Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

by Gondolinian5 min read15th Dec 2014640 comments


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If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.


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LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
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SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

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A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!


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Finally, a big thank you to everyone that helped write this post via its predecessors!

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I am Falk. I am a PhD student in the computational cognitive science lab at UC Berkeley. I develop and test computational models of bounded rationality in decision making and reasoning. I am particularly interested in how we can learn to be more rational. To answer this question I am developing a computational theory of cognitive plasticity. I am also very interested in self-improvement, and I am hoping to develop strategies, tools and interventions that will help us become more rational.

I have written a blog post on what we can do to accelerate our cognitive growth that I would like to share with the LessWrong community, but it seems that I am not allowed to post it yet.

3James_Miller5yI look forward to reading your post.

New to the site. LW came to my attention today in a Harper's Magazine article "Come With Us If You Want To Live (Among the apocalyptic libertarians of Silicon Valley)" January 2015. I hope to learn about rationalism. My background includes psychology, psycho-metrics, mechanics, and history but my interests are best described as eclectic. I value clarity of expression but also like creativity and humor. I view the world skeptically, sometimes cynically. For amusement I often speak ironically and this, at times, offends my listeners when I fail to adequately signal it. I do not hesitate to apologize when I see that I have offended someone. Hello.

5dxu6yWelcome to Less Wrong! (Wow. So you came here after reading the Harper's article, huh? That's actually pretty surprising to me. It's only one data point, but I feel as though I should significantly weaken what I said here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ld1/open_thread_dec_8_dec_15_2014/bqq7] about the article. Color me impressed.)

Hey! <retracted because I changed my mind about the sensibleness of putting personal info on the internet and more people started recognising my name than I'm happy with>

9John_Maxwell6yI think it's a bit of a shame that society seems to funnel our most intelligent, logical people away from social science. I think social science is frequently much more helpful for society than, say, string theory research.
4John_Maxwell5yNote: I do find it plausible that doing STEM in undergrad is a good way to train oneself to think, and the best combo might be a STEM undergrad and a social science grad degree. You could do your undergrad in statistics, since statistics is key to social science, and try to become the next Andrew Gelman.
4Acty5yAs advice for others like me, this is good. For me personally it doesn't work too well; my A level subjects mean that I won't be able to take a STEM subject at a good university. I can't do statistics, because I dropped maths last year. The only STEM A level I'm taking is CompSci, and good universities require maths for CompSci degrees. I could probably get into a good degree course for Linguistics, but it isn't a passionate adoration for linguistics that gets me up in the mornings. I adore human and social sciences. I don't plan to be completely devoid of STEM education; the subject I actually want to take is quite hard-science-ish for a social science. If I get in, I want to do biological anthropology and archaeology papers, which involve digging up skeletons and chemically analysing them and looking at primate behaviour and early stone tools. It would be pretty cool to do some kind of PhD involving human evolution. From what I've seen, if I get onto the course I want to get onto, it'll teach me a lot of biology and evolutionary psychology and maybe some biochemistry and linguistics.
0ChristianKl5yWhile archaeology certainly seems fun, do you think it will help you understand how to build a better world?
4ChristianKl5yNo. The problem of building a state out of 10,000 people who's fasted way of transport is the horse and who have no math is remarkably different from the problem of building a state of tens of millions of people in the age of the internet, cellphones fast airplanes and cars that allow people to travel fast. The Ancient Egyptians didn't have the math to even think about running a randomized trial to find out whether a certain policy will work. Studying them doesn't tell you anything about how to get our current political system to be more open to make policy based on scientific research. I think cognitive psychologists who actually did well controlled experiments were a lot more useful for learning about biases and fallacies than evolutionary psychology. Most people in political science don't do it well. I don't know of a single student body that changed to a new political system in the last decade. I did study at the Free University of Berlin which has a very interesting political structure that came out of 68's. At the time there was a rejection of representative democracy and thus even through the government of Berlin wants the student bodies of universities in Berlin to be organised according to representative democracy, out university effectively isn't. Politics students thought really hard around 68 about how to create a more soviet style democracy and the system is still in operation today. Compared to designing a system like that today's politics students are slacking. The aren't practically oriented. If you are interested in rationality problems, there the field of decision science. It's likely more yielding then anthropology. Having a good grasp of academic decision science would be helpful when it comes to designing political systems and likely not enough people in political science deal with that subject. Are you aware that the American Anthropological Association dropped [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/science/10anthropology.html] science fro
4RichardKennaway5yIs that the system where everyone can vote, but there's only one candidate?
3ChristianKl5yThe problem of studying people in the first villages is not only that their problems don't map directly to today. It's also that it's get's really hard to get concrete data. It's much easier to do good science when you have good reliable data. With 10,000 people you can solve a lot via tribal bonds and clans. Families stick together. You can also do a bit of religion and everyone follows the wise local priest. Those solutions don't scale well. You are likely becoming like the people that surround you when you go into university. You also build relationships with them. Going to Cambridge is good. Cambridge draws a lot of intelligent people together and also provides you with very useful contacts for a political career. On the other hand that means that you have to go to those place in Cambridge where the relevant people are. Find out which professors at Cambridge actually do good social science. Then go to their classes. Just make sure that you don't get lost and go on a career of digging up old stuff and not affecting the real world. A lot of smart people get lost in programs like that. It's like smart people who get lost in theoretical physics.
1Vaniver5yThe two are not mutually exclusive [http://lesswrong.com/lw/yj/an_especially_elegant_evpsych_experiment/].
2btrettel6yI agree wholeheartedly. A field like theoretical physics is much more glamorous to large number of intelligent people. I think it's partly signaling, but I'm not sure that explains everything. What makes the least sense to me are people who seem to believe (or even explicitly confirm!) that they are only interested in things which have no applications. Especially when these people seem to disparage others who work in applied fields. I imagine this teasing might explain a bit of why so many smart people work in less helpful fields.
7Acty5yI think to an extent, physics is more intellectually satisfying to a lot of smart people. It's much easier to prove things for definite in maths and physics. You can take a test and get right answers, and be sure of your right answers, so when you're sufficiently smart it feels like a lot of fun to go around proving things and being sure of yourself. It feels much less satisfying to debate about which economics theories might be better. Knowing proven facts about high level physics makes you feel like an initiate into the inner circles of secret powerful knowledge, knowing a bunch about different theories of politics (especially at first) just makes you feel confused. So if you're really smart, 'hard' sciences can feel more fun. I know I certainly enjoy learning computer science and feeling the rush of vague superiority when I fix someone's computer for them (and the rush of triumph when my code finally compiles). When I attempt to fix people's sociological opinions for them, there's no rush of vague superiority, just a feeling of intense frustration and a deeply felt desire to bang my head against the wall. Then there's the Ancient Greek cultural thing where sitting around thinking very hard is obviously superior to going out and doing things - cool people sit inside their mansions and think, leaving your house and mucking around in the real world actually doing things is for peasants - which has somehow survived to this day. The real world is dirty and messy and contains annoying things that mess up your beautiful neat theories. Making a beautiful theory of how mechanics works is very satisfying. Trying to actually use the theory to build a bridge when you have budget constraints and a really big river is frustrating. Trying to apply our built up knowledge about small things (molecules) to bigger things (cells) to even bigger things (brains) to REALLY BIG AND COMPLICATED things (lots and lots of brains together, eg a society) is really intensely frustrating . An
2btrettel5yI don't think that something being (more) mathematically rigorous explains all of what we see. Physicists at one time used to study fluid dynamics. Rayleigh, Kelvin, Stokes, Heisenberg, etc., all have published in the field. You can do quite a lot mathematically in fluids, and I have felt like part of some inner circle because of what I know about fluid dynamics. Now the field has been basically displaced by quantum mechanics, and it's usually not considered part of "physics" in some sense, and is less popular than I think you might expect if a subject being amenable to mathematical treatment is attractive to some folks. Physicists are generally taught only the most basic concepts in the field. My impression is that the majority of physics undergrads couldn't identify the Navier-Stokes equations, which are the most basic equations for the movement of a fluid. It could also be that fluids have obvious practical applications (aerodynamics, energy, etc.) and this makes the subject distasteful to pedants. That's just speculation, however. I'm really not sure why fields like physics, etc., are so attractive to some people, though I think you've identified parts of it. You do make a good point about the sense of completion being different in engineering vs. social science. I suppose the closest you could get in social science is developing some successful self-help book or changing public policy in a good way, but I think these are much harder than building things.
4Acty5yI think there's also definitely a prestige/coolness factor which isn't correlated with difficulty, applicability, or usefulness of the field. Quantum mechanics is esoteric and alien and weird and COOL and saying you understand it whilst sliding your glasses down your nose makes you into Supergeek. Saying "I understand how wet stuff splashes" is not really so... high status. It's the same thing that makes astrophysics higher status than microbiology even though the latter is probably more useful and saves more lives / helps more people - rockets spew fire and go to the moon, bacteria cells in a petri dish are just kind of icky and slimy. I am quite certain that, if you are smart enough to go for any field you want, there is a definite motivation / social pressure to select a "cool" subject involving rockets and quarks and lasers, rather than a less cool subject involving water and cells or... god forbid... political arguments. And, hmm, actually, not quite true on the last point - a social scientist could develop an intervention program, like a youth education program, that decreases crime or increases youth achievement/engagement, and it would probably feel awesome and warm and fuzzy to talk to the youths whose lives were improved by it. So you could certainly get closer than "developing some successful self-help book". It is certainly harder, though, I think, and there's certainly a higher rate of failure for crime-preventing youth education programs than for modern bridge-building efforts.
3btrettel5yTo be honest, I found QM to be the least interesting subject of all physics which I've learned about. Also, I don't think the features you highlighted work either. Fluid dynamics has loads of counterintuitive findings, perhaps even more so than QM, e.g., streamlining can increase drag at low Reynolds numbers, increasing speed can decrease drag in certain situations ("drag crisis"). Fluids also has plenty of esoteric concepts; very few people reading the previous sentence likely know what the Reynolds number or drag crisis is. Physicists, even astrophysicists, know little more about how rockets work than educated laymen. Rocketry is part of aerospace engineering, of which the foundation is fluid dynamics. Maybe rocketry is a counterexample, but I don't really think so, as there are a lot more people who think rockets are interesting than who know what a de Laval nozzle [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Laval_nozzle] is. Even that has some counterintuitive effects; the fluid accelerates in the expansion!
5Acty5yYou make me suddenly, intensely curious to find out what a Reynolds number is and why it can make streamlining increase drag. I am also abruptly realising that I know less than I thought about STEM fields, given I just kind of assumed that astrophysicists were the official People Who Know About Space and therefore rocketry must be part of their domain. I don't know whether I want to ask if you can recommend any good fluid dynamics introductions, or whether I don't want to add to the several feet high pile of books next to my bed... Okay - so why do you think quantum mechanics became more "cool" than fluid dynamics? Was there a time when fluid dynamics held the equivalent prestige and mystery that quantum mechanics has today? It clearly seems to be more useful, and something that you could easily become curious about just from everyday events like carrying a cup of tea upstairs and pondering how near-impossible it is not to spill a few drops if you've overfilled it.
6btrettel5yThe best non-mathematical introduction I have seen is Shape and Flow: The Fluid Dynamics of Drag [http://www.amazon.com/Shape-Flow-Fluid-Dynamics-Science/dp/B0007J6AA8]. This book is fairly short; it has 186 pages, but each page is small and there are many pictures. It explains some basic concepts of fluid dynamics like the Reynolds number, what controls drag at low and high Reynolds numbers, why golf balls (or roughened spheres in general) have less drag than smooth spheres at high Reynolds number (this does not imply that roughening always reduces drag; it does not on streamlined bodies as is explained in the book), how drag can decrease as you increase speed in certain cases, how wind tunnels and other similar scale modeling works, etc. You could also watch this series of videos on drag [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0rQ4F3f-Ic&list=PL0EC6527BE871ABA3&index=13]. They were made by the same person who wrote Shape and Drag. There is also a related collection of videos [http://web.mit.edu/hml/ncfmf.html] on other topics in fluid dynamics. Beyond that, the most popular undergraduate textbook by Munson [http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-Fluid-Mechanics-Bruce-Munson/dp/0471675822/] is quite good. I'd suggest buying an old edition if you want to learn more; the newer editions do not add anything of value to an autodidact. I linked to the fifth edition, which is what I own. I'll offer a few possibilities about why fluids is generally seen as less attractive than QM, but I want to be clear that I think these ideas are all very tentative. This study [https://www.princeton.edu/~mjs3/salganik_dodds_watts06_full.pdf] suggests that in an artificial music market, the popularity charts are only weakly influenced by the quality of the music. (Note that I haven't read this beyond the abstract.) Social influence had a much stronger effect. One possible application of this idea to different fields is that QM became more attractive for social reasons, e.g., the Matthew effe
4Acty5yOoh, yay, free knowledge and links! Thankyou, you're awesome! The linked study was a fun read. I was originally a bit skeptical - it feels like songs are sufficiently subjective that you'll just like what your friends like or is 'cool', but what subjects you choose to study ought to be the topic of a little more research and numbers - but after further reflection the dynamics are probably the same, since often the reason you listen to a song at all is because your friend recommended it, and the reason you research a potential career in something is because your careers guidance counselor or your form tutor or someone told you to. And among people who've not encountered 80k hours or EA, career choice is often seen as a subjective thing. It'd be like with Asch's conformity experiments where participants aren't even aware that they're conforming because it's subconscious, except even worse because it's subconscious and seen as subjective... That seems like a very plausible explanation. There could easily be a kind of self-reinforcing loop, as well, like, "I didn't learn fluid dynamics in school and there aren't any fluid dynamics Nobel prize winners, therefore fluid dynamics isn't very cool, therefore let's not award it any prizes or put it into the curriculum..." At its heart, this is starting to seem like a sanity-waterline problem like almost everything else. Decrease the amount that people irrationally go for novelty and specific prizes and "application is for peasants" type stuff, and increase the amount they go for saner things like the actual interest level and usefulness of the field, and prestige will start being allocated to fields in a more sensible way. Fluid dynamics sounds really really interesting, by the way.
0Gram_Stone5yAlso perhaps worth noting that the effect within the LW subculture in particular may have to do with lots of LW users knowing a lot about ideas or disciplines where there are a lot of popular but wrong positions so they know how not to go astray. Throughout the Sequences, before you figure out how to do it right, you hear about how a bunch of other people have done it wrong: MWI, p-zombies, value theory, evolutionary biology, intellectual subcultures, etc. I don't know that there are any sexy controversies in fluid mechanics.
1btrettel5yInteresting points. There are controversies in fluid mechanics, and they are discussed at great length in the field, but I don't know of any popular treatments of them. In particular, there a large number of debates centering around turbulence modeling which actually are extremely relevant to modeling in general. The LES vs. RANS debate is interesting, and while in some sense LES has "won", this does not mean that LES is entirely satisfactory. A lot of turbulence theory is also quite controversial. I recall reading a fair bit about isotropic turbulence decay in 2012 and I was surprised by the wide variety of results different theoretical and experimental approaches give. Isotropic turbulence decay, by the way, is the among easiest turbulence problems you could devise. The debate in turbulence about the log law vs. power law [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_wall] is a waste of time, and should be recognized as such. Both basically give you the same result, so which you use is inconsequential. There are some differences in interpretation that I don't think are important or even remember to be honest. Thinking about it, things like QM are a fair bit easier to explain than turbulence. To actually explain these things in detail beyond what I've mentioned would take a considerable amount of time.
3Good_Burning_Plastic5y"I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic." (Horace Lamb) (Indeed, today quantum electrodynamics makes correct predictions within one part per billion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_tests_of_QED] and fluid dynamics has an open million-dollar question [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navier%E2%80%93Stokes_existence_and_smoothness].)
0James_Miller5yIf you consider finance a subset of social science then the U.S. puts a lot of its best and brightest there.
0ChristianKl5yHedge funds do manage to employ the best and brightest, on the other hand I'm not sure whether the same is true for the academic subject of finance.
0Lumifer5yFinance is not social science. I think it's more similar to engineering: you need to have a grasp of the underlying concepts and be able to do the math, but the real world will screw you up on a very regular basis and so you need to be able to deal with that.
0James_Miller5yBehavioral finance is supposedly a big thing.
1Lumifer5yTaking psychology into consideration doesn't make finance a social science any more than sociological factors make civil engineering a social science.
5Gram_Stone6yI've studied Spanish for some time and would be happy to converse with you. I'm not sure if you only want to converse with native speakers. I've been wanting to learn how to talk about LessWrongian stuff in Spanish.
1[anonymous]5yYou seem legit. Also, wait, the #lesswrong IRC channel stopped being dead?
1Squark5yHi Act, welcome! I will gladly converse with you in Russian if you want to. Why do you want a united utopia? Don't you think different people prefer different things? Even if assume the ultimate utopia is unform, wouldn't we want to experiment with different things to get there? Would you feel "dwarfed by an FAI" if you had little direct knowledge of what the FAI is up to? Imagine a relatively omniscient and omnipotent god taking care of things on some (mostly invisible) level but doesn't ever come down to solve your homework.
5Squark5yP.S. I am dismayed that you were ambushed by the far right crowd, especially on the welcome thread. My impression is that you are highly intelligent, very decent and admirably enthusiastic. I think you are a perfect example of the values that I love in this community and I very much want you on board. I'm sure that I personally would enjoy interacting with you. Also, I am confident you will go far in life. Good dragon hunting!
4Squark5yI sympathize with your sentiment regarding friendship, community etc. The thing is, when everyone are friends the state is not needed at all. The state is a way of using violence or the threat of violence to resolve conflicts between people in a way which is as good as possible for all parties (in the case of egalitarian states; other states resolve conflicts in favor of the ruling class). Forcing people to obey any given system of law is already an act of coercion. Why magnify this coercion by forcing everyone to obey the same system rather than allowing any sufficiently big group of people choose their own system? Moreover, in the search of utopia we can go down many paths. In the spirit of the empirical method, it seems reasonable to allow people to explore different paths if we are to find the best one. I used "homework" as a figure of speech :) This might be so. However, you must consider the tradeoff between this sadness and efficiency of dragon-slaying. The problem is, if you instantly go from human intelligence to far superhuman, it looks like a breach in the continuity of your identity. And such a breach might be paramount to death. After all, what makes tomorrow you the same person as today you, if not the continuity between them? I agree with Eliezer that I want to be upgraded over time, but I want it to happen slowly and gradually.
3Acty5yI do think that some kind of organisational cooperative structure would be needed even if everyone were friends - provided there are dragons left to slay. If people need to work together on dragonfighting, then just being friends won't cut it - there will need to be some kind of team, and some people delegating different tasks to team members and coordinating efforts. Of course, if there aren't dragons to slay, then there's no need for us to work together and people can do whatever they like. And yeah - the tradeoff would definitely need to be considered. If the AI told me, "Sorry, but I need to solve negentropy and if you try and help me you're just going to slow me down to the point at which it becomes more likely that everyone dies", I guess I would just have to deal with it. Making it more likely that everyone dies in the slow heat death of the universe is a terribly large price to pay for indulging my desire to fight things. It could be a tradeoff worth making, though, if it turns out that a significant number of people are aimless and unhappy unless they have a cause to fight for - we can explore the galaxy and fight negentropy and this will allow people like me to continue being motivated and fulfilled by our burning desire to fix things. It depends on whether people like me, with aforementioned burning desire, are a minority or a large majority. If a large majority of the human race feels listless and sad unless they have a quest to do, then it may be worthwhile letting us help even if it impedes the effort slightly. And yeah - I'm not sure that just giving me more processor power and memory without changing my code counts as death, but simultaneously giving a human more processor power and more memory and not increasing their rationality sounds... silly and maybe not safe, so I guess it'll have to be a gradual upgrade process in all of us. I quite like that idea though - it's like having a second childhood, except this time you're learning to remember eve
2Squark5yWe don't need the state to organize. Look at all the private organizations out there. The cause might be something created artificially by the FAI. One idea I had is a universe with "pseudodeath" which doesn't literally kill you but relocates you to another part of the universe which results in lose of connections with all people you knew. Like in Border Guards [http://gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au/BORDER/Complete/Border.html] but involuntary, so that human communities have to fight with "nature" to survive.
0g_pepper5ySort of a cosmic witness relocation program! :).
0hairyfigment5yThe following is pure speculation. But I imagine an FAI would begin its work by vastly reducing the chance of death, and then raising everyone's intelligence and energy levels to those of John_von_Neumann [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann]. That might allow us to bootstrap ourselves to superhuman levels with minimal guidance.
1ChristianKl6yWhy do you dream of doing Human, Social and Political Sciences?
1[anonymous]5yTo me it sounds like you're an intense, inspired person who wants to make a great impact and has a start at a few plans for doing it. Way to go!
1ChristianKl6yYou assume that studying politics in university tells you a good answer to that question. To me that doesn't seem true. If you look at a figure like Julian Assange who actually plays and make meaningful moves, Assange didn't study politics at university. Studying politics at Cambridge on the other hand will make it easier to become an elected politician in the UK. But that's not necessarily because of the content of lectures but because of networking. It quite often happens that young people don't speak to older more experienced people when making their decisions about what to study. As your goal is making a difference in the world, it could be very useful to ask 80,000 for coaching to make that choice: https://80000hours.org/career-advice/ [https://80000hours.org/career-advice/]You might still come out of that with wanting to go to the same program in Cambridge but you will likely have better reasons for doing so and will be less naive.
1ChristianKl6yGetting elected in the UK is certainly a valid move, but it comes with buying into the status quo to the extend that you hold opinions that make you fit into a major party. I think the substantial discussion about Liquid Democracy doesn't happen inside the politics departments of universities but outside of them. A lot of 20th century and earlier political philosophy just isn't that important for building something new. It exists to justify the status quo and a place like Cambridge exists to justify the status quo. Even inside Cambridge you likely want to spend time in student self-governance and it's internal politics.
4Journeyman5yTo some degree, the idea of a "Friendship and Science Party" has already been tried. The Mugwumps wanted to get scholars, scientists and learned people more involved in politics to improve its corrupt state. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but this [http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/02/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified_19.html] is what happened: According to this account, the more contact science has with politics, the more corrupted it becomes.
7ErikM5yI think you missed what I see as the main point in "What they might have considered, however, was that there was no valve in their pipe. Aiming to purify the American state, they succeeded only in corrupting the American mind." Not surprising, because Moldbug (the guy quoted about the Mugwumps) is terribly long-winded and given to rhetorical flourishes. So let me try to rephrase what I see as the central objection in a format more amenable to LW: The scientific community is not a massive repository of power, nor is it packed to the gills with masters of rhetoric. The political community consists of nothing but. If you try to run your new party by listening to the scientific community without first making the scientific community far more powerful and independent, what's likely to happen is that the political community makes a puppet of the scientific community, and then you wind up running your politics by listening to a puppet of the political community. To give a concrete relatable figure: The US National Science Foundation receives about 7.5 billion dollars a year from the US Congress. (According to the NSF, they are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities [http://www.nsf.gov/about/], which suggests 30 billion federal dollars are out there just for basic research) The more you promote "Do what the NSF says", the more Congress is going to be interested in using some of those billions of dollars to lean on the NSF and other similar organizations so that you will be promoting "Do what Congress says" at arm's remove. No overt dishonesty needs be involved. Just little things like hiring sympathetic scientists, discouraging controversial research, asking for a survey of a specific metric, etc. Suppose you make a prediction that a law will decrease the crime rate. You pass the law. You wait a while and see. Did the crime rate go down? Well, how are you measuring crime
4Acty5yThankyou - this statement of the idea was much, much clearer to me. :) It seems like the solution - well, a possible part of one possible solution - is to make the social science research institute that everyone listens to have some funding source which is completely independent from the political party in power. That would hopefully make the scientific community more independent. We now need to make it more powerful, which is... more difficult. I think a good starting point would be to try and raise the prestige associated with a social science career (and thus the prestige given to individual social scientists and the amount of social capital they feel they have to spend on being controversial) and possibly give some rhetoric classes to the social science research institute's spokesperson. Assuming the scientists are rational scientists, this gives them politician-power with which to persuade people of their correct conclusions. (Of course, if they have incorrect conclusions influenced by their ideologies, this is... problematic. How do we fix this? I dunno yet. But this is the very beginning of a solution, but I've not been thinking about the problem very long and I am just one kid with a relatively high IQ. If multiple people work together on a solution, I'm sure much more and much better stuff will be come up with.)

I'm a long-time user of LW. My old account has ~1000 karma. I'm making this account because I would like it to be tied to my real identity.

Here is my blog/personal-workflowy-wiki. I'd like to have 20 karma, so that I can make cross-posts from here to the LW Discussion.

I'm working on a rationality power tool. Specifically, it's an open-source workflowy with revision control and general graph structure. I want to use it as a wiki to map out various topics of interest on LW. If anybody is interested in working on (or using) rationality power tools, please PM me, as I've spent a lot of time thinking about them, and can also introduce you to some other people who are interested in this area.

EDIT: First cross-post: Personal Notes On Productivity (A categorization of various resources)

EDIT: I've edited the LW-wiki to make a list of LWers interested in making debate tools..

Hello all =)

I am reading LW more that one year. I organized book club meetups about HPMOR in Kyiv, Ukraine in past (https://vk.com/hpmor_meeting and https://vk.com/efficient_reading5)

Now i start to organization process of first general LW meetup in Kyiv, our google group: http://groups.google.com/d/forum/LessWrong-Kyiv

On the first meet we will discuss Daniel Kahneman`s "Thinking, Fast and Slow" book in addition to what we will do in the future =)

Please, if you can - give any useful suggestions about what and how first meetup must be done (i have read LW pdf file about how to organize meetups).

4[anonymous]6yHello there! I mean, here and there, too! I will do my best to come, although I have not read the book. Good luck!
2John_Maxwell6yAwesome! Note that you can advertise your meetup further using the LW meetup system [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/new/].
4Forux6yThanks, http://lesswrong.com/meetups/1fd [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/1fd] Done =)

Hi all, I'm new. I've been browsing the forum for two weeks and only now I've come across this welcome thread, so nice to meet you! I'm quite interested in the control problem, mainly because it seems like a very critical thing to get right. My background is a PhD in structural engineering and developing my own HFT algorithms (which for the past few years has been my source of both revenue and spare time). So I'm completely new to all of the topics on the forum, but I'm loving the challenge. At the moment I don't have any karma points so I can't publish, which is probably a good thing given my ignorance, so may I post some doubts and questions here in hope to be pointed in the right direction? Thanks in advance!

Hello and welcome! Don't be shy about posting; if you're a PhD making money with HFT, I think you are plenty qualified, and external perspectives can be very valuable. Posting in an open thread doesn't require any karma and will get you a much bigger audience than this welcome thread. (For maximum visibility you can post right after a thread's creation.)

6rikisola5yHi John, thanks for the encouragement. One thing that strikes me of this community is how most people make an effort to consider each other's point of view, it's a real indicator of a high level of reasonableness and intellectual honesty. I hope I can practice this too. Thanks for pointing me to the open threads, they are perfect for what I had in mind.
0Lumifer5yDo your algorithms require co-location and are sensitive to latency?
2rikisola5yHi Lumifer. Yes, to some extent. At the moment I don't have co-location so I minimized latency as much as possible in other ways and have to stick to the slower, less efficient markets. I'd like to eventually test them on larger markets but I know that without co-location (and maybe a good deal of extra smarts) I stand no chance.

Finally bit the bullet and made an account-- hi people! I've been "LW adjacent" for a while now (meatspace friends with some prominent LWers, hang around Rationalist Tumblr/ Ozy's blog on the sidelines, seems like everyone I know has read HPMOR but me), and figured I ought to take the plunge.

Call me Vivs. I'm in my early twenties, currently doing odd jobs (temping, restaurant work, etc.) in preparation to start a Masters' this fall. I'm a historian, and would loooooove to talk history with any of you! (fans of Anne Boleyn/Thomas Cromwell/Victorian social peculiarities to the front of the line, please) I've always been that girl who pays waaaaay too much attention to if the magic system is internally consistent in a fantasy novel and gets overly irritated if my questions are brushed off with "But magic isn't real," so I have a feeling I'll like the way this site thinks, even if I'm way out of the median 'round these parts in a lot of ways.

6[anonymous]6yHi! I just want to say I found Stefan Zweig's The World Of Yesterday really insightful about that. I used to think that kind of prudishness came from religion. According to Zweig, it was actually almost the opposite: it came from Enlightenment values, as in, trying really really hard to always act rationally (not 100% in our sense, but in the sense of: deliberately, thoughtfully, impassionately) and considered sexual instincts a far too dangerous, uncontrollable, passionate, "irrational" force, that is where it came from. Which suggests that Freud was the last Victorian, so to speak.
6VivienneMarks6yHi back! Actually, interestingly, some Victorian prudishness was encouraged by Victorian feminists, weirdly enough. Old-timey sexism said that women were too lustful and oozed temptation, hence why they should be excluded from the cool-headed realms of men (Arthurian legend is FULL of this shit, especially if Sir Gallahad is involved). Victorian feminists actually encouraged the view of women as quasi-asexual, to show that no, having women in your university was not akin to inviting a gang of succubi to turn the school into an orgy pit (this was also useful, as back then, there were questions on the morality of women). A lot of modern sexism actually has its roots not in anything ancient, but in a weird backlash of Victoriana.
2Lumifer6yLOL. To quote [http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/10/nobel-scientist-tim-hunt-female-scientists-cause-trouble-for-men-in-labs] Nobel Laureate Tom Hunt as of a couple of weeks ago:
5CellBioGuy6yI found that particular piece of stupidity particularly amusing since my field is upwards of 55 percent female (at my level - the old guard of people who have been in it since the 60s or 70s is more male) and I have worked in labs where I was the only man.
3Sarunas6yThis quote seems to have been intended as a joke and was taken out of context. A very flawed accuser: Investigation into the academic who hounded a Nobel Prize winning scientist out of his job reveals troubling questions about her testimony [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3141158/A-flawed-accuser-Investigation-academic-hounded-Nobel-Prize-winning-scientist-job-reveals-troubling-questions-testimony.html]
2[anonymous]6yOne therefore wonders at man/man, woman/man and woman/woman troubles, which statistically should account for the majority of academic, er, troubles.
0Jiro6yHe's asserting that most troubles between men and women fall into a particular category. It might be that man/man troubles rarely fall into that category, and because most of that category is missing, are less numerous overall.
4[anonymous]6yWell... Having once been infatuated with my supervisor and more than once reduced by him to tears even when my infatuation wore off, I can say this: It's not people falling in love with people that really reduces group output. Being in love I worked like I would never do again. It's people growing disappointed with people/goals, or having an actual life (my colleague quit her PhD when her husband lost his job, + they had a kid), or - God forbid! - competing for money. Now that's what I would call trouble.
0MaryCh3yJust noting here that I was wrong. I'm working 12 hr a day now (it's The Season), hate my current boss for doing less than he could and generally creating work out of thin air, and am still very much content not to be a housewife.
0Creutzer6yVery good point! It's a ubiquitous stereotype, but it's not a priori clear to me that workplace romance leads to a net decrease in productivity, and I haven't seen real evidence for it. Google Scholar yielded nothing, it either ignores the search word "productivity" or just yields papers that report the cliché.
1VivienneMarks6yUggghhhh.... that guy. I may not be a scientist, but I saw red when I read that.
1Epictetus6yFeminists of that era were practically moral guardians. In the USA, they closely allied with temperance movements and managed to secure the double victory of securing women's right to vote and prohibiting alcohol. I can't track the reference right now, but I recall reading a transcript of a Parliamentary debate where they decided not to extend anti-homosexuality legislation to women on the grounds that women couldn't help themselves.
2Nornagest6yWelcome to LW! I suspect you'll find a lot of company here, at least as regards thinking in unwarranted detail about fictional magic systems.
1Lumifer6yWhat is this "unwarranted" thing you're talking about? X-)
1VivienneMarks6yThanks! I actually had a VERY long side discussion in an undergrad history course about whether stabbing a person possessed by a dybbuk creates a second dybbuk...
1[anonymous]6yDo you find D&D's cast-and-forget system consistent? It was borrowed from Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels, but those felt really weird novels to me.
2VivienneMarks6yNo! I actually find D&Ds system super-frustrating, but then I hate having luck-based elements in magic systems. :P
[-][anonymous]6y 18

Wow, I'm so glad I stumbled onto slatestarcodex, and from there, here!!! You guys are all like smarter, cooler versions of me! It's great to have a label for the way my brain is naturally wired and know there other people in the world besides Peter Singer who think similarly. I'm really excited, so my "intro" might get a little long...

Part 1-Look at me, I'm just like you!

I'm Ellen, a 22 year old Spanish major and world traveling nanny from Wisconsin, so maybe not your typical LWer, but actually quite typical in other, more important ways. :)

I grew up in a Christian home/bubble, was super religious (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), truly respected/admired the Christians in my life, but even while believing, never liked what I believed. I actually just shared my story plus some interesting studies on correlations between personality, intelligence, and religiosity, if anyone is interested: http://magicalbananatree.blogspot.com/2015/02/christian-friends-do-you-ever-feel.html The post is based almost entirely on what I've come to learn is called "consequentialism" which I'm happy to see is pretty popular over here. I subscribe to this line of thinking so much t... (read more)

7Alicorn6yThere's now a portal into the meatspace Bay rationalist community [http://www.bayrationality.com/] if this is something you're interested in.
3[anonymous]6yWow, you guys even play board games? Nice. Thanks!! I'll try to come to the Friday meetup next Friday!
6adamzerner6yThat is awesome! If you haven't heard of HPMOR, check it out here [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Methods_Of_Rationality_%28fanfiction%29]. Anyway, there's this great sequence where Harry teaches the ways of science to Drako Malfoy... it's great! And I think very worthwhile for a beginner to read. Eliezer talks about a lot of this in the Metaethics Sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Metaethics_sequence], particularly in the post Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/]. If you haven't already heard of it, check out the idea of terminal values [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Terminal_value]. Something tells me that you understand it (at least on some level) though. Anyway, Eliezer seems to say something about Occam's Razor justifying our intuitive feelings about what's moral. Personally, I don't really get it. I don't see how a terminal value could ever be rational. My understanding is that rationality is about achieving terminal values, not choosing them. However, I notice confusion and don't have strong opinions. Welcome :) LessWrong has had a huge positive impact on my life. I hope and suspect that the same will be true for you!
3[anonymous]6yThanks for the welcome!! I just read Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom, and it was perfect and super relevant, thanks. "What else could I possibly use? Indeed, no matter what I did with this dilemma, it would be me doing it. Even if I trusted something else... it would be my own decision to trust it." This is basically what I've been telling people who ask me how I can trust my own reason, but it's great to have more good points to bring up. All the posts I've read so far have been so clear and well-written, I can't help but smile and nod as I go. I'm going to start with the e-book, and once I finish that, I'll probably look into HPMOR! I've seen it mentioned a lot around here, so I figure it must be great, but um, should I read the original Harry Potter first? Growing up, I was never allowed to. I clicked the terminal values link, and then another link, and then another, and then another... then I googled what Occam's razor is... my questions about morality are still far from settled, but all this gives me a lot to think about, so thank you :)
2adamzerner6ySorry for the late reply. Glad to be of assistance! That seems reasonable. A thought of mine on the sequences: they could be a bit dense and difficult to understand at times. I think some version of the 20/80 rule [http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/] applies, and I'd approach the reading with this in mind. In other words, there's a lot of material and a lot of it requires a lot of thought, and so a proper reading would probably take many months. And it would probably take years to achieve true understanding. However, there's still a lot of really important core principles that you could get in a couple of weeks. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9203769 [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9203769] Personally, I think that knowing the gist of the story is sufficient. I saw some of your other comments and see that you still have a lot of questions and are a bit hesitant to post here before doing more reading. I think that people will be very receptive to any sort of comments and questions as long as you're open minded and curious. And if you ever just don't want to say something publicly, feel free to message me privately.
3[anonymous]6yThanks! I'm 30% through now. I've really been enjoying them so far, going back to reread certain chapters and recommending others like crazy based on conversations about similar but far less articulate thoughts I've had in the past. Even without knowing much about the content of HPMOR, I'm looking forward to it already just for its having been written by the same author. Thanks for your offer, I will probably take you up on it some day! Although you're right that people here seem pretty receptive to honest questions. I asked a question in another thread a few days ago, about ambition vs. hedonism, an issue I've always wondered about...no replies so far, but I did get some "karma" so that felt nice, haha :)
2adamzerner6y30% through the Rationality book?!! WOW! I responded to your comment about ambition vs. hedonism.
1hairyfigment6yWait, what? Do you mean Simplified Humanism [http://www.yudkowsky.net/singularity/simplified/]? I hope that's more of a description than a full argument. One could perhaps turn it into an argument by showing that our root values come from evolution - causally, not in the sense of moral reasons - and making a case that you would not expect them to have exceptions in those exact places. Eliezer also makes a brief attempt to explain his opponents' motives. This may be true, but I don't think we should dwell on it.
1adamzerner6yHonestly I don't really know.
4JohnBuridan6yHi els! I just wanted to welcome you and perhaps start a discussion. I have lurked around the Less Wrong boards for years (three, I think, recently made a new account because I forgot my username) and there is a lot of helpful and exciting discussion going on here and so long as you communicate clearly even dissenting opinions are valued. You came from the jean-skirt Lutherans. I too came from a bubble, and I know it can be tough to find people around whom you feel comfortable talking about big questions like religion, metaphysics, and truth, and logic. But I believe once you start looking, you will find people who are curious about the world and want to increase their quality of life and mind too! I don't think atheism leads to nihilism. An atheist doesn't have to be a strict materialist! For example, logic probably exists as part of the universe's fabric whether or not humans are thinking or even exist. Yet logic is not made of brain matter or any material. It is mind-independent. So are all the qualities that help people achieve their goals, such as courage, perseverance, honest self-reflection, charity, or whatever else. These are part of the human universe, even though they aren't essentially made of stuff. Well that's my perspective. And I, like the other guys and gals here, am always up to discuss these topics further and try to deepen our understanding and practice of rationality. Hope you enjoy hanging around LW! Cheers!
3[anonymous]6yThanks for the welcome! :) You're right, so many great conversations taking place here! I feel like I'm going to be doing a LOT more reading before I really post anywhere else, but I look forward to lurking too. I guess when I think about nihilism, I don't necessarily think about strict materialism. That's an interesting point about logic being mind-independent though. I guess I just think about the simple definition of nihilism as meaninglessness. All my life, the "meaning" of life had come from Jesus, which in my mind, meant a relationship with God and eternity in heaven. Now, there's no afterlife. Is there still meaning? Do I even care what happens after I die? I think I do, but why? I could just go out and do more good than bad and enjoy my meaningless days under the sun; is it really worth the mental energy to think about all this stuff, and if so, why? I'm realizing one thing people love about Christianity is how easy it is, once you can get past the whole childlike faith thing.
3hairyfigment6yThis puzzled me, since it sounds a lot like the problem of evil. I take it you were describing the argument you lay out at the link? For completeness - since I'm about to bash Christianity - I should note that Paul does not write like he has even an imagined revelation on the subject of Hell. He writes as if people in the Roman Empire often talked about everyone going to Hades when they died, and therefore he could count on people receiving as "good news" the claim that belief in Jesus would definitely send you to Heaven. (Later, the Gospels implied that your actions could send you to Heaven or Hell regardless of what you believed. Early Christians might have split the difference by reserving baptism [https://books.google.com/books?id=oUFFAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA791&lpg=PA791&source=bl&ots=im53sXsCZN&sig=Lr8T4wGNjdtyeYfEJmC2lF2xAq8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=k_IJVeiNIIiXgwSn_oDACA&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=catechumen&f=false] for those they saw as living a 'Christian' life.) Clearly one can be a Christian in Paul's sense without believing in Hell. We don't know. I have some qualms about Richard Carrier's argument (eg in On the historicity of Jesus: Why we might have reason for doubt). But plugging different numbers into his calculations, I come out with no more than a 54% chance Jesus even existed. We can't answer every factual question; some information is almost certainly lost to us forever. This one seems fundamental enough that if people insist on the truth of miracles - and reports that you can move mountains if you have faith the size of a mustard seed - I don't know what to tell them. But besides directing people to mainstream scholarship (which by the way places the date of Mark after the destruction of the Temple), I can note that Mark inter-cuts the story of the fig tree with Jesus expelling the money-lenders from the Temple. The tree seems like a straightforward metaphor. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fm/a_parable_on_obsolete_ideologies/bvcd] Then we have later Gospels openly
2[anonymous]6yOh, oops, I can see why that would be puzzling. But yeah, you figured it out. Do you really think my link was an argument though? A lot of people have accused me of trying to deconvert my friends, but I really don't think I was making an argument so much as sharing my own personal thoughts and journey of what led me away from the faith. You correctly point out that not all Christians believe in hell, but I didn't want to just tweak my belief until I liked it. If I was going to reject what I grew up with, I figured I might as well start with a totally clean slate. I'm really glad you and other atheists on here have bothered looking into Historical Jesus. Atheists have a stereotype of being ignorant about this, which actually, for those who weren't raised Christians, I kind of understand, since now that I consider myself atheist, it's not like I'm suddenly going to become an expert on all the other religions just so I can thoughtfully reject them. But now that my friends have failed to convince me atheism is hopeless, they're insisting it's hallucinogenic, that atheists are out of touch with reality, and it's nice (though unsurprising) to see that isn't the case. Okay, I know that I personally can have morality, no problem! But are you trying to say it's not just intuition? Or if I use that Von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theorem you linked, I'm a little confused, maybe you can simplify for me, but whose preferences would I be valuing? Only my own? Everyone's equally? If I value everyone's equally and say each human is born with equal intrinsic value, that's back to intuition again, right? Anyway, yeah, I'll look around and maybe check out CFAR too if you think that would be useful. Oh! I like that definition of nihilism, thanks. Personally, I think I could actually tolerate accepting nihilism defined as meaninglessness (whatever that means), but since most people I know wouldn't, your definition will come in handy. Also, good point about Gandhi. I had actually
2hairyfigment6yThe theorem shows that if one adopts a simple utility function - or let's say if an Artificial Intelligence has as its goal maximizing the computing power in existence, even if that means killing us and using us for parts - this yields a consistent set of preferences. It doesn't seem like we could argue the AI into adopting a different goal unless that (implausibly) served the original goal better than just working at it directly. We could picture the AI as a physical process that first calculates the expected value of various actions in terms of computing power (this would have to be approximate, but we've found approximations very useful in practical contexts) and then automatically takes the action with the highest calculated expected value. Now in a sense, this shows your problem has no solution. We have no apparent way to argue morality into an agent that doesn't already have it, on some level. In fact this appears mathematically impossible. (Also, the Universe does not love you and will kill you if the math of physics happens to work out that way.) But if you already have moral preferences, there shouldn't be any way to argue you out of them by showing the non-existence of Vishnu. Any desires that correspond to a utility function would yield consistent preferences. If you follow them then nobody can raise any logical objection. God would have to do the same, if he existed. He would just have more strength and knowledge with which to impose his will (to the point of creating [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem] a logical contradiction [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_jump] - but we can charitably assume theologians meant something else.) When it comes to consistent moral foundations, the theorem gives no special place to his imaginary desires relative to yours. I mentioned above that a simple utility function does not seem to capture my moral preferences, though it could be a good rule of thumb. There's probably no simple way to find out what
1[anonymous]6yThanks a lot for explaining the utility theorem. So just to be sure, if moral preferences for my personal values (I'll check CFAR for help on this, eventually) are the basis of morality, is morality necessarily subjective? I'll get to Crowley eventually too, thanks for the link. I've just started the Rationality e-book and I feel like it will give me a lot of the background knowledge to understand other articles and stuff people talk about here.
3Viliam_Bur6yIf "subjective" means "a completely different alien species would likely care about different things than humans", then yes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sy/sorting_pebbles_into_correct_heaps/]. You also can't expect that a rock [http://lesswrong.com/lw/rs/created_already_in_motion/] would have the same morality as you. If "subjective" means "a different human would care about completely different things than me" then probably not much [http://lesswrong.com/lw/rl/the_psychological_unity_of_humankind/]. It should be possible to define a morality of an "average human" that most humans would consider correct. The reason it appears otherwise is that for tribal reasons we are prone to assume that our enemies are psychologically nonhuman [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil/], and our reasoning is often based on factual errors [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/], and we are actually not good enough at consistently [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0/adaptationexecuters_not_fitnessmaximizers/] following our own values. (Thus the definition of CEV [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Coherent_Extrapolated_Volition] as "if we knew more, thought faster, were more the people we wished we were, had grown up farther together"; it refers to the assumption of having correct beliefs, being more consistent, and not being divided by factional conflicts.) Of course, both of these answers are disputed by many people.
3orthonormal6yThere's also a Less Wrong meetup group in Madison [http://groups.google.com/group/lesswrong-madison], if you still live in Wisconsin! (They also play lots of board games.)
1[anonymous]6yThanks! I'm from Janesville, so not far from Madison. Maybe I'll stop in next time I'm home for Christmas break!
2Gunnar_Zarncke6yYou are awesome! I wish I could radiate only half as much enthusiasm and happiness. Even though I feel it - I just can't render it as much. I plan to learn from you in this regard! You are welcome. I will also try to answer your questions. Some of them I ponderd myself [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ii5/baseline_of_my_opinion_on_lw_topics/] and arrived at some answers. But then I had more time. I have a comparable background and I have a deep interest in children so you may also find my ressources for parents [http://lesswrong.com/user/Gunnar_Zarncke/] of interest. But now to your questions: Awesome. But it can be explained by the presence of memes in real-life christian culture that regulate such actions as misguided. See Reason as memetic immune disorder [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/]. The Jesus Seminar [http://www.westarinstitute.org/projects/the-jesus-seminar/] may have answers of the kind you desire. If a historical Jesus can be found by taking the bible as historcal evidence instead of sacred text, then look there. The Jesus Seminar has been heavily criticised (in part legitimately so) but it may provide the counter-balance to your already known facts. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar] Well. What do you mean by "how"? By which social process does moral exist? Or due to which psychological process? The spiritual process apparently is out of business because it is ungrounded. There was a Main post with nice graphs about it that I can't find. You might also want to replace the question with "why do I think that I have morality?" No. Atheism does remove one set of symbol-behavior-chains in your mind, yes. But a complex mind will most likely lock into another better grounded set of symbol-behavior-chains that is not nihilistic but - depending on your emotional setup - somehow connected to terminal values and acting on that. "symbol-behavior-chains" is my ad-hoc term
0[anonymous]6yThanks for your reply :) You seem to radiate plenty of enthusiasm to me! I'll check out your links and save the Jesus seminar stuff for later; I'm going to finish the rationality ebook and then researching historical Jesus will be my next project, but it looks like a good resource! As for your questions...when I wrote this original post, by "how" I was still hoping that some sort of objective morality might exist... one not related to the human subject (a hope I now see as kind of silly but maybe natural so soon after my deconversion). I was hoping for some solid rules to follow that would always lead to good outcomes and never cause any emotional disturbance, but I've come to accept that things are just a bit more complicated than that in the real world...
2Viliam_Bur6yMy two cents: Who cares? Okay you obviously do, but why? If the religion is false and reports of miracles are lies, is there really an impotant difference between a) "Yes, once there was a person called Jesus, but almost everything that Bible attributes to him is completely made up" and b) "No, everything about Jesus is completely made up"? In other words, if I tell you that my uncle Joe is the true god and performs thousand miracles every thursday, why would you care about whether a) I have a perfectly ordinary, non-divine, non-magical uncle called Joe, and I only lied about his divinity and miracles, or b) actually I lied even about having an uncle called Joe? What difference would it make and why? Because it was written by people who had an agenda to "prove" that they are the good ones and the divinely chosen ones? Maybe even because it contains magic? I don't fully trust even historical books written recently. It can be funny to read history textbooks written by two countries which had conflicts recently; how each of them describes the events somewhat differently. And today's historical books are much more trustworthy than the old ones, because today people are literate, they are allowed to read and compare the competing books, they are allowed to criticize without getting killed immediately. Sorry for the offensive comparison, but trusting Bible's historical accuracy would be as if in the parallel universe Hitler would win the war, then he would write his own historical book about what "really happened" and make it a mandatory textbook for everyone... and then a few thousand years later people would trust his every written word to be honest and accurate. Exactly. You already know what you care about. Atheism simply means there is no higher boss who could tell you "actually, you should like this and hate that, because I said so", and you would have to shut up and obey. On the other hand; people can be wrong about their preferences, especially when their
1[anonymous]6yThanks for replying! Why do I care about Historical Jesus? I actually wouldn't, I guess, except that I absolutely need to have a really well thought out answer to this question in order to maintain the respect of friends and family, some of whom credit Historical Jesus as one of the top reasons for their faith. Good point about the authors being biased, thanks, no offense taken! I still don't like when people say miracles/magic definitively prove the Bible wrong though, since if a God higher than our understanding were to exist, of course he could do magic when he felt like it. Still, based on our understanding of the world, there is no good reason/evidence at all to believe in such a God. I got the Rationality ebook, and it is great! Sooo well-written, well-organized, and well thought out! I just started today and am already on the section "Belief in Belief." I love it so much so far that it's a page-turner for me as much as my favorite suspense/fantasy novels. Definitely worth sharing and going back to read and re-read :)

I absolutely need to have a really well thought out answer to this question in order to maintain the respect of friends and family, some of whom credit Historical Jesus as one of the top reasons for their faith.

Yep. On the social level I get it, but on another level, it's a trap.

The trap works approximately like this: "I will allow you not to believe in my bullshit, but only if you give me a free check to bother you with as many questions as I want about my bullshit, and you have to explore all of these questions seriously, give me a satisfactory answer, and of course I am allowed to respond by giving you even more questions".

If you agree on this, you have de facto agreed that the other side is allowed to waste unlimited amounts of your time and attention, as a de facto punishment for not believing their bullshit. -- Today you are asked to make to make a well-researched opinion about Historical Jesus, which of course would take a few weeks or months to do a really serious historical research; and tomorrow it will be either something new, e.g. a well-researched opinion about the history of the Church, or about the history of Crusades, or about the history of Inquisition... (read more)

2[anonymous]6yGood point, thanks!! I can't get too caught up in this; there are things I'd rather be learning about, so I need a limit. I'd like to think I can win, though, but this is probably just self-anchoring fallacy (I'm learning!) Just because I would have been swayed by an absence of positive evidence doesn't mean everyone will be, even people who seem decently smart and open-minded with a high view of reason, like my old track coach and religion teacher. I just made a deal though, that I would read any book of his choice about the Historical Jesus (something I probably would have done anyway!) if he reads Rationality: AI to Zombies :)
4Lumifer6yBe careful about distinguishing two very different propositions: (1) There was a preacher named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in a certain time in a certain place. (2) Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and was the Son of God. Specifically, evidence in favor of (1) usually has nothing to do (2).
4Good_Burning_Plastic6yThat doesn't sound quite right to me, at least if you mean "nothing" literally", given that not-(1) logically implies not-(2). I think the much smaller posterior probability of (2) than (1) has more to do with the much smaller prior than with the evidence.
2Gram_Stone6yIf these are the questions weighing heavily on your mind, then you would probably enjoy Gary Drescher's Good and Real [http://www.amazon.com/Good-Real-Demystifying-Paradoxes-Bradford/dp/0262042339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426923827&sr=8-1&keywords=good+and+real] . I suggest reading the first Amazon review to get a good idea of the topics it covers. It is very similar to some of the content in the Sequences. (By the way, if you purchase the book through that link, 5% goes to Slate Star Codex.) Also, the Sequences have recently been released as an ebook entitled Rationality: From AI to Zombies [https://intelligence.org/rationality-ai-zombies/]. (You can download the book for free in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF format if you follow the 'Buy Now' link at the bottom of that page and enter a price of $0.00. If you do this, it won't request any payment information. If you pay more than that, the money will go to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute [http://intelligence.org/].) I have found that Rationality is much, much easier to read than the Sequences. You may not yet have the background knowledge necessary to understand it, and if that's the case then you can always return to it later, but I think that the most relevant post on this topic is Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/]. It's chapter 264 in Rationality. (That's a daunting number but the chapters are very short. Rationality is Bible-length but you can hack away at it one chapter at a time, or more at a time, if you please.) To be frank, you're asking the Big Questions and you might have to read a bit before you can answer them. When I read that, I'm reminded of something that Luke Muehlhauser, a prominent LessWrong user and former devout Christian, once wrote [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7dy/a_rationalists_tale/]: As you said yourself, "Yay tolerance of ambiguity!" Although their beliefs are false, their experiences can certainly be real.
4[anonymous]6yThanks for the welcome!! Good and Real does seem like a good read. I'm going to read Rationality first, which I'm guessing will help me work through some of my questions, but I'll definitely keep that one in mind for later. Where Recursive Justification Hits Rock Bottom was really relevant, thanks for the link. I'm still digesting Occam's Razor, I think that was the only concept completely new to me. Thanks for the link to Luke's story. It seems like we went through the same difficult process of desperately wanting to believe, but ultimately just not being able to. I find it super encouraging that his doubts stemmed from researching the Historical Jesus, since that's one thing that my old high school track coach/religion teacher insists I have to look into. He claims no atheist has ever been able to answer any of his questions. The atheists I know all credit a conflict with science as the reason they left Christianity, and I credit...I don't even know, my personal thoughts, I guess... but it's great to know that researching history will also lead there. I'll have to go through the same resources he used so I can better explain myself to Christian friends. "Although their beliefs are false, their experiences can certainly be real. Even if there exists no God, that doesn't mean that the Presence-of-God Quale isn't represented by the patterns of neural impulses of some human brains." Thanks for that!! It does make me feel better. Hahaha, wow, I haven't even considered trying to convince others of the value of rationalism yet. Especially after my deconversion, I've been totally on the defensive, almost apologizing for my rationality. ("It's not my fault; it's the personality I was born with. If you guys really believe, you should feel lucky not just for having been born into Christian homes, but also, more importantly, for having been born with the right personalities for faith." and "You think my prayers for a stronger faith weren't answered because my faith wasn't
2Gram_Stone6yI just thought to point out that there's going to be a Rationality reading group [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/lx0/rationality_from_ai_to_zombies_online_reading/] ; basically, it's a planned series of posts about each Part in the book, where you have the opportunity to talk about it and ask questions. You clearly are very curious, (it's the only way you could survive so many hyperlinks) so it seems like just the thing for you. Just to give you words for this, and from what I read in the blog post that you linked to in your first comment (which I found very amusing), I think you're trying to verbalize that Christianity was inconsistent. You don't have to prefer consistency, but most people claim to prefer it, and apparently you do prefer it. (I know I do.) You didn't like it as a system because it was a system that said that God was perfectly benevolent and ridiculously selfish (though the second statement was only implicit) at the same time. You can always look at other subjects like science and history and come to the conclusion that religion conflicts with those things when it shouldn't; but you can also just look at religion and see how it conflicts with itself. I think that's what you did. I saw some of your other comments about meaning, and meaninglessness in the absence of God, and nihilism. Notice that when you ask "Does life have meaning in the absence of God?", everyone says that it depends on what you mean, offers some possible interpretations, and shares their viewpoints and conclusions on what it means. The simplest way to give you a clue as to some of the problems with the question is something that you wrote yourself: Vagueness is part of the problem, but there are other parts as well. Even though I've never been religious and therefore don't know what it's like to lose faith, worrying about "meaninglessness" is something that I dealt with. I promise that atheists aren't all secretly dead inside. (I actually used to wonder about that.) Ratio
2[anonymous]6yCool, thanks so much for mentioning the Rationality reading group!! I'm probably going to finish each section long before it's discussed, but I'll definitely go back to re-read and chat. I'll bookmark it for sure! So exciting! I will try to bribe my sister and maybe a few other people to participate as well (self-anchoring again, maybe, but I'll call it optimism, haha). Ooh, I like consistency, and Christianity is inconsistent. Christianity conflicts with itself. A God can't be both perfectly benevolent and ridiculously selfish. That's why I rejected it. Yeah, that sounds nice, thanks for the words. :) Good point about vagueness. I like this slatestarcodex post" The Categories Were Made for Man, Not Man for the Categories [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-made-for-man-not-man-for-the-categories/] Looking forward to parts N and P now too! And yeah, good point about the standards of evidence being too high. Still, right now my only info about Historical Jesus is based off a few articles I've read on the internet, and I just feel like after 22 years learning one thing, I can't just reject it and jump ahead to other things without being able to formulate basic, well-reasoned atheist answers to common Christian questions. I guess it's not just about maintaining my friends' respect, it's also about my own self-respect. I can't go around showing the improbability of every religion, but I want to be able to do so about the one I grew up in (maybe this is a cousin of the sunk-cost fallacy?). Luckily, all of the groundwork here has already been done by other atheists, it should just a matter of familiarizing myself with basic facts/common arguments.

Hello. My name is Tom. I'm 27 and currently working an a PhD in mathematics. I came to this site by following a chain of links that started with TVTropes of all things.

I have been a fan of rational thinking as long as I can remember. I'd always had the habit of asking questions and trying to see things from every point of view. I devoured all sorts of books growing up and shifted my viewpoints often enough that I became willing to accept the notion that everything I currently believe is wrong. That's what pushed me to constantly question my own beliefs. I have read enough of this site to satisfy myself that it would be worthwhile to make an account and perhaps participate in the community that built it.

Hi everyone!

My name is Rick, and I'm 29. I've been lurking on LW for a few years, casually at first, but now much more consistently. I did finally post a stupid question last week, and I've been going to the Austin Meetup for about a month, so I feel it's time to introduce myself.

I'm a physics PhD student in Austin. I'm an experimentalist, and I work on practical-ish stuff with high-intensity lasers, so I'm not much good answering questions about string theory, cosmology, or the foundations of quantum mechanics. I will say that I think the measurement problem (as physicists usually refer to the question which "many worlds" is intended to answer) is interesting, but it's not clear to me why it gets so much attention.

I come from a town where (it seems like) everybody's dad has a PhD, and many people's moms have them as well. Getting a PhD in physics or engineering just seemed like the thing to do. I remember thinking as a teenager that if you didn't go to grad school, you were probably an uneducated yokel. More importantly, I learned very early that a person can have a PhD and still make terrible decisions or have terrible beliefs. I also formed weird beliefs like "che... (read more)

Hello. New to the active part of the site, I've been lurking for a while, reading much discussions (and not always agreeing, which might be the reason I'm going active). I've come to the site thanks to HPMOR and the quest towards less bias.

I'm a (soon starting a PhD) student in molecular dynamics in France, skeptic (I guess) and highly critical of many papers (especially in my field). Popper is probably the closest to how I define, although with a few contradictions, the philosophy of what I'm doing.

I'm in the country of wine, cheese and homeopathy, don't forget it :)

Hey... I'm Babblefish. Having posted elsewhere I've been directed to this helpful Welcome thread.

How I got here? friends->HPMOR->Lesswrong blogs-> Project suggestion-> Forum.

Much as I'd love to claim I'm here to meet all you lovely folks, the truth is, I'm mainly here for one reason: I was recently re-reading the original blogs (e-reader form and all that), and noticed a comment by Eliezer something to the effect of "Someone should really write 'The simple mathematics of everything' ". I would like to write that thing.

I'm currently starting my PhD in mathematics (appears common here), with several relevant side interests (physics, computing, evolutionary biology, story telling), and the intention of teaching/lecturering one day.

Now... If someone's already got this project sorted out (it has been a few years), great... however I notice that the wiki originally started for it is looking a little sad, (diffusion of responsibility perhaps), and various websearches have turned up nothing solid.

So... if the project HAS NOT been sorted out yet, then I'd be interested in taking a crack at it: It'll be good writing/teaching practice for me, and give me an excuse to rea... (read more)

Greetings, y’all. I’m very excited to take the plunge into the LW community proper. I spent the last six months plowing through the sequences and testing the limits of my friends’ patience when I tried to engage them in it. Besides looking for people to talk to, I am beginning to feel a profound restlessness at not doing anything with all the new ideas in my head. At 27, I’m not a “level 1 adult” yet. I don’t really have something to protect or a purpose I’m dedicated to. I hope that by being active in the community will at least get me in the habit of being active.

My name is Jacob, I was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in Israel. My parents are scientists, my dad is probably top 10 worldwide in his field. I grew up playing soccer and sitting at dinner with students and scientists from around the world, I hope I actually did realize even as a teenager how awesome it was. I did my Bar Mitzva at a reform synagogue but God was never really part of our family conversation, I don’t think that I’ve said a prayer and actually meant it since I was 12 or 13. There are just enough Russian-speaking math geeks in Israel to form a robust subculture and I was at the top of it: winning natio... (read more)

Hello, all!

I’ve lurked this site on and off for at least five years, probably longer. I believe I first ran into it while exploring effective altruism. Articles that had a definite impact on my thinking included those on anchoring, priming, akrasia, and Newcomb's problem. Alicorn's Luminosity series is also up there, and I keep perpetual bookmarks to "The Least Convenient Possible World" and "Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points."

I earned a B.A. in history, worked for a couple years in a financial planning office, then ended up on the rather weird track of becoming a professional piano accompanist. It turned out to be a far more financially and logistically feasible career move than the other grand idea I attempted at the time (convincing GiveWell I'd be an awesome hire). So piano is what I'm doing now. (GiveWell is admittedly still my longshot/backburner plan B, but I'm focusing all professional development on the music end of things right now).

Some things I've got more than a passing interest in, which I think fit the LW ethos:

  • Taubman approach. Approach to keyboard technique (and prevention of repetitive-motion-injury) that got the recognition and int

... (read more)

I discovered lesswrong.com because someone left a printout of an article on the elliptical machine in my gym. I started reading it and have become hooked.

I'm a formally uneducated computer expert. The lack of formal education makes me a bit insecure, so I obsess over improving my thinking through literature on cognitive dissonance and biases, such as books from the library and also sites like this.

Nowadays I get paid to be a middle-manager at technology companies. Most of my career has been in Linux system administration as well as functional programming.

I'm a bit of a health nut. I adopted a whole-food plant-based diet (the "China Study" diet) because it seems most well supported in the literature, although a broad consensus on the topic has not emerged. I base this decision in part on my trust of experts with titles after their names, since I'm too out of my element to read and interpret most of the literature on my own. At the same time I have a personal anecdote that this works well, so those two are enough to convince me for now.

There are times when I find reading about rational thinking rather sobering. It's clear that we were born with an irrational, "defective", brain and that we would be so lucky if we could even make a small dent in improving our decision making. Improvements seem very hard to come by, I worry that all I'm really doing is learning to distrust my beliefs.

So that's a nutshell full. How's everyone else? :)

2pjeby6yWhat article was that?
2michael_b6yhttp://lesswrong.com/lw/xk/continuous_improvement/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xk/continuous_improvement/]
2Lumifer6yAre you aware of Denise Minger's dissection of the China Study [http://rawfoodsos.com/the-china-study/]?
3michael_b6yYes. I spent a lot of time reviewing critiques of The China Study (TCS), including Minger's. At the end of it I came to the following conclusions. 1. Nutrition science is extraordinarily nonlinear 2. I'm definitely not qualified to deconstruct claims made about nutrition 3. TCS critics don't seem very qualified either, especially when compared to the qualifications of the people advancing TCS 4. There's no larger group of qualified people advancing a radically different approach So, those are my reasons. I admit they're not very satisfying. I'm spoiled by fields where, once you grok the formal proof you can be highly confident that the claim is correct. No such luck with something as squishy as nutrition, it would seem.
6IlyaShpitser6yGeneral advice: learn causal inference. Getting strong causal claims empirically is not so simple...

Hello LessWrongers! After discovering the blog and MIRI research papers through a friend (Gyrodiot ) a few weeks ago, I finally decided to register here. For I keep seeing fascinating discussions I want to be part of, and I also would like to share my ideas about IA and rationnalism.

Currently, I am a first year student in an french Engineering school in Computer science and applied mathematics. Before that, I was in "Classes Préparatoires" for two years, an intensive formation in mathematics and physics to pass engineering school contests. Even If it was quite harsh (basically 30 hours of classes + 5 hours exam + homeworks impossible to finish every week), it gave me some kicks to become a post-rigorous mathematics student. (post-rigorous being here the definition of Terence Tao : http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/there%E2%80%99s-more-to-mathematics-than-rigour-and-proofs/ )

For my interest, I am actually working with one of my teacher on a online handwriting OCR based on a model of oscillatory handwriting he developped. But we also explore the cognitive consequences of the model, mostly Piaget's idea of assimilation, which can be linked to modern discoveries ab... (read more)

Hello. I’m Mark. I’m a 24-year-old software engineer in Michigan.

I found LessWrong a little over a year ago via HPMOR. I’m working through the books listed on MIRI’s Research Guide. I finished Bostrom’s Superintelligence earlier this week, and I’m currently working through the Sequences and Naive Set Theory. I’m not quite sure what I want to do after I complete the Research Guide; but AI is challenging and interesting, so I’m excited to learn more.

P.S. I’m a SuperLurker™. I find it very difficult to post in public forums. I only visualize the futures where future!Me looks back at his old posts and cringes. If you suffer similarly, I hope you will follow my lead and introduce yourself. Throw caution to the wind! Or, you know, just send me a private message (a simple “hey” will suffice) and maybe we can help each other.

Instead of cringing you can think "wow, I made a lot of progress since". It did the trick for me, but well, YMMV.

1Friendly-HI6yBe honest, do you really actually fear cringing when you re-read your stuff months or years from now? Sounds to me like an invented reason to mask a much more plausible fear: Looking foolish in front of others by saying foolish things. Well in case you do make a fool of yourself you always have the option of admitting "back then I was foolish in saying that and I have changed my mind because of X". In this communuty being able to do that is usually accompanied with a slight status gain rather than severe status punishment and ridicule, so no need to worry about that.
1John_Maxwell6yYou say you anticipate cringing... is that a correct anticipation? Do you currently find yourself frequently beating yourself up for things you've said or written? If so, maybe that's the bug you want to fix first. Reinterpretation can be a good strategy; maybe try to frame your past post differently. For example, despite whatever factors you might find make a post of yours cringeworthy, it seems likely that at least one person found it valuable, interesting, or at least amusing. Anyway, welcome!


I’ve lived in Berkeley for about six years. My girlfriend is going to medical school so we’re going to be moving to Boca Raton, Florida (most likely) or Columbus, Ohio in less than a month. I’m sad to be leaving the Bay Area but thrilled to be with my girlfriend when she starts such an exciting chapter of her life. I’m also very fortunate that I can handle nearly all my business online.

I co-founded a startup devoted to making a web game with an old buddy of mine. This same guy introduced me to LW.

Critical thinking and debate has been a focus of mine since I was quite young so LW fit right into my interests. I’m very interested in instrumental/practical applications of rationality. I’ve been lurking for many years and finally decided to make an account to get over my fear of online embarrassment given my unfamiliarity with a lot of the lexicon and protocol on LW.

Some passions of mine are movies, seeking out novel experiences (examples are shooting an AK-47, judging a singing competition, and visiting Pixar), and martial arts.

I’m also interested in effective altruism and AI research but still have a lot of learning to do, especially in the latter.

1Benquo6yWelcome! You may want to check out some of AnnaSalamon's old posts for some things to try as far as applied rationality goes, if you haven't already. Have you been / are you interested in connecting with the Bay Area Rationalist or EA community while you're still here?
2JohnGreer6yThanks for the tip! I've read some of her posts but will look into the ones I've haven't. We're going to be moving in about two weeks and are fairly busy before so probably not going to be able to. I regret not going to a Berkeley Meetup while I had more time.

The person behind this account is not at all new to the Less Wrong community. He has read all of the sequences multiple times, as well as much of the output of many non-Eliezer figures associated with or influenced by LW, and has been around for more than half the time the site has existed. Suffice it to say he knows his stuff. He used to comment and then stopped for reasons which remain unclear.

The obvious question is, why the new account, especially since I'm not trying to hide who I was? I decline to answer.

Less Wrong is important to me. Reading the sequences caused in me a serious upgrade. LW inspired a lot of meetup groups, one of which I attend every week. It's not the group I wish I was attending, but it's better than the alternative: none. Things fall apart. Roko exploded. Vladimir_M vanished, Yvain seceded; many others of import including Eliezer have abandoned LW. They all have their reasons, some common and others not. There are forces, it seems, driving the best away, leaving behind a smattering of dunces.

I aim to turn the tide. Nate Soares didn't show up until 2013. Less Wrong is still at least theoretically a place that can attract good people. Less Wrong has been na... (read more)

Hello LW World!

I have been reading the writings of Eliezer Yudkowsky for about 2 years now, ever since a friend of mine introduced me to HPMOR. It continues to blow my mind that there is an entire movement and genre dedicated to reason. It's provided a depth of thought that I've always felt different from others for enjoying, and now I can happily say that there's a community for it.

I am currently an unemployed veteran and college dropout seeking to solve the financial problems which prevent me from currently completing my degree. I am halfway finished with an ultrasound tech school and I am also studying programming as a hobby. I'm proud of a lot of my work so far, from making the beginnings of an awesome game on Scratch to completing an advanced challenge on Hackerrank (technically it's incomplete, but it's only the timeout limit on large inputs that I have yet to find a solution for). I'm also learning web design skills on FreeCodeCamp where I have found very supportive mentors and hope to get a basic foot-in-the-door level of skills to gain employment.

What I REALLY wanted to do but failed at due to financial hardship is to work in neuroscience research. I'm more interested... (read more)

4John_Maxwell6yWelcome! I don't think there's an official rule about poetry. Speaking as a person with over 9000 karma, my intuition is that it'd be well received if it has some novel ideas/perspective and was linked to from an open thread.

Hello, my name is Daniel.

I've wanted to join the rationality community for a little while now, and I finally worked up the courage after a brief but informative discussion with Anna Salamon, CFAR's executive director (who was as kind as I was nervous).

I'm working on finishing up a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and I plan on continuing to a doctorate in some branch of decision or control theory. I also study philosophy, fiction writing, and computer science.

Since becoming aware of rationality in general, and Eliezer Yudkowsky's way of making everything make sense, I've gotten pretty heavily into cognitive psychology and metacognition.

To be frank, I understand that I'm a rank amateur in the field of rationality in general, but I'm looking forward to trying to get better. So if you're downvoting me, or even upvoting me, explaining why in a comment or message would be extremely helpful, so I can take the time to reinforce my positive cognitive pathways, and prune my negative ones.

See you in the threads!


I am a month long lurker who finally decided to make an account.

I'm 24, and am living as a US expat in Beijing right now. I have a BA in Economics from a top 5 university, where the most important thing I learned was just how little that actually meant. I got pretty disillusioned with academia, and I've only been able to start enjoying intellectual pursuits again in the last year or so; hence, it is nice to find a non-university community where I might be able to discuss interesting ideas without all of the self-important swagger.

I would say that the other important thing my econ background influenced is my rational decision making: I do not vote; I was involved in effective altruism (until I became an ethical nihilist); etc. I think I've experience some significant emotional blunting from this, and have mixed feelings about it. Hopefully being in a community of similarly oriented people (and getting more information about typical outcomes) will help me work through whether this is something that I need to address or not.

I lean somewhat classical-liberal (or pro-market left of center, with significant room for government provisioning for market failure) at the moment, but la... (read more)

2[anonymous]6ySee Vaniver on decision theory!
[-][anonymous]6y 11

Good [insert-time-of-day-here]! My name is Tighe, I'm 16 years old, and I found this site through one of my friends at school. I'm not the most intelligent person, but I am interested in becoming less wrong. I don't expect myself to compare very well to most people on this site, but hey, that's what the point of being an "aspiring" rationalist is, right? Some of my interests in life so far have been writing, programming, math, and science (though I'm not very good at the last two). I've been told that this site helps to improve one's thinking skills, ones that aren't offered in most high schools (or any high schools, really), and I think that could really help me improve in the aforementioned areas. Well, hello.

I'm not new to the site, but new to actually posting. Long time reader, first time poster, etc. I am a somewhat-regular member of the Los Angeles Less Wrong meetup, and I'm excited to keep learning more about rationality in general and Bayesian probability in particular.

1JoshuaZ6yWelcome from the depths of lurking! What made you decide to start posting? (I'm curious partially because there seem to be a few people who lurk and go to meetups and I don't fully understand the psychology of that.)
7AvivaLasVegas6yWell, I'm actually helping to plan an event for this LA Meetup, and I can't post the Meetup Event Topic Thingy without having Karma, so that's basically what pushed me towards actually posting. Which is funny, because I've been a regular meetup attendee for almost a year at this point.
[-][anonymous]6y 11

Hi everyone! I've been a lurker for a while now, this is my first real interaction. Found LessWrong through HPMOR (read the whole thing over a single weekend; read it again a month later).

I'm sixteen and have just graduated from a high school in India (I'm a US citizen, though). Currently applying to American universities, working through some online college courses and Godel, Escher, Bach; teaching myself Python, writing a novel, and continuing to teach myself Japanese (5th language). Also partying shamelessly.

I'm very undecided about my future, but to generalize, I'm probably going to go into either the film industry or physics, while writing fiction on the side. I have no doubt LessWrong can help immensely in each of my pursuits, and I aim to finish reading all the sequences by the end of the year (currently halfway through How to Actually Change Your Mind).

I love this site. At times while reading the articles I have a feeling of obscure deja vu, almost outright indignation. Like someone has stolen MY personal insights, expanded them exhaustively, and posted them online. (Yes, I realize the actual research is decades old and not solely by EY.) I find my own thought patterns in these articles. Some just click instantly, and I understand every aspect. Others I have to reread a few times to really get. Anyone else know this feeling, or does everyone just understand it with ease?

Can't thank my lucky stars enough that a site like this actually exists: it's a veritable compendium for ascending to godhood.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Hello LessWrong community,

I came to this site after having read Harper's Magazine article "Come With Us If You Want To Live" by LW member @swfrank (@vernvernvern and I have this in common!). I am 21 years old, and am a percussionist living in Omaha Nebraska.

The first rational thought I can recall occurred in Kearney, NE. I was about 8 years old, I was walking across a soccer pitch on my way home from school. I was singing a modern christian worship song, looking into the sky. As I stared into space, I realized how meaningless my words were. I was alone and I sang to no one (time seemed to slow, it was a surreal experience). I began questioning the existence of a watchful god (this was a hard thing to do in my highly christian family). After that I struggled to involve myself in worship. This was a cornerstone event for me, leading to a more rational way of life.

I am now a junior at University of Nebraska at Omaha working toward a percussion performance degree. My diet consists of about 60% Soylent. I look forward to the connections I will make on LessWrong.

I have compiled some individuals who have played a large role in my rationality and progress: Bjork (musician), Omar Rodriguez Lopez (of The Mars Volta), Stanley Kubrick, C.S. Lewis, Ralph Ellison, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Orwell, Ludwig Van Beethoven, György Ligeti (composer), David Lang (composer), Elon Musk, and Steven Schick (percussionist).

Philip Kolbo

2matt20006yI can relate to having musicians in my list of intellectual inspirations. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion was certainly an influence in mmy developing aspirations to rationality.
1PhilipKolbo6yYea, punk is a inspiration to me as well. You can see that with Omar.

I'm Matt, 32, Living in Los Angeles. I first read Less Wrong sometime in 2012, and attended the CFAR Workshop in February 2014, and finally now am getting around to signing up an account, because while i am not as wrong as I used to be, I'm still mostly wrong much of the time, but I'm working on fixing that. Sometimes I make overly complicated jokes that misuse mathmatical language, because I'm a programmer, not a mathematician. Sometimes I host rationalist rap battles, which in practice are a bit more like ratioanlist group hugs than the thing you saw in 8 mile. I'm an atheist who will gladly debate educated theists. I like board games and short walks on the beach. I'm @matt2000 on twitter.

Hi I'm Harsh Gupta I'm an undergraduate student studying Mathematics and Computing at IIT Kharagpur, India. I became interested in Rationality when I came across the wikipedia article for Conformational Bias around 2 years ago. That was pretty intriguing, I searched more and read Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational. Then also read his other book Upside of Irrationality and now I'm reading hpmor and Khaneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. I also read The Art of Startegy around the same time as Arliey's book and that was a life changer too. The basic background of Game Theory that I got from The Art of Startegy helped me learn to analyze complex real life situation from mathematical perspective. I came to know about lesswrong from grwern.net, which was suggested by friend who is learning functional programming. I want to get more involved with the community and I would like to contribute some articles in future. BTW is there any community todo list?

Hello all. My name's Tom and I'm a second-year undergraduate mathematics student in Adelaide, Australia. I rediscovered LessWrong a few months back after a conversation with friends about charitable donations where I referenced a post here about effective altruism. I had previously read only a few of the Sequences posts, having been directed here by Eliezer's fanfiction, but since signing up I've made my way through about 80% of the major sequences.

If anyone has any questions about my background or interests, please feel free to ask.


I'm currently attempting to read through the MIRI research guide in order to contribute to one of the open problems. Starting from Basics. I'm emulating many of Nate's techniques. I'll post reviews of material in the research guide at lesswrong as I work through it.

I'm mostly posting here now just to note this. I can be terse at times.

See you there.

Hello people.

I am brand new to this site and really to the topic of rationality in general. A friend recommended HPMOR to me a few months ago and I loved it. I then read Cialdini's 'Influence' on recommendation from these forums, and I am now reading Rationality: from AI to Zombies.

My background is in science, having studied oceanography at university, graduating about ten years ago. I am currently thinking about training as a science teacher. I look forward to becoming better acquainted with this topic, and being involved in the discussions.

2Vaniver6yWelcome! :D
0[anonymous]6yWelcome! What level where you considering educating at?
[-][anonymous]6y 9

Hey everyone!

I'm a long-time lurker of this site, but I haven't posted anything before. I've read all the sequences twice over the past few years, along with almost all non-sequence posts. The list of all posts was really not in an obvious location, but I eventually managed to find it!

So I'm new to the idea of actually communicating with people over the internet; I've never actually been a member of any forum before. Though I have a Reddit account, I've only made about ten posts in the year that I've been there. It's really weird; I often find myself think... (read more)

Hi all,

I've been following EY and LW for about four years now. I'm fairly new to posting though. I started out as a "republican" in elementary school, then turned into a "libertarian" in high school because I didn't care for many conservative positions. Then an "objectivist" in college, because I didn't care for the fact that libertarianism only extended to politics and not ethics. Then I became frustrated with the Objectivist community and their inability to adapt to the real world so I became a "all the people I've met... (read more)

Look, it may very well be that social science is low-quality. But your comments in this thread are not at all up to LW standards. You need to cite evidence for your positions and stop calling people names.

Well, "providing universal healthcare and welfare will lead to a massive drop in motivation to work" is a scientific prediction. We can find out whether it is true by looking at countries where this already happens - taxes pay for good socialised healthcare and welfare programs - like the UK and the Nordics, and seeing if your prediction has come true.

The UK employment rate is 5.6%, the United States is 5.3%. Not a particularly big difference, nothing indicating that the UK's universal free healthcare has created some kind of horrifying utility d... (read more)

I'm not sure this is necessarily always true. There are absolutely certainly instances of this happening, but more and more governments are adopting "evidence-led policy" policies, and I'd hope that at least sometimes those policies do what they say on the tin. The UK has this: https://www.gov.uk/what-works-network and I'm going to try and do more reading up on it to see whether it looks like it's doing any good or just proving what people want it to prove.

It would certainly be preferable to live in a world where social scientists did good unbias... (read more)

1CCC5yYes; you'll get some politicians who actually want to reduce the crime rate and are willing to look for advice on how to do that effectively. They're hard to spot, because all politicians want to look like that sort of politician, leaving the genuine ones hidden in a crowd of lookalikes...
2Acty5yThere could be solutions to this, I'm sure, or at least ways of minimising the problems. Maybe an independent-from-current-ruling-party research institute that ran studies on all proposed laws/policies put forward by both the in-power and opposition power, which required pre-registration of studies, and then published its findings very publicly in an easy-for-public-to-read format? Then it would be very obvious which parties were saying the same things as the science and which were ignoring the science, and it would be hard for the parties to influence the social scientists to just get them to say what they want them to say.
3CCC5yI'm sure there could be. It's not an easy problem to solve - after all, right now, there are professors in social sciences, economics, and other subjects who can tell pretty quickly whether or not a given policy is at least vaguely sensible or not. But how often are they listened to? Also, it's not always easy to see which option is the best. If Policy A might or might not reduce crime but makes it look like everyone's trying; Policy B will reduce crime but also reduce civil liberties; Policy C will reduce the amount of crime but increase its potential lethality... then how can one tell which policy is the best? Having said that... there should be solutions. Your proposed institute is an improvement on the status quo, and would be a good thing to set up in many countries (assuming that they can be funded).

I am have been a Less Wrong user with an anonymous account since the Overcoming Bias days. I decided to create this new account using my real name.

One explicit argument in favor of excluding women from the workplace is thus: "There is currently a preponderance of men in the workplace. If there are men and women in the workplace, then there will be romance. If there is romance, then there will be reduced productivity. If there are more women in the workplace, then there will be less productivity. Therefore, there should not be more women in the workplace."

The obvious counterpoint is that this argument implicitly describes a world in which all women that would be excluded from the workplace c... (read more)

We'd love to know who you are:

  1. 19 y.o. at Berkeley
  2. Lived in Shanghai, London, CT, and CA

What you're doing:

  1. Dealing with classes
  2. Working jobs in design and CS on the side
  3. Thinking

What you value:

  1. Design that follows Dieter Rams' 10 Principles
  2. Talking with thoughtful people
  3. Big Hairy Audacious Ideas
  4. Good whisky

How you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist

  1. I get bored very easily so if Netflix and Hulu aren't available I occupy myself with thought experiments
  2. I like spotting logical holes in my beliefs and values (I argue against myself sometim
... (read more)
[-][anonymous]6y 8

Hey everyone! I'm a longtime lurker but I've never gotten around to making an account before now. I think my introduction to this site was actually someone linking to the Baby-Eating Aliens story a few years ago, which I guess isn't a common way to find this site. I've since read all of the sequences twice, and most of the other posts. Recent (unfounded, I hope) discussion about the site dying have made me finally get an account.

I'm a physics PhD student working in biophysics and computer simulations, and I also read philosophy and psychology in my free t... (read more)

New to this site... Have studied very little about logic and philosophy starting with some big famous papers that talk about how we know nothing for certain (thanks, Descartes), going through whether All Ravens are Black, studying the Perfect Island argument, learning about Famine, Affluence, and Morality, and ending somewhere along the lines of whether justified true belief is knowledge. That is to say, I'm not that educated on logic or rationality, but entertaining ideas is a great hobby of mine.
I came to Less Wrong because I found it on Harry Potter MO... (read more)

4ilzolende6yThere seems to be a lot of other high school students on this site lately. If you like this stuff, you may also like the International Baccalaureate class Theory of Knowledge, which you can often take as an elective even if you're not an IB student. Kind of curious about your theism, don't feel required to answer: A lot of nonreligious people who believe in a god are deists or pantheists. Are you either of those? If not, would you be willing to give more detail about your beliefs? Also, I'm kind of starting to wonder if some people don't really like classifying themselves into groups. Is the reason you don't affiliate with a political party because you want one that better matches your positions on policy, or because you wouldn't associate with one even if you agreed with them on all policy proposals? Most people define "evil" as "wants evil things", not "has evil revealed preferences". If you're looking at social behavior, we all have ulterior motives (I want to talk about things regardless of how annoyed a listener is, I want a strong support structure so that if something goes wrong I can get help, I want people to entertain me), but the actions those motives lead to are pretty low on the scale of bad stuff, somewhere close to EY's dust speck.
2Anders_H6yAs a 2001 IB Diploma Graduate, I have to disagree very strongly with this advice (unless the curriculum for the Theory of Knowledge course has changed substantially over the last 15 years). I remember taking this course and being immensely frustrated by how almost every discussion was obviously just disagreement about semantics. This completely killed my interest in epistemology and philosophy, it was only when I read the "Human's Guide to Words" sequence several years later that I realized there were people who were thinking seriously about these issues without getting into pointless discussions about whether items are rubes or bleggs. Courses in mainstream philosophy that get stuck on confusion about the meaning of words have the effect of turning rigorous thinkers away from thinking about philosophical questions. As for myself, if it hadn't been for reading Overcoming Bias years later, the IB course on Theory of Knowledge could have permanently killed my interest in epistemology.
3LawrenceC6yWelcome! I just want to comment on the "everyone is evil" idea - "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Or broken incentive systems. Or something in that vein. :p
[-][anonymous]6y 7

A Challenger Has Arrived! Hello, yes, I'd like to announce that I am successfully existing for the first time in forever. I've been a lurker for quite some time, and have finished Eliezer's book. As I've stepped up my studies and plan to continue doing so, I've decided that scouting for a party to join would be wise.

Right now I'm finalizing my grasp of Rationality: From A.I. to Zombies, and organizing some notes I have on my personal struggle with willpower depletion. I would really appreciate if anyone knows of any site-external sources I could devour,... (read more)

1John_Maxwell6yWelcome! Re: willpower stuff, I found this guy's writing [http://dirtsimple.org/] very helpful several years ago. You can get his free book by putting your email in at the bottom of this [http://thinkingthingsdone.com/2010/02/the-lost-chapters.html] page. (More specifics on the willpower issues you are facing might allow me to give more targeted advice.)

Introduction comment, as requested.

I've been coming back to this site over and over again, for one or two years now I would say, for any number of topics, and today it dawned on me that there's something great about this site, the community / comments, and material, and that - maybe - I would like to become a part of it.

One email confirmation later, and the goal is achieved in its entirety.

Right, guys?


EDIT: One minor technical question... the comment system seems to be more or less a straight port from reddit, correct? But, unlike reddit, comment score starts at 0, it seems. Or did my other comment immediately receive a negative vote, seconds after going live?

3[anonymous]6yHail zanglebert. The comments do indeed start at a null score. I also have noticed a "Powered by Reddit" icon in the lower right. That is the extent of my knowledge.

An important point: I have personally observed particular members of the old male guard in cell biology reliably applying much harsher standards to their female colleagues and students than to their male colleagues unreasonably and repetitively. (EDIT: it sure isn't everyone or even a plurality but it sure is a visible pattern)

This leads to women (being over half my field at the PhD level) leaving their associations with these men and staying the heck away, as anyone would when being criticized and judged unfairly.

Thankfully I can say this is becoming m... (read more)

Hello everyone.

My name is Kabelo Moiloa, and I graduated from the Anglo-American School of Moscow three weeks ago. My deep interests are math, computer science and physics, in fact I might consider doing a series of posts here on Homotopy Type Theory, since I've been going through the HoTT Book. I first came to this website likely four years ago, so I don't remember well how it was. As I recall, I came here soon after I deconverted from Catholicism, and have found the discussions and content here fascinating ever since. For example, although I had already ... (read more)

2JonahS6yI remember you, glad to hear it :-).

Hi all,

I'm a recently graduated aerospace engineer. First came upon LW via HPMOR a couple years ago, been through the Sequences once since then, currently going through Rationality: A to Z mostly as a refresher.

Gravitated toward aerospace as a sort of proto existential risk mitigation effort, but having spoken with Nick Beckstead via 80,000 hours and comparing the potential of various fields to mitigate X-Risk within the next ~100 years which resulted in my discounting space development relative to other fields, currently more open to other avenues.

Very in... (read more)

Hi All, I live at the LW Boston house, the Citadel. My undergrad and grad was in Biology, and I am switching into programming. I am interested in psychology and cognitive biases. I value self-improvement and continuous learning. I recently started blogging at https://evolvingwithtechnology.wordpress.com.

Hello everyone!

I just registered and I don't quite know how this works, but the HPMOR Wrap Party Organizers Handbook said to post here, and so here I am.

Venue: Griffith Observatory front lawn

2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Date/Time: March 14, 2015: 6:00pm

Cost: Free access to the complex, planetarium shows are $7

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1585754024996915/

Contact email: ladyastralis at gmail youknowtherest

Please bring: A (picnic) blanket, some snacks/food, some way to read HPMOR that has its own light source (I called ... (read more)

1Gondolinian6yWelcome, Amanda! You might want to post your event info as a comment here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ltd/hpmor_wrap_parties_resources_information_and/] so it gets attention from the wrap party coordinator. Or you could send it to the coordinator [http://lesswrong.com/user/Habryka/overview/] as a private message.
1ladyastralis6yThanks Gondolinian! I took your advice. Also, Oliver is definitely aware of this party.
[-][anonymous]6y 7

Dear All (or whatever is the appropriate way to address the community here),

Reading Star Slate Codex kindled my interest in this community. I do not (yet) consider myself a Rationalist, largely because I don't put a disproportionately high value on the truth value of statements as opposed to their other uses, but I might be something sort of a fellow traveller because I think we have one thing in common: curiosity and the desire to investigate and analyze everything.

About me: not actually Dutch (although European, never been to the USA), my nickname is a b... (read more)

4RichardKennaway6yAnd while I'm thinking about Aquinas, I remember I once wrote this pastiche of the method: Whether the composition of the Summa Theologiae was an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality? Objection 1: The Angelic Doctor was learned in all of the theology and scripture that preceded him, and drew it into a single coherent work that has not been superceded. Therefore, this was a valuable and mighty deed, and not an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality. Objection 2: The Church has blessed his work and canonised its author. Therefore, etc. On the contrary, It is written that the author himself, after seven years labour cast his work aside, saying that it was of straw, and did not pick up his pen again before he died soon after. I answer that, It was an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality. For it is written that there is only One Holy Book, the manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader. And the Summa makes no reference to anything but the writings and philosophical speculations of the past. Therefore, it fails to read of that Book which alone can enlighten the reader. Furthermore, the form in which the Summa is written, listing for each point of doctrine objections, contrary objection, verdict, and refutation of the opposing objections, lends itself to argument in favour of any view whatever; in contrast to the method of logic and experiment, which does not lend itself to argument in favour of any view whatever, but only (save for our fallible natures), in favour of that which is true and can be tested. Therefore the Summa proves no point of doctrine, but rather provides only a form of catechism to be recited in favour of the official doctrine. Reply to Objection 1. The writings of the past are valuable as a source of truth, only in so far as they ultimately rest on observation of nature. Neither theology nor scripture rest upon observation of nature. Reply to Objection 2. Those who themselves value a work,
2IlyaShpitser6yThis is a great question, I think about this a lot too. My intuitions are: a bit of reaction, e.g. getting in touch with the glorious past. This might work w/ e.g. Poland/Lithuania, may work even on Russia, if Russia remembers how the Novgorod republic worked. But Russia is a hard nut to crack. But yes once there is a society-wide defection norm, it is hard to get out of.
2Lumifer6yIsn't that what Putin is doing? I am not sure this is a great idea. The past glories tend to be associated with nationalistic wars. Another issue is what would unfucking entail -- turning East Europeans into Scandinavians? National cultural characteristics tend to be pretty persistent :-/ Otherwise, the canonical answer seems to be a long period of civil society, rule of law, etc. I am not holding my breath.

Hi! Lesswrong first came to my attention when I read HPMOR. I took a 2-year course in Knowledge and Inquiry - which includes critical thinking and epistemology (also includes philosophy of science). I was a Christian but reading some articles on Lesswrong and reading counter-arguments to Christianity convinced me otherwise (trying to reduce confirmation bias and trying to falsify the belief of Christianity).

Pardon me for taking this opportunity to express one concern I've had for more than a year. I'm a college student and I am concerned that I am not sma... (read more)

8gjm6yNo one is smart enough. But if you mean, specifically, smart enough to then I think the question is kinda backwards. "Am I too stupid to try to improve my thinking?" -- it's like "am I too sick to try to improve my health?" or "am I too weak to try to improve my strength?" or "am I too poor to try to get more money?". Now, no doubt all those things are possible. If you really can't reason at all, maybe you'd be wasting your time trying to reason better. And there are such things as hospices, and maybe some people are so far in debt that nothing they do will get them out of poverty. But those are unusual situations, and someone who is headed for a good result in a challenging subject at a good university is absolutely not in that sort of situation, and if the stuff on Less Wrong is too hard for you to understand the fault is probably in the material, not in you. A fine example of the kind of "easy" task human brains (even good ones) are shockingly bad at. I just attempted a randomly-chosen 2-digit multiplication in my head. I got the wrong answer. Am I just not very intelligent? Well, I represented the UK at two International Mathematical Olympiads, have a PhD in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and have been gainfully employed as a mathematician in academia and industry for most of my career. So far as I can tell from online testing, my IQ is distinctly higher than the (already quite impressive) Less Wrong average. It is OK not to be very good at mental arithmetic. (Having said which: If there were something important riding on it, I'd be more careful and I'm pretty sure I could do it reliably. I did a few more to check this and it looks like it's true. So I may well in fact be better at multiplying 2-digit numbers than you are. But the point is: this is not something you should expect to be easy, even if it seems like it should be. And the other point is: Even if you are, in some possibly-useful sense, less intelligent than you would like to be,
1kaler6yThank you for the reminder that precision in language is very important. I learnt that in the Knowledge and Inquiry course I was enrolled in. Thank you also for taking time and effort to type out that reply. It is deeply comforting and a great encouragement to me.
6IlyaShpitser6yFor folks who post here morale and akrasia are usually much bigger problems than brain hardware.
4CCC6y... You are not too stupid. You are really, really, seriously, not too stupid. That's something that you might want to work on, but it's not a general intelligence failure. There are some tricks that can be learned (or discovered) and employed to multiply by specific numbers more quickly; alternatively, practice will help to speed up your mental multiplication.
4kaler6yThanks for the encouragement! I will try my best to work through the sequences. I have just finished map and territory and mysterious answers to mysterious questions. I noticed that many articles in the sequences confuse me at times because I can think of multiple interpretations of a particular paragraph but have no idea which was intended. Also, many actions/thoughts of Harry in HPMOR confuse me. I might have interpretations of the events but I don't think those interpretations are likely to be correct. Is this normal? I have edited the post though, I think that saying that I am on track to receive First Class Honours in both is too optimistic. I can say with quite a high degree of certainty that I am on track to receive at least Second Upper in both. But then again, I tend to be too pessimistic when it comes to grades and honours. I just really don't get why I don't do well in math, which I assume would be the best measure of one's fluid intelligence. Things such as why dividing by zero doesn't work confuses me and I often wonder at things such as the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. It seems that my mind lights up with too many questions when I learn math, many of which are difficult to answer. (My professor does not have much time to meet students for consultations and I don't think I want to waste his time). It seems that I need to undergo suspension of disbelief just to do math, which doesn't seem right given that a lot of it has been rigorously proven by loads of people much smarter than me. (But yes, I understand there is the Gödel's theorem as well). Is this normal too? The thing is, I can't find any convincing evidence (maybe a study or something) that fluid intelligence cannot be fully described by mathematical ability (if effort exists). Thanks again for your encouragement!
4Epictetus6yScholastic math is a different beast. I can say that a lot of professors have issues with the "standard" math curriculum. I have taught university calculus myself and I don't think that the curriculum and textbook I had to work with had much to do with "fluid intelligence". Sounds like one source for your troubles. It's a lot harder to succeed at school math and go through the motions if you have unanswered questions about why the method works (and aren't willing to blindly follow formulas). By all means bring your questions up to the professor. If he's teaching, there's probably some university policy that he be available to students for a certain amount of hours outside of class (i.e. it's part of his job). You lose nothing by trying. Even an e-mail wouldn't be a bad idea in the last resort. In my experience, professors tend to complain about students who never seek help until they show up the day before the final at their wits' end (or, worse still, after the final to ask why they failed). By that point it's too late. We like our multiplication rules to work nicely and division by zero causes problems. There's no consistent way to define something like 0/0 (you could say that since 1 x 0 = 0, 0/0 should be 1, but this argument works for any number). With something like 1/0, you could say "infinity", but does that then mean 0 x infinity = 1? What's 2/0 then?
2ChristianKl6yA very easy way to improve your writing would be to separate your text into paragraphs. It doesn't take any intelligence but just awareness of norms. Math.stackexchange [http://math.stackexchange.com/] exists for that purpose. Not everybody is good at math. That's okay. Scott Alexander who's an influential person in this community writes on his blog [http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/31/the-parable-of-the-talents/]: Math is about abstract thinking. That means "common sense" often doesn't work. One has to let go of naive assumptions and accept answers that don't seem obvious. In many cases the ability to trust that established mathematical finding are correct even if you can't follow the proof that establishes them is an useful ability. It makes life easier. In addition to what CCC wrote http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/26445/division-by-0 [http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/26445/division-by-0] is a good explanation of the case.
4kaler6yI hope you don't mind that I have now separated my comment into paragraphs. It's such an obvious problem in hindsight. Thank you for your reply! It encouraged me a lot!
1ChristianKl6yAccepting feedback and directly applying it is great :)
1CCC6yWhile yes, that can make life easier, it also means that if the reason why you can't follow the proof is because you're misunderstanding the finding in question, then you're not applying any error checking and anything that you do that depends on that misunderstanding is going to potentially be incorrect. So, if you're going into any field where mathematics is important, it can also make life significantly harder.
2ChristianKl6yIt's hard to put in words what I mean. There a certain ability to think in abstract concepts that you need in math. Wanting things to feel like you "understand" can be the wrong mode of engaging complex math. That doesn't mean that understanding math isn't useful but it's abstract understanding and trying to seek a feeling of common sense can hold people back.
2CCC6yI... think I learnt math in a very different way to you. If I didn't feel that I understood something, I went back until I felt that I did. I do not understand the difference between an "abstract understanding" and a "feeling of common sense". Is a feeling of common sense not a subtype of an abstract understanding (in the same way that a "square" is a subtype of a "rectangle")?
1Epictetus6yOn the contrary, failing to feel common sense is usually a sign that you don't really understand what's going on. Your understanding of an abstract concept is only as good as that of your best example. The abstract method in mathematics is just a way of taking features common to several examples and formulating a theory that can be applied in many cases. With that said, it is a useful skill in math to be able to play the game and proceed formally. There's an anecdote about a famous math professor who had to teach a class. The first time, the students didn't understand. A year later, he taught it again. Learning from experience, he made it simpler. The students still didn't understand. When he taught it a third time, he made it simple enough that even he finally understood it. I will concede that in practice it can be expedient to trust the experts with the complications and use ready-made formulas.
2Nornagest6yThis doesn't seem to be true for anything that's normally analyzed statistically: the stock market, for example, or large-scale meteorology.
2CCC6yThis seems normal to me. What is intended is very often not an easy question to answer. The mere fact that you have been accepted for and expect to pass a double degree tells me that you are really not too stupid. (I'm not actually sure what the difference between Second Upper and First Class Honours is - I assume that's because you're referring to the education system of a country with which I am not familiar). Theory: You had a poor teacher in primary-school level maths, and failed to learn something integral to the subject way back there. Something really basic and fundamental. Despite this severe handicap, you have managed to get to the point where you're going to pass a double degree (which implies good things about your intelligence). I... don't actually know. Throughout my entire school career, I was the guy for whom maths came easily. I don't know what's normal there. Actually, it may be possible to narrow down what you're missing in mathematics. (If we do find it, it won't solve all your math problems immediately, but it'll be a good first step) Let's start here: Define "division".
2kaler6yWow! Thank you so much for your time and effort in typing out that reply! Well, About 3-5 percent of the best students in a cohort can expect to get First Class Honours. It basically means 97th percentile, or 95th percentile, depending on the quality of the students. The 75th to 95th percentile can expect to get Second Class Honours. I must admit that this question stunned me. I don't actually know. What first came to my mind is that it is some sort of algorithm (case 1: two integers that divide cleanly, case 2: two integers that divide to make a fraction, case 3: an unknown ...) that has useful applications (e.g. it is useful to know that you can divide 6 apples by 3 people to allocate 2 to each person). This is my shot at a definition: division is an operation that gives the ratio of number/function F and another number/function G. The ratio can be determined by seeing how many of G can be added together to comprise F. It can be a fraction/real number/complex number/function. Argh. I am stumped. This definition seems like Swiss cheese.
3arundelo6yI recommend chapter 22 ("Algebra") of volume 1 of The Feynman Lectures on Physics [http://www.amazon.com/Feynman-Lectures-Physics-boxed-set/dp/0465023827/].Here's a PDF. [http://users.uoa.gr/~pjioannou/Feynman%20Physics%20Lectures%20V1%20Ch22%201962-01-23%20Algebra.pdf] My summary (intended as an incentive to read the Feynman, not a replacement for reading it): 1. We start with addition of discrete objects ("I have two apples; you have three apples. How many apples do we have between us?"). No fractions, no negative numbers, no problem. 2. We get other operations by repetition -- multiplication is repeated addition, exponentiation is repeated multiplication. 3. We get yet more operations by reversal -- subtraction is reversed addition, division is reversed multiplication, roots and logarithms are reversed exponentiation. These operations also let us define new kinds of numbers (fractions, negative numbers, reals, complex numbers) that are not necessarily useful for counting apples or sheep or pebbles but are useful in other contexts. Rules for how to work with these new kinds of numbers are motivated by keeping things as consistent as possible with already-existing rules.
1CCC6yWhich implies that I can, tentatively, estimate you to be in the top 10% of people who are accepted for a degree. That's really good. ...I think we've found the start of the problem. Your foundations have a few holes. Dividing X by Y, at its core, means that I have X objects, I want to place them in Y exactly equal piles, how many objects do I place per pile? (At least, that's the definition I'd use). In this way, the usefulness of the operation is immediately apparent; if I have six apples, and I want to divide them among three people, I can give each person two apples. I can use the same definition if I have five apples and three people; then I give each person one and two-thirds apples. This also works for negative numbers; if I have negative-six apples (i.e. a debt of six apples) I can divide that into three piles by placing negative-two apples in each pile. Division by zero then becomes a matter of taking (say) six apples, and trying to put them into zero piles. (I hope that makes the problem with division by zero clear). And yes, there is a fancy algorithm that I can put X and Y in and get the quotient out... but that algorithm is not a particularly good basic definition of division. (Interestingly, I note that your definition jumps straight to setting out separate cases and then trying to apply a different algorithm to each individual case. This would make it very hard to work with in practice; I've worked with division algorithms on computers, and they're far simpler, conceptually, than what you had there. If that's what you've been working with, then I am really not surprised that you've been having trouble with maths). Now let's see how far this goes... Define "multiplication", "addition", and "subtraction".
2kaler6yThank you so much for this, CCC. You really made my day. I think I overcomplicate things. When I read your answer, I was thinking, (seriously no offense because I know you are really smart) I don't know for sure that this definition works for complex numbers. I was wondering how I could conceptualize it. And then I was thinking that mathematics relies on definitions and deductive reasoning and intuition cannot give the certainty of deductive reasoning, thus it might be a fallacy to think that something simple and intuitive is an accurate model of mathematical reality... then I remembered that it was taught in kindergartens even... Sucks to have my mindset, doesn't it? I also keep thinking that I can't be sure that I covered all possible cases with my definition - another major problem of mine. X*Y : I have Y sets of X objects, how many objects do I have? Works with fractions, and negative numbers (thinking in terms of debts). X+Y : I have X objects. I am given Y objects. How many objects do I have? Again works with fractions and negative numbers. It's easy to visualize imaginary numbers as another type of object 'x', and I am given y objects. So I have x + y imaginary objects and X + Y real objects. X-Y : I have X objects. Y objects are taken away from me. Again, same question, and works with fractions and negative numbers, and having 'x' and 'y' objects helps me deal with imaginary numbers. What I've been wondering is why y – y1 = m(x – x1) works but m = (y - y1)/(x-x1) does not include the point when x = x1. After learning what you've taught me, it is intuitive that these two equations are very different (in terms of giving and taking apples). But before today, it shocked me to think that we can't always manipulate algebra by dividing both sides by something, and I have to be extremely careful. Then it makes me wonder what other exceptions to manipulation there is, and what kind of deductive reasoning is in use here, if there are exceptions. I also wo
1CCC6yIt does; complex numbers are just another type of number. We'll get to them shortly. To be fair, sometimes the intuitive answer is wrong; one does have to take care. But sometimes, as in these cases, the intuitive model does work. Exactly. Perfect. You could do it that way, and it leads to the correct answers, but I think it's fundamentally problematic to see complex numbers as intrinsically different to real numbers. (For one thing, real numbers are a subset of complex numbers in any case). Right. There's only one that I can think of off the top of my head; if x^z=y^z, this does not mean that x=y (i.e. we can't just take the z'th root on both sides of the equation). This can be clearly demonstrated with x=2, y=-2 and z=2. Two squared is four, which is equal to (negative two) squared, but two is not equal to negative two. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now, as to complex numbers. Let me start by asking you to define a "complex number".

Hello everyone – I’m a new member of LessWrong. I consider myself to be a rationalist and humanist. I’m interested in applying rational analysis to help the general public understand complex problems. To help achieve this goal, I’ve been working on a wiki-style website to explain the key nuances of various controversial issues.

The concept is designed to provide meaning and clarity to a wide variety of complex issues, rather than simply enumerating the facts as Wikipedia already does decently well.

I’m wondering if: 1) Anyone in the LessWrong community has thought about something like this; and 2) If there is any interest in learning more about this project

Best, WS

Newcomer, mathematician by species; freethinker, secularist and rationalist by nature. Abrasive and irreverent, if I haven't annoyed off at least five pompous people in any given day, it's a day utterly wasted.

I'm Sam, 22. Lurked here for two years after first stumbling upon the Sequences. Since then, I've been trying to curb inaccurate or dishonest thought patterns or behaviors I've noticed about myself, and am trying to live my life more optimally. I'm making an account to try to hold myself more accountable.

But if you think you can, then do it, say something genuinely interesting, try to offer any sort of a model or information from this utopian-progressivist school that is genuinely different and not the same stuff the mainstream media, BuzzFeed or Tumblr pouring on day and night.

If you read the list of her activities and speaking 6 languages at the age of 17 and being in the process of learning the 7th while also doing Judo to the point of being more fit than guys her age, having learned Java programming, doing filmmaking and being a DM and training othe... (read more)

Eh, I'm not sure I'm an anything-ist. Socialist ideas make a lot of sense to me, but really I'm a read-a-few-more-books-and-go-to-university-and-then-decide-ist. If I have to stand behind any -ist, it's going to be "scientist". I want to do research to find out which policies most effectively make people happy, and then I want to implement those policies regardless of whether they fall in line with the ideologies that seem attractive to me.

But yeah, I do think that it is morally wrong to let people suffer and morally right to make people happy, a... (read more)

2[anonymous]5yThe correct term is social-democrat, actually. Among the different systems, social democracy has very rarely received full-throated support, but seems to have done among the best at handling the complexity of the values and value-systems that humans want to be materially represented in our societies. (And HAHAHA!, finally I can just come out and say that without feeling the need to explain reams and reams of background material on both value-complexity and left-wing history!) Oh, that's all well and good. I just tend to bring up socialism because I think that "left-wing politics" is more of a hypothesis space of political programs than a single such program (ie: the USSR), but that "bad vibes" in the West from the USSR (and lots and lots of right-wing propaganda) have tended to succeed in getting people to write off that entire hypothesis space before examining the evidence. I do think that an ideally rational government would be "more" left-wing than right-wing, as current alignments stand, but I too think it would in fact be mixed. Have some reading material! [https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/the-red-and-the-black/]
0TheAncientGeek5yEvery system that works is covert or overt meritocracy. Social democracy works, so ....
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yMisformatted link at the end of the sentence?

I joined a while ago but don't think I ever posted here. I'd lurked for quite some time here and at various blogs a degree or so separation away since before that. I've mostly link-hopped my way around the sequences and various pieces of fiction and followed folks on facebook and recently realized we had a local LW meetup. I'm happy to answer any questions about me, but never really know what kind of information would be relevant to put in an introductory post, so instead I thought I'd make a proposal instead:

I've seen (for a while) a lot of activity... (read more)

Hi, I'm new here. I find this site while looking for information about A.I. I read a few articles and couldn't help but smile to myself and think 'wasn't this what to the Internet was suppose to be. I had no idea this site existed and I'm honestly glad to have found stacks of future reading, you know that feeling. I never really post on sites and would have usually have lurked myself silly but I've been promted into action by a question. I posted this to reddit in the shower thoughts section because it seemed appropriate but I'd like to ask you (more).

I ... (read more)

0hairyfigment6yI have bad news for you. People have described ideas for an AI that only seeks knowledge (though I can't find the best link to explain it now). I think this design would calmly kill us all to see what would happen, if we'd somehow prevented it from dropping an anvil on its own head. To "become one with all things" does not seem sufficiently well-specified to stop either from happening. In general, if we can reasonably interpret the goal as something that's already true, then the AI will do nothing to achieve it (nothing being the most efficient action).
0humesbacon6yI by no means thought I had stumbled upon something. I was just curious to see what other people thought. I thought to be one with all things was a very ambiguous statement, I think what I was trying to get at was if the A.I. caused harm in some way it would therefore inhibit it from completing its primary goal by definition. And Buddha seemed the only example I could think of. Perhaps Plato's or Nietzche's versions of übermensch might fit better? Thank you for replying I look forward to being a part of this community

I love teaching, especially interacting with my students and their thinking, and I love philosophy, especially ethics. Understandably, I'm a philosophy teacher. I also enjoy politics, history, biology and the great outdoors.

Hello All!

I'm not exactly new: I discovered this at around time HPMOR started (wow 3 years ago). I've always liked thinking about how thought works; Hofstadter's GEB was a big influence. I've started the sequences several times, but never seem to finish. So I'm actually registering to see if that helps motivate me to read them all.

Hello everyone,

I'm Xavier, a 20 year old student from France. I've known about this site for a while. A week ago, I finally decided to start digging into the sequences for some useful insights. I'm interested in various topics such as philosophy, futurology, history and science. However, I'm almost certain my understanding of the world is seriously lacking compared to the average poster here. For example, I have no STEM background at all aside from the most basic knowledge, which is likely to become a problem in the future.

I've been obsessed with the idea ... (read more)

1dxu6yHello, Xavier, and welcome to LessWrong!

Hey everyone!

My name is Tim Cohen and I wanted to say hello! I am new to lesswrong and I am excited to be here.

1Alicorn6yDid you spell your screenname like that on purpose?

Hi. I'm a long time lurker (a few years now), and I finally joined so that I could participate in the community and the discussions. This was borne partly out of a sense that I'm at a place in my life where I could really benefit from this community (and it could benefit from me), and partly out of a specific interest in some of the things that have been posted recently: the MIRI technical research agenda.

In particular, once I've had more time to digest it, I want to post comments and questions about Reasoning Under Logical Uncertainty.

More about me: I'm... (read more)

Hello. I am new to this site as well. My background includes physics, mathematics, and philosophy at graduate level, which I am studying now.

I do not identify myself as a "rationalist", but that does not mean that I may not be a rationalist or that I am not trying to follow some of the advice that is given here to be a rationalist. I discovered LW after reading the story "Three Worlds Collide", which I discovered thanks to tvtropes.org. Lately I have been thinking and writing a lot about my own goals, and when I took a look around LW I ... (read more)

1John_Maxwell6yWelcome! Maybe we can invent a new label for people like you and me who aren't sure if they identify as "rationalists" but nonetheless find themselves agreeing with lots of what's written on Less Wrong anyway :P Quasirationalist or semirationalist, perhaps?

I've been objecting to what Acty said and I get downvoted too.

Yup, playing status with accounts would be kinda stupid. (That's why you should stop doing it.)

You know what would be especially stupid? If we lived in a world that accorded me higher status than you because of my general level of aggression, and I could end this entire argument with "I'm high status, you're low status, I'm right, you're wrong, shut up now".

Now, wouldn't that be a really stupid world...?

So tell me again why giving status and prestige to aggressive people is a great idea?

You know, you don't have to jump on him and demand that he defends his socialist stance merely because he expressed it and tried to discuss it with someone else. It's not like he's answerable to you for being a socialist. And this is not the first time I've seen you and others intervene in a discussion (that otherwise didn't involve or concern them) solely for calling out people on leftist ideas. What the hell are you doing that for?

3[anonymous]5ySince he brought a downvote brigade, I'm indeed going to refrain from engaging. Those who want to know more can follow the link I posted up-thread, which goes to a leading socialist magazine to which I subscribe.

So why are taxes even progressive for the 99,99%? They achieve just about nothing in reducing GINI, they piss of the upper-middle who may be unable to buy a nice car...

The purpose of progressive taxation is not to reduce the Gini coefficient; it's to efficiently extract funding and to sound good to fairness-minded voters. With regard to the former, there's a lot more people around the 90th percentile than the 99.99th, more of their money comes in easily-taxable forms, and they're generally more tractable than those far above or below. They may be unab... (read more)

I don't know, maybe because I was randomly listing some things that I'm angry about to explain why I'm motivated to try and improve the world, not making a thorough and comprehensive list of everything I think is wrong?

Could also fit under "war", which I listed, and "death", which I listed.

1Lumifer5yWell, right here is a nice example: Would you care to be explicit about the connection between IQ-by-race studies and genocide..?
2Acty5yThere is no connection. I'm not trying to imply a connection. The only connection is that they are both things possibly implied by the word "racism". I'm trying to say that when I say "I oppose racism", intending to signal "I oppose people beating up minorities", and people misunderstand badly enough that they think I mean "I oppose IQ-by-race studies", it disturbs me. If people know that "I oppose racism" could mean "I oppose genocide", but choose to interpret it as "I oppose IQ-by-race studies", that worries me. Those things are completely different and if you think that I'm more likely to oppose IQ-by-race studies than I am to oppose genocide, or if you think IQ-by-race studies are more important and worthy of being upset about than genocide, something has gone very wrong here. A sentence like "I oppose racism" could mean a lot of different things. It could mean "I think genocide is wrong", "I think lynchings are wrong", "I think people choosing white people for jobs over black people with equivalent qualifications is wrong", or "I think IQ by race studies should be banned". Automatically leaping to the last one and getting very angry about it is... kind of weird, because it's the one I'm least likely to mean, and the only one we actually disagree about. You seriously want to reply to "I oppose racism" with "but IQ by race studies are valid Bayesian inference!" and not "yes, I agree that lynching people is very wrong"? Why? Are IQ by race studies more important to your values than eliminating genocide and lynchings? Do you genuinely think that I am more likely to oppose IQ-by-race studies than I am to oppose lynchings? The answer to neither of those questions should be yes.
0Jiro5yThe same is true for terrorism, but if someone came here saying "I'm really angry at terrorism and we have to do something", you'd be justified in thinking that doing what they want might not turn out well. I'm sure we can agree that terrorism is bad, too. In fact, I'm sure we can agree that Islamic terrorism specifically is bad. So being really angry at it is likely to produce good results, right?
4Acty5yI am very angry about terrorism. I think terrorism is a very bad thing and we should eliminate it from the world if we can. Being very angry about terrorism =/= thinking that a good way to solve the problem is to randomly go kill the entire population of the Middle East in the name of freedom (and oil). I hate terrorism and would prevent it if I could. In fact, I hate people killing each other so much, I think we should think rationally about the best way to eliminate it utterly (whilst causing fewer deaths than it causes) and then do that.
0Jiro5yIf you see someone else very angry about terrorism, though, wouldn't you think there's a good chance that they support (or can be easily led into supporting) anti-terrorism policies with bad consequences? Even if you personally can be angry at terrorism without wanting to do anything questionable, surely you recognize that is commonly not true for other people? It's the same for racism.
3Acty5yI think that there's a good chance in general that most people can be led into supporting policies with bad consequences. I don't think higher levels of idiocy are present in people who are annoyed about racism and terrorism compared with those who aren't. The kind of people who say "on average people with black skin are slightly less smart, therefore let's bring back slavery and apartheid" are just as stupid and evil, if not stupider and eviler, than the people who support burning down the whole Middle East in order to get rid of terrorism.
3David_Bolin5yCaricatures such as describing people who disagree with you as saying "let's bring back slavery" and supporting "burning down the whole Middle East" are not productive in political discussions.
1Acty5yI'm not trying to describe the people who disagree with me as wanting to bring back slavery or supporting burning down the whole Middle East; that isn't my point and I apologise if I was unclear. As I understood it, the argument levelled against me was that: people who say they're really angry about terrorism are often idiots who hold idiotic beliefs, like, "let's send loads of tanks to the Middle East and kill all the people who might be in the same social group as the terrorists and that will solve everything!" and in the same way, people who say they're really angry about racism are the kind of people who hold idiotic beliefs like "let's ban all science that has anything to do with race and gender!" and therefore it was reasonable of them to assume, when I stated that I was opposed to racism, that I was the latter kind of idiot. To which my response is that many people are idiots, both people who are angry about terrorism and people who aren't, people who are angry about racism and people who aren't. There are high levels of idiocy in both groups. Being angry about terrorism and racism still seems perfectly appropriate and fine as an emotional arational response, since terrorism and racism are both really bad things. I think the proper response to someone saying "I hate terrorism" is "I agree, terrorism is a really bad thing", not "But drone strikes against 18 year olds in the middle east kill grandmothers!" (even if that is a true thing) and similarly, the proper response to someone saying "I hate racism" is "I agree, genocide and lynchings are really bad", not "But studies about race and gender are perfectly valid Bayesian inference!" (even if that is a true thing).

Then you should hold women to higher standards without excluding them completely.

So, historically this is somewhat similar to what happened--if a woman managed to get some sort of advocate / ally, she had limited access to the scientific / mathematical world as a scientist or mathematician. (Getting access to that world by hosting a salon was the typical path women would take, but that would put them much more in a support role.) But it had clear inefficiencies--Emmy Noether was unable to get a professorship in Germany, for example, and then even in Ame... (read more)

Well met!

My name is Fox, and I am an actor and magician...well...In actuality, I guess those are both the same thing. I know how you all love concision, so I'll try again... ahem

Well met!

My name is Fox, and I am a liar. Empathetic to a fault, highly spiritual, and emotionally driven--still an emo boy at heart--I live as far from consciously as it gets. My main passions are girls, music, and service to others. Core values are: love, kindness, beauty, passion, immersion, and evolution.

For the past year I have studied and practiced magick. It is very real ... (read more)

0[anonymous]6yImmersion!!! Do you clean your objectives with xylene?
0Lumifer6yplus 8-0 Prediction: you will have a very confused and maybe fun trip.

Hello, everyone!

I am a long-time lurker and reader of LessWrong, and I have finally worked myself up to making an account and writing some comments. I am looking forward to participating in the discussions more, and hopefully writing some posts and contributing to the thought-bank here. So far, LessWrong have been a great resource for me, helping me to get a sturdier basis for my ideological framework, and exposing me to some good new ideas to think about.

For a little bit about myself: I am 29 years old, Russian, bachelors’ degree in Chemistry and Math and... (read more)

[-][anonymous]6y 5

I do economics, working on an interesting problem that might involve computer logic and recursion, but I am not a computer logic and recursion man. Thought to write a series of articles on economics aimed at building up to my current confusion, then thought to post them somewhere, would be convenient if audience with some knowledge of computer logic and recursion...


~12 articles in, should be fun....

Hello, everybody, and happy belated solstice.

I used to post here from a different account until some time ago, then I decided it was not anonymous enough (also, the username was quite silly) so I deleted it. Here I am again, but this time I'll be more careful about privacy.

BTW, the only reason for the underscores in my username is that the software won't let me use spaces, so don't bother with them. Also, in case you need to refer to me with a gendered pronoun, I'm a "he".

In general the heuristic of not trusting mainstream media reports to accurately reflect reality is well based on what I know about how it works.

I gave enough interviews to have an idea of how what the journalist writes differs from what was said in the interview in those cases.

I frequently read reports on scientific studies that don't match reality.

In the past I knew the background of quite a bunch of political stories in Berlin and how it differs from facts on the ground.

You're the one making all sorts of claims about the need for, and traits of, "strong protectors", without any statistics. You're the one simultaneously claiming you'd be fine with giving Acty higher status than you, and using social tactics blatantly aimed at reducing her relative status - sometimes in the same sentence.

Opponent is a word. Here, it refers to the person advocating the opposite view to mine. If you would like, I can use a different word, but it will change very little. Arguing over semantics is not a productive way to cause each other to update. Though to be honest, I ceased having much hope that you were in this discussion for the learning and updates when you started using ad hominem and fully general counterarguments. (Saying that your opponent is defensive and emotional and "opponentist" is also a fully general counterargument and also ad homi... (read more)

2[anonymous]5yThis is getting more interesting now. To sum the history of things, you had this discussion with VoiceOfRa and you stressed primarily you want to save people from getting killed. I butted in and proposed you don't have to redesign the whole world to do that, it is possible in a traditional setup as well. Turned out we are optimizing for different things, I am trying to preserve older-time stuff while also changing them to the extent needed to address real, actual complaints of various people and work out compromises (calling it moderatism or moderate conservatism would be OK), while you are more interested in tearing things down and building them up. OK. But I think there are more interesting things here lurking under the surface. An offer: retreat a few meta levels up, and get back to this object level later on. IRL I discuss pretty much everything with people inside my age range (30-60), which means we rely not only on our intelligence and book knowledge (you obviously have immense amounts of both) but on our life experience as well. That is a difficult thing to convey because it is something that is not even learned in words (so there are no good books that sum it up, to my knowledge) but non-verbal pattern recognition. Yet it is pretty much this thing, this life experience that makes the difference between your meta level assumptions and mine. What can one do? I will try the impossible and try to translate it into words. Don't expect it to go very well, but maybe a glimpse will be transmitted. Also my tone will be uncomfortably personal and subjective because it is per definition something happening inside people's heads. When I was 17 I assumed, expected and demanded the world to be logical and ethical. I vibrated between assuming it and angrily demanding it when I found it is not the case. University did not help - it was a very logical and sheltered environment. When I started working (25) I had to realize how truly illogical the world is, and not because
7Acty5yUm, how exactly do you want to preserve older things while I want to tear everything down and build it back up again? I don't want to tear things down. I want the trends that are happening - everything gets fairer and more liberal over time - to continue. To accelerate them if I can. (To design a whole new State if and only if it seems like it will make most people much happier, and even then I kinda accept that I'd need to talk to a whole lot of other people and do a whole lot of small scale experiments first.) None of those trends are making society end in fire. They're just nice things, like prejudiced views becoming less common, and violence happening less. I'm trying to optimise for making people happy; if you're optimising for something else, then I'm afraid I'm just going to have to inform you that your ethics are dumb. Sorry. The problem with "life experience" as an argument is that people use "life experience" as a fully general counterargument. If you're older than me, any time I say something you don't like, you can just yell "LIFE EXPERIENCE!" and nothing I can do - no book you can suggest, nothing I can go observe - will allow me to win the argument. I cannot become older than you. This would be fine as an argument if we observed that older people were consistently right and younger people were consistently wrong, but as you'll know if you have a grandparent who tries to use computers, this just ain't so. Just because you have been made jaded and cynical by your experience of the world, that doesn't mean that jaded and cynical positions are the correct ones. For one thing, most other people of your own age who also experienced the world ended up still disagreeing with you. There's a very good chance that I get to the age you are now, and still disagree with you. And if you observe most other people your own age with similar experiences (unless you're old enough that you're part of the raised-very-conservative generation) most of them will disagree wit

Acty, a question. What are you information sources? This is very general question -- I'm not asking for citations, I'm asking on the basis of which streams of information do you form your worldview?

For example, for most people these streams would be (a) personal experiences; (b) what other people (family, friends) tell them; (c) what they absorb from the surrounding culture, mostly from mainstream media; and (d) what they were taught, e.g. in school.

You use phrases like "I cannot see any evidence" -- where cannot you see evidence? Who or what, do you think, reliably tells you what is happening in the world and how the world works?

5Lumifer5yThanks for the extended answer. If I may make a couple of small suggestions -- first, in figuring out where you views come from look at your social circle, both in meatspace and on the 'net. Bring to your mind people you like and respect, people you hope to be liked and respected by. What are their views, what kind of positions are acceptable in their social circle and what kind are not? What is cool and what is uncool? And second, you are well aware that your views change. I will make a prediction: they will continue to change. Remember that and don't get terribly attached to your current opinions or expect them to last forever. A flexible, open mind is a great advantage, try not to get it ossified before time :-)
4Lumifer5yNo, because you don't know (now) in which direction will you change your mind (in the future). As a general observation, you expect to learn a lot of things in the future. Hopefully, you will update your views on the basis of things you have learned -- thus the change. But until you actually learn them, you can't update.
0Jiro5yHere's at least one that isn't: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/17/growth-chart-of-right-to-carry/ [https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/17/growth-chart-of-right-to-carry/] This is also complicated by the fact that views that go out of favor tend to be characterized as not liberal regardless of whether they actually were liberal. Eugenics is one of the better known examples. Saying "I don't have a study, but I predict that if I do a study I will see X" is no better than just asserting X. Also, "women and men are equal" is vague. Do you want equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? Even "violence against women" is vague. ISIS likes to kidnap women, but they also like to kill all the men at the time they are kidnapping the women. So ISIS causes the absolute amount of violence against women to increase, but the relative amount (compared to violence against men) to decrease.
2[anonymous]5yContinued form above And now a bit closer to the object level of our previous discussion. Look at this mess about sex, gender, orientation and roles and whatnot. If it was about designing rules for an island where only smart people live, it would be fairly obvious: completely do away with terms like man, woman, feminine, masculine, straight, gay. Measure T levels and simply establish a hormonal gender based on that, a sliding scale, divided into maybe five quintiles or however you want to. Do away with straight or gay - people can date however they wish to, but expect that most people will choose a partner from the other end of the scale than themselves, because people naturally converge to dom-sub, top-bottom setups. Give high-T people more status because they really seem to crave it 1 [http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/bibliography_josephs_newman_brown_beer.html] while low-T people are comfortable enough with being deferential to them, in return make high-T people willing to risk their lives protecting low-T people who should have things safe and comfortable. Base everything on this - risky venture capital type stuff for the high end, predictable welfare/union job stuff for the low-end. This would make sense, right? I must stress this hormonal scale would be independent of biological sex, social gender or orientation - those are abolished in this scenario. Why, I find it likely you would end up higher on the T-based gender scale than me although I am guy, but you seem to give out more aggressive vibes than I do (I don't mean it in a bad way, your engines are just more fired up, that is good if you use it for good things). And of course this scenario was made for an island populated by only smart people. And then back to the real world. To have any chance of it working for sorry stupid species of humankind, it has to be dumbed down mercilessly. The average human's cognitive level is about Orwell's "two legs bad four legs good". Of course by dumbing down
1ChristianKl5yLow testosterone people also want status.
0[anonymous]5yThen why do the linked researchers use it as a marker of that? Maybe, it is about status of a different kind. Maybe this reduces to that it is not a well defined word and we always get into rather unresolvable debates because of that. Let's try this: there are two kinds of status, one is more like being a commanding officer or a schoolteacher towards kids, it is respect and deference and maybe a bit of fear (but does not 1:1 translate to dominance, although close), the other kind is being really popular and liked. Remember school. The difference between the teacher's status and the really likeable kid's status is key here. The CEO vs. the Louis CK type well liked comedian. The politician vs. the best ballet dancer. To the linked article: being good at math does not make one liked. It makes one respected. Closer to the first type.
1ChristianKl5yWe don't live in a world where low testosterone people want high testosterone people to have more power. Yes I want policemen to have a certain kind of status but policemen don't need to be high testosterone. Empathic policemen who are actually good at reading other people have advantages in a lot of police tasks. Schoolteachers need respect but they don't need to be high testosterone either. A teacher does a better job if he understands the student.
0[anonymous]5yYou should really think that over. For the police example, we have two conflicting requirements, first is to be so scary (or more like respect-commanding) that he rarely needs to get physical, that is always messy. The opposite requirement is the smiling, nice, service-oriented, positive community vibes stuff, like the policemen who visited me and told me I forgot to lock my car. (The reading people is more of an investigator level stuff, not street level.) The question is, which one is more important? If you have one optimal and one less optimal, which one is better? Similarly we want teachers to be kind and understanding with students with genuine difficulties, but be more scary to the kind of thuggish guys half my class was. The point is really how pessimistic or cautious is your basic view. Do you see the police as a thin blue line separating barbarism from civilization? Do you see every generation of children as "barbarians needing to be civilized" (Hannah Arendt) Or you have a more optimistic view, seeing the vast majority of people behaving well and the vast majority of kids genuinely trying to do good work? Furthermore - and this is even more important - would you rather get more pessimistic than things are and thus slow down progress, or more optimistic and risk systemic shocks? I think you know my answers :) I have no problem with a slow and super-safe progress. I don't exactly want to flee from the present or the past.
1ChristianKl5yNo, policemen don't need to be scary to do their jobs. A police that can be counted on doing a proper investigation that punishes criminals can deter crime even when the individual policmen aren't scary. A policemen being scary can also reduce the willingness of citizens to report crimes because they are afraid of the police. Whole minority communities don't like to interact with police and thus try to solve conflicts on their own with violence because they don't trust the police. Being empathic is not simply about being "kind and understanding" it allows the teacher to have more information about the mental state of a student and more likely see when a student gets confused and react towards it. A smart student also profits when the teacher get's that the student already understands what the teacher wants to tell him. Neither. I rather care about the expected empiric result of a policy than about seeing people are inherently good or inherently evil. I think you think too much in categories like that and care too little about the empirical reality that we do have less crime than we had in the past. It's like discussing global warming not on the scientific data about temperature changes but on whether we are for the environment or for free enterprise. The nonscientific framing leads to bad thinking.
1TheAncientGeek5yHave things steadily been marching in the direction of greater liberalism, though? There are a bunch of things you can no longer get away with, such as spousal abuse.
1[anonymous]5yThat was precisely what TD wrote they got away with all the time. Just of course not amongst educated or middle-class people. Underclass woman gets admitted to the hospital with a broken arm, docs find it unlikely it was an accident, arrange a meeting with the local psychiatrist i.e. TD. Yeah, it was the boyfriend in a fit of jealousy. Police, testimony? Nope. Why not? She's making up all kinds of excuses for the guy. OK maybe she is scared, explain about the battered women shelter where nothing bad can come to her. Still not, and does not look scared or dependent or something. Finally the reason becomes clear: the "bad boy" is sexually exciting [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvjNsGS3ihY]. And according to TD this happened all the time. 16 years old boy taken in to psychiatric treatment, suicidial. Mom's latest boyfriend was beating the boys head in the concrete. Why mom won't call the police? She said "he is a good shag" and rather the boy should try not be too much at home to avoid him. And so on, endless such stories. Get that book... I was actually getting a weird impression from that book. The primary reason laws and institutions are indeed increasingly aware of and trying to deal with spousal abuse is not that it gets more noticed today, but because it actually does happen more than in the past where communal pressure could have worked against it. TD seems to imply that people's behavior got worse faster than the laws or police procedures evolved, so it is a net negative.
1TheAncientGeek5yIs that based with figures?
0TheAncientGeek5yHis point is not that anyone who wants to batter, can, it is that the nonzero amount left is due to collusion.

You cannot have strong protectors who are 100% PC because then they will have no fighting spirit.

Policeman don't need fighting spirit to be able to go after violent criminals. Being PC is no problem for them.

1Vaniver5yEh... Rotherham?
2ChristianKl5yThe last time I read an article on Rotherham even the Telegraph said that the officers in question were highly chauvinistic and therefore don't really follow the usual ideal of being PC. At the same time reading articles about Rotherham is still registers me: "This story doesn't make sense, the facts on the ground are likely to be different than the mainstream media reports I'm reading" instincts. Have you read the actual report about it in-depth?

(trigger warning for a bunch of things, including rape and torture)

The Rotherham scandal is very well-documented on Wikipedia. There have been multiple independent reports, and I recommend reading this summary of one of the reports by the Guardian. This event is a good case study because it is easily verifiable; it's not just right-wing sources and tabloids here.

What we know:

  • Around 1,400 girls were sexually abused in Rotherham, many of them lower-class white girls, but also Pakistani girls
  • Most of the perpetrators were Muslim Pakistani men, though it seems like other Middle-Eastern and Roma men were also involved
  • The political and multiculturalist environment slowed down the reporting of this tragedy until eventually it got out

To substantiate that last claim, you can check out one of the independent reports from Rotherham's council website:

By far the majority of perpetrators were described as 'Asian' by victims, yet throughout the entire period, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue. Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away. Several st

... (read more)
3ErikM5yNo, I'm fairly confident the neoreactionaries, for whatever reason you brought them up, would happily join in the plan to strip out the objectionable bits of Pakistani culture and replace it with something better. Also, demanding more integration and acculturation from immigrants. What they probably wouldn't listen to is the apparent contradiction of saying we don't need to get rid of multiculturalism, but we do need to push a certain cultural message until it becomes universal.
1[anonymous]5yYou guys are arguing over the definition of "culture".
2Journeyman5yI'll like to start by backing up a bit and explaining why I brought up the example of Rotherham. You originally came here talking about your emphasis on preventing human suffering. Rotherham is a scary example of people being hurt, which was swept under the carpet. I think Rotherham is an important case study for progressives and feminists to address. As you note, some immigrants come from cultures (usually Muslim cultures) with very sexist attitudes towards consent. Will they assimilate and change their attitudes? Well, first I want to register some skepticism for the notion that European Muslims are assimilating. Muslims are people with their own culture, not merely empty vessels to pour progressive attitudes into. Muslims in many parts of Europe are creating patrols [http://www.mrctv.org/blog/sharia-patrols-harassing-citizens-london-belgium-sweden] to enforce Sharia Law. If you want something more quantitative, Muslim polls [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11433776/Quarter-of-British-Muslims-sympathise-with-Charlie-Hebdo-terrorists.html] reveal that 11% of UK Muslims believe that the Charlie Hebdo magazine "deserved" to be attacked. This really doesn't look like assimilation. But for now, let's pretend that they are assimilating. How long will this assimilation take? In what morality is it remotely acceptable that thousands of European women will predictably be raped or tortured by Muslim immigrant gangs while we are waiting for them to get with the feminist program? Feminists usually take a very hardline stance against rape. It's supremely strange seeing them suddenly go soft on rape when the perpetrators are non-whites. It's not enough to say "that's wrong" after the fact, or to point out biases of the police, when these rapes were entirely preventable from the beginning. It's also not sufficient to frame rape as purely a gender issue when there are clear racial and cultural dynamics going on. There perpetrators were mostly of particular races,
2Good_Burning_Plastic5yThis doesn't say much unless we know the corresponding fraction among Muslims worldwide is not much larger than 11%.
2Journeyman5yI think your implication is that Muslims are assimilating if their attitudes are shifting towards Western values after immigration. But assimilation isn't just about a delta, it's also about the end state: assimilation isn't complete until Muslims adopt Western values. Unfortunately, there is overlap between European and non-European Muslim attitudes towards suicide bombing based on polls [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_attitudes_towards_terrorism#Polls]. France's Muslim population is especially radical. Even if they are slowly assimilating, their starting point is far outside Western values.
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yWell, Acty's hypothesis was that they have started assimilating but still haven't finished doing so. But thanks for the data. (Who on Earth thought that that bulleted list of sentences in that Wikipedia article is a decent way of presenting those data, anyway? I hope I'll have the time to make a bar chart, or at least a table. And how comes my spell checker doesn't like either "bulleted" or "bulletted"?)
5Journeyman5yRedistributing the world's rapists from less developed countries into more developed countries with greater law and order to imprison them? Is that really what you're suggesting? I find this perspective truly stunning and I object to it both factually and morally. Factually, it's unclear that this approach would indeed reduce rape in the end. While many Muslim women are raped in Muslim countries, there are unique reasons why some Muslim men might commit sexual violence and harassment. By some [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/edited-transcript-of-sheik-hilalis-speech/story-e6frg6nf-1111112425808] Muslim standards, Western women dress like "whores" and are considered to not have bodily sovereignty. To use the feminist term, they are considered "rapable." Additionally, if British police fail to adequately investigate rape by Muslim men, whether due to chauvinism or fear of being seen as racist, then the rapists won't actually go to jail in a timely fashion. The Rotherham authorities couldn't keep up with the volume of complaints. I have no idea whether the Rotherham sex gangs would have been able to operate so brazenly in a Muslim country, where they would risk violent reprisals from the fathers and brothers of their victims. So the notion of reducing rape by jailing immigrant rapists is really, really speculative, and I think it's really careless for you to be making moral arguments based on it. Even if spreading around the world's rapists actually helps jail them and eventually reduce rape, it's still morally repugnant. I'm trying to figure out what your moral framework is, but the only thing I can come up with is naive utilitarianism. In fact, I think redistributing the world's rapists is so counter-intuitive that it highlights the problems with naive utilitarianism (or whatever your framework is). There are many lines of objection: * From a deontological perspective, or from a rule/act utilitarian perspective, inflicting a greater risk of rape u
0Username5yI think you're being a little hard on Acty. I agree her positions aren't super well thought out, but it feels like we should make a special effort to keep things friendly in the welcome thread. Here's how I would have put similar points (having only followed part of your discussion): * You're right that the cultural transmission between Muslims and English people will be 2-way--feminists will attempt to impose their ideas on Muslims the same way Muslims will attempt to impose their ideas on feminists. But there are reasons to think that the ideas will disproportionately go the wrong way, from feminists to Muslims. For example, it's verboten in the feminist community to criticize Muslims, but it's not verboten in the Muslim community to criticize feminists. * It'd be great if what Acty describes could happen and the police of Britain could cut down on the Muslim rape rate. But Rothertam is a perfect demonstration that this process may not go as well as intended.
0Journeyman5yMy response is the friendly version, and I think that it is actually relatively mild considering where I am coming from. I deleted one sentence, but pretty much the worst I said is to call Acty's position "repugnant" and engage in some sarcasm. I took some pains to depersonalize my comment and address Acty's position as much as possible. Most of the harshness in my comment stems from my vehement disagreement with her position, which I did back up with arguments. I invited Acty to correct my understanding of her position. I think Acty is a fundamentally good person who is misled by poor moral frameworks. I do not know any way to communicate the depth of my moral disagreement without showing some level of my authentic emotional reaction (though very restrained). Being super-nice about it would fail to represent my degree of moral disagreement, and essentially slash her tires and everyone else's. I realize that it might be tough for her to face so much criticism in a welcome thread, especially considering that some of the critics are harsher than me. But there is also potential upside: on LW, she might find higher quality debate over her ideas than she has before. Your hypothetical response is a good start, but it fails to supply moral criticism of her stance that I consider necessary. Maybe something in between yours and mine would have been ideal. Being welcoming is a good thing, but if "welcoming" results in a pass on really perverse moral philosophy, then perhaps it's going too far... I guess it depends on your goals.
5ErikM5yLet me try to briefly convince you of why there should be a state's duty to citizens from a utilitarian perspective, also corresponding greater concern about internal than external crime: 1) A state resembles a form of corporate organization with its citizens as shareholders. It has special obligations by contract to those shareholders who got a stake on the assumption that they would have special rights in the corporation. Suddenly creating new stock and giving it to to non-shareholders, thereby creating new shareholders, would increase the utility of new shareholders and decrease the utility of old shareholders to roughly the same extent because there is the same amount of company being redistributed, but would have the additional negative effect of decreasing rule of law, and rule of law is a very very good thing because it lets people engage in long-term planning and live stable lives. (There is no such problem if the shareholders come together and decide to create and distribute new stock by agreement - and to translate back the metaphor, this means that immigration should be controlled by existing citizens, rather than borders being declared to "mean nothing" in general.) 2) A state is often an overlay on a nation. To cash those terms out: A governing entity with major features usually including a legal code and a geographically defined and sharply edged region of influence is often an overlay on a cluster of people grouped by social, cultural, biological, and other shared features. ("Nation" derives from those who shared a natus [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/natus#Latin].) Different clusters of people have different clusters of utility functions, and should therefore live under differing legal codes, which should also be administrated by members of those clusters whom one can reasonably expect to have a particularly good understanding of how their fellow cluster-members will be happiest. 3) Particularly where not overlaid on nations, separate states func
3Journeyman5ySaving the refugee kid is emotionally appealing and might work out OK in small numbers. You correctly note that there might be a threshold past which unselective immigration starts creating negative utility. I think it's easy to make a case that Britain and France have already hit this point by examining what is going on at the object level. European countries with large Muslim populations are moving towards anarchy: * Rule of law is declining due to events like mass rape scandals like Rotherham, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and riots [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Sarcelles_riots]. Here's a video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y28zkxUtUs] of a large riot which resulted in a Jewish grocery store being burned down. If you watch that video or skip around in it, you will see what looks like a science fiction movie. Muslim riots are a common [http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3379/muslim-riots-europe] feature in Europe, and so are sex gangs (established in previous comments). * Sharia Patrols [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia_patrols] are becoming increasingly common in Europe. * Muslim immigrants form insular enclaves that are dangerous for non-Muslims, or even police (aka "no-go zones" [http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5128/france-no-go-zones] or "Sensitive Urban Zones"). And these are only a few examples. How much more violence does there have to be before something is done? Muslims and Europeans are not interchangeable. Muslims have distinct culture and identity, and it’s unlikely that socialization can change this on an acceptable time-scale. * The attitudes of most Muslim population on average are really scary. Muslims in Europe, especially France, have very radical attitudes that are supportive of terrorism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_attitudes_towards_terrorism]. According to Pew Research [http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politi
1Journeyman5yI think you have the right idea by studying more before making up your mind about open borders and immigration. It’s really hard to evaluate moral solutions without knowing the facts of the matter, and unfortunately there is a lot of political spin on all sides. In a situation of uncertainty, any utilitarian policy that requires great sacrifices is very risky: if the anticipated benefits don’t materialize, then the result turns into a horrible mess. The advantage of deontological ethics and rule/act utilitarianism is that they provide tighter rules for how to act under uncertainty, which decreases the chance of falling into some attractive, world-saving utilitarian scheme that backfires and hurts people: some sacrifices are just considered unacceptable. Speaking of utilitarian schemes, British colonialism to the Muslim world would cause a lot of suffering, but so does current immigration policies that bring in Muslims. Why is one type of suffering acceptable, but another isn’t? Utilitarianism can have some really perverse consequences. What if British-ruled Pakistan of 2050 was dramatically lower in crime, lower in violence towards women in both countries, and more peaceful, such that the violence of imposing that situation is offset? What if the status quo of immigration, or an open borders scenario would lead to a bloodier future that is more oppressive to women in both countries? What if assimilation and fixing immigrant isn’t feasible on an acceptable timescale, especially given that new immigrants are constantly streaming in and reinforcing their culture? My point about British vs. Muslim rape survivors is about responsibility, not sympathy or worthiness as a human being. As a practical matter, people who live nearer each other and have shared cultural / community ties are better positioned to stop local crime and discourage criminals. Expecting them to use their local legal system to arrest imported criminals will stretch their resources to the point of fa
2VoiceOfRa5yAnd yet, they were remarkably uninterested in this story when it came out.
2skeptical_lurker5yDo you think that anyone who is against multiculturalism is a neoreactionary? I.e. the immigrants adopt the culture of the host country. Are you sure you don't mean 'We don't need to get rid of multiracialism'?
2[anonymous]5yDo you really think that proponents or opponents of "multiculturalism" are arguing over a well-defined program of action?
1skeptical_lurker5yTo some extent. Increase or decrease the rate of immigration, require criteria to be met for immigration or not, enforce speaking the native language or not, ban or allow faith schools, ban or allow child circumcision & FGM and so forth. Obviously, not all people on each side of the debate agree on which policies to pursue, but that's true of all politics.
1[anonymous]5yAnd how would we define "Pakistani culture" in such a way that it doesn't necessarily include patriarchy? Cultural evolution in response to moral imperative is a thing.
4skeptical_lurker5yYou say "immigrants" but in every case you mention it's specifically Muslims. I've not heard of Hindu or Buddhist or atheist immigrants causing the same problems.
6Journeyman5yThat's correct; I will update my comment to be more explicit. Muslims have very different attitudes towards women and consent than Westerners.
2ChristianKl5yThat a sentence that poses more question than it answers. What kind of influence do those councillors have? How many councillors of Pakistani heritage does Rotherham have? How many councillors of other heritage does it have? If a powerful politician tries to prevent friends from being persecuted that's not what the standard concern about policemen being too PC is about. It's straight misuse of power. Sexual violence by British MPs seems also to be a problem: http://www.rt.com/uk/170672-uk-politicians-pedophile-ring/ [http://www.rt.com/uk/170672-uk-politicians-pedophile-ring/] To what extend is this simply a problem of British politicians having too much power to cover up crimes and impede police work? The idea that there are people from Immigrant backgrounds isn't what's surprising about the story of Rotherham or even that politicians act in a way to prevent reporting of tragedy. Politicians trying to keep tragedies away from the public is a common occurrence. The thing that's surprising is the allegation of police inaction due to them being Muslim. Which happens something that you didn't list in your "what we know" list. It would have to be true for the claim that PC policeman don't do their job properly to be true.
0Journeyman5yIf indeed the coverup of the ethnic dimension was directed by British politicians, we might ask, why were they trying to hide this? In a child sex abuse scandal involving actual politicians, it's clear why they would cover it up. But why were these particular crimes so politically inconvenient? It's clear why Pakistani council members wanted to hide it, but why did the other council members let them? We are not privy to the exact nature of the institutional dysfunction at Rotherham. But it's clear that the problem was occurring at multiple levels. One of my quotes does mentions that staff were nervous about being labelled racist, and that managers told them to told them to avoid mentioning the ethnic dynamics. Here's another quote, which shows that reports were downplayed before politicians were even involved: So there are multiple kinds of institutional dysfunction here. It's not just politicians, it's not just police being PC. But from the quotes in my previous post, it's obvious that political correctness was a factor. Police, social workers, and politicians, all the way up the chain know that being seen as racist could be damaging to their career. In the UK, there is a lot of social and political pressure to support multiculturalism and avoid any perception of racism. Immigration is important for economic agendas, but also for left political agendas of importing more voters for themselves. It is not a stretch to believe that this political environment would make it difficult to address crimes involving immigrant populations.
3hairyfigment5yYou correctly note that there were factors beyond "PC", but fail to address the horrific corruption. At least two councilors and a police officer [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/two-rotherham-councillors-and-police-officer-accused-of-having-sex-with-abuse-scandal-victims-10022666.html] face charges of sex with abuse victims. Another police officer, seen here being white [http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/crime/south-yorkshire-police-officer-appears-in-court-over-indecent-images-charges-1-7200906] , supposedly had an extensive child pornography collection. No word on whether this was related or whether the department just attracted pedophiles for some bizarre reason. While I didn't predict this beforehand (nor, I think, did you) it seems both more credible, and more likely to protect the rape-gang, than does the idea of people seeing strong evidence of the crimes and somehow deciding that arresting immigrants was more likely to hurt their careers than ignoring a story which was bound to come out eventually. The "political correctness" you speak of apparently refers to people not wanting to believe their fellow police officers and council members were implausibly evil criminals.
2Journeyman5yThanks for providing the additional details, which I hadn't encountered. I don't think this corruption is mutually exclusive with the theory of political correctness. The Rotherham Scandal went back to 1997 [http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33256405], involving 1,400+ victims. There are now 300 [http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33256405] suspects (including some council members that you pointed out), and 30 [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/03/rotherham-councillors-abuse-information-confidential] council members knew. We not know the ethnicity of the council members who are suspects. With such a long history and large number of victims, it doesn't seem very plausible that a top-down coverup to protect council member perpetrators is sufficient to explain this story. These people would need to be supervillains if they were the ringleaders since 1997, and the failure of investigation was just about them. It is already established by my quotes from the report that political correctness about race was a factor in the coverup and failure of the investigation. Certainly the corruption and participation of council members and police is a disturbing addition to this story. With such a vast tragedy, it's quite likely that the coverup was due to multiple motivations and lots of things went wrong.
2ChristianKl5yIt seems like we have a perfect control case with the pedophiles in Westminster which didn't involve multiculturalism. They also engaged in it for a long time and managed to suppress it.
1ChristianKl5yI might add that I did speak about chauvinistic police officers as a problem and also that corruption is likely a cause over at Omnilibrium.
1ChristianKl5yThere a huge difference between persecuting someone and then not writing his race or ethnicity into an official report and avoiding to prosecute them. From what you quoted from the report the those Pakistani council members were influential people. Just like the politicians who covered up the child abuse in Westminster also were influential people. In general politicians also never want that scandals and tragedy under their watch get public. Regarding child victims with contempt does suggest a dysfunctional police but it's not about multiculturalism.
2Vaniver5yTypo fixed, thanks.
2Journeyman5yThere is historical precedent for groups advocating equality, altruism, and other humanitarian causes to do a lot of damage and start guillotining people. You would probably be horrified and step off the train before it got to that point. But it's important to understand the failure modes of egalitarian, altruistic movements. The French Revolution, and Russian Revolution / Soviet Union ran into these failure modes where they started killing lots of people. After slavery was abolished in the US, around one quarter of the freed slaves died [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/books/sick-from-freedom-by-jim-downs-about-freed-slaves.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0] . These events were all horrible disasters from a humanitarian perspective. Yet I doubt that the original French Revolutionaries planned from the start to execute the aristocracy, and then execute many of their own factions for supposedly being counter-revolutionaries. I don't think Marx ever intended for the Russian Revolution and Soviet Union to have a high death toll. I don't think the original abolitionists ever expected the bloody Civil War followed by 25% of the former slaves dying. Perhaps, once a movement for egalitarianism and altruism got started, an ideological death spiral caused so much polarization that it was impossible to stop people from going overboard and extending the movement's mandate in a violent direction. Perhaps at first, they tried to persuade their opponents to help them towards the better new world. When persuasion failed, they tried suppression. And when suppression failed, someone proposed violence, and nobody could stop them in such a polarized environment. Somehow, altruism can turn pathological [http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324688404578545523824389986], and well-intentioned interventions have historically resulted in disastrous side-effects or externalities. That's why some people are cynical about altruistic political attitudes.
2Journeyman5yYou yourself are unlikely to start the French Revolution, but somehow, well-intentioned people seem to get swept up in those movements. Even teachers, doctors, and charity workers can contribute to an ideological environment that goes wrong; this doesn't mean that they started it, or that they supported it every step of the way. But they were part of it. The French Revolution and guillotines is indeed a rarer event. But if pathological altruism can result in such large disasters, then it's quite likely that it can also backfire in less spectacular ways that are still problematic. As you point out, many interventions to change the world risk going wrong and making things worse, but it would be a shame to completely give on making the world a better place. So what we really want is interventions that are very well-thought out, with a lot of care towards the likely consequences, taking into account the lessons of history for similar interventions.
1Acty5y"So what we really want is interventions that are very well-thought out, with a lot of care towards the likely consequences, taking into account the lessons of history for similar interventions." That is exactly why I want to study social science. I want to do lots of experiments and research and reading and talking and thinking before I dare try and do any world-changing. That's why I think social science is important and valuable, and we should try very hard to be rational and careful when we do social science, and then listen to the conclusions. I think interventions should be well-thought-through, evidence-based, and tried and observed on a small scale before implemented on a large scale. Thinking through your ideas about laws/policies/interventions and gathering evidence on whether they might work or not - that's the kind of social science that I think is important and the kind I want to do.
0Lumifer5yYou're ignoring the rather large pachyderm in the room which goes by the name of Values. Differences in politics and policies are largely driven not by disagreements over the right way to reach the goal, but by decisions which goals to pursue and what trade-offs are acceptable as the price. Most changes in the world have both costs and benefits, you need to balance them to decide whether it's worth it, and the balancing necessarily involves deciding what is more important and what is less important. For example, imagine a trade-off: you can decrease the economic inequality in your society by X% by paying the price of slowing down the economic growth by Y%. Science won't tell you whether that price is acceptable -- you need to ask your values about it.
1Username5yDisagreements including this one? It sounds as though you are saying in a conversation such as this one, you are more focused on working to achieve your values than trying to figure out what's true about the world... like, say, Arthur Chu [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/] . Am I reading you correctly in supporting something akin to Arthur Chu's position, or do I misunderstand? Given how irrational people can be about politics [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/], I'd guess that in many cases apparent "value" differences boil down to people being mindkilled in different ways. As rationalists, the goal is to have a calm, thoughtful, evidence-based discussion and figure out what's true. Building a map and unmindkilling one another is a collaborative project. There are times when there is a fundamental value difference, but my feeling is that this is the possibility to be explored last. And if you do want to explore it, you should ask clarifying values questions (like "do you give the harms from a European woman who is raped and a Muslim woman who is raped equal weight?") in order to suss out the precise nature of the value difference. Anyway, if you do agree with Arthur Chu that the best approach is to charge ahead imposing your values, why are you on Less Wrong? There's an entire internet out there of people having Arthur Chu style debates you could join. Less Wrong is a tiny region of the internet where we have Scott Alexander style debates, and we'd like to keep it that way.
2Lumifer5yThat's a false dichotomy. Epistemic rationality and working to achieve your values are largely orthogonal and are not opposed to each other. In fact, epistemic rationality is useful to achieving your values because of instrumental rationality. So you do not think that many people have sufficiently different and irreconcilable values? I wonder how are you going to distinguish "true" values and "mindkill-generated" values. Take some random ISIS fighter in Iraq, what are his "true" values? I disagree, I think it's useful to figure out value differences before spending a lot of time on figuring out whether we agree about how the world works. Who's that "we"? It is a bit ironic that you felt the need to use the pseudonymous handle to claim that you represent the views of all LW... X-)
1Acty5yIn my (admittedly limited, I'm young) experience, people don't disagree on whether that tradeoff is worth it. People disagree on whether the tradeoff exists. I've never seen people arguing about "the tradeoff is worth it" followed by "no it isn't". I've seen a lot of arguments about "We should decrease inequality with policy X!" followed by "But that will slow economic growth!" followed by "No it won't! Inequality slows down economic growth!" followed by "Inequality is necessary for economic growth!" followed by "No it isn't!" Like with Obamacare - I didn't hear any Republicans saying "the tradeoff of raising my taxes in return for providing poor people with healthcare is an unacceptable tradeoff" (though I am sometimes uncharitable and think that some people are just selfish and want their taxes to stay low at any cost), I heard a lot of them saying "this policy won't increase health and long life and happiness the way you think it will". "Is this tradeoff worth it?" is, indeed, a values question and not a scientific question. But scientific questions (or at least, factual questions that you could predict the answer to and be right/wrong about) could include: Will this policy actually definitely cause the X% decrease in inequality? Will this policy actually definitely cause the Y% slowdown in economic growth? Approximately how large is X? Approximately how much will a Y% slowdown affect the average household income? How high is inflation likely to be in the next few years? Taking that expected rate of inflation into account, what kind of things would the average family no longer be able to afford / not become able to afford, presuming the estimated decrease in average household income happens? What relation does income have to happiness anyway? How much unhappiness does inequality cause, and how much unhappiness do economic recessions cause? Does a third option (beyond implement this policy / don't implement it) exist, like implementing the policy but also impleme
0Lumifer5yFailure often comes with worse consequences [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/lw/mez/rationality_quotes_thread_july_2015/ciw7] than just an unchanged status quo.
1Username5yMy model is that these revolutions created a power vacuum that got filled up. Whenever a revolution creates a power vacuum, you're kinda rolling the dice on the quality of the institutions that grow up in that power vacuum. The United States had a revolution, but it got lucky in that the institutions resulting from that revolution turned out to be pretty good, good enough that they put the US on the path to being the world's dominant power a few centuries later. The US could have gotten unlucky if local military hero George Washington had declared himself king. Insofar as leftist revolutions create worse outcomes, I think it's because since the leftist creed is so anti-power, leftists don't carefully think through the incentives for institutions to manage that power. So the stable equilibrium they tend to drift towards is a sociopathic leader who can talk the talk about egalitarianism while viciously oppressing anyone who contests their power (think Mao or Stalin). Anyone intelligent can see that the sociopathic leader is pushing cartoon egalitarianism, and that's why these leaders are so quick to go for the throats of society's intellectuals. Pervasive propaganda takes care of the rest of the population. Leftism might work for a different species such as bonobos, but human avarice needs to be managed through carefully designed incentive structures. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending avarice doesn't exist doesn't work. Eliminating it doesn't work because avaricious humans gain control of the elimination process. (Or, to put it another way, almost everyone who likes an idea like "let's kill all the avaricious humans" is themselves avaricious at some level. And by trying to put this plan in to action, they're creating a new "defect/defect" equilibrium where people compete for power through violence, and the winners in this situation tend not to be the sort of people you want in power.)

What do you mean by this? Certainly it may be necessary to make the question more precise, but the question certainly talks about things that correspond to reality.

Let us taboo 'criticism'. Here's one definition: "the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes." Surely the members of predominantly or entirely female social groups have some way of expressing disapproval and updating on it, as in all social groups; the problem is that it's different from the way that men do, and that when women find t... (read more)

1Jiro6yEven assuming that IQ is completely correlated with ability to do the job, your pool of applicants that is "already selected for IQ" is not selected with 100% accuracy. In other words, being in the pool is a proxy for IQ. You're better off using two proxies than one (unless the effect of one proxy is nil when conditioned on the other proxy)--if you want to maximize the applicant quality, you should pick people from the pool, but prefer men when comparing two applicants who both are in the pool. The basketball example here is bad because you actually can measure someone's height. If you can measure it you don't need proxies for it. You're not going to measure "ability to do the job" without using proxies and even if IQ is completely correlated with it, you're not going to measure IQ without using proxies either.
3Good_Burning_Plastic6yHeight is a proxy for basketball ability and the résumé is a proxy for research ability. It is possible that the latter is a worse proxy than the former, but it seems unlikely that it is much worse. (ETA: Especially given that the latter enables you to go to arXiv and look at the applicant's actual research output so far, whereas knowing how tall someone is doesn't enable you to watch all the basketball matches they have played in.)
0Jiro6yIs there some reason why this was modded down aside from political incorrectness?
2Lumifer6yI didn't downvote, but your second paragraph has a problem in that in the basketball example height is only a proxy for the ability to play basketball. The first paragraph is a bit iffy, too, because proxies have different effectiveness or usefulness. By the time you're estimating someone's ability to do the job on the basis of a resume, the male/female proxy becomes basically insignificant. In any case, I think that the better language here is that of priors. It's perfectly fine to have different priors for male job applicants than for female job applicants, but once evidence starts coming in, the priors become less and less important.
0Jiro6yIQ is a proxy for the ability to do well in a job, too. I was ignoring that, so in the analogy I would have to ignore that for height and ability to play basketball. Arguing "the other proxy is so much better that we don't need the original one" is not the same as "the other proxy is better, and that's all we need to know", and is even farther from "we can measure it so we don't need a proxy at all".

Hello everyone!

I'm new to the site. I'm a grad student with a science background hoping to learn more about rationality and science. I've read posts on LW for quite some time (~ 3 years). I'm an atheist and a skeptic with some knowledge about theoretical physics.

See you around! ~dajoker


My name is Mikhail, and I have been lurking on LW for a several months, mostly reading sequences. I have discovered this site after reading HPMoR, as no doubt many had.

I'm a practitioner of GTD, and I am looking for

  • supplementing understood low-level practices of performing things with metaalgorithms for decision making and planning

  • improving tactics / learning tricks for handling low-level tasks which don't come naturally to me (such as learning languages), and hence cannot be efficiently done by regular planning / execution process

A bit of pe... (read more)

Hi. I've been lurking here for a couple of months, reading up on some of the sequences and so forth, I made an account because I wanted to post a few things on the discussion board. Mainly to do with why I'm pretty convinced that immortality is already a thing, and how that has badly damaged my belief in a utilitarian system of ethics. Finally, I wanted to ask about something to do with FAI; essentially, why wouldn't X work. I'm curious to see how FAI will reveal itself to be more fiendish than I already thought.

Hello, everyone! I've been lurking for about a year and I've finally overcome the anxiety I encounter whenever I contemplate posting. More accurately, I'm experiencing enough influences at this very moment to feel pulled strongly to comment.

I've just tumbled to the fact that I may have an instinctive compulsion against the sort of signalling that's often discussed here and by Robin Hanson. In the last several hours alone I've gone far out of my way to avoid signalling membership in an ingroup or adherence to a specific cohort. Is this sort of compulsion co... (read more)

1Viliam_Bur6ySpeaking for myself, (a) I am not good at playing social games, therefore I hate environments where things like signalling are the only important thing, and (b) joining any faction feels to me like indirectly supporting all their mistakes, which I would rather avoid.


My name is Tommi, and I'm a 34-years old Finn living in Berlin at the moment. I work as a freelance developer, focusing on the Unity development environment, making educational games, regular games, virtual art galleries, etc. for an hourly fee (so that's the skill set I bring into the community). I found Less Wrong some years ago via HPMOR (I forget how I found HPMOR). I've read it occasionally, but over the last year or so I've been slowly gravitating towards it, and decided now to make the effort to try on this community.

I've always valued reason ... (read more)

1Viliam_Bur6yJust what I want to do!!! I believe social skills make a huge difference in one's life. I also believe that most people underestimate this because they are not aware of the benefits that being popular could bring them. Sometimes changing your environment brings better results. But these two options are not mutually exclusive. You can have a great preferred environment and be able to navigate successfully the rest of the world -- because you have to interact with the rest of the world to achieve many things you want. Even to explore it to find the good parts of the environment.

Hello, I'm new to LessWrong. I was hoping someone could help me with a technical problem I'm having. I posted this same problem on the open thread under the discussion page, but I thought I'd be more likely to get a response here. It's to do with the LessWrong wiki. I made an account called Tryagainslowly on it; it wouldn't let me use my LessWrong account, instead making me register for the wiki independently. I wanted to post in the discussion for the wiki page entitled "Rationality". The discussion page didn't have anything posted in it. I wrot... (read more)

Hello to all, although I am quite new to this site I have been exploring it ever since I first found it. I am an undergraduate mathematics and physics student with the goal to get a PhD in mathematics with a specialization in game theory and/or decision theory. Throughout my schooling I have constantly been bored with the lackluster mathematics that have been shoved in my face so consequently I have constantly been doing extra studying and research on my own. During one of my information binges I came across what is known as 'timeless decision theory' that... (read more)

I am aware of the philosophical meaning.

Then you should be aware that the way in which you used the term is not in line with its philosophical meaning.

Stating you wish to approach something skeptically without stating exactly what you are approaching seems sensible to me.

This was not, in fact, your original wording. From your original comment:

I am here in a position of scepticism about the claims and projects this site wishes to advance.

Specifically, you singled out "this site", i.e. LessWrong, as the one whose claims you were approach... (read more)

Yes, but then it says more about your general approach to things you don't understand then it says something about the subject.

You also didn't answer the question. What do you actually mean when you say, that you are skeptic?

What do you mean when you say you are skeptic of ideas that you don't know?

Hello, I am Connor (18) from Victoria, Australia. I have been at LW a few times before but usually only as a brief look after being drawn into it from a link. As of today, I have decided to actually stay and properly look into it all (The Sequences, discussions, etc) and learn.

I am a student learning economics and business management. I mostly got interested in rationalism because of two fundamental reasons. Firstly through my upbringing and in extension personality, where my father taught me to be highly sceptical of assumptions (Ironically, he himself is... (read more)

Hi there everyone, happy mid-winter festive period.

I'm V (not from the film), 33, and living in the wilds of the UK, for now. I became very sick when I was 16 and essentially slept through my late teens and 20s so I'm playing catch up with a vengeance. I found the site through a friend and I've been a (silent, shadowy) member for a while but hadn't been able to carve out the time to get through the sequences, until now.

I'm a final year Applied Maths and Computer Science student but I'm also really interested in cognitive science, rationality, philosophy an... (read more)

Disagreeing is ok. Disagreeing is often productive. Framing your disagreement as a personal attack is not ok. Lets treat each other with respect.

Experiment? On live people?

It sounded to me like she recommended a survey. Do you consider surveys problematic?

(That merely leads to a somewhat dysfunctional healthcare system).

And yet somehow western European healthcare systems manage to result in similar or better outcomes than the US one at less than half the cost.

0skeptical_lurker5yOf course, I wouldn't say that the US system is free-market, because medicine is heavily regulated. I read somewhere that only one company has a licence to produce methamphetamine for ADHD, giving them a state-enforced monopoly. Healthcare seems to be one of the most difficult areas to run under a free market.

I'd argue that that little one-off comment was less patronizing and more... sarcastic and mean.

Yeah, not all that productive either way. My bad. I apologize.

But I think the larger point stands about how these ideological labels are super leaky and way too schizophrenically defined by way too many people to really even be able to meaningfully say something like "That's not a representative sample of conservatives!", let alone "You probably haven't met people like that, you're just confabulating your memory of them because you hate conservatism"

So there is at least one person in this thread who has read Moldbug, and might be using sockpuppets (which is wrong, of course). Yet Acty's comment says "they'll all stop listening". Plural.

Plus Acty assumes that people who have a different ideology to her hate her and will just stop reading, which isn't very charitable when we should all be trying to avoid confirmation bias.

0skeptical_lurker5yI'm not sure I would class myself as a conservative, but I can understand your assumption that conservatives are idiots, in that there was a time when I would have said that anyone who is against gay rights is a fascist theocrat. Now I realise, on a more intuitive level, that just because many arguments for a position are idiotic doesn't mean that there isn't a somewhat intelligent argument out there. Oddly enough, IRL I mostly meet fairly intelligent people with opinions that amount to "anyone who disagrees with my left-wing politics is evil! That person supports a right wing party, I'd like to burn their house down!" My theory is that facebook and twitter have ruined discourse because people can't fit opinions more complex into 140 characters. You're new here, I guess you'll get used to the karma system in time? In the meantime, have an upvote :)
0VoiceOfRa5yI seriously doubt this. Rather I suspect you're, either intentionally or unconsciously, replacing opinions disagreeing with yours with ones that are easier for you to dismiss.
9Username5yI think you and Acty each live in your own filter bubbles, constructed mostly through subconscious intent. (Beware of believing your enemies are innately evil [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil/] and intentionally causing themselves to be biased.) Everyone is subconsciously inclined [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cu2/the_power_of_reinforcement/] to read authors they agree with; it's more pleasurable and less painful. In your filter bubble, you read thoughtful conservative thinkers, along with cherry-picked bits of poorly-reasoned liberal extremist thinking, that those conservatives tear apart. And the reverse is true for Acty. I suspect the internet is increasing the ease of forming these sort of bubbles, which seems like a huge problem. FWIW, I am disappointed to see political discussion drift from object-level political disagreements to person-level disagreements about who is more biased. I virtually never see a good outcome from such a discussion. I suppose it's an occupational hazard participating in discussions on a website about bias.
5Good_Burning_Plastic5yYou could have said something to the effect of "not all conservatives have such dumb opinions, they aren't representative of all conservatism, and there also are liberals with even dumber opinions, and anyway it's not a good idea to judge memeplexes from their worst members [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapons/]" -- but no, you chose to go for James A. Donald [http://lesswrong.com/user/sam0345/overview/]-level asshattery -- "if you say you know conservatives with dumb opinions, you're probably lying or confabulating". (And somehow even got seven upvotes for that.) What does make you think it's so unlikely that Acty actually knows conservatives with dumb opinions? Are you familiar with all groups of conservatives worldwide?
7advael5yBecause those vectors of argument are insufficiently patronizing, I'm guessing. But in all seriousness, the "judging memeplexes from their worst members" issue is pretty interesting, because politicized ideologies and really any ideology that someone has a name for and integrates into their identity ("I am a conservative" or "I am a feminist" or "I am an objectivist" or whatever) are really fuzzily defined. To use the example we're talking about: Is conservatism about traditional values and bolstering the nuclear family? Is conservatism about defunding the government and encouraging private industry to flourish? Is conservatism about biblical literalism and establishing god's law on earth? Is conservatism about privacy and individual liberties? Is conservatism about nationalism and purity and wariness of immigrants? I've encountered conservatives who care about all of these things. I've encountered conservatives who only care about some of them. I've encountered at least one conservative who has defined conservatism to me in terms of each of those things. So when I go to my internal dictionary of terms-to-describe-ideologies, which conservatism do I pull? I know plenty of techie-libertarian-cluster people who call themselves conservatives who are atheists. I know plenty of religious people who call themselves conservatives who think that cryptography is a scary terrorist thing and should be outlawed. I know self-identified conservatives who think that the recent revelations about NSA surveillance are proof that the government is overreaching, and self-identified conservatives who think that if you have nothing to hide from the NSA then you have nothing to fear, so what's the big deal? I do not identify as a conservative. I can steelman lots of kinds of conservatism extremely well. Honestly I have some beliefs that some of my conservative-identifying friends would consider core conservative tenets. I still don't know what the fuck a conservative is, because the
3skeptical_lurker5yI'm going to be cynical here, and say that most conservative opinions are idiotic, and most liberal opinions are idiotic. Its an instance of the '90% of everything is shit' principle.

My understanding is that the technocracy movement were more engineers than social scientists, and were not an influential movement anyway.

Anyway, the problem isn't that scientists are inherently biased, its that if they mention certain hypotheses publicly they will be fired because of journalists.

Incidentally, I know neuro/cognitive scientists at a very left-wing university, and they believed in certain gender/racial cognitive differences, despite ideology.

Levels, not rates. Rates are largely about the police trying to look good in numbers. It is seriously difficult to quantify these things properly.

There are victimization surveys that verify lower crime levels apart from amount of crime that the police deals with.

We can discuss whether it's lead or the new clever crime fighting techniques that's the cause for lower violence but the expert consensus on the subject is that crime is down just as the expert consensus on global warming is that temperatures are up.

but yet it affects middle-class people far

... (read more)

You know what else is a good way to stop people being killed? Create a liberal democracy where people are equal. So far in history, that has kinda correlated... really strongly... with less people dying. There is both less war and less crime. Forget strength, give them equality and elections. (I don't actually think democracy is the optimal solution, I think I advocate more of an economics-exam-based meritocratic oligarchy, but it is a really good one to put in place while we figure out what the optimal one is. And I need to read lots more books before I a... (read more)

3[anonymous]5yI think I will not discuss with you this for about 5-10 years, because you sound a lot like me when I was around 21, and I know how naive and inexperienced and entirely unrealistic I was. Ultimately you miss the experiences that would make you far more pessimistic. For example nobody talked about making Western liberal democracies like third-world hellholes, it was about making them like their former selves when crime levels were lower, violence was lower, people were politer, people were politer with women and so on. In fact, turning Western liberal democracies into third-world hellholes is actually happening, but through a different, asylum-seeking / refugee pathway, a perfectly idiotic counter-selection where instead of exercising brain drain, we drain the most damaged people and expect it to turn out good. But that is just a small part of how you probably need to get more pessimistic experience before we can discuss it meaningfully. I have no interest in engaging with angry rants, they are not able to teach me anything, they just sound like both people really sweating and trying to win something, but there is no actual prize to win. Being drunk on the idea of social progress and the improvability of human nature is just like other addictions, you really need to hit rock bottom before you see what is the issue, I think anything I would try to explain here would be pointless without such a wake-up happening. So I wish you luck and maybe re-discuss this again in 5-10 years where you maybe got influenced by more experience.
5Acty5yTelling your opponent that they are incapable of arguing with you until they are older is a fully general counterargument, and one of the more aggravating and toxic ones. Even if it wasn't a fully general counterargument, it would be fallacious because it's ad hominem. There are plenty of people 5-10 years older than me who share my ideas, and you could as easily be arguing with one of them as you are arguing with me now; the fact that by chance you are arguing against me doesn't affect the validity/truth of the ideas we're talking about, and it's very irrational to suggest that it should. Attack my arguments, not me. As for everything being better in "their former selves", do I seriously have to go find graphs? I have the distinct feeling that you won't update even if I show you them, so I'm tempted not to bother. If you've genuinely never looked at actual graphs of crime levels and violence over time and promise to update just a little, I can go dig those up for you. (For now, you're pattern matching to the kind of person who could benefit from reading http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/10/20/the-anti-reactionary-faq/ [http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/10/20/the-anti-reactionary-faq/] . I don't like SSC that much, but when the man's right, he's right.) (As for "people were politer with women", my idea of polite is pretty politically correct, and I can guarantee you that political correctness doesn't increase if we look backwards in time...)
1ChristianKl5yCrime levels are lower in the West then they were in the past. It's only media mentions of crime that have risen and which result in a majority of the population believing that crime rates haven't fallen. Violence is down. We haven't gotten increased politeness to woman measured by factors like the number of man who open doors for woman. On the other hand we have a lot more equality than we had in the past. Feminism was never about demanding politeness.
3Lumifer5yIf you stick around long enough, we shall see :-)

Hi! I am socially retarded... There are many things the standard human was born with the capacity to grasp that I never can. The word "autism" appears to me to be being thrown around a lot lately, mostly as a meaningless word used to convey that one thinks another is simply not normal but when I first noticed how heavily users on the internet threw around the word two years ago I identified as such for a bit to make conversation more expedient. I am able to comprehend metaphors and similes and such for some reason, but things such as having the c... (read more)

3Weedlayer6yEdit: I misunderstood what you said by "rationalize", sorry. As Polymath said, rationalization means "To try to justify an irrational position later"", basically making excuses. Anyway, I wouldn't worry about the downvotes, based on this post the people downvoting you probably weren't being passive aggressive, but rather misinterpreted what you posted. It can take a little while to learn the local beliefs and jargon.
2polymathwannabe6yHi, Hoofwall. Welcome to LessWrong. I have considered the label "autistic" to describe myself at some points in the past, but now I'm not sure. I may be at another point in the spectrum, or I may be just imagining things. But I can definitely empathize with anyone who struggles to make themselves understood to humans. I'm confused about one point: Your usage of the verb " to rationalize" suggests that you intend it for a meaning that is slightly different from the standard meaning it has in logical jargon. We usually say that someone is "rationalizing" when they make an irrational decision and then, afterwards, make up an excuse to keep feeling good about it. I suspect that's not what you meant when you used that word; it feels like it would have been clearer to use the verb "to reason." Of course, this is only my speculation. Please correct me if I'm wrong. (Within the rationalist culture prevalent in this forum, correcting other people when they're wrong is socially accepted as something you can do, but also, accepting corrections when you're wrong is something you're expected to do.)

Hello folks! I'm new to your site here and still trying to get my bearings. :) The navigation is pretty nonstandard, hence somewhat confusing to me. I found this website from a link my friend posted on a Facebook discussion we had. Since then I've got one question that keeps bugging me, so I decided to ask it here. As I understand, this thread (is this the equivalent of a forum thread?) is a good place to do it. :)

The question is this: I've got a theory which seems (to me) so simple and obvious and able to explain all human behavior that I'm surprised that... (read more)


Short introduction to navigation: Clicking the "Discussion" link at the top of the page will show you (most of) the new articles. If you write comments there, you are most likely to receive replies.

If there is something called "Open Thread", that pretty much means: feel free to ask or say anything (as long as it is at least somewhat relevant to this website, but even that is not always necessary). Also, posting in the most recent open thread will give you more visitors and thus more replies than posting in a three months old article. As of today, the most recent open thread is here, but tomorrow a new one will be started, and it may be strategic to wait.

humans will always choose to do the action which they think will bring them most pleasure/least pain. ... and quite often we get it totally wrong.

Well, if you put it this way, it is almost impossible to find a counterexample, because for literally any situation where "a person X did Y", you can say "that's because X somehow believed Y will bring them most pleasure / least pain", and even if I say "but in this specific situation that doesn't make any sense", you can say &q... (read more)

3Vilx-6yAhh, I see. Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for! :) Back to thinking. :)

Ah, the old "choosing not to choose is itself a choice" move. Never was too convinced by that.

You can reserve judgment on the theory while taking some default stance on the practical issue. Depending on where you're standing this might mean the standard diet for your culture (probably suboptimal, but arguably less suboptimal than whatever random permutations you might apply to it), or "common sense" (which I'm skeptical of in some ways, but it probably picks some low-hanging fruit), or imitating people or populations with empirically ... (read more)

The quality of your query isn't entirely unimportant - you can lose a chance with poor quality - but the person asked will usually have lots of other reasons that play into their decision, and most of them you'll never know. In the absence of this information, what you have is an opinion on the quality of your request, so naturally that's what you focus on to optimize; but that doesn't mean this is the decisive variable in the average case.

Assuming I get this rejection thing done and I'm not fearful or rejections, how does that one-up my chances?

It mak... (read more)

3[anonymous]6yYou're saying that I'm dwelling too much on avoiding rejection even though I'm thinking I'm optimizing my chances, right? Oh fucking hell. Maybe I did miss a few chances now that I think about it.
[-][anonymous]5y 2

Second biggest city of the world's fourth biggest economy at that time? Not really a huge conincidence IMHO. Sort of in the world top 20-30 list of places to work one one's career. Not really in the top 20 to enjoy life though. (OK it wasn't too bad, we had a park behind the house where bands played frequently, it turned out Caribbean takeaways are really delicious, and going to the Godskitchen was a teenage dream came true 15 years later.)

Is that a fact? I've seen social scientists complain that social science is trying too hard to emulate the hard science.

The mess where we're wealthier, living longer, etc?

I think there may be a self-reinforcing spiral where highly logical people aren't impressed by social science, leading them to avoid it, leading to social science being unimpressive to highly logical because it's done by people who aren't highly logical. But I could be wrong--maybe highly logical people are misperceiving.

2VoiceOfRa5yIt's not just a self-reinforcing spiral. There is also a driver, namely since social science has more political implications and there is a lot of political control over science funding, social science selects for people willing to reach the "correct" conclusions even if they have to torture logic and the evidence to do so.
4John_Maxwell5yWell that's a self-reinforcing spiral of a different type. In general, I see a number of forces pushing newcomers to a group towards being similar to whoever the folks already in the group are: * The Iron Law of Bureaucracy [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Pournelle#Iron_Law_of_Bureaucracy], insofar as it's accurate. * Self-segregation. It's less aversive to interact with people who agree with you and are similar to you, which nudges people towards forming social circles of similar others. * Reputation effects. If Google has a reputation for having great programmers, other great programmers will want to work there so they can have great coworkers. This is why it took someone like Snowden to expose NSA spying. The NSA was the butt of jokes [http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1517] in the crypto community for probably doing illicit spying long before Snowden... which meant people who cared about civil liberties didn't apply for jobs there (who wants to work for the evil empire?) (Note: just my guess as someone outside crypto; could be totally wrong on this one.) Edit: evaporative cooling [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/] should probably be considered related to the bullet points above.
0Lumifer5yYou're assuming that "intelligent" == "logical". That just ain't so and especially ain't so in social sciences. "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
0ChristianKl5yIs there data about the average IQ of PHD's or professors in the social sciences?
9Acty5yI did a bit of googling, and it really surprised me. I thought the social science IQs would be lower on average than the STEM IQs, but I found a lot of conflicting stuff. Most sources seem to put physics and maths at the top of the ranks, but then there's engineering, social science and biology and I keep seeing those three in different orders. If you split up 'social science' and 'humanities', then humanities stays at the top and social science drops a few places, presumably because law is a very attractive profession for smart people (high prestige and pay) and law is technically a humanity. I'm not very confident in any of my Google results, though - they all looked slightly dodgy - so I'm not linking to any and would love it if someone else could find some better data. I don't think it's an argument for disregarding social science, even if we did find data that showed all social scientists are stupider than STEM scientists. I mean, education came last for IQ on almost all of the lists I looked up. Education. Nobody is going to say that this means we should scrap education. If education really does attract a lot of stupid people, I think that is cause to try and raise the prestige and pay of education as a profession so that more smart people do it - not to cut funding for schools. (Though the reason education is so lowly ranked for IQ could be that a lot of countries don't require teachers to have education degrees, you get a different degree and then a teaching certificate, so you only take Education as a bachelor's if you want to do Childhood Studies and go into social care/work.) It's clearly very important that our governments are advised by smart social scientists who can do experiments and tell them whether law X or policy Y will decrease the crime rate or just annoy people, or we're just letting politicians do whatever their ideology tells them to do. So, even though the IQ of people in social sciences is lower on average than the IQ of people in physic
4CCC5yThat might actually have been a problem once [http://nrich.maths.org/2671]. Apparently the Pythagoreans had serious problems with irrational numbers...
0ChristianKl5yAnd current mathematician have them with infinitesimally small numbers ;)
3[anonymous]5yNot really. Everyone agrees that calculus can be done with infinitesimals, but most mathematicians think that doing it with limits forms a better basis for going on to real analysis and epsilon-delta proofs later.
2CCC5yI don't think modern mathematicians are going to drown someone for using infinitesimally small numbers...
0nyralech5yNon-standard analysis is perfectly fine. Most mathematicians just don't deal with that kind of analysis.
1Lumifer5yIt's not an argument for disregarding social science, but it is an argument to be more sceptical of its claims. I disagree but let me qualify that. If we define "successful" as "socially successful", that is, e.g., you have your tenure and your papers are accepted in reasonable peer-reviewed journals, then yes, you do not need high IQ to be be successful social scientist. However if we define "successful" as "actually advancing the state of human knowledge" then I feel fairly confident in thinking that a high IQ is even more of a necessity for a social scientists than it is for someone who does hard sciences. As you pointed out yourself [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le5/welcome_to_less_wrong_7th_thread_december_2014/cl2f] , hard sciences are easier :-)
6Acty5yAh, I'm sorry - I actually agree with everything you just wrote. I fear I may have miscommunicated slightly in the comment you're replying to. You're right, I did point that out. And I do think that it can be harder in social science to weed out the good stuff from the bad stuff, and as such, you can get reasonably far in social science terms by being well-spoken and having contacts with a similar ideology even if your science isn't great. This is an undesirable state of affairs, of course, but I think it's just because doing good social science is really difficult (and in order to even know what good social science looks like, you've gotta be smart enough to do good social science). It's part of the reason I think I can be useful and make a difference by doing social science, if I can do good rational social science and encourage others to do more rational social science. My point isn't that you don't need to be as smart to do social science; doing it well is actually harder, so you'd expect social scientists to be at least as smart as hard scientists. I think that social science and hard science require slightly different kinds of intelligence, and IQ tests better for the hard science kind rather than the social science kind. It's really difficult to make a formula that calculates how to get a rocket off the ground. You have to crunch a lot of numbers. However, once you've come up with that formula, it is easy to test it; when you fire your rocket, does it go to the moon or does it blow up in your face? It's really easy to come up with a social science intervention/hypothesis. You just say "people from lower classes have worse life outcomes because of their poor opportunities (so we should improve opportunities for poor people)" or "people from lower classes are in the lower class because they're not smart, and their parents were not smart and gave them bad genes, so they have worse life outcomes because they're not smart (so we should do nothing)" or "people
0ChristianKl5yGiven that teachers who have a masters in education don't do better than teachers who haven't, I think there a good case of scrapping the current professors in that fields from their titles.
6Acty5yGiven this fact, it gives very good support to an argument like "we should scrap Masters programs in education". But it could also give very good support to "we should try out a few variations on Masters programs in education to see if any of them would do better than the current one, and if we find one that actually works, we should change our current one to that thing. If and only if we try a bunch of different variations and none of them work, we should scrap Masters programs in education." I mean, if we could create a program that consistently made people better teachers, that would be a very worthwhile endeavour. If our current program aiming to make people better teachers is utterly failing, maybe we should scrap that particular program, but surely we should also have a go at doing a few different programs and seeing if any of those succeed?
1ChristianKl5yWho's responsible for creating such a program? The current professors. Given that they don't do so, we need different people.
1Acty5yVery true. We should task them with creating a better program, and if they don't produce results, we should fire them and find new professors. Just the same as firing any employee who is incapable of doing their job, really. The thing I disagree with would be if we scrapped the positions and programs entirely; I am entirely on board with the idea of firing the people currently holding the positions and running the programs, and finding new people to hold the positions and run the programs differently. I think that I now understand your position better and you're advocating the latter, not the former, in which case I entirely agree with you.
0ChristianKl5yThere are many different ways to teach knowledge. Academia isn't the only way. You could have a education system where teachers don't go to university to learn how to teach but where they do apprenticeships programs. They sit in the classrooms of experienced teachers and help. Decrease the amount of time that teachers spend in the classroom to allow for time where teachers discuss with their colleagues what works best.
0Acty5yDifferent people learn in different ways. I'm really good at textbook learning and hate hands on learning (and suspect that is common among introverted intellectual people). Ideally, why not offer both a university course that qualifies you as a teacher and an apprenticeship system that qualifies you as a teacher, and allow prospective teachers to decide which best suits their learning style? We could even do cognitive assessments on the prospective teachers to recommend to them which program would be best for what their strengths seem to be. Although, as someone who lives with a teacher - we definitely don't need to reduce the time they spend in the classroom, we need to change the fact that they spend double that time marking and planning and doing pointless paperwork.
0ChristianKl5yThe job of being a teacher is not ideal for introverts. At the core teaching is about social interaction. You can't learn charisma through reading textbooks. Textbooks don't teach you to be a authority in the classroom and get the children to pay attention to what you are saying. They don't teach empathy either. Empathy is a strong predictor for success of psychologists in therapy session and likely also useful for teachers. "Learning styles" are a popular concept but there no good research that suggests that giving different students different training based on learning style is helpful. I agree. Get rid of the whole business of giving students grades outside of automatically graded tests to allow a teacher to focus on teaching.

And you seem to be conflating two separate issues, romantic attraction, and ability to handle criticism.

Such is the apparent resolution of Tom Hunt's map of the territory.

The rational response would be to look into the matter to see which is in fact the case.

As I have already said, it is not a question of which is the case any more than the case of the unobserved falling tree is a question of sound or non-sound.

Well, you're link is more like, a woman after a lot of effort improves her criticism taking ability. And even then she would rather the cu

... (read more)
5ChristianKl6yJust because I can quote a 37 word paragraph of someone's speech doesn't mean that I accurately model the resolution of the map of the territory of that person. Assuming that you can infer the full position of a person from a short exerpt is wrong. Twitter culture where people think that everything boils down to short exerpts is deeply troubling.
0Gram_Stone6yI agree. It was really just a pithy way of saying that he has a naive conception of this particular issue.
1Vaniver6yNote that ChristianKl's objection is that a short comment is at best a crude snapshot of someone's mind; it seems rash to make conclusions about Hunt's conceptions from just that comment.
2Gram_Stone6yI agree that that's true in general, but on the other hand, when someone gives a weak argument for theism, I don't regard it as rash to disregard their opinion on the matter. I can have little or no knowledge of the internal process while only observing the outcome and, because I have confidence about what sort of outcomes good processes produce, infer that whatever process he is using, it is probably not one that draws an accurate map in this particular region.
1ChristianKl6yTo assess the outcome you would need to know the context in which the paragraph stands. You would need to listen to the speech. Having a high confidence that a 37 words excerpt is enough to judge the quality of someone's thinking is a reasoning error. If I read through the writings and speeches of Richard Dawkins I am highly confident that I can find a short paragraph were Dawkins makes a weak argument against theism. That's no proof that Dawkins has a naive conception of the debate about theism. The words that follow "they cry" in the speech are "now seriously". He verbally tagged it as a joke. Making a bad joke isn't proof of a naive conception of an issue.
2Gram_Stone6yOkay, I agree.

Thank you for this article. I'm finding it still difficult to navigate the site in terms of comments and posts. Would it be possible to edit some more explanation in the "site mechanics" portion of this article to include an explanation of what open threads are and how to use them?

2John_Maxwell6yOpen threads are for things that aren't important enough for either a toplevel post or a discussion post. You use them just like you used the welcome thread: leave a comment and let people respond :)

Hello, everyone!

LW came to my attention not so long ago, and I've been commited to reading it since that moment about a month ago. I am a 20-year old linguist from Moscow, finishing my bachelor's. Due to my age, I've been pondering with usual questions of life for the past few years, searching for my path, my philosophy, essentially, a best way to live for me.

I studied a lot of religions, philosophies, and they all seemed really flat, essentially because of the reasons stated in some articles here. I came close to something resembling a nice way to live... (read more)

4Lumifer6yThat is not so. There is a certain overlap between the population of rationalists and the population of altruists, people from this set intersection are unusually well represented on LW. But there is no "ought" here -- it's perfectly possible to be a non-altruist rationalist or to be a non-rational altruist.
3Gram_Stone6yWelcome, Ozyrus. This is moral philosophy you're getting into, so I don't think that there's a community-wide consensus. LessWrong is big, and I've read more of the stuff about psychology and philosophy of language than anything else, rather than the stuff on moral philosophy, but I'll take a swing at this. It seems that your implicit question is, "If rationality makes people more effective at doing things that I don't value, then should the ideas of rationality be spread?" That depends on how many people there are with values that are inconsistent with yours, and it also depends on how much it makes people do things that you do value. And I would contend that a world full of more rational people would still be a better world than this one even if it means that there are a few sadists who are more effective for it. There are murderers who kill people with guns, and this is bad; but there are many, many more soldiers who protect their nations with guns, and the existence of those nations allow much higher standards of living than would be otherwise possible, and this is good. There are more good people than evil people in the world. But it's also true that sometimes people can for the first time follow their beliefs to their logical conclusions and, as a result, do things that very few people value [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/]. Jack doesn't have to do anything. If 'rationality' doesn't get you what you want, then you're not being rational. Forget about Jack; put yourself in Jack's situation. If you had already made your choice, and you killed all of those people, would you regret it? I don't mean "Would you feel bad that all of those people had died, but you would still think that you did the right thing?" I mean, if you could go back and do it again, would you do it differently? If you wouldn't change it, then you did the right thing. If you would change it, then you did the wrong thing. Rationality isn't a goal in itself, rati
1Ozyrus6yExcellent answer! Yes, you deducted the implicit question right. I also agree that this is a rather abstract field of moral philosophy, though i did not see that at first. Although I don't think that your argument for the world being a better place with everyone being rational holds up, especially this point Even if there are, there is no proof that after becoming "rational" they will not become "bad" (apostrophes because bad is not defined sufficiently, but that'll do.). I can imagine some interesting prospect for experiments in this field by the way. I also think that the result will vary if the subject is placed in society of only-rationalists vs usual society - with "bad" actions carried out more in the second example, as there is much less room for cooperation. But of course that is pointless discussion, as the situation is not really based on reality in any way and we can't really tell what will happen. :)
[-][anonymous]6y 2

Hello world.

I am new to the community, but I have read through the most part of the major sequences before I registered. I found this site by reading Eliezer´s Harry Potter fanfic hpmor. It was really good by the way. I am happy to learn about biases and how to overcome them and how to optimize certain things.

I am fairly intelligent and I am a VERY philosophical person.

1Viliam_Bur6yHave you considered the effect of selection? From USA, you usually hear about the stupid stuff, because that's what makes interesting news. (Also, exaggerating all the bad things from the "decadent West" has a long tradition in Russian propaganda.) From your own country, you spend most time with your circle of educated people.
[-][anonymous]6y 2

To be fair, this kind of example is a bit extreme. I used to read edwardfeser.blogspot.com and he fails at being empiricist, but does not fail at logical reasoning. His only - albeit catastrophic - failure is "X follows from the premises we accepted to be true, hence reality works like X". Map-terrain... However, even Feser could not make a useful ratonalist because of this failure at empiricism. Unwilling to step over the map-terrain gap, the language-reality gap.

Really, the primarily problem of Feser type smart theists is not that they cannot... (read more)

Hello everyone, first post. My education level is Associate's. My special skills include mathematics and reading comprehension.

I come to this website, because as I look at the rationalist techniques I can't think to myself, "This is a skill that would be beneficial to learn." I have done some preliminary reading of some of the posts here and find that while a lot of it is rather chewy (that is, taking extra time to process mentally), it is genuinely enjoyable to peruse and be made to think.

I have a question. Considering that I am religious,... (read more)

I hope you are familiar with the word skeptic.

I'm familiar enough to know that different people use it to mean different things. Asking people to explain in detail what they mean is called "tabooing" on LW. It helps with rational thinking.

Of course your are skeptic about the value of explaining what you mean. That's alright. It takes mental effort to value clear thinking and most people are not used to engage in that effort.

This might seem unwelcoming because I don't allow you to easily get away with a vague statement and confront you on an i... (read more)

If you mean "what precisely do I mean when I say I am a approaching LessWrong skeptically", I mean that I will be reading carefully through articles on LessWrong, looking for potential flaws and failings, and generally maintaining a high degree of doubt over anything said or implied.

This is generally referred to around here as "maintaining good epistemic hygiene", and it's considered a fairly normal practice. There's no particular need to give it a special name like "skepticism", especially when that word already has a phil... (read more)

[-][anonymous]6y 2

Hello all, I'm new to this site. I've stumbled across this website a few times, and have been interested in its implications on philosophy. I am here in a position of scepticism about the claims and projects this site wishes to advance. I suspect most of my posts in the recent future will be critiques of other things found on this website. I hope I make some friends, and not too many enemies.

2ChristianKl6yWhat do you understand those to be?

I'm skeptical this is a great strategy for topics in general.

Nutrition, for example, doesn't appear to be the kind of topic where you can just learn its axioms and build up an optimal human diet from first principles. It's far too complicated.

Instead you need substantial education, training, experience and access, as well as a community that can help you support and refine your ideas. You need to gather evidence, you need to learn how to determine the quality of the evidence you've gathered, and you need to propose reasonable stories that fit the evidenc... (read more)

1Lumifer6yAnd rightly so :-) This is an approach that should be reserved for important topics. I think you're setting the bar too high. What you describe will allow one to produce new research and that's not the goal here. All you need to be able to do is to pass a judgement on conflicting claims -- that's much easier than gathering evidence and proposing stories. In nutrition, for example, a lot of claims are contested and not by crackpots. Highly qualified people strongly disagree about basic issues, for example, the effects of dietary saturated fat. I am saying that you should read the arguments of both sides and form your opinion about them -- not that you should apply to the NIH for a grant to do a definitive study. Of course that means reading the actual papers, not dumbed down advice for hoi polloi.

Where does the idea of a random choice even come from?

If you don't have much good information about what the fitness landscape looks like -- for example, if the literature is opaque and often contradictory -- then there's going to be a lot of randomness in the effects of any choices you make. It's not random in the sense of a blind jump into the depths of the fitness landscape -- the very concept of what counts as "food", for example, screens off quite a bit -- but even if the steps are short, you don't know if you're going to be climbing a h... (read more)

It's an option -- a point in a configuration space -- but not a random option. The default is, almost tautologically, a stable equilibrium, while in a sufficiently complicated system almost all possible choices may move you away from that equilibrium in ways you don't want.

Nutrition is a very complicated system. Of course, its fitness landscape might be friendlier than I'm giving it credit for here, but I don't have any particular reason to assume that it is.

You said that Minger's criticism of TCS "doesn't make sense". Did you actually have anything specific in mind?

I also don't see much problems with the passages you quoted.

2[anonymous]6yThey contradict each other. Why isn't Tuoli an outlier?

When you know next to nothing about the topic at hand and the only choice is to trust authority or to rely on your own, almost certainly flawed judgment, I'd go with authority.

[-][anonymous]6y 2

Been looking for this for a few moments. I don't see much to expand on myself. I found out about LW when someone pointed me to the 1000-year old vampire post which I really liked.

And that's almost enough for now. I tried using the search but I didn't get the thing I wanted. All or fucking nothing I guess: What's the best way to ask a girl out?

"Best" means a lot of things that I'm naturally not aware of otherwise I wouldn't be asking this :) But true, I feel like there's a lot of things to account for in "best" that I might not be realis... (read more)

4chaosmage6yI'm guessing here, but it sounds like you have a very common problem, which people usually call "fear of rejection" but I think should be called "no plan for rejection". We instinctively avoid situations we don't feel able to handle, and in anyone able to think ahead, this includes situations that might lead into situations we don't feel able to handle. And that can feel like now's not the time. A popular method for fixing this is The Rejection Game. Ask for something and get rejected, once per day, for a month. Your requests should be somewhat ridiculous, so you'll get rejected even though you're super polite and respectful. (Ask salespeople for discounts, for example.) After rejection, don't give up immediately, but negotiate a bit - this gives you something to do and should get you rejected more firmly. Also, it might help to pretend they're boys. Bonus prize: If you handle rejection really well, you get additional attempts later. Magic!
1Alicorn6yDo you have a girl in mind or do you mean generally speaking?

You need to balance the (large but restricted to an individual) utility to the kid against the (small to each individual and spread out access many individuals) disutility to society.

That's reason for Pigovian taxes, not outright bans. There are plenty of other things which have diffuse negative externalities, e.g. anything which causes air pollution, and we don't just ban them all.

2VoiceOfRa5yExcept neither Acty nor anyone currently in politics is proposing Pigovian taxes. Also, since most of the would-be immigrants wouldn't be able to afford them, this wouldn't be an acceptable policy for the pro-immigration forces.

A survey can be a reasonably designed experiment that simply gives us a weaker result than lots of other kinds of experiments.

There are many questions about humans that I would expect to be correlated with the noises humans make when given a few choices and asked to answer honestly. In many cases, that correlation is complicated or not very strong. Nonetheless, it's not nothing, and might be worth doing, especially in the absence of a more-correlated test we can do given our technology, resources, and ethics.

0Lumifer5yWhat I had in mind was the difference between passive observation and actively influencing the lives of subjects. I would consider "surveys" to be observation and "experiments" to be or contain active interventions. Since the context of the discussion is kinda-sorta ethical, this difference is meaningful.
1advael5yWhat intervention would you suggest to study the incidence of factual versus terminal-value disagreements in opposing sides of a policy decision?
1Lumifer5yI am not sure where is this question coming from. I am not suggesting any particular studies or ways of conducting them. Maybe it's worth going back to the post from which this subthread originated. Acty wrote: First, Acty is mistaken in thinking that a survey will settle the question of which policy will actually satisfy the value benchmark. We're talking about real consequences of a policy and you don't find out what they are by conducting a public poll. And second, if you do want to find the real consequences of a policy, you do need to run an intervention (aka an experiment) -- implement the policy in some limited fashion and see what happens.
0advael5yOh, I guess I misunderstood. I read it as "We should survey to determine whether terminal values differ (e.g. 'The tradeoff is not worth it') or whether factual beliefs differ (e.g. 'There is no tradeoff')" But if we're talking about seeing whether policies actually work as intended, then yes, probably that would involve some kind of intervention. Then again, that kind of thing is done all the time, and properly run, can be low-impact and extremely informative.

Surveys are not experiments

According to every IRB I've been in contact with, they are. Here's Cornell's, for example.

Without a direction to the bias that's a universal counterargument.

It's a universal counterargument when a newspaper stories that don't appear to make sense and you don't know the facts on the ground. You shouldn't believe those stories.

I'm perfectly aware of some the biases in reporting, my heuristics say that the media is likely underreporting the extent of the problem.

I haven't said anything about biases of reporting. I have spoken about journalists getting stories wrong. That quite often doesn't have anything to do with bias. Journalists in Ber... (read more)

1Jiro5yPeople make decisions at the margin, and it's entirely possible that the additional negative effect of being accused of racism pushes him over the edge in decisionmaking.

Casual assumptions that things were better in the past, .or that the authors favoured theories must have worked, need to be taken with some scepticism.

You keep assuming there is a fixed background level of aggression, but that is just what left wing thinkers believe can be changed.

1[anonymous]5yI won't even argue that, it is a fact it can be changed. Bicoastal America and NW Europe managed to make a fairly large young college-ed middle class that is surprisingly docile. The issue is simply the consequences of the change and its permanence. If you talked to any random Roman or Ancient Greek author about it, he would basically say you guys are actively trying to get decadent and expect it will work out well? To give you the most simple potential consequence: doesn't it lead to reducing courage or motivation as well? Since this is what we precisely see in the above mentioned group: a decrease of aggressivity correlates with an increase of social anxiety, timidity, shyness i..e. low courage and with the kind of attitudes where playing videogames can be primary hobby, nay, even an identity. Of a personal experience, as my aggression levels fluctuated, so fluctuated motivation, courage, happines, self-respect and similar things with it. Not in the sense of fluctuating between aggressive and docile behavior of course, but in the sense of needing to exercise a lot of self restraint to always stay civil vs. not needing to. You can raise the same things about its permanence. The worst outcome is a lower-aggresion group just being taken over by a higher one. Another potential impermance comes from the fluctuation of generations. My father was a rebel (beatnik), so I had only rebellion to rebel against, and my own counter-revolutionary rebellion was approved by my grandfather :) Finally a visual type of explanation, maybe it comes accross better. You can understand human aggressivity as riding a high energy engine towards a bad, unethical direction. Having a lot of drive to do bad things. We can do two things, steer it away into a good one or just brake and turn off the engine. Everything we seem to do in this direction seems to more like braking than steering away. For example, if we were steering, we would encourage people to put a lot of drive into creative
3advael5yUm, I fail to see how people are making and doing less stuff than in previous generations. We've become obsessed with information technology, so a lot of that stuff tends to be things like "A new web application so that everyone can do X better", but it fuels both the economy and academia, so who cares? With things like maker culture, the sheer overwhelming number of kids in their teens and 20s and 30s starting SAAS companies or whatever, and media becoming more distributed than it's ever been in history, we have an absurd amount of productivity going on in this era, so I'm confused where you think we're "braking". As for video games in particular (Which seems to be your go-to example for things characteristic of the modern era that are useless), games are just a computer-enabled medium for two kinds of things: Contests of will and media. The gamers of today are analogous in many ways to the novel-consumers or TV-consumers or mythology-consumers of yesterday and also today (Because rumors of the death of old kinds of media are often greatly exaggerated), except for the gamers that are more analogous to the sports-players or gladiators or chess-players of yesterday and also today. Also, the basically-overnight-gigantic indie game development industry is pretty analogous to other giant booms in some form of artistic expression. Video games aren't a new human tendency, they're a superstimulus that hijacks several (Storytelling, Artistic expression, Contests of will) and lowers entry barriers to them. Also, the advent of powerful parallel processors (GPUs), a huge part of the boom in AI research recently, has been driven primarily by the gaming industry. I think that's a win regardless. Basically, I just don't buy any of your claims whatsoever. The "common sense" ideas about how society improving on measures of collaboration, nonviolence, and egalitarianism will make people lazy and complacent and stupid have pretty much never borne out on a large scale, so I'm more i
1Nornagest5yI can't help wondering where you got this idea. The mainstream absolutely shames lazy gamers; they're one of the few groups that it's socially acceptable to shame without reservation, even more so than other subcultures seen as socially unproductive (e.g. stoner, hippie, dropout) because their escape of choice still carries a childish stigma. That's countered somewhat by an expectation of somewhat higher social class, but the "mom's basement" stereotype is alive and well. Even other lazy gamers often shame lazy gamers, although that's balanced (for some value of "balance") by a lot of back-patting; nerd culture of all stripes has a strong self-love/self-hate thing going on.
[-][anonymous]5y 1

Actually, in voting and activism, I'm a full-throated socialist. Social democracy is weaksauce next to a fully-developed socialism, but we don't have a fully-developed socialism, so you're often stuck with the weaksauce.

And as an object-level defense: social democracy, as far as I can tell, does the best at aggregating value information about diverse domains of life and keeping any one optimization criterion from running roughshod over everything else that people happen to care about.

No, that's not the meaning of the word soviet. Soviet translates into something like "counsel" in English.

In English, "Soviet" is the adjectival form of "USSR".

Never mind the word. What is the actual structure at the Free University of Berlin that you're referring to? And in 1968, did they believe that this was how things were done in the USSR?


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8[anonymous]5yDon't mind Lumifer. He's one of our resident Anti-Spirals. But, here's a question: if you're angry at the Bad, why? Where's your hope for the Good? Of course, that's something our culture has a hard time conceptualizing, but hey, you need to be able to do it to really get anywhere.
5Username5yAnd yet he's consistently one of the highest karma earners in the 30-day karma leaderboard. It seems to be mainly due to his heavy participation... his 80% upvote rate is not especially high. I find him incredibly frustrating to engage with (though I try not to let it show). I can't help but think that he is driving valuable people away; having difficult people dominate the conversation can't be a good thing. (To clarify, I'm not trying to speak out against the perspectives people like Lumifer and VoiceOfRa offer, which I am generally sympathetic to. I think their perspectives are valuable. I just wish they would make a stronger effort to engage in civil & charitable discussion, and I think having people who don't do this and participate heavily is likely to have pernicious effects on LW culture in the long term. In general, I agree with the view that Paul Graham has advanced re: Hacker News moderation: on a group rationality level, in an online forum context, civility & niceness end up being very important.)
1[anonymous]5yReally? Their "perspective" appears to consist in attempting to tear down any hopes, beliefs, or accomplishments someone might have, to the point of occasionally just making a dumb comment out of failure to understand substantive material. Of course, I stated that a little too disparagingly, but see below... Not just civility and niceness, but affirmative statements. That is, if you're trying to achieve group epistemic rationality, it is important to come out and say what one actually believes. Statistical learning from a training-set of entirely positive or entirely negative examples is known to be extraordinarily difficult, in fact, nigh impossible (modulo "blah blah Solomonoff") to do in efficient time. I think a good group norm is, "Even if you believe something controversial, come out and say it, because only by stating hypotheses and examining evidence can we ever update." Fully General Critique actually induces a uniform distribution across everything, which means one knows precisely nothing. Besides which, nobody actually has a uniform distribution built into their real expectations in everyday life. They just adopt that stance when it comes time to talk about Big Issues, because they've heard of how Overconfidence Is Bad without having gotten to the part where Systematic Underconfidence Makes Reasoning Nigh-Impossible.
5Acty5yI think that anger at the Bad and hope for the Good are kind of flip sides of the same coin. I have a vague idea of how the world should be, and when the world does not conform to that idea, it irritates me. I would like a world full of highly rational and happy people cooperating to improve one another's lives, and I would like to see the subsequent improvements taking effect. I would like to see bright people and funding being channeled into important stuff like FAI and medicine and science, everyone working for the common good of humanity, and a lot of human effort going towards the endeavour of making everyone happy. I would like to see a human species which is virtuous enough that poverty is solved by everyone just sharing what they need, and war is solved because nobody wants to start violence. I want people to work together and be rational, basically, and I've already seen that work on a small scale so I have a lot of hope that we can upgrade it to a societal scale. I also have a lot of hope for things like cryonics/Alcor bringing people back to life eventually, MIRI succeeding in creating FAI, and effective altruism continuing to gain new members until we start solving problems from sheer force of numbers and funding. But I try not to be too confident about exactly what a Good world looks like; a) I don't have any idea what the world will look like once we start introducing crazy things like superintelligence, b) that sounds suspiciously like an ideology and I would rather do lots of experiments on what makes people happy and then implement that, and c) a Good world would have to satisfy people's preferences and I'm not a powerful enough computer to figure out a way to satisfy 7 billion sets of preferences.
5CCC5yIf you can simply improve the odds of people cooperating in such a manner, then I think that you will bring the world you envision closer. And the better you can improve those odds, the better the world will be.
1CCC5yLet us consider them, one by one. This means that the goals of the people and groups will be more effectively realised. It is world-improving if and only if the goals towards which the group works are world-improving. A group can be expected, on the whole, to work towards goals which appear to be of benefit to the group. The best way to ensure that the goals are world-improving, then, might be to (a) ensure that the "group" in question consists of all intelligent life (and not merely, say, Brazilians) and (b) the groups' goals are carefully considered and inspected for flaws by a significant number of people. (b) is probably best accomplished be encouraging voluntary cooperation, as opposed to unquestioning obedience of orders. (a) simply requires ensuring that it is well-known that bigger groups are more likely to be successful, and punishing the unfair exploitation of outside groups. On the whole, I think this is most likely a world-improving goal. Alturism certainly sounds like a world-improving goal. Historically, there have been a few missteps in this field - mainly when one person proposes a way to get people to be more altruistic, but then someone else implements it and does so in a way that ensures that he reaps the benefit of everyone else's largesse. So, likely to be world-improving, but keep an eye on the people trying to implement your research. (Be careful if you implement it yourself - have someone else keep a close eye on you in that circumstance). Critical thinking is good. However, again, take care in the implementation; simply teaching students what to write in the exam is likely to do much less good than actually teaching critical thinking. Probably the most important thing to teach students is to ask questions and to think about the answers - and the traditional exam format makes it far too easy to simply teach students to try to guess the teacher's password. If implemented properly, likely to be world-improving. ...that's my thoughts o
0[anonymous]5yAnd these are all very virtuous things to say, but you're a human, not a computer. You really ought to at least lock your mind on some positive section of the nearby-possible and try to draw motivation from that (by trying to make it happen).
3RichardKennaway5y"Greetings, Comrade Acty. Today the Collective has decreed that you..." Do these words make your heart skip a beat in joyous anticipation, no matter how they continue? Have you read "Brave New World"? "1984"? "With Folded Hands" [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/With_Folded_Hands]? Do those depict societies you find attractive? Exinanition is an attractive fantasy [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM] for some, but personal fantasies are not a foundation to build a society on. You are clearly intelligent, but do you think? You have described the rich intellectual life at your school, but how much of that activity is of the sort that can solve a problem in the real world, rather than a facility at making complex patterns out of ideas [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mez/rationality_quotes_thread_july_2015/cky8]? The visions that you have laid out here merely imagine problems solved. People will not do as you would want? Then they will be made to. How? "On pain of death." How can the executioners be trusted? They will be tested to ensure they use the power well. How will they be tested? Who tests them? How does this system ever come into existence? I'm sure your imagination can come up with answers to all these questions, that you can slot into a larger and larger story. But it would be an exercise in creative fiction, an exercise in invisible dragonology [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/]. And all springing from "My intuitions say that specialism increases output." Exterminate all life, then. That will stop the suffering. I'm sure you're really smart, and will go far. I'm concerned about the direction, though. Right now, I'm looking at an Unfriendly Natural Intelligence.
1Jiro5yWait a minute. You don't want them, or you do want them but shouldn't rely on what you want? And I'm not just nitpicking here. This is why people are having bad reactions. On one level, you don't want those things, and on another you do. Seriously mixed messages. Also, if you are physically there with your foot on someone's toe, that triggers your emotional instincts that say that you shouldn't cause pain. If you are doing things which cause some person to get hurt in some faraway place where you can't see it, that doesn't. I'm sure that many of the people who decided to use terrorism as an excuse for NSA surveillance won't step on people's toes or hurt any cats. If anything, their desire not to hurt people makes it worse. "We have to do these things for everyone's own good, that way nobody gets hurt!"
2[anonymous]5yI'm not so sure you should distrust your intuitions here. I mean, let's be frank, the same people who will rave about how every left-wing idea from liberal feminism to state socialism is absolutely terrible, evil, and tyrannical will, themselves, manage to reconstruct most of the same moral intuitions if left alone on their own blogs. I mean, sure, they'll call it "neoreaction", but it's not actually that fundamentally different from Stalinism. On the more moderate end of the scale, you should take account of the fact that anti-state right-wing ideologies in Anglo countries right now are unusually opposed to state and hierarchy across the space of all human societies ever, including present-day ones. POINT BEING, sometimes you should distrust your distrust of certain intuitions, and ask simply, "How far is this intuition from the mean human across history?" If it's close, actually, then you shouldn't treat it as, "Something [UNUSUAL] is wrong with my brain." The intuition is often still wrong, but it's wrong in the way most human intuitions are wrong rather than because you have some particular moral defect. See, the funny thing is, I can understand this sentiment, because my imagine-great-worlds function is messed-up in exactly the opposite way. When I try to imagine great worlds, I don't imagine worlds full of disciplined workers marching boldly forth under the command of strong, wise, meritorious leadership for the Greater Good -- that's my "boring parts of Shinji and Warhammer 40k" memories. Instead, my "sample great worlds" function outputs largely equal societies in which people relate to each-other as friends and comrades, the need to march boldly forth for anything when you don't really want to has been long-since abolished, and people spend their time coming up with new and original ways to have fun in the happy sunlight, while also re-terraforming the Earth, colonizing the rest of the Solar System, and figuring out ways to build interstellar travel (eve
0Jiro5yOn some level, you do need a motivation, so it would be foolish to say that anger is a bad reason to do things. I would certainly never tell you to do only things you are indifferent about. On another level, though, doing things out of strong anger causes you to ignore evidence, think short term, ignore collateral damage, etc. just as much as doing things because they make you happy does. You think that describing the society that will make you feel happy makes people run screaming? Describing the society that would alleviate your anger will make people run screaming too--in fact it already has made people run screaming in this very thread. Or at least, it has a bad track record in the real world. Look at the things that people have done because they are really angry about terrorism.
1RichardKennaway5yAnd for one level less meta, look at the terrorism that people have done because they are so angry about something.
0skeptical_lurker5yOf course, while most people would not want to live in BNW, most characters in BNW would not want to live in our society.
3ErikM5yI think there's an implicit premise or two that you may have mentally included but failed to express, running along the lines of: The all-controlling state is run by completely benevolent beings who are devoted to their duty and never make errors. Sans such a premise, one lazy bureaucrat cribbing his cubicle neighbor's allocations, or a sloppy one switching the numbers on two careers, can cause a hell of a lot of pain by assigning an inappropriate set of tasks for people to do. Zero say and the death penalty for disobedience then makes the pain practically irremediable. A lot of the reason for weak and ineffective government is trying to mitigate and limit government's ability to do terribly terribly wicked things, because governments are often highly skilled at doing terribly terribly wicked things, and in unique positions to do so, and can do so by minor accident. You seem to have ignored the possibility of anything going wrong when following your intuition. Moreover, there's a second possible implicit premise: These angels hold exactly and only the values shared by all mankind, and correct knowledge about everything. Imagine someone with different values or beliefs in charge of that all-controlling state with the death penalty. For instance, I have previously observed that Boko Haram has a sliver of a valid point in their criticism of Western education when noting that it appears to have been a major driver in causing Western fertility rates to drop below replacement and show no sign of recovery. Obviously you can't have a wonderful future full of happy people if humans have gone extinct, therefore the Boko Haram state bans Western education on pain of death. For those already poisoned by it, such as you, you will spend your next ten years remedially bearing and rearing children and you are henceforth forbidden access to any and all reading material beyond instructions on diaper packaging. Boko Haram is confident that this is the optimal career for you and t
5hairyfigment5yThere are reasons to suspect the tests would not work. "It would be nice to think that you can trust powerful people who are aware that power corrupts. But this turns out not to be the case." [http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003656.html] (Content Note: killing, mild racism.)
1ChristianKl5yI don't know you well enough to say, but it's quite easy to pretend that one has no ideology. For clear thinking it's very useful to understand one's own ideological positions. There also a difference between doing science and scientism with is about banner wearing.
1Acty5yOh, I definitely have some kind of inbuilt ideology - it's just that right now, I'm consciously trying to suppress/ignore it. It doesn't seem to converge with what most other humans want. I'd rather treat it as a bias, and try and compensate for it, in order to serve my higher level goals of satisfying people's preferences and increasing happiness and decreasing suffering and doing correct true science.
0[anonymous]5yAnd yet he's consistently one of the highest karma earners in the 30-day karma leaderboard. It seems to be mainly due to his heavy participation... his 80% upvote rate is not especially high. I find him incredibly frustrating to engage with (though I try not to let it show). I can't help but think that he is driving valuable people away; having difficult people dominate the conversation can't be a good thing. I've tried to talk to him about this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/m6b/thoughts_on_minimizing_designer_baby_drama/cdbf]. Hypothesized failure mode for online forums: Online communities are disproportionately populated by disagreeable people who are driven online because they have trouble making real-life friends. They tend to "win" long discussions because they have more hours to invest in them. Bystanders generally don't care much about long discussions because it's an obscure and wordy debate they aren't invested in, so for most extended discussions, there's no referee to call out bad conversational behavior. The end result: the bulldog strategy of being the most determined person in the conversation ends up "winning" more often than not. (To clarify, I'm not trying to speak out against the perspectives people like Lumifer and VoiceOfRa offer, which I am generally sympathetic to. I think their perspectives are valuable. I just wish they would make a stronger effort to engage in civil & charitable discussion, and I think having people who don't do this and participate heavily is likely to have pernicious effects on LW culture in the long term. In general, I agree with the view that Paul Graham has advanced re: Hacker News moderation: on a group rationality level, in an online forum context, civility & niceness end up being very important.)

I told him "they" assume no such thing - his own link is full of talk about how to deal with disagreements.