Rawls is the most used philosopher in these circles and he basically re-implemented socialism from am collectivist to an individualist philosophy in A Theory Of Justice. I think this is more of a central idea than just propaganda. I think it began as people trying to live as individualists first, living for their hobbies, then figured the market does not support it. So basically hoped to increase freedom by less reliance on the market, figuring if take money form rich people they still have enough to live for their own hobbies and thus you increased the total social sum of hobby-living. True, probably the whole thing does not work economically because it is a "how to spend money on xmas presents to make the most people happy" kind of philosophy and not a "how to make money" kind. I am just saying the basis of it is individualistic. No common goal, but individual pleasure. No pyramids.
Yes, but that doesn't mean that he's right or that his theory makes much sense. I have a fairly low opinion of "these circles". First of all, I don't think that "living for a hobby" has anything at all to do with being an individualist. The markets are individualistic, a fact much lamented by a variety of authors (e.g. Karl Marx), and hobbies can perfectly well be communal. This is basically "if someone gives me resources for free (gratis) I'll be more free (libre) in the sense that more options will be available to me". That is trivially true, but still has nothing to do with individualism -- the principle works in the same way for tribes, governments, AIs, etc. etc.
I used to, too, but lately I figured I should not really write off ideas so easily that are basically shared by the majority of professors more or less. I did not sign up them either but learned to put them into a "gray zone", neither affirm nor deny, but more like watch where they lead neutrally. One thing is clear, I suck at empathy, lately I am even thinking I may be schizoid a bit, and it would not be safe (in the sense of my calibration) to scoff too much on bleeding-heart stuff, as it can be my inner indifference speaking instead of my rational judgement. Markets are individualistic because there is no such thing as fads, bandwagons, fandom, network effect and stuff like that? :) Sorry, I must say with a high probability that this 19th century idea is falsified. Just look at "Apple fanboys". Basically a religion, attire and all that. The 21st century market does not even resemble individuals looking like the buying the best things for their individual goals. More like people buying things that signal membership in a community... Hobbies can be communal, but I guess what makes them individualistic is the lack of commitment. Stop when no longer fun. No offense, but do you too have a similar empathy deficiency problem I am struggling with? It is trivially easy to imagine people having all kinds of individual aspirations but the sheer necessity of needing to pay rent, bills, support a family etc. overrides it and basically they have to accept any job they can. Again I don't endorse socialism, but it deserves more empathic understanding than you seem to give to it. Imagine four men, each having to support a family and each wanting to be a not too good violinist, not too good means not expecting to get paid for it. A has no money, B has €5M, C has €20M and D has €100M. B, C, and D will all be able to live for their hobby as they don't need a wage to live. A will have to work as an accountant. Redistributing from D to A enables all four to live as a violinist. Ye
Hard to say -- I do not struggle with such a problem and in my experience people who proclaim that I should have more empathy towards X just want my money. Some. Very very small empathetic understanding. Certainly not enough to base economic systems of societies on. But if you think you should feel so much empathy for the poor bloke who can't be a violinist, let me ask you something. Have you ever been to a very poor third world country? Say, India, or something in Tropical Africa. I recommend you go, and not in a tour bus either. I suspect this will recalibrate your empathy a lot.
No, I was never outside Europe, don't really like to travel long distances, I am more familiar with the Eastern European style of poverty and yes, most of what empathy I am capable of having goes to people outside the first world, inside the first world it seems more doable to compromise personal goals with the need to make a living. My point is simply libertarian capitalism cannot really claim to maximize personal freedom, of course, we could say that it does optimize the combined goal of personal freedom and coming up with an economic system that can survive more than 50 years, economists understand it, I am just saying some understanding should be given to non-economists who look for alternatives where most people are not stuck in having to make a living doing things they don't like. That libertarian capitlaism should not be defined as an individualist or freedom based system, but more like a stability based system, we could easily imagine far more freedom based or far more individualist systems (say based on basic income where most people are not expected to get a job) but they would not last for more than 2 generations, so it would be more proper to call it stability based, not individuality based, that is only my point, not that it is bad or that there are currently better alternatives, but merely that its virtue is its stability, not its individuality nor its freedom.
We should probably not confuse preference and necessity. Some people enjoy being in a tribe. Other people don't enjoy being in a tribe, but it is their only (or most likely) way to survive in their situation. Just because you miss not being in a tribe is not a proof that if you were a member of an actual tribe, you would enjoy it. Actual tribe might differ from your idea of a tribe; it could be full of people you would hate, and in some kind of society you could have no reasonable way to escape.
I don't think there are some people who enjoy every kind of tribe and others who hate every kind of tribe. It largely depends on the other people in the tribe and your relationships with them.
Sure, there are different tribes, and different personalities. Let's assume that an "average tribe" is... well, average; not very abusive, but also not perfect. I think some people, if given realistic free choice, would prefer to live in that tribe, and some people would prefer to live in an individualist society. So let's say the former are "voluntary tribesmen", although they may have bad luck and end up in an abusive tribe. The latter, if they live in a culture that does not give them a choice, are "involuntary tribesmen". From the outside, the "voluntary" and "involuntary" tribesmen may look the same for an observer from our culture. Both stick with their tribe. But one of them enjoys it, and the other one only does it to prevent starvation of themselves or their relatives. Just because we sometimes feel that we would enjoy living in a tribe, we should not believe that all people living in tribes are of the "voluntary" type.
Here is the cited paper.
Me too. I noticed that at least here in Germany childrens toys are presented much more gender specifically than they used to - think pink ponys and armed space rangers. But also boys books and girls books. I think this is more than just improved marketing. The entire domains of boys toys and girls toys diverge. Previously often one set of toys was sold for and used by boys and girls alike. The play differentiated along roles but still overlapped. But ot any longer. I wondered: Why is that? TLDR: When roles do no more work to match expectations of the other gender the need to do so is satisfied by choosing other aspects of interests and behavior that pattern-match against these expectations. My reasoning was as follows: Assume that there are optimum male and female stereotypes with respect to preferrability and that these are known to both genders. Stereotypes mean combinations of observable properties or behaviors that pattern-match against the optimum stereotype. This is plausible: At least for body attractiveness preferences are closely modelled by the other gender according to this study so I'd guess that basically the same holds for other aspects of preferrability (and status in case status being gender-specfic). Traditionally many properties did align with (gender-specific) roles - roles actually being kind of stereotypes - or more precise: The optimum stereotypes projected down to the properties captured by the roles. So matching a role automatically netted you a fair match on the optimum stereotype. But if roles do no longer work as a vehicle for this pattern-match because the roles are stripped of their differentiation potential via societies changed perception of roles - by precisely taking gender out of the roles the remaining pattern-match is weak. But the need to learn and aquire a match of the optimum stereotype doesn't go away. The pressure just goes to other areas - interests, preferrences - that pattern-match against the stereotype (which pres
I think I'm seeing the opposite (in Brazil). I see a lot of for-girls versions of toys that used to be made for boys when I was a child. Like RC Barbie racing cars, or pink Nerf guns with matching fashion accessories. Traditional girl toys also look more varied than they used to be (e.g. horror-themed dolls).
Interesting. I wonder what is the pattern behind this. And how successful this kind of marketing is. It looks suspiciously like marketeer trying to push successful brands into the other gender.
Not sure if (a) kids prefer more gendered toys... and parents learn the preference, or (b) parents prefer to buy their kids more gendered toys... and kids learn to identify with that. If I had to make a guess (without any real data), I would guess that many children would object to strongly genered toy for the opposite sex, but most children would be okay with a non-gendered toy. That is, a boy would probably refuse a pink barbie, but would be okay with a puzzle; and a girl would refuse a mechanical fighting warrior, but would be okay with a puzzle. (Okay, maybe puzzle is not the best example.)
I've seen complaints about toys being much more strongly gendered than they were a few decades ago.
Well, we would need data on how many parents complain vs how many parents buy a strongly gendered toy when an less gendered alternative is available. Because, you know, anytime something politically incorrect happens, someone will complain, and maybe even write a clickbait article. But how do people vote with their wallets? I admit I don't know. Situations like this often seem to me like chicked-and-egg problems, where producers say "we have to make what people buy, and people buy X", while consumers say "if it isn't in the shop, I can't buy it, and the shops usually only have X".
Producers make more complicated decisions. They also care about marketing and branding.
I agree with your last paragraph.
Puzzle used to be a good example. But nowadays you have puzzles with pink ponys and puzzles with fighting warriors... These cannot be shared any more.
My Little Pony says you're wrong.
Oh sure they can be shared. If the child overcomes the patterns impetus. Can be creativity, counter signalling or a lot of other reasons. But that is not the default. I don't know the percentages. I do not know a single person or child playing with my little pony.
Google up "Bronies" :-)
That doesn't give percentages. Looks more like a fringe thing.
I have some darker interpretations. If you look at pictures on childrens school bags, workbooks etc. the boy version is a spiderman sending the message to hang on net ropes like some idiot tarzan and the girl version is some little magic fairy princess sending the message just be there, be pretty, don't do much. So both are very, very detached from what they are supposed to do at school or in adult life. It is a "be useless!" kind of message. Is it perhaps an anticipation of a world where 80% will be unemployed?
Without this hypothetical anticipation of a world of 80% unemployment, would you expect children's bags, books, etc., to be decorated with pictures of people sat at office desks working on spreadsheets, or plumbers fitting pipes together, or something? Were children's bags, books, etc., ever decorated that way before? I think the explanation is much simpler. Children enjoy imagining themselves as superheroes, princesses, etc.; movies, television shows, books, etc., featuring such characters become popular; children buy (or get their parents to buy) products with their favoured characters on. No conspiracy needed. And why are the superheroes and princesses and suchlike not shown doing anything interesting? Because extra clutter in the imagery would make the presence of the characters less obvious and so reduce the immediate appeal of the products to their target market.
My view on economics: businesses exist to serve customers, where the customer is defined as the person who pays, not the person who uses. For example we are mere users of Google, not its customers, those are the advertisers. And in this case it is the parent. The rational vendor caters to parents, not children. He thinks: what kind of message do parents want to send to children? And while of course it is not something boring or dull, Dexter the cartoon scientist beats the Spiderman and the fairy-princess in the cater-to-parents domain. BTW before, as far as I can remember, they were pretty plain items, not too decorated, in my childhood, that is not ideal either. Right, probably not a conspiracy, it just happens to send wrong messages...
It's not clear to me that because the things parents want include (1) happy children and (2) children who aren't complaining about not having the stuff they want. Accordingly, if children prefer Spiderman and fairy princesses, they will often get them.
Sounds like too many parents being a bit undisciplined and giving in too easily. I can empathize with that, having a 14 month old, but still I wish we could be as adamant as our parents, whose "no" was really a 99% no, and not like our "no, well, unless you yell a lot, in which case yes, as my nerves aren't made of steel and avoiding pain for me is not always less important than principles".
No, it sounds like a lot of parents prefer to have happy kids without a message rather than unhappy ones with one.
Happiness is not simply getting what one wants, often it is closer to learning to be content with what one can have. Seriously, simply fulfilling childrens wishes, hoping this will make them happy would be seriously bad parenting, they would quickly become spoiled and basically want everything right now, the difficult yet necessary trick is figuring out how to make them happy while not getting everything they want to.
To me signal doesn't account well for factors such as height. I do accept that psychological factors can influence height. It still seems a stretch to think that stronger pressure on male signaling that they are tall because of egalitarianism leads to taller males. In a world with 1.80m female models a lot of woman also want to be taller than they are. I doubt that there psychological pressure on women to be small.
I think there's been a shift, with tall women being much more valued than they used to be some decades ago, but I've heard that tall teen-aged girls still get harassed for their height. Anyone have more solid information?
The OkCupid date indicates that men are more likely to write messages to shorter woman. At the same time the gay dominated fashion industry values tall women and a lot of woman define "being beautiful" as looking like a model and that means being tall. On a runway being tall is very useful. As far as harrassment goes I would expect teen-aged girls on both sides of the bell curve to get harassed.
Thanks. The OkCupid data is relevant, but what I was thinking of is that I think there's been a shift in movies, with romantic pairings where the woman is taller than the man.
Yes, Hollywood leading men are shorter than they used to be, but I don't think that the characters are any different. There are films portraying romantic pairings where the actress is taller than actor, but very, very few that let the audience see that.
The question about what values happen to be popular in Hollywood and what values happen to be popular in normal social interaction aren't the same thing. Quick googling finds: I can't find exact data on romantic pairings but I would expect that in liberal hollywood some directors purposefully do make choices about romantic pairings where the woman is taller than the man.
I think there's been a shift, with tall women being much more valued than they used to be some decades ago, but I've heard that tall teen-aged girls still get harassed for their height. Anyone have more solid information?
Just in case you're not aware, this is a double-comment. I've seen this with another comment of yours recently. Probably happens when one double-clicks the comment button.
What happened is that I had a couple of days of very erratic internet connection, so that it was hard to tell whether my efforts to post had worked out. My connection is good now.

A new study looking for signs of advanced civilizations finds that of a sample of 100,000 galaxies, there are no signs of a K-3 civilization. Study summarized here. The text of the actual study seems to be not yet available (at least I couldn't find it online). This is additional strong evidence for a Great Filter at a very worrying scale.

In the previous Open Thread, the following claim was made:

I want to emphasize that a transactional attitude toward relationships is itself inherently pathological. Someone with this attitude will always either feel resentful that they aren't getting a better "deal" in the relationship or anxiety that the other person feels that way about them.

This kind of attitude seems to be widespread, but it doesn't ring true to me. Most obviously, I have a transactional attitude towards my relationship with Tesco; this doesn't cause me anxiety that Tesco ... (read more)

It depends on how broadly you view "transactional". I highly doubt the original poster intended it to mean any relationship where both parties derive some benefit. The context was the question of whether to buy the services of a prostitute, and the poster appeared to be distinguishing sex for money from each party having sex for pleasure. In light of that, suppose we begin with a narrower view and say that a transaction requires each party to exchange some kind of valuable commodity or render a service, then much friendly interaction ceases to be transactional. In general, allotting a certain time period for fun activities is a trade-off you make with yourself. If that time happens to be spent with friends who are all there to have a good time, then no one is really engaging in this kind of transaction with anyone else. Everyone benefits, but there's no real exchange of valuables. Under this view, a transactional approach to a relationship would be one where every interaction is viewed as an exchange. Consider the gold-digger approach, for example. I think this approach gives a context where the original statement makes a lot more sense. I'm sure one can find other interpretations of "transactional" that also work.
Suppose she gets hit by a bus and is now disabled. You calculate that she is no longer a good investment. Do you shrug and write her off as degraded capital? A healthy attitude to a relationship makes the other person an end in herself. Perhaps it is worth noting that many people associated with the PUA/redpill/manosphere subculture are hostile to the notion that people can ever have a non-transactional relationship. But I put very little stock in their opinions.
If circumstances changed sufficiently such that she was no longer a good investment, of course I would end the relationship. Being hit by a bus wouldn't do it, but I can imagine other things that might. I agree with Caue below; that seems to be the opposite of a healthy relationship. And not just an unhealthy relationship, but a meaningless and unstable one too. If I really did view my fiancee as an "end in herself", that would mean I wanted to make my fiancee happy for no reason. Why isn't my terminal goal making some other girl happy? Indeed, why isn't my terminal goal making her sad? Or polishing rocks? No reason? This is absurd. And if making her happy is my goal for no reason, who's to say that goal won't switch tomorrow? Our relationship would be as fragile as my fatuous goals. Frankly, I am horrified at the thought of being in a relationship with someone so psychologically imbalanced as to want me to be happy for no reason. I don't think people really do have "ends in themselves," we aren't like paperclip-maximisers. All our ends are explicable in terms of our other ends, in a complicated tangle. Yes, I want to make my fiancee happy. But I want to make her happy because it deepens our relationship, and makes her better disposed to me, and provides insurance against some time when I screw up in future, and so on.
What does it mean for a person to be an end? In the example, is the end the continuity of the relationship, her happiness, or what? If the end is the continuity of the relationship regardless of quality, or her happiness regardless of his, it doesn't look very "healthy". But if it's conditional on quality or on his own satisfaction, it doesn't look like the "end".
It means that this person's happiness/wellbeing is your terminal goal.
I was wondering more about the happiness/wellbeing part than the my terminal goal part. But about that: it would mean it's one of my terminal goals. I'm also not seeing how it would be incompatible with a "transactional relationship". I feel there's an intended connotation that it should rank high among his terminal goals (in the example, high enough that he shouldn't end the relationship), but this doesn't necessarily follow from "seeing her as an end in herself". (I think the "intended correct answer" in the scenario is that he shouldn't want to leave her in that situation. This is compatible with him wanting to stay for her sake, but also with him wanting to stay because he would still enjoy being with her. This latter possibility has a better claim to being a healthy relationship than the former, and it's also entirely compatible with a "transactional attitude" as described by Salemicus)
When this topic was raised I tried googling it, and all I found was transactional vs. relation attitudes of businesses to their customers, as a marketing strategy. Basically the major difference seemed to be that a transaction is over once both parties delivered, they try to make that quick to happen, an ideal vendor delivers fast, an ideal customer pays fast, and from that point on they owe each other nothing, not even another transaction. They can do 1000 transactions and still have no loyalty to each other, still willing to do the next transaction with someone else. A relational attitude is more ongoing, has a sense of loyalty, and debts are not necessarily quickly cleared, and even when they are cleared they still feel they mutually owe loyalty. Again, I am talking about how these terms are applied in marketing. E.g. http://www.wizardofads.com.au/transactional-vs-relational-shoppers/ It seems to me that the central idea of the transaction is for both parties to deliver quickly and close the transaction, to get what they want quickly and explicitly not owe anything to each other in order to keep their complete freedom. While a relation can be a long series of I-owe-you, you-owe-me with mutual loyalty, you get what you want, but in many cases you are owed a bit more or you owe a bit more, so more of a dynamic balance. It seems to me that the essence is that transactional atttitudes aim at freedom, non-attachment, they aim at closing the transaction clearly and clearing all debts, so that both are free to choose without any obligations to each other. This necessarily implies a short-termist attitude. So the rule seems to be "minimize the time transactions stay open", for transactional attitudes. Relations are more okay with open transactions, and probably will not compartmentalize much the mutual services delivered into individual transactions. I don't fully understand how it works in relationships and sex. Clearly, in prostitution the customer pays either short
What about parent-child relationships? How are (or aren't) they transactional? ETA: Being with your fiancee makes you happy, so you are with her. Dedication to someone makes others happy, so they stay in relationships regardless of seemingly better deals.
Can you imagine what it could mean to look at relationships in a way that isn't transactional?
My impression of the alternative view is that relationships should be viewed as unconditional expressions of solidarity. Rather like a TV show where no matter the situation, friendship always hangs together. But this seems strange and arbitrary. Why should I show unconditional solidarity with A as opposed to B? I certainly can't do it with both, because A and B hate each other! And even in the most idealistic TV show, transactional analysis is never far away - I'll be there for you, 'cos you're there for me too. In the real world, maintaining relationships is costly, and we need to protect ourselves from freeloaders and PD-defection. My mental model says that the anti-transactional side is a mixture of: * Hippies who really do think that Cooperate-Bot wins over Tit-for-Tat. * People wishing to signal co-operation. * People who think "transactional" only applies to short-term transactions, and would happily view my model as appropriate. But all of this posits no rational opposition to my own viewpoint, which is very convenient for me, and not very charitable! So that's why I am asking, to educate myself, and to get a better idea of what other people mean when they say that you shouldn't view relationships as transactional.
Close, but not fully there. The point of a transaction is that the debt is to be paid fairly quickly and it is desired that a state is reached quickly where debts are cleared and thus both are "free", free of obligations, and the parties do not owe each other anything, and thus can decide without obligations whether they want to go on or not. This makes it fairly obviously short-term transactions. Relationalism is where there is no desire to be free from obligations, no desire to be able to choose any time to end it. Thus debts are not accounted for, just both do what the other wants and it takes as long as they are both happy with what they get and give. The most tangible difference is in the accounting. In a restaurant you pay for every meal and every time you hand over money it is perfectly which meal you paid for (the recent one, although you could in theory agree in a weekly billing or something), there is a clear accounting what meal is paid and thus the transaction is closed and what is still open because unpaid (or if pre-paid, then undelivered). A relational version would be constantly supporting someone with money where and if the person needs it, and and the person cooks for you when and if you both feel like, but you do not account for which money is earmarked for which meal. It is more like you continue the relationship as long you feel like the SUM(money out) compares well to the SUM (meals in).
Many relationships involve relationship-specific investments - in which case, the kind of "insurance" you're talking about actually makes a lot of sense. You don't want the other party to break the relationship off on a whim, so you expect them to make some implied pre-commitment or you wouldn't even get involved in the first place. This is a kind of cooperation, in that you're solving a coordination problem, but in practice it works more like a Stag Hunt than a PD. Because as long as the relationship works and the stakes are reasonably equal, there's no reason to deviate.
Do you think that the view that the person who made the statement you quote holds? Do you think that's how they see relationships?
Well, I would say that I find the dichotomy (transactional vs. non-transactional) to be... maybe not outright wrong, but not useful. From my point of view a healthy, successful relationship has both aspects. On the one hand, if one of you is getting nothing (or not enough) out of that relationship, that's not good news. It can be overcome in the short term, but is likely to lead to bad outcomes in the long term. On the other hand, I think good relationships are ones where you genuinely like your partner and are willing to do things just to make them happy. As a terminal goal and not just because you expect to get something for yourself out of it. A purely transactional relationship is too fragile, it does not develop enough trust and so enough resilience to survive challenges and stormy patches. This is not to say that transactional relationships (e.g. "trophy wives") cannot be successful. They certainly can, but I don't think they are optimal for both parties.
That's fair enough. It's funny. My stereotypical image of a transactional relationship is one where both parties love spending time with the other. And because they are both getting so much out of the relationship it will be an incredibly secure one. My stereotypical image of a "trophy wife" situation is much closer to a non-transactional one - some wealthy man is infatuated with a woman for no reason, he doesn't really get anything out of it, dislikes many of the things she does and having to give her money etc, but goes along with it for reasons he can't quite articulate.
We probably have somewhat different frameworks in mind and use the terms in slightly different meanings here. I don't think it's worth the time to get very precise, but there is a whiff of a definitions debate in this subthread. I don't think so, but you're already discussing it with gjm. "Infatuated with no reason" is just romantic love, often defined as "temporary insanity" :-D I think of trophy wives as a very clear transaction: the guy gets a pretty face and body, energetic sex, a symbol of high status. The girl gets lifestyle which she wouldn't be able to have on her own (or with a man of her class) and hopes for lots of money -- either as inheritance or as alimony. Personal likeability doesn't matter much as long as they don't annoy each other :-/
It will be secure as long as they are both getting so much out of the relationship. Now suppose their circumstances change so that this is no longer true, in some asymmetrical way; e.g., one partner is seriously injured in a car crash and (e.g.) requires care that's burdensome to the other, or suffers brain damage that changes their personality, or is disfigured and loses the physical attractiveness that was important to the other partner, or something. At this point, it is no longer true that both partners are getting a lot out of the relationship. The still-healthy partner would (aside from any feelings of obligation they may have developed, which if I'm understanding the usage in this thread correctly should not be considered part of a truly "transactional" relationship) be happier without the maimed partner. In a purely transactional relationship, the maimed partner gets thrown out at this point. That may indeed be better for the still-healthy partner. It's clearly worse for the maimed partner. And it's at least plausible that on the whole it's better for us all if the usual practice in such situations is not for the person who just got maimed in a car crash to be discarded and left to fend for themselves somehow. And I would guess that most of us who are in long-term relationships hope that our partner wouldn't do that if we suffered some such disaster.
No relationship is secure against any and all changes. That's absurd. If the universe undergoes heat death, marriages will suffer. But see above for why transactional ones are more stable than non-transactional ones. Which is more common, permanent brain damage to one party in the relationship, or one party in the relationship having a passing fancy for someone else? I think the intuition that you're getting at with your car crash example, as Caue says above, is that I shouldn't want to leave her in that situation. And that there's something bad/unromantic/unacceptable if I do. But if I still want to stay, we haven't left a transactional relationship at all. The response "Yeah, in those circumstances, the time I spent with my partner would be nightmarish, but I'd stay with them anyway just to make them happy" is equally bad/unromantic/unacceptable. So I don't think non-transactional wins over transactional here. You also bias the question by the type of change. I think it's no coincidence that you and knb both choose the example of a vehicular accident, where the injured party is presumably innocent. How about if one of the partners is unfaithful, or takes to drugs, or violence, or whatever. If you truly cared about your partner "as an end in herself" you still wouldn't leave. Care to bite that bullet? Incidentally, I disagree fundamentally about obligation - that's not outside transactional relationships. Indeed, binding your future self is the key to most transactions. If you exchanged vows to stay with the other party in sickness and in health, and then the other party gets sick, you should have to stay (or pay damages) if they get sick. You made a transaction, and you should have to stick to it. Obligation, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any place in a non-transactional relationship; as everyone was acting purely for their own ends to begin with, there can't be any debts or obligations. So if people change their minds, they can just waft out of the r
You could make the argument that someone in a relationship in which serious changes have happened should precommit to keep in the relationship even if it changes. The precommitment is bad in the case of some changes, but makes the relationship more stable and reduces the chance of there being such changes in marginal cases (such as one partner becoming incrementally less attractive and the other partner having an incrementally greater chance of cheating on the first partner). Doing things out of obligation, even though they don't benefit us, is just our way of describing precommitment. And you don't need a transaction to have a precommitment. Of course, this isn't necessarily correct, because whether this precommitment is overall good or bad depends on the balance between different kinds of cases, which can't be deduced from first principles.
You're right that you don't need a transaction to have precommitment (and precommitment may be good or bad, depending on the circumstances). But transactions make mutually beneficial precommitments more likely. Why should A precommit to stay with B? What's in it for A? But if A precommits to stay with B in exchange for B precommitting to stay with A, now we're cooking with gas.
For the avoidance of doubt: I agree, and I was not in any way making the argument "I can imagine a situation in which a transactional relationship would be imperfectly secure, therefore transactional relationships are bad". Rather, it was: "It seems like in many quite common situations a purely transactional relationship might be less secure than we would like our relationships to be, where a not-so-purely-transactional one would be stronger in a way that's probably better overall". The latter, obviously. But (1) it's by no means only permanent brain damage that leads to the kind of situation I described and (2) I don't see any reason to think that a purely transactional relationship is more secure against passing fancies than a not-so-purely transactional one. Bad, yes (in the sense that the policy of abandoning your partner in such situations generally produces net harm and that we'd all be better off if it weren't generally adopted). Unromantic has nothing to do with it (except that if "romantic" is one opposite of "transactional" then the unromantic-ness of abandoning your partner might make less-transactional relationships more secure in such situations). Unacceptable, meh, I dunno; I don't see any reason why you should care whether I accept what you would hypothetically do in that situation or not. I'm not sure I understand your reasoning. Perhaps the following questions will help: Do you agree that, other things being equal, a relationship in which neither partner would abandon the other in such a situation is probably a better one overall? What sort of qualities would make a relationship have that property? Are they more or less likely in a purely transactional relationship? I'm not sure exactly what position you're arguing with and why you think it's my position, but: if my wife (I do, as it happens, have a wife) were unfaithful or became addicted to drugs, I would not necessarily want to end our marriage on that account. I would much prefer to salvage
I agree such a relationship is likely better (although not everyone may want such). The most important qualities for such a relationship seems to me to be depth of commitment, and a sense of duty in each partner (to take those commitments seriously). They seem to me to be much more likely in a transactional relationship, where each party commits in return for the other party doing so too, than in a non-transactional relationship, where each party commits by an independent decision, whether or not the other party also commits. I'm not saying you'd necessarily want to end your marriage on that account. I'm just saying that you might (depending on how you feel about drugs, whether it was salvageable in a manner you considered acceptable, etc). Is there really nothing she could do that would make you say "I've had enough"? Because if you truly cared about her as "an end in itself" then it wouldn't matter what she did. Indeed, even if she ended her relationship with you and took up with someone else, you'd be equally keen to make her happy. Which, frankly, I don't believe. At the very least, if it's true for you, you're an exceptional person. The transactional analysis says that you try to make her happy in exchange for her making you happy. Which is why when one person quits the relationship, the other person finds someone else to have a relationship with. Isn't it miraculous how people change what is their "end in itself" to precisely coincide with their mutual advantage like that! In a transactional relationship, I promise to do X in exchange for your promise to do Y. So if I do X, and you don't do Y, you owe me. But in a non-transactional relationship as defined above, I don't do X in exchange for Y, I just do X because it makes you happy, which is my "end in itself." You don't owe me anything in return. Maybe you'll do Y because it makes me happy, which is your "end in itself." Maybe not. This non-transactional model of relationships implies that it's a mere coin
This simply isn't true. I can value X "as an end in itself" and still give up X, if I value other things as well and the situation changes so that I can get more of the other things I value. Something being intrinsically motivating doesn't mean it's the only motivating thing. If you mean logically implies, this also simply isn't true. It might instead, for example, be a result of being in a relationship... perhaps once I become part of a couple (for whatever reasons), my value system alters so that I value my partner's happiness as an "arational "end in itself." " It might instead be a cause of being in a relationship... I only engage in a relationship with someone after I come to value their happiness in this way. There might be a noncoincidental common cause whereby I both form relationships with, and to come to value in this way, the same people. More generally... I tend to agree with your conclusion that most real-world relationships are transactional in the sense you mean here, but I think you're being very sloppy with your arguments for it. You may want to take a breath and rethink how much of what you're saying you actually believe, and how much you're simply saying in order to win an argument.
Good thing I never said that. The question is not "Is there anything a partner can do to make you end the relationship," it's "is there anything a partner can do to affect your desire for their happiness." If your desire for their happiness really is intrinsically motivated, then the answer to (2) is "no." But no-one believes that's healthy. "Logical implication" is emphatically not the ordinary use of the word implies. And you know that. I'm not as smart as you to understand which of my positions are so flawed that I deserve to be belittled like that for advancing them. Fool that I am, I believe them all.
OK. My apologies. As you were.
What specifically is considered a transaction. Let's assume that I am already giving something to the other person. Does it only count as a "transaction" when the other person actively gives something back to me... or is it enough if I for example derive pleasure from helping this specific person, even if the other person does not actively give me anything, even if maybe they are not even aware that I did something for them? In other words "receiving something in return" does not necessarily imply "the other person paid back somehow". (I could be rewarded by a third party, or by a part of my own mind.) Which one are we talking about?
I agree that the "something in return" doesn't have to be from the other person in the relationship. For example, a doctor attending a patient is employed by the hospital, not the patient; she gets nothing from him. Still, it makes sense to view the way they relate to each other as transactional. The patient wants to get well, the doctor wants to get paid. I agree that people can derive pleasure from helping a specific person. But it's not normally the whole story. What they also want is expressions of gratitude, that person's company, etc. For example, your parents may want to help you, but if you never say thank you, call them or see them, they won't be inclined to help you nearly so much. Human beings are social animals. The "helping" is not the whole, or even the majority, of the story.

Perhaps multiple choice tests in schools make people extra susceptible to privileging hypotheses. As a simplified example, if a student’s probability distribution to the answer of a question on a multiple choice test before seeing the choices is uniformly distributed amongst all integers from 1 to n, simply seeing an arbitrary integer as one of the, say, four options in a multiple choice test justifiably increases its probability of being correct to 0.25, a tremendous increase when n is large. Thus, on multiple choice tests, privileging a possible answer b... (read more)


To cope with the exceptional computational complexity that is involved in the control of its hyper-redundant arms [ 1 ], the octopus has adopted unique motor control strategies in which the central brain activates rather autonomous motor programs in the elaborated peripheral nervous system of the arms [ 2, 3 ]. How octopuses coordinate their eight long and flexible arms in locomotion is still unknown. Here, we present the first detailed kinematic analysis of octopus arm coordination i

... (read more)
You have the escape the parentheses: This link00266-3?cc=y) should work. [This link](http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822\(15\)00266-3?cc=y) should work.
You can do URLs with parentheses you need when you have the closing paren to have a \ before it. So: This is your link00266-3?cc=y)
Thomas Nagel touches on this question and its implications for physical reductionism of consciousness, the mind/body problem, and of objective discussions of subjective mental experiences in his 1974 essay What is it like to be a bat?.

I've been playing a lot of Diplomacy) in the past year or so. I sometimes pitch the game as a "seven player chess" - really simple rules, no luck factor*. You negotiate with other players, form alliances, and then stab them at the opportune moment. The goal is to win, at all costs, using any cheats/technique you can think of.

There is plenty of opportunities to apply LW training in the game, which I'll likely cover at a later time. However, I've never played with anyone from here, which limits my own press options (e.g. it isn't easy to express &q... (read more)

Diplomacy has come up before. (The first game was here.) I tried to arrange games on WebDiplomacy (like here) but I don't recall all that much coming from it--I remember at least one game failing to start because we had seven people sign up but only six actually made the transition to WebDiplomacy, and so on. Especially if you're doing a slow game where time zones are less important, I suspect it may be better to just start a LW game with a password posted here, so that there's only one sign-up. While it is possible to play Diplomacy this way, I'm not sure this is what I would present it as. I've typically found myself spending much more time thinking about games. (I may be interested if I'm needed to make a game happen, but I probably should be spending my time on other things.)
I'm interested.

Once Clippy creates enough paperclips, they become the new atoms, eventually giving rise to clip-life and cliptelligence.


See also: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/13/growing-children-for-bostroms-disneyland/
I've been suspecting as much, but was afraid of saying it because it could be misinterpreted as pro-clippism.

To follow up the Albert, Bernard, Cheryl puzzle, I saw the following puzzle today, which I found much harder.

Two numbers a and b are between 2 and 99, inclusive. They aren't necessarily unique. Peter is given the product of the numbers, a * b. Sarah is given the sum, a + b.

Peter says, “I don’t know the numbers.”

Sarah says, “I knew you didn’t know the numbers.”

Peter then says, “I know the numbers now.”

Sarah then says, “Ah ha! I know the numbers now.”

What are the numbers?

Please rot13 any solutions.

V oryvrir n = sbhe, o = guvegrra jbexf va guvf pnfr. Fvapr vg pna or snpgberq gjb jnlf, Crgre qbrfa'g xabj gur ahzoref. Fnenu xabjf ur qbrfa'g xabj, orpnhfr gurve fhz vf abg gur fhz bs gjb cevzrf. Gur bgure snpgbevat, (gjb, gjragl fvk), unf n fhz bs gjragl rvtug juvpu vf gur fhz bs gjb cevzrf, fb Fnenu'f fgngrzrag zrnaf gung ur pna ryvzvangr gung bar. Fb, Crgre xabjf jung vg vf. V ybbxrq ng bgure jnlf bs jevgvat friragrra nf gur fhz bs gjb vagrtref sebz gjb gb avargl avar, naq guvf jnf gur bayl bar gung ranoyrq Crgre gb havdhryl qrgrezvar uvf snpgbevat tvira Fnenu'f vasbezngvba.
Very well done, although it seems you guessed the answer and then proved that that answer worked. How did you come up with that solution?
V svtherq guhf: Obgu n naq o pnaabg or cevzr. Vs gurl jrer, Crgre jbhyq vzzrqvngryl xabj gur nafjre. Vs nal bar jnf n cevzr terngre guna 50, gura Crgre jbhyq or noyr gb fbyir vg nf jryy, hfvat gur snpg gung n naq o yvr orgjrra 2 naq 99. Fnenu xabjf Crgre pnaabg havdhryl qrgrezvar n naq o. Fb, n + o pnaabg or gur fhz bs gjb cevzrf, abe pna vg or gur fhz bs bs n cevzr terngre guna 50 naq nabgure ahzore orgjrra 2 naq 99. Gur fznyyrfg cevzr terngre guna 50 vf 53, naq 53+2 = 55. Fb vs n + o >= 55, gura gurer jbhyq or n cbffvoyr cnve jubfr cebqhpg unf n havdhr snpgbevmngvba va bhe enatr. Guvf erznvaf gehr sbe n naq o > 97, fvapr nyy gubfr cbffvoyr cnvef unir qvfgvapg cebqhpgf. Fb, gur cbffvoyr inyhrf bs n + o ner ahzoref sebz 4 gb 54, juvpu pnaabg or rkcerffrq nf gur fhz bs cevzrf. Guvf ryvzvangrf gur rira ahzoref nf jryy nf frireny bqqf. Vg fgvyy yrnirf frireny pnfrf gb rknzvar. Fvapr Crgre xabjf gur ahzoref bapr Fnenu erirnyf ur pbhyqa'g unir qrqhprq vg sebz gur cebqhpg nybar, gung zrnaf gung bs nyy gur cbffvoyr jnlf bs snpgbevat vg vagb gjb ahzoref, bayl bar erfhygf va n cnve jubfr fhz vfa'g gur fhz bs cevzrf. Fvapr Fnenu xabjf gur fbyhgvba nsgre Crgre naabhaprf ur sbhaq vg, gurer pna bayl or bar cnve nzbat gubfr gung fhz gb n + o jvgu gur nobir cebcregl, v.r. jurer nal qvssrerag snpgbevmngvba yrnqf gb gur fhz orvat gur fhz bs gjb cevzrf. Sebz urer V cebprrqrq gb rknzvar gur qvssrerag pnfrf. V gbbx npprcgnoyr inyhrf sbe n + o naq purpxrq jurgure gur nobir pevgrevn jrer fngvfsvrq. Gurer znl or n zber ryrtnag nccebnpu gung shegure fvzcyvsvrf guvatf, ohg V pbhyqa'g guvax bs vg.
In an alternate universe, Peter and Sarah could have had the following conversation instead: But I'm worried that my version of the puzzle can no longer be solved without brute force.
Crgre qbrfa'g xabj gur ahzoref, juvpu zrnaf gur cebqhpg unf ng yrnfg guerr cevzr snpgbef. Fnenu xabjf gur cebqhpg unf ng yrnfg gjb cevzr snpgbef, juvpu zrnaf gur fhz pnaabg or rkcerffrq nf gur fhz bs gjb cevzrf. Fb gur fhz vfa'g rira (Tbyqonpu pbawrpgher), naq vg'f abg n cevzr cyhf gjb. Gung ehyrf bhg rirelguvat orybj ryrira, sbe rknzcyr. Fb yrg'f rknzvar ryrira. Gur ahzoref zvtug or gjb naq avar, cebqhpg rvtugrra rdhnyf gjb-guerr-guerr. Be guerr naq rvtug, cebqhpg gjragl sbhe rdhnyf gjb-gjb-gjb-guerr. Be sbhe naq frira, cebqhpg gjragl rvtug rdhnyf gjb-gjb-frira. Be svir naq fvk, cebqhpg guvegl rdhnyf gjb-guerr-svir. Vs Crgre vf tvira rvtugrra, vg pbhyq bayl or gjb avarf be guerr fvkrf. Guerr fvkrf jbhyq unir fhz avar, juvpu Fnenu ehyrq bhg, fb Crgre jbhyq xabj gung vg jnf gjb avarf. Gjragl sbhe pbhyq or rvtug guerrf be sbhe fvkrf be gjb gjryirf, naq bayl rvtug guerrf vf crezvffvoyr, fb Crgre jbhyq xabj rvtug guerrf. Naq gjragl rvtug pbhyq or gjb sbhegrraf be sbhe friraf, naq gjb sbhegrraf vf vzcrezvffvoyr, fb Crgre jbhyq xabj sbhe friraf. (Guvegl pbhyq or svir fvkrf be gjb svsgrraf. Rvgure bs gubfr vf crezvffvoyr, fb Crgre qrsvavgryl jnfa'g gbyq guvegl.) Fb vs gur fhz jnf ryrira, jr pbhyq trg gur svefg guerr fgrcf. Ohg jura Crgre fnlf gung ur xabjf gur ahzoref, Fnenu pna'g qvfgvathvfu orgjrra gjb cyhf avar, guerr cyhf rvtug, be sbhe cyhf frira, fb jr jbhyqa'g trg fgrc sbhe. Guvf ehyrf bhg ryrira. V nffhzr gurer'f n jnl gb cebprrq gung vfa'g oehgr sbepr, ohg gung'f nf sne nf V'ir tbggra.

On meditation, also partially replying to this: I think it only works with extremely good posture.

I went to various Buddhist gompas where people just sat down on various sized pillows, teachers told people to have straight backs which is something everybody interprets differently (usually, most people tend to make arched back backs, as it feels like the opposite of slouching) and frankly, not a lot happened.

The place that worked best was a fairly strict mokusho Zen center, where all pillows were stuffed to be high and hard, and it was explained to not jus... (read more)

Should I consider it a rationality failure if I exhibit resistance to psychotherapy? I know that CBT is supposed to help a person overcome the sorts of maladaptive thinking & behavior patterns that got them in the kind of trouble that convinced them to seek out therapy in the first place. CBT psychotherapists are probably the most mainstream people to even promote more rational thinking. But I have trouble following through.

For one, I cannot answer certain questions in the frame which my therapist imposes because I intellectually reject the assumptions... (read more)

Examples? Just curious. Total armchair-psychologist kibitzing. This reads to me like someone who feels judged, or been repeatedly told that there's something wrong with them that they should fix, or for some other reason is in an emotionally defensive position. My guess is if you felt less judged or more respected, following the shrink's suggestions would feel more like giving some new habits a test drive than like ritually sacrificing parts of your identity. I don't know enough about psychotherapy efficacy statistics to say, but heuristically I tend to assume that experts are better at judging these things than non-experts. A possibility to consider: there may be behavior changes that would have a highly positive impact to your future life (avoiding arguing habits which exacerbate relational strife, to make up an example), but that aren't terribly relevant to getting out of this depressive slump. Have you tried the usual anti-depressive suspects (exercise and socializing)? When you feel better / at the beginning your next relationship, it might be worth revisiting some of the things which went wrong in the past to try to avoid them. This comment should be read as informal musings for the purpose of collecting outside views.
For instance, she asked me to list the positive and negative traits of the significant masculine and feminine models in my childhood, in order for her to tell me what kind of relationship I am subconsciously looking for. Problem is, 1) I don't remember people in my early life as strongly representative of their gender, because back then I didn't have a strong idea of gender, I just divided people into kids and adults rather than male and female; 2) just because some people might have been my parents or caretakers or elementary teachers doesn't mean I regard them as significant, just as more familiar than the rest; 3) to this day I don't ascribe much valence to traits, I don't view them as virtues or flaws, I consider them mostly neutral, with the potential of "positive" and "negative" expressions; 4) even so, back then I probably judged traits in a completely different light; 5) I really don't see what any of this has to do with my current attitude to relationships, given that I have changed a great deal in the meantime, and whatever ways in which I resemble my parents (including in the matter of taste in partners) could probably be attributed to genetics. So yeah, impossible question. The paragraph you quoted here doesn't have to do with any ways in which I've been evaluated by actual people in real life. I have read extensively on psychological topics, especially those related to personality types and disorders, psychological schools, advice, and so on. Many times I have recognized myself in descriptions of "how not to be like", while descriptions of healthy, adaptive traits & behaviors -- things like being warm-hearted, optimistic, and bereft of ideas about one's own exceptionality -- just didn't appeal to me. I expect my therapist and me don't really see eye-to-eye on "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". This could be true, yes. I don't go into therapy for any other reason than to maybe at some point stop feeling sad all the time, and yet there are enough other
Hypothesis: it is your therapist who has no idea what s/he is doing. Hypothesis: it is you who are making this unnecessarily harder than it needs to be. Hypothesis: CBT may not be what is needed for your particular case. Hypothesis: something else nobody has considered yet. How confident do you feel to assign respective probabilities to these hypotheses? I don't live inside your head, so I can't be sure, but this part sounds like you have strong mental tools to get out of your depression at your own pace and on your own terms. I wouldn't worry much.
Well, thanks. I've considered all of these possibilities, but I can't say for sure which one is more probable than the others; to any given one I'd respond "maybe".
What is this sentence like without the word rationality? Can you articulate to your therapist why you are having difficulty? It could be that the two of you are not a good match, or it could be that she can work with you, so long as you're open. If you're good at fixing the parts of yourself that you let yourself fix, you should expect that the thing you would get the most benefit from fixing is likely to be a part of you that you don't let yourself fix. My recommendation here is to differentiate long-term and short-term changes. You can make significant changes on a probationary basis, and change them back if they aren't working out for you. Broadly: 1. A narrative shift. Therapy could propose, or help you discover, a narrative that fits your situation but has a more hopeful interpretation. 2. A mental behavior shift. Therapy could help you identify the beginning of negative spirals, and cut them off before they get too strong. 3. A social behavior shift. Therapy could help you interact with and relate to people in a different way. Those three are highly related, and so they can't really be separated--but it is useful to think of them on different levels.
(Not the OP, but musing on part of this) I've never been in therapy, but I find it almost impossible to map certain psychological concepts and questions to coherent internal things. It's like when someone describes political liberalism as "the belief that government should be bigger": It's not total nonsense, but it doesn't connect with solid, and it's probably a sign of confusion if you feel that you can give a categorical answer. Or another way: Trying to apply these concepts to myself feels like asking if some Canadian guy more culturally Japanese or Spanish (extroversion/introversion, high/low self-esteem, inner/outer locus of control, masculine/feminine). I can see that certain percentage of the world population is really clearly Japanese or Spanish, but what's the meaning of saying this Canadian guy is more Japanese, or even that he's more Japanese in contexts X, Y, and Z, and more Spanish in environments P, Q, and R?
Purposeless. The very reason I ask this on LessWrong is that I care about being more rational, less biased, more clear-headed etc., and I have some worries that my resistance to psychotherapy is a clue that I'm failing at this. That I have biases I'm clinging to. The thing is, I don't have much of a choice. I met her through my cousin and for that reason she agreed to receive me without payment. I can't afford paid therapy; I have tried another therapist previously and I pretty much spent $40 just to hear that she doesn't think I'm eligible for psychotherapy. I think I'd have been happier if I had spent the money on meds. I didn't say this originally because it would have been a mouthful, but I'm also sane enough to recognize when a cherished trait of mine is actually maladaptive and self-modify in that direction. I've undergone significant changes in recent years, that cannot be solely attributed to "growing up". I've even tried my hand at extraversion, from the starting point of an incurable introvert, because I believed it would get me closer to my goals. (It mostly turned out to be a great way to increase spendings on alcohol and decrease time left for productive pursuits, but maybe I'm not in the right social circle.) Thanks for expanding on what therapy can do for me.
On of the most important things for therapy to work is to have an alliance between the client and the therapist. It's important to have an agreement about where you want to go. To me it seems like you have no idea where you want to go that's more specific than "I don't want to be depressed." To get positive effects you indeed have to allow change. On the other hand everybody has the right to suffer as much as the want. You are allowed to have "being happy" not on top of your list of priorities.
Well, yes, basically. I said as much to my psychotherapist as well. My question is, change in what? There's little I can change about my beliefs that would improve my mood, aside from becoming implausibly optimistic about my future. Change in baseline happiness? For one, that seems genetically determined; for another, when I don't get my heart broken I'm in a stable, content, neutral disposition, so it's not that. Change in goals? I've considered that, but it's just the kind of thing to make me more depressed, seeing as I'm not bloody asking for much if I want to have one relationship with a person of my choosing (a hypothetical someone in my future, not the lost cause I've been pursuing) in which nobody's deceiving anybody; it feels a lot like admitting defeat. Please don't.
How do you think you know that? Maybe some of your beliefs or aliefs are causing wrong actions that are making you sad. From what you say elsewhere in your comment, it sounds like your depression is triggered by romantic failure, so changes to beliefs that help you relate to people better probably could improve your mood. In fact, your particular case of wanting "a relationship . . . in which nobody's deceiving anybody" sounds like a good one for CBT. (Or rather for fixing with rationality-type changes in general, I don't know enough about CBT vs. other therapies to really say.)
There are basically two ways: 1) You have an idea about what to change about yourself. You go to a psychotherapist and tell him: "Hey, I want to change XYZ about myself." Then the psychotherapist says: "I think that would be good for you, I think I can bring you there, let's work together to get you there." 2) You give up control and let the psychotherapist mold you. He will work on changing things about you he considers supoptimal. That requires trust and going into a vulnerable state. I think that's unlikely to be true. Most people hold a bunch of crappy beliefs. Maybe even aliefs. Generally antidepressants aren't given out to get people over a breakup. How long ago did that event happen? That's a goal where a therapist or relationship coach could help you develop in a positive direction. If your present therapist isn't up for that goal, you are open to search for a different one.
I don't know much about CBT for depression but it seems to me it is more about the connotations of thoughts, not their denotations. They work on defusing thoughts like "I can never do anything right" and the issue is not really whether its denotation is objectively true (btw not, but anyway) but how its connotation generates negative feelings. Perhaps, you could discuss with the therapists how to keep the denotations of some thoughts but express then in different words with way more positive connotations?
I don't have too many of these thoughts. The closest one is probably "By all means, someone like me shouldn't have much trouble finding a quality partner, therefore the only possibility left is that I'm a soulless alien who cannot connect to other people and this fact is obvious to everybody except me." Of whose implausibility I'm fully aware, so I don't really take it seriously.
But your rational part does understand it is mostly just number of approaches done multiplied by your looks, and everything else is secondary?

Not sure if this was mentioned before:

I was reading a paper (here) which mentioned several studies saying that humans are only horrible at probabilities and statistics related to individual events or beliefs (e.g., Bayesian belief revision), but they're actually quite excellent at intuitive Frequentist-type statistics.

For example, the author quotes the famous studies involving mammogram assessments, where most physicians vastly overestimated the probability of the patient having cancer. However, when the same question was presented using frequencies, score... (read more)

Is there a knockdown general argument against "blind" AI boxing as a general strategy?

For example, what is wrong with the following strategy:

The (probable) uFAI is instantiated inside a sandboxed virtual environment. The uFAI is tasked with optimizing for the revealed preferences of a species of complex but nonsentient artificial life form that lives inside the virtual environment.

As a Boxing technique we have the following:

  • Assume the AI is smart enough to figure out it's in a box; explicitly penalize its objective function for any changes it m

... (read more)
These two things seem to contradict each other. How should AI both complete a task for you and not influence you causally?
Exactly. Any observations you make on the AI, essentially give it a communications channel to the outside world. The original AI Box experiment chooses a simple text interface as the lowest bandwidth method of making those observations, as it is the least likely to be exploitable by the AI.

I'm personally not entirely convinced about the usefulness of personality variables, but I've lately become interested in Altemeyer's concept of Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). RWA is characterized by submission to authority and strong defense of established norms.

RWA is unsurprisingly correlated strongly with conservatism and right-wing orientation in politics, but characterizing people as RWA or non-RWA may be misleading. Karen Stenner suggested that "RWA is best understood as expressing a dynamic response to external threat, not a static disposi... (read more)


The issue with that kind of research is that it did not start from a neutral angle, that gives a benefit of doubt to any position in the sense of assuming with some charity that sensible people could hold that position fully consciously, rationally, but more like "these people are so obviously wrong, let's try to explain from what mental malfunction the wrong comes from". So there is no neutral angle, no charity, no benefit of doubt given.

The idea was originally called "authoritarian personality" and it was largely a bunch of Frankfurt-School Neo-Marxists, Marxo-Freudists trying to explain Nazism after WW2. So you can imagine how incredibly charged it must have been, riding the wave of a world-historical clash of ideologies. After in 1981 Bob Altemeyer corrected some bias in the original tests, he renamed it RWA.

Generally the basic issue is psychologists simply assuming only ideas from center to left can be sane at all, and treating the rest as a form of a disorder.

Another example of uncharitably quasi-medicalizing worldviews without examining how could actually sane people consider them valid - and actually closely related to RWA - Social Dominance Orientat... (read more)

RWA is not listed in the DSM-IV as a mental disorder (and neither is any authoritarian-orientated personality type), so I don't know what basis you have for saying this. Interestingly, though, anti-authoritarian personalities are listed in the DSM-IV, so if anything, the opposite of your point seems true. You may be correct about bias, but in my view it was certainly the case that post-war psychology was far more open to the idea that all 'psychologically normal' people could display 'evil' behaviors under certain circumstances (Milgram experiment, Standford prison experiment, etc.) And at any rate, I already mentioned Stenner's work and that characterizing people as RWA or non-RWA is misleading. Again, her work suggests that it should be viewed as a reaction to external forces, similar to what you're saying about 'survivalism.' I'm not sure why you're associating testosterone with SDO, as testosterone has not yet been convincingly shown to be correlated with SDO. In fact we have had this discussion here before: http://lesswrong.com/lw/84i/social_status_testosterone/ I'm not sure why you're saying this. Why would self-identification make it 'useful'? Certainly few would self-identify as psychopaths (to give an example), even though we know that psychopathy most definitely exists and is quite a useful concept.
That discussion is about aggression. Why confuse aggression with dominance? They are so completely unrelated it is not even funny. Dominance (status-relevant concerns) is an in-group behavior, while aggression is typically directed towards the outgroup. The link with dominance (again: not aggression) is so well-known that T is used a proxy for dominance-oriented interests (status relevant concerns) in stereotype threat studies: http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/bibliography_josephs_newman_brown_beer.html SDO is obviously so much more about status-relevant concerns in-group than aggression towards the outgroup. Note: SDO is a clearly shitty test and I have specifically mentioned it as a counter-example of how not to do psychology. The question sounds more like a laughable cardboard-cutout parody of a conservative person than something real people would use to describe their views: "It’s OK if some groups have more of a chance in life than others." the problem is obvious - it is the simply reverted form of an egalitarian credo, instead of actually trying to figure out how different people think. For this reason, SDO is pretty much useless, because the researcher just basically inverts what he believes and checks if people agree with the reversed form... so I meant it as a negative example, but so far as it has any utility at all, clearly it is something related to status-relevant concerns? Bingo! Precisely for that reason. Because psychopathy is a disorder. Once it is turned into something people can identify with, it is probably no longer a disorder. That means charity / understanding was restored, and it is no longer medicalizing differing opinions. Ability to identify with is a measure of to what extent is it treated as a disorder or not.
I haven't. Multiple quoted passages in that link talk about dominance. Testosterone has been shown not to be linked with aggression. The link with dominance is less clear but still not established. What?
We may be misunderstanding each other. Reworded: testosterone's link with status-related concern is very clear. example Do you think it is not clearly demonstrated enough, or you think status-related concerns are a different thing than dominance? To me they mean the same thing. I am preparing an article actually that relates to this, so if you have any concerns here please detail. Sure, this is not a perfect measure. People often accept they have disorders (usually when they actually perceive suffering from them). Still, if you want to remove judgements (like it being seen as a disorder) from a psychological profile, checking whether people could identify with the label sounds kinda like an important milestone in that? If you want to check which words used to describe gay people are not offensive, it is sort of a good idea if they themselves use them?
Thanks for the clarification. Yes, the link with status-related concern is definitely more established than with aggression. I'd be interested in reading your article. I'm still not convinced that the purpose of SDO is to make behaviors correlated with testosterone look like disorders or that this is the mainstream position of psychology. It's not obvious to me why it should be important?
Why it should be important to remove these judgements? Plain simply because it is highly uncharitable and hostile to people to basically invalidate their positions saying they don't come from a reasoning process like every other position, but from psychological malfunction. Of course, we know actually most positions don't come from reasoning processes, but more like affective etc. heuristics and only rationalized with reasoning :) But since the social etiquette is (currently) to give people the benefit of doubt and assume and pretend they arrive to their stances rationally, singling out a few positions and basically saying they are exceptions because they come from specific psychological dispositions is I think hostile or disrespectful.
By your description (I haven't seen the test) it seems like SDO is a test for "nonapples". (It is not round? Is it not red? Is it not a fruit? Be aware, you may have found a nonapple! People sometimes say that nonapples are useful and necessary, but we have clearly documented examples where nonapples have exploded, damaged property, or even killed people.)
It's in the linked wiki, but yes.
A possibly important question is what happened after the findings were reported and the "diagnosis" was applied -- did anyone propose for the high-RWA scorers a direction of treatment? Did this personality type make it into the DSM? Because I don't think we can talk about medicalizing a worldview as long as the medical establishment does not take any action against it whatsoever. Rather, the fact that groups of researchers in psychology wanted to see whether there was such a thing as a dominance-, hierarchy-driven personality -- and then stick a name on it -- does not necessarily mean they were condemning it. Just taking note of it as a phenomenon. Left-wing bias isn't necessarily evident in this. From the Wikipedia article: Furthermore, while this tidbit indicates that researchers believe high-RWA scorers are more biased (which is the closest to condemnation I could find in the article): ... it doesn't follow that this springs from an equal and opposite bias against RWAs. Who knows, maybe the scientists are right. Maybe high-RWA scorers do exhibit these biases more than the rest. (At least it can be agreed on that either they do or they don't. The position that everyone across the political spectrum is equally wrong doesn't seem likely.) Also, it might be worth asking whether high-RWA scorers don't necessarily identify with the label of "authoritarian" because the researchers made their result sound like a slur, or because the testers have internalized the widespread societal attitude that authoritarianism is bad and reminiscent of murderous regimes. It takes a step further towards NRx for right-wing authoritarians to remove the last vestiges of lip-service to liberally-slanted feel-good words in Western society of all persuasions (freedom, democracy, rights and so on), which most aren't going to make. (At least not until Moldbug & co. have claimed a larger share of society as their political allies.)
I suspect that the problem with identifying "left-wing authoritarians" could be that when someone becomes too obviously authoritarian, left-wing people who don't agree with them re-classify them as right-wing. That is, the real problem is not defining "authoritarian personality". I believe such personality type exists empirically, and can hold many kinds of political beliefs (even libertarian beliefs). The real problem is defining "right-wing" and "left-wing" meaningfully, without sneaking in something about authority. It's not that "authoritarian" is silently re-defined as "not left-wing", but rather that "left-wing" is silently re-defined as "not authoritarian". So when you have a situation where left-wing people come to power and their corrupted human hardware becomes obvious, for example in Soviet Russia, a few decades later you will find people who are telling you with straight face that "actually, Stalinists were right-wing". What they mean by saying that, in my opinion, is something like: "I admit that these people were horrible, which means I have to deny that they belonged to my tribe". (People who think that Stalinists were the good guys usually don't feel the need to re-classify them as right-wing.) In tribal thinking, my tribe is defined as "the good people", so if someone was a member of my tribe, they couldn't be evil, and if someone was evil, then by definition they were not really members of my tribe. (Analogically, religious people who disapprove of Inquisition say that the inquisitors were not true Christians, etc.) (There is also the recently popular tendency to re-define words to mean "X, except when our tribe is doing that". Which means you cannot be sexist against men, racist against white people, and if you blindly believe and worship someone left-wing on tumblr it does not make you an authoritarian personality. But to me it seems that most people understand this as a dishonest move, and perhaps only the true believers really buy it. On th
Please be aware of how it all comes from the Frankfurter School, Freudo-Marxism. When someone like Adorno defines an Authoritarian Personality and actually does it to explain nazism around 1950, the amount of condemnation in it s rather huge and really obvious. Altmeyer may be different, but the "tradition", the central point was already set and Altmeyer could only deviate with relative to that. I mean, if you work from a biological angle, such as studying rhesus monkeys or an anthropological angle, a dominance and hierarchy driven personality is simply normal. It is also normal from the historical angle, such as describing the Roman pater familas or any random medieval lord. From all these angles, you would not put a special name on it, such as RWA or authoritarian personality, as they would be pretty normal. The angle from which it looks special, weird, unusual is precisely that one angle that also condemns it hard, namely modern, liberal, Western civilization. I think the huge connotations of condemnation really cannot be unnoticed here. Either you find it normal in which case it hardly has a name, or you condemn it. I consider this fairly impossible. One thing is clear all over the political spectrum, freedom, democracy and rights and suchlike are at least preferable to modern, demotic, populist dictatorships of the Saddam type. Nobody ever came up with a serious recipe how to violate these principles in a way that it results in some kind of an nice premodern monarchy and not Saddam. From this angle, NRx is pretty much a doomed idea. It seems in the modern world you can only choose from modern systems, such as democracy or modern, demotic, populist tyranny. Anything seriously premodern would require changing the era, not the system, changing the whole culture and perhaps even technology. Within, strictly within modern alternatives, freedom, democracy and rights are preferable, thus they will continue to stay popular. And this is why any model about behavior th
This is so only because the researcher chose biased questions.. See also this
Thanks for the links. Friedman's criticism seems to be that the questions were politically biased because they chose examples such as the church for right-orientated authorities. Altemeyer's response is: Do you have a criticism of Altemeyer's response? Because it seems that it makes sense. RWA is supposed to be about adherence to established authorities, not hypothetical authorities. Friedman says: This is certainly a far more contentious proposition than the one he's rejecting, if the premise is that labor unions have the same level of established authority as the church. My answer to Friedman would be: come up with established authorities that are left-wing and just as established as right-wing ones. Of course this may be impossible almost by definition, leading to a "loaded by default" personality assessment, but that's another discussion entirely.

How does one get editing privs on the Less Wrong wiki? I think it was discussed here but I can't now find the article. Once I have the answer I'll update the wiki with more info on itself!

(Was asked here)

Wait 24 hours after account creation for page creation privs.
or at the very least: how does a new user create his/her own User / About / Talk page? ~~~~
0Paul Crowley
Are you able to create it now per Douglas_Knight's comment above?

Maybe it is worth repeating here:

I think the reason it took so long to discover "the map is not the territory" is that it is applied atheism. To a theist, the map in god's mind caused the territory to happen, so that map is even more real than the territory. And every human map is as accurate as it approaches the primordial divine map (or Platonic Forms), the fact that it also happens to predict the terrain merely being a nice bonus. Even Einstein seems to have believed something like this.

To invent "the map is not the territory" you ... (read more)

I think you'd like Why We Keep Asking “Was Machiavelli an Atheist?”, about how really hard and slow the path to atheism was. However, I don't think it took atheism to get to "the map is not the territory". I think it's just difficult for people to realize that their thoughts are a very incomplete description of the world-- the stuff in your head feels so plausible.
Why do you think it was not necessary for it? To me it is the discovery vs. invention problem. With theism truths are made by discovery, truth is the information that is closest to the priomordial information of the thoughts of the creator, the primordial blueprint. Without theism, truths are simply models, tools, handy little gadgets used for prediction and invented, not discovered.
There's a tradition which focuses on God being unknowable, so I think people who believed that could think that human maps are not the territory.
It's not only about god. Humans have direct immediate access to the contents of their own maps, while all information about the territory is suspect because it comes through the unreliable senses. This can easily lead a wannabe philosopher to stop trusting their senses and treat their own mind as a trustworthy separate magisterium (because they have a separate access to its contents). Attributing the same thing to god is merely a patch to the problem of "my mind (but not yours) is special to me, your mind (but not mine) is special to you, but speaking objectively, maybe minds really are not special at all". You can avoid this conclusion by making a logical jump to "well, it's the God's mind that is really really special!" But this does not actually address the essence of the problem, which is that my (human) mind is not special, and... well, the whole chain of thought was started by the assumption that it was. So when we know the original idea was wrong, why follow the chain at all? (Funny thing is, living things are built from DNA blueprints like you described, so that means that ironically evolution is the only place where the idealistic approach is kinda correct. The only problem is that the blueprints themselves are also subject to change.)
If I remember correctly, it was Dawkins who argued that DNA is not a blueprint in a strict sense, but rather a recipe, in the sense that just by looking at the genes you can predict which phenotypes they will produce, but the process requires specific sequences of steps and on/off switching of genes, with the result that just by looking at the phenotype you cannot deduce what the genes looked like.
Yes. That was an oversimplification. In reality, what exactly will the DNA produce depends on... many things, probably even including small changes in temperature.
Even if such a map would exist we could only have a map of that map in our head. Even today a lot of physicist use "natural law" in a way where they aren't clear about map/territory distinctions.
But maps of maps are supposed to be potentially 100% accurate i.e. being copies of each other? Are you saying lossless copying is not possible through the senses?
If I read text and as a result neurons in my brain fire those two maps of ideas aren't identical copies of each other. Translating from one medium into another isn't loseless. More fundamentally the point is that consciousness of abstraction isn't only important when you go from x to m(x) but also when you go from m(x) to n(m(x)). "consciousness of abstraction" is a term from Alfred Korzybski Science and Sanity which coined "the map is not the territory". An important part of sanity is to be conscious about the abstraction on which one operates. As a computer programmer you might have a lot of levels: Specification for the software, Scala code, Java Code, Assembler Code, Machine Code, the actual execution of the code. If you ask a question such as "did autism increase in the last three decades" it's important to be conscious of what abstraction of autisms you are thinking about. There the number of autism diagnosis done by doctors. There an official definition of what autism happens to be. There's also a physical state of brains that corresponds to autism. Consciousness of abstraction is also important when talking about things like inflation or unemployement. Official inflation numbers is a map of a more abstract inflation concept. Different countries measure their inflation slightly differently.

I discovered, today, a letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in which he claims that the sun revolves around the Earth:

One of the conclusions of the theory of relativity is that when there are two systems, or planets, in motion relative to each other—such as the sun and earth in our case—either view, namely, the sun rotating around the earth, or the earth rotating around the sun, has equal validity. Thus, if there are phenomena that cannot be adequately explained on the basis of one of these views, such difficulties have their counterpart also if the opposite

... (read more)
That the Bible was always right and even science doesn't really contradict it. Yay, Bible! The steelman version is that (ignoring all other bodies in our solar system), both Sun and Earth actually revolve around their common center of gravity. Saying "Earth revolves around Sun" brings the connotation that the Sun is not influenced by the gravity of Earth, which is not true. Except that this is unrelated to the theory of relativity (you could get the same conclusion using Newtonian mechanics), and I believe the common center of gravity still happens to be inside the Sun (please correct me if I am wrong).
The common center of gravity is inside the sun. However, the Earth-Sun system also revolves around the center of the galaxy. From that perspective, the main trajectory of the Earth is around the center of the galaxy, but the sun's gravity is deflecting it this way and that. If you plotted the Earth's motion, it would look something like a sine wave wrapped around a giant ellipse around the center of the galaxy. Saying the Earth went around the Sun wouldn't make much sense from this perspective. The argument being made is that the theory of relativity doesn't give a preferred coordinate system for the Earth-Sun system, so saying "The sun goes around the Earth" is an accurate statement for an observer located on Earth. In fact, the theory of relativity would say that the question of whether the Earth goes around the Sun or the Sun goes around the Earth is meaningless unless you specify a reference frame ahead of time. There has to be some observer who is observing the motion from a certain reference frame, and if we know the reference frame then we can decide whether the observer sees the Sun going around the Earth, the Earth going around the Sun, both of them going around Mars, etc. That too.
Under special relativity, the laws of physics are conserved under translation and Lorentz transformations. There is no privileged position, orientation, or velocity. You could argue that we can't prove that there isn't a specific reference frame that's fundamentally true and that it doesn't just happen to be a specific one you think is cool, but that's almost certainly false. Under general relativity, the laws of physics are conserved under continuously differentiable functions so long as the spacetime metric is altered accordingly. You can't stick cartesian coordinates in space in a sensible way no matter what, so there's no niceness to preserve. You could pick a reference frame (or whatever they call the general relativity version) where the Earth is in the center and not rotating, and you can't prove that that reference frame isn't fundamental. If you built a computer model of the universe, you could set that as the reference frame and you wouldn't need to add code to make sure it works like you'd have to with special relativity. But even if there really is some fundamentally true point of reference, which isn't necessarily true, it's not going to happen to be that one.
Not actually valid. You can only shift non-accelerating reference frames without introducing extra gravity sources or fictitious forces. The reference frame of Earth falling around the Sun, and the Sun falling around the Earth, are not equivalent in the way that a frame moving 1000 km/s relative to another is.
If you're dealing with general relativity, there's no way to avoid gravity. You can pick a reference frame where you're not accelerating at the origin, but if you look at a path epsilon away then it will be accelerating against the tidal forces.
It is funny that he invokes relativity because Galileo invented it specifically to argue that the Earth goes around the Sun.
The laws of physics work in any reference frame (Principle of Relativity). You will make the exact same predictions in a geocentric system as you would in a heliocentric system. The change of coordinates may introduce certain inertial forces and will likely complicate any calculations you wish to perform, but it's perfectly valid.


To cope with the exceptional computational complexity that is involved in the control of its hyper-redundant arms [ 1 ], the octopus has adopted unique motor control strategies in which the central brain activates rather autonomous motor programs in the elaborated peripheral nervous system of the arms [ 2, 3 ]. How octopuses coordinate their eight long and flexible arms in locomotion is still unknown. Here, we present the first detailed kinematic analysis of octopus arm coordination i

... (read more)
It seems badly defined. It's not clear in what sense you could be an octopus. What does seem to be possible is adding extra arms and limbs. Our brains seem to be capable of integrating new things. But even if you would be given 8 tentacles that wouldn't make you an octopus.
I think being an octopus might be something like having an octopus' motor and sensory systems while still having my memories. A really Friendly AI should be able to figure out how to do that. Harder or easier than CEV?
That assumes that memories are separated from the motor and sensory system. I don't think it works that way.

In keeping with the "puzzle" theme:

You are given a rectangular piece of paper (such as the placemat at a fast-food restaurant). Without using any measuring tools (such as a ruler, a tape measure, some clever length-measuring app on your smartphone, etc.), divide the paper into five equal parts.


Could you confirm or correct some guesses about exactly what problem is intended?

  • Folding is allowed.
  • The parts need to be of equal area but can have different shapes.
  • No other tools are allowed, not even "non-measuring" ones like an unmarked straightedge or a pair of compasses.
  • You want not an approximation but a procedure that, carried out with infinite precision, would produce exact fifths.
Folding is allowed, yes. Parts can have different shapes (if you want), but must have the same area. You cannot use compasses, but you can use an unmarked straightedge if you want to make precise creases, or to avoid ripping the paper in an untidy fashion. You are not allowed to mark the straightedge, of course. If the procedure were carried out with infinite precision, then it would indeed produce exact fifths.
First, recruit five paper-maximizing ideal economic agents, and give them a picking order one through five. Let the last-picking agent divide up the rectangular piece of paper into five parts. Downsides: will cost you the piece of paper.
I believe I have it. rot13: Sbyq naq hasbyq gur cncre ubevmbagnyyl, gura qb gur fnzr iregvpnyyl, gb znex gur zvqcbvag bs rnpu fvqr. Arkg, sbyq naq hasbyq gb znex sbhe yvarf: vs gur pbearef bs n cncre ner N, O, P, Q va beqre nebhaq gur crevzrgre, gura gur yvarf tb sebz N gb gur zvqcbvag bs O naq P, sebz O gb gur zvqcbvag bs P naq Q, sebz P gb gur zvqcbvag bs N naq Q, naq sebz Q gb gur zvqcbvag bs N naq O. Gurfr cnegvgvba gur erpgnatyr vagb avar cvrprf: sbhe gevnatyrf, sbhe gencrmbvqf, naq bar cnenyyrybtenz. Yrg gur cnenyyrybtenz or bar cneg, naq tebhc rnpu gencrmbvq jvgu vgf bja nqwnprag gevnatyr gb znxr gur sbhe bgure cnegf. Obahf: vs jr phg bhg nyy avar cvrprf, n gencrmbvq naq n gevnatyr pna or chg onpx gbtrgure va gur rknpg funcr bs gur cnenyyrybtenz.
No bending the paper?
Bending is allowed; see above.

A new study suggests that people are overly optimistic about how technologies can succeed in ways that substantially impact decision making. Summary article of the work is here, while article behind paywall is here. This seems very interesting, and if anyone has a non-paywalled copy I'd be very interested in reading it. It looks like this may be to some extent a culturally driven rather than innate bias but for most purposes the effects will probably be similar.

Excellent. Thank you.

May be interesting for people on the spectrum:


"Kamila carried out behavioral studies on the animal model and found that the autistic animals developed excessive fear memories, that these fears lasted much longer and where difficult to undo. She also found that they generalized these memories too easily to associated stimuli (i.e. once afraid of a sound with a certain pitch, they become afraid of all sounds regardless of the pitch). Kamila realized that ... (read more)

I've heard the theory before, but from this interview it sounds a bit... woo-ey. I skimmed it, and their response to the savant question has a particular flavour of optimism that makes them seem unbelievable. If they said "hypothetically, yes, but it's hard to unlock it", it'd be fine, but "severely autistic people that cannot speak or interact at all have locked up abilities even greater than savants", that rings alarm bells and make me distrust them more generally. Although, the fear thing makes sense, explains my social anxieties - I thought it was just spergy poor social skills made me screw up more, but in retrospect definitely I've been hurt more than a normal person should be by various minor embarrassments through my childhood that still give me flashbacks and that's a better explanation.

What does the research say about the psychosomatic therapies of e.g. Dr. John Sarno? My wife and I both have a lot of stomach issues (my wife's can be quite severe at times) and many friends have suggested psychosomatic therapies. But the therapists are pretty expensive. Is it still worth it?

The following are Christian religious teachings which strike me as more rational/empirical than most. Do you detect any reasoning flaws in them?

Q. Is the knowledge of the existence of God a matter of mere tradition, founded upon human testimony alone, until a person receives a manifestation of God to themselves? A. It is.

No one can truly say he knows God until he has handled something.

The beauty of the teachings of the Lord is that they are true and that you can confirm them for yourself.

If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery ab... (read more)

What does it mean? What do I need to handle to know God? It would be beautiful if you could, but alas, either the teachings are not testable, or the test fails, or there is a simpler explanation. This is true as far as it goes, but note that astrophysicists admire the night sky at least as much as lay folks, despite being able to describe in some detail how the stars shine and galaxies form. So "reasonable" doesn't mean "plain". I don't understand what this sentence means. Does this say that one cannot tell the difference between many models giving the same predictions? Then yes, it is pretty reasonable.
Quite the opposite, since the astrophysicists can enjoy the night sky on many more levels than someone who believes that stars are just little holes in the celestial dome, or something. Some of these things we call "stars" are suns (much like our own Sol), but others are galaxies or globular clusters. What sounds more grand and wonderful: "a tiny little light in the sky", or "a gravitationally bound system consisting of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas and dust, and dark matter" ?
Going through in order: 1 is a confession of bad epistemology, 2 is an assertion with no bad epistemology but a wrong premise, 3 is a generic wrong assertion with a "and that's beautiful" tacked on the front, 4 is a true statement largely independent of religious questions, 5 is good epistemology applied to wrong premises. Does that engage with what you were asking, or have I misparsed you completely?
Mmm, that might be about right, I'm not clear on a few points. 1 - Is the bad epistemology from an assumption that the teacher here advocates believing in what he calls a mere human tradition (until this manifestation, anyway)? 2 - Do you mean here that the form of the teaching is sound, but that you believe it could never practically apply, because there is not God that you could hold off on "truly knowing" until you met and felt him? 3 - Ah, here, I do believe we have a misunderstanding. My question is if you detect anything wrong with the form of the assertion. If the way of thinking is irrational, rather than the implied belief it's being applied to. 4 - I think your answer here was good, thanks :) 5 - I think you're good here. Just to confirm I'm understanding, you mean that the form of the assertion is rational, but that the specific implied belief accompanying it is false, yes? Thanks much, I appreciate your brevity.