I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions

by Multiheaded2 min read25th Jan 2012866 comments


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You folks probably know how some posters around here, specifically Vladimir_M, often make statements to the effect of:


"There's an opinion on such-and-such topic that's so against the memeplex of Western culture, we can't even discuss it in open-minded, pseudonymous forums like Less Wrong as society would instantly slam the lid on it with either moral panic or ridicule and give the speaker a black mark.

Meanwhile the thought patterns instilled in us by our upbringing would lead us to quickly lose all interest in the censored opinion"

Going by their definition, us blissfully ignorant masses can't even know what exactly those opinions might be, as they would look like basic human decency, the underpinnings of our ethics or some other such sacred cow to us. I might have a few guesses, though, all of them as horrible and sickening as my imagination could produce without overshooting and landing in the realm of comic-book evil:

- Dictatorial rule involving active terror and brutal suppression of deviants having great utility for a society in the long term, by providing security against some great risk or whatever.

- A need for every society to "cull the weak" every once in a while, e.g. exterminating the ~0.5% of its members that rank as weakest against some scale.

- Strict hierarchy in everyday life based on facts from the ansectral environment (men dominating women, fathers having the right of life and death over their children, etc) - Mencius argued in favor of such ruthless practices, e.g. selling children into slavery, in his post on "Pronomianism" and "Antinomianism", stating that all contracts between humans should rather be strict than moral or fair, to make the system stable and predictable; he's quite obsessed with stability and conformity.

- Some public good being created when the higher classes wilfully oppress and humiliate the lower ones in a ceremonial manner

- The bloodshed and lawlessness of periodic large-scale war as a vital "pressure valve" for releasing pent-up unacceptable emotional states and instinctive drives

- Plain ol' unfair discrimination of some group in many cruel, life-ruining ways, likewise as a pressure valve

+:  some Luddite crap about dropping to a near-subsistence level in every aspect of civilization and making life a daily struggle for survival

Of course my methodology for coming up with such guesses was flawed and primitive: I simply imagined some of the things that sound the ugliest to me yet have been practiced by unpleasant cultures before in some form. Now, of course, most of us take the absense of these to be utterly crucial to our terminal values. Nevertheless, I hope I have demonstrated to whoever might really have something along these lines (if not necessarily that shocking) on their minds that I'm open to meta-discussion, and very interested how we might engage each other on finding safe yet productive avenues of contact.


Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

P.S. Yeah, Will, I realize that I'm acting roughly in accordance with that one trick you mentioned way back.

P.P.S. Sup Bakkot. U mad? U jelly?




Fuck this Earth, and fuck human biology. I'm not very distressed about anything I saw ITT, but there's still a lot of unpleasant potential things that can only be resolved in one way:

I hereby pledge to get a real goddamn plastic card, not this Visa Electron bullshit the university saddled us with, and donate at least $100 to SIAI until the end of the year. This action will reduce the probability of me and mine having to live with the consequences of most such hidden horrors. Dixi.

Sometimes it's so pleasant to be impulsive.


Amusing observation: even when the comments more or less match my wild suggestions above, I'm still unnerved by them. An awful idea feels harmless if you keep telling yourself that it's just a private delusion, but the moment you know that someone else shares it, matters begin to look much more grave.


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Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

Watson was right about Africa. Larry Summers was right about women in certain professions. Roissy is right about the state of the sexual marketplace.

Democracy isn't that great. A ghetto/barrio/alternative name for low-class-hell-hole isn't a physical location, its people. Richer people are on average smarter, nicer, prettier than poor people. The more you strive to equalize material opportunities the more meritocracy produces a caste system based on inborn ability. Ideologies actually are as crazy as religions on average. There is no such thing as moral progress and if there is there is no reason to expect we have been experiencing it so far in recorded history, unless you count stuff like more adapted cultures displacing less adapted ones or mammals inheriting the planet from dinosaurs as moral progress. You can't be anything you want, your potential is severely limited at birth. University education creates very little added value. High class people unknowingly wage class war against low class people by promoting liberal social norms that the... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 18

High class people unknowingly wage class war against low class people by promoting liberal social norms that they can handle but induce dysfunction in the lower classes (drug abuse, high divorce rates, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, more violence, ... ).

Roissy recently quoted and linked to a disturbing parable on this:

The Parable Of The Smart Birds

Once there were 3 classes of birds of a feather: Dumb birds, Smart birds and Genius birds. There was also a genius bird of a different feather hanging around. All summer the genius bird of a different feather went around to the smart birds of a feather telling them how ridiculous it was to fly south for the winter — that these atavistic instincts were a terrible legacy from “the bad old days” and gave very sophisticated-sounding arguments that the smart birds of a feather couldn’t quite understand but understood quite well that they’d better pretend to understand lest they be accused of being dumb birds.

Fall cometh. The dumb birds fly south to the derision of the smart birds. The genius birds of a feather think, “I’ve heard the arguments about flying south for the winter being only for dumb birds, but where really do these f

... (read more)
7Multiheaded9yAren't the hypothesis above (could OP please elaborate on which social norms do they perceive as damaging in this way? it's too damn vague) and the parable opposed on who gets hurt and how? It's the lower classes that prove immune to direct destructive propaganda in the parable.
9[anonymous]9yYou are right, it is a somewhat different example. I considered it a case of genius birds using their smarts to eliminate competition of smart birds, while not realizing they do so. But even in the original context the High classes aren't really competing with the underclass for anything like a socioeconomic niche, it is the people who need cultural adaptations or rely on more vunrelable support structures (because of their more modest material means), to make it to the upper class that need to be kept out. By attacking their cultural adaptations and support structures you can significantly reduce competition. Attacking the cultural adaptations of the lower classes might make them more useful tools for maintaining anarchy-tyranny [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_T._Francis#Anarcho-tyranny] but isn't directly beneficial. I didn't interpret the parable as being literally about the evolution of the biology of various classes, I did however see it as being about the evolution of cultural norms and intellectual fashion.

Too much ethnic diversity kills liberal social democracy.

This one really doesn't belong on the list. The political science research showing a negative correlation between support for the welfare state and ethnic diversity is widely known and not-at-all secret.

[-][anonymous]9y 15

This one really doesn't belong on the list.

It probably should have been given as something like "Diversity is not strength." to make apparent its political implications as well as cover other cases.

technology has indirectly caused millions of deaths by directly causing enough food to create millions of lives.

Technology has indirectly prevented millions of deaths by directly providing easy means of birth control.

However, now I am getting silly.

Scientific and technological progress has indirectly caused millions upon millions of deaths that would not have occurred in the absence of scientific-technological progress.

It has also directly saved millions upon millions of lives.

8Jack9yDoes this really belong or am I just lacking the requisite emotional abhorrence regarding its obvious truth?
[-][anonymous]9y 17

In practice LessWrongers invoke directly or implicitly moral progress all the time. Like this.

They also sometimes invoke "well people changed their opinions in the past on case A, B and C, surely we will change our minds on D too!". Taking the idea of moral progress seriously, its perfectly fine to say that no thank you but you'd prefer not to change your vales to pattern match arbitrary historical processes (and further more a potentially flawed pattern match of historical processes!), so you are not changing your opinion on D.

This is even true for people who happen to disagree with modern stances on A, B or C. Preserving one's values is most likley a prerequisite for maximising expected utility. In this sense all of human history has been a horrible tragedy with the vast majority of people (including people alive today), being born in a uncaring universe with a practical guarantee of an alien valueless future.

5Multiheaded9yI agree, but (sheer projection follows) I don't think that our minds can handle that thought in sufficient detail at all without just deciding to give up and play a videogame instead. I.e. such statements might indeed be unproductive and self-destructive for anyone, in any context (although I'm not sure how unproductive or self-destructive).
3John_Maxwell9yHey, people are taking you seriously even though you're not justifying your beliefs. That's not fair.

GLaDOS has extensively discussed many of these issues on the past if you check out her comment history. I think the average LessWrong reader considers most of the statements both plausible and clearly at least partially stuff that might be suppressed via lowered status or other negative consequences.

Its actually a quite good and convincing list, since her first three examples are clearly people who have suffered negative consequences or at least status hits because they held them. Watson and Summers are pretty self-explanatory. Roissy seems to have suffered infamy for his opinions so far. But he allegedly had some problems when his "real" identity was leaked at a time, the people who "revealed it" did so with the hope of hurting him. So clearly the opinions that he holds are by most people classified as of that kind.

Such users may up vote it or read it, but definitely won't down vote it in this thread. Also there are probably people who find many of the statements on the list basically "sky is blue" stuff.

I found only the last statement on the list as something that I'd put a confidence below 0.9 on, but she did provide a link to a blog that discusses it quite widely (haven't yet had time to read the key posts there properly).

Note that there is a subtler mechanism than brute suppression that puts strict limits on our effective thoughtspace: the culture systematically distracts us from thinking about the deep, important questions by loudly and constantly debating superficial ones. Here are some examples:

  • Should the US go to war in Iraq? vs. Should the US have an army?
  • Should we pay teachers more? vs. Should public education exist?
  • Should healthcare guaranteed by the federal government? vs Should the federal government be disbanded?
  • Should we bail out the banks? vs. Should we ban long term banking?
  • Should we allow same-sex marriage? vs. Should marriage have any legal relevance?

Notice how the sequence of psychological subterfuge works. First, the culture throws in front of you a gaudy, morally charged question. Then various pundits present their views, using all the manipulative tactics they have developed in a career of professional opinion-swaying. You look around yourself and find all the other primates engaged in a heated debate about the question. Being a social animal, you are inclined to imitate them: you are likely to develop your own position, argue about it publicly, take various stands, etc. Since we reason to argue, you will spend a lot of time thinking about this question. Now you are committed, firstly to your stand on the explicit question, but also to your implicit position that the question itself is well-formulated.

Everyone's favorite effigy Moldbug calls this "defining the null hypothesis."

fair disclosure: I don't think Moldbug is good for much more than clever turns of phrase.

8MugaSofer8yBehold, I come from the distant future year of 2013! I don't know if this was true in early 2012, but I regularly see this point brought up during discussions of same-sex marriage, often by people who seem to think this is a revolutionary insight which no-one in the discussion has seen a thousand times before. So this may not be an example of this, at least not anymore.

It's posts like this that make me wish for a limited-access forum for discussing these issues, something along the lines of an Iconoclastic Conspiracy.

The set of topics too inflammatory for LW to talk about sanely seems pretty small (though not empty), but there's a considerably larger set of topics too politically sensitive for us to safely discuss without the site taking a serious status hit. This basically has nothing to do with our intra-group rationality: no matter how careful we are in our approach, taking (say) anarcho-primitivism seriously is going to alienate some potential audiences, and the more taboo subjects we broach the more alienation we'll get. This is true even if the presentation is entirely apolitical: I've talked to people who were so squicked by Torture vs. Dust Specks as to be permanently turned off the site. On the other hand (and perhaps more relevantly to the OP), as best I can tell there's nothing uniquely horrible about any particular taboo subject, and most that I can think of aren't terribly dangerous in isolation: it's volume that causes problems.

Now, it's tempting to say "fuck 'em if they can't take it", but this really is a bad thing ... (read more)

The set of topics too inflammatory for LW to talk about sanely seems pretty small (though not empty), but there's a considerably larger set of topics too politically sensitive for us to safely discuss without the site taking a serious status hit

And it's not just the site in general, it's also the participants. Some of the stances that have been mentioned in this thread are considered so toxic within some circles that anyone even discussing them risks becoming very unpopular in such circles. At worst, everyone who's known to be an LW regular will be presumed to hold such opinions, regardless of whether or not they've actually even participated in such discussions.

I don't have a problem with such topics being sometimes touched upon, but if they were regularly and extensively discussed, I could imagine getting a little nervous about using my real name here.

7steven04619yYou meant "known to be an LW regular", right?

Specifically, I think this line has already been crossed with multiple polyamory discussions. When I started reading this site (while still being a religiously observant Jew) this is the sort of thing that might have quickly classified LW as a 'bunch of hippies who look for "rational" reasons to operate outside of social norms'.

I think there are good reasons to discuss this specific topic as a test case for rationality, but people need to be acutely aware of the tradeoffs.

More specifically if SI gains enough prominence to be noticed by news outlets I'd prefer more of this image

and less of this

8[anonymous]9yOn the other side of things, coming in as a poly person from the midwest, the openness on the topic is one of the things that really drew me. Around here (Ohio), one NEVER talks about such things, unless you happen to be in a poly-specific forum, or with your poly friends. It seems like the rationalist/skeptic community is the one exception to this, and I find it a breath of fresh air: A community that isn't there specifically as a poly group, but where it's not a completely taboo subject either. Even before I personally ever identified as poly, I don't think it would have bothered me to see it mentioned here. But I can see how more socially conservative folk would be put off by it. I don't know if that's our target audience, though.
3Nornagest9yYou just had to bring up the one controversial issue popular on LW that I actually have an identity stake in, didn't you? You might be right, though. Poly doesn't set off my "dangerously controversial" flags, but that's probably selection bias talking; I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and run in fairly countercultural circles. Now that I'm actually thinking about it I can definitely see how it'd bring up strong negative associations in a lot of cultures. On the other hand, I don't think the LW consensus holds it up as a universally preferable relationship model, either -- but if it's a taboo rather than a merely controversial position, that doesn't actually matter. And I'd hardly call it essential to instrumental rationality. Which leaves the question of where the line should be drawn. I'd say Alicorn's " Polyhacking [http://lesswrong.com/lw/79x/polyhacking/]" is one of the best posts here on the instrumental side of the instrumental/epistemic divide, and I'd hate to see similar content relegated to conspiratorial mailing lists -- but it's hard to imagine a post more perfectly calibrated to trigger avoidance instincts in someone with a polyamory taboo. Adding more context or disclaimers would probably not be effective. The implicit policy so far seems to have been to ignore traditionalist taboos, presumably on the assumption that anyone with deeply rooted traditionalist instincts is unteachable, but I'm not sure if that's a good idea.
8[anonymous]9yThis seems like a generally good idea. What would be your specific proposal? Members only forum? High karma only? invite only? A while ago, I took x-risk very seriously, and the best solution I could come up with was anarcho-primitivism. FAI is a much better solution.

What would be your specific proposal? Members only forum? High karma only? invite only?

I should probably mention that this has been discussed before. An invitation-only mailing list was the proposal being thrown around back then, but some fairly reasonable-sounding objections were also brought up. I'm not sure whether the signaling problems of organizing (as pedanterrific put it) secret-society stuff outweigh the signaling problems of discussing the same subjects publicly (though I suspect the former is preferable), or whether either one brings a net gain over not discussing them at all (less sure about this one), but in light of the OP I thought it was worth revisiting.

9Nornagest9yAfter thinking about this a bit more, I think it's pretty clear that integrating a limited-access forum for sensitive issues into the LW site structure would be a bad idea; it's security through obscurity, not doing much to dissociate controversial opinions from LW in the eyes of the public or the media and almost certainly not secure against anyone determined to dig up such opinions. A less focused forum with the same access restrictions might actually be a better idea: it looks less like we're running a secret society and more like we want to keep our public-facing image on message. Private social forums are quite common on large websites. That has its own problems, though, starting with the fact that we already have a Discussion section that does its job quite well, and that privatizing it would complicate outreach: a lot of people make their first posts on Discussion. A private mailing list run by people unaffiliated with SingInst or the LW administration might have most of the desired qualities, though; it could be kept low-key with little effort, pseudonymy relative to LW is easy to set up, discussions would be persistent, and high-karma posters on LW can say conversations are appropriate for the list without necessarily appearing to endorse its content. Which is about what the first people to bring it up were thinking, but it's nice to have some explicit reasoning behind it.
8Solvent9yI am intrigued by the idea of a high karma only forum personally, with the karma bar set just below wherever I am currently, of course. In particular, maybe we'd be allowed to discuss politics in the high karma forum. The "no politics" rule is a shame, I think, because I'm sure we'd get something out of it. I understand that PITMK, but a high karma forum could get around that.
7Polymeron9yI'm finding it difficult to think of an admission criterion to the conspiracy that would not ultimately result in even larger damage than discussing matters openly in the first place. To clarify: It's only a matter of time before the conspiracy leaks, and when it does, the public would take its secrecy as further damning evidence. Perhaps the one thing you could do is keep the two completely separate on paper (and both public). Guilt by association would still be easy to invoke once the overlapping of forum participants is discovered, but that is much weaker than actually keeping a secret society discussing such issues.

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

  • Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.
  • A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".
  • Atheists assume that self-identified atheists are representative of non-religious people and use flattering data about self-identified atheists to draw (likely) false conclusions about the world being better without religion. The expected value of arguing for atheism is small and quite possibly negative.
  • Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.
  • Nerd culture is increasingly hyper-permissive and basically juvenile and stultifying. Nerds were better off when they had to struggle to meet society's expectations for normal behavior.

I would also like to endorse GLaDOS's excellent list.

  • Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.
  • A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".

Agreed except for the part about Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard. I think it's actually doing better then most gatherings of smart people attempting to reorganize society. Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

  • Atheists assume that self-identified atheists are representative of non-religious people and use flattering data about self-identified atheists to draw (likely) false conclusions about the world being better without religion. The expected value of arguing for atheism is small and quite possibly negative.


  • Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.

You've never li... (read more)

Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

What makes you say that? Reading "lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago" makes me think RAND Corporation.

As someone who has read many RAND papers and their retrospectives about the people in RAND 50 years ago, I strongly agree - if nothing else, because of RAND's early computer work like constructing MANIAC and developing decision and game theory.

Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.

You've never lived under a dictatorship have you? I strongly disagree with the above statement and think it's another good example of your first point.

AFAIK dictatorships are higher variance than democracies, but on average they aren't too differerent (in terms of GDP at least). Most intuitive explanation: a good dictator can do really good things and a bad dictator can do really bad things, but good and bad democracies aren't able to do as much good/bad because the political system moves like molasses.

4Mercy9yThis is the common wisdom at the moment but it's far too short-termist. All theories are provisional and eventually your enlightened dictator will find themselves on the wrong side of history and need to be removed. Of course you can build a democracy which can't do that and a dictatorship which can but I suspect the "moves like molasses" aspect moves with this quality and not the voting ritual.
3Eugine_Nier9yIdeally doing good things shouldn't be dependent on the political system. Edit: I just realized the most obvious reading of this comment isn't the one I intended. I meant that the political system's job should be to get out of the way of the people trying to create good things.

You've never lived under a dictatorship have you? I strongly disagree with the above statement and think it's another good example of your first point.

The Ceteris Paribus is important. The fact that you can think of a lot of democracies that are nice places to live and dictatorships that are lousy isn't good evidence that democracy is beneficial in itself. I view democracy as an extremely expensive concession to primitive equality norms that primitive agriculturalists can't afford. But it isn't a luxury worth buying.

How many cetera can you require to be paria before you're creating an implicit No True Scotsman?

It's quite possible, and indeed I find the idea highly persuasive, that while dictatorships may not necessarily cause all sorts of unpleasant things (oppression, civil war, corruption, etc.), they do make those unpleasant things much more likely due to more hidden structural flaws (e.g. lack of an outlet for dissatisfaction).

That proposition sounds to me a bit like saying "ceteris paribus, driving at 230km/h will get you to your destination much faster".

Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

60's LessWrong would be Ayn Rand's Objectivism rather than some yet another interpretation of Marxism.

[-][anonymous]9y 19

It might be the error where "X years ago" counts back from 2000 instead of the current year.

A lot of us pro-market liberaltarian types would have been Marxists before the last 50 years of overwhelming evidence in favor of capitalism came in...

I often get the impression, from young american consequentialist libertarians, that they would be socialists in any other country. Certainly they don't resemble right-libertarians elsewhere, or older american libertarians. And conversely your socialist organisations are missing their usual complement of precocious hippy cynics

Can you unpack these intuitions? As a young American consequentialist vacillating between socialism and libertarianism, I'm very curious.

9RichardKennaway9yBear in mind that LessWrong has not actually reorganised society yet.

Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.

Pff, this one is so normal it has an obligatory link :D

5Eugine_Nier9yAnother relevant link [http://szabo.best.vwh.net/tradition.html].

Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. [...]

While I agree, I disapprove because my impression is that this is not an opinion suppressed much in the outside culture. I can well imagine it being an unpopular one here at Less Wrong, but in the world at large I see widespread support for similar opinions, such as among "conservatives" (in a loose sense) complaining about how "intellectuals" (ditto) were and are overly supportive of Communism, and complaints against "technocrats" and "ivory towers" in general. I also see disagreement with this, but not tabooing of it.

My agreement is based on the opinion appearing to be congruent with the quip "Evolution is smarter than you are", or the similar principle of "Chesterton's Fence".

I also get the impression that this is often because smart people don't see the value of the institutions to smart people. (This may be because it doesn't have such value.) For instance:

A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".

I'm fairly confident LessWrongers could engage in polyamory this without significant social dysfunction or suffering, let alone death on a massive scale. (BTW: I couldn't find any articles here by that title. Are you referring to a general tendency, or did I fail at searching?)

Using Chesterton's Fence here is a little misleading.

The whole rationale behind Chesterton's Fence is that clearly someone put the fence there, and it seems pretty likely that whoever that was was just as capable as I am of concluding (given what I know) that putting a fence here is absurd, and it seems pretty likely that they know everything I know, and therefore I can conclude with reasonable confidence that they knew relevant things I don't know that made them conclude that putting a fence here is worth doing, and therefore I should significantly reduce my confidence that putting a fence here is absurd.

Using the same rationale for natural phenomena doesn't really work... there's a reason it isn;t Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

You can, of course, put natural selection in the role of fence-builder, which seems to be what you're doing. But actually there's lots of areas where humans are smarter than evolution. At the very least, humans respond to novel situations a whole lot faster.

I'd actually extend that from natural phenomena to any sufficiently complex system. I spend a lot of my time working with a codebase that dates back to about 1993 and has been accumulating tweaks and refactors ever since; there's enough obscure side-effects that it's often a good idea to make a good-faith search for unusual consequences of seemingly vestigial code, but more often than not I don't turn up anything. I can be fairly confident that any particular code segment was originally put in place for a reason, if not necessarily a very good reason, but if I understand the rest of the local architecture well and I can't figure out why something's there, it's more than likely that all the original reasons for it have succumbed to bit rot.

Societies are one of the better examples of Katamari Damacy architecture that I can think of outside computer science, so it seems to me that a similar approach might be warranted. Which isn't to say that you can get away with not doing your homework, nor that most aspiring social architects have done so to any reasonable standard.

[-][anonymous]9y 15

Using the same rationale for natural phenomena doesn't really work... there's a reason it isn;t Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

Isn't this one of the arguments sometimes invoked in favour of environmentalism?

Hm, this sucks, a bunch of birds are eating part of our harvest each year. Lets get rid of them!. Changing some things in your natural envrionment that you aren't quite sure of what they do or why they are there, might be a very bad idea.

Also it as argument that can be used in medicine. It can be a bad idea to take something to artificiality reduce your fever for example. Changing some things in your own body that you aren't quite sure of what they do or why they are there, is probably a very bad idea.

I would say that for societal adaptations that have come into being without design the case is stronger than with the natural environment but weaker than with your own body. Maybe there should be a thing like Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

Sure, changing some things in my natural environment might be a very bad idea.
Failing to change some things in my natural environment might be a very bad idea too.

And, yes, human history is a long series of decisions along these lines: do we build habitations, or keep living in caves? Do we build roads, cities, power grids, airplanes, trains? Do we mine the earth for fuel, for building materials, for useful chemicals? Do we burn fuel on a large scale? Do we develop medicines and tools that interfere with the natural course of biological development when that course is uncomfortable? Etc. Etc. Etc.

Mostly, humanity's answer is "Yes." If we can do it, we typically do, just 'cuz.

Have we thereby caused bad consequences? Sure.

Have we thereby caused net bad consequences? Well, I suppose that depends on what you value, and on what you consider the likeliest counterfactual states, but if you think we have I'd love to hear your reasons.

Me, I think we're unambiguously better off for having chopped Chesterton's Fallen Tree into firewood and burned it to keep warm through Chesterton's Deadly Winter. And in practice, when I see a fallen tree in my yard, I don't devote a noticeable amount of time to evaluating the possible important-but-nonobvious benefits it is providing by lying there before I deal with it.

Gall's law:

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.

5[anonymous]9yThis might lead us to contemplate the most terrifying and unthinkable proposition yet, not named anywhere else on this thread -- that, perhaps, Stephen Wolfram was right! [http://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/toc.html]
6ErikM9yI am surprised and confused. I would have thought that the analogy to evolution would be the one objected to first, as I think of social institutions first as things instituted by someone and second as things subject to vaguely evolution-like processes. (They are modified over time, imperfectly replicated across countries, and a lot more fail than survive.)
5TheOtherDave9yInteresting. I haven't given this a lot of thought, but my intuition is the opposite of yours... I think of most social constructs as evolved over time rather than intentionally constructed for a purpose.

As a former Evangelical Polyamorist, now a born-again Monogamist, I enthusiastically endorse items 1 & 2 in this comment.

It can be thought of as the cultural equivalent of Algernon's Law - any small cultural change is a net evolutionary disadvantage. I might add "previously accessible to our ancestors", since the same principle doesn't apply to newly accessible changes, which weren't previously available for cultural optimism. This applies to organizing via websites. It does not apply to polyamory (except inasmuch as birth control, std prevention, and paternity testings may have affected the relevant tradeoffs, though limited to the degree that our reactions are hardwired and relevant).

6mwengler9yIt seems dictatorships work better (actually I can't think of an example off hand) AND wildly worse. Dictatorships compared to republic is like male compared to female: the main difference is just a much wider spread. So you wind up rolling a much bigger set of dice with dictatorships and then survivorship bias and human bias towards picking off the high spots makes the result look good. Further, would a dicatatorship work well for long in the absence of republics from which it could steal ideas? I don't think there is a dicatatorship with a good record of innovation and technological development. (Hitler's Germany SPENT technical capital it had accumulated before, Hitler didn't last long enough to see if Germany would have been the exception). North Korea, ceteris paribus, does not seem to have been helped by dictatorship.
4knb9yOn the other hand, South Korea was a dictatorship until 1987 and did extremely well during those years.
[-][anonymous]9y 63

Here's some nice controversial things for you:

  • Given functional birth control and non-fucked family structure, incest is fine and natural and probably a good experience to have.

  • Pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation, even if it expressing it IRL is bad (which it is not). Child porn should not be suppressed (tho some of it is documentation of crime and should be investigated).

  • Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

  • Child sexual consent hits the same issues as child acting or any other thing that parents can allow, and should not be treated differently from those issues.

  • Self identity is a problem.

  • EDIT: most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps.

Less controversial in LW, but still bad to say outside:

  • Race, class and subculture are the most useful pieces of information when judging a person.

I run out of ideas.

EDIT: in case it's not clear, I take all these ideas seriously. I would actually appreciate a discussion on these topics with LW.

EDIT: this was productive! I've seriously updated one way or the other on many of these ideas. Thanks for pointing out truths and holes everyone! :)

[-][anonymous]9y 56

most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps.

I think It would be technically illegal for me to participate or update away from my default position in such a hypothetical debate.

I agree that this doesn't say good things about where you live.

As long as you hold onto the basic idea that extermination was the goal, and they were accidentally assisted by the destruction of infrastructure (which also was instrumental in preventing the rest of them from being killed), is that really downplaying the atrocities?

That said, I don't know if that claim is really true.

Assuming by highest likelihood that you're German, my reading of the relevant section of the criminal code suggest that it's OK for you to debate in Internet fora:

(3) Whosoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or downplays an act committed under the rule of National Socialism of the kind indicated insection 6 (1) of the Code of International Criminal Law, in a manner capable of disturbing the public peace shall be liable to imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine.

(4) Whosoever publicly or in a meeting disturbs the public peace in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims by approving of, glorifying, or justifying National Socialist rule of arbitrary force shall be liable to imprisonment of not more than three years or a fine.

Unless it can be argued that you'd be "disturbing the public peace". But as I understand it, in Germany (and France) it's legal to visit Stormfront, you just cannot promote it.

disturbing the peace is a catchall for "the authorities decided they don't like what you're doing" FYI. Long legal tradition and all that.

3Armok_GoB9yI don't see a problem, unless he claims they wouldn't have killed them eventually if they had won. The claim is "allies helped the nazis do this faster" not "allies did this and nazis did not", but I don't know anything about how law works so I'm probably wrong.

most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps

And the shortage of food in Germany, and everything else that provided a disincentive to feed the people that the party line proclaimed to be innnately hostile and seditious.

When you're literally last on the priority list (well, maybe above Soviet POVs in 1941), every economic difficulty will "cause" you to starve while you could've easily endured it in a society that had a more balanced if utterly cynical opinion of you.

(I find the other things you mentioned to be broadly correct, but not without caveats; moreover, if one goes about it naively without minding such caveats, one would likely do much greater harm to most involved than the current self-deception does.)

Child sexual consent hits the same issues as child acting or any other thing that parents can allow

(Warning: Judging moral claims with System-1 is unreliable.) Thinking that as a kid I could have been allowed to have sex, have had people annoying me with undesired propositions (even after they knew my age), and have had people trying to manipulate me into sex, makes me at most kind of uneasy. Thinking that my parents could have had any kind of say over it gave me a panic attack.

Wow, when I read "should not be treated differently from those issues", I assumed the intention was likely to be "child acting, indoctrination, etc., should be considered abuse and not tolerated by society", a position I would tentatively support (tentatively due to lack of expertise).

Incidentally, I found many of the other claims to be at least plausible and discussion-worthy, if not probably true (and certainly not things that people should be afraid to say).

6[anonymous]9yIs that partially from cultural assumptions about children having sex? What reaction to you get to child acting, religious indoctrination, and such?

Nah, don't think so. Identifiable sources:

  • How I remember feeling about sex as a kid ("A thing that some strange adults do for some reason, like partying all night long or cheering for football players. Irrelevant until further notice. What's for dinner?")
  • How I remember feeling about people who propositioned me online because I had a female username and they didn't know my age (mildly annoyed at the waste of time, mildly icked at those whose propositions were particularly direct, mildly exasperated at the number of people who looked for cybersex in unrelated chatrooms)
  • How I remember feeling and now feel about attempts to manipulate me into saying sexual things (confused and slightly icked by those I can't detect, amused and condescending and mildly exasperated by those I can)
  • How I feel about my parents controlling what I do (bad)

Child acting:

  • "You could have been a child actor": Yeah, sure. I didn't want to, but the idea is kinda neat. Actors are cool.
  • "You could have been pressured by directors into acting when you were a kid": Not cool! Pressure is bad! Pressuring people into jobs is evil and bad and greedy! I would have felt very bad, so I'm
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. Given functional birth control and non-fucked family structure, incest is fine and natural and probably a good experience to have.

The "incest isn't wrong" position isn't novel. The "everyone would be better off if they did" is novel, and I confess I don't understand it at all. Not everyone is attracted to close family members.

. Pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation, even if it expressing it IRL is bad. Child porn should not be suppressed (tho some of it is documentation of crime and should be investigated).

I agree with the first half, but would have phrased the second half as "the ban on computer-generated child pornography should be reversed and indeed subsidized to crowd out pornography using real children".

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

Really? What about for people who don't have access to emergency birth control? Or who were unlucky enough to be raped by someone with an STD? Or who live in a society that murders women who get raped as adulterers? Or just in a society that tends to divide women into "good girls" and "sluts"? (Maybe you meant society's self-fulfillin... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 12

Not everyone is attracted to close family members.

And not everyone is attracted to everyone else, but I see no reason not to be close with your family in this way.

I agree with the first half, but would have phrased the second half as "the ban on computer-generated child pornography should be reversed and indeed subsidized to crowd out pornography using real children".

Why so conservative? How is child porn different from child acting? Assuming consent and all that.

Really? What about for people who don't have access to emergency birth control? Or who were unlucky enough to be raped by someone with an STD? Or who live in a society that murders women who get raped as adulterers? Or just in a society that tends to divide women into "good girls" and "sluts"? (Maybe you meant society's self-fulfilling prophecy in the latter two examples, but it's not the woman's self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Yes, in third world countries, butthurt is not the primary damage caused by rape. I mean in cases without lasting physical effects. Maybe I should have been more clear?

Judging them for what?

pretty much anything besides being an underwear model. Likelyhood to start a fight. Expected value as an employee in most jobs. Intellectual capacity.

Come to think of it, the correlates of race are mostly covered by class and subculture.

I am specifically referring to female rape, because only females are encouraged to consider rape as a devastating or life-wrecking occurrence.

For some, the prevalent notion of "rape is something that doesn't happen to men" seems to make the feelings of shame after being raped even worse. Female rape is commonly considered horrific and something where the victim needs support; male rape isn't always even acknowledged as something that exists.

See e.g. The Rape of Men.

"That was hard for me to take," Owiny tells me today. "There are certain things you just don't believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women's stories. But nobody has heard the men's." [...]

It reminds me of a scene described by Eunice Owiny: "There is a married couple," she said. "The man has been raped, the woman has been raped. Disclosure is easy for the woman. She gets the medical treatment, she gets the attention, she's supported by so many organisations. But the man is inside, dying."

"In a nutshell, that's exactly what happens," Dolan agrees. "Part of the a

... (read more)

only females are encouraged to consider rape as a devastating or life-wrecking occurrence.

Wait... what?

I may not be tracking, here. Are you suggesting that as a class, men who are raped aren't as emotionally affected as women who are raped? Or that if they are, it's for some reason other than social encouragement? Something else?


Expressing a controversial opinion doesn't condone being immature or disrespectful.

Beyond that, I have two questions for you:

1) How much confidence do you place in your statement on the impact of female rape in first-world countries?

2) If the answer to (1) is greater than "very little", on what sort of direct or indirect knowledge of the phenomenon do you base this confidence?

3[anonymous]9yU mad? More seriously, you're right, I could have used a better word. Which statement?
8Prismattic9yI still don't get it, and am genuinely trying to figure out what the inferential gap is. It sort of sounds like you're saying sex produces the warm fuzzies of closer social bonding regardless of whether the participants are attracted to each other. If that is what you are saying, then that sounds like the typical mind fallacy at work. I, for one, would not get warm fuzzies from sex with someone unattractive whether they are related to me or not. If that's not what you are saying, please clarify.
4[anonymous]9yNope. I just mean mean it's totally OK to be attracted and so on. It's less radical than you seem to think.
5Prismattic9yMy original response didn't disagree with that. I wasn't objecting to the "incest is fine" part. I was specifically challenging '...and is probably a good experience to have" as being an overgeneralization that is untrue for many, and probably, most people.

How is it different than saying "Sex is fine, and is probably a good experience to have" in response to puritanical notions about celibacy? Nowhere does it say it should be mandatory or that you absolutely have to have sex with anyone who asks.

6Prismattic9y"Sex (insert qualifiers of your choosing) is immoral" is a normative claim. "Many people are not attracted to family members, and sex with an unattractive partner does not provide warm fuzzies" is an empirical claim. "Sex is probably a good experience to have" is challenging the validity of the moral claim. "Sex with people you aren't attracted to is probably a good experience to have"... do I really need to provide further refutation once it's stated like that?

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

"Life After Rape" is a good (aside from "there is no sex in rape" being false in an important sense) elaboration on (one construal of) this.

An analogous idea, that other people on this thread have come close to but not exactly said, is 'spreading the meme of democracy to non-democratic societies causes needless suffering by making people feel oppressed, when their extrapolated volition if you hadn't done so wouldn't have come to care in the same way.'

9Nornagest9yOut of curiosity, what do you mean here by "self identity"? I originally parsed it as "membership in identity groups" per Keep Your Identity Small [http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html], but on rereading I notice that it might also make sense as something along the lines of "having ego boundaries".
[-][anonymous]9y 14

I mean both, incidentally. Identity in the Paul Graham sense is the mindkiller.

In the ego sense, I mean that we should seek to cast off identification with our work, so that work becomes about the work not about signaling or growing your reputation. Also, this means not being constrained to try to defend your past actions. This is quite hard, but is made somewhat easier on the internet, especially in paces where anonymous posting is allowed. Being unattached like this also enables you to try new creative things with much lower social cost of failure. This is one of the big theories for why 4chan is so successful as a cultural center when compared with, say, facebook.

EDIT: I also hold that identity is probably a problem in the philosophical sense where you might be considering joining consciousness with someone (or many someones) else.

9Eugine_Nier9yPlease, that statement becomes more controversial if you negate it.
7DanielLC9yBirth-control isn't natural, so how can incest using it be? I'd expect that it would generally be awkward, but it's fine beyond that. I agree with the first half whole-heartedly. I'm not convinced that expressing it in real life is bad. I never thought of that, but it doesn't seem that unlikely. The obvious way to check would be to find out how rape victims deal with it in cultures with different views on how they would deal with it.
8[anonymous]9yMaybe natural isn't the right word. I mean it's not some immoral abomination, it's probably the same moral status as masturbation. I can imagine an alternative moral history where it is normal, and not awkward at all. It doesn't seem like a moral disaster, so I can only conclude that it must be OK. I'm not entirely either, but I forgot to dispute the whole "consent" thing, which would have to go away to make it ok IRL. My reasoning here is that when people get brutally beaten or otherwise humiliated where there's social pressure to "man up and get over it", they don't turn into a bawwfest basket case the way some rape victims do, where there is social pressure to be a bawwfest basket case. I have not personally been raped, and have seen no studies, so there isn't much evidence, but this seems most plausible. EDIT: Also, the fact that it's taboo to say this is evidence that it's true.

I have not personally been raped, and have seen no studies, so there isn't much evidence, but this seems most plausible.

Have you personally met many people who were raped?
Come to that, have you met many people who were brutally beaten?

I haven't met many, but I've known emotionally traumatized people in both categories, and I've known people in both categories who seemed to shrug it off.

Incidentally, if I've mischaracterized what you meant by "bawwfest" by reframing it as emotional trauma, let me know. I don't really know what you mean by the term, over and above the intention to be dismissive of its referent.

6DanielLC9yI'd say that natural things are vastly more likely to be immoral abominations on the basis that artificial things are created by people who have a moral compass and try to avoid immoral abominations, whereas natural things are created by Azathoth with the single goal of genetic fitness no matter how unspeakably cruel it is. I find it odd that consent wouldn't be assumed. You never hear people say that extramarital sex is bad on the assumption that they're talking about rape.
5[anonymous]9yMany things sound plausible to us when we construct narratives, but they are not necessarily true [http://lesswrong.com/lw/im/hindsight_devalues_science/]. And the fact of something being 'taboo' to say is weak evidence at best for its truth value. You seem to be giving a whole lot of credence to your alternate theory without doing much investigation or looking up studies.
7[anonymous]9yHmmm, I begin to wonder if my assumptions about the typical person's attitude towards incest and pedophilia are based on some black magic a la: http://eugenicist.tumblr.com/post/11786816885/public-opinion-versus-public-opinion [http://eugenicist.tumblr.com/post/11786816885/public-opinion-versus-public-opinion]
6Armok_GoB9yYes. Especially considering how often paedophilia is used as an excuse by various governments and organizations to commit their own arguably much worse atrocities.
3[anonymous]7yIf you mean “the most useful pieces of information you could possibly have” that sounds obviously wrong (I mean, if I had to choose whether to hire someone for some job, and I could either know their race, class and subculture or how good they would be at that job, why shouldn't I choose the latter?), and if you mean “the most useful pieces of information when judging a person you know nothing else about” that's true but tautological, so what do you actually mean? I guess something like ‘among some set X of possible pieces of information you could know about someone, race, class and subculture are the most useful’, but it's not clear at all to me what set X would be.
8TheOtherDave7yFWIW, I understood this to mean that they are the highest ROI pieces of information... that is, their value compared to the effort to obtain them is high, relative to other information (like how good someone would be at this job). I think that's false, also, but it seems coherent enough.
3[anonymous]9yOne possibility to be considered while evaluating where the emotional impact of rape comes from is that women's emotional responses evolved in an environment where emergency birth control was not an available option. That would lead to traumatic responses even in first world countries where women are not ostracized for being 'damaged goods' on account of being raped.

One argument for castrating rapists is that rape is (among other things) a reproductive strategy, and there may be a genetic predilection to pursue it. As such, eliminating rapists from the gene pool will reduce the efficacy of that reproductive strategy, and thus over generations eliminate the genetic predilection and therefore reduce rape — even if it doesn't work at all as a deterrent.

Of course, this also forms an argument for mandatory abortion in case of rape. Which is not somewhere I'd like to go. In both cases (castration and mandatory abortion) we have violation of bodily integrity, which has historically been a bit of a Schelling point for the legitimate reach of law, since the abolition of juridical torture.

7ShardPhoenix9yAside from any other issues, I doubt this would be very effective due to the wide grey area involving things like date rape or even just pressuring someone for sex.

LWers are largely too confident in the conclusiveness of the research they cite for some of their beliefs.

"Many (and probably most) animals also have gender in the sense that individuals with penises behave in certain ways, and individuals with ovaries behave in other ways, despite not having memes." It would be surprising if H. sapiens were very different.

(The obviousness-in-retrospect of this argument, stated so straightforwardly, combined with the fact that I almost never hear it stated so straightforwardly and never thought of it myself, makes me update towards culture being able to non-obviously derange debates like this to a really high degree. Far mode isn't naturally about truth.)

[-][anonymous]9y 11

Well that changes things.

And yes that is disturbing.

... though it's worth keeping in mind that "the details of how gender works are made up" is still true to a pretty large extent (≥ the extent to which cross-cultural variation in gender exists); it's just that, like all culture, they're made up in a way generated/constrained by primate behavior, which has a lot of sex-dependence.

4[anonymous]9yyes. I still think gender is a stupid idea and has large components of made-upness.
8TimS9yYes, that's obviously true. What social-contested behaviors of men and women can be resolved only by reference to that fact? The feminist argument need not reject that most behaviors of men and women are different - that's plainly true. (Men pee standing up, women ovulate). The issue is what proportion of behaviors important in modern society are sexually determined. If the answer is anything but all of them, then the argument that gender != sex is well founded.
8WrongBot9yIt hurts me that I've never heard or thought of this point before, given the obviousness-in-retrospect. What other obvious mistakes am I making?
7[anonymous]9yOn the other hand, are they reliably reproduced across wide genetic distances? Some species differentiate relatively little in just a few specific scenarios like behaviors related to reproduction (wolverines; for a more marked example, many fireflies). Some differ pretty much not at all (many sharks). Some are strongly differentiated from our own expressions of that difference (seahorses). Some have both high behavioral dimorphism and great deal of divergence from our own culturally-typical notions about that (spotted hyenas). Basically, it's not a very informative statement unto itself, when so many ideas about the specifics of ways in which gender and sex differ are coded to our own cultural ideas of how that works in humans.
3Nick_Tarleton9yTotally agreed, it just informs our prior about the existence of some sort of significant gender difference in humans. Can you say more? (didn't find anything with extremely casual searching)
8[anonymous]9yIn the case of wolverines, their lifestyles and behavioral regimens are not greatly-divergent except insofar as females dig nesting burrows and other behaviors directly relevant to giving birth. Otherwise, you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart; low sexual dimorphism, low behavioral dimorphism by sex; the only really obvious thing is that wolverines try to avoid overlapping their ranges with members of the same sex. Fireflies, similarly, don't seem to be very distinct by sex until it's time for a mating display; then they have ways of signalling it, but their lifestyles and behavioral cues, let alone anatomy, don't differ much. Basically, how much of a difference sex and gender make seems to be variable. Are there differences in size? Decoration? Behavior? Lifestyle? Energy expenditure on various aspects of those things? You can't predict the answers to those questions from the commonly-held idea of "males have cheap, plentiful gametes; females have few, expensive gametes" (which doesn't even reliably hold for all species, in addition to neglecting other salient factors like birthing method, social structure and other things that shape this without being directly determined by how they accomplish sex). Incidentally, humans in our ancestral state (including modern subsistence foragers) tend to have very low body fat, which is the single biggest contributor to secondary-sexual dimorphism being so prominent in much of humanity today (nutrition and fat stores are probably why menarche occurs so early these days for many, and one factor contributing to comparatively high fertility). The popular perceptions of human sexual dimorphism may be distorted by this relatively recent context shift.

Colonialism was a good system with significant beneficial impact for colonized countries, which are now failing mostly due to native incompetence rather than colonial trauma. It would be a win-win position to reinstitute it competently.

110% agreed. Hell, I often argue that in real life; there's no stigma attached to colonialism in Russia these days, probably in part because any serious attack on it sounds too much like a tired Soviet cliche.

[-][anonymous]9y 30

I must admit as much as I disagree with some components of the cultural and ideological influence of the British Empire, it is hard to argue with its results. The British Empire seems to have generally produced superior outcomes in terms of quality of life for inhabitants and general development than nearly any other government be it native or colonial. Considering the gains created by this I can't help but wonder if Cecile Rhodes had a point when he said:

If there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible...

Indeed if I found myself magically transported to 19th century Europe with considerable wealth and influence I may yet decide that there is no nobler and benevolent enterprise than to support the expansion and growth of the British Empire. In this light the success of the American revolution may actually plausibly be one of the great tragedies of human history.

Now that I've dumped all these warm fuzzies we may as well enjoy a happy death spiral around it.

Rule, Britannia!

While one can applaud the cultural influence of the British empire on its colonial holdings, allow me to disagree with "it is hard to argue with its results".

Timeline of major famines in India during British rule

Note that Britain was forcibly exporting Indian grain for its own benefit during some of these famines.

[-][anonymous]9y 12

Note that Britain was forcibly exporting Indian grain for its own benefit during some of these famines.

I fail to see why this is somehow horrible or surprising by historical standards. I can hardly think of an empire that would do otherwise. One might quickly argue that native government unlike an empire would have not done this, but seriously, does anyone expect economic growth and development of infrastructure to have grown at a comparable rate? Even rapid population growth that was sometimes the cause of such famines, is in itself an indicator that deaths from disease and violence have likley fallen.

Big sad events like famines grab more attention than say a faster than otherwise increases in GDP growth by 2% or 1% or 0.5%. But the latter sort amounts to far more over the years. Inclusion in the British Empire in itself lifted millions worldwide from the Malthusian margin.

4NancyLebovitz9yThe salt tax [http://www.rmoxham.freeserve.co.uk/salt%20starvation.htm] (imposed by Britain, eliminated with independence) contributed to the death rate. This being said, I agree that ex-British colonies have generally done better than places that were colonized by other countries.

All the places Britain has owned, even briefly. I may have been suffering from availability bias. The US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and India are doing better than a lot of other places, but what about Afghanistan? Nigeria? Syria?

The British may have had more successful ex-colonies than other empires, but this doesn't mean all, or even a majority of their ex-colonies were successful.

6ThrustVectoring8yThere's a selection effect, too. If Britain holds places that are geographically valuable (harbors in trade lanes, natural resources, etc), and geographically valuable places tend to do better, then Britain can wind up having their former colonies do better without causing it. In other words, what caused the former colony to do well made Britain colonize them, and not vice versa. By analogy, Harvard graduates better students without providing a commensurate level of education by the simple application of strict entry requirements.

They are better, did they do better? You need to control for the empire's choice of targets! India accounted for a quarter of world GDP at the time of conquest- by independence it was barely one percent.

India accounted for a quarter of world GDP at the time of conquest- by independence it was barely one percent.

Yes, missing out on the industrial revolution does that to you.

4AlexanderRM6yAlthough the industrial revolution was happening in Britain while India was under their rule and, as I understand it, cotton was being exported from colonies including India, processed in British factories, and shipped back to India as clothes to fuel it. All the way around the Cape of Good Hope. British rule may have had something to do with missing out on the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, China stayed independent and didn't industrialize, and the Muslim states in the Middle East didn't either (also Africa before colonial rule, but they were already far behind Eurasia and so it's hard to compare them to India), so it'd be pretty silly to claim that former colonies would be on the First World level if not for colonialism. An idea that might be more reasonable (although that's not entirely the point of the thread) would be to recognize that historical colonialism was almost entirely guided by the selfish interests of the colonial powers, and to implement a new system of patronage by the first world on underdeveloped countries, designed from the ground up to try to prevent them from exploiting the lesser partners. If the system is based on the idea of actually giving first worlders control over decisions, I'm not sure how you could set it up to totally prevent exploitation, but you could definitely improve it over colonialism.
7Salemicus6yI hate this kind of argument. The Muslim states in the Middle East were not independent. They were just subject to Ottoman, rather than European, imperialism. Similarly, much of Africa "before colonial rule" was subject to colonial rule by non-European powers, such as Oman, Songhai, etc. And Imperial China was, you know, an empire. The notion that imperialism/colonialism somehow only counts as such when it's done by Europeans is incredibly objectionable, and causes people to completely misunderstand history. It's the worst kind of Orientalism. The Raj was not about "Britain" exploiting "India," or even "selfish interests of the colonial powers" - it doesn't make sense to assign mass interests like that, particularly when India wasn't even a united polity at the time. It was about individuals and groups within both countries. For example, the East India Company was at least as much an exploiter of Britain as it was of India.
5J_Taylor9yDo we, by any chance, have a timeline of major famines in India during non-British rule?
4Prismattic9yWhy yes, we do [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine_in_India#Republic_of_India].
6Armok_GoB9yImportant disclaimer: "competently" means NOT the bull** the USA is doing.

Dear people who post things like "Incest is neat" and "Whites are smarter than blacks": those things are currently controversial. Therefore, they don't come close to being unthinkable or impossible to talk about.

Nitpick: men dominating women and fathers (not mothers) deciding infanticide are not features of the ancestral environment, they come from the invention of agriculture, moving out of the ancestral environment.

Now, "agriculture was a mistake, let's go back to hunting, gathering, and killing babies born during famines", that's more of a sacred cow^W wild aurochs.

Other not-easily-thinkable positions (I don't believe any of these, but believe they're not utterly ridiculous):

  • Radfems are righter than they know; it is unethical to do anything to anyone (such as looking at them or talking to them) without explicit consent.
  • Vertebrates are people. There should be systems to extract their preferences so they can vote and debate. Letting your goldfish die is murder.
  • The above also applies to the overwhelming majority of animals, and maybe some plants, fungi, and other living or not things (e.g. cancer is a person). Stepping on a anthill is mass slaughte
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Dear people who post things like "Incest is neat" and "Whites are smarter than blacks": those things are currently controversial. Therefore, they don't come close to being unthinkable or impossible to talk about.

ADBOC and that's somewhat beside the point, because it seems to me that things are necessarily somewhat controversial to be taboo. As Paul Graham said:

No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. [...] If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.

Now, James Watson and Stephanie Grace might want a word with you. (Larry Summers could file an amicus brief.) Chanting "Racist, racist, cow porn, racist, racist, cow porn" seems to fairly closely match Multiheaded's description that "society would instantly slam the lid on it with either moral panic or ridicule and give the speaker a ... (read more)

Whether I like it or not, people tend to overfit the curves associated with past trauma to available data.
If I want to avoid being pattern-matched to someone's trauma, I have to take extreme measures.
Hedge phrases pretty reliably don't cut it... they're like making incremental improvements to my bird-feeder to keep squirrels away: I just end up training the squirrels.

3MixedNuts9yYeah, but why bother Less Wrong for suggestions where YouTube comments would serve?

Dear people who post things like "Incest is neat" and "Whites are smarter than blacks": those things are currently controversial. Therefore, they don't come close to being unthinkable or impossible to talk about.

Yuh. On LessWrong, scientific racism is a standard permitted scientific heresy for signaling nonconformity. It's the nonconformist in black, not the one in a clown suit. (And this is a stupidity that is extremely offputting.)

It's not "racism" if you feel sympathetic and heartbroken for all the people and cultures clearly, unknowingly fucked over by mere biology, and would work hard on something in that direction - a global uplift project, donating to avenues which could eventually provide opportunity for massive genetic surgery (a class of charity currently consisting of SIAI, SIAI and SIAI), developing a political and cultural framework for something like "compassionate eugenics" (using as little coercion and stirring up as little drama as viable) - yes, I'd commit to any of that, if I wasn't confident that simply trying to cut all the Gordian knots in our vicinity with superhuman intelligence wasn't a better idea. (As it stands, I sort of desire to fight my akrasia to a standstill and find a good optimized way to help with the latter; however, it's not just akrasia, it's all sorts of problems I have with getting in productive work on anything.)

However, if I was, for some defensible reason, unwilling to relegate the entire mess to superintelligence, wouldn't trying what I described be noble instead of "racist"?

(Uh-huh, my signaling is about as subtle as a troll with a sledgehammer here. A troll of the fantasy non-network variety, that is. Well, whatever, I'm certain I've got a valid and coherent sentiment.)

Aaaaaaaa. This is such a bad idea that I don't even know where to start.

Racism as it's presently conceptualized isn't a simple matter of fear or hatred of ethnic others, unfortunately. That would be comparatively easy to deal with. It's an enormously messy tangle of signaling and countersignaling and I really can't do it justice without reading a few books for background and then devoting a sequence to it (which I'm not going to do for reasons that should be obvious), but as an oversimplification you can probably sum up most of the Western world's high-status thinking regarding race as follows:

  1. Everything even tangentially related to race is ineradicably tainted by ingroup/outgroup biases.

  2. Because of this, attitudes and social prescriptions appearing to differentiate in any way by ethic background, or by any factor that can plausibly be linked to ethic background, are automatically suspect and should be compensated for as soon as discovered.

  3. That includes these rules.

Now, that's a fairly cynical way of putting it (I'm optimizing for brevity), but to a first approximation I don't think it's even wrong.

So yes, conceptually your project should be seen as noble, if you accept ... (read more)

Racism as it's presently conceptualized isn't a simple matter of fear or hatred of ethnic others, unfortunately.

Of course not. That would subject accusations of racism to falsifiability.

7Multiheaded9yMight be. Might be. Yet can't you envision e.g. transhumanism being tabooed like that if found to be "ineradicably tainted" by the human lust for power and an insidiously corrupting desire for a "legitimate" reason to feel superior to the people you currently associate yourself with? If the so-called "HBD-sphere" or "Reactosphere" in general, for all its flaws (and I see some pretty fucking horrific flaws in it) can get away with a lot more, so can the LW Discussion section, or that semi-private enclosure being proposed around here.

Yet can't you envision e.g. transhumanism being tabooed like that if found to be "ineradicably tainted" by the human lust for power and an insidiously corrupting desire for a "legitimate" reason to feel superior to the people you currently associate yourself with?

That's a common argument against it, actually, although it's usually framed in class terms. Maybe the most common once you filter out all the various manifestations of "ew, that's gross".

Not one that I accept myself, but like I said I only buy an approximation of the thinking above. There's plenty of places it'll steer you wrong at the margins.

4Multiheaded9yAlso, I'm indeed feeling a significant pressure to agree wholeheartedly with this comment and retract everything, because you and the high-status mainstream thinkers would be for me retracting it, and people like the HBD Bi- sorry, HBD Chick would be derisive of such "self-censorship". Now I can feel for myself just how insidious the Blue vs Green pattern in your head can get when it's really trying to override you.

People competent enough about intelligence enhancement tech to understand what you said are usually too incompetent about racism to start implementing anything like this without it blowing up in our faces. Remember that video where Razib Khan (?) asked Eliezer which groups were most interested in race-IQ research results, and it went like "I don't know, Ashkenazi Jews?" "White supremacists." "Oh."? That's how ridiculously ignorant we are. The common wisdom is here for a reason.

5Eugine_Nier9yRemember reversed stupidity is not intelligence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Reversed_stupidity_is_not_intelligence].
5pedanterrific9yReferring to this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1qu/bhtv_eliezer_yudkowsky_razib_khan/1l2w] (video here [http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/2438])?
3[anonymous]9yYeah. Lots of people mention the finding that white people are smarter in average than black people, but few of them mention that East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews are even smarter. (And if I was asked about that, I'd answer “Yes, it has been found that white people have a higher average IQ than black people, but then again, Asians and Jews have an even higher one", so that I don't lie but still get to piss extreme-right-wingers off.)
3Multiheaded9yThe same. Hell, I remember reading the comments on such some alt-right blog - maybe UR, maybe some other one - and seeing a bunch of "white nationalists" who frequent those first imply that intelligence is the only measure of a person that matters, then trying to wriggle out of proclaiming the Jews to be the world's only rightful aristocracy and bowing down before them; that "argument" basically went like "We embrace Nature's truth if it makes us smarter than someone, but we aren't obliged to shit if someone ends up smarter than us." Equating "smarter" with "superior", of course.
4hairyfigment9yNot to argue about definitions, but this seems well within the original definition of 'racism' as I understand it ("...claim that some races are superior to other races"). And society has good historical reasons to look askance at it -- for example, the outside view says nobody should trust your motives. (In particular, you shouldn't trust yourself.) It also says we shouldn't trust your factual beliefs without extremely strong evidence.
7GLaDOS9yEasy for you to say. HBD is firmly in clown suit territory in real life, people lose jobs over it, are physically assaulted or ostracised. If you want to see what LW's wearing black to school thing is check out the Moldbug references people love making.

Some possibilities on dorky LW topics (as opposed to the topics I assume Vladimir et al. are referring to):

Not only are anti-natalist arguments correct, they are correct in such a way that we should be attempting to maximize x-risks.

Wireheading is necessary and sufficient for the fulfillment of true human CEV; people only claim to care about other values for signalling purposes.

A very strong form of error theory is correct; what people actually care about is qualia, even though there is no such thing. It doesn't all add up to normality; just as bad metaphysics may lead people to think there's a relevant difference between praying to God and attempting to summon demons, bad metaphysics makes people think there's a relevant difference between donating a million dollars to Against Malaria Foundation and kidnapping and torturing a small child.

It would be very fun to have a thread where we attempted to come up with seductive, harmful ideas, and the chance of actually happening upon a very infectious and very harmful one would be very low.

Wireheading is necessary and sufficient for the fulfillment of true human CEV; people only claim to care about other values for signalling purposes.

Alternative which I view as being more frightening:

For any given human, its CEV involves that human winning at zero-sum, possibly even negative-sum, games (status would be one of these). As such, the best way to maximize the current collection of humanity's CEV would be to create new agents to which current humans defeat in zero-sum games.

That is, for every current human, create a host of new agents (all of whom are quite human for all intents and purposes) of whom the current human is emperor.

Note: if this is the case, I doubt pseudo-agents will suffice. Just as humans do not wish to love pseudo-humans (that is, humans who cannot really love), humans do not wish to win zero-sum games against pseudo-humans (that is, humans who cannot really lose zero-sum games, with all that losing these games entails).

Some portrayals of heaven involve each person having dominion over a host of angels. One can only hope this allows for live action real-time strategy.

So basically, what you're saying is that CEV might work out to everyone getting their own secret volcano lair filled with harems of catpersons? Now where have I heard this idea before...

As near as I can tell I'm -want/+like/-approve on both wireheading and emperor-like superiority.

I am willing to admit to having a desire to feel superior to other people.

5Dr_Manhattan9ySame here, but I'm willing to settle for "equal"
4RomeoStevens9yyou're such a good person for that.
4cousin_it9yCEV will probably have many contributions from people who don't want the AI to create almost-human slaves. Do you think such desires will lose out in reflective equiibrium?
4J_Taylor9yI never said they would be slaves, although I certainly did imply it. I probably should not have said 'emperor.' A more appropriate term would have been something like 'grand-champion' or 'big winner.' I certainly hope not. However, I personally have no idea.
3vi21maobk9vp9yDo we have to win at the same game to be happy? It looks like for different people different games matter and if you mostly beat scarcity you reduce the factor of pragmatically useful prizes.
5Will_Newsome9yWhat's wrong with the metaphysics? I figured that one of the most powerful magicks developed by the Christians is a system for addressing only the demons who are actually God (using relatively rigid designators like the Word, the Form of the Good, &c.). The biggest reason I'm suspicious of the other Indo-European religions is that they don't advertise that they've developed any such system.

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

New topics:

We know so little about our minds that conscious efforts to improve them are likely to do damage. Actually, I consider that an exaggeration, but I do think that ill effects of following socially supported advice are likely to be kept private and/or ignored for a very long time.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Following up on the "CEV is impossible" part of the discussion: The only thing an FAI can do is protect us from UFAI and possibly other gross existential threats.

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

Upvoted for saying the only thing in this whole thread that makes my inner animal go "aaaaugh I must fight against people who say that". I didn't know I had it in me.

Hot damn!

Thanks for letting me know.

The funny thing is, I think the idea that cuckoldry would be a non-issue if people were thinking clearly is pretty close to conventional ideas about adoption-- that people shouldn't use biological descent to make distinctions among the children they're raising. See also the fairly successful efforts to reduce the stigma of bastardy.

To extend the idea, we could say that just about all the pain people feel about status-lowering events is self-fulfilling prophecy, but this version less likely to sting because it isn't about something specific.

Just for fun, flip it over. People aren't nearly sensitive enough about their status. If people cared more about their rankings, they'd do a lot more, and enough of it would be worthwhile (by those entirely rational geek standards which are opposed to the bad mainstream standards) that there'd be a net gain.

One more: You can't tell anything important about a person by their taste in art, fiction, music, etc.

The funny thing is, I think the idea that cuckoldry would be a non-issue if people were thinking clearly is pretty close to conventional ideas about adoption-- that people shouldn't use biological descent to make distinctions among the children they're raising. See also the fairly successful efforts to reduce the stigma of bastardy.

Why stop at cuckoldry, where the child is still genetically half one's spouse's? Outright cuckcooing! Swap everybody's kids around in the hospital!

(If I lived in a world where that was regularly done and I knew it, I would not have a bio-kid; I'd adopt a five-year-old and exercise some control over what sort of person I'm inviting into my home that way.)

[-][anonymous]9y 16

Why stop at cuckoldry, where the child is still genetically half one's spouse's? Outright cuckcooing! Swap everybody's kids around in the hospital!

Why not take it another step further? Why have random non-licensed people raise children? We usually don't let just anyone adopt kids, in my country one needs to go through a lot of hoops and be financially capable of supporting a child before getting on the list. In practice one demonstrates conscientiousness, a strong desire to have children and financial independence. If all children are adopted children, why not do this? Surely this should only be done by teams of qualified experts in tandem with carefully chosen adoptive parents?

(If I lived in a world where that was regularly done and I knew it, I would not have a bio-kid; I'd adopt a five-year-old and exercise some control over what sort of person I'm inviting into my home that way.)

Eugenics FTW.

5CaveJohnson9yTerrible idea [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Generations] to try actually implement in a multicultural society, since for visible minorities it amounts to cultural genocide. What are the odds the child they get actually assimilate to their culture if he can easily pass in greater society as a member of the privileged one? Unless one factors in ethnicity in who gets who... which is just a horrible can of worms.

It sounds very much like you're saying that no one would choose to be part of a minority culture if they weren't forced into it by non-acceptance. If that is what you meant, wouldn't that imply that destroying that minority culture is better than forcing people to continue being part of it?

Stolen generation isn't relevant here since it wasn't reciprocal - the children were taken, not replaced by white children who were then raised in Aboriginal commmunities.

4cousin_it9yI think folk morality only says that if you adopt kids, you should treat them equally to your biological kids. It doesn't say that people who have biological kids instead of adopting are bad people. Why do you single out status-lowering events? You could go further and say that anything that doesn't cause physical pain is okay, e.g. stealing someone's car is okay because the victim theoretically could brainwash themselves to not care about material belongings.
4NancyLebovitz9yMy first thought was that people are pushed to take status-raising events more seriously than they naturally would. Considering that there's some variation in how people react to physical pain, I don't know why that (at least below some threshold) should be off-limits.
5Eugine_Nier9yTaboo "naturally".
3Blueberry9yWell, one of the main emotional objections to cuckoldry is feeling betrayed and lied to, which isn't the case in adoption. I don't think being lied to is only an issue due to unclear thought, even without the status issue.
3ikrase8yHave heard it claimed that that is partly true of statutory rape. Did that for me too.
3Multiheaded9yHuh... I felt it (with considerable force) about some other items ITT, but not even a twitch here. I hate to ask, but you probably saw it coming anyway... any personal things in your background that might have triggered that?
[-][anonymous]9y 27

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

Men probably have systematic preferences for how to treat their children according to traits the children do or do not posses and a variety of cues that have evolved to ensure they invest in genetically related children.

But this may have little to do with conscious awareness of such information or emotional distress caused by it.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

"Teenagers" doesn't really describe anything in the real world except perhaps a subculture.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Well we already have data about the social status of people who propose such theories.

It's easy to recognize two reasons why my impression that New Guineans are smarter than Westerners may be correct. First, Europeans have for thousands of years been living in densely populated societies with central governments, police, and judiciaries. In those societies, infectious epidemic diseases of dense populations (such as smallpox) were historically the major cause of de

... (read more)
8Jayson_Virissimo9yInterestingly, that Diamond quote comes shortly after his dismissal of previous attempts at "big history" for being "racist".
4[anonymous]9yMaybe not everywhere in the real world; but in most industrialized countries, a looooong time does elapse from puberty until independence from parents.
4[anonymous]9yBut this period doesn't usually end in teen years.

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

I agree. Why would there be a switch in the brain "in case genetic tests prove/shaman says child isn't yours go into depression!"? Other cues like smell or facial similarity are already factored into the fathers feelings before he consciously knows about the child's genetics.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

I don't think that's true for teenagers, their sexuality is heavily studied. I don't have very high confidence in academia but they must have produced something useful on the subject. Right? In any case I agree that children's sexuality is a pretty strong mind-killer and that our knowledge about it is woefully inadequate or just plain wrong.

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Possible. But I don't see why this would be controversial.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Come now. White people would be all ecstatic that they now have proof they are to blame for all the problems they've... (read more)

8NancyLebovitz9yIt's pre-controversial. I say it now and then, but people just ignore it. There's a contingent of atheists who are seriously pissed off at people having religions, but I haven't seen anything comparable against nationalism, even though these days, wars are apt to be more about nationalism than religion.
7CharlieSheen9yMostly because highly educated people on LessWrong don't know many nationalists personally. They do know many religious people. In any case classical pacifist movements where basically about this. Getting upset about nationalism seems a 19th or 20th century thing to do. Its not that the arguments against it are new and haven't sunk in because of future shock level, its just that elite respectable opinion in the Western world has long ago shifted closer towards that position and most people living in the West suffer very little if any harm from the residual traces of nationalism. And the residual traces aren't that notable, most people in say Western Europe are because of the well known traumas of wars in that time period not very nationalistic. It is hard to say something like the Iraq war was caused by nationalism, though obviously "spreading democracy" is pretty much not only part of an ideology but is also a key part of America's civic nationalism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_nationalism]. With most wars in the rest of the world that don't directly involve Western states (obviously many of these are proxy wars). Ie. The ones that actually should matter to utilitarian since they consume far more lives, do indeed often seem to revolve around ethnic clashes. But this is where it gets tricky. How do you classify the conflict in Sudan a few years back? One can claim that civil war was a religious one since Muslims where attacking animists and Christian villages and the latter where retaliating. How do you measure how much of it was because of nationalism. Is destructive Muslim or Irish Catholic nationalism a bigger blemish on religion or nationalism? What is the better approach to attacking it if you feel that the phenomena is not conductive to how you want to order the world? Also nationalism evokes images of people being proud of the state or considering themselves a part of a people that numbers in the tens of millions and has supposedly some comm
8CaveJohnson9yThis almost reads like you are trying to hint at something but for the life of me I can't figure out what. Nope. No idea.
7J_Taylor9yCould someone make explicit what is being hinted at? I fear that I am missing the signal.

ill effects of following socially supported advice are likely to be kept private and/or ignored for a very long time

Sharp. I've seen this especially in dieting/weightlifting communities.

I picked it up from fat acceptance.

The Science of Yoga (which generally supports yoga as valuable) has a chapter about the risks of yoga-- which are much higher than a lot of people in yoga knew. These days, at least some yoga teachers are working on making it safer.

3Princess_Stargirl6yI agree the majority of the damage caused by cuckolding/cheating is self created (though the pain is still real). However I do think there is a rational albeit selfish reason to be opposed to partner's cheating. If your partner cheats on you she/he may find out she/he prefers the other person to you. Or at the very least your inadaquaces may become clearer if your partner gets involved with somoene else. The polyamory community suggests that these issues can be manged. But there is a plausible rational argument that outside relationships reduce stability, at least for some people. Also I agree that black people are obviously superior in several ways. Black men seem clearly the most athletic overall. Subjectively they are also the hottest imo :)

The scientific process has been so corrupted by signaling and politics that outside the hard sciences, most of what is called "science" these days, especially mainstream opinion at universities, is less entangled with reality then most religions. At least the religions have been around long enough to be subject memetic selection.

7FiftyTwo9yhow do you know this isnt happening in hard sciences?

They produce results that work, even for people that don't want to believe them. At least, in most parts of the hard sciences - I don't know about the depths of string theory or cosmology.

4AlexSchell9yWhich soft sciences do you have in mind? (I'd say "name three" but that would come off as confrontational.)

For example: economics, psychology, sociology, possibly even medicine (see Hason's discussion of it).

On any reasonable operational definition of "less entangled with reality than most religions", you are ridiculously wrong in claiming that medicine fits the description, and I think Hanson might agree. (I'm less certain about this with regard to certain subfields like stroke rehabilitation, certain sub-subfields in nutrition, etc., but I'm talking about the weighted accuracy of the sorts of activities that Western MDs perform, that are taught in Western medical schools, etc.)

EDIT: Full disclosure: I'm a pharmacy student, so it would be moderately devastating to my sense of worth if you were right. Still.

We have tried to discuss topics like race and gender many times, and always failed. At some point I had this idea that maybe we could get better results if we sometimes enforced political conformity within comment threads :-) For example, if we had a thread of like-minded people discussing "how to make our country more vibrant and diverse" and a separate thread about "how to stop the corrupting influence of Negroes on the youth", I suspect that both threads would have a better signal-to-noise ratio and contain more interesting insights than a unified "let's all argue about racism" thread.

Of course this requires that people from thread A resist the temptation to drop in on thread B for target practice and vice versa. Some especially fervent people may feel threatened by the mere existence of thread A or thread B. (I have actually heard from some LWers that they'd consider it immoral to create such threads.)

We have tried to discuss topics like race and gender many times, and always failed.

The overall level of rationality of a community should be measured by their ability to have a sane and productive debate on those topics, and on politics in general.

Sure, agreed. But it doesn't follow that a community that desires to be rational should therefore engage in debates on those topics (and on politics in general) when it has low confidence that it can do so in a sane and productive way.

5Polymeron9yAn interesting thought, but as a practical idea it's a bad idea. A lot of the problems with how people debate is that the underlying assumptions are different, but this goes unnoticed. So two people can argue on whether it's right or wrong to fight in Iraq when their actual disagreement is on whether Arabs count as people, and could actually argue for hours before realizing this disagreement exists (Note: This is not a hypothetical example). Failing to target the fundamental assumption differences leads to much of the miscommunication we so often see. By having two (or more) debates branch off of different and incompatible assumptions, we're risking people solidifying in holding the wrong assumption, or even forgetting they're making it. The human mind is such that it seeks to integrate beliefs into a (more or less) coherent network without glaring contradictions, and by making people think long and hard off of a false assumption, we're poisoning their thinking process rather than enriching it. Even if, as you say, the signal-to-noise ratio is supposedly higher. I would advise targeting the underlying disagreements first, proceeding only once those are dismantled.
7cousin_it9yHmm. It seems to me that the people who would discuss a topic like "how to make our country more vibrant and diverse" are likely already convinced about some basic assumptions. If they don't get to have the discussion, they will stay just as convinced, but less informed.

Zoophilia is perfectly fine.

The prevailing arguments against it are incoherent for non-vegans anyhow. Nonhuman animals can't consent? How can it possibly make sense to claim the relevance of consent for (non-painful) sexual activity for a class of animals which can be legally killed more or less on demand for its meat or skin, or if it becomes inconvenient to keep? The consent argument is bogus; the popular moral beliefs against zoophilia are actually not based on a legalistic rights framework, but on a purity/corruption/ickiness framework.

I've tried that exact argument in the past with non-LW-inclined friends. From what I remember the main reactions were either (paraphrased) "I'm too squicked out to engage with your argument" or "you're probably right but it's still gross".

EDIT: there was context involved. Damned if I remember what it was but even with my closest friends I wouldn't defend zoophilia just for fun.

I tried it once on a different forum. I was immediately called a troll and run out of town.

...Which is sort of fair enough.

6DanielLC9yI've seen someone mention that they're a zoophile on a utilitarianism forum. The reaction was limited to one person asking if there's a difference between zoophilia and bestiality.
7APMason9yWell, of course, I still reserve the right to be creeped out.
6pedanterrific9yNow I'm interested. Is there?

I know way too much about this stuff.

Bestiality is simply having sex with animals. Zoophilia is having romantic, sexual relationships with animals.

I fail to see a problem with either.

I can think of a couple of possibilities that are difficult to discuss (although perhaps not here):

  • Multiparty electoral democracy has no real utility, confers no legitimacy and doesn't satisfy any primal urge for freedom laying dormant in non-Western peoples. "Democracy" as a concept is mainly used in international politics as a weapon to suppress other political systems through sanctions and military action. When a country becomes "democratic" by holding elections, it's really just signalling its compliance with the West. The current period of liberal democratic triumphalism has created an intellectual Dark Ages of political thought. There are many valid forms of governance that don't involved voting. Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

  • "Free speech" is a luxury of hegemonic powers. Countries that are trying to self-determine their own political development necessarily have to suppress ideas that are backed up by the military and economic might of Western hegemony. Since multiparty elections don't express the innate yearning of every human for freedom but rather compliance with Western power,

... (read more)
[-][anonymous]9y 26

Multiparty electoral democracy has no real utility, confers no legitimacy and doesn't satisfy any primal urge for freedom laying dormant in non-Western peoples. "Democracy" as a concept is mainly used in international politics as a weapon to suppress other political systems through sanctions and military action. When a country becomes "democratic" by holding elections, it's really just signalling its compliance with the West. The current period of liberal democratic triumphalism has created an intellectual Dark Ages of political thought. There are many valid forms of governance that don't involved voting. Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

Holy Moldbug I swear I get giddy at the very idea of a critical rationalist discussion about democracy on LessWrong! Please someone who has done some heavy lifting on the subject make a post about it!

From the contrary position, I totally agree that this would be an interesting discussion.

8JenniferRM9yI don't think this is likely to have good consequence if it happens in a public forum. However, if a private mailing list for this was being organized, I'd be interested in participating.

Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

I think the most important feature of government is that it handle regime changes well and indefinitely. Authoritarianism would have to be awfully good at development to make up for increased intermittent revolutions and civil wars. I leave it to Steve Jobs and his ilk to handle development.

Countries that are trying to self-determine their own political development necessarily have to suppress ideas that are backed up by the military and economic might of Western hegemony.

Who exactly, as in the class of persons doing it, is trying to self-determine what exactly?

They're really signalling their willingness to sell out their own culture for power.

What is "their own culture", who determines it and how does it figure in more or less reflection-heavy utility functions, especially given the heavy cost you approve of?

EDIT: I notice that you, as some of your comments would imply, you simply don't care about the lives and happiness of people who don't have long-term goals ("Life's Great Adventure"... bah). In this case we might just be having a genuine clash of values and can't convince each other about any moral judgment here.

If you truly believe in the right to self-determination

I don't, because I'm more or less imperialist, and neo-colonialist too. I still identify as a socialist and to a lesser extent as a liberal.

Yeah, I don't see anything problematic about discussing these here, except that they're about politics.

8Matt_Simpson9yBe careful with that around political scientists. I get the impression that some of them define democracy as everything that is good in the world. If you find something else good, they'll just redefine democracy to include it.
3TimS9yEither my model is wrong, or this story is false [http://lesswrong.com/lw/if/your_strength_as_a_rationalist/]. I've heard of lots of academic research into what is driving economic growth in places like China. They don't tend to just label whatever they've found as "democracy."

I really hope no outside observers see this thread.

It strikes me that searching the internet for this phrase, and meaningfully equivalent variants, would be a really interesting experience.

7Polymeron9yI came to this thread by way of someone discussing a specific comment in an outside forum.

I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

The LW version:

Friendliness of AGI is impossible; this is because Coherent Extrapolated Volition is impossible; our volitions are in part determined by opposing others' so any extrapolation will produce a contradiction (a la once disease is gone, food is plentiful, hangovers don't exist, and you can have sex with anyone you like, the only thing that Palestinians and Israelis care about is denying the others' desires). Any optimisation process applied to human desires will necessarily make things subjectively and objectively worse. We are, in effect, falling down stairs at the speed of our optimising, and more optimisation of any kind will only make us fall faster and deadlier. There was no guarantee that the blind process of evolution would produce agents that form a consistent or positive-sum system, and indeed, it did not produce such agents. The future is unchangeably bleak and necessarily bad.

The Western memeplex version:

Humans are not essentially good-natured beings. The so-called moral progress of the recent era is no such thing - severe oppression of the minority has been swapped for a ... (read more)

Self-reported happiness data seems to not agree with this, unless Swedes are keeping some tortured children in the basement.

If you took areas of low happiness and made them happy, Swedish self-reporting of happiness would go down, is the gist of this idea.

4pedanterrific9yThe capital of Sweden is Omelas? Hmm...
9fubarobfusco9yThis all seems overtly contradicted by the decline of violence (including homicide, rape, torture, war deaths as a fraction of the population) and the increase in healthy lifespan over historical time.
5shokwave9ySurely some other bad thing has increased in proportion; I could make an attempt but I don't really feel like defending the idea. You mean an an increase in the amount of time we spend living a net negative existence, necessitating the suffering of others? That sounds like a bad thing to me, not a good thing.
6Baughn9yWhy "surely"?
[-][anonymous]9y 31

An experience can't become traumatic after-the-fact.

You underestimate the effects of an entire cultural narrative repeatedly telling them that it's something to be traumatized by.

I don't think these are quite in the original spirit of the thread but seem related to several of the discussions that developed. I would like to have discussions about all of these points merely in the hope that I can be convinced to update away from them.

Things I REALLY hope aren't true and suspect might be. Honestly don't read this if you're already depressed right now.

  • Human beings WANT maximally brutal leaders up to the limit of being able to plausibly signal that they don't want maximally brutal leaders.

  • People can be tortured to create a lower set point on the hedonic treadmill. This allows for far more overall utility.

  • Male/female sexual relationships are fundamentally adversarial due to the differences in dominant mating strategies.

  • There is a large class of violent people for whom no current treatment is available who simply need to be put down.

  • Humans don't care about torture.

  • We could create a virtual utopia fairly trivially by investing in lucid dream research but nobody actually cares because:

  • Anyone with the ability to make the world better almost by definition has a vested stake in the current fucked up one.

P.S. throium reactors. God damn it humans.

[-][anonymous]9y 10

There is a large class of violent people for whom no current treatment is available who simply need to be put down.

How large? Executing / permanently imprisoning serial killers e.g. is fairly mainstream, though certainly controversial.

Humans don't care about torture.

What makes you suspect something like that? Pretty much any tribe gets pissed off when starts torturing members of . Maybe you mean torture as established part of the justice system, as was common throughout much of history? Even then I'd suspect there are plenty of people who have no problem as long as it only affects or .

7RomeoStevens9yI'm talking about putting certain people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder down before they do anything. Our medical/legal establishment routinely tortures people so that everyone else can feel slightly better about certain aspects of mortality.
4Nornagest8yI wonder if this reasoning might be related to the longevity of the boarding school institution as implemented by early 20th century Britain, or of other similarly unpleasant forms of institutionalized child... I'm not sure I want to call it "abuse", but at least systematic deprivation. Or of hazing or initiation ordeals in general, really.
4Bugmaster9yAFAIK there's a sizable portion of feminists who believe this statement (or at least the first half of it) is true, and thus the statement is not as terribly controversial as your other ones.
7RomeoStevens9ywhen i say fundamental I include CEV.

Nationalism was not yet a conservative position at that point. At least not in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.You are in fact forgetting that nationalism in the third world was not a conservative position even just a few decades ago!

Toppling the old Empires in order to enable self-determination of nations, was a radical idea and indeed a push for global change.

Also note that I'm talking about conservatives here, not right wingers. I don't know why you seem to think otherwise but the right wing has had plenty of people one could describe as:

Naive young men who wanted to throw out musty old books and change everything for the better?

Fascists for a start.

"How dare you not engage in what you consider counter-productive debate!"

"How dare you question the coherence of thoughts that I refuse to express!"

8steven04619yWhat is this even supposed to be a paraphrase of?
8TimS9yIt's a hostile rephrasing of CaveJohnson's point, to try and clarify the social function of his assertion.

Women like Alicorn are the exception

Quite apart from the content of the parent comment, I find this tactically interesting. I'm probably perceived as more likely than the average commenter to attack a post like this, so I've been preemptively identified as a mutant, which leaves me with little maneuvering room to refute the assertions about non-mutants. Even if I bring up people I know, they're probably mutants too, since they're people I know and not selected at random from the general population.

(Regarding the content, WrongBot has it.)

9wedrifid9yI am probably perceived by some to be more likely than the average commenter to come down on a different side of an argument along these lines. In this case, however, I probably disagree with him at least as strongly as you do. My tactical consideration seems to be that if I disagree with Aurini I'm a "mangina", not a "mutant".
9WrongBot9yAnd if anyone else brings up women they know, well, they're probably like you, too. No true woman is worthy of respect.
3GLaDOS9yIt is obviously true that you are psychologically atypical (nearly everyone on this site is), trying to frame this as a debating tactic instead of an accurate observation dosen't sound like good faith discussion to me.

It is obviously true that you are psychologically atypical (nearly everyone on this site is), trying to frame this as a debating tactic instead of an accurate observation dosen't sound like good faith discussion to me.

It seems to be both an accurate observation and a debating tactic.

I wouldn't call the discussion one based on good faith. We should not expect Alicorn to pretend that Aurini is behaving as the perfect model of good faith instead of making accurate observations about the tactical difficulties she faces.


This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. "Genocide" has really strong negative moral valence in most people's minds because the last time somebody tried it, it involved killing millions of people. Throwing it around in situations that don't involve death seems... not inaccurate per se, but still disingenuous.

6CaveJohnson9yI use it in the technical legal sense and made that explicit too. People are really inconsistent however in colloquial usage and moral reasoning. I partially agree with your objection. Communist crimes are basically whitewashed because "Mao killed Chinese and he was Chinese so it wasn't genocide so Hitler is still worse". Isn't a life a life? Shouldn't whatever the term one uses, the negative feeling be the same?
[-][anonymous]9y 24

Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species — if separate species we be — for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.

-- H.P. Lovecraft

Hang on a minute. This a prime hypothesis testing space! If you really think that anti-rape messaging makes post-rape experience worse, it surely follows that it must be worse for women than for men, this messaging being mostly aimed at women. So you can quite conveniently check your theory by comparing the incidence of ptsd, depression, etc in male and female rape survivors.

No need to keep this as a controversial suspicion or instinct, you'd be armed with real knowledge! Knowledge you can report back to us, and anyone else you may have discussed this issue with. Indeed I think you could cultivate a useful reputation for open mindedness and rationality if you went back to any place you'd seen this attitude expressed before, and shared your findings -positive or negative- with them.

There are a lot of confounding factors hereabouts.

Yea, and doing a proper double blind test would pretty much be the least likely thing ever to pass any ethics committee.

[-][anonymous]9y 10

Hang on a minute. This a prime hypothesis testing space! If you really think that anti-rape messaging makes post-rape experience worse, it surely follows that it must be worse for women than for men, this messaging being mostly aimed at women. So you can quite conveniently check your theory by comparing the incidence of ptsd, depression, etc in male and female rape survivors.

Not necessarily. If male rape is not acknowledged at all, it can be much harder to talk about it and heal.

8Baughn9yWell, yes, that"s the point. To figure out whether this comes out positive or negative.

I just read the actual study.

These guys list on page 14 the variance ratios (i.e. male variance divided by female variance) of 31 countries on 5 different tests (1 PISA, 4 TIMSS). 28 test-results are missing so there are in total 127 measurements.

I don't have SPSS but the following should be illuminating enough:

In 7 tests the female variance is higher than the male variance. On 6 tests they are equal. But on 114 tests the male variance is higher than the female one.

In the Netherlands and in Marocco the average variance ratio is around 1. In Indonesia female variance seems to be greater than male variance. But in 28 other countries male variance is on average higher than female variance.

It's true however that the average score of men in some countries is lower than the female one, so maybe the greater male variation is due to the very low scores of some boys. It's important to note however that most participants were younger than 15, and girls tend to score higher on IQ-tests than boys when they are young, whereas this trend reverses as they are getting older. (Oh, and if you look at page 16 you'll see that they only list 16 countries out of 86. Is there some cherry picking going on? )

Maybe I'm missing something huge but these results seem not that promising. Not to mention other studies which showed greater male variance, publication bias and stuff :-)

Not only is intellectual property law in its current form destructive, but the entire concept of intellectual property is fundamentally wrong. Creating an X does not give the creator the right to point a gun at everyone else in the universe who tries to arrange matter under their control into something similar to X. In programming terminology, property law should use reference semantics, not value semantics. Of course it is true that society needs to reward people who do intellectual work, just as much as people who do physical work, but there are better justified and less harmful ways to accomplish this than intellectual property law.

The post asked for opinions so repulsive people have a hard time generating them in the first place. This is a relatively common opinion.

3rwallace9yI took the post to be asking for opinions sufficiently far outside the mainstream to be rarely discussed even here, and I haven't seen a significant amount discussion of this one. Then again, that could be because I wasn't particularly looking; I used to be of the opinion "intellectual property law has gone too far and needs to be cut back, but of course we can't do away with it entirely," and only recently looked more closely at the but of course part and realized it didn't hold water. If this opinion is more common than I had given it credit for, great!
5MixedNuts9yI haven't seen a discussion of the concept of intellectual property that did not include a remark to the effect of "Wait, whence the analogy between property of unique objects and control of easily copied information?".

Creating an X does not give the creator the right ...

Of course it doesn't. The question is if the world becomes a better place if they do it anyway.

A funny unrelated question that just occurred to me: how can one define property rights in a mathematical multiverse which isn't ultimately based on "matter"?

7JoshuaZ9yThis seems to be a pretty mainstream position. Not one I agree with, but not that controversial.
4NihilCredo9ySuch as?
3rwallace9yTo take my own field as an example, as one author remarked, "software is a service industry under the persistent delusion that it is a manufacturing industry." In truth, most software has always been paid for by people who had reason other than projected sale of licenses to want it to exist, but this was obscured for a couple of decades by shrinkwrap software, shipped on floppy disks or CDs, being the only part of the industry visible to the typical nonspecialist. But the age of shrinkwrap software is passing - outside entertainment, how often does the typical customer buy a program these days? - yet the industry is doing fine. We just don't need copyright law the way we thought we did.

I'm sorry your nick is a bit ifffy so I'm not sure as to your sincerity. If you are don't worry, eventually this will clear up with future participation. Just in case you are not a troll, I wrote this out.

I do agree that the fake egalitarianism of insisting we treat people decently because they are objectively all the same, instead of that simply being the right thing to do, is really dangerous in the long term, if society one day realizes they aren't objectively all the same according to most measures and damaging in the short run because it least to things like bad education policies or dehumanizing people society decides to scapegoat for some differences.

This however is far from only being a problem with "race", it turns up in many different places and on different issues. Class, gender... It even exists in lesser measure with individual differences.

We must stay and fight.

Here I kind of disagree. I don't see this as a war with sides, that attitude is perhaps useful if you are doing politics in the comment section of a news site, but not that great when it comes to participating here. I see this as more a interesting solvable question that has some unfortunate s... (read more)

Sorry, but no deal. Trying to withhold value judgment when talking about highly unpopular social systems is one thing. Such a reversal of the approved opinion after a cursory look, however, is downright stupid, and beneath you. I've had sex with a guy several times; do you really think that me being executed for it if someone knew and disliked me enough to report me to officials IS LESS AWFUL than the evils of feminism and immigration? I bet not. Would you like Canada to invade the U.S. and install an incredibly brutal occupation regime by claiming it's a necessary pre-emptive strike to save the world from American tyranny (even if said tyranny was a real danger)? I bet not.

Next time please evaluate MORE facts from the historical period in question before drawing tenous comparisons and making judgments like these.

(Oh, and is that still a conspiracy when it has the deliberate backing of the lawful head of state, AND that head of state is legally an absolute dictator who left no constitutional provision in place on which he could be judged for those atrocities? I'm pretty shit at law, but, logically, if the Fuhrer wouldn't mind the atrocities, and the Nazi legal thought made the Fuhrer's authority utterly untouchable - see e.g. Carl Schmidt's opinion on sovereignity - then the investigator only had international law to fall back on, which the Nazi system would deny to be a source of authority in this case.)

for some minorities implementation of such a policy would produce non-acceptance rates would result in genocidal levels of assimilation

I'm with Alicorn on this one: if your members don't want to be in your community, sucks to be your community.

what if the minority culture's values differ on this?

Maybe they should make more of an effort to convince their members that their community is worth being a part of rather than using mechanisms like shunning and mainstream stigmatism to enforce membership.

it would really upset groups like say Haredim Jews

Somehow I can't bring myself to be bothered by this

8[anonymous]9yHaredim can be a real pain in the ass when they decide they want to be.

Here are some policy recommendations which would not be very PC:

(Disclaimer: I didn't say I endorse any of these views! See this comment please )

  1. Only folks with above IQ 100 should be allowed to vote.
  2. People with high IQ should get money for having more children.
  3. The male variance in IQ is greater than that for females which explains why most nobel prize winners, CEOs etc. are men. Therefore we should stop pointless countermeasures. (Men are also more ambitious, aggressive and psychopathic which seems also relevant)
  4. Africans have (on average) low IQ scores and low conscientiousness. Therefore international aid is hopeless and we should stop it.

Some of these examples are rather mindkilling, of course.

9Multiheaded9yThe low average IQ and the net harm done by the current model of international aid are more or less statements of fact. The rest of this line literally carries no message. What would be your preferred state for Africa?* What measures would you endorse to move towards that state? - ("I truly don't care much because I don't consider Africans to be deserving of sympathy" is a legitimate answer, just a... boring one, and a one that can, in turn, mark your* utility function as worth much less consideration in the eyes of some people here - not necessarily being just me.)

My preferred state for Africa would be that all its inhabitants are happy, rich, etc. and live in utopia, of course. What do you think of me? I don't have a clue how to achieve utopia in Africa or anywhere else and I don't have any strong political opinions in general.

Edit: I just reread your post and it seems that I misunderstood your intentions when I read it the first time. I thought you wanted us to guess which beliefs Vladimir_M or folks with similar views might hold. (I therefore tried to think of views that are disturbing and at least somewhat reasonable) It follows that I don't necessarily endorse the above mentioned views which I thought I said also in the original comment.

8Prismattic9yIf the main problem with international aid is low IQ and conscientiousness (NB -- not conceding this), then that is just evidence that foreign aid should focus first on things that affect this. IQ appears to negatively correlate with rates of parasitic infection, and also with exposure to mercury. Lead exposure increases impulsiveness, so I expect it correlates with low conscientiousness. So, wiping out parasitic diseases and metals abatement, among other things, should probably be high-priority forms of aid.
8RomeoStevens9yprenatal nutrition is huge too but AFAIK has been actively fought against precisely because it implies that the problem is low-IQ which is a no-no.
4Emile9yI haven't heard that before, any reference?
3RomeoStevens9yUnable to find one, it could well be untrue. Edit: this information was communicated to me by a person working in a prenatal nutrition charity, which caused me to assume it was legit. Their own model of "fought against" might have been biased.
4Multiheaded9yNow we should both relax. In retrospect it's painfully obvious that I should've chosen the charitable interpretation [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9ki/shit_rationalists_say/5raz]* on the basis of your comment's general impersonal nature and your history here. However, I was already polemizing for polemics' sake elsewhere, so the monkey brain decided to shift fire onto a target of oppotunity too. - I wholeheartedly agree that this is indeed bullshit* rationalists say, yeah. Of course I agree in practice, but in a completely bullshit binary situation where it's either all the current aid, both laptops and the substandard food etc, vs no aid at all, I'd say that no aid at all probably does less harm.
7Prismattic9yHow would a 3-year-old give informed consent to be sold into slavery? Even assuming the "for all ages" only applies to latter item, what would "informed consent' mean for a 3 year old?
3David Althaus9yYou're right, my formulation was kinda self-contradictory. Let's change it to "at least 14 years" or "IQ above 100" or something like that. (Remember that I'm not necessarily endorsing any of these views )
4Baughn9yOr keep it as it is, note that three-year-olds are unable to give informed consent, and leave the definition flexible if that changes in the future. Not that I can see how it would, but we have enough over-specified laws already.
3JoshuaZ9yAlmost all of these are also topics which have been discussed as ideas on LW before. Some of them do seem to lead to close to flamewars (although the LW notion of a flamewar is more civil than most online discussions) but they pretty clearly don't fall into the claimed category of views that are so unacceptable that they can only be talked about indirectly.

American blacks consistently underperform whites on IQ tests, not because of cultural differences, but rather due to (statistically significant) genetic inferiority. This doesn't make them (much) less morally significant than whites, but it should have public policy implications.

For example.

[-][anonymous]9y 18

I never actually read anything by Kipling before reading a certain article by Orwell that a fellow LWer mentioned. I must admit I don't consume much poetry in English, yet I was bothered that I knew nothing of the man's work and did some reading after the reference.

I have stumbled upon this poem and thought it appropriate for some of the topics discussed.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall.
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn,
That water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision, and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had g
... (read more)

Here is the same old mistake of heartfelt but naive conservatism; assuming that the "common sense" and "old good values" of one's day, if they seem to bring such security and are so good at shooting down other naive and dangerous ideas, will be good forever. Yet Kipling's world with all its wisdom ended up impaled on barbed wire, choking on mustard gas and torn to pieces by its own Maxim gun.

And who led it to that hell? Socialists? Unscrupulous wheelers and dealers? Naive young men who wanted to throw out musty old books and change everything for the better? Why, none of the public Kipling used to deride had much to do with it; the gunpowder was lit by those wise old men who carried sacred traditions and led empires. I'm sure that it never even occured to Kipling that, say, Marshal Haig was far more debased, murderous and evil than any of those he railed against.

[-][anonymous]9y 14

I was interpreting the poem sub specie aeternitatis rather than in the specific context it was made. To borrow from Robin Hanson, looking at history farmers embracing forager values tend to die out. The Gods of the Copybook Headings do seem to come back.

Now obviously modern technologically progressing industrial civilization seems a sui generis transition, and there are all sorts of good reasons why this time it will be different, but the outside view is Kipling's view in this case.

And don't think we can in principle rule out a farmer future. The often discussed Malthusian em scenario is a future where the Gods of the Market-Place finally abandon their folly and tightly embrace the teachings of the Gods of the Copybook Heading.

But this is a rather over-specific interpretation of the emotional and I would argue even rationalist core of the poem. Namely that being bored with "water will wet us" and "fire will burn" causes major problems since wishful thinking quickly works to disconnects us from viable strategies in reality.

4Multiheaded9yWait, wait, wait. You are wired as a forager; the farmer culture is a fluke amidst a roaring background of change - just as Lovecraft pointed out. Don't you want to fight? Don't your deepest instincts say that a stagnant, limited order - even a great and proud one - is much less appealing than a chance to end evil or perish, such as trying to build a FAI? Even if we had a recipe to make a stable and conservative society with "farmer" values, would the intellectual elites of our world want such a future? That's like leaving the Babyeaters alone to save your own colony in 3WC. Yes, mercy can kill. But I will embrace it anyway. There is always a dialectic between "farmer" and "forager" values, but it leads in one direction only. Our common dream will either reign or destroy us. And what about being bored with "burying the brain once the body is dead", eh? Maybe some fundamentals do brook change, eh? Maybe we should work against them? What does your morality say - not calculation, but intuition?
[-][anonymous]9y 13

Wait, wait, wait.

To clarify when I said abandon their folly, I mean abandon their in the long term (possibly) doomed endeavour. I did not say I would approve of the total victory of farmer values.

I will however say that I have no interest at all in shifting my own values more towards farmer or forager values. So if the current of history is towards one direction I will probably work towards the other.

There is always a dialectic between "farmer" and "forager" values, but it leads in one direction only.

I have just pointed out that historically this isn't true. Else there would have never been something to call "farmer values" in the first place. I have also given you a scenario that suggest in the future it might not be so.

And in very specific kinds of ways we have, even in modern times, been becoming more and more farmer rather than more and more forager. When it comes to violence we are still pretty clearly moving towards the domesticated farming human rather the violent wild forager (Check out this paper and Pinker's book Better angels of our nature ). To cite another example, when it comes to our workplace we are hyper-farmer in our behavi... (read more)

6[anonymous]9yOf course they do. But again: We are significantly and systematically biased in how we evaluate if the fundamentals have changed. This is the point of the poem as I read it.
7asr9yKipling's son died in the war. And he wrote a multi-volume history "The Irish Guards in The Great War". I think he had ample opportunity to reflect on Haig as a human being. My impression, from Kipling's postwar writing, is that he thought that the war was necessary to restrain the Germans. And I wouldn't be quite so quick to talk about "Kipling's world...being torn to pieces." It's easy, in retrospect, to see the War as a sharp cataclysm. But it might not have looked quite so drastic at the time. The empire didn't start shedding territory for another twenty or thirty years -- and not until after another world war. I think it's a mistake to cast Kipling as a stuffy Colonel Blimp. He was quite interested in technology and progress. He was aware that there were other societies, that disagreed with Victorian England about many things. He wasn't particularly a believer in the Church. He had enough detachment from his surroundings to make his perspective distinctive and interesting.
5Multiheaded9yIt was an enormous, game-changing shock to European mentality; the events of the 30s and 40s would've hardly been possible without it - in any form, Fascism or no Fascism. See e.g. The First World War by Martin Gilbert, a popular history I, personally speaking, liked a huge lot. As for Britain, it partly wrecked and partly transformed a generation of young men, and dealt a massive psychological blow, from which stemmed the motive for Appearsement twenty years later, and the general slow acceptance that maybe the days of the globe painted red were over. It was time to hunker down, step off the stage, and with good reason; over the next few years, all of Europe began to realize that God would not stop anything man does, or anything that could be done to man. That latter fact is exactly what Orwell writes about in the essay too, at the point where he quotes "Recessional" to illustrate how Kipling was behind the times in not learning the new age's awful lessons.

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

Anarcho-capitalists are right.

Most upper class and wealthy jobs are actually rent seeking activities as argued in this video by fellow LessWrong user Aurini.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

I may not necessarily agree with that particular video but Aurini's channel is pure contrarian & rationalist goodness. Its very depressing he only has a few hundred views per video. These two videos seems somewhat relevant:

Edit: Added a few more sort of relevant videos.

He's interesting, but awfully repetitious-- a trait which is worse for videos than writing.

Also, in his argument against regulation (built around a homeless man who had to save for months to be able to afford a business license), he doesn't address the most common argument for regulation which is that sometimes businesses are extremely dangerous to customers and employees.

8[anonymous]9yI think the implicit argument is that the risk is worth it, because the costs of regulations are so high elsewhere. Humans supposedly love regulation because we are generally irrationally risk averse and can signal good stuff about ourselves by proposing legislation that sounds good to our brains which interpret it as guidelines for a small stone age tribe of a few dozen people rather than setting guidelines and rules that will live a life of their own in institutions that govern millions of people.
4Aurini9yThanks for the attention! I thought my channel might be too political for this forum, so I never linked it. In reply: I am for voluntary regulation. Rather than a centralized regulatory agency, I'd like to see free-market approaches, so that big agri-business (for instance) can't slip through dishonest loop-holes. Multiple standard systems, much like you have with motorcycle helmets. In fact, that's a great place to start; there's a lot of debate on what sort of tests and technology make the safest motorcycle helmet, and the two different standards are moving in different directions. Now I - as a non-fabricator - don't really know enough to take a stance on either, but I'm confident that the competition between the two has improved both styles. Vendors would display the label of whatever regulatory agency had certified them, and the agency would be less susceptible to manipulation or bribery, because they'd be selling their image.
7Multiheaded9yI might be a statist, but I agree with that. When it works as intended, competition between producers/vendors of anything is a great social good for individuals, as it raises them to a position of power (see Mises et al). However, I wonder if such agencies can't be made semi-public, or if they couldn't work like an advanced and well-directed banking system; there's a central government agency, which licenses and watches over municipal and private ones; its direct regulatory services would be very conservative, to create a stable "fallback point" for customers.
5J_Taylor9yDoes he, by any chance, write? I hate learning from videos.
7[anonymous]9yYes he does. I think most of it is available on his website [http://www.staresattheworld.com/].
3[anonymous]9ySince we are on the subject of video blogs, I feel I should also put a link here for the measureofdoubt [http://www.youtube.com/user/measureofdoubt] channel done by Julia Galef [http://lesswrong.com/user/Julia_Galef/], who is just great at popularizing some basic rationalist material. I'm sure there has been a thread specifically about videoblogging and youtube channels with rationalist content so sorry if I'm duplicating stuff. Can someone please share a link to any additional recommendations? * What is "rationality"? [http://youtu.be/iloTS0wU9qM] * How to spot a rationalization [http://youtu.be/tfp34-ruvGE] * Beware of the Granfalloon [http://youtu.be/aiwdQ8hoRm4] * The Transplant Problem [http://youtu.be/IyXQarVGBZA] These are pretty good introduction videos to perhaps share with non-rationalists, just so they know what the heck you are talking about. :)

"Instead of creating utility, which is hard, we should all train ourselves to find utility in what we already have."

This is my fairly gross simplification of a lot of Eastern philosophy, and it is antithetical to the "Western memeplex" of achievement and progress.

However, relatively few practitioners of Eastern religions really seem to carry through the logical implications of a totally passive philosophy.

I admit the above imperative doesn't seem as horrifying as the ones listed in the OP, but if you really think through to what the consequences would be, I suspect it would be a future we would never choose.

6Incorrect9yShould? Should for what purpose? Generating utility? If so, utility by what function?

By a very confused utility function? By a utility function best described as Virtue Ethics with total passivity as the highest virtue?

I wasn't suggesting this was a good idea, I was just putting forward a meme which would be rejected by Less Wrong as "too dumb to talk about" which nonetheless would result in universal bliss if it were actually adopted.

6APMason9yIt's also a strange way to talk about utility - as if utility itself is what we want, rather than a measure of how much of what we want we've got.

It seems to be the case that happiness is actually not caused by getting what you want, but rather by wanting what you get. It's been challenging for me to square this psychological fact with the notion of utility maximization.

Although, I think your point might have been that I could have phrased that sentence more clearly without referring to utility.

5APMason9yWell, sure that may be true to the extent that you value happiness. What I was pointing out was that if you were completely miserable, saying "I should modify myself to prefer being miserable to being happy because then I'll get some of that sweet, sweet utility" is just wacky.

basically just noticing women are sometimes difficult in order to get sexual attention and often crave the presence of socially dominant men gets down voted to -15?

I would not downvote someone for saying that. I did downvote Aurini. Accordingly I don't think this is an accurate summary of the meaning of the words in the grandparent.

This is not merely a case of intellectual honesty being branded sexism.

Here is a post by Quirinus_Quirrell that is a decent summary. If you want to be more provocative replace "non-zero" with "significant" add sexual orientation/gender identity to the list of characteristics that provide significant information.

6[anonymous]9yThose topics aren't even that shocking.

You're using a cheap tactic here, listing fact-shaped opinions optimized to appear tolerable to the intended audience and pretending that a list of them covers all the inferential distance from the audience's position to the one you stated. ("...most women are incredibly stupid, and quite useless without a strong male presence guiding them...", etc).

However, that's just a distraction. Your unspoken assumptions - e.g. that if a woman is even slightly sexually aroused by some male behavior, then, regardless of its other effects, this behavior is the best for her and she just doesn't know it; her utility function can't differ from her sexual instincts - are intended to do the real work here. We are to swallow them along with the spoken points. You know what? No sell!

Such unspoken assumptions are easy to find out. We take the mainstream LW position, apply all of the points listed above to it as if we had full confidence in each of them, then we look at the remaining gap between our "modified" attitude towards gender relations, women, etc and the position being forced upon us (that most women are stupid, immature and most importantly undeserving of freedom and respect).

As I have just demonstrated, in that gap lie the things that our opponent would like us to assume but can't say out loud for fear of repulsing us. I have named one; let's look for more.

(Why the downvote?)

Stop doing that. o( ><)o

Aurini made a mistake. He apologized for it. But his mistake is not representative of LessWrongers who believe ideas about human biodiversity are plausible or likely or perhaps have an interest in the topic.

I know you perceive them as political enemies, but hey you are usually civil about this. You are pulling some passive aggressive stuff recently tho and I think I need to call you out on it. If you want people who consider HBD plausible gone, you can just say it directly. Perhaps even make a list of names and post it asking posters to down vote them.

I'm sure we will leave if you do this. We might not be happy about it though.

That's not a very good article.

  1. Anecdote & assertion.

    Worse, the one link provided says the opposite of what the author claims! (Hint to whatever idiot wrote it: "beating off kills your testosterone levels" is not a correct description of a study in which testosterone levels did not change during abstinence except for a transient spike a week later. The second study does not support the claim either, and there are no other studies mentioned.)

  2. Anecdote & assertion.
  3. Pheromones, oh dear, but let's look closer anyway... Oh, not a single study is cited in the link anyway, so I don't have to facefault like in #1.
  4. Yes, that's probably true. It doesn't matter. (Do men actually need to find women more attractive?)
  5. Anecdote & assertion
  6. Anecdote & assertion, and even more than #4, this is a reason to masturbate.

Downvoted for conflating "not wanting to make your country more vibrant and diverse", and "wanting to destroy the country".

I've asserted occasionally that post-modern moral theories (like the worthwhile parts of feminism) are consistent with empiricism. That is, they look at what as happened before and make predictions about will happen in the future.

That is often down-voted. I suspect that this is because taking feminism seriously would require people to re-think their methods of interacting with others, in a way that would be extremely challenging to their personal identities. That way leads to mindkilling (By the transitive property: The personal is political + Politics is the Mindkiller => The personal is the mindkiller).

I suspect that this is because taking feminism seriously would require people to re-think their methods of interacting with others, in a way that would be extremely challenging to their personal identities.

I would love to see a rational discussion about feminism.

I guess there are many ideas where I should update, but also a lot of BS... and I have trouble separating these two parts, mostly because saying that "there is a lot of BS" means that I am an evil person not worth discussing with. Asking for evidence is a proof that I don't believe everything, which of course means that I am an ignorant evil male. So I would like to participate in a discussion where my comment "I don't think this is enough evidence for X" or "I think there is an alternative explanation" is countered by more evidence, instead of just pointing out that I don't get it, because I am privileged (because somehow the non-privileged person could never be wrong).

6TimS9yHere [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9kf/ive_had_it_with_those_dark_rumours_about_our/5rhi] is a start at what I'd call empirical feminist. I'm not sure what you mean by rational, if you don't mean empirical. More generally, I rely on feminist thought to say: From there, I move on to say: For arguments-are-soldiers reasons, many feminists are particularly provocative in their redefinition of worlds. Also for arguments-are-soldiers reasons, other feminists are reluctant to call them on being provocative. That's a bug, not a rationalist feature. But notice that redefinition can be quite powerful, like how "queer" has been reclaimed from being a slur to being a positive label. If you weren't a feminist, would you have predicted this was possible? Keep in mind hindsight bias.
7Viliam_Bur9yThose "unstated assumptions" seem to me like an analogy to individual "compartmentalization". First thought: they should be made explicit. Second thought: maybe they serve some purpose [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/]; most likely to prevent public disorder (read: in worst case thousands of people killing each other). Many of them are probably very outdated, so exposing them would just lead to their removing. Some of them may be sensitive, and making them explicit would bring an open conflict. As an example, I guess many feminists would be very uncomfortable with public discussion of "pick-up arts" (of course unless they could control the whole discussion). Irony is that PUAs are also trying to expose some unstated rules, for the sake of hacking them. English is not my first language and I don't live in English-speaking environment, so I don't clearly see the changes of emotions associated with this word. But are you sure it is the feelings about the word that have changed, instead of feelings towards the queers themselves? To compare: If drinking beer is socially unacceptable in some society, and then decades later drinking beer is acceptable (even though most people there don't drink beer), I certainly wouldn't describe it as "reclaiming the word beer". Of course the connotations of word beer would be changed from "something illegal that only strange people drink" to "something people drink", but that would be just a side effect of the real change. Similarly, there is a lot of effort to invent and popularize gender-neutral pronouns in English, because it is expected to change something, namely to reduce sexism. However, there already are languages that "naturally" contain gender-neutral pronouns, for example Hungarian [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%C5%91#Pronoun]. So does this theory predict that Hungarians are less sexist than other nations? Can we measure it somehow? I think the causality is reversed; it's not like "if we us
7Eugine_Nier9yMy experience is the exact opposite.

Help! Someone is making fun of nerds on the internet! And this guy you talked about occasionally writes on the same site!

In Mala Fide has all sorts of contrarian people. Some are silly, some are insightful. Sure many are mean but that's more or less the point of the site -- may as well complain that 4chan is mean.

Read like a needless personal insult to me.

There is no way to coherently hold utilitarianism without it leading to "the repugnant conclusion" that we should maximise reproduction.

Everyone who thinks they're utilitarian is engaging in signalling behaviour by claiming to value the happiness of other agents, but always rationalizes a utility argument for the self serving position they had anyway.

There's an unfortunate trick of naming here: some LWers use "utilitarian" to describe "valuing different outcomes by real numbers and acting to maximize expected value according to some decision theory", and would thus describe a paperclip maximizer as utilitarian. I can easily accept that traditional Benthamite utilitarianism has no answer to the repugnant conclusion, though.

People realize "the repugnant conclusion" is just the other side of the Torture/Dust-specs coin, right?

[-][anonymous]9y 12

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

I haven't read any comments yet but why do I have a feeling this will be trigger a thread where lots of LWers come out of the closet? I feel left out, being pretty much flaming unPC I can't elicit any drama that way. :(

9[anonymous]9yI'm very surprised at just how up voted the contrarian statements are in this thread, I must have significantly underestimated how popular certain opinions are among rationalists in private. I've read a few that have surprised and even disturbed me. Yet I'm also just so excited about what I'll find here tomorrow morning. This thread might actually have been a good idea.

Bear in mind that some contrarian statements might have been upvoted for being valuable as examples and contributions to the thread, rather than for substantial agreement. Also there is a selection effect: a contrarian sharing an unpopular opinion is very likely to upvote it when seeing a kindred spirit, but a non-contrarian who doesn't share it is unlikely to downvote it (especially in a thread like this one where the point is to encourage contrarian opinions to come out).

I've up-voted several lists containing statements with which I disagree (some vehemently so), but which were thought provoking or otherwise helpful. So, even if this is just anecdotal evidence, the process you described seems to be happening.

9Armok_GoB9yYou're supposed to upvote posts if you want more posts like that. I want more posts in the reference class of "providing the kind of content the OP asks for".

The more you talk, the less you say.

Given the concept "sometimes it’s best for a man to hit his woman to get her to behave", you generalised the words "man", "woman", and "behave" to "someone", "someone" and "do something", and ignored the word "his" altogether. Now you're generalising "best" to mean serving to get whatever the first someone wants.

This reduces the whole matter to fatuity: the optimal tactic to get people to act according to one's goals is whatever will achieve those goals. Duh. The original question was about certain specific goals and specific ways of getting them.

I thought it would be something like this. These are not reasons "for a man to hit his woman to get her to behave". These are reasons why anyone might need to hit anyone else to avoid something worse happening.

In the original context, by "behave" Aurini means "be compliant to the man's desires". This in the context of another person's blog posting elsewhere advocating, right up in the title of the post, "the necessity of domestic violence". This is what you are endorsing.

Sometimes the only ethical course of action is to kill another human being.

Sometimes the only ethical course of action is to kill another human being.

I doubt a majority of people even deny this.

The only trustworthy, effective sort of chief executive - whether for a small business or a major government - is a sociopath who considers the whole enterprise his (or her, although it's a statistical inevitability that there will be more qualified men) personal property, including the lesser employees or citizens. Anyone capable of genuine compassion is proportionately incapable of unbiased strategic thought. Ideally the sadistic god-kings would also be biologically immortal, but for practical purposes a delusion supported by superstitious anagathic practices would be sufficient; the real societal cost of, say, ritually eating a young child's heart every three months would be trifling compared to the benefits of binding decisions being made by someone who genuinely and incorruptibly wants to maximize the long-term productivity of society as a whole, if only for his own amusement.

Orwell predicted that in such a situation the god-kings would be so corrupted by power that they'd stop caring about efficiency and personal wealth at all, and instead would turn to deriving pleasure from sadism alone. I don't know whether that's right, but history seems to suggest that power indeed drives men from mere cruelty to insanity.

3Strange79yThat's what happens with someone who's obsessed with domination and control, yes. I'm talking about someone who is completely confident in their mastery of the situation, regardless of whether that mastery is acknowledged. Someone who doesn't care whether the minions call themselves "friend" or "enemy," whether they're loyal or rebellious, just pushes the right buttons to maximize productivity.

I don't think that any actual sociopaths, as observed in society, ever want to maximise efficiency as an end in itself, when it doesn't coincide with their other personal goals. This would absolutely require not selfish whim, but a complex commitment, both an intellectual and emotional one, which is usually labeled as "obsession" - not a generally approved trait - yet is mostly found in extraordinarily mentally developed people, not deficient ones.

Consider Albert Speer; he was thought an administrative and organisational prodigy by many, and even his detractors admit his intelligence and talent (and yes, no opinion of his subordinates would've likely bothered him) - and yet, despite his limited and naively technocratic outlook at first, when he became Armament Minister, he clearly struggled with his conscience to ignore the criminality of Nazi regime, tried to improve conditions for the slave workers that he employed, and even overturned Hitler's orders to destroy German infrastructure near the end of the war. Do you think that a human being could be found who would optimize arms production better than Speer, yet remained more loyal than him to a cause neither logical, nor moral (for any definition of "moral" quickly available to us), nor feasible?

In short, I think that what you demand is a greater contradiction in traits and behavior than Speer or other technocrats of his caliber displayed - almost certainly greater than what humanity's historically observed diversity permits.

Good point, but what if the minority culture's values differ on this?

For some reason my brain decided to recast this question as though the minority culture were a corporation selling a product at a price (non-full-inclusion in majority culture translated into money). If people don't want to buy it, sucks to be you! I don't care if your values say they ought to or if it will make you sad. Change product or market product but do not force its purchase on anyone.

You do realize we are talking about retention of children raised in a culture right? Orgasmium cults and brainwashing indoctrinators would tend to out compete most others by such measures. A cult worshipping a baslisk that hacks your brain into absolute loyalty would also win out.

Optimizing for allure will not optimize for welfare. At least not under these mechanisms of "choice". It also means our value sets can be out competed by really convincing paperclippers.

From the perspective of many traditional cultures Westerners may as well be Supper Happy people.

6Strange79yThe problem with 'orgasmium cults' is, they have a hard time producing anything valuable enough to outsiders to be able to maintain economic power proportionate to their nominal population. Eventually it's just a heap of functionally insensate larvae starving themselves into irrelevance.
4Alicorn9yI thought we'd drifted away from that particular spin on the scenario as of erratio's comment.
5CaveJohnson9yThe above holds for either. Erratio's formulation was: I think it would be trivial by a superinteligence to design a culture that no one would choose any other culture over, yet wouldn't be a very pleasant place to live. And if superinteligence can do this, why could something like this arise due to memetic evolution? Religious and ideological memeplexes are already examples of weaker but dangerous beasts of this kind.

Given that we haven't achieved immortality yet, we'd have to specify what it means to "save a life".

7Will_Newsome9yYeah, I was thinking that. QALY [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year]s would be nice but tricky to deal with. The first thing that comes to mind as establishing a lower bound are antibiotics but their effects are pretty complicated I think.

The personal is the mindkiller

Oddly enough, this is probably correct.

One hypothesis I have is that there is a sizable population on LW that REALLY doesn't want to talk about the social norms. In meatspace, stuff like how often to talk, how close to stand, and such.

There's a little discussion of the equivalent for online discussion, but mostly phrased in terms of "status," which is not a deep enough concept to capture everything that's going on. I get the feeling that others think something like "My methods of interacting with others are effective, and I'm not interested in other people telling me that my methods makes them uncomfortable." Certainly I've felt that way in the past.

(That said, I'm not sure if that phenomena is why this downvoting is occurring here).

That may have been inspired by this blog post:

In each case, you don't struggle to find great legions of table-thumping hacks loudly demanding to be allowed to speak about these issues without being crushed by the mighty machine of modern liberalism. They're all over the broadcast and print media, bleating about their fictional victimisation.

Let's be blunt here. If the PC Brigade are strangling discussion of these controversial issues, they're not very good at it, are they? I mean, at present, they can't even get a light entertainer sacked for saying he wants to see innocent citizens shot dead in front of their families. A terrifying New-Age Gestapo, this is not.

Vladimir_M's statement sounds quite insightful but it's dangerously close to one of these "you can't prove that there aren't any dragons in the garage" type things (not being able to think up with examples doesn't imply they don't exist because their very nature is that they are elusive).

If I were to looking for examples myself - by analogy with the weird sort of thought patterns people addicted to smoking use, to convince themself to keep smoking - I'd try to think of ways to remove things I love from my life (e.g. being able to think whatever I like without monitoring or having my thoughts censorsed/deleted). Some of the Fun theory articles may be a good starting point.

8[anonymous]9yI actually have a pretty high confidence in Vladimir_M's model of the world. I don't put a very high prior on the bits that are unknown to me to be very much less accurate or useful.
8Multiheaded9yTotal, ubiquitous and universally available surveillance, including automated facial expression and body language analysis (every citizen being, given some work, able to check out every hour of someone else's life the way we check Facebook status, plus low-level AI monitoring) is part of a short Weirdtopia story I'm writing. I've decided to set it on a planet in the Warhammer 40k universe BTW. Now that would be completely unacceptable indeed. Is, say, being on the business end of the mental health system in the worst way possible something like that? For myself, I don't consider a life with something like that to be worth living.
6dugancm9ySo, the only reason you're still alive is that you haven't bothered (or been able) to verify whether you've forgotten thoughts you don't remember having had? My sympathies.
6Multiheaded9yThere's probably a pretty big difference, and you're probably just cynically exploiting the fact that I can't formulate it at 5am. And tomorrow I might just forget to address this topic... wait, shi-
4Armok_GoB9yBeeep! This is a friendly reminder to continue this train of thought!
5HeatDeath9yIn the WH40K universe, a small group of acquaintances, doing basic experimental research in applied parapsychology can, and eventually /will/ create a portal to Hell out of which pours a demonic army which then proceeds to do very unpleasant things to everybody on the planet. Given that the Imperium's standard policy in such an event is to sterilize the entire planet, total transparency as described above is probably a relatively stable, safe, and even pleasant model of society to live in (certainly relative to a lot of the other options).
9Eugine_Nier9yThe scary thing is that the real world appears to be approaching a similar situation with respect to epidemiology, or possibly even microbiology more generally.
9[anonymous]9yA alternative adaptation to this is to stay indoors. A lot. Imagine people working and socializing in virtual environments only. Sharing physical space or having physical contact with people might soon become something limited to family or sexual partners, and I would argue we are already moving in that direction. Even causal sex, one of the few ways in which we have more interpersonal contact with different people than we used to, may be on the way out if virtual sex or sex bots (sex with a human through a robot avatar might be a superior experience soon) become good enough that only romantics bother with the "natural" kind. Taking a few additional precautions to systematically reduce the possibility of infection with food and other deliveries one could get a high level of safety. Oceans, moutains and deserts used to be barriers to disease, might our front door prove a suitable replacement? If you live with only a few people, you can make the entire home one big bubble [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_Boy]. This could eventually transition to bodies being sustained by artificial means and people spending all their time in virtual space or incarnated in real life robotic avatars. Might not sound much better than total constant surveillance, but consider, we may actually be able to have more privacy preserved in society that moves first in this direction than if we first eliminate privacy and then transition to a mostly virtual life.
4[anonymous]9yI hope you finish your weirdtopia story soon, I'd be very interested in reading it :) I agree, freedom of thought is a must for me. But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have to delete that many memes from my brain to make it acceptable.
[-][anonymous]8y 10

Yeah. I'd like to eventually go from unreasonable laws that aren't actually consistently enforced to reasonable laws that are actually consistently enforced, but unless both components switch at the same time there are going to be troubles in the process (arguably worse problems if the enforcement component switches sooner than the reasonableness component). Also, there's the problem that not everybody would agree with which laws would be reasonable, e.g. there are plenty of middle-aged and older people (in Italy at least) who seem to actually believe that marijuana had better stay banned (yes, most of those people probably have only a vague idea of what marijuana actually does, but still).

[-][anonymous]9y 10

The Self-Righteous Hive Mind


What Haidt never quite gets across is that conservatives typically define their groups concentrically, moving from their families outward to their communities, classes, religions, nations, and so forth. If Mars attacked, conservatives would be reflexively Earthist. As Ronald Reagan pointed out to the UN in 1987, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” (Libertarians would wait to see if the Martian invaders were free marketeers.)

In contrast, modern liberals’ defining trait is making a public spectacle of how their loyalties leapfrog over some unworthy folks relatively close to them in favor of other people they barely know (or in the case of profoundly liberal sci-fi movies such as Avatar, other 10-foot-tall blue space creatures they barely know).

As a down-to-Earth example, to root for Manchester United’s soccer team is conservative…if you are a Mancunian. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s liberal.

This urge toward leapfrogging loyalties has less to do with sympathy for the poor underdog (white liberals’ traditional favorites, such as soccer and the federal government, are hardly underdogs) as it is a desire to get one up in status on people they know and don’t like.

5Eugine_Nier9yOn the other hand, being in favor of independence for Quebec is liberal if you're in Quebec, and conservative if you're in France.
[-][anonymous]9y 10

There are plenty of comments of that nature on LessWrong and they are very rarely poorly received. While the first example I gave was eventually down voted this is only because he proposed particularly bad reasoning based on that axiom. If you consider the criticism in the thread very few people attacked moral progress directly.

Also in wider society there is a strong assumption, almost a civic religion based on notions of moral progress. Even those of us who believe that we don't belive in moral progress probably have many cached thoughts and biases directly related to the belief that we haven't yet noticed and repaired.

I meant consensual sex. Do I really need to specify?

9Raemon9yEdit: Nvm, there's a reason we generally think these threads are a bad idea. Short answer: if a child thinks they're consenting, they're likely enough to be wrong (with great enough consequences) that the expected value is negative. Much more importantly: if an adult thinks a child is consenting, the adult is likely to be wrong (they'll have a hard time between telling the difference between actual consent and consent that is feigned out of fear). Is consent hypothetically possible? Yes. But you're running on corrupted hardware and the expected value will usually be negative.
9DanielLC9yHow can they be wrong about consenting? Do you mean changing their mind later? In that case, like I said, I find it hard to believe that they can be traumatized after-the-fact. It's not impossible, but I find it very unlikely. If the other party can scare them into doing that, they can just scare them into saying they haven't had sex in the first place.
6dbaupp9yManipulation. Children are prone to manipulation by figures they trust. So they have belief-in-consent, not actual consent. From the abstract of this paper [http://sax.sagepub.com/content/1/2/303.short]:
8notmyrealnick9yIf sexual consent achieved by manipulation is equivalent to rape, does that imply that pick-up artists are rapists? Spending time building up a relationship of trust and liking with a person that you want to have sex with is called "dating" and considered normal when it is in the context of two adults. The same activity is called "grooming" and considered horrendous manipulation when it is in the context of an adult and a child. Just because trust has been built up on purpose does not make consent founded on that trust false.

At some point, it will become useful to stop using the word "consent" in this discussion, as I don't think the word has the same referent every time it gets used. In particular, I don't think there's general agreement on how much knowledge is implied when we say a system consents to an action, and the different assumptions about that lead to different conclusions.

5Luke_A_Somers9yIt isn't equivalent. Grooming isn't simply being nice and complimenting and trying to get close. It's also about isolating the target and eliminating their ability to perceive their escape options. That's not okay, to put it mildly.
8notmyrealnick9yIn the cases where that happens, you are right, it is not okay. Is that universal, though? Like I mentioned in my other reply, I looked at wikipedia's entry [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_grooming] about grooming before making my comment, and it did not mention isolating the child. The entry could just be deficient, of course.
7notmyrealnick9yI did, and if you will note, it does not define such behaviors to be a part of grooming, but rather only says that many (not all) pedophiles have engaged in them. Such behaviors are obviously wrong and I am not defending them. I was specifically talking about the cases where no physical coercion is used, since those are the cases that the whole discussion was about. Cases where children were coerced are wrong and condemnable, but also irrelevant, since the discussion is about sex that the children consented to. Also, because the abstract was somewhat unclear on whether it considered such behaviors a necessary part of grooming or not, I looked at wikipedia before writing my comment. Wikipedia's definition [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_grooming] says that grooming refers to "actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, in order to lower the child's inhibitions" and generally describes actions which would be considered positive if not for their intent. Giving gifts, for example. "Hugging and kissing or other physical contact, even when the child does not want it, can happen", was the only thing even hinting of coercion that was mentioned. Wikipedia can obviously be wrong and is not an authoritative source, but since neither the article nor the linked abstract implied that coercion or violence would be a necessary part of grooming, I felt justified in posting my comment.
5Emile9yVariants of "I didn't really say 'no', so I guess I kinda consented".

We are never actually convinced by the logic of an argument, its pure presentation and rhetoric. We only think we respond to well reasoned arguments because the features we associate with 'well reasoned' are ones that we have been trained to consider authoritative and persuasive.

In short, we're just signalling rationality not being rational.

[-][anonymous]9y 9

You idiot leftists have banned all violence, and now all entertainment is vicarious violence because real-life hatred has been banned.

While this is political and thus mind-killing language I think it is only fair that if Alicorn has the opportunity to talk about "tactical difficulties" in the debate Aurini should too. I think this hatefest he has attracted has strawmaned and demonized him to ridiculous proportions and that he is indeed right about the reasons for why this happened.

I mean, jeez, have you seen how women behave in the workplace? They crave the occasional spanking.

Indeed, what workplace could be without discipline? Be assured that your boss, just like you, regrets the rotten and degenerate liberal age we are living in and looks forward to the day when he can properly discipline you.

2) Men with guns are always at the ready to take men away who dare discipline their women.

You are stronger than "your women" so you can discipline them at your pleasure. I don't see why you complain when the men with guns, w... (read more)

My comments on this topic after the first one were a mistake. Apologies for feeding the troll.

My comments on this topic after the first one were a mistake. Apologies for feeding the troll.

I affirm your judgement. Aurini appeared to be a user in good standing, at 700 votes but seems to have transitioned to troll.

If, for some reason Aurini is not ostracised while he behaves like this it would be necessary to refute his willfully obnoxious sexist drivel point by point. I know people hate to read debates about sex politics but either the nonsense must be countered through argument or (preferably) it needs to be made clear through downvotes/ignore/dontfeeds that nothing Aurini is saying here should be considered remotely like a position that lesswrong supports.

Oh? Go right ahead, I've got karma to spare.

This is the wrong way to take down votes.

"I must know" isn't a good enough reason. Sorry.

7cousin_it9y"I must know" could be a good enough reason for me if the person gave some evidence that they're more open-minded than average. Anyone can feel open-minded.
9Multiheaded9yOver the years, I updated away from the position I once strongly held that anyone who makes "racist" remarks should be given "a taste of their own medicine", i.e. squashed like a righteous paladin squashes a goblin. Example, although a tainted one: I've been looking at the HBD Chick's blog and the only distasteful thing for me was her (honestly expressed) indifference for the Babyeater children [http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/just-for-the-record/], even if those Babyeaters diverged from her own descendants less than a million years away. Ironically, she's also signaling proud, righteous, oh-so-contrarian resignation to the ugly results of Azatoth's blind meddling instead of even dreaming about fixing them in a real way (uplifting). http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/pew-pew-pew/#comment-1300 [http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/pew-pew-pew/#comment-1300] All her scientific stuff - picked for its determinist bent, of course - is fine and very curious to me, it's just the totally defeatist, barren (not "selfish" - selfishness can be so much more beautiful and constructive) attitude that I dislike so much. Conclusion: I'm quite open-minded about statements of fact, but very narrow-minded about values I perceive as hostile. I support more or less polite agrument on them, but realize what such core disagreement implies: in the physical universe, one system must give way for the other to prosper. Not because of the words, statements and tactics they use, but because their CEVs end up shaping the universe in ways abhorrent to the other.
7cousin_it9yI guess most people could say that they're more open-minded than they were before, but that doesn't make them more open-minded than average...
5TimS9y"You can't handle the truth" is practically always a semantic stop sign. If you can't explain why a concept can't be discussed and convince others of the truth of that fact, then there's no reason to take the position seriously.
9[anonymous]9yHow about "there is no such thing as anonymity on-line and I don't want to loose my job/go to prison/have my wife leave me"?

If your beliefs cause you to risk losing your job, being imprisoned, or having your spouse leave you, then you have bigger problems. Not posting your thoughts here is unlikely to help.

And posting, "I have an interesting idea, but social pressure prevents me from stating it" is worse. People who might be sympathetic have no reason to take that assertion seriously, while people who would punish you for your thoughts now have reason to be suspicious and catch your inevitable slip-up (or they might confabulate a case against you that has nothing to do with what you've actually do wrong).

In short, if the rule is "Don't talk about Fight Club," then hinting about your neat evening activity is not helpful in communicating or in avoiding trouble.

And posting, "I have an interesting idea, but social pressure prevents me from stating it" is worse. People who might be sympathetic have no reason to take that assertion seriously, while people who would punish you for your thoughts now have reason to be suspicious and catch your inevitable slip-up (or they might confabulate a case against you that has nothing to do with what you've actually do wrong).

In practice the exact opposite tends to happen. People who are sympathetic tend to pick up on subtle cues, whereas mainstream people are so used to actively avoiding thinking against their orthodoxy that like the OP they can't even imagine what you're hinting at. For example Paul Graham's essay is perfectly respectable, going into details about what specifically you can't say wouldn't be.

7[anonymous]9yThe interesting bit is that, the best heretic hunter is the man with doubts of his own.
5jimrandomh9yFalse. Perfect anonymity is not very difficult; all you need is a clean computer, some standard tools that you can easily download, and a little time with no one looking over your shoulder.
5[anonymous]9yModify that to "good enough" and I would agree. If someone was really determined to track you down anonymity is hard. In any case some of us would have to resort to sock puppets because we've already disclosed the connection between our user names and our IRL names.
3Multiheaded9yI hereby promise that I'll find some way to pay Steven $20 or so if, say, he and I contact each other with fake accounts in a messenger program, using Tor or some other anonymizer, and he finally gives me his vaunted red pill.
4steven04619yIt has been explained why the concepts can't be discussed. If every correct line of reasoning were convincing to everyone, we wouldn't be living in the world that we do.
3TimS9yDo you see have much clearer you would be if you had described what concept you meant instead of just saying "the concept." Compare "I decline to discuss Pick-Up Artistry" against "I decline to discuss the forbidden concept."
4cousin_it9yDo you think previous failed discussions of the topic in question, and the lack of previous successful discussions, shouldn't count as evidence?

Anyone's ethics, including yours, must have a subgoal of aiming to influence others' behavior in some ways, in order to have consistency.

(It is likely that all humans do have such ethics. It is not actually a requirement for consistency.)

Dude, let me be honest. I was testing you with those two links. The result was far below my expectations. I'm not going to speak too much about it, looks like Less Wrong has already told you the basics anyway ITT.

I think that your behaviour, while influence-seeking, is unwise to dismiss as that of a "Troll". Moreover, I don't believe you to be outright "evil" (we have plenty of incompatible values, though, but I've first to examine the nature and pattern of these values to see where a clash is inevitable and where a compromise is worth ... (read more)

If you actually believe this, please go away and never come back.

If you don't actually believe this, would you mind explaining why you're trolling?

5Aurini9yI find it ironic that I'm being yelled at in a thread that's about 'ideas which are unspeakable'. In practice, I'm very loving of the women in my life, and I treat them well. I know how to make them feel special. Did you read the original article by Ferd?
[-][anonymous]9y 8

Choosing how a child turns out at five as a basis of which kid you want is clearly something that produces a non-trivial eugenic effect. Not in the societal sense (since what kind of kids a society gets are mostly already set), but in the sense of shaping the child you get to have according to one's own preferences. It is perfectly comparable to choosing the foetus with the right genes for implantation.

Some unstated assumptions can be good for minority. Consider for example the idea of religious tolerance, which appeared when society was highly religious. The unstated assumption is that having the right religion does not matter too much, because people not mass-killing each other is more important than believing in the right kind of deity. Now say it too loudly, and religious people will have to oppose this idea, to signal their faith.

More generally, an inconsistent person may be friendly with you in a "near mode", but your opponent in a "... (read more)

Okay, so you assign great value to certain complex systems that have fuzzy definitions and borders, are completely unlike any individual and are frequently damaging (if without hostile intent as we understand it) to said individual. Me, I don't care about such a system on its own (whether you call it "State" or "Nation" - note that "Nation" can also be defined as a system of an entirely different type) any more than I would care about an UFAI. In general, I don't assign inherent value to any pattern I have literally no possibi... (read more)

A Google Scholar search for "ethnic diversity welfare state" will turn up a ton of links, but the specific evidence I had in mind is the graphs you can see here.

4hairyfigment9yAt a glance, "ethnic diversity" looks more like 'a history of one internal ethnic group imposing its will on another by force'. The first Google result [http://www.socialpolicy.ed.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/10215/paper_midpoint_conference_project_3.pdf] for your terms may cast doubt on this -- I can't tell right now -- but it definitely minimizes the effect, in Europe, of increasing diversity (whatever that means).

In recent years, Putnam has been engaged in a comprehensive study of the relationship between trust within communities and their ethnic diversity. His conclusion based on over 40 cases and 30 000 people within the United States is that, other things being equal, more diversity in a community is associated with less trust both between and within ethnic groups. Although limited to American data, it puts into question both the contact hypothesis and conflict theory in inter-ethnic relations. According to conflict theory, distrust between the ethnic groups will rise with diversity, but not within a group. In contrast, contact theory proposes that distrust will decline as members of different ethnic groups get to know and interact with each other. Putnam describes people of all races, sex, socioeconomic statuses, and ages as "hunkering down," avoiding engagement with their local community—both among different ethnic groups and within their own ethnic group. Even when controlling for income inequality and crime rates, two factors which conflict theory states should be the prime causal factors in declining inter-ethnic group trust, more diversity is still associated with less c

... (read more)
4hairyfigment9yWell, this certainly leads me to change my view, but perhaps not in the way you think. At first I doubted this evidence (and I still wonder how much of it people could replicate). I would expect contact with different people to reduce fear of outsiders. Indeed, Putnam [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x/full] suggests as much and this later source [http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:LD4JMzLDOJcJ:scholar.google.com/+putnam+ethnic&hl=en&as_sdt=0,31] confirms it -- having neighbors from a different ethnic group increases inter-group trust. Yet the same sources claim that an ethnically diverse neighborhood reduces trust in 'hoods and neighbors. I didn't get the impression that racial prejudice started out strong enough to explain this, though I could be wrong. I think y'all may have buried the lede here. If these and the other results you quoted hold, then maybe all altruism comes from tribal instincts and ethnic diversity interferes with our evolved tribal sense (until the mental categories change, about which more in a second). This might explain the greater participation in marches and reform groups. The loss of a tribe leads to desire for a new one.
5GLaDOS9yI think that's the point. When you have ethnic diversity in single society or state, one group always does better than others and the others will resent it its success [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_on_Fire].

That may be, but if your position is "I'm trying not to talk to the orthodox" then the intelligent orthodox are totally justified in saying "I have no reason to respect the quality of your ideas if you refuse to communicate them to me."

The goal isn't to convince the orthodox to change his position, it's merely to show that the orthodox opinion isn't unanimous.

[-][anonymous]9y 8

It's not like it's terribly difficult to find, even without the name.

Literally every sentence you wrote is wrong.

The worst crimes of the holocaust were a conspiracy within the Nazi government.

This is not true. The Holocaust was ordered by the popular leader of the German government; they were executed by a very large number of people, probably >90% of whom actively cooperated and almost none of whom tried to stop the Holocaust. (see e.g. Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men) German society as a whole knew that their government was attempting genocide; see e.g. What We Knew for supporting details, or Wikipedia for a s... (read more)

Total government surveillance would actually increase net happiness in developed countries significantly. (So cameras on every street, and if practical every bedroom. All emails, phone calls etc are kept on record to be examined by police when necessary)

We object to it out of a primal fear of being observed, internalised guilt about our actions and a cultural backlash against authoritarian governments.

[-][anonymous]8y 14

After reflection, I think this is my true rejection of total government surveillance. There are plenty of relatively unproblematic actions that are technically illegal but most people do anyway (soft drug use, copyright infringement, etc.), but right now few people are prosecuted so few people are particularly bothered by the laws. Introducing total government surveillance without repealing such laws first would essentially give arbitrary powers to law enforcement.

8DanielLC8yThere's also the problem of industrial espionage. If the government is able to spy on people, then corporations will be able to get the police to spy on people from other corporations.

How the flying fuck does this have anything to do with publicly expressing disrespect and contempt for a genetically determined group of people, anyway? I agree that the issue of perceived fairness vs. market efficiency isn't clear-cut, but our attitude towards the people who get unlucky must be particularly sensitive.

Would you want Yudkowsky to call anyone who can't work on FAI or get qualified to do so a useless dullard whose only worth to society is donating to SIAI? If you wouldn't, why wouldn't you condemn Aurini's words?

It also requires him being apriori a better judge of instrumental value than the vast majority of women, and some truly vast good being created that outweighs the ugliness of publicly disrespecting and humiliating any entire gender in such away. Also, he never once even mentioned the dangers of judging moral significance as a caveat.

(To answer your question directly: I maintain that a person's total instrumental value as perceived by others is, especially in social relations, often nearly impossible to detach from intristic value, and an attempt to treat t... (read more)

Heh, you really think that's squick? When I read that article I thought it was so incredibly self-evident that it was as interesting as pointing out the sky is blue.

Do you realize that the domestic abuse described in the article and then commented on by me is a guy being physically abused by his girlfriend but liking it because she gave him attention? That then forms the basis of a rant that encourages domestic violence.

You are trying to signal how alpha you are by demonstrating how sexist and offensive you can be but in this case you seem to have affiliated with a pussy.

You want to normalize domestic violence and make it legal. That's the only reasonable inference I can draw from what you've written.

Pro tip: I'm a dude. Does that falsify anything you believe?