Rationality Quotes October 2011

by MinibearRex1 min read3rd Oct 2011541 comments


Rationality Quotes
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Sometimes you hear philosophers bemoaning the fact that philosophers tend not to form consensuses like certain other disciplines do (sciences in particular). But there is no great mystery to this. The sciences reward consensus-forming as long as certain procedures are followed: agreements through experimental verification, processes of peer review, etc. Philosophy has nothing like this. Philosophers are rewarded for coming up with creative reasons not to agree with other people. The whole thrust of professional philosophy is toward inventing ways to regard opposing arguments as failure, as long as those ways don't exhibit any obvious flaws. However much philosophers are interested in the truth, philosophy as a profession is not structured so as to converge on it; it is structured so as to have the maximal possible divergence that can be sustained given common conventions. We are not trained to find ways to come to agree with each other; we are trained to find ways to disagree with each other.

Brandon Watson

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man.

Bertrand Russell

Or a mathematician.

3anonym10yHe did say "all exact science", a phrasing I think he probably chose carefully, so I'd charitably interpret the remark as being about people uttering purported scientific truths.
2Dojan10yhttp://xkcd.com/263/ [http://xkcd.com/263/]
0[anonymous]10yI hope no-one takes the title-text of that as a challenge.
0wedrifid10yI actually did when I read it. If I ever get into an argument about the merits of racial segregation my speech is now prepared!
2sketerpot10yI think it's safe to say that Bertrand Russell [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell] knew about mathematicians, as he was one himself. :-)
0MixedNuts10yHydrogen atoms have exactly one proton.
0Oscar_Cunningham10yWhat do you mean by "hydrogen atom" and "have" and "exactly" and "proton". ("One" I can deal with for now, but quantum physics makes the rest of your sentence meaningless (i.e. it makes your sentence an inexact high level description.))
2MixedNuts10yBy "proton" I mean a thingy that creates a potential well where an electron bops around, and by "hydrogen atom" I mean a single of these with a single electron in it, and by "have" I mean that when the electron has high enough energy you don't call it an hydrogen atom but "a proton here and an electron over there". This is of course a tautology. By "one" I mean S(0) (and by "0" I mean the empty set), which is also a tautology. And if you don't know what I mean by "exactly" then you don't understand the parent quote anyway. Admittedly a good counterexample would involve an exact truth that is not a tautology.
5Oligopsony10yThere are exactly zero unicorns.
0DoubleReed10yBut you can construct rigid, exact definitions for all of those things. Though I suppose those definitions would have to be approximations. So Mathematics gets to have exactness to it, but of course Mathematics is typically not considered a science.

News flash, dearies: there’s lots of areas of life that aren’t ‘science’ where people do tend to get a mite hung up on particulars of what is and is not, in fact, true. Like in bookkeeping. Like in criminal investigations. Like when they’re trying to establish where their spouse was last night.

Like, in fact, in most facets of life, hundreds of times a day, even if accounting isn’t your field and you’re not the accused at a criminal trial, and you’re not even married. Getting the facts right isn’t a concern of ‘science’, specifically. It’s a general concern of human beings. Getting reality right is, frequently, indeed, rather important if you wish to stay alive. It’s not a particularly academic question whether the car is or is not coming, when you cross the road. It’s the sort of thing one likes to get right. And we don’t generally call this ‘science’, either. We call it ‘looking’.

-- AJ Milne

3sketerpot10yNot to be confused with A. A. Milne [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._A._Milne], who wrote Winnie the Pooh. For some context, this is a response to allegations of scientism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism], a word with remarkably overt anti-epistemological [http://lesswrong.com/lw/uy/dark_side_epistemology/] connotations.
5Paul Crowley10ySpeaking of which, lukeprog discusses the idea of "reclaiming" the word scientism on his blog [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=16151].
1Eugine_Nier10yReally, I see it as describing a family of genuine failure modes that people trying to be "scientific" often fall into. For example: a) attempting to argue by definition [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Arguing_by_definition] that something is "science" and therefore right. b) arguing that just because some evidence isn't scientific [http://lesswrong.com/lw/in/scientific_evidence_legal_evidence_rational/], that it's not valid evidence. c) insisting that the results of the latest scientific research should are right, despite results in the relevant field having a very poor replication rate. In case people try to argue that these errors rarely get made, here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2y3/dealing_with_the_high_quantity_of_scientific/2ua6] is a comment by Yvain with 22 karma that makes errors (b) and (c).
6JoshuaZ10yCan you point out where Yvain makes those comments that you think violate b and c? Reading that post it looks to me like Yvain's points are a little more nuanced than that. Note incidentally that while you might be able to use the word that way, the vast majority of people who use it seem to use it in a way closer to what sketerpot is talking about. If one interacts at all with either young earth creationists or homeopaths for example it often doesn't take long before the term is thrown around.
1Eugine_Nier10yHere are some excerpts from Yvain's comments that exhibit the problems I mentioned, (as well as others that maybe I should add). This essentially error (b) with elements of (c). From a Bayesian perspective "saying there are likely flaws in mainstream medical research" does mean one should decrease the weight one assigns to all medical findings, thus one should assign more (relative weight) to other, non-scientific, evidence, e.g., evidence likely to be based an anecdotes. This argument violates conservation of expected evidence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Conservation_of_expected_evidence]. [Here follows several paragraphs describing of how much he discourages people from being afraid to take statins along with some references to "good doctors" and "correctly prescribed statin" that seem to be there to help set up a potential No True Scotsman] If my doctor recommends I take statin, I don't care about the base rates for statin "correctly prescribed" by "good doctors", I care about the base rate of statin as actually prescribed by actual doctors. Then Nancy tells her anecdote Yvain's reply begins: Funny how he didn't see fit to mention this it his first post while he spent several paragraphs arguing for why satins are perfectly safe. I'm not sure but somehow I suspect these numbers assume the statin was prescribed "correctly". Furthermore, they certainly don't take into account the base rate for medical studies being false. Also, he next says: Somehow I suspect the numbers he gives in the preceding paragraph assumed no drug interactions.
2JoshuaZ10yI don't read most of that the way you've read it. For example, Yvain said "Saying that there are likely flaws in mainstream medical research doesn't license you to discount any specific medical finding unless you have particular reason to believe that finding is false." Discount is much stronger language than simply reducing weight in the claim. No it doesn't. It only violates that if in the alternate case where Yvain knew that almost all new studies turn out to be right he would point this as a success of the method. I suspect that in that counterfactual, he likely would. But that's still not a b or a c type violation. Most of the reply to Nancy while potentially problematic doesn't fall into b and c. But I don't think you are being fair when you say: The standard of safe is very different than listing every well known side-effect, especially if they only happen in a fraction of the population. I don't see a contradiction here, and if there is one, it doesn't seem to fall under b or c in any obvious way.
0Eugine_Nier10yIt's not clear what Yvain indented to mean by "discount"; however, the rest of his argument assumes he can disregard the base rate unless there you have specific evidence.
0Eugine_Nier10yIn my experience scientists arguing with creationists (I haven't looked at arguments with homeopaths) frequently make the mistakes I list above, as well as a few related ones. In particular using the AJ Milne quote ciphergoth cited in an argument against creationism is itself at best a straw man, after all the creationist also cares about getting the facts right, in fact that's why he's arguing with the scientist, because he believes the scientist has his facts wrong. In any case the underlying argument in the AJ Milne quote is: all people are about truth; therefore, you should believe what science has to say about subject X. This is an example of either (1) or (2) depending on how the implicit premises are made precise.
3ajmilne9yActually, the underlying argument is not: 'all people are about truth; therefore, you should believe what science has to say about subject X'. The underlying argument actually is: attacking someone else's argument on the basis that said argument is apparently unreasonably concerned with something so naive as the actual facts of the matter, and smearing this as 'scientism' is purely misdirection, and utterly without logical basis. It's a culturally-based ploy that works only if one has been convinced that determining the actual facts of the matter are an exclusive and unreasonable obsession that only follows from one being afflicted with this apparent disease 'scientism', and, apparently, reasonable people not so obsessed really don't worry about such trifles as factuality. It's a mite peculiar, to me, that you can read a comment that merely specifically says, in fact, that concerns with factual correctness are not the exclusive domain of science (and it was, in fact, a comment on a false dichotomy of exactly this nature--again, the context is at the link), and assume that what it means, apparently, is 'science by definition is right'. This assumption is utter nonsense. I've no idea where you pulled that from, but it sure as hell wasn't from my quote.

Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality. When you tell the truth, you have nothing to keep track of. The world itself becomes your memory, and if questions arise, you can always point others back to it. You can even reconsider certain facts and honestly change your views. And you can openly discuss your confusion, conflicts, and doubts with all comers. In this way, a commitment to the truth is naturally purifying of error.

Sam Harris, "Lying"

I think this is actually a myth. It's appealing, to us who love truth so much, to think that deviating from the path of the truth is deadly and dangerous and leads inevitably to dark side epistemology. But there is a trick to telling lies, such that they only differ from the truth in minor, difficult to verify ways. If you tell elegant lies, they will cling to the surface of the truth like a parasite, and you will be able to do almost anything with them that you could do with the truth. You just have to remember a few extra bits that you changed, and otherwise behave as a normal honest person would, given those few extra bits.

Worse, you can simply let people catch you, then get angry with them and bully them into accepting your claims not to have lied out of a mix of imperfect certainty and conflict avoidance. By doing this you condition them to accept the radical form of dominance where they have the authority to tell you what you are morally entitled to believe.

1Bongo10y*where you have the authority to tell them (?)
3MichaelVassar10yYep. Sorry.

You're not actually disagreeing with Harris. Crafting efficient lies that behave as you describe is hard, particularly on the spot during conversation. Practice helps, and having your interlocutor's trust can compensate for a lot of imperfections, but it's still a lot of work compared to just sharing everything you know

Hm, that gives me an idea: study lying as a computational complexity problem. Just as we can study how much computing power it takes to distinguish random data from encrypted data, we can study how much computing power it takes to formulate (self-serving) hypotheses that take too much effort to distinguish from the truth.

Just a thought...

(Scott Aaronson's paper opened my eyes on the subject.)

I don't know much about the problem in question, but there's a related open problem in number theory.

Suppose I am thinking of a positive integer from 1 to n. You know this and know n. You want to figure out my number but are only allowed to ask if my number is in some range you name. In this game it is easy to see that you can always find out my number in less than 1+log2 n questions.

But what if I'm allowed to lie k times for some fixed k (that you know). Then the problem becomes much more difficult. A general bound in terms of k and n is open.

This suggests to me that working out problems involving lying, even in toy models, can quickly become complicated and difficult to examine.

Are you familiar with the seemingly similar question about the prisoners, king, and coin? I don't know the name, but it goes like this:

There are n prisoners in separate rooms, each with a doorway to a central chamber (CC) that has a coin. One by one, the king takes a random prisoner into the CC (no one else can see what is going on), and asks the prisoner if the king has brought all prisoners into the CC by now. The prisoner can either answer "yes" or "I don't know". If he says the former and is wrong, all prisoners are executed. If he's right, they're released.

If If he says "I don't know", he can set the coin to heads or tails. The king may turn over the coin after a prisoner leaves (and before he brings the next in), but he may only do so a finite k number of times in total. (This is a key similarity to the number of lies in the problem you describe).

The prisoners may discuss a strategy before starting, but the king gets to listen in and learn their strategy. So long as the game continues, every prisoner will be picked inifinte times (i.e. every prisoner can always expect to get picked again).

Is it possible for the prisoners to guarantee t

... (read more)
0khafra10yDoesn't your comment on Slashdot indicate that there is no solution?
0SilasBarta10yMaybe I wasn't clear. The blockquoted part is (my phrasing of) the problem statement. In the slashdot thread (and this is all from memory), several correct, bounded solutions were posted. I'll try to find the thread. (IIRC the original phrasing had a cup instead of a coin.) The intuition behind the existence of a solution is that the prisoners can effectively send infinite one-bit messages between each other, while the king can only block a finite number of them, so they just need to choose a leader and run some "message accumulator" protocol that will reach a certain state when all prisoners are certain to have been in the CC. Edit: Wow, that was actually easy to find. Here's [http://ask.slashdot.org/story/05/10/16/0152240/your-favorite-mathlogic-riddles] the discussion that spawned it, and here's [http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=165444&cid=13801120] the thread that introduces this problem, and here's [http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=165444&cid=13802190] a comment with a solution. Apparently, the problem has a name [http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=165444&cid=13801570] it goes by.
5Nominull10yNot that I am implying that it is normal to be honest, haha.
0Morendil10yIt is customary to add at the end of such confessions, "or so I'm told [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrSoIHeard]", which is technically not a lie but merely an implicature.

Being embarrassed about your knowledge is anathema to rational conversation. You can see it in drug policy debates, where nobody talks about how relatively harmless marijuana is, for fear that people might know that they smoke it. You can see it in censorship debates, where no community member is going to stand up and say "hey, this porno doesn't violate my standards, in fact it's pretty hot". We can stand around pretending to be good people, or we can get at the truth.

I'm more willing to admit to lying here, because I trust you guys more than most people to take that admission only for what it is, and no more.

2Document10yYou sound like you're advocating radical honesty. It seems like there should be a middle ground of making sure relevant information is introduced, but doing it in a way that minimizes derailing self-disclosure (or self-disclosure that could cost you in status). Also, arguing from personal experience can be form of defection, shifting the conversation to an arena where one's convincingness is proportional to one's willingness to lie. (I think I have some comments saved that say that better than I can.)
6Eugine_Nier10yAs any decent defense attorney will tell you: if you're accused of something you didn't do, this is still an extremely bad approach.
9wedrifid10yDefinitely. If questions arise you should always point others back to your attorney! ;)
3lessdazed10yFor a defendant, lying is the only thing worse than telling the truth [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik]. Telling the truth is still often a terrible idea, particularly for a person accused in the formal American legal system. (Edited to change meaning to what I originally intended but typed incorrectly. Original words were "For a defendant, the only thing worse than lying is telling the truth," but the above is what I had intended.)
2NihilCredo10yDon't defence attorneys (at least in the USA) heartily recommend shutting up as opposed to lying?
1MinibearRex10yGreater than signs are only necessary at the beginning of the paragraph, by the way.
0Automaton10yThanks, fixed.
0RobertLumley10yShould "Lying" be italicized and not in quotes, since it's a book?

"What do you think the big headlines were in 1666, the year Newton posited gravitation as a universal force, discovered that white light was composed of the colors of the spectrum, and invented differential calculus, or in 1905, the “annus mirabilis” when Einstein confirmed quantum theory by analyzing the photoelectric effect, introduced special relativity, and proposed the formulation that matter and energy are equivalent? The Great Fire of London and the Anglo-Dutch War; The Russian Revolution and the Russo-Japanese War. The posturing and squabbling of politicians and the exchange of gunfire over issues that would be of little interest or significance to anyone alive now. In other words, ephemeral bullshit. These insights and discoveries are the real history of our species, the slow painstaking climb from ignorance to understanding."

  • Tim Kreider

On the other hand, those thousands of lives cut short by violence are also the real history of our species — the misery we are climbing out of. The value of the discovery of the spectrum of light lies in its being put to use in ensuring that London never burns again.

I'm tempted to agree but at another level tempted to disagree. The Great Fire, the Anglo-Dutch War and the Russo-Japanese war might not have had such large scale impacts, but the Russian Revolution laid to formation of the USSR and the cold war, leading to one of the greatest existential risk to human ever. Much of the science done in the 1950s and 60s was as part of the US v. USSR general competition for superiority. Without the Russian Revolution we might very well have never gone to the moon.

Also, Newton wasn't the first person to posit gravity as a universal force. Oresme discussed the same idea in the 1300s. Newton wasn't even the first person to posit an inverse square law. He was just the first to show that an inverse square law lead to elliptical orbits and other observed behavior. See this essay.

The quote is indeed imperfect, but I think the sentiment it conveys is accurate.

After all, in a thousand years or so, Russian revolution and the USSR will be as important as the Mongol invasion and the Khanate of the Golden Horde are today. If we didn't get to the moon fifty years ago, there would have been some other conflict pushing some other line of advancement.

It is also, for the actual point of the quote, irrelevant who made the discoveries. The point is that in long range, the importance of those discoveries will always overshadow ephemeral political events.

After all, in a thousand years or so, Russian revolution and the USSR will be as important as the Mongol invasion and the Khanate of the Golden Horde are today.

Which is to say: pretty important. Not that it's important what exacly some boundary was, or who did what to whom...but all these things are part of the overall development of our current state of affairs, from the development of paper money to credit systems, from Chinese approach to Tibet to the extent of distribution of Islam.

I think it's risky to assume that "science", while more easily identified as rational, is in fact more rational than the rational facts of history, and its causal relationship to the present.

Discoveries in science are, in a sense, what "has to be". But while histroy could have been different, itt wasn't, and it simply "is what it is".

0SurahAhriman10yWe most likely would not have been to the moon without the Russian Revolution (at least, not by 1969). Kennedy himself thought the space race was a great waste of resources, but supported it as a PR move against the USSR.

Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.

André Gide

[-][anonymous]10y 41


Don't you feel in your heart that these contradictions do not really contradict: that there is a cosmos that contains them all? The soul goes round upon a wheel of stars and all things return; perhaps Strake and I have striven in many shapes, beast against beast and bird against bird, and perhaps we shall strive for ever. But since we seek and need each other, even that eternal hatred is an eternal love. Good and evil go round in a wheel that is one thing and not many. Do you not realize in your heart, do you not believe behind all your beliefs, that there is but one reality and we are its shadows; and that all things are but aspects of one thing: a centre where men melt into Man and Man into God?'

'No,' said Father Brown.

-- G.K. Chesterton

I so adore cliches. They create an expectation to subvert.

3Eugine_Nier10yDo that too much and you'll end up with a "high brow [http://lesswrong.com/lw/84b/things_you_are_supposed_to_like/]" piece that's incomprehensible to anyone not familiar with the cliches you're subverting.
2RobinZ10yThe short story in question is "The Dagger with Wings [http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/chesterton/gk/c52fb/chapter30.html]", originally published in The Incredulity of Father Brown. That said, I don't quite understand why this constitutes a Rationality Quote.

That said, I don't quite understand why this constitutes a Rationality Quote.

To me, the lesson is that when someone appeals to your intuitions - you can just say no.

"Don't you feel there must be a supreme being, that everything has a purpose and a place in the grand order of things?"


(Fun story, incidentally.)

Stop feeding the troll, everyone. Feeding trolls encourages them and that is not good for LW. If this goes on I will start banning/deleting Sam's comments and I would recommend that all further replies by LWians to his comments be downvoted because feeding trolls is not good for LW. Once a troll comment is downvoted below -3, the community's job is done, textual replies are not necessary.

Thank you.

0wedrifid10yAbout @#$@ time.
[-][anonymous]10y 34

A decision was wise, even though it led to disastrous consequences, if the evidence at hand indicated it was the best one to make; and a decision was foolish, even though it led to the happiest possible consequences, if it was unreasonable to expect those consequences.

-- Herodotus

4Eugine_Nier10yThe problem with that quote is that human biases often go the other way, i.e., we'd rather blame bad consequences on bad luck then admit we made a bad decision.
6J_Taylor10yThe quote may still have some use when applied to humans other than oneself.
4gwern10yI tried to track this down, and this seems to be Jaynes's paraphrase of Herodotus; pg 2 of "Bayesian Methods: General Background". (I looked through one translation, http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.mb.txt [http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.mb.txt] , and was unable to locate it.)
0[anonymous]10yI got it out of "Data Analysis A Bayesian Tutorial" pg 4 where it is attributed to Herodotus

After some more searching and a pointer on Straight Dope, I think I've found it in Book 7 of the Histories when Artabanus is trying to dissuade Xerxes from launching his ill-fated war against the Greeks, where it is, as one would expect from Jaynes's paraphrase, different:

"1 So do not plan to run the risk of any such danger when there is no need for it. Listen to me instead: for now dismiss this assembly; consider the matter by yourself and, whenever you so please, declare what seems best to you. 2 A well-laid plan is always to my mind most profitable; even if it is thwarted later, the plan was no less good, and it is only chance that has baffled the design; but if fortune favor one who has planned poorly, then he has gotten only a prize of chance, and his plan was no less bad."

Or in another translation:

"Think then no more of incurring so great a danger when no need presses, but follow the advice I tender. Break up this meeting, and when thou hast well considered the matter with thyself, and settled what thou wilt do, declare to us thy resolve. I know not of aught in the world that so profits a man as taking good counsel with himself; for even if things fall out against one's hopes, still one has counselled well, though fortune has made the counsel of none effect: whereas if a man counsels ill and luck follows, he has gotten a windfall, but his counsel is none the less silly."

T-Rex: If I lived in the past I'd have different beliefs, because I'd have nobody modern around to teach me anything else!


And I find it really unlikely that I would come up with all our modern good stuff on my own, running around saying "You guys! Democracy is pretty okay. Also, women are equal to men, and racism? Kind of a dick move." If I was raised by racist and sexist parents in the middle of a racist and sexist society, I'm pretty certain I'd be racist and sexist! I'm only as enlightened as I am today because I've stood on the shoulders of giants.

Right. So that raises the question: Is everyone from that period in Hell, or is Heaven overwhelmingly populated by racists?

-- T-Rex, Dinosaur Comics

I think the obvious answer would be that Heaven is overwhelmingly populated by ex-racists. Once they get there, they'd have people around to teach them better stuff.

6DSimon10yWho would teach them? The more severe racists from periods even further back?
9Alicorn10yMaybe the dead of other races, provably ensouled and with barriers to communication magically removed.
8falenas10810yI think the assumption is that divine beings would be there.
4[anonymous]10yAre you assuming people from the past are always more racist for any given time period?
2DSimon10yThat's a good point, there would be many many exceptions to such a prediction. So at most, all I can say is that the racists in heaven are unlikely to find much in the way of 20th century ideals until people from the 20th century start dying and showing up there.
0smk10yWhy do they need to be taught? Isn't prejudice one of those human frailties that gets magically cleansed when you go to heaven? I mean, if you believe in that stuff. :)
8Document10yAbove the comic:
0[anonymous]10yIn the least convenient possible world, who says you can "teach" a utility function?

I believe this was the point EY was trying to make in Archimedes's Chronophone. In short, it's a lot harder to send advice to the past when you can only transmit your justification for believing the advice. If your true reason for holding your "enlightened" views is because they're popular, then the recipients on the other side will only hear that they should do whatever practice was popular for them.

2NancyLebovitz10yAll that's needed is a belief in purgatory.
4DSimon10yWe'd probably all end up there too, based on the near certainty that we're doing things that people in the future will correctly consider as obviously immoral.
4sketerpot10yI intend to anticipate as many of those harsh-judgement-of-future-generations things as possible, do the right thing now, and breeze through purgatory so much faster than the rest of those chumps. Bwahaha. On that note, does anybody want to speculate about what people in the future will correctly regard as immoral that we're doing now? The time to think about this is before we get to the future and/or purgatory. Some low-hanging fruit, for example, would be the widespread mistreatment of people with gender identity disorder, or squandering money on forms of charity that are actually harmful, e.g. destroying poor countries' textile industries by flooding the market with cheap donated clothes.
2NancyLebovitz10yI can't tell whether this is deadpan humor or not. I think closed borders will be considered a great evil in the future, but that's probably another way of saying that not enough people are agreeing with me now.
0sketerpot10yWell, I don't believe in purgatory, so that part was an (apparently ill-fated) attempt at deadpan humor. The question was sincere, though: if we're confident that we'll probably be scorned by future generations for something we're doing now, then the obvious response to that is to try to find out what it is, so we can do something about it now. The closed-borders thing definitely has the features of a great candidate: closed borders are generally considered necessary, and you can make a reasonable case for them being evil.
0NancyLebovitz10yHow can you tell what our descendents are going to think? If Pinker's right, the world tends towards increasing kindness, but we're kinder to homosexuals and less kind to smokers than we were, so it's still something of a gamble. Do you expect all the future generations to agree with each other?
0Eugine_Nier10yOne good place to start is to think about Paul Graham's essay What you can't say [http://paulgraham.com/say.html].
0DSimon10yAgreed, and it's why I'm vegan.
0pedanterrific10yThat's an interesting interpretation of "we". Unless you do those things...?
2sketerpot10yI meant "we" as in "we, as a society", or more specifically "we, the society that I happen to find myself in." Please pardon the ambiguity.
0pedanterrific10yI was being facetious. Please pardon the ambiguity. Seems to imply, at least to me, a function of "we" that includes "I". Plus, it seems a more interesting question to ask what you're doing that might come to be considered immoral - it's rather unlikely that you're really perfect, isn't it? It's easy to say "that thing that all those other people are doing, and which I already think is immoral, will come to be considered immoral by our descendants." That's just saying "I'm better than you, neener neener."
0sketerpot10yAh, I misread DSimon's use of "we", and the misunderstandings cascaded from there. My mistake. To clarify, I would like to hear things that I may be doing that future generations may be justified in disapproving of. It's an interesting and relevant question. Gloating about my own supposed superiority (neener neener) hadn't even crossed my mind. Like the vast majority here, I aim to improve myself.
2pedanterrific10yLooking back, my last post came out rather more accusatory than I intended, for which I apologize. To get back on topic, how about "not cryonically preserving people against their will"?
3[anonymous]10yObligatory SMBC [http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2074#comic]
0[anonymous]10yHeaven, Hell, and Purgatory, if they existed, depend on what GOD believes not what people, in the future or otherwise, believe.
"We know this much
Death is an evil;
we have the gods'
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing"

--Sappho #7; trans. Barnard (seen on http://www.nada.kth.se/%7Easa/Quotes/immortality )

4Vaniver10yCombine this with Nietzsche's "God is dead."

The most valuable acquisitions in a scientific or technical education are the general-purpose mental tools which remain serviceable for a lifetime. I rate natural language and mathematics as the most important of these tools, and computer science as a third.

George E. Forsythe

It would be an error to suppose that the great discoverer seizes at once upon the truth, or has any unerring method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must be many times as numerous as those that prove well founded. The weakest analogies, the most whimsical notions, the most apparently absurd theories, may pass through the teeming brain, and no record remain of more than the hundredth part….

W. Stanley Jevons

Truths were carved from the identical wood as were lies — words — and so sank or floated with equal ease. But since truths were carved by the World, they rarely appeased Men and their innumerable vanities.

-- Drusas Achamian, in "The White-Luck Warrior" by R. Scott Bakker

The god we seek must rule the world according to our own will.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2

0wedrifid10yWow, that one is actually brilliant!

Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

Robert A. Heinlein

4Teal_Thanatos10ySo very true (in reality) and so very wrong (morally) at the same time. It's my sincere hope that work on Raising the Sanity Waterline [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1e/raising_the_sanity_waterline/] will eventually annihilate the relevance of this quote to modern society.

He wanted to find fault with the idea but couldn't quite do it on the spur of the moment. He filed it away for later discrediting

The Magician King by Lev Grossman


I honestly don't know. Let's see what happens.

-- Hans. The Troll Hunter

0scav10yVoted up :) Yeah, well. In the context of the film it was one of the funniest lines, especially since it was delivered completely deadpan. I won't spoil it for anyone by explaining that context. But as an aside, sometimes a nice big unexpected kaboom motivates and advances knowledge like nothing else. I'm kind of disappointed that the LHC hasn't made a mini black hole (as long as Stephen Hawking is right) or melted a hole through the alps or something :)
9MarkusRamikin10yPlease don't ever work on something truly dangerous. ;)

Don't worry. I promise only to destroy the world if I didn't expect it to happen.

I was thinking more in terms of cooking your own food or something. ;)

Three proposed derogatory labels from Dilbert creator Scott Adams:

Labelass: A special kind of idiot who uses labels as a substitute for comprehension.

Binarian: A special kind of idiot who believes that all people who hold a different view from oneself have the same views as each other.

Masturdebator: One who takes pleasure in furiously debating viewpoints that only exist in the imagination.

Binarian: A special kind of idiot who believes that all people who hold a different view from oneself have the same views as each other.

That's something I have to occasionally remind myself not to be, as an atheist.

0lessdazed10yWere you never religious?

Oh, I was. Catholic. Why do you ask, do you suppose religious people aren't prone to thinking that the "religious viewpoint" generally means their own?

Well, anyway, I was only religious until about the age of 9 or 10, so that doesn't mean much. What should mean more is that later in life even as an atheist I had a lot of interest in religion and spirituality, and I became familiar with a lot of varied ideas; I'd read the Bible and Bhagavad Gita for pleasure, and debated with my religious friends avidly. It was all rather interesting, since at that time I wasn't a strong atheist by any means and I suspected there might be something to it.

But eventually my views shifted towards strong atheism, and I felt I'd more or less exhausted the topic. Since then I notice my brain got lazier when it came to processing religious ideas. If by some chance I find myself in debate with a religious friend (not long ago I had a big one with a Jewish friend of mine who's very unimpressed with Eliezer ;) and more importantly, has wrong ideas about evolution), it takes effort to actually listen to what he's saying and make sure I understand where he's coming from - rather than accessing my the... (read more)

4endoself10yThat means you understand it.
0lessdazed10yEx-religious people, who had previously conflated atheism and other religions, might be less prone to being binarians after becoming atheists.
3[anonymous]10ySample size of one, but I also have to remind myself as MarkusRamikin does. I was openly religious up until about 18, and was only someone I'd consider a serious doubter at 14, with relapses at 16 and 18. Prior to 14 and between the lapses, religiously pretty strong.
1lessdazed10yI often enough find myself with no plausible theory of mind for why a person says a thing that I don't think I do that much.
2MarkusRamikin10yPerhaps it's not a question of much. Maybe we're awesome enough to detect even small variations in rationality and be alarmed if they're in the wrong direction. ;) I mean, obviously I never catch myself being literally "binarian".
1Document10yWhy would that be obvious?
0MarkusRamikin10yUhm, because of everything else I said in this thread, before saying that. I should expect that any reasonable reader would by now find it highly unlikely that I literally assume all religious people believe identical things. Were you serious or just being clever? In case I was genuinely unclear: I see "binarian" as a sort of anti-ideal, a severe case of cached thought reliance. Not something anyone of lesswrong level of sophistication would normally sink to all the way, more like a far away goal towards which you don't want to take even small steps.
3Document10yWhat's the word for someone who sees errors as defining character attributes that only occur in "idiots" and not decent, sensible people like theirself and their friends and readers?
4lessdazed10yI don't think Adams thinks highly of himself or his readers.
5dlthomas10yIndeed. He often describes his motivation for posts as "Dance, monkeys, dance!"
[-][anonymous]10y 23

Most people who quote Einstein’s declaration that “God does not play dice” seem not to realize that a dice-playing God would be an improvement over the actual situation

-Scott Aaronson, from here

Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.

Jorge Luis Borges, "The Secret Miracle".

6Kaj_Sotala10y"Like every human" would be more correct.
5Unnamed10ySee: Kruger, J., & Gilovich, T. (2004). Actions, intentions, and trait assessment: The road to self-enhancement is paved with good intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 328-339. pdf [http://www.psych.cornell.edu/sec/pubPeople/tdg1/Kruger_&_Gilo_\(2004\].pdf)
1sketerpot10yIs that actually true? A lot of authors are their own toughest critics; they're so close to what they write that they see all its imperfections, and tend to obsess over flaws that aren't actually that noticeable to most of their readers.

I don't see this. It is OK to be in favor of Republicans, provided, of course, one is only in favor of decent respectable republicans like Governor Romney.

Google counts four threads (not including your own) which mention Romney on LW. 1 is at 0 karma. 2 is at 0 karma. 3 and 4 are at positive karma, and Romney is essentially an incidental example.

Please try to get in your head that LW really isn't some evil left-wing group. When people say they don't want to discuss politics here, they are generally telling the truth. So when someone discusses how they don't want partisan politics and you respond with a comment that it is really only one side being partisan, you shouldn't be shocked if you are downvoted.

Similarly, bringing up tangential (if interesting) claims about ROTC that you've already mentioned before isn't going to incline people to listen to you.

However, that may not be the case. You may be right. We may be a hopelessly left-wing bunch of politically correct, socialist fiends who want to completely remove all meritocracy in the world and tax everyone with an income to provide free pot to the unemployed. If that is the case, then talking to us is a waste of your time. So,... (read more)

Please try to get in your head that LW really isn't some evil left-wing group.

It's still an evil right-wing group, right?

2Jack10yThis comment is hilarious and I am surprised someone voted it down.
1shminux10yYou need both wings if you want to reach the skies.
7dlthomas10yNot if you're a rocket.
5Bugmaster10yOr a dragonfly. Then you need all four.
2DSimon10yOr if you have a space elevator.
4Bugmaster10yIt's not ? Now you tell me ! My world domination plans are in ruin !

The least evil is still evil. The least monstrous is still monstrous

When, as will happen, you are yourself forced to choose between two bad things, then choose the lesser of the evils and choose it boldly. That will be the right choice and, if circumstances are truly as circumscribed as you believe them to be, that will be the right thing to do in that situation.

But it still won't be a good thing. It isn't a good thing and cannot be made good.

Fred Clarke, August 9

1RobinZ10yAlternative link [http://www.patheos.com/community/slacktivist/2010/08/09/august-9/], for anyone else who had problems with the typepad one.

If the Coyote orders all those gizmos then why doesn't he just order food?

  • Unknown
[-][anonymous]10y 16

Because it's not about food, but the challenge? Without the roadrunner, Wile E. is nothing. He depends on not succeeding. (Just noticed what a great role model he is.)

To quote Warner's famous essay on cartoonialism, "The struggle itself...is enough to fill a character's heart. One must imagine Coyote happy."

According to certain versions, Chuck Jones and his team established a set of rules for the cartoon (such as "The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote" and "Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy"). One of them is supposed to have been:

The Coyote could stop anytime—IF he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." —George Santayana).

6Desrtopa10yCan't get refrigerated shipping out there in the desert.
3grendelkhan10yJerky-of-the-month club?
[-][anonymous]10y 19

Jettison politics from your personal life. Jawing about political ideology is worse than useless — it’s a time suck and a trick played by your status-seeking reptilian hindbrain on your frontal lobes that does nothing to bring you more happiness OR status. Your vote really won’t matter.

--Roissy in DC

6Eugine_Nier10ySurrendering to the barbarians [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5f/bayesians_vs_barbarians/] are we.
3[anonymous]10yWondering why people are down voting this, considering I and other LWers have advocated political disengagement in the context of live in first world (and other) states as a recipe for personal happiness and improved productivity, and such comments have been up voted in the past.
7lessdazed10yThat could have used anonymity [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7fe/rationality_quotes_with_attributions_hidden_from/]. If other people think political ideology is highly relevant to status, doesn't that make it probably at least somewhat so?
0[anonymous]10yI was actually searching for your thread, but didn't find it among articles tagged by quotes. I would have used it if it was so. Some pretty low status people have been quoted in rationality threads in the past, including people with really odious ideologies. Are downvoters convinced that Roissy is even lower status than those individuals or are they rather concerned that since Roissy (as the blog was back in 2007-2009) was read by quite a few members of the OB/LW community (including Robin Hanson who still links to him)! Basically is this a fear that while Roissy's beliefs pay rent in anticipated experience they are evil (as in espousing different values) and thus shouldn't be allowed to influence fellow LWers who are clearly not good enough thinkers to handle this? If this is so this may be a confirmation of Vladimir_M's [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7e6/rationality_and_relationships_september_2011/4qrh] take on the state of gender related debates on LW. Or it could just be a bad quote.
9wedrifid10yIt isn't low status as much as it is "out group". Low status doesn't warrant that kind of attention.
2[anonymous]10yPosters like dedalus2u (if I recall this right) have argued that out group is basically just lowest possible status.
5wedrifid10yI disagree with posters like dedalus2u. Practically speaking I would far prefer to be the out-group villain that people desperately try to lower in status than the person that actually has low status within the group who gets treated with utter indifference.
2[anonymous]10yI think I agree.
4wedrifid10ySo, I am sure, would that Roissy fellow. :)
2RobertLumley10yNot a downvoter (and I doubt this is why people are downvoting, but I suppose it could be) but I somewhat disagree. There is a (very small) group of friends with whom I can discuss political topics without them becoming mind-killing. Frequently this is due to admitted information gaps between us, and it's about learning the specifics of an issue. It's certainly not easy though, and often involves us switching sides on each other when we see one of us using dark arts. Similarly, I would expect most LWers to be able to (somewhat) rationally discuss politics. Which is not to say that they would enjoy it/should just that I would expect them to be far more able (moreso than my friends) to do it productively. If I had to guess why people are downvoting, though, it would be because discussing politics can bring you more happiness, and indeed does for many people, even if it's just yelling at each other. Although I feel very uncertain (p = 0.35) that this is actually the reason for downvotes.
0wedrifid10yI just upvoted it. It is extremely good advice.
[-][anonymous]10y 12

It was actually Lesswrong which made me realize politics is mostly bunk, when I saw that we could talk about nearly anything it and it was completely irrelevant. And we often speak of big things. Daily politics, anything shorter than a several decade long trend or a revolution will simply not affect you and is a waste of cognitive resources and often a source of frustration.

You are not living in a hunter gatherer tribe where your voice matters, the pay-offs are so low that how your country is run could be about as influenced by your actions as are plate tectonics and you probably couldn't tell the difference. Social interactions will inform you of change which specifically requires you to change behaviour, no need to watch the news.

Really following this advice in the past two years has saved me hundreds of hours that I've been able to spend on leisure and productive endeavours. This is ignoring the emotional investment, that I would have also wasted. If I'm going to waste that, I may as well root for my favourite sports team rather than political party! More entertaining and at least that won't cause me to cut myself from interesting people or career opportunities or leave me vulnerable for silly beliefs with repercussions beyond being mistaken about my team "deserving" to win.

Lesswrong, please listen, it is OK to put on your cynic hat when that is the best thing to do!

9Vladimir_M10yA fully cynical approach, however, would likely still find that a certain level of interest in politics is necessary so that one could optimize one's political opinions (and when and how to express them) so as to maximize their signaling value. Moreover, I disagree with this statement: In cases of major economic and political instability, it can be tremendously valuable to be able to anticipate the coming trouble and undertake damage control as early as possible. Clearly, this isn't doable if you become aware of it only when you're struck with it completely unprepared. Now of course, one could argue that the present system in the Western world is so stable that the probability of such trouble is infinitesimal, or that there is no known method for predicting such trouble with any accuracy. However, this must be established separately from the issue of futility of trying to influence politics by personal activism or voting.
4[anonymous]10yIronically being apolitical people will assume [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/] your politics match theirs or at least fall somewhere on the spectrum of respectable consensus, so the difference between this and consciously maximising your opinions might be smaller than seems at first glance. There are indeed in the Western world professions where it is basically your job formally or informally to master such signalling and "know politics". But these are far from the majority, even among the educated classes. Maximising political signalling will do you some good but, consider the non-trivial amount of time, effort and energy spent on this. There is a very real opportunity cost here. I would agree with this. I tried to emphasise this here: Looking back I think I should have elaborated on this black swan more. I would argue that even in times of great instability and war it is relatively easy for most "common people" (who are either relatively politically apathetic or reactionary) to side post facto with the winning side, identifying which doesn't take much time or cognitive resources. If this was not the case several countries today should be less populous than they are. But of course people who find themselves in classes that suddenly become politicised but weren't until recently (like people who wore glasses under the Khmer Rouge) would find themselves in quite a bit of trouble if they happen to follow such strategies. I should have been more explicitly in separating these two. But the thing is I don't think our mind really understands us being informed about politics and not being able to influence it in at least a small way, with the possible exception that we are really low status in our tribe (something which will frustrate us if we don't feel we deserve this low status according to other signals).

Ironically being apolitical people will assume your politics match theirs or at least fall somewhere on the spectrum of respectable consensus, so the difference between this and consciously maximising your opinions might be smaller than seems at first glance.

I agree, though in societies that are ideologized to a high degree, it takes non-trivial knowledge to recognize all topics and opinions that will be taken as political, so that paradoxically you need some knowledge of politics to be safely apolitical. Similarly, in such societies, the range of professions that don't require at least some expression of ideological rectitude can be surprisingly narrow, and it may exclude practically all high-status professions, even those that are supposed to be strictly technical. It seems to me (though it would of course be a controversial question in its own right) that Western societies have been moving in this direction for quite a while now.

Now, people, especially smart people, usually have an instinct to synchronize unconsciously with the respectable opinion (or rather with some particular position within the range of the respectable opinion). They will obtain the necessary knowledge w... (read more)

7[anonymous]10yPeople who value truth seeking and truth in itself have a higher than average probability of having a damaged mechanism. One does need to know ideology but this dosen't translate into voting, watching Fox News and CNN, reading newspapers, discussing politics, commenting on Facebook on who will win the Democratic nomination this year or caring who your congressman is. Knowing what the basic ideological structure of your society is does not translate into "doing politics" or "caring about politics" and not even exactly to "knowing politics". In fact since you bring up ideology, I will say that taking an outside view of dominant Western ideology one can conclude it is remarkably easy to figure out its result, compared to the extensive processing one must do within the framework provided by this ideology to get the same output. It is trivial to predict the correct position on nearly anything following a few simple rules. Building a black box seems the most reasonable [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i3/making_beliefs_pay_rent_in_anticipated_experiences/] course of action. Naturally you can't really state the rules emulating the black box or people will object, since the signalling is all messed up and it may ruin important narratives. Following the rule set isn't without its problems, you will get a few very false negatives, but comparatively many false positives (that persist as false positives because power structures haven't yet had need to levy them in their never ending quest for ...uh... power) but if anything you will end up seeming too orthodox for your own good. As long as you maintain your apolitical demeanour, aren't passionate about "your opinions" (how could you be, you are getting the result without the empowering rationalizations remember!) this will never get you into trouble. And the best part is that you will often end up being "right" a few years or a decade or two later, a few true believers who know you over a long period of time might even notice thi

It is trivial to predict the correct position on nearly anything following a few simple rules.

Could you please state these rules.

Rule 1: assume all judgments that things are [ETA: or are] not of equal value are due to motivated thinking by people writing their bottom line according to a weighted primeval in-group/out-group equation, and in response one should compensate along necessary opposite vectors [ETA: or find an ingroup member to inform you about their group].

Rule 2: Rule 1 does not apply to the extent the in-group in question is constructed around complying with these rules.

Note 1: There will not necessarily be unique solutions to these rules, for example, evidence that men and women think differently in important ways can either be dismissed entirely or have its interpretation arranged so that the tasks women are better at are more important.

Note 2: These rules only apply to conclusions in line with primeval in-group/out-group thinking, for example, no one cares if their non-African scientists discover that all modern non-Africans are descended from Neanderthals, because the in-group is allowed to say things that some perceived moral systems would see as making them inferior. The opposite would have been a different situation.

Note 3: Any conclusion that results from compensating more than one ... (read more)

5[anonymous]10ySeems a good take. Up voted! Thinking long and hard about this formulation, I think it is equivalent to a great extent to my own approach on the rules, which I constructed mostly in status language. I should admonish myself for laziness, because that key part can be talked about in the abstract (I think) and I should have taken the time to write down a post on what could be talked about. But some solutions will be more popular than others. And choosing a very unpopular solution may get you into as much trouble as not following the core rule set at all. Analysis of why some gain greater popularity in various circles is where I think the meat lies.To give an example, rule 2 is often applied to rationalize adaptive behaviour (that often dosen't even arise from the human minds ability to deceive itself for gain, but from mere selection effects and memetic evolution), so that one can continue to espouse principles and opinions that signal good things about you because of the handicap principle [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handicap_principle]. So tagging on what basically amounts to a simple model of moral fashion [http://lesswrong.com/lw/154/why_real_men_wear_pink/] improves predictive power noticeably and I am sure you and others can think of other such useful additions to the black box replacement of contemporary Western ideological thought as well.
8[anonymous]10yIt is basically the most mind-killing thing that I can think of in the context of LW public discussion. Also the simple rules are only simple in comparison to what they replace.They are currently scattered through various notes and correspondences and a reference chart that's probably only understandable to me. I don't have a go to response or prepared mail, I do write about individual points when they come up. To properly introduce them fully to other LWers would probably take one or two top level quality articles, rather than a throwaway comment in an obscure thread.
5Eugine_Nier10yNot without getting into highly mind-killing territory.
5[anonymous]10yThis comment is heavily downvoted, yet it is basically my own reason as implicitly outlined in this sentence.
4Vladimir_M10yWhy on Earth is this being downvoted?
2wedrifid10yAnd, for that matter, not without violating said rules.

In fact since you bring up ideology, I will say that taking an outside view of dominant Western ideology one can conclude it is remarkably easy to figure out its result, compared to the extensive processing one must do within the framework provided by this ideology to get the same result.

No argument there, however getting to the point where you have an outside view is by itself a vast and difficult project in political and ideological self-education, which requires successful grappling with many extreme mind-killing issues without getting mind-killed yourself. You make it sound much easier than it really is!

3[anonymous]10yYou are right, it is much harder than I made it sound. But I am convinced that many LWers if they could be made clearly aware of the importance of this for a clear picture and committing to be very aggressive fighting several very hard to root out biases, could make the transition or perhaps at least trust another LWer who has done some of the legwork once they saw the predictive power of the model. Naturally the impulse of wanting to grab someone and shake violently until they realize the importance of something they have been missing their entire lives does little good. It is hard to communicate in many or few words, due to various complications, just how utterly vital this difficult and even dangerous (intellectually and perhaps emotionally) journey is in order to understand society. I sometimes fear it just can not be done.
3Oligopsony10yActually, I'd say the "Reason As Memetic Immune Disorder hypothesis has it basically correct - to the extent that one can be "too orthodox," one ultimately has to fall into one or another heterodoxy. Most anybody who strives to take 90% of secular Western ideology seriously, consistently, and literally is going to end up libertarian or communist or transhumanist or the like - and of course (in the society we're discussing) only nerds do this. I think you're right to observe and that most everybody's aware that if one's goal is to get by socially with minimum effort, taking official ideology at face value, like taking religion at face value, is insane, but then of course different people have different goals.
2[anonymous]10yKnowing politics can't save you here in any case. At least will do you no more good than say a simple heuristic of sticking to others of your own ethnicity (which should keep you reasonably safe). And since you are sticking to them, they will again inform you of any potential trouble via daily interactions. Just remember to be more paranoid than the norm and not afraid to change countries. How much better is, someone involved in the political process, going to be at predicting this compared to someone who apolitically looks at the broad trends and reigning ideology? The latter person knows there is a certain probability of such a blow up, though he may miss it due to too infrequent updating, the former will probably only realize this is possible a few weeks or even days before the event. How these two approaches compare to each other depends on how fast one updates on new information I suppose. I would argue that a long term strategy of preparation for such possible "man made disasters" might outdo the rushed preparations of someone responding to the politics as they happen. Perfect blindness to both daily politics and the real mechanisms of how one's society function is naturally perilous. But consider the context of this discussions. The "real" mechanism would be perhaps controversial but mostly not covered under the "no mind killers" rule. Politics as in the politics that most obviously triggers this is useless.
9Vladimir_M10yI think we're having a misunderstanding about what exactly we mean by the "no mind killers" rule. Clearly, getting into mind-killing debates with people is worse than useless; that much we can agree on. On the other hand, making a correct decision to bail out ahead of trouble requires that you face the very worst mind-killing issues head-on and make correct judgments about them. (It is possible that such attempts are ultimately futile or not worth the opportunity costs when all probabilities are considered, but there's a Catch-22 situation there, because consideration of at least some highly mind-killing topics is necessary in order to establish this.) However, when people speak about avoiding mind-killers on LW, they often have in mind complete cessation of thinking about such topics and living under the assumption that the status quo will continue indefinitely, or all until some grand technological game-changer. (Worse yet, sometimes they go further and privilege the hypotheses on controversial questions favored by the respectable opinion and official intellectual institutions, and consider attacks on these, but not adherence to them, as mind-killing.)
[-][anonymous]10y 12

Politics as in the politics that most obviously triggers this is useless.

What I meant by this was things like idle speculating about the election. Indulging in off hand remarks about Gawddamn Liberals and Bible Thumping Conservatives. Frowning seriously and speaking about some politicians misconduct. Debating the particularities of certain laws. Endorsing candidates, criticizing candidates. Taking the parties stated platform seriously, ad hominens on the demographics that support a certain position, various other Dark Arts, ect.

In short everything that immediately triggers tribal feelings in those who are basically politically active average Joe "good citizens".

The "real" mechanism would be perhaps controversial but mostly not covered under the "no mind killers" rule.

These are of course ideological mind-killers. I would argue that currently there is some room for intelligent debates on LW about various such issues, the sore thumb being gender relations/sexual conduct. People are not obviously mind-killed by discussing say group differences or questioning Democracy (ok many are, but a substantial and not at all fringe fraction of LWers who have ... (read more)

5komponisto10y(I think you meant to link to "Generalizing From One Example" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/] instead of "The Mind Projection Fallacy", which is something different.)
1[anonymous]10yYou are right, thank you for pointing that out. Skimming through the article I can see why I remembered it as "Typical Mind Fallacy" rather than "Generalizing From One Example". I will fix the link.
5Tyrrell_McAllister10yIt's not quite that simple. You shouldn't just ask yourself, "Will my one little voice make things better? Or would exactly the same things happen if I said the opposite, all else being equal?" If UDT or TDT are at all on the right track, then you should ask, "If everyone who decides according to the same logic by which I decide decides to say this, will it make things better?" The number of people who share your logic may scale with total population, so it might still make sense to speak, even if you are individually an infinitesimal fraction of the total population.
5komponisto10yConversely, the Lesswrong community's attitude that politics is mostly bunk was one of the main things that convinced me that Lesswrong was a den of sanity. (I would in fact propose this as an excellent general litmus test [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1kh/the_correct_contrarian_cluster/] for rationality, at least among the intelligent and informed.)
4bogus10yAFAICT, this is simply wrong. There are many political trends (on a scale of several months to a few years) which will noticeably affect the typical person. This is not to say that affecting such trends is easy or that conventional "political involvement" is useful. But this should be regarded as an open problem, not as a reason to renounce and surrender any kind of involvement with these issues.
2[anonymous]10yThe typical person will be informed of such trends by other typical people.
4Desrtopa10yInsofar as politics is mostly bunk, I would say that it's because politicians are only about as sane as everyone else. If you want politics to accomplish anything useful, try to raise the sanity waterline [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1e/raising_the_sanity_waterline/].
1[anonymous]10yWhich as we know is very very hard to do by doing politics [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/].
0MixedNuts10yNone of these statements imply any of the others.
2wedrifid10yThat is a plainly false claim. The second statement implies the first for a start.
4MixedNuts10yThere are ways to have politics in your personal life that aren't talking about ideology.
1J_Taylor10yCould you give an example?
5MixedNuts10ySilently thinking about ideology. Acting on the results in your personal life (you're a cop; do you arrest Mandela?). Thinking about who to vote for. Joining a union. Going on strike. Disobeying a law you don't like. Storming a significant building. Fighting in a civil war.
1[anonymous]10yFor politics beyond the municipal level I just don't see how. Politics is termed the art of the possible, this means one must necessarily aggressively signal to build coalitions. On the level of a state one must build coalitions around class, ideological, ethnic and even religious affiliations. Humans are built as hypocrites for a reason, some forms of signalling are easier and more safely done if you honestly believe (while keeping adaptive behaviour that dosen't quite go together with your beliefs). Biases and failures of our mind will shift your opinions closer to your stated opinions even if you guard against this, or at the very least your children will inherit them (see crypto-Jews [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Judaism] or Kakure Kirishitan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakure_Kirishitan]'s to get a feeling for how hard it is to avoid this).

Why not use "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky", rather than "Eliezer Yudkowsky, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"? My intuition is that putting the title of the work of fiction first makes it more clear that you're citing the author's words rather than necessarily the author's own opinions.

2RobertLumley10yThat's an excellent idea, I'll change my attributions when I get a chance.

What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.

Adolph Hitler

[-][anonymous]10y 19

What misfortune for all that those in power don't either.

An alternate, and perhaps even more frightening hypothesis: the people in power do think, and they're doing their best.

The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.

William Lawrence Bragg

This is one of those occasions when it would be wise to translate back into respectable gene language, just to reassure ourselves that we have not become too carried away with subjective metaphors.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, ch. 8

Whether their motives were righteous or venal, highminded or base, noble or ig-, in retrospect the obvious verdict is that they were all morons--yes, even the distinguished fellows and visiting scholars at think tanks and deans of international studies schools. They were morons because the whole moral, political and practical purpose of their scheme depended on its going exactly according to plan. Which nothing ever does. The Latin phrase for this logical fallacy would be Duh. Some of them were halfway intelligent; some of them may even have been well-intentioned; but they lacked imagination, and this is a fatal flaw. What we learn from history is that it never turns out like it's supposed to. And the one thing we know for sure about the future is that it won't be like we think.

Tim Kreider, Artist's Note for The Pain

"-but I think it would probably kill you."

"Comforting to know. Well, more comforting than not knowing it could kill you," I remark pointedly.

Sam Hughes

[-][anonymous]10y 17

A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.

--Thomas Carlyle

5TheOtherDave10yI love this quote, but it really isn't true. People frequently forego the first one.
6JoshuaZ10yI just ran into a surprisingly candid example of Richard Feynman talking about when he did that [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ah7f-1M2Sg]. He worked on the atomic bomb to make sure that Nazis didn't get it first, but then he kept working on it even after the Nazis had been defeated.
3khafra10yI don't think the first one ever gets generated unless someone else asks them why they did that something.
1Nominull10yit must be nice to be clever enough to generate good reasons in real time, rather than having to spend all your spare cycles preemptively coming up with justifications for your actions.
3wedrifid10yI love it too and I like to have an evil reason as well. That keeps things in perspective. And a right reason - which balances the 'good' with the 'evil' according to my ethical sentiment. But that's just a (morally ambiguous) ideal. The real reason, that which Carlyle mentions, is something else again.
2RobinZ10yI have a different angle - I like to have a stupid reason, to amuse my friends with.
1lessdazed10yI interpret "good reason" as "'good' reason".
0FiftyTwo10yWhat is most awful is how often people do things for no reason at all.
4TheOtherDave10yWhy is that awful?

"Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else--a stranger in the street, for example." -Lemony Snicket

4wedrifid10yWhy? How does knowing about this 'fairness' thing help me? (This was the line I was expecting the quote to go after the first sentence.)

If you want a truly amoral reason to care, it is this: most other people do, and these are the people you will have to convince of any proposal you want to make about anything, ever. If you propose something unfair, and are called on it, you will lose status and your proposal is unlikely to be adopted.

I would be deeply surprised if you did not care at all about fairness. I tend to think that at least some regard for fairness is part of the common mental structures of humans (there's a sequence post about this but I can't find it)

4Jack10yThere is enough neuroatypicality here that I am only barely surprised when someone deviates significantly typical human morality.
1nshepperd10yBut mostly in the form of aspergers-like attributes, and this specific form of non-typicality isn't supposed to be very different to "normal people" in terms of moral feelings, as far as I've been told, anyway. (And in fact I vaguely remember reading an article on how "aspies" tended to care about morality more than the normals... ETA: found it [http://stuffaspergerpeoplelike.com/2008/07/29/12-morals-the-right-ones-that-is/] . Doesn't look like a particularly trustworthy source though.)
2AdeleneDawner10yI agree with this in a sense, but only in a sense. It seems to me that every culture has a slightly different idea of what 'fairness' means, to the point where the word itself doesn't really translate from one language to another. (Or perhaps I'm thinking of 'justice', which still seems similar enough to count.) The tendency to have something-like-fairness seems pretty universal, though, even if the specific concepts involved aren't.
2wedrifid10yI love fairness. "Ethical Inhibitions" may be the one you are thinking of (or of interest anyway). Possibly my favorite post.
[-][anonymous]10y 11

Agreed, but I don't think the quote necessarily disagrees with you. I interpreted it to mean, "If you want to know if something is fair, you can't just consult yourself." This says nothing about whether fairness is helpful or desirable, it's just warning against committing the typical mind fallacy with respect to fairness.

My faith in the expertise of physicists like Richard Feynman, for instance, permits me to endorse—and, if it comes to it, bet heavily on the truth of—a proposition that I don't understand. So far, my faith is not unlike religious faith, but I am not in the slightest bit motivated to go to my death rather than recant the formulas of physics. Watch: E doesn't equal mc2, it doesn't, it doesn't!

--Dan Dennet: Breaking the Spell

0khafra10yEppure si muovo?
4dlthomas10yAccording to wikipedia, it's unlikely Galileo actually said this.
8khafra10yAside from my abject failure at the Italian language, I think my objection can be sustained. Semmelweis, for instance, was fired for his continued insistence that hand washing by doctors prevented disease; and met his end in a sanitarium. He saved many lives by insisting on hand washing, even though he predated the germ theory of disease, and there was probably something akin to a utilitarian calculation in his giving up his own welfare for that of many others. So, one does not go to one's death for the truth of the propositions one doesn't understand, but rather for the way the implications of those propositions affect one's terminal values. This brings us much closer to the religious who believe that very bad things happen if they recant their creed.
5komponisto10yIndeed, because it's ungrammatical. The phrase that Galileo may (not) have said is: (EDIT: Unless, of course, what was meant was: i.e., "And yet....yes, I move!")
1Normal_Anomaly10yI think that the legend works best as a legend if it's known to be untrue. After all, the point is that whether he said it or not, the earth kept moving.
2dlthomas10yI'll grant that, for sure.
[-][anonymous]10y 14

You are not a special little snowflake, but you should act like you are. If people are going to form impressions of you it’s better they make false positive ones than true negative ones.

-- Roissy in DC

0MixedNuts10yWhy am I not a special little snowflake? Also, that's not an equilibrium. If everyone acts like a snowflake, if will stop creating positive impressions and people who can afford to will start acting humble to countersignal snowflakiness. Unless very few people can afford to, in which case the decision is isomorphic to the prisoner's dilemma and Roissy is telling people to defect.

"Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good."

--#122 Assorted Opinions and Maxims, Friedrich Nietzsche

8lessdazed10yUpvotes for irony if anyone can find an earlier version of the quote from a European source.
[-][anonymous]10y 14

‎"Real magic is the kind of magic that is not real, while magic that is real (magic that can actually be done), is not real magic."

-Lee Siegle

[-][anonymous]10y 14

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. It is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.

Ayn Rand

7Document10yIt's too bad this [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/7fe/rationality_quotes_with_attributions_hidden_from/] has already dropped off the front page. Someone should request sticky threads here [http://code.google.com/p/lesswrong/issues/list], although I don't care enough.
2soreff10yThis view is much too binary. There are a myriad variety of choices of what to focus on, what aspect of it to focus on, and how much effort to apply to the focus. Someone can be purposefully aware of a very specific task, say a high speed race, with the bulk of their thinking down at the level of pattern matching. Someone can do highly abstract symbolic manipulations while half asleep and still recognize when they bump into the right set of manipulations to solve the problem.
0[anonymous]10y"This means the application of reason to every aspect of one's life and concerns. It means choosing and validation one's opinions, one's decision, one's work, one's love, in accordance with the normal requirements of a cognitive process, the requirements of logic, objectivity, integration. Put negatively, the virtue means never placing any consideration above one's perception of reality. This includes never attempting to get away with a contradiction, a mystic fantasy, or an indulgence in context-dropping." - Leonard Peikoff wtf

It does not do to dwell on dreams... and forget to live.

Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

0Nominull10yNot sure I want to take that from someone who died.
8wedrifid10yIs all wisdom about living by anyone who is no longer alive made worthless by that fact? That seems rather arbitrary!
[-][anonymous]10y 24

If the ancients were so wise, why are they dead?

-- Discordian saying

If the ancients were so wise, why are they dead?

Because they only had time to discover three quarters of the recipe for immortality before they died...

"I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look."

--Principia Discordia (surprisingly, not quoted yet)

1shminux10yMaybe because it has little to do with rationality?
0Manfred10y(deleted to humor gwern, though probably ineffectually)
0gwern10yI thought the relevance was extremely obvious to LW; before I explain, I'd like to hear what you interpret it as (or don't interpret it as being at all relevant).
4Normal_Anomaly10yMy guess (I haven't read RobinZ's) is that vg'f nobhg pbasvezngvba ovnf. Knowing what Discordianism is probably makes it more obvious.
2RobinZ10yIf I were to guess in rot13, I'd say it was about pbasvezngvba ovnf, napubevat, naq bgure fhpuyvxr curabzran [http://rot13.com/index.php?text=pbasvezngvba%20ovnf,%20napubevat,%20naq%20bgure%20fhpuyvxr%20curabzran] - but I would still agree with shminux that it's not very good.

Today the Jews are under considerable and increasing pressure to convert to progressivism, a belief system that is proving increasingly incompatible with remaining Jewish, and orthodox Jews depart England because of state and private persecution.

Ok. As a former Orthodox Jew, this sort of claim is complete and utter bullshit. And there's really no other word for it. Aside from personal experience, I've read quite a bit by Jonathan Sacks the current Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and the functional head of the national organization of Orthodox, non-charedi and non-chassidic synagogues in Great Britain. He's extremely vocal about anything perceived of as a threat to Orthodoxy and his own politics are by British standards right-wing. So if Jonathan Sacks hasn't claimed there's any such problem, the idea that there are Orthodox Jews leaving England because of pressure to become progressive... yeah. The closest issue is that some people in Great Britain have called for the banning of ritualized slaughter as used for halal and kosher meat because it causes unnecessary pain to the animals. Note that this movement has so far in England had zero success.

And I have numbers to prove it. Th... (read more)

The question of whether "Jews are under considerable and increasing pressure to convert to progressivism" is not relevant for LW (or even this thread, really), so figuring out what the facts are is the wrong thing to do. We need to be able to switch in the mode of considering relevance of a question, while temporarily ignoring it on object level. This seems like serious vulnerability of the forum, anyone willing to write it up?

6lessdazed10yI don't think this particular case is good evidence that this is a problem, for two reasons. The first is that the most likely reason the relevance of the question was not remarked on here is that it is so obviously irrelevant that it went without saying. The second is that the rings of Saturn's are giant fried onion rings. Delicious.
0Vladimir_Nesov10yI don't either, I think it's a good example. I'm not arguing for this being a problem, I'm pointing out that it looks like one. Remarking on irrelevance of a question is irrelevant in itself, one should act on that by ignoring the question on object level.
4Tyrrell_McAllister10yLogically rude [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1p1/logical_rudeness/] statements tend to be irrelevancies. Should they never be pointed out?
2Vladimir_Nesov10yMy point was that not answering is the goal, while pointing out irrelevance is only of instrumental value towards that goal, so pointing out irrelevance, but failing to act on it (that is, failing to actually ignore the question), is a case of lost purpose. And the instrumental step being unnecessary (where irrelevance is obvious) doesn't negate from its goal.
3Tyrrell_McAllister10yOkay. That makes sense. Contradicting false statements, even irrelevant ones, is a strong impulse in our culture (by which I mean LW culture and the broader subcultures from which it draws many of its readers). But it doesn't yet look to me like we overemphasize this. Your recent correction of lukeprog on his use of the phrase "Aumann agreement" seemed to me to be an example of this "correcting impulse". I think it was good for you to make the correction. I would have pointed out the erroneous usage if someone had not already done so. But the incorrectness of the phrase was irrelevant to the point of his post. Or are you using "relevance" in a sense in which lukeprog's use of the phrase "Aumann agreement" was relevant?
3lessdazed10yIn [http://lesswrong.com/lw/813/a_rational_approach_to_fashion/50ap] my [http://lesswrong.com/lw/83n/rational_toy_buying/51ut] opinion [http://lesswrong.com/lw/87r/rational_to_distrust_your_own_rationality/54a6], overused [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Affective_death_spiral] magic [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ix/say_not_complexity/] words [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rationalist_taboo] deserve correction [http://lesswrong.com/lw/853/in_favour_of_a_selective_cev_initial_dynamic/52l1]. See the zeroth virtue [http://yudkowsky.net/rational/virtues].
2Tyrrell_McAllister10yI'm not sure that I'm getting your point. The theme of your links is that the word "rational" is overused around here. Is it your point that "Aumann agreement" is also overused? Are you referring to the virtue that Eliezer calls "the void"? I'm not seeing the relevance.
5lessdazed10yNot really, that was poor word choice on my part. Only literally is it overused, in that one excessive use constitutes overuse. It's that such words have a warm feel to them, so they are used even when the anticipation controlling/more literal/more technical meaning is not intended. The overuse causes confusion by muddying the meaning, and increases the risk that I will name the way to understand the world and achieving my goals instead of actually understanding the world and achieving my goals. This type of thing is common because one such overuse is common, "rational". The specific overuse of "Aumann's agreement theorem", the same type of thing, is not common. I have several times seen it described as a rule that rationalists update towards each other's estimates, which is distressing. Clearly, they may share evidence and conclude something is more or less likely than either originally thought. A way to make sure one is learning and updating is to avoid using words for ideal methods, lest they cause one to think one is using them when one isn't. Yes. It's only belatedly and reluctantly named there so it can be an example of its own point, to explain relationships among concepts rather than try and explain by using labels for rationality.
6Vladimir_Nesov10yAgreement is an indicator subject to Goodhart's law.
0Vladimir_Nesov10y(You've lost the "magic".)
2lessdazed10yI cast magic song [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/54m2]!
2Vladimir_Nesov10yRight, answering with silence seems inferior to pointing out irrelevance where appropriate (even if superior to responding on object level), it leaves the matter unsettled. So this is possibly a step that shouldn't be skipped even where irrelevance is obvious, just like with something obviously wrong. This is a natural analogy: what happens is that instead of one question, we consider two questions simultaneously: whether something is right, and whether working on figuring out whether it's right is a good idea. For Aumann agreement, the topic is discussed on LW, so certainly isn't irrelevant.
6pedanterrific10yAnyone on LessWrong other than sam?
0JoshuaZ10yYes. that should be clear but I'm editing it in to make it explicit.

"As soon as we look at the nature of inference at this many-moves-ahead level of perception, our attitude toward probability theory and the proper way to use it in science becomes almost diametrically opposite to that expounded in most current textbooks. We need have no fear of making shaky calculations on inadequate knowledge; for if our predictions are indeed wrong, then we shall have an opportunity to improve that knowledge, an opportunity that would have been lost had we been too timid to make the calculations.

Instead of fearing wrong predictions, we look eagerly for them; it is only when predictions based on our present knowledge fail that probability theory leads us to fundamental new knowledge."

E.T. Jaynes's "Bayesian Methods: General Background"

"It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbeliefs."

  • Eric Hoffer
3[anonymous]10yWhat is unbelief?

There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts.


[-][anonymous]10y 13


I've read the source and context of that and it's really not impressing me as a rational thing to do... it's a clever/smartass thing to do, but in what way did Ilyssa win? Surely she didn't expect Eric to enlighten her on the subject in some way she hadn't thought about before, and now she is "miserable about Eric", and didn't get to enjoy Hamlet.

The "I can't stop myself" says it all - she can't choose not to defect. That's not a strength.

2DSimon10yAnother quote from that source amuses me: Reminds me of Secular Heaven [http://dresdencodak.com/2005/11/29/secular-heaven/]
1NancyLebovitz10yMaybe her best chance for happiness would have been with a fellow rationalist, and there's only one way to find him.

Maybe, but there's nothing to support the idea that that's what's motivating Ilyssa there. It seems more like an excuse to blurt out anything contrarian that comes to mind, without having to exercise any impulse control or consider the actual, you know, effect of the words.

Maybe I'm committing the typical mind fallacy, but I think I see what's going on here because there's a part of me that likes that quote - the part of me that is clever and contrarian and enjoys throwing wrenches into arbitrary social scripts and customs, because the arbitrariness combined with the expectation of being conformed to offends me. I think many of us here can identify with that and perhaps that's what's causing people to mistake that quote as a rationalist one?

If not, then answer me this: was either instrumental or epistemic rationality served there in any way?

0MarkusRamikin10yOut of context, I still get a little red flag when I see the "I can't stop myself" part. Though perhaps that might be because I didn't quite manage to divorce it from context in my mind... EDIT: Anyway, I think context matters, the spirit in which a quote was originally made should be taken into consideration. So I downvoted the quote because I don't want people to look up the source and then perceive that kind of smartassery as "rationality" as approved by lesswrongians.
0MarkusRamikin10yI suppose... But if we change it and read it as being about something else (than what it was about in the original context) then it isn't really a rationality quote any more, is it? Can it suffice that I understood where you're coming from and respect what you were trying to say? (even before getting here, I upvoted your previous comment, for clarity and responding well without being defensive.) I just object to that quote, not to the sentiment you're trying to express.
1NancyLebovitz10yFair enough. Instrumental rationality is served if she likes blindsiding people more than anything else she could get from them, but she doesn't actually seem to, once she thinks about it.

Nor does Less Wrongian in good standing feel any need to verify facts.

I've already disproven a dozen so-called facts of yours -- and you've neither conceded that, nor retracted them, nor apologized for any of those obvious falsehoods. Given how many falsehoods you've spewed, and at what enormous rate you spew them, it would be unreasonable of me to spend more than a minute trying to prove or disprove any further one of other -- BUT I STILL APOLOGIZE FOR AND RETRACT ANY ERRORS I MAKE, UNLIKE YOU.

You claim that Shakespeare wasn't politically restricted, and you don't even bother reacting to the list of political restrictions he was labouring under that I gave you.
You claim that Catholics had more rights in Elizabethan england than Conservatives have in modern-day America, and you can't even bother to argue how conservatives becoming President of America fits in with those claim of yours.
You claim that conservatives never intentionally manipulate language, and you don't even comment on 'freedom fries' and 'death tax' and 'enhanced interrogation' and all that other crap we mention as counterexamples.
You claim that all modern films are egalitarian in attitude and portray people as i... (read more)

Please note: thinking politics is bunk is not the same thing as not being interested in politics.

Or, to use a line I've always dreamed of using, after shocking somebody with unexpected political knowledge: "I said I was apathetic. I didn't say I was ignorant."

(And no, the Pericles quote is not a good rationality quote. It's blatant propaganda from the mouth of a politician.)

0bogus10yOK, then what does it mean? If you mean that de-facto political practice (I'd rather call this "politics-as-usual", for clarity) is not worth getting involved with, or not promoting good outcomes, or something else which could be described as "is bunk", then I will probably agree. But again, this is not a sensible reason for disclaiming and renouncing any kind of involvement in politics. Instead, we might (and perhaps should) see this as an opportunity for raising the sanity waterline [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1e/raising_the_sanity_waterline] in this domain by promoting more effective styles of political involvement and argumentation.
5komponisto10yIn this context, "not signaling allegiance to a standard political faction". Or more generally, "not looking at the world through the prism of a standard political ideology".
1bogus10yI might agree with you, except that factions (hence, folks needing to declare allegiance to some faction) have instrumental value in political processes, and it's hard to see what might replace them. So even though ideologies can be bad (since they often lead to absolute-sounding, black-and-white thinking) the best antidote to them is compromise and careful deliberation--as opposed to withdrawing politics entirely and ceding any debate to the faction with the briefest sound-bites and the most adherents.
3komponisto10yIf you think you know how to get yourself elected to public office, and/or get sane policies implemented, all while retaining enough sanity yourself to be able to tell which policies are sane, don't let me stop you. (Also don't let me stop you from using any other superpowers you may have, such as leaping tall buildings in a single bound.) My worry is about people whose time isn't best spent on politics getting their minds killed by it. Think of Eliezer turning into Noam Chomsky as the nightmare scenario. Unlikely to happen, and thank goodness. No, the problem is much more general than that. After all, sometimes the truth is black-and-white. What ideologies do is make you stupid. They prevent you from properly exploring the hypothesis space of explanations for phenomena or solutions to problems. They prevent you from being able to tell the difference between black-and-white situations and those that are more subtle. And they prevent you from correcting your mistakes.
3bogus10yI think people seeking public office are saner than you give them credit for. Politicians tend to espouse crazy thinking because that's how the incentives are set up, both within political parties--where signalling loyalty to the party is often paramount, so lower-ranked folks refrain from any criticism of policies and personalities: not the way a rationally-inspired organization is managed--and in the broader political arena, especially during campaigns but this is when "politics" is most visible and salient. The mantra of a successful campaign can be phrased as: "stay on message; no compromise, no debating." Thus, almost no one's time is best spent on politics today, but this could be changed fairly easily. We are lucky, in that deliberative politics can be promoted incrementally both within organizations and in the broader political sphere. Especially if some parties or factions were to adopt open, deliberative methods and perhaps promote them as "more pragmatic, less ideological" and "more rationalist"; but also "more transparent and accountable", which appeals to the more idealistic folks and perhaps challenges them to influence policy by finding tolerable compromises.
3komponisto10yAgain, even if that were true, it's not the point. The purpose of the slogan "politics is the mind-killer" is not to discourage rationalists with political talent from becoming professional politicians; it is to prevent the dynamics of tribal-loyalty-signaling from poisoning truth-seeking discussion among those interested in the latter.
1bogus10yYou seem to be assuming that the only way to usefully affect politics in the real world is becoming a professional politician, which is not at all obvious. In general, political ideology has little to do with truth-seeking one way or another; rather, it is quite comparable to a personal moral code. (Indeed, we can talk about 'political Christianity', 'political Islam', 'political environmentalism' as being directly influenced by moral codes.) Surely we can agree that lots of folks here follow a deontological moral code, without this noticeably affecting their truth-seeking ability. Moreover, as a matter of fact, a lot of "truth-seeking" in the real world happens through adversarial processes which are quite comparable to political dynamics (and may in fact have similar rationales, such as ensuring "fairness" in the process and outcome). For the sake of consistency, we should be forced to promote a similar slogan "Law is the mind-killer!" and refrain from any discussion about the Knox/Sollicito case, lest tribal-loyalty signaling towards either the prosecutor's or the defendant's "side" poison any truth-seeking effort. If anything, law is even more problematic than politics, since biased/filtered evidence is so ubiquitous in legal processes.

"Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf."

--William James, "The Will to Believe" (section VII)

How can Princess Leia be a princess, unless her father, and Luke's father, is or was emperor? It is a gaping great plot hole produced by the ideology of equality. If she is a princess, he must be a prince, in which case winning should set things to right by restoring his family's just and rightful authority. At the very center of the Star Wars story is a gigantic plot hole produced by egalitarian doctrine.

I'm not even a Warsie and I know this one. Luke and Leia were separated at birth and she was adopted by a royal family, making her a princess and him not.

You get called a liar by one person (after apparently some research that just happened to miss the relevant bits), another corrects them, and the first person retracts their statement. Clearly, persecution of the highest order.

Except that we are all part of this "doomed civilization", and if it collapses in civil war, nuclear apocalypse or even just a gigantic economic collapse, being at poolside won't keep you safe. So we have to save it, or to fix it. Now you can say that building a friendly AI is a much more efficient way of saving it/fixing it that getting involved in politics. That's something I can fully respect. But saying that you don't care or don't want to try is irresponsible.

For myself, saving it is very close to the thing I've to protect so I won't skip any single way I have under my own power of trying to save it : from understanding the world better to raising the sanity waterline around me to giving to charity to using train or walking instead of having a car to getting involve in politics even if it's "dirty". Because what matter is to win.

I'm very open to any argument about "this would be a more efficient way to save it" that would make me stronger in defending what I've to protect, but "don't try to save it, have fun and if everything collapse too bad" is not acceptable, it doesn't help my terminal values.

7[anonymous]10yHis argument is that the modern world was doomed before we where born, there is nothing really one can do to reform or save it. There can be no "have to" when there is a fairly strong possibility that nothing can be done, because incentives, biases and plain ignorance are aligned in such a way that effective positive action will bring overwhelming response against it. Anyone who thinks voting will solve anything has quite a bit of a way to go in my mind. When civil war/nuclear apocalypse/gigantic economic collapse comes Roissy will still have a tan when it happens. The activist won't. Actually I do think it is by far the most productive course of action, and I do support that effort as much as I can. But should that in itself raise some alarm bells in our minds? Getting Friendly AI right before it is too late is such long shot by most estimates. If contributing to this is indeed the best option for maximising desirable mid term future states of the universe for an individual or small group, we should pause to think about just how little certainty and influence a person has on a system composed of 7 billion people, their machines and the natural envrionment For some games the only way to win is not to play. I am quite certain the average LWer will do the world much more good if he tries to promote rational thinking and tries, as best as he can, to detached and disinvest himself both emotionally and resource-wise from daily politics and ideology. I am not saying the tiny influence a person has on the world automatically dosen't matter if a huge payoff is at all possible. I am saying that people are over-invested into politics, far beyond the point of diminishing returns due to our brains and our society tricking us into believing we matter far more in the process of government than we actually do. Remember the opportunity cost [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost] of involvement in politics! I partially endorse the poolside getting a tan recommendat
5shokwave10yThis seems suspiciously convenient for someone who already prefers poolside tanning to saving the modern world.
4[anonymous]10yThe idea that you actually can save the modern world is also convenient for people with a certain self-perception.
6shokwave10yYes, and there are endless crackpots who believe themselves to be doing just that. Someone who is genuinely out to save the world will (unfortunately) share this same feature with crackpots; they will have to distinguish themselves from crackpots in other ways.
5bogus10yIf folks are over-invested into politics, there are two ways of making the situation more optimal. 1. Reduce investment into politics. This is Roissy's recommendation. This option does not directly affect political issues, but it does free up effort/resources to be spent on more productive things (science, business, personal enjoyment etc.) 2. Raise the social payoff of investment into politics. This entails promoting reform and change in political processes so as to make them more deliberative, less ideological, more conducive to efficient outcomes etc. This option yields a direct payoff by improving political outcomes. I'm not saying that (2) is easy. But a site having as mission statement "refining the art of human rationality" should definitely take an interest in the issue, since so much of human deliberation occurs in the public sphere.
7[anonymous]10yIn the absence of research into the issue of good governance and the conditions that affect change of government by a order of magnitude better than what is currently available, I would say promoting point two is in practice harmful advice. Strategy 1. has a guaranteed pay-off but requires an individual to admit to himself that investment so far has been wasted. Strategy 2. can be used to rationalize any escalation of investment and past investment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/at/sunk_cost_fallacy/], a very comforting idea. But I wish to stress something, people who disinvest from politics can invest, if they really want to improve governance at any cost, into quality rationalist research that is sorely lacking. In fact I claim that a community comprised exclusively of involved and politically active citizens can in fact never come up with what would amount to "useful social science" on certain issues (say the effect of governance). I would thus argue that a site dedicated to "the refinement of human rationality" has not only thrived because of the no mind killer rule, it might if it put its resources to it radically improve the quality of government precisely by dis-investing emotionally and resource wise from politics to partially mitigate the perverse incentives involved in the endeavour.
3bogus10yYou do not consider "quality rationalist research" into good governance to fall under political involvement? Yes, it is very different than day-to-day involvement into political practice, ideology etc. But then again, I have not seen the latter advocated much in this thread, or at all on LW. I for one am quite wary of any "escalation of investment", expressly because affecting any stable system (natural or social) is unfeasible without a thorough, rational understanding of its structure and leverage points. And so most effort into political activism is indeed "wasted"[1]. But given that so many folks apparently are emotionally invested into changing governance in some way, I don't think there's anything wrong with helping such folks achieve desirable outcomes. [1] I am obviously disregarding exceptional cases such as the "Arab Spring" uprisings; but even the Tea Party has had negligible effects (e.g. the leading R nominations for the 2012 election are widely seen as mediocre, and TP candidates are not faring well), and I expect little better from the 'Occupy' effort given how unfocused it is.
4roland10yAllow me a small nitpick in a great commentary: I would advise against the tan due to the dangers of skin cancer and skin damage. Tanning has become a cultural obsession in the west, not so much in asian countries but is generally unhealthy for white skin. You only should get enough sun to produce the necessary Vitamin D, other than that, avoid it! Go for the swim though, it is healthy!
2roland10yWow, my thoughts, I'm surprised to read them here. ;)

With a few brackets it is easy enough to see that 5 + 4 is 9. What is not easy to see is that 5 + 4 is not 6.

Carl Linderholm, Mathematics Made Difficult.

3lessdazed10yI do not understand.

Thus I make no apologies for focusing on income. Over the long run in- come is more powerful than any ideology or religion in shaping lives. No God has commanded worshippers to their pious duties more forcefully than income as it subtly directs the fabric of our lives.

-- Gregory Clark, A farewell to Alms

[ In his interesting book on economic history, Gregory Clark follows Adam Smith ]

I think, therefore I am perhaps mistaken.

Sharon Fenick

I don't think sam being Moldbug is likely at all. For starters, from what I've seen of Moldbug, he doesn't seem to usually make easily refuted factual claims -- and that's the chief definining characteristic of sam's interactions with LessWrong: saying things as silly, unsubstantiated and easily refuted as that conservatives don't consciously try to remake language, or claiming that marital equality and its supposed dread consequences were discussed a thousand years ago, or that Shakespeare wasn't politically censored, or that "Bloody Mary" of England was as bad as it ever got from the point of view of oppression, etc, etc... When he's challenged on those claims, he just makes some more random claims, again without substantiating them, again without citations, and so forth.

That and the passive-agressive self-pity about being downvoted and about him predicting we'll downvote him (as if that takes a great genius to figure out, when he's insulting us all over the place), which didn't strike me as a Moldbug characteristic either. sam's feelings towards gay people have been made clear as well, when Moldbug has instead stated that increasing tolerance of homosexuality is that bit of politics where he agrees with leftists.

Moldbug seems several levels above sam.

Sam, trolling isn't acceptable here, and what you just did is pretty much the definition of trolling -- trying to sucker people into answering in a way that you'll then use into further inflaming things.

You don't have the capacity to at the same time say "It applies to you" and to also pretend to have said "I didn't mean to say that it applies to you". And you definitely don't have the capacity to say "The fact you wrongly believed I thought it applied to you, proves that my belief is true when I believe it applies to you".

So downvoted. Since you're following the same tactic in lots of threads, I'll be now downvoting without further comment whenever you follow remotely similar trollish tactics.

Now, a symbol is not, properly speaking, either true or false; it is, rather, something more or less well selected to stand for the reality it represents, and pictures that reality in a more or less precise, or a more or less detailed manner.

Pierre Duhem The aim and structure of physical theory

You are changing the topic from "Does the movie support equality" to "does every single aspect of the movie support equality in every single way". All real categories of humans in the movie are equal, as illustrated by Princess Leia strangling Jabba the hut.

Jabba the Hutt is at least as fictional as the Force is, you know, and he's not exactly a physically imposing presence; there's no particular reason to conclude that that scene is physically improbable, and Leia takes a noncombatant role elsewhere by comparison with the men in th... (read more)

"The role of art is to serve the rational man's need for a moment, an hour or some period of time in which he can experience the sense of his completed task, the sense of living in a universe where his values have been successfully achieved. It is like a moment of rest, a moment to gain fuel to move farther. Art gives him that fuel; the pleasure of contemplating the objectified reality of one’s own sense of life is the pleasure of feeling what it would be like to live in one’s ideal world."

-- Ayn Rand

Everything is revealed to he who turns over enough stones. (Including the snakes that he did not want to find.)


[-][anonymous]10y 9

And the simple reason why it is so easy to fool psychiatrists with words like "atypical" and "tricyclic" is that most psychiatrists are stupendously ignorant of even kindergarten-level pharmacology and have barely any idea about how to interpret a study-- I don't mean p values, I mean looking at the y-axis; I mean the introduction. Much, much easier to base all of their arguments on empty terms that are nothing other than branding choices. Never mind the senseless term "atypical". Gun to head, is Seroquel an "antipsyc

... (read more)
1Swimmer96310yI went and read the original article and was massively entertained, mainly because I just studied for weeks to memorize all those drug names. I remember it saying in our textbook that the second-generation "atypical" antipsychotics had fewer side effects...and I was surprised because my friend is on a second-generation antipsychotic (Zyprexa) and at some point has had pretty much every possible side effect.
7[anonymous]10yI read TLP with a giant grain of salt, because sometimes the things he says about the psychiatric profession just seem downright implausible.
6kalla72410ySpeaking as a person in the field - while true in general, in this particular case he is completely correct. Atypical antipsychotics have turned out to be massively misrepresented by the pharmaceutical companies. To avoid misunderstandings: I am a great supporter of pharmacological interventions, and I don't think that "Big Pharma" is an evil force, but this case has been one of the darkest spots on the image of the profession in the last decade. The excellent and highly recommended "Mind Hacks" blog has been following the slow crash of the atypicals for a while. Latest can be seen here [http://mindhacks.com/2011/10/03/the-death-of-atypical-antipsychotics/].
4Swimmer96310yIt reads like the writing of someone with an enormous axe to grind...

They Might Be Giants tries to give their songs merits, not just messages, but that bit doesn't really show it.

It is perhaps not obvious that you are ironically committing a sin in order to point out someone else's unironic sin, rather than just unironically sinning yourself.

From the first episode of Dexter, season 6:

Batista: "...it's all about faith..."
Dexter: "Mmm..."
Batista: "It's something you feel, not something you can explain. It's very hard to put into words."

Dexter smiles politely, while thinking to himself: Because it makes no sense.

0Dojan10yDexter is atheist? Maybe I should see that show after all...
0RobertLumley10yPeople put plenty of things into words that make no sense. Words are only words; that's why humanity invented mathematics. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hg/inductive_bias/]
1shokwave10ySure, but putting nonsense into words opens it to attack; fear of a justified attack may present as "it's hard to put into words".

"A scientific theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler."


4PhilGoetz10ySounds good, but may not be meaningful outside of physics, where by "theory" you usually mean model, and a model can be made simpler or more complex as the occasion demands.
1[anonymous]10yConsidering my brain is too small for the universe, making the theory as simple as possible sounds like a good strategy when dealing with hard problems.
0[anonymous]10yIt's a good strategy if "possible" means "not too simple to function correctly". You can model a human as a point mass affected only by gravity, and this model is presumably too simple for most purposes, but it's not clear in what sense it's an impossible model.

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.

Isaac Asimov

If something doesn't make sense, one of your assumptions has to be wrong, because if something doesn't make sense, it can't be real.

House, episode 2x24, "No Reason"

9Desrtopa10yOr if something doesn't make sense, you may not have learned to think like reality [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hs/think_like_reality/].
0[anonymous]10yGreat read thanks!
5[anonymous]10yIsn't possible that you've just asked a Wrong Question [http://lesswrong.com/lw/og/wrong_questions/]? Although I guess you could claim that you have then made an assumption that the question could be answered . . .

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.


The ones who do are a proper subset of the ones who think they can, and there are serious costs to being in the difference between the two sets.

2RichardKennaway10yTraditional saying.

Not every change is a catastrophe, but every catastrophe is a change.

-What the Wise Master might have said, if he were making a different point.

6Oscar_Cunningham10yApart from compound interest.
5Logos0110y... even "staying the course" can be considered risking something if you have the proper mindset.
4Manfred10yAt which point the saying becomes equivalent to "don't exist, nothing gained." Not a very informative interpretation.
5dlthomas10yNothing ventured, less lost, however.
5aSynchro10yThere's a nice quote from George Bernard Shaw on the same subject: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." It's more demonstrative imho ^^
1Fyrius10yAh, that one. I may lack the context to properly appreciate this quote, but evaluating it on its own merits, I've always thought it's unfair - I think the judgemental aspect isn't necessarily warranted. It's unreasonable to want to adapt the world to ourselves, now? In many cases I think it's just a good idea, and there are plenty of examples that I don't think anyone would feel any need to disagree with. Humankind changed the world when they eliminated smallpox, for example. I may be missing the point.
3roland10yMaybe the key to understand the quote is that "reasonable" and "unreasonable" are social judgements, society would rather want people to conform to the norms/world than have them change it. At least that's the way I read the quote.
0Fyrius10yOh, I see! That makes sense.
0MixedNuts10y"Reason" in general seems to be a good set of heuristics. Trying to be reasonable will help you make financial decisions, plan ahead for common contingencies, work hard yet sustainably, get into stable relationships, etc. Another good point of reason is that its failings tend to be known or easy to predict; for example, it tends to select low-variance strategies, discount excitement, and underestimate the duration and magnitude of personality changes. That makes it easier to evaluate: use it much more for mortgages than for romance.
0RobertLumley10yI dislike that quote. It used to be in my quotesfile, but I removed it sometime recently. It starts out on a bad premise, namely, that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world. There's no justification for that, and if you reverse "reasonable" and "unreasonable" the quote is pointless.
0roland10ySee my comment here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wm/rationality_quotes_october_2011/52wq [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wm/rationality_quotes_october_2011/52wq]
0RobertLumley10yYeah, I noticed that after I posted mine.

you are, these days, not allowed to have a hero who is born to be King, unless, of course, like Pratchett's Carrot, he wisely turns down the job.

If we for the sake of convenience define "these days" as anything since the production of A New Hope, I can think offhand of Severian, Garion, Tristran Thorn, Richard Rahl, Rand al'Thor, and anywhere up to three or four characters from the Song of Ice and Fire books depending on where you draw the lines for "king" and "hero". None of these are obscure works; most are popular seri... (read more)

0JoshuaZ10yTo a limited extent this actually reinforces Sam's point. Note that the last two of the characters mentioned occur in works that have frequently been accused of being reactionary and sexist. That said, I agree that Severian, Garion and Tristan Thorn are clear counterexamples.
3ArisKatsaris10yFor someone in the 'reactosphere' (as Mencius Moldbug calls it) 'reactionary' and 'sexist' isn't an accusation but a praise. So the fact that several modern and popular series of books are reactionary and sexist (and proclaimed such) is evidence against sam's position that modern books and films promote an egalitarian progressivist agenda.
1Nornagest10yTrue. But for that matter the entire genre's been accused of being reactionary for pretty much the same reasons that ArisKatsaris applied to Star Wars, and I'm not entirely sure the accusers there are wrong. Point is that you can get away with it in the arena of modern fantasy (and make a lot of money in the getting away).

Of your dozen supposed refutations, choose one, one where the truth is a matter of objective fact,

Fine. You claimed that modern movies actively uphold the idea that all people are equals, in the sense of interchangeability. You included the Star Wars trilogy in the category of modern movies. Explain to me how the following quotes from the Star Wars series don't refute your hypothesis:
"The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi. "
"That boy is our last hope."
"The Emperor knew, as I did, if Anakin were to have any offspring, they... (read more)

I've been upvoting you (and the other commenters who've tried to correct sam) throughout this, but there's a point where even rational, thoughtful rebuttals don't help LessWrong's signal-to-noise ratio, because they're doing nothing but feed an obnoxious troll like sam0345.

And a debate over Star Wars seems especially unlikely to change sam's mind.

You win. Now please drop it.

0[anonymous]10yThat's not what he claimed. That's your fuzzy memory of what he claimed. Quoting: So, rewinding this, going from example to generalization, his argument is: 1 Leia throttled Jabba. 2 This is an example of the trend that almost all heroines and love interests are actively counter stereotypical. 3 There is an explanation for that trend. Modern films, plays, and books depict counter stereotypical women for the purpose of upholding the religious/political view that women are innately the equals of men in ability, character, etc., that the observable differences are a result of culture, a culture which the work in question is seeking to correct by challenging the stereotypes. The work, in short, is acting as propaganda. 4 There is a similar thing going on with the counter stereotypical depiction of blacks. The purpose is parallel to that in (3), i.e., to uphold the religious/political view that blacks are innately no different from whites in ability, character, etc., that the observable differences are a result of culture, a culture which the work in question is seeking to correct by challenging the stereotypes. 5 Both of these are specific cases of a more general religious/political ideology that all humans are innately equal. Since you were challenged to pick a factual dispute, only the element 1 falls into the scope of the challenge. The rest are interpretation. And element 1 is plainly true. So your response to the challenge fails. sam was right about the fact that Leia throttled Jabba. But maybe you want me to dispute your interpretation? I can do that. Strangely, you did not offer an alternative interpretation of (1). Instead of conceding that Leia did indeed strangle Jabba and endeavoring to offer an alternative explanation for it, you set that aside and introduced a new set of facts to support a new interpretation. Your facts can be summarized as follows: in the Star Wars universe, Jedis are superior to non-Jedis, and some Jedis are superior to other J
2ArisKatsaris10yConstant, if by "that all humans are equal", and "equality in the sense of interchangeability", sam had meant something different than what I understood him to mean, I'll let him say so. If his claim had been e.g. that modern movies promote the idea that both genders and all racial groups are deserving of political rights, I wouldn't have bothered to dispute the point -- though there would still be exceptions, they would actually be exceptions. But "equality in the sense of interchangeability" is a much stronger claim than that -- I could have just as easily disproven it by showing how Batman is portrayed as indispensable for the well-being of Gotham, how whenever a "superhero" is made to quit by the ungrateful smallfolk, the smallfolk end up realizing they needed him after all (Watchmen being a potential exception in this, but given Manhattan's effective physical godhood, and Adrian Veidt's intellectual superiority, egalitarianism in the sense of interchangeability isn't exactly there either).
4[anonymous]10yBut your revised argument appears to have the same two weaknesses I found in your previous argument. Just as the Jedis have no real-world counterparts, neither do Batman nor Doctor Manhattan have any real-world counterparts. And the second weakness is that, once again, your argument assumes that that a fiction supporting an idea needs to fully realize that idea in every respect. I pointed out in particular that market realities dictate that you never go full progressive, to borrow a turn of phrase from Robert Downey Jr. Other specific criticisms can be made, such as that Batman and Doctor Manhattan are both made not born, and progressives are big fans of the idea that differences are made not born, and that they are individuals not categories, and progressives are focused on categories not individuals, but the first two suffice so I won't go into the others. Moreover you were challenged to contest a point of fact. You picked sam's mention of Star Wars. But sam's mention of Star Wars was actually nothing more than a mention of the one incident in which Leia killed Jabba by strangling him. It was not a mention of the whole Star Wars universe. That was the point of fact that you picked. You're going far beyond the challenge by bringing in Batman and Watchmen. Backing up to a slightly more general point which sam made, he mentioned two key respects in which fiction supports progressive ideology, and those are that "almost all heroines and love interests are actively counter stereotypical" and "not one black who is a significant character is stereotypical, a quite improbable number of them are actively counterstereotypical." You could possibly argue that these are factual, though they are more difficult to assess, since you can't just look the question up in Wikipedia, as you can the question of whether Leia strangled Jabba. In any case, you did not challenge either of these points. As it happens, there are plenty of counter-stereotypical women in the Batman universe
0ArisKatsaris10yAnd once again: irrelevant. Then give counterexamples of how the fiction of StarWars supports the idea of "equality as interchangeability" in other respects. So far the only respects one can find are the respects where it doesn't promote them. Constant, the claim I disputed is a specific claim -- it didn't talk about differences displayed in books/movies between racial groups that exist in the real world, it didn't talk about whether people are born with differences or made differently by their experiences. You keep distracting from the point I'm disputing with irrelevancies. I disputed a certain specific claim. You keep bringing irrelevant things into the discussion. FOCUS! So? Unlike the mind-killed, I don't feel obliged to challenge every single point as if they were enemy soldiers [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Arguments_as_soldiers]. A falsehood needs be challenged and defeated. An obvious truth like "negative racial and gender stereotypes are less popular nowadays than they used to be" doesn't. NO! I picked his claim that "Modern politics asserts several political views that have distinctly religious characteristics, such as that all humans are equal, and then enforces equality in the in sense of interchangeability. Modern films, plays, and books not merely refrain from doubting such views, but actively uphold them.". I chose Star Wars as a counterexample, just because he listed as an example of one such modern film -- so that he wouldn't be able to argue that this wasn't "modern" enough for him.
9sam034510yWell if you like I will restate my claim as: Every movie, and almost every book is propaganda for the improbable religious belief that all real world groups are equal in the sense of interchangeable, whereas on the controversial questions of the day in Elizabethan times people cheerfully weighed in on both sides, and I retract my carelessly stated broader claim.
4ArisKatsaris10yThank you. Now we start making progress. EDIT TO ADD: I actually agree with the idea that anti-discrimination attitudes are prevalent in the media in a much more shallow way than I like. As I wrote two and a half years ago [http://hp-essays.livejournal.com/248539.html?thread=5908699#t5908699] "..it's pretty easy to be a non-racist when you believe that genetical inheritance play absolutely no part in abilities or attitude. That's a very shallow sort of anti-racism, same way as it'd be a very shallow sort of feminism if it needed to believe that women are just as physically strong on average as men. It's harder and more thought-provoking and yet even more ACCURATE to portray a world where genetical heritage does play a part in abilities and STILL portray attitudes of racial superiority/privilege as wrong, to still portray a world where the various "tribes" of people (for lack of better word) must all be treated with dignity."
4TimS10yThe Last Samurai [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0325710/] espouses the belief that Japanese samurai are interchangable with Victorian era westerners?
0[anonymous]10yJedi! The plural of Jedi is Jedi! Aaarhblgharbl my one weaknessss

You've never even responded to requests for explanations of what would qualify to change your mind. When you say to choose an issue, and you will prove that you are right, we have no reason to believe that your ability to satisfy yourself that you have done so is contingent on your having any basis for the belief at all.

You posted in a subthread which had nothing much to do about either the Ivy League or the ruling classes, but instead was simply about whether "doing politics" in various senses is at all useful or not in promoting political goals.

You might want to refer to Mencius Moldbug's blog. He subscribes to the theory you espouse here ("'ruling classes' are radically left-wing, and one could reasonably describe them as 'evil' because their politics are so insidious; universities--and the Ivy League specifically--act as a de-facto 'state church' for t... (read more)

1ArisKatsaris10yI don't think sam's problem is that he isn't reading enough Moldbug, I think his problem is more likely that he doesn't read anything other than Moldbug.
4RichardKennaway10ysam has been politically active on Usenet since at least 1993, which is as far back as I can find him in Google Groups, which does not go all the way back. That is 14 years before Moldbug started his blog. (I do not know if Moldbug was active before then.)
4[anonymous]10yI doubt that, since he dosen't really show that strong a mark from Moldbug's thinking in my opinion.
[-][anonymous]10y 11

He posted this in another thread: "Back before 1940 progressivism was nominally Christian and protestant."

That's certainly Moldbuggian. His implying that the University system is a mainstay of left-wing hegemony is also Moldbuggian.

Moldbug himself is not to be blamed if someone reacts to his writings in this way, though. I speak from experience as an erstwhile far-right flamer of a similar ilk on another forum, when I say that it is rather easy to fall into an affective death spiral around insurrectional far-right memes.

Note that sam0345 is a racialist; that is certainly a risk factor for obnoxious commenting. This is due to a combination of extremely strong in-group/out-group dichotomy (reinforced by social pariah status) and the fact that (setting aside mind-killing arguments against and in favour) racialism has a low barrier for entry (is not hard to come by for the less-than-smart) but allows people to feel that they are privy to profound truths to which others are blind.

Trying to argue with such a person is unwise (from personal experience, he will eventually gain some maturity and learn that persuasive argument involves far higher standards of co-operation than he is employing).

7[anonymous]10yNot at all. Traditionalist Catholics have held such views since the 19th century! Also esoteric anti-Christian thinkers among pseudo-Pagan revivalists and anti-Semites alike have emphasised how socialism and its variants are basically a heretical strain or re-imagining of Christianity. Among Paleoconservatives, by intellectuals such as Paul Gottfried [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gottfried] the fundamental protestant and Christian roots of progressivism have been spoken of in much the same terms, though he did so only in the late 2000's so it is hard to say if this is just the intellectual zeitgeist of the "alt right" or if he was indeed also influenced by Moldbug. Not necessarily, several groups of the Nouvelle Droite [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouvelle_Droite] hold this view. It is also shared by nearly any fascist sympathizers that still spring up now and then. Right leaning Libertarians emphasise Academia's pro-statist bias. At the end of the day even mainstream conservatives speak of disparagingly of Ivory Tower left wing academia. Also it is an empirical fact that departments like anthropology are not only firmly in the camp of the left but serve as the choice of employment for people with radical (compared to the mainstream) political views. Seems an accurate analysis.
6RichardKennaway10yHe has been writing on such topics, with I believe substantially the same views and characteristic manner of expressing them, for at least 18 years. This is who he is.
1[anonymous]10yHe commented back on OB as well (under a different handle) didn't he? Also how do you know this has been his pattern for 18 years?
5RichardKennaway10yBecause I've seen it for, well, probably not all of these 18 years, but for enough of them. Despite his ungoogleable pseudonym here, I instantly recognised him from his writing style onthis [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6dm/reasons_for_being_rational/4g3w] occasion. While he has not confirmed my identification, he has not demurred from it either, even when directly replying tothis [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7i0/is_that_your_true_rejection_by_eliezer_yudkowsky/4sfk] , so I think it definite. A random sample from the Google Groups archive under his full name will confirm the consistency of his views and manner of expression.
0[anonymous]10yI didn't realise he was known to anyone. How unfortunate!
2[anonymous]10yI'm a bit late in realizing who sam0345 actually is (commented under a different name elsewhere), I now think heavy down voting and ignoring is even more appropriate.

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

David Hume

Roughly true, but downvoted for being basic (by LW standards) to the point of being an applause light. Good Rationality Quotes are ones we can learn from, not just agree with.

From the film The Maggie. The quote is excerpted from here.

Background: Earlier part of the 20th century, the west coast of Scotland. Marshall, an American, is in a small chartered aircraft chasing a Clyde puffer captained by Mactaggart, with whom he has business. He and the pilot have just caught sight of her in the sea below. Night is approaching.

Marshall: Where do you reckon they're making for?
Pilot: It looks like they're putting into Inverkerran for the night.
Marshall: Tell me, if they thought I thought they were going to Inverkerran, where do you r... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 6

But what a fool believes ... he sees
No wise man has the power
To reason away
What seems ... to be

Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, via the Doobie Brothers

"I can do parkour for the rest of my life without even moving. Just efficient thinking."

  • Ryan Doyle, parkour athlete

There is an ironic but highly valuable quality to AI in all its forms. The e ffort to simulate or surpass human intelligence is uncovering subtleties and paradoxes about the human mind we might never have imagined. By way of heroic failures, AI is teaching us how truly strange [human] intelligence is.

Theodore Roszack

because, quite implausibly, midichlorian possession is equally distributed among all races and species

It would help if you did minimal research before making claims. Today's homework excercise: Go to Wookiepedia and count how many species are listed who explicitly have no access to the Force. Hint: The answer is more than one.

I added a second downvote to signify "don't feed trolls, even to correct their minor points". It's best for the grandparent comment to get downvoted and disappear unremarked, with no children. (I'm violating the norm in order to state it.)

2[anonymous]10yYes this is basically right, don't know why orthonormal's comment was downvoted when I found it. I have agreed with and upvoted some of sam0345's comments in the past but honestly he really is trying his best to not participate in a productive way.

I am also not a downvoter (I generally try not to) but I think it's likely due to the hostile, aggressive tone, and the lack of implied values, as NancyLebovitz touched on.

I also might suggest that Rowling probably didn't mean that, since it was said by, ya know, Voldemort. Some may have downvoted because it implied Rowling agreed with it.

I'm not one of the downvoters, but I'd say the quote isn't rationalist because it leaves out what one might be seeking power for. And it makes a wild guess about why everyone isn't in line with the speaker's favorite value.

I'd also say that it's important to think about where cooperation fits into trying to get anything done.

5Document10yThe point is that J. K. Rowling didn't say it [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wm/rationality_quotes_october_2011/4xsn].
7NancyLebovitz10yThere's more than one point. One is that it assuredly isn't Rowling's point of view, and another is that regardless of who said it, it isn't a rationalist statement. I recommend that we have a convention of not just attributing quotes to their authors, but at least mentioning if a quote is the words of a fictional character. Ideally, there would be a link or some mention of context.
1RobertLumley10yYes, I'm very confused. I knew it was Voldemort who said that, but could you perhaps explain your point? I'm unfamiliar with the original quote; were you trying to point out that Scott Aaronson didn't mean what was attributed to him anymore than Rowling meant what you attributed to her?
3Document10yAlso, when I first read the quote my brain inferred that Scott Aaronson had provoked some kind of blog drama kerfuffle and been forced into a backpedaling, self-justifying apology; which lowered its opinion of him.
3Document10yEven if he meant it (and it's unclear what that would mean in context), the minimum standard for attributing a quotation to someone should be that they said it themselves.
0RobertLumley10yI disagree, I attribute a number of qutoes in my quotesfile to Eliezer, even though they were actually "said" by Harry, in HPMOR. I feel like it's a far more honest attribution, provided you are able to ascertain which characters are actually the voice of the author, which for the vast majority of literature, is quite obvious.

provided you are able to ascertain which characters are actually the voice of the author, which for the vast majority of literature, is quite obvious.

This sounds like illusion of transparency to me. I've never written a character whose arbitrary lines I'd like quoted as though I'd said them sans fictional mouthpiece.

0RobertLumley10ySee my other comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wm/rationality_quotes_october_2011/4y50].
8Document10yThat's an interesting example when EY has complained himself about people attributing views to him based on the story, and even put disclaimers on chapters 1 and 22 to try to stop it. I don't see how it's more honest. Are people going to infer that Scott doesn't hold any position that isn't attributed to him?
[-][anonymous]10y 4

Nature admits no lie.

--Thomas Carlyle

2gwern10yIndefinitely, anyway. I am reminded of another Carlyle quote that Moldbug quoted with approval (but then doesn't he always):

Try American History X or The Believer.

I am not convinced this undermines your overall point, as "racism is bad" is still the overall message of the movies, but there are certainly racist characters (sometimes even sympathetic ones) who make statements and arguments that go unchallenged.

All the limitative Theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Church's Undecidability Theorem, Turing's Halting Problem, Tarski's Truth Theorem-- all have the flavour of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that "To seek self- knowledge is to embark on a journey which . . . will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on a map, will never halt, cannot be described."

--Douglas Hofstadter

In the star wars universe, the Jedis do not rule - and when they do rule, it is a bad mistake - dark side, betrayal, and so forth.

True, but irrelevant. You talked about equality in the sense of interchangeability, not about equality in the sense of "one man, one vote". I won't accept you first making a wild claim, and then trimming it down to effectively "well by equality in the sense of interchangeability I meant 'rule by divine right' isn't accepted".

Point remains: Anakin is born super-special. Point remains: Luke and Leia are bor... (read more)

Roissy is a PUA whose old blog is now only available via the Internet Archive. Apparently this is his current blog.

In a comment from April 2010, I said:

I stopped reading his stuff when I realized it was having a negative effect on how I think of women, sexuality, and my own sexual identity. (I am a hetero male).

However, I liked the grandparent and (a bit less) the other Roissy quote Konkvistador posted.

There's a nice (but entirely false) story that Apple was named as a tribute to Turing (cf. the cross in Christianity). It's cool that the apple has so many rationalist associations.

2MixedNuts10yIt's false? I want a source, please! (Also, good parallel. I might start wearing an apple around my neck and hanging one on my bedroom wall.)
1Oscar_Cunningham10yHmmm, turns out it's much murkier than I remembered. Here [http://apple2history.org/museum/articles/byte8412/]'s an interview with Wozniak: Other sugestions I've heard are that it was named after Apple records of the Beatles (with whom they'd later have copyright issues), or that it was fashioned to beat Atari in the phone book. Incidentally, here [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Apple_first_logo.png]'s the first Apple logo, featuring Newton.

You should never attribute mention in a way that implies use - but you should still attribute it as mention.

(They're all said by Harry)


0RobertLumley10yWhich isn't? Am I misremembering? The fourth is said by Quirrell, now that I think about it, isn't it.
5JoshuaZ10yQuestion: If one isn't keeping track even which characters have said which quotes (and in this case a quote that jumps out as very much not a Harry thing to say), what makes you confident that you can judge which quotes are intended to be things the author agrees with? This should surely reduce your confidence by a fair bit.
0RobertLumley10yIt does, on the fourth quote. But to be fair, I had thought that all of the quotes were by Harry and then went to look them up - I did not look them up and then think they were all by Harry. I might have noticed it, had I done the latter. But once I had looked them up I did not reconsider my previous statement - it was made completely from memory (And I have a collection of upwards of 100 quotes).

The first two quotes seem like things that Eliezer would actually agree with. But I'm substantially less convinced about the others.

1RobertLumley10yI feel very confident about the first three. Less so about the last two, but I still feel like he generally would agree with them. If that's not the general consensus though, (Judging by the downvotes, it isn't) I'll change the attributions. This raises an interesting question though: when is it appropriate to attribute it to the author? The most obvious example I can think of would be John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged - surely it's reasonable to attribute that to Rand: it's practically a nonfiction essay slapped in the middle of a book. Less ambiguous though: what about the words of a narrator? (I have a quote by Virginia Woolfe that was said by the narrator) Should that be attributed to the author? What if the narrator is a character in the story (Camus, The Plague, another one of my quotes)?
5Kaj_Sotala10yThis seems like an obvious case where you should have a policy of always doing X, even if not-X was right most of the time, because not-X will occasionally be wrong and cause harm while there's no harm in doing X. In other words, you should always have a (character, work, author) attribution, or (work, author) if it's said by the narrator. There's no reason to not do it, and an obvious reason why you should do it (because you will be wrong from time to time).
0RobertLumley10yWhy do you say (work, author) for a narrator? And what if the narrator is a character in the book, but technically not "speaking" at the time? And I think there is an obvious reason - namely that more attributions is more cumbersome and distracting, although I'm not sure that is a overly compelling reason.
5Kaj_Sotala10yAdmittedly, in such a case attributing it to the author is more justified. But the author-as-the-narrator saying something still isn't necessarily the same thing as the author saying something: there is the technique of an unreliable narrator [https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Unreliable_narrator], for instance. The narrator can also have a personality that's distinct from the author's, even a personality that the author would personally find repulsive. I wouldn't like it if people attributed what I wrote in Musings of a Vampire [http://www.xuenay.net/musings.html] to me without clarifying that these aren't actually my views. I'm not sure what you mean. Example?
2RobertLumley10yIn The Plague, by Camus, the narrator is the protagonist of the story, which isn't revealed until the end. In To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolfe, the narrator is continually shifting between all of the main characters.
4Kaj_Sotala10yIn those cases, (work, author) and (character, work, author) would both be fine. The main thing is making clear that these aren't necessarily the views of the author.
[-][anonymous]10y 2

What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite.

--Thomas Carlyle

Many of us are not Schopenhauer, and could stand to have our thoughts directed sometimes.

"We don't gotta just accept the way things are, just like we don't gotta let ourselves be lessened by death or any other damn thing. Just like we don't need no God to shape the world for us. We can make or lives the way we want them."

-- Jesse Custer, Preacher (Garth Ennis)

[Superfluous comment. Ignore this.]

People are wrong factually all the time. I was wrong in a really embarassing way in this thread. The key issue to being wrong is that when one has the evidence that one is wrong, updating and saying "oops" is ok. In many environments doing so will cause a serious loss of status. On Less Wrong the almost exact opposite will occur. But people will be very impatient with people who make factual errors and then don't say oops when they are pointed out to them.

Never. It's fiction, so you should never attribute a quote from there to a real person. Never, never, never.

That confuses me, as I tend to think of attribution as a way of giving credit where credit is due, and the author is the one who strung together those particular words, regardless of any endorsement.

7Jack10y"Blah blah bluh"- Fictional Character in Work of Fiction by Author's Name (Not that you didn't already know that)
1thomblake10yYes, that's the sort of attribution I was thinking of.
2ArisKatsaris10y"Strung together those particular words, regardless of any endorsement" might work in a universe where words are strung together only for the pretty sound they make, not for their meaning. If you attribute artistry correctly and end up misattributing the meaning, you're effectively lying about the author, no matter what your actual intentions are. What is so hard about attributing the words to a work, and attributing the work to the author? Do we really need to debate the virtues of being clear and not misleading people?
1thomblake10yAha, I thought you were saying that a quote from a work of fiction should not be attributed to its author at all, which is what I took issue with. Clearly it makes sense to do so by way of the work, possibly taking pains to point out that it was from a work of fiction.

There are some comments I wish I could delete from slashdot ... and this site, for that matter ... such as the parent.

Things are entirely what they appear to be and behind them…there is nothing.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

6Teal_Thanatos10yI've downvoted this for the following reasons. Appearances are deceiving and also people may present false appearances for their own benefit. What cannot be seen is still in effect (Gravity) Etc. In a practical demonstration, what appears to be a piece of stone. Behind it, It's sand. It's pressed together over time, precipitation of minerals causes binding. Inside there could be some old fossil. Who knows.
3sketerpot10yLet's see if we can salvage it into a reasonable statement about epistemology: -- A woman being shown an amazing horse, [http://lookatmyhorsemyhorseisamazing.com/] upon being informed that the horse will "take you 'round the universe, and all the other places too." I'll admit, this insight is more impressive with musical accompaniment.
0JoshuaZ10yI believe the intention of baiter is to refer to vague notions like spiritual domains or qualia that are somehow behind the epistemologically detectable aspects. I don't know the original context but given the sort of thing Sartre said it wouldn't surprise me if it meant something far from that in the original context.
[-][anonymous]10y 2


4wedrifid10yThat guy needs to train his gut instincts more. Because I find mine damn useful and seldom 'dangerously wrong'.
2Swimmer96310yIn order to train gut instincts, wouldn't you already have to understand the thing that you were having gut instincts about, in order to know whether or not your instincts were telling you the right thing?
4lessdazed10yIn some contexts one can just see what the consequences are and judge the instincts without understanding.
4MarkusRamikin10yI like this quote, myself. It reminds me that when you're being affected by a difficult-to-correct-for cognitive bias, what "feels" correct is wrong, and the correct answer doesn't feel right. Quoting Eliezer [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jg/planning_fallacy/]:
2wedrifid10yInexact sounds about right. There is certainly a point behind the quote (so I didn't downvote and can see why you would quote it) but perhaps it is a little overstated or slightly missing the problem of using the gut at the right time.

Of your dozen supposed refutations, choose one, one where the truth is a matter of objective fact, rather than interpretation or debate about what words mean.. I will prove I am right on that issue, and claim therefore, since I am right on an issue of your choosing, I am likely right on every other issue.

In this subthread, you asserted that Robert Gates predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, and that he then tried to hide the fact that he had made this prediction. Your assertion was based on a demonstrably incorrect reading of a Wikipedia article. (G... (read more)

In this context, this seems unproductive. Sam's reply was more polite and more reasonable than many of his other comments.

2lessdazed10yI agree, though I simply will not upvote posts primarily about Star Wars canon unless they are exceptionally brilliant. But I won't necessarily downvote them, neither for that nor for involving the participants here. It would be useful if sam attached confidence estimates to each statements. Then, he could admit he was wrong with "It is a gaping great plot hole produced by the ideology of equality." and we could compare that to statements he gave similar confidence to.

I know this is a joke, but I want to take it seriously. Really, literal-mindedness is actually an issue in certain kinds of cases.

And I realize what I'm about to do, and so I'll just stop here.

Consider racefail09, where sophisticated people with great skill in expressing themselves and intimate knowledge of our politics

Not at all. The people who complained about supposed racism in the original post should have been trolled hard for disputing the author's motives in wishing to write fiction about minority folks--and seeking to do it "right", i.e. minimizing outgroup biases. Their original arguments were non-sensical and should have been exposed as such. Instead what we got from the folks on the author's side was lots and lots of a... (read more)

Lives of quiet desperation paradoxically may surface as ebullient market bubbles.

Peter Thiel, The Optimistic Thought Experiment

We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think — in fact they do so.

Bertrand Russell

The engineer does not believe in black magic, voodoo, or rain dances. The engineer believes in scientific truth, that is, truth that can be verified by experiment.

Samuel Florman

engineers turn out to be by far the most religious group of all academics – 66.5 per cent, followed again by 61.7 in economics, 49.9 in sciences, 48.8 per cent of social scientists, 46.3 of doctors and 44.1 per cent of lawyers, the most sceptical of the lot.

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, Engineers of Jihad (p.51)

3khafra10yNo vote, but I've known several engineers who believe in black magic, voodoo, and/or rain dances.
0Emile10yIs this a reference to Agile methodologies?
3khafra10yHeh, it could be--but no; this is about a few educated, professional engineer friends of mine who are into pagan, asatru, ceremonial magick, and voudoun. Quite literally, black magic and voodoo (although I have yet to meet any who are well versed in native american ceremonies).
3bogus10yIn all fairness, paganism, voudoun and magick are more like shared ceremonial practices than "religions" in a conventional sense. And these ceremonies might well have instrumental value as mind-hacking devices: "worshiping" a voudun "form" probably primes your mind towards that form's attributes (love, war etc.). This is especially useful in collective ceremonies, where it also acts as a screening/signaling device.
2Xom10yhttp://catb.org/jargon/html/B/black-magic.html [http://catb.org/jargon/html/B/black-magic.html] http://catb.org/jargon/html/V/voodoo-programming.html [http://catb.org/jargon/html/V/voodoo-programming.html] http://catb.org/jargon/html/R/rain-dance.html [http://catb.org/jargon/html/R/rain-dance.html]
3RobertLumley10yI'm very confused by the downvotes, could someone explain?

First off, it's easy to cheer "yay science!" and rag on low status beliefs, but does this quote tell us that this person is good at determining truth value in cases of controversy? If an experiment returns a particular result, do they feel compelled to believe it? What would they think, for example, about the OPERA measurements?

Second, a cheer for the epistemic rationality of engineers is particular is likely to be unpopular because engineers are somewhat famous for standing on the frontiers of crank science, and have a reputation for being more likely than others with "scientific" backgrounds to overestimate their own understanding and throw their credentials behind bad science.

2RobertLumley10yThis is in fact, what the other person I mentioned commented, which I agree with, in retrospect. I had the advantage of context though - the author didn't specifically mean to laud engineers - this statement was made in the context of an engineering ethics textbook (essay? It's hard to remember, it was awhile ago).
7Document10yDidn't downvote, but: * Is he advocating rationality to people who want to be engineers, or is he just crowing about how much better engineers are than those stupid people in other fields who think they're just as smart? * Might be a nitpick, but speaking at all in terms of what one "believes in" rather than what's true is a bad habit [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/]. * It puts too much emphasis on conclusions rather than epistemology. * It sounds like "Believe what those cool people in lab coats say, not those freaks in robes", or "Believe things that sound scientific and modern, not things that sounds weird and fantastical". * It connotes that disbelieving in black magic is proof of a superior mind, rather than largely a fact about what culture one grew up in. * One should believe things that can't be verified by experiment [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rational_evidence].
1RobertLumley10yInteresting, thanks. And good points. Someone had already PMed me their reason for downvoting though (not mentioned in your list), but didn't want to influence future votes.
0Document10yI may have edited while you were reading; sorry if so.
0Document10y(I thought I got the phrase "cool people in lab coats" from a LW comment, but now it's joined the list of comments I can't find with Google.)

If it's decided that a certain user should stop posting, it's possible to ban individual comments and indicate this fact to the user, to discourage further activity. Eliezer used to do this occasionally in the past, it works. What's not clear is socially acceptable procedure for making this decision, outside Eliezer's decree.

I think we need to establish the norm of banning same-failure-mode comments from users who keep posting despite getting systematically and severely downvoted, if they still persist after a public warning that is simultaneously a place for potential appeal from the community (to overrule moderator's decision).

[-][anonymous]10y 0

At sea once more we had to pass the Sirens, whose sweet singing lures sailors to their doom. I had stopped up the ears of my crew with wax, and I alone listened while lashed to the mast, powerless to steer toward shipwreck.

-- Odysseus in Odyssey

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You seem to have conceded that every movie, and almost every book is propaganda for the improbable religious belief that all real world groups are equal in the sense of interchangeable.

You then seem to argue that that is a good thing.

Not exactly, for either of the two sentences. I'll reply further (and one last time) in a personal message, later today.

I have no dog in your original fight with JoshuaZ et al, but I'm kind of curious about the Star Wars analysis specifically.

You say,

All real categories of humans in the movie are equal, as illustrated by Princess Leia strangling Jabba the hut.

What do you mean by "real categories of humans" ? There exist many sentient species in the Star Wars universe; and technically, none of them are exactly human, seeing as the movie takes place "long ago, in a galaxy far away". Leia's species are probably as close to human as you can get, but ther... (read more)

1ArisKatsaris10yHe means things like "women", "men", "blacks", "whites", "short people", "tall people" -- as opposed to "Jedis" (Starwars), "Numenoreans" (Lord of the Rings), "Wizards" (Harry Potter). Let's not make obvious fails of understanding here.
0Bugmaster10yOk, fair enough, but isn't Fantastic Racism [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FantasticRacism] (or sexism or what have you) just a subtler version of regular racism ? It's not really that much better.
6Nornagest10yPretty much, although I'd use less politically divisive before subtler. Writers have been using invented species, bloodlines, Differently Powered Individuals, and what have you as stand-ins for real-world marginalized groups for about as long as people have been writing speculative fiction, and they're very much meant to be read as such: sometimes this gets distinctly unsubtle, as per the mutants in The Iron Dream [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Iron_Dream]. The political focus varies, though; back in the day, this was traditionally used to bring up some relatively specific real-world issue that would be delicate to handle directly (as in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outcast [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outcast_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation\])"). These days I think it's more common to use the device to keep things general, in order to identify with a broad spectrum of causes.
0ArisKatsaris10yThe question seems confused. I'd ask you "better in what"? Better in being scientifically accurate? Better in averting offense? Better for the plot of any given story? And if you mean "morally better", do you really think that Tolkien having his stories portray Orcs (which he invented exactly because he wanted an inexhaustible supply of enemies against which we needed feel no moral qualm) as utterly foul creatures, isn't any morally better than if he'd chosen a real-life group, e.g. African or Mongols, to play that exact role? Isn't Harry Potter better that it has goblins in the role of greedy banker-types instead of e.g. Jews? People won't be motivated to commit hate-crimes against orcs or goblins, if orcs are portrayed as uniformly bad or goblins uniformly greedy in some story.

Herman Cain is not articulately describing his position on abortion. But I suspect that the political label "pro-choice" is not going to turn out to be accurate.

In other words, applying the label is only scoring a political point.

If you were really asking whether Herman Cain is accurately labelled as pro-choice, then that isn't clear from the post.

8Prismattic10yI really don't think we should get into this topic further, but my impressions of recent events were that a) Herman Cain was, in fact, pro-choice, but b) did not realize that opposing coercive state interference against abortion even though one is personally opposed to it is a pro-choice position, and c) Herman Cain will soon change his substantive position to actually be anti-abortion to match the tribal preferences of the primary electorate he is courting.
1pedanterrific10yI thought he was, actually; I was surprised that I was apparently expected to hate the man when all I knew about him was vaguely "isn't he that Republican candidate that thinks abortion should be the woman's decision?" I don't actually keep up with political news; thinking back, I'm pretty sure I got that idea from overhearing conversation in a bagel shop. Which indicates something is terribly off about my skepticism filters.
[-][anonymous]10y 0

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

0Bugmaster10yThis isn't a bad quote, but I downvoted it anyway, because it's practically a cliche at this point in our popular culture. Sorry :-(
3[anonymous]10yNo worries! I think it kind of illustrates what bias is quite nicely though. I haven't been so "exposed" to it personally but I guess that's because I'm not from a English speaking country, I'll try to think of quote that would actually add something to the list next time. Thanks for stating your reason for downvoting! Cheers!
0Dojan10yI've never heard it...
3bcoburn10yAlso really badly needs to be applied to itself. So many words!
0sketerpot10yI disagree. The symmetry of the "nothing left to add / nothing left to take away" phrasing is important to the poetry of the phrase. That matters.
0Nic_Smith10yWarrigal previously suggested "Perfection is lack of excess [http://lesswrong.com/lw/53k/rationality_quotes_april_2011/3uog?context=2#comments] ."
0Normal_Anomaly10yPerfection is efficiency.
0Oscar_Cunningham10yPerfection's fast.
0Normal_Anomaly10yI think "fast" is qualitatively different from "efficient" to the point where the meaning is lost. OTOH, "Perfection's efficient."
1pedanterrific10yThe problem with this notion: which is more perfect, "i c wat u dd thar" or "I see what you did there"?
0Normal_Anomaly10y"Nothing left to take away," if it doesn't imply that perfection is the absence of anything at all, contains an implicit "without causing disfunctionality or other problems." ""i c wat u dd thar" is arguably not even an English sentence. It's also arguably an aesthetic affront (as is the at first accidental alliteration).
5Bugmaster10yI agree with what you're saying in general, but I'm compelled to point out that, in some specific cases, "i c wat u dd thar" would actually be preferable. For example, such cases include -- just off the top of my head -- humor [http://icanhascheezburger.com/], parody, satire, and characterization (in a fictional narrative).
4Normal_Anomaly10yTrue. In those cases, i c wat u dd thar" is fully functional, more so than "I see what you did there."
2pedanterrific10yADBOC. Well, if you have something against textspeak (or txtspk, compare newspeak) how about acronyms, such as 'laser'? The analogy seems to hold: as long as you agree beforehand on their meaning - as, indeed, must be done with all words - the brevity would be a virtue. Though, I suppose, YMMV. Agree with the first, strongly disagree with the second.

“Uniformity is death. Diversity is life”

Mikhaïl Bakounine

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.


They say when you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

They underestimate me.

-A Softer World

9wedrifid10yThat's terrible advice. Far better to spend that time thinking of a better attack plan. Make sure it includes contingencies to deal with anyone who may wish to avenge whoever you are killing.
6MichaelGR10yMy understanding is that the advice is to be aware that you could also end up dead, so you should dig an extra grave for yourself. It's not practical advice, it's a warning that revenge is dangerous and not worth it.
3MixedNuts10yI think the point of the quote is that it's yet better to spend that time doing productive things unrelated to revenge, given that generating enough such contingencies is pretty costly. Edit: Actually, wedrifid is right.
8wedrifid10yNo, it isn't. That is another point that could be made in the general area of "Boo Revenge". The most useful point that is conveyed, via assuming it as a premise, is that taking revenge is dangerous. I argue that quotes don't (or rather shouldn't) get credit for all possible supporting arguments for the general position they are applauding.
2Jack10yBoy, Less Wrong can be really literal-minded sometimes.

So because the numbers were defined with eight examples, no example explicitly showing associativity or commutivity, it's hard to see why there's no license to arbitrarily choose a modulus for each number?

Or perhaps we only feel like we can do that if that would let us make two sides of an equation equal? As if the implicit rule connoted by the examples was "if two sides of an equation can be interpreted as "equal", one must declare them "equal", where "equal" is defined as amounting to the same, whatever modular operations must be done to make it so? So the definitions are incomplete without an example of something that does not equal something else?

9Manfred10yIt's not just about 8 examples - with any number of examples it would be perfectly valid to insert something like 6 = 1. And so there's an additional axiom in Peano arithmetic that has to explicitly rule it out (if you're talking about numbers that way). Not super-shocking.
8Alejandro110yMy interpretation of the original quote was to take "see that 5 + 4 is not 6" as "prove that you cannot prove that 5 + 4 = 6", in other words, "prove that Peano's arithmetic is consistent". Maybe I was too influenced by this [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/7u2/edward_nelson_claims_proof_of_inconsistency_in/] .
3Manfred10yI think that's a way better interpretation :D
5[anonymous]10yMy understanding is that given those eight definitions, it is impossible to prove any inequalities, because no inequality is given as an axiom, nor any properties that are true of some numbers but not others.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill

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4MBlume10ybeen done at least once, but it's a good one =)
0lukeprog10yOops! For some reason my first search didn't turn it up.
[-][anonymous]10y 0

It does not do to dwell on dreams... and forget to live.

  • Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
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