This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.

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I have never liked music. Why do people like it?

Upvoted for blowing my mind.

Every time I think I've finally taken the measure of the Typical Mind Fallacy... Anyone want to announce that they dislike oxygen and rainbows? Let's get it over with!

Actual answer: for many people, including me, it's an incredibly useful mind-altering drug, that allows powerful immediate manipulation of my emotional state. In fact, I should really abuse it a lot more strategically than I do.

There's little I enjoy more than getting rid of that damn oxygen in my lungs! (Rainbows are cool, though.)
Meh. I've never seen why they have this position of being axiomatically good. I mean they're nice, but are basically just some colours in the sky. One confounding factors may be that I'm slightly colourblind (r/g) so maybe I'm not getting the full effect.
So you're saying you can subjectively distinguish oxygen days from placebo days?

I've been looking into how to blind this, but I'm afraid the hood just makes the whole thing that much more sexy and erotic.

And thus the new fetish of double-blind bdsm was born...
For me: I find some forms quite hedonic, and also very powerful emotional manipulation. In fact, it's the only effective emotional self-manipulation I know of that doesn't require obtrusive or expensive setups (such as live plays) or distract me completely from my tasks. Can also be a kind of useful semi-distraction.
I like rainbows as a pattern to some extent, but the actual ones in the sky seem underwhelming to me. Too subdued, I'm used to my colours being more vivid. I am pro-oxygen, though.
What lavalamp is trying to say is that people listen to music because it makes them feel good, but it's hard (or impossible) to explain why it makes one feel good. It is a subconscious thing; it happens in your neurons and you aren't aware of the pathways and the sequence of neuronal firings that causes it to happen. Maybe someday we'll have a theory that makes it possible to take some information about you (anything from a 'psychological test' to a full-blown brain scan), a sample of music, and determine whether you will enjoy it or not.
I was more surprised by someone who said they found Stockhausen more accessible than Mozart than by James Miller saying he didn't like music.

Just a couple of thoughts about this. First, as far as anyone can tell music enjoyment is a remarkably multifaceted phenomenon (and "music" itself is a term that describes a pretty giant range of human behaviors). There's no single reason, or even manageably short list of reasons, why people like it. It seems to be wrapped up in many different physical, neurological, cognitive, emotional, social, and cultural systems, any of which (in any combinations) could be responsible for a certain person's reaction to a certain kind of music. Some of the aspects of that seem to be relatively innate, like finding certain sonic timbres inherently pleasurable, while others are highly learned, like the kind of pleasurable "understanding" that comes from knowing how a classical sonata movement is ordinarily structured.

In your case, I'd guess that you have an atypically low physiological/neurological enjoyment of things like instrumental timbres, which makes the more cognitively demanding aspects of music-listening no more than a chore. For comparison, this is why we don't generally listen to spoken words (e.g., audiobooks) as background listening: there's nothing to be gained f... (read more)

The same things happen to me in reverse: I find industrial music (pop or metal) quite pleasing, but the whole point of industrial is to add factory noise (for example those typical of a sawmill) to otherwise plain music, so I at least can understand why as a genre it doesn't have a wide community of supporters.
I don't think many people are born enjoying noise music - I imagine they mostly ease into via other genres.
Right. But, when exposed to it, some are drawn in and some run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. The point of the example was that there's a surprisingly large amount of individual variation on what kinds of fundamental sounds and timbres people find most pleasing, and (I cautiously suggest) that appears to be the most innate and least malleable or learnable aspect of a person's response to various kinds of music.

There is evidence that people with amusia tend to report lower levels of musical appreciation. Perhaps you have amusia?

There are a few online tests that claim to test for amusia, such as this or this. If its not too unpleasant for you, you might consider taking one of them.

Interesting! I took the first test and they always sounded alike so unless the test was a cruel trick I clearly have some kind of pitch perception problem.

I doubt anyone has sufficient introspective powers over their own brains to answer this satisfactorily.

Or: I expect answers more complicated than "because it sounds good (to me)" to be mostly confabulation...

OK, but then what is it about music that makes it difficult for people to say why they like it?

What things do you find pleasant? Could you tell me why food tastes good or paintings look pretty?

You can talk about certain repeated and near completed patterns but I think it's largely subconcious

I can explain why I like some things but not others. Why is music in the not others category for most people?

I can explain why I like some things but not others.

I don't believe you can. All you can do is point to surface features like 'I like how red the explosions in Star Wars are and the feeling you get when they win at the last moment', all of which is merely description of the parts you like and not what actually you like, and which do not serve to convey the qualia. If someone who just saw flickering lights on the screen asked you why you liked movies and that's what you said, they would not be satisfied any more than you would be satisfied by a music fan going 'the 4/8th time and the timpanni descending into a glissando in the third measure thrill my heart, and that is why I like music'.

If you really want to know what red looks like, you could try getting your hands on a psychedelic; they seems to be heavily linked to musical enjoyment.

Psychedelics are not interchangeable for this purpose, and if it weren't for the war on drugs they could probably be used for some interesting science on auditory processing. Information from TIHKAL on two otherwise not unusual psychedelics with specific auditory effects: N,N-diisopropyltryptamine specifically messes with pitch perception in such a way as to destroy the perception of harmony. From one of the experience reports: "No effects were noted with respect to clarity of speech, and both comprehension and interpretation were normal. Music was rendered completely disharmonious although single tones sounded normal." Meanwhile, 5-methoxy N,N-diisopropyltryptamine distorts "musical character and interpretation." From one of the experience reports: "The program was a program of Irish music... What I heard were three distant, fraudulent selections with generically meaningless words, mumbled so as to sound authentic. Everything was faked." Maybe if I could get my hands on one of these I could understand what it's like to be James Miller (in the musical respect only). Perhaps he's totally lacking the hard-to-explain satisfying feeling that comes when you hear notes played together whose frequencies are at a small-integer ratio.
Sure. If I had to be more specific than just 'psychedelics', I'd probably say either LSD (due to Deadheads) or mescaline (due to Huxley). And those two excerpts are fascinating. What does it mean for something to sound 'distant, fraudulent'? I can't even imagine. Maybe it's like a musical version of Capgras delusion.
Marijuana also has a reputation for making music more enjoyable.
Generally, sentences that start out "I (don't) like X because" and don't finish with a description of neuronal states are, with highish probability, confabulation. :)
What makes you think it isn't in that category for you?
For someone with my "brain type" music is obvious bad. It drains attention while giving nothing back.
OK, sure. IMO, this is confabulation. Maybe it's your true rejection, but I think it's much more probable (80%ish?) that your brain randomly came up with this story while trying to figure out why you dislike music. The part of your brain that generates reasons doesn't necessarily have access to the part of your brain that generates likes/dislikes.
The story my brain came up with along time ago when I was a teenager was that I was too intelligent to enjoy music or other people were just pretending to enjoy it. (I could have used LW back then.)
I think your new story is less harmful but probably equally true. :)
So, uh, how about when you are just listening to music? ('I hate novels, they totally drain my attention and all I get back is the experience of reading novels.')
I've tried just listening and I don't enjoy it.

Then 'drains attention' was not a relevant fact.

It was relevant but not necessary as to why I don't like music.
Are you sure you're not really "Marvin" the depressed Robot?
I'm not depressed. Some things in life give me tremendous pleasure. I enjoy TV, movies, book, and video games.
-5Ben Pace
I was wondering whether you have hearing issues* but that doesn't sound like it. Do you enjoy visual art? *I like music, but not nearly as much as most people. A recent online test suggests that I don't hear low pitches as well as most people. Of course, the problem there might be with my computer speakers rather than my ears, but it might be a clue.
My hearing has always tested as fine. I like some visual art, although I'm well below average in this. I do get pleasure in seeing beautiful things. I've never experienced music as beautiful and to my mind music being beautiful seems like a category error.
Do you enjoy movies? Does the background score seem distracting?
Yes and I do dislike background scores.
My guess is that you just don't make an emotional connection to music. It's possible that moving to music would eventually make a connection, but this is a very tentative guess. Can you tell people's emotional state from their voices?
I dislike the music as it comes out from my father's car stereo because he sets the equalizer to amplify the high pitches too much for my tastes. I used to wonder why he would do that, then I remembered that the ability to hear high pitches declines with age.
What is it that you expect to get back that you do not? Whatever it is probably reduces down to the relative positions of certain neurotransmitters, the isovariable interpersonal variance of which few others are likely to be able to explain.
...and we've now arrived at the hard problem of consciousness (why does anything feel good or bad, and what does that mean, and why is it hard to describe?). That didn't take long! :)

Here's a tautological answer: It's because music is designed to be exactly the kind of sound that people want to listen to!

Then why do I dislike the kind of sound that most people want to listen to?
Cognitive dissimilarity.

This seems like a fake explanation, or curiosity-stopper. I mean, natch, the difference has to be cognitive in some sense, in that it's a mental phenomenon and therefore relates to James_Miller's brain. But giving "cognitive dissimilarity" as an answer and treating it as an open-and-shut case seems pretty unenlightening.

This may be relevant; "Bad brains: some people are physically incapable of enjoying music; Research shows that people who say "I don't like music" aren't just trying to sound cool":
A lot of people talk about having emotional reactions to music as their primary reason for liking it. I don't generally have this reaction to music, so I might as well talk about what I do get out of it for a different perspective. 1. It can drown out other noises. It is more regular than the sound of ventilation or traffic or chirping birds or upstairs footsteps, and I prefer it; I turn my (almost constantly on) music up when there are non-conversation noises about. (Conversation, though, competes too directly with music; I can't understand people talking over significant other sound.) 2. It can control sensory overload. When I am spun up to unmanageable levels of sensory sensitivity, putting on familiar music with a solid, thumpy beat forces my thoughts to match it somewhat. When I am not spun up like that, it's still nice to have a modestly engaging track for my attention to fall into when I'm not doing enough to occupy myself - I don't function well when I'm not multitasking, my brain decides it's not wanted and turns off if I try. This probably doesn't apply to anyone else, at least anyone else who isn't autistic in a way similar to me. 3. But that's all about the use of music, not the enjoyability of music. There is also enjoyability. Some music is a good source of word-pleasure, either in the poetic sense or just in the sense of some words sounding cool and feeling cool to say. People seem to vary widely in how much they appreciate this as a thing. 4. Notes and timbres and rhythms vary a lot, and some of them sound pretty together. I think this for me is less like visual art being pretty - sequence is too important; if it's like visual art it's more like animation than like a painting - and more like an especially complex version of enjoying running my hands over soft things. Music is texture for my ears.
It is possible that you perceive it differently. Do you have abnormal sound perception, e.g. inability to distinguish pitches or timbres, or to hear rhythms? For example, if you hear a note, can you find it on a piano keyboard? Likewise a chord? Do you know what people mean when they talk about high pitches and low? If you hear a violin or a trumpet, can you tell which it is? Can you tap out a rhythm after hearing it? Can you appreciate poetry written with regular scansion and rhyme?
I can't read music, but I've never really tried to learn. I can distinguish between a violin or a trumpet,or high or low pitches. No on the poetry.
This sounds significant. What about the rhythm part?
I can tell if something rhymes.
I meant the, "Can you tap out a rhythm after hearing it?" part.
Can you recognize tunes?
Yes but I'm well below average at this.
The tests aren't about reading music. You hear a note or a chord; can you find it on a keyboard?
1Ben Pace
(He doesn't mean first time, simply if you can recognise when you've found it)
Wow, I thought I was the only one.
Not only do I like music but I wouldn't even know where to start explaining why I do; I didn't like music until in my teens and I don't even know what changed in me!
This is an excellent question. grouchymusicologist above has it right that "music enjoyment is a remarkably multifaceted phenomenon", and I would like to expand on this. Michael J. Parsons, in How we understand art: a cognitive developmental account of aesthetic experience, identifies a sequence of developmental stages in the appreciation of visual art. This is of necessity a very rough and un-nuanced summary since I don't have the book to hand, but I think this sequence is: first, colour ("this painting is red"); second, subject matter ("this painting is of a dog"); third, emotional content ("this painting makes me feel wistful"); fourth, technique ("this painting is pointillist"); and fifth, historical relationships ("this painting is a witty riposte to a work of Velasquez"). I can't point you at a corresponding developmental study of music, but I'm sure that similar stages of appreciation are there. To give a flavour of the different kinds of thing going on in the appreciation of music, let's take an example: here's Ian Bostridge singing Schubert's setting of "Der Erlkönig" by Goethe. When listening to this, I appreciate: (i) the timbre of the piano and voice; (ii) the driving and urgent rhythm; (iii) the words and the story; (iv) the way the harmony creates and releases the dramatic tension at appropriate points in the text; (v) the skill of the performers: stamina is needed by the pianist to keep the triplets going, and vocal control by the singer to maintain timbre of the high notes; (vi) the "tone-painting": that is, the ways in which the musical notes illustrate aspects of the story, for example the repeated notes representing the horse's hooves; the way that the "child's" entries are a semitone above the piano, this discord illustrating his distress; the way that each entry is higher and more distressed than the previous one; (vii) the vocal acting of Ian Bostridge: his use of different vocal timbres to differentiate the four parts, and details of expres
You don't enjoy any kind of music? Gregorian chant, polyphonic medieval, celtic, African percussions, Caribbean, classical, baroque, house, electronic, alt-rock, progressive, industrial, rap, metal in all its infinite variations, pop music, tuvan chant, trance, etc. None of them evokes pleasurable feelings? Boy, you are an outlier :) That's perfectly fine, of course. I can only answer that for me, I enjoy different kind of music for different reasons. Listening to classical music evokes sensations akin to reading a novel: it evokes powerful emotions and tells an elaborate story. Listening to pop music is much more like eating junk food: a fast, powerful kick of positive emotions, that anyway lasts very little and leaves nothing behind. I also listen to salsa music, over which I try to dance: the rythm combined with the movements makes me feel sexy and passionate. House music is pleasurable in a kind of guilty way: it's a complete immersion in group-think, a primordial forgetting of individuality. In all those cases anyway the underlying theme is the evocation of powerful positive or negative emotion (which can be meta-positive).
I imagine you’ve read about synesthesia. Someone with synesthesia might find a particular color has texture or taste—some atypical crisscrossing between the senses. I find music (especially considering those who can’t understand music) can be well modeled as a near-universal form of synesthesia, a linking between the emotional parts of the brain and those that process auditory information. Now this analogy is not perfect, as synesthetes almost never achieve consensus; the taste and/or texture of any particular color varies wildly between synesthets. This isn’t true about music, as it doesn’t vary that much in structure; and there seems to be some consensuses on the “sadness” or “energy” of particular songs. But still, this might be a good, non-confusing way for you to think about music. When someone describes the beauty of a song, treat their statement as you would a synesthete saying, “Wow, that sunset tastes like a cheese burger.”
I’m in the same boat. I don’t have anything against music, but never derived pleasure from it like other people seemed to. I’ve enjoyed particular songs, e.g. stuff from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because I can enjoy cleverness and humor and a lot of songs have content that is clever or funny. But the music itself is background at best. What I feel when listening to Bach isn't what someone else feels about a song they dislike; more like what you feel about an overheard conversation with nothing to do with you. Or a speech on an issue you don't care about. I have tried to change this, because of utilitarianism, but it turns out it's hard.
In my very limited understanding of classical music, I get that Bach's music is quite difficult to follow and very rational, not very emotional. Have you tried Haydn or Mozart? You might get a better mileage...
How often are you even exposed to music? Eg, do you consume TV/movies/games, etc?
I have been exposed to a huge amount of music over my life. I greatly enjoy TV/movies/games. Some video games are superstimula for me.
Do you feel the same way about music in movies, games, etc? Like, do you think you'd enjoy them just as much (perhaps more?) without the background music? This seems somewhat testable, given that many video games allow you to play without music.
I always turn the music, but not sound, off in video games.
Well, if you didn't enjoy any music from the soundtracks of those things, then I don't have any further suggestions.
I've thought about this before. Here's my go: In regards to sound: If you take a tuning fork and smack it, it will vibrate. Vibration can be pleasurable. If the tuning fork is a brain, and the smack is music, then the result is a contented or slightly altered-from-the-norm feeling, that might be akin to the vibration of a tuning fork if tuning forks like vibrating. In regards to lyrics: Singing along to things or singing by oneself can bring joy to one. This could have to do with the feeling of one's voice reverberating through their body, psychological factors I won't pretend to know, a combination of factors, or of course something I haven't considered. Let me know if that helps, doesn't help, or causes confusion.
This makes it seem like wireheading.
By the same logic eating you favorite food because it tastes good is also wireheading.
Well no because you have to eat SOMETHING. You could just not listen to music.
Now that I think on it, maybe it is for some people. If you consider the lyric "lose yourself to the music, the moment..." the instruction to 'lose oneself' implies the experience must be voluntary; much like hypnosis, if you don't wish to succumb to the hypnotic flow of the hypnotist's drone, you won't. Then again, music also passively affects brain waves. I can't find a review article after searching for five minutes. The neuronal firing patterns - the frequency of firing, or brain waves - induced by heavy metal differ from jazz, which yet differs from classical, which further depends upon the composer and the piece. Compare: this solo to this solo, and these ー pieces ー here。
Music increases my motivation by making me feel like I am the main character in a story (since I have a "soundtrack") and prevents me from being distracted by people talking nearby (which makes it extremely difficult for me to study) because I can no longer hear them them with sound coming through the headphones. Also, some music can make me feel more relaxed than I otherwise would (possibly due to sounds that mimic peaceful ancestral environments, such as gently moving water, etc...).
1) Music seems to have the closest link to my emotional state of anything short of romantic relationships. It's rather trivial to hack my emotional state into mellowness with a song like, or into an aggressive upbeat state with something like, or appreciation of civilization with No other form of art can do anything near as much for me - most of them I appreciate on an intellectual level, but music is heavily emotional as well. 2) I've always listened to a lot of it, which means that there's a whole mess of assorted nostalgia attached to it. 3) Similarly, silence sounds unusual to me. I don't mind a bit of it, but too much(at least, in a context where music is possible) creates a distinct sense that something is missing unless I'm engrossed in something else. 4) I find that a minor distraction actually improves my focus sometimes - giving my brain a B-plot, so to speak, short-circuits a lot of wandering thoughts. Music, especially music I'm familiar with, gives my brain something to latch onto when it's idling that can easily be pushed back into the background.
It can cause or intensify a large range of emotions or moods. Do you not have an emotional reaction to any music?
It usually annoys me. It steals attention, like a beggar demanding money.
I sometimes listen to music whilst doing chores for precisely this reason. Without it I get distracted and begin to procrastinate. I think the music uses up spare brainpower or something. EDIT: When I'm doing serious work I prefer to listen to music I know very well. It's less distracting because I know what's coming.
Interestingly enough (I think), in the XVIIIth century a sub-genre of classical music was born for this purpose: chamber music.
Likewise wrt work. I also prefer music without comprehensible lyrics for this purpose.
I used to not listen to music for similar reasons, yet I played piano regularly. I also was confused by it, especially the lyrics---I couldn't understand what people were saying. Eventually, peer pressure got me and I started listening to music, usually one cd over and over. Eventually I came to like it and became more comfortable with it as background, in a very similar way to wearing a watch or clothes different from my usual is extraordinarily uncomfortable, but after a week it becomes the new normal.
Do you think you could deliberately focus your attention on it? That could potentially increase your enjoyment.
I have tried, in the required school music classes, for example. I don't understand what benefit people see in it, so I don't know what to look for.

For me, it's not something I have to look for at all. It just, happens...

Being introspective (which is notoriously unreliable), it feels like my enjoyment of it is basically a combination of enjoying repetition/structure plus valuing novelty (so the repetitions change enough to avoid being boring), in the auditory modality. I enjoy the same sort of thing in other modalities as well:

  • Sight: looking at highly patterned art, for example, this visualization of the Mandelbrot set.

  • Kinesthetic: things like dancing, tapping patterns on my leg, sex.

  • Taste: I like alternating bites of my food to make the flavors form a pattern. For example, when I eat rice, I will often split it into two portions, and put soy sauce on one, and lemon juice on the other, and alternate the bites so I get a pattern of flavors. And sometimes I switch it up to a few bites of each alternating, etc...

  • Abstract thought: enjoyment from thinking about math seems to be a similar thing as well. In particular, abstract algebra. Going through the proof of the Sylow theorems, for example, gives me enjoyment analogous to listening to a grand symphony.

I can't think of anything like this for smell, but I have a ve... (read more)

Do you enjoy other types of art? If you do, and can describe what you like about that, perhaps we can suggest particular music that might appeal to you. If music doesn't resonate emotionally with you, there is also intricately patterned music that appeals to me in a more mathematical way. Bach's fugues, particularly his "little fugue" in G minor, are a good place to start. Following along with the sheet music may help with appreciating the clever ways in which the different voices relate to each other. As for appreciating music emotionally, I find that it is necessary to relax into a certain mildly altered state of consciousness similar to meditation; I've become better at this over time, though I can't always do it when under stress. I've also heard numerous reports that marijuana aids in the appreciation of music (in a lasting, not a temporary, way---you notice new things in music that you can then continue to appreciate while sober), and will have to try it sometime.
I like to draw a (rather pretentious) delineation between music and songs, the archetypal examples being, say Beethoven's fifth symphony and "Call Me Maybe". (As a side note, I very much consider it possible for something to both be a "song" and "music") I enjoy music because I played a few instruments and sang when I was younger, so I know enough musical theory to appreciate the artistry it took to come up with the structure in the music, and (when appropriate) lyrics. Contrarily, I enjoy songs (although happen to hate "Call Me Maybe") because they're fun and upbeat and keep me in a positive mood. You can find a song to fit most moods, and fitting them very closely is a very satisfying feeling. Once last week, I was in a very relaxed mood on my way home and set Sultans of Swing on repeat, because it fit how I was feeling very exactly. It was probably the happiest I have been in the last week. Additionally, sometimes songs have the ability to change my mood and/or motivate me to work harder, and I often exploit them for this purpose.
As well as what others have said about the aesthetic experience, I find it useful for taking up 'processing power' in my brain, making it easier to focus on something. For example if I'm doing fairly dull work having free 'processor cycles' in my brain will cause me to get distracted and divert myself away from what I need to be doing, but music in the background can take up some of that so I dont get s distracted.
I think that you must differ from the average person in some way that makes it not enjoyable for you. Perhaps you are more sensitive to certain sounds and find them unpleasant. Perhaps you weren't exposed to music at a very young age. Your brain might be "wired" differently than average.
My current unsubstantiated evpsych theory is that music is a collective mood-control language. A communication channel for getting everyones' attitudes in synch, songs to be used by the confident members with clear vision, to be shouted down if misplaced, or amplified and repeated if resonant. Does that sound plausible, considering your situation? Is it possible you've developed under conditions that would naturally cause you to be especially unreactive to a thing like that? I could understand the pursuit of sanity would correlate with a disconnection from the mass's attitude control systems. Sometimes I find even as I laugh I wish the funny-man would shut up, as I dance I wish the music had not spoken to me, as I help I wish I had not been able to empathise in the first place. I wish I could just think my own thoughts.
My situation doesn't make your theory more or less plausible in part since I'm such an outlier on this . There is nothing in my development that would cause me to not like music.
Try Keeping Together in Time by McNeill. It doesn't directly address why someone would like music in isolation, but I think it is the right answer.
People are weird. I don't like music either. I mean, what's the point? For that matter, why do people like sex? Why do they LIKE to eat food, or get hungry for that matter, all things I have never experienced myself? More things that make absolutely no sense to me. I mean, obviously those serve a biological purpose, but I mean something deeper than a utilitarian reason. ALTHOUGH I do associate certain songs with things I like in a pavlovian sort of way, and so there actually is some music I like in a sense, but not for its own accord. For instance, certain video game music, just because I liked the video games that I was playing while I was hearing the music. But I would never, ever, ever derive any enjoyment from just listening to the music, I'd have to be playing the game. Though I may hum those songs while I'm running if it's a game with lots of running, like canabalt or doom. I don't know how many hundreds of miles I have run endlessly humming the canabalt song. Unfortunately humming it doesn't seem to give me the power to run 100+ mph :(.
No, you're weird. :)
This sounds less like normal variation and more like a medical problem. Are there things you do enjoy?
zortharg says right there in the post that ve likes video games.

Why are so many rationalists polyamorous? I don't see why this idea is linked to the LW ideology, unlike transhumanism, atheism, effective altruism, etc. which all seem to follow logically.

why this idea is linked to the LW ideology

Question presupposes that it is linked to the LW ideology (wow, let's not use that phrase ever again), which isn't clear to me.


I don't think they are, except in a waffly 'compared to the general population' sense; look at the surveys.

Some fraction of the population is naturally poly, some naturally mono, some can go either way depending on circumstances. In the general population many naturally poly people are 'conformed' into being mono the same way they might be conformed into being religious. Thus 'people who want to be poly can be' would reasonably be expected to correlate with elements of the Correct Contrarian Cluster, and you would expect to find more polyamorous atheists or (he predicted more boldly) polyamorous endorsers of no-collapse quantum mechanics than in the general population, even outside LW. There are also specifically cognitive-rationality skills like 'resist Asch's conformity' and 'be Munchkin', and community effects like 'Be around people who will listen with interest to long chains of reasoning instead of immediately shunning you.'

When you say 'naturally', are you referring to genetics, prenatal environment, or something else?

How should I know?


You could've read some papers on the topic for example. (I'm answering this because it is after all in the stupid questions thread)

3Eliezer Yudkowsky
Fair enough.
I apologize if I misinterpreted your statement: I was curious what was meant by this.
It's likely that Eliezer isn't tending towards either side of the nature vs. nurture debate, and as such isn't claiming that nature or nurture is doing the work in generating preferences.
One wonders if in the populations of rationalists (CFAR in particular) that there are naturally mono people who are 'conformed' into being poly?
2Eliezer Yudkowsky
I would expect the answer to be "Yes, but with open discussion rather than social pressure, when one partner would prefer a monogamous relationship with someone who self-identifies as poly." See
What's the source of this claim? I hadn't heard that until today.

I would say that's a typical case of an antiprediction. Humans differ in all sorts of things (IQ, height, sexual orientation), so why shouldn't they differ in relationship-preferences?

seems to mean something other than
I took the 'naturally' to just mean that there was some sort of subconscious inclination.
I have seen several cases of relationships in which the other person seems to be strongly mono by nature, and the other strongly poly by nature. They generally don't go very well, though they sometimes do: this seems to require the mono partner being of the type who can be okay with their partner dating others. Otherwise one of them is going to end up deeply unhappy, even if the relationship lasts.
And someone people aren't either one. Polyamory isn't the only kind of non-monogamy, and of course there are those who don't do sexual and/or romantic relationships at all.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky
Personal observation. Since the topic is deeply important to the mental health and happiness of a large fraction of the entire human population but sounds slightly silly, I would not particularly expect any significant experiments to have been done by academic science. Surveys of percentage actually practicing polyamory, yes, attempts to directly determine a wish / tendency / suitability in a general population, no. This is falsifiable if Carl or Jonah want to check cynicism, though I wouldn't be too surprised (the Kinsey Institute exists).
When you're going off of personal observation, how do you distinguish whether preference for number of partners is a (relatively) hard-coded variable in the brain like sexuality, or if it's something highly malleable like e.g. preference to live in a rural or suburban area? Obviously empirically there are people who prefer to be polyamorous, people who prefer to be monogamous, and people who could go either way, but it doesn't necessarily seem obvious to me that there are a whole bunch of people who inherently long to be polyamorous that are being stifled by our monogamous society. (Not sure if that's what you're claiming.)

it doesn't necessarily seem obvious to me that there are a whole bunch of people who inherently long to be polyamorous that are being stifled by our monogamous society.

I have seen people end up in monogamous relationships, later on realize that loving one person doesn't prevent them from falling in love with other people as well, and then be unable to even really talk about the issue with their partner, since Western culture tends to interpret falling in love with somebody else as an automatic sign of the relationship having fundamentally failed.

.. I would also expect this to be a low-research area, but not due to sounding silly, but rather due to high-noise datasets. People lie about their sexual desires a lot. This particular desire is even more likely to be denied or concealed from researchers than most, so I would expect most people setting out to look into this to get to the "Design data-collection protocol" stage, acquire a monumental headache, and then go research which kind of diet is easiest to stick with instead.

I think it's the influence of San Francisco

More seriously: I think it follows perfectly well from rationality which is at it's core about doing non obvious things that result in better outcomes once you do the math. Obviously it comes down to preferences but many people seem to prefer multiple partners and only refrain because society condemns it. Polyamkry is more honest than cheating and more preference satisfying than monogamy for those with poly amorous inclinations.

Plus there's all the conveniences.

I think it's the influence of San Francisco

Historical note: Started in OBNYC and spread to the Bay.

Nitpicky tangent:

rationality which is at it's core about doing non obvious things that result in better outcomes once you do the math

Don't neglect the obvious things that result in better outcomes.

You're either already doing those or they're not actually obvious.
Objection! They might be obvious, and you're failing to do them out of akrasia or similar. Not that that's ever happened to me.

More specific benefits: you can get sex more often with less scheduling disruptions

You can have mutually fulfilling partial relationships that would not be sustainable if they had to be monogamous. Eg: someone can get most of their affection from you but indulge their foot fetish with someone else. Or if you simply have a different sex drive than your partner.

More widespread emotional support network. If you're prone to loneliness, having more people you can connect with will help you not lean all your metaphorical weight on one person

Less inhibition: depending on the rules of your polyamory you no longer have to kill your own urges when seeing someone attractive to you. This may be a downside if you want to get work done.

If one or more of you is bi you get to talk about people you find hot and seducing them to your bed. This is lots of fun.

Less stress: the converse of 3, you don't have to b the entire emotional support for another person.

If a polyamorous group is sharing a household, there are more skills and there's more likely to be someone who doesn't hate a particular chore.
And the somewhat different claim: sharing a household with people is good for that and other reasons and polyamory can make that go more smoothly

I think this is mostly a community thing: it just so happened that some key figures in the two largest rationalist communities (SF and NY) were polyamorous, so it became popular relative to the general population, and probably also popular relative to the coasts' populations.

I think that the effect is stronger than just that. Of the poly people associated with LW that I know, at least a quarter knew they were poly before they got into LW. Sure, it's a small sample size, but I would be surprised if polyamorous people were less likely to be interested in rationality.

Datapoint: I was poly before joining LW. This might be an interesting question to ask Yvain to put on the next mega survey.
I was also.
My guess is that it's a combination of it existing among original LWers in the first place and LW culture being much more favorable to it than main stream.
Not being poly and only a bit rational (so far), I'll only propose * Is polyamory actually higher amongst LW people than the general population? Do you just have more exposure to polyamorous LW people than a wider polyamorous population? * Do polyamorous LW people talk about their polyamory more than polyamorous non-LW people?

Is polyamory actually higher amongst LW people than the general population?

This made me realize I didn't even know whether there were reliable estimates of polyamory prevalence in the general population. A cursory Google Scholar search didn't net me anything, but the Wikipedia article has a data point:

Research into polyamory has been limited. A comprehensive government study of sexual attitudes, behaviors and relationships in Finland in 1992 (age 18-75, around 50% both genders) found that around 200 out of 2250 (8.9%) respondents "agreed or strongly agreed" with the statement "I could maintain several sexual relationships at the same time" and 8.2% indicated a relationship type "that best suits" at the present stage of life would involve multiple partners.

Meanwhile, 13% of LWers in the 2012 survey said they preferred polyamorous relationships, although only 6% reported having multiple current partners. While 13% is appreciably higher than the Finnish survey's 8%-9%, the discrepancy could just be because the Finnish survey's from a different time & place and has a more even gender ratio.

2gwern may help.
Danke. I'm a bit relieved to see you didn't find much either in terms of representative samples of the general population; I can feel a bit better about being lazy. (I did get a kick out of the popularity of open marriages among the kind of people who answer surveys on Oprah's website.)
Survey says that 13% are poly and 30% are uncertain or lack a preference. That's higher than the general public. it might not be much higher once you control for age, gender, location, socioeconomic status, etc. In particular, I have no idea what fraction of the non-LW-reading but otherwise similar public would say "uncertain/no preference."
i suspect that religious prohibitions significantly reduce the amount of westerners who are poly, so it kinda follows from the atheism part.
I don't actually agree with that too much. It's more a rationalism thing than an atheism or irreligious thing.
In addition to some of the things other people have suggested, it is my possibly incorrect observation that there is at least a weak inverse correlation between desire for personal immortality and desire to have children. If one has already ruled out having children, a lot of the complications that arise from polyamory disappear.
Which complications? I thought poly and kids mix just fine. Ideally, you get help with raising the kids, the kids get more positive adult influences in their life.
Whose genes and womb do you use? Who decides which schools, where the kid lives, and so on? Not to mention only two people will be legal parents.
I look forward to confronting that question, actually. I'm reluctant to assume my genes are the ones that deserve greater representation in humanity's future. No matter who I end up with, if we exercise our wonderful poly selflessness and work together to decide who can provide the best legacy, we can at least say that the results will be better than if we'd each just individually had the standard 2.2 kids as per the status quo.
Perhaps rationalist in a modern society, values things like careers and quality of life more importantly than sharing resources and a stable relationship to raise a family and feel monogamy is not as optimal. Besides, isn't a large part of the culture of monogamy rooted in religion? Most religious people are monogamous because that is what their religion tells them to do.
Adding to the laundry list of explanations and trivializations, gender skew!
Oh, wow, I liked this. Devastatingly cynical.
My guess: founder effects and the sheer dumb luck of what people got sucked into it and what attitudes they brought with them.
I think you're extrapolating from too little data. It would be nice to see some stats on this (not sure how you would go about collecting such stats...)
This may be of interest.

Over two years ago, lukeprog made this post. After that time, has MIRI gotten any closer to publishing in mainstream journals?

See here.

MIRI's journal publications:

Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom (2012). How Hard Is Artificial Intelligence? Evolutionary Arguments and Selection Effects. Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (7–8): 103–130.

Kaj Sotala (2012). Advantages of Artificial Intelligences, Uploads, and Digital Minds. International Journal of Machine Consciousness 4 (1): 275-291.

Kaj Sotala and Harri Valpola (2012). Coalescing Minds: Brain Uploading-Related Group Mind Scenarios. International Journal of Machine Consciousness 4 (1): 293–312.

(Bostrom and Shulman both work for FHI, and Bostrom doesn't work for MIRI. I'm not sure how mainstream the International Journal of Machine Consciousness is. ETA: It was one of the original journals Luke mentioned as targets, so I assume it qualifies.)

MIRI also has a larger number of CS conference papers, which this claims are higher status in CS than journal publications; Luke was presumably biased towards journals because he had less of a background in CS.

That was a pleasant surprise. Thank you very much!
"Weird obscure niche" is my impression, though I could be wrong about that.
Also see this post, posted a month later and stating that he'd "recently updated hugely toward SIAI not publishing in mainstream journals."

I'm not sure if this question is stupid enough, but here goes:

There is a set of skills, mostly in the arts, that are typically taken up as a child and pursued throughout life -- Musical instruments, for example, or art of varying kinds. Hence most beginners are children.

There is a set of people consisting of me that wants to take up skills of this sort (...all of them), but cannot stand being around children. Where can relatively inexpensive beginner-level training in arts-type skills be found that doesn't involve lots of interaction with kids and is available to non-college students?

This question bothers me so much that once I get to be a good enough programmer I actually want to build a website that will connect adult beginners with each other so that maximum learning can happen with minimal embarrassment and no interaction with children. A system where you can trade tutoring ("I'll teach you the violin if you'll teach me painting") or simply pay for classes, with some way to rate and view the quality of each person's teaching would be useful. As long as there is no larger system like that, I'd suggest that your best bet is to find a friend or acquaintance who is good at whatever you want to learn and offer them something they want but wouldn't ask for, whether it's money or a favor. That way, you get to learn things at a personalized pace while building a friendship.
Something like this?
Wow, thank you. I'll check it out.
There are forums like this where you can connect with other adult beginners (or learners at most levels, really) and even upload your recordings and ask for feedback. There are also discussions around what pieces to learn next, how to set up a daily practise regimen etc. Does not replace a tutor, but is very useful nevertheless.
Aren't music instruments usually taught in 1-on-1 sessions with a teacher anyway? Then you don't need to interact with the teacher's other students.
Check out your local craft stores: often there will be flyers advertising classes, meetups, and so on. For non-messy crafts like knitting, it's common to have weekly meetups in a bookstore or such, in which people of different skill levels will work on their own projects and help each other out or answer questions.
Or, books! For example, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
Craigslist should be able to connect you with people willing to offer instruction. Of course quality will be all over the map. Community colleges also offer open classes for some things, which might also have info on where to pursue further instruction once the class is over.
In the U.S., adult education programs often offer art and music classes.
If you are okay with paying, you can always find one-on-one tutors. It'll be the most efficient way to learn (assuming good teachers).
I found a website that might be useful: connects tutors to teachers with live online lessons in areas like music and cooking.

What do other people subjectively experience when they are thinking? To me its like talking to myself (in verbal english sentences) but I'm told that isn't universal.

A combination of that and brief flashes of visual imagery.

I'm definitely an internal-monologue thinker. I've tried breaking myself from it and going into pure thought(which feels like it ought to be an option, because I know how the sentence I'm thinking will end when I'm halfway through, and I've successfully tested breaking monologue and still proceeding with the mental understanding of what I was going to think), but I spend more time thinking "No! Stop monologuing!" than I save by not monologuing.
The most common for me are verbal (if I think while taking a walk, I basically talk to myself), spatial/kinesthetic (which key on my ring goes to this door again?), and visual/symbolic (integrate Sin(Ln(x))/x dx). But there's plenty more stuff I'd call thinking. Verbal and symbolic thinking are often just expressions of conceptual problem-solving, where my brain can actually fit concepts together rather than just talking. Like in the integral above - I pattern-match it to the general concept "change of variables," without using words or symbols, and then after a second or so of brewing I can examine the idea in terms of symbols and words.
Most idle thought comes across as a mental conversation. Math (Calculus, Numeric Methods, structural design stuff, not actually numbers) is visualized as shapes, patterns, trends. And decision making is more felt than anything else, where the attractiveness, consequences, and uncertainty of opposing ideas are weighted side my side.
I experience a thought all at once, usually without words or images. I sometimes reflexively start verbalizing thoughts internally at a spoken-conversation rate. I tend not to think of this inner monologue as the content of my thought but some incidental surface activity. It trails off after a couple words, since I already knew the entire verbalization before I even started inner-monologuing it. Visualization and imagined conversations both feel very different from this and from each other. Folks who are more verbal: do you talk to yourself in real time? How does reading feel in comparison? When you recall a conversation, do you re-verbalize the content? Can you speak without knowing what you're about to say beforehand? (I'm pretty sure I can't.)
Slightly faster. (Also, my inner monologue is usually in standard, formal language, whereas when I actually talk to people I tend to use many more regional colloquialisms.) Usually faster, because I'm processing existing content rather than generating it from scratch. But when I'm reading stuff by people whose voice I'm familiar with, or poetry, I tend to subvocalize much more vividly, and pretty much in real time. Sometimes I do; other times, I can't even remember what language it was in. I usually do in small talk, but not in technical conversations. (And in the former, I sometimes stop myself mid-sentence because I don't like what I've said or I come up with something better to say, and immediately start an entirely new sentence.)
I can, though when I do, it's often consists of regurgitating bits and peices from long mental monlogues that I had in the past, with a bit of new content thrown in to make things flow better (specifically, the one where I articulated my experience with pre-thinking what I'm going to say years in advance occured nearly four years ago, in my senior year of high school, while sitting in a Spanish Class).
One way to get there is to just spend an hour to say every thought that pop into your mind. After some time you stop filtering and the thoughts that flow out. If you don't want to talk, writing is also good.
Often times it doesn't feel like anything. I just tell my mind to think about something, pause and wait while it's thinking, and then ask for the best answer.
Mostly like that, with things mentioned in the other replies occasionally interspersed, their admixture varying depending on what kind of topic I'm thinking of, and my mental state (whether I'm fatigued, whether I've been reading a lot in the past couple days, whether I've been drinking, etc.)
I also think primarily verbally, but I have a friend who thinks (in their own words) "in raw abstract thoughts interspersed with occasional dialogue and imagery."
I wonder what a raw abstract thought is made of.
Mine is more like a congress, where I have multiple "me's" having a conversation on a topic offering ideas and alternative hypotheses.
I call it thought qualia, because it is something I clearly experience but it is a sensory qualia. (Interestingly, this is the first time I'm using the term in public). It can have sensory conotations, though, and I sometimes have thoughts which are clearly verbal or visual.
When I'm not in the mood to talk to people- not out of anger, I'm just not feeling a desire to share my thoughts- I think in pictures and feelings with a reticent, sarcastic monologue. When I'm alone but feeling social, my monologue is wordy and sometimes witty. When I'm in a conversation, I often have to stop talking for a moment to think through what I'm going to say before I can say it. Bottom line, I almost always have some kind of monologue; sometimes it's talkative, sometimes nearly silent.
I construct (vague) imagery of dynamic simulation/tangible flavor (similar to remembered perception of simplified/idealized physical systems and of interaction with them, sometimes without relevant spatial component, as a collection of a few related objects). This gives more explicitly accessible mental models of ideas (such as examples of standard mathematical structures, situations arising in specific problems, designs of pieces of software, etc.) that can be inspected/developed/debugged in a directed fashion (constructing a novel model together with actions that allow manipulating it can take hours, mostly because enough details/skills have to be committed to long term memory for the whole thing to work, attention is too small; more familiar things can be reconstructed in the focus of attention in about a minute or so). Sometimes repeating a word or two a few times in a loop helps to force focus on a topic/construction. I never use internal monologue (it doesn't seem to do anything helpful), but writing down half-formed thoughts can help with organizing them (I guess mostly by lifting short term memory limitations).
I feel a narrative that goes along with my thinking but does not seem to me to be the thinking itself. I do a lot of my work visually, when I am on a roll I will generate 100s of matlab plots a day as part of my sorting through stuff. Certainly as I look at the plots I narrate what I think I'm seeing, but it seems that what I think I'm seeing comes before my pushing that into narration comes. So I think I actually do some of my thinking visually, but it is hard to put how that feels in to words. Maybe as a movie script? It makes sense that your thinking could be both wordy and picturey, and even audio (non-words). And even body feel. From my reading (suggest Jeff Hawkins book on the brain) thinking activity shows up as activity in verbal and visual areas of the brain.
Some mixture of verbal thinking, and what I can only really describe as 'thinking in rules'.

Why do people downvote questions in the thread entitled "stupid questions"? The entire point seems to be "If asking this question would ordinarily result in a status loss, you can safely post it here." Yet I've come across a few questions in this and the previous thread with negative karma at the time that I read them. The message I take away from that is that "Of the people reading this question, the majority believe it so stupid that it doesn't belong in a thread explicitly for stupid questions." Is this the wrong message to take away from such patterns?

I think it would make sense to disable up/downvoting for top-level comments in 'stupid question' threads, actually. This would have the added benefit of attracting conversation from lurkers and 'outsiders', without the danger of having the whole forum go to hell. A little outside opinion would always be welcome.
Apparently we need a thread for questions too stupid to make it into the stupid questions thread :-/ This recurses well :-D
I haven't downvoted (or read yet) the questions here but do you not think that there are questions too stupid to ask?
In principle, there are possible questions which can be fully satisfactorily be answered with JFGI, but I can't remember any of those in the LW stupid question threads.
-4Ben Pace
(Reply no longer required. Thankyou Benito.)
3Ben Pace
Totally out of order. Sorry.

How do I learn to accurately model other people?

Spend more time around them. Form hypotheses about what they're going to do and test them.

Take a sculpting class with live nude models.
If you mean explicitly/mathematically, you can't learn that, you have to discover that (and likely get a Nobel shortly thereafter). If you mean intuitively/qualitatively, well, I bet B&N has a shelf of books about that, though they're probably called How To Understand (or Manage) People. It might also be that you actually mean "How can I forecast how will that girl react to X?". That's a different question altogether :-D
Humans are generally pretty well-equipped to model other people, and you can practice using that equipment. Imagine as vividly as possible what it would be like to be the other person. Be aware of your own past feelings and other mental processes, in such a way that you can access those memories when you notice that the other person might be experiencing something which is (on some axis) familiar to you. Keeping a journal can help with that. It's also useful take some time to think of your own ways to practice this, where 'practice' includes getting and incorporating feedback. As Qiaochu points out you can be empirical. I would add that 'testing hypotheses' includes asking people about their internal state. If you know anyone who seems to 'get people' especially well, ask them how they do their thing. Look for existing resources on building empathy skills.
Being good at doing X doesn't entail being good at explaining how to do X. (See also: Moravec's paradox)

Along the lines of James_Miller's question: Why do people like poetry?

How do I get myself to like poetry? (Reading poetry seems like a cheap and respectable way to spend leisure time, if only it were pleasurable for me!)

People appreciate words differently. Sometimes I'll hear a turn of phrase, just something someone says outside of any kind of artistic context, and it'll just feel really pleasant. Maybe it's the rhythm of the phrase, or the image it conjures up, or maybe it'll have some sort of immediate underlying theme. Some things just sound poetic, by various criteria my brain doesn't necessarily reveal to me, and if they sound poetic enough, they can be really, achingly beautiful. Formal verse can often have a different appeal. It takes cleverness to express something in a constrained form, but from my experience in writing poetry, often that constraint helps promote good ideas to your attention when you're writing it. Seeing something difficult done well is satisfying. A combination of the two can be extremely pleasurable to read or write.
You might try attending a poetry reading or two, Hearing them read and discussed might help.
I think it's sometimes related to liking wordplay. If you want to try to like it, I'd suggest reading a wide variety of poems to see if anything sticks. I'm not sure where one goes to find varied, good poetry, though.
Personally, I find it difficult to enjoy "typical" lyrical poetry, but I appreciate epic poetry a great deal more. Epic poetry not only aims to capture the drama of an event, but also to encapsulate an entire culture of a people. The Iliad and the Odyssey were the first two i have read, and they are not only about the Trojan War and the return home of one of its heroes, but it touches on every aspect of Greek society. War, love, food, honor, virtue, cowardice, honoring the gods, pissing off the gods, the gods pissing you off, hospitality, ethics, punishment, the afterlife, nobility and servitude, all touched upon. For more conventional (and shorter) poetry, some of the enjoyment comes from the prosody and lyrical qualities of the poem. Reading them out loud increases my own enjoyment. Otherwise, there is oft a multitude of "senses" and meanings in poetry, which provides a pleasant meditation. Some quality poems to read (as a start) would be "the Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, and "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley
Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost. And learning how to parse Milton's 17th century poetic English will give your brain a good workout. Besides, according to Dan Brown, evil transhumanists can become obsessed with classic literature. ; ) Also give Der Ring Des Nibelungen a look. . . . What though the field be lost? [ 105 ] All is not lost; the unconquerable Will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome? That Glory never shall his wrath or might [ 110 ] Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace With suppliant knee, and deifie his power, Who from the terrour of this Arm so late Doubted his Empire, that were low indeed, That were an ignominy and shame beneath [ 115 ] This downfall; since by Fate the strength of Gods And this Empyreal substance cannot fail, Since through experience of this great event In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't, We may with more successful hope resolve [ 120 ] To wage by force or guile eternal Warr Irreconcileable, to our grand Foe, Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav'n.
Paradise Lost is the one book since early childhood that I've felt the need to read aloud. It's just so much more grand than anything else I've ever read.
I don't think of myself as someone who likes poetry. But I can recite (sing) all the verses of "American Pie," and I love it. I spent an hour and a half reading different verses that have been sung as part of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah." Maybe I think I don't like poetry because I am spoiled by having my poetry sung to me in recorded fashion, but when I think of "liking poetry" I think of some anachronistic action of sitting there with a book reading poems printed on a page. Maybe I love poetry to death, I just call it "music" due to modern technology.
What poetry have you tried? Perhaps it's only a question of finding the right author.
Are you one of those people who hear words in their mind while reading?
Yes, I subvocalize while reading. Why do you ask?
For me, much of the pleasure of poetry is that I like the way words sound in my mind when I read it (more specifically, the emotions they evoke).
Why would you want to get yourself to like poetry if you don't? Are you short of things to do that you do like?
A common reason why people don't like complex things is because they don't understand them and thus cannot appreciate most of what's being offered. Spending effort to understand e.g. some art has the potential to open up large areas of enjoyment.

I want to find an appropriately-sized "small" pond to be a big fish in. Any advice?


Anecdote time!

I had the high school resume to get into highly selective universities. For financial reasons, I instead went to my flagship state university. I expected the big fish in small pond effect to play to my advantage, and I did develop a reputation as "(one of) the smartest student(s) in the room" (which I'll at least admit was a boon to my romantic desirability), but the most salient result was extreme loneliness. I wasn't able to find many people I could have stimulating conversation with, and while I did make a few friends, none of them shared my degree of passion for intellectual subjects. This summer I've been at Hacker School, which I think is a correctly-sized pond for me, but the damage to my mood and social expectations from three years of being stuck in too small a pond has definitely impeded my ability to make friends and feel socially engaged. As of right now I'm attempting to find a job as a software developer so I can drop out of college in relative security, because college is that intolerable and I think I have a much better chance of finding more correctly-sized ponds on this path. (Transferring to a more selective university is still not a finan... (read more)

I also went to a state university (Rutgers). I was in an Honors program (in engineering) with plenty of other smart students, but I was still often one of the best academically in the room. I didn't feel much of a "small pond" effect there; when I drifted away from the friends I made in my first year, it was for other reasons.
Rutgers is a better university than mine. Studying engineering in the honors program I still felt very alone. I'm glad it (sounds like?) you felt like you fit in there somewhat. Still, it's very possible to underestimate the size of the minimum-sized pond you'll be able to flourish in. "Lonely at the top" and all that.
Catharsis Warning: I made a similar trade-off, and was surprised by the social and academic downsides. I took a full-ride to a large party-school in a small town. I've tried really hard to fit in, but I've either failed to be socially accepted, or been socially accepted but failed to self-modify enough to enjoy it. It feels like crap to suck at making friends in an environment that's explicitly optimized for making friends. I do great one-on-one over coffee, (which I think is why I've been fairly successful romantically), but there's little social oxygen left over for that, and it's been an uphill battle to make any friends at all. I hope this isn't arrogance or a refusal to affiliate. I've started going to religious groups to ward off loneliness, and I'm not even religious. Academically, there are benefits to being one of the best students, but learning isn't one of them. Everything is slow. You can study independently to challenge yourself and minimize the inefficiency of sitting in class and starting at the ceiling, but there are still overhead costs to be paid if you actually want a degree: Showing up for quizzes, taking prerequisites that you don't need to take, completing assignments you didn't need, etc. If you want to push yourself, you have to implement your own carrot and stick, because the reinforcements provided by the normal structure are too easy to control. And you can never talk about any of this, because it's arrogant and ungrateful, and because admitting that you think you're above-average sounds like saying you think you're above everyone, which you don't think at all because you're not stupid and because you go online and meet all the people at MIT who've been writing papers and doing research while you've been skipping as much class as possible because you can get away with it. If you're so smart... On a happy note, the upside is free time and money, which is totally worth it if you spend them wisely, (especially the free time). But I seco

Binary search? Find a pond. If it's too big for you to conquer, try a pond half its size. If that's so small you're unsatisfied with being its biggest fish, try a pond 50% larger, etc.

I have a pond. It feels too big. How do I locate a smaller one?
What is your pond? I think more details would help. Is it professional, social, educational? Do you want to be in smaller ponds across the board or just in some areas of your life? Depending on the answers to these questions the advice could be as diverse as: move to a different city, change jobs, or just pick up a new hobby.
My most relevant pond now is that I play Magic: the Gathering competitively, with a focus on deckbuilding. The online Magic community has grown a lot since 2001 and I'm not too thrilled at my chances of making a name for myself in it, at least not without doing something dramatically different than I have been. I either need a mentor who's better than I am (Zvi, of the NY Less Wrong meetup group, turned me down), or I need to start working a lot harder and spending a lot more money on the problem of trying to qualify for the Pro Tour. (Not just on cards, but on travel, too.) I don't have a job. When I start looking at job postings, I freak out, and I also have no confidence in my ability to get and keep a job in the current economy. My meatspace social life is kind of crap, too; I live with my parents, who support me, and rarely see anyone else in a social context. Needless to say, being with my parents makes me the small fish, not the big fish. I also used to go to the NY meetup group but it's such a pain in the neck to take the bus to NYC and I feel inadequate next to these people with well-paying jobs and/or advanced degrees. I could try to get some respect as a productive member of a raiding guild in some MMO or other; I'd only have to meet a threshold of competence instead of competing against other people, so it would be less stressful. I do have a pretty good healer in SWTOR... I've always been very good at math. In my (small) high school, I was always the best math student; in college, I still felt like I was among the top math students in any given math class I took, although I was only a math minor, not a math major. If I tried to study math in graduate school, I don't think "lack of talent" would be an obstacle to getting an advanced degree... but how much room is there in the world of mathematics for someone who's probably closer to the 1 in 1000 level than the 1 in 100,000 level? And it's not like I like taking classes...

I don't have a job. ... I live with my parents, who support me, and rarely see anyone else in a social context.

I really would focus on these major problems before spending time on running from pond to pond with a measuring tape (or figuring out which raiding guild to join).

When I start looking at job postings, I freak out

That's a problem you have to fix. Not knowing you I cannot offer any advice on how, but I can predict with high confidence that your success in solving this problem will have a major impact on your life.

I also have no confidence in my ability to get and keep a job in the current economy.

You don't know until you try. Also, since you have no job at the moment, your downside is zero.

I'd agree with Lumifer and jamesf that it seems like it'd be best to do what you can to overcome the ugh field surrounding getting a job. Anecdotally, from my experience and others, having a job can do wonders for your self-esteem and general outlook on life. And it's also a reason to get out of the house and meet new people! On that note, do you have any interest in computer programming? Programming ability seems to be pretty correlated with mathematical ability, at least to the degree that anybody at the 1 in 1000 mathematical ability level should be able to do very well as a programmer, if they enjoy it. And if you're interested, but don't have any experience, there are lots of ways to learn! You can sign up for free Udacity or Coursera courses. There are even multiple developer bootcamps you can sign up for that teach you to code, including one that is in New York, and free until you get a job! (Then they take a 15% cut of your first year's pay.) If you want to go the bootcamp route, and you've had no experience before, it might be a good idea to do some messing around with a couple free online courses first, 1) to convince yourself that you'll enjoy it and 2) to show in your application that you are serious, as I think getting into the camps might be competitive. But the fact that these, and especially the don't-pay-until-you-get-a-job version, exist demonstrates that there is very high demand for strong programming talent, and with your level of mathematical ability, it really seems like you could easily fall into that category, with just a little training and experience. Hope that helps!
Last time I had a job, I sat in a cubicle surfing the Internet and feeling guilty about not working on the (programming) problem I was supposed to be tackling. It was horrible.
To be fair, this describes a significant fraction of every working programmer's day. But if the programming problems themselves don't grip you at all, then maybe it's truly not for you. Let's try this from another angle. Suppose it's three years in the future, and you're working a job that you find, if not absolutely thrilling, then at least engaging enough that you're content to do it every day. What kinds of things are you closest to being able to picture fitting in that blank? (You're allowed to say professional Magic player, but that should only be one of several options. Also, you of course don't have to answer -- I'm just a random person from the internet, but perhaps this exercise will be helpful?)
Honestly, I have no clue. Book editor, maybe? /me shrugs
I did well in programming courses in college, but, in general, I don't program for fun; it feels like hard work.
The competitive Magic scene may not be your best bet. If it looks like you're not going to make a name for yourself in it, but that's what it would take for you enjoy it, you might be much better off playing with local amateurs and trying to focus on that world instead. Also, it's probably a better way to make friends. I've never stood a chance at playing competitive Team Fortress 2, but finding a public server and carrying the team every now and then is still very fun for me; I pretend pros don't exist and temporarily relish in my superiority over 23 randoms. I don't have much concrete advice as far as finding a job goes, since there a lot of relevant details that you haven't and possibly shouldn't share, but I'll at least suggest that doing whatever you can to overcome your ugh field around job searching would be extremely valuable in the long run. If you have a large gap in your resume (which sounds like it might be the case), find something you can do that puts an end to it, and can also plausibly retroactively fill in some of the gap. Freelancing of some sort comes to mind.
If I need an excuse for a resume gap, does "I was taking care of elderly relatives" work? (My last job was in 2006, and that was officially an internship.)
I also advocate volunteering. It's both a good indicator that you weren't just sitting in your basement the whole time(even if you actually were), and a good source of references. I think the two hours a week I spent at the food bank while unemployed made a big difference to me getting my current job.
That would be a good component of an answer to "what have you been doing for the last seven years?", yes.
-1Said Achmiz
Aren't you in New York? That's a relatively poor place to look for small ponds.
Central New Jersey, actually. Manhattan is about 60-90 minutes away by car, depending on traffic. (By bus is slower because I have to wait for the bus.)

Pond in what sense? Online community, company, soccer league, town, what? Or do you not care?

Define what you want out of it. Alpha-maleness or status in general? Money? A sense of superiority? Something else?
I want to recalibrate my sociometer so I stop comparing myself to people who are way more awesome than I am and feel better about myself.
I don't know if self-esteem problems are fixable by pond-hopping. The world is big. There will always be many people way more awesome than you. You can't prevail in a status competition against the entire world and even in a small pond you'll be well aware that there are oceans out there. The way to win is not to play the game.
Well, that's nice in principle, and easy to think, but how do you actually go convincing yourself to consistently feel it? If you have an answer, I sincerely want to know it, because I've become acquainted (doing the first labwork of my life) this summer with feeling like an absolute fraud, despite reasonable success and complete inexperience.
Ah. That's a different problem. I find it helpful to read memoirs of people who have been successful in the field. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman mentions a number of episodes of him feeling like a fraud or a failure, as a graduate student or junior faculty. Many other scientists and scholars report the same. Feel free to talk to grad students or faculty around you -- I would bet that most of them went through this. Most of the successful grad students I knew felt that way some of the time or most of the time. Feeling out of your depth in science (and I suspect most other competitive fields) isn't an indicator that you're doing badly -- it's an indicator that you're badly calibrated. It's a routine feeling that you should just ignore until it goes away. See also the term "impostor syndrome."
Something occurred to me while I was in the shower. Suppose for a moment I really was incompetent, and not just because I had little lab experience - I was just plain incompetent at labwork, I really was a fraud/failure/what have you, and to ignore those feelings would be critically bad. What would I expect to see in the world, that would distinguish that from "no, you'll be fine, this is what everyone goes through", and what would I expect to see differently from "no, you'll be fine, you'll actually be really good at this, good enough to make significant, even undergrad textbook contributions in 10 years' time"? Because there should definitely be something I should be able to observe that would be different, and if there isn't, then it seems safest to proceed with maximal caution and minimal self-estimation.
Incompetence and fraud are separate. My impression is that being a scientific fraud is hard work. The system is designed to catch honest mistakes -- reviewers will tell you "this analysis doesn't make sense" or "this is a source of error you didn't control for," or even "we don't know what's wrong, but we don't believe this result." And they'll say it anonymously and confidentially when they don't publish your paper. Being a fraud requires deliberate dishonesty. You would know if you were faking data. And if you are an LW reader, you probably would notice if you were doing selective reporting in such a way as to undermine your statistical tests. You would know if you were committing fraud. If you don't do it, you aren't it. That brings us to incompetent. I don't think there's a category of otherwise-intelligent non-handicapped people who just cannot do lab work. The prior probability on "gets accepted to grad school / undergrad research / whatever and cannot learn" is low. Do you find that in general there are things you can't learn? The people I've known who failed out of science did not fail through inability or catastrophic mistake. They got distracted by something else in life, or they never got very interested in their work, or they were very badly advised, or the like. Sometimes it's bad luck -- the funding runs out unexpectedly, their advisor turns out to be a bad match, the data or samples get destroyed by accident, or somesuch. Many people aren't good enough or dedicated enough or lucky enough to make important scientific contributions. Certainly, most people don't make important contributions. But that's a different problem than incapacity, and probably shouldn't worry you too much. You can very easily have a happy life as a mediocre scientist. You can even do something important. To pick an extreme example, Angela Merkel doesn't seem to have done anything notable as a researcher, but has left her mark in other ways. Something I didn't know until jus
As for feeling like a fraud: I don't fabricate data, naturally. But there's always that moment at the mass spec where you go "eh, that looks like it should be the right peak, rather than this slightly smaller, but closer peak." It's not fabricating data, but it feels like it's in the same vague region, from the same source. But I meant something more like "other people are doing your work for you, you're a burden, they're just humoring you until they're convinced you're to be got rid of." As for incompetence: I do find it difficult to understand, for example, complex math. Homotopy groups stumped me for weeks, and I'm still not sure how I tottered through the rest of my recent math, but apparently it was satisfactory enough for a reasonably good grade for someone generally renowned as intelligent. (And it was also his last class taught here, too, says the voice. He was just being nice.) But as best I can tell, there's not a lot I just plain can't learn, can't come to terms with, can't abstract and assimilate and build on, given enough spoon-days. As for mediocrity: one of the many things that keeps me up at night, when the anxiety is particularly bad, is the idea of never amounting to anything significant, of just being mediocre. The idea terrifies me, that I will fail to stamp my name on men's minds forever. Another is self-modifying to the point where I no longer worry about the things I worry about, and then falling prey to them. My foibles are almost sentient in their cleverness and self-preservation. They even have their own designated inner self-part.
I know of it. I was trying to avoid the term because it feels wrong, feeds the wrong, and also rationalist taboo. Also reminding myself that feeling dumb means you're learning, and feeling really dumb means you're learning a lot. Just ignoring it won't help, I don't think, and other mental issues do point to that I'm really, really badly calibrated.
Well, I am not sure I had do any particular self-convincing, that's just the way I naturally feel. Basically, I know that I'm not the best in the world by pretty much any criteria -- there are people smarter than me, stronger than me, richer than me, etc. etc. But then, why should that matter? I am not in a competition with these people. We are not fighting over some resources. Let's assume I have some global rank in, say, smartness -- if my rank changes will it affect my life in any way? No, it won't. Things are different in a local context -- maybe you want to win the affections of a particular girl or a boy. Maybe you entered a sports tournament. Maybe you want to get into a particularly selective school. In these cases I care about how I compare to others in the same local context -- because whether my ranking is high or low will directly affect outcomes that are meaningful to me. But globally -- meh. I don't care that there are thousands of people who understand quantum physics much better than I do. So what? I suspect it ultimately boils down to the issue of self-worth. Do you consider yourself worthy because you're better than someone? Or do you consider yourself worthy just because you are?
As it turns out, I consider myself worthy only when I'm better than someone, which sometimes takes the form of being able to help others, exert control over situations, or solve problems myself. This tends to spiral into feeling (self-)loathing when reading about some fictional people - Lazarus Long is a good example. At the moment, mental issues prevent me from consistently feeling worthy just for existing.
There always¹ is someone somewhere worse than you. ---------------------------------------- 1. i.e., about 99.99999998% of the times.
That's really not the point. It's because it's so common and so easy to be worse than me that I don't really take notice. Yes, I am aware that there is a critical error in thinking that, and then worrying about not being very good. I am attempting to resolve it.
In theory, if you define a niche narrowly enough, you can become "best in the world" at it, but, chances are, nobody is going to care. A niche still has to be big enough to support a community in order to be satisfying...
Certain times for certain people they are: “out of sight...” an' all that.
It might help to poke around in your mind to find out what's going on when you compare yourself to other people.
Build your own pond. That is, start your own business, work for yourself. Of course, you will need customers, but as long as you don't think of them as fish, you'll be fine.

Non-thinking-of-customers-as-fish is not a business plan.

Depends on what you intend to get out of it, but you can go to an amateur hack night ("we're going to implement C-style integers in Ruby", "we're going to implement simulated annealing)", where almost everyone but you will have trouble conceptualizing the problem.
It's just as well this is a stupid-questions thread, but: Doesn't Ruby already have C-style integers? What is it you mean by this phrase which Ruby doesn't have?
C-style integers = integers with a fixed possible range of values and the corresponding rollover -- that is, if you get a result too big to be stored in that fixed size, it rolls over from the lowest possible value. Ruby doesn't implement that limitation. It implements integers through Fixnum and Bignum. The latter is unbounded. The former is bounded but (per the linked doc) automatically converted to the latter if it would exceed its bounds. Even if it did, it's still useful as an exercise: get a class to respond to addition, etc operations the same way that a C integer would. (And still something most participants will have trouble with.)
Hmm, interesting! Maybe the simplest approach would be to just implement a class with 16 (or 32, whatever) booleans, and do the underlying bit-pattern math. Then on printing, interpret as powers of two, or two's-complement, or whatever you like.
... and that is what being a big fish in a small pond feels like ;-) That is, most of them there won't even make it that far. At least, that was my experience. (My approach was the cruder one of just taking a remainder modulo max size after each operation.)
That would work for unsigned integers, but I don't see how it gives you the classic rollover from 32767 to -32768?

How do you pronounce 3^^^3?

Three to the to the to the three / is how you say it if you're M to the P

But I thought you were M sub P...

I've heard "three up up up three."

2Eliezer Yudkowsky
That's how I say it.
"three up arrow up arrow up arrow three" ETA: The notation is called Knuth's up-arrow notation, and is usually written with up-arrows instead of carets.
Alternatively, "three triple up-arrow three"
"Three to the pentation of three".
How about 3^...(3^^^3 up arrows)...^3?
Hmm. "Three to the 'three to the pentation of three plus two'-ation of three". Alternatively, "big" would also work.
(There was a SMBC comic I wanted to jokingly link to which called ^^^ “penetration”, but I don't know how to search for it -- neither this thing nor googling for smbc penetration help.)
Here you go! I googled "tetration" with "smbc" which gave me an smbc forum topic which listed the date of the comic in question.
3-pentate-3. Actually pronouncing the up-arrows is generally too clunky for me. How do you pronounce 3^(n)3, that is, 3 (n up-arrows) 3? "n-tate" works for simple numbers, but "3 (3 pentate 3)-ate 3" isn't exactly... comprehensible.
"3 hyper-n 3". Note that the 'n' used in both the greek-number-prefix "n-tate" and hyper forms is actually "number of up arrows + 2". For particularly large numbers Conways chained arrows may be preferable, I'm not sure if there is a convention for pronouncing them.
I like "Three-triple-Knuth-three"
My inclination is to say "three triple-arrow three". People at SIAI in 2010 were saying "three triple-head three". I don't know why.
I say "three triple-hat three", which may be linguistic drift from 'head'.
I pronounce it "three trip-up three". The pun is always appropriate.
Can I get a joke-explainer?
My guess: "trip" as an abbreviation of "triple" but also in the sense of an acid trip, given the mind-blowingly large quantity referred to.
"To trip up" means "to cause to stumble or make an error". It's also short for triple-up-arrow. Putting a 3^^^3 into an argument often trips up reasoning, and that's the main reason people use that number. (Apparently this is less intuitive than I thought; MrMind pointed out a third interpretation, which I hadn't thought of before.)
Oh haha, I see. I didn't make the connection to tripping up arguments (nor did MrMind's acid trip interpretation occur to me). Thanks!
I have a proposal: let's call x^^^y "x knuth y", just because it's used quite often in this community :)
ok, since this is the stupid questions thread, how do you pronounce "knuth"? I really have no idea.
Ka-NOOTH. When I want to know how to pronounce someone's name I look on their Wikipedia page or their own site. If that fails, I do Google searches like "donald knuth" pronunciation. If that fails too and I want to know badly enough, I look for video or audio of them saying it, or of someone else who presumably would know saying it. This last has misled me at least once: When I first saw Patri Friedman's name, I guessed it was pronounced "PA-tree", but wasn't sure. Then I heard someone on the Internet pronounce it "puh-TREE", and I figured they probably knew. Then I said it in conversation with Shannon Friedman and she told me it was "PA-tree". (I appreciated the correction. Note also that since I didn't physically make a note, there's a small possibility I'm misremembering which pronunciation is correct.)
I think an apostrophe is a better way of indicating to English speakers the way Danish treats an initial k, as in K'nuth. There's no actual vowel in there. Also it looks cooler, as in ph'nglui mglw'nafh K'nuth R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Fits right in, doesn't it?
The most obvious interpretation of "3 knuth 3" is 27. A single 'knuth' up arrow denotes exponentiation. Conceivably "3 triple-knuth 3" would convey the intended meaning.
"Three ar-ruh-ruh-row"
I usually say "three to the three to the three to the three" even though that's not technically correct unless I pronounce the parentheses in the proper places.

That isn't correct no matter where the parentheses go: 3^^^3 isn't 3^(3^(3^3)) or ((3^3)^3)^3.

You're right, I misunderstood - I thought it was 3^(3^27), or 3^7625597484987, but it's actually 3^^(3^27), or 3 to the power of itself 7625597484987 times, which is way bigger.
2[comment deleted]

How do you calibrate yourself against the 'average' person when self assessing personality traits?

For example, when a standard big five or myers briggs test asks you if you are more extraverted than normal, how on earth are you meant to answer? The people I interact with are obviously a non-random sample, and I've no idea what a 'normal' level of extraversion (or whatever) would look like.

I look at the people I choose to interact with (friends), the people I have to interact with (relatives, public employees, etc.), compare and contrast, and extrapolate, but I'm not sure how reliable that is, given that I interact with the two in quite different sets of situations. It gets worse: the tests I took asked me to compare myself to the typical person of my age and gender, and over most of the past decade nearly all of my friends have been members of the other gender, the kind of people that Graham here calls freaks, and/or graduate physics students, so my guesses about what the typical twentysomething male is like may be unusually unreliable and/or contaminated by stereotypes and/or the horns effect.
Don't worry; the people whose responses the tests were built on didn't have access to a random sample either! Still seems to work, though.
So combining two biased samples balances out? Or is it more testing self perception? E.g. do you think of yourself as X not whether you are objectively X. Probably thinking about this question in detail ruins its usefulness as a text question anyway....
Offhand I don't entirely know, but the tests do work so your comparison issues can't be serious. If they've been normed for your group, perhaps that screens off the worst of the issues.
One of the main criticisms of MBTI is actually its lack of reliability - that is, its lack of consistency from test to test. MBTI in general is rubbish and when I talk about personality tests or correlations, it's always Big Five or some other decent test.

How does one best optimize personal opinions for purposes of status-acquisition?

Presumably, you are asking how to hack the status detectors of other people? If not, then you need to put a lot of work and energy into doing something that other people value, and not be shy about letting the kinds of people who value that thing know what you have done and can do. I think this is usually called "earning it."

But if you are seeking to acquire status as status, essentially, the reputation for something which you are not, then you are asking how to hack people's status detectors. The answer will very much depend on WHO you want to think you are high status, as different people will have different status. If it is biker chicks, for example, you should get the biggest hog (motorcycle, not mammal) you can, get a pot belly, go to some biker clothes stores and get the outfit, get some bitchin' tatoos. You should lie about having been in the marines, having been in jail, probably a crime of passion carries more status than a crime of violence, and either of those would be better than a white collar crime. Of course, you can lie about these but you will need to do some research to get the lie going.

If you want to hack the status of some other group, you'll have to do some research on what they think of as status-ful and then do enough research to come up with a good false story, and make yourself look like a high status individual in that crowd.

If my answer seems funny, it did seem like a funny question to me. Maybe I missed the point, if so I apologize in delay.

I suspect the OP was looking for reasonably subculture-independent ideas. Still, upvoted.
Are we in PUA-land? The specifics of status acquisition very much depend on which social group do you want to grant you status.
Insofar as you exclude stuff like career choice from personal opinions I think the best way is to act like you share the opinions of whoever you're talking to (or the most powerful person in a group) while never committing to anything publicly. This is probably different in fields where your opinions ARE your career, like politics or art criticism, but I think schmoozing is probably more effective than trying to pick the most generally appealing to everyone opinions.
The words "yes-man", "hanger-on", and "riding on coat-tails" come to mind. These are failure modes of status-seeking.

Are they? They seem to always be attached to rising star or second in command and so on. Also you forgot brown-noser and the one I think most illustrative: teachers pet. The teachers' or bosses esteem is exactly whose you should care about if you want to rise high, not jealous or anti-elite drones.

Eg "he only got the job by sucking up to the boss" is used pejoratively but guess who has the job? It's not the complainer.


Is there some way to get all the comments in a thread to display? "Show all comments" actually only shows some comments in long threads.

I think it also doesn't expand comments below threshold, no matter how short the thread is.
Click "Show all comments", wait for more comments to load, repeat. I suspect that there is a limit to the number of comments it loads in one go, probably to ease the load on the server.
Probably not the answer you're looking for (sorry), but if you're used to visually parsing XML, the RSS feed will let you do this.

What is the evidence that thought can be usefully divided into "System 1" and "System 2"?

Do the transhumanist & manosphere subcultures overlap to any significant degree? If so, what might they have in common?

Large amounts of male nerds

There's apparently some connectivity in/through the rightward edge of transhumanism to them: Note that from any two random points there you might not have moeven 50% agreement--but in each case you'll have emphatic disagreement with mainstream positions marking each as an outsider in some way. (If I were to be sarcastic, I would answer your second question as "an interest in sexbots")
I would suggest that transhumanists and manospherians share an interest in evolutionary psychology and empiricist views of human nature. .
I have never heard of the manosphere.
Basically an umbrella term for blogs of pick-up-artists, men resentful or fearful of divorce/family court type legal structures, and traditionalists hewing to gender norms.
Transhumanists shouldn't dismiss traditionalist views of women just because they conflict with current notions of political correctness. You could interpret tradition as a consensus vote of the democracy of our ancestors.
You can't call something a democratic decision when those women literally couldn't vote. That's aside from the fact that many traditionalist views were tied into or justified by religious belief systems which are empirically wrong. Transhumanism is to a large extent about individuals having the ability to make their lives what they want, and that shouldn't change whether that's being able to live a long time, having wings and other non-natural extensions, getting uploaded, or not following traditional gender roles.
How much of that tradition was really created by a vote? If it wasn't, why should I treat it like one? Just because people did something in the past, it does not mean they all thought it was a good idea. (It could actually be one of the reasons why they later stopped doing it.) Also, people in the past didn't have some of the information we do -- why should I expect that given that information, their votes would remain the same?
See Nick Szabo about intersubjective truth, and Chesterton's fence. On the other hand, just because something was a good idea in the past doesn't mean it's still a good idea now if things have changed.
Yes, but there are differences between the times when the traditionalist views developed and now: many more women in the work force, cheap convenient availability of reliable contraceptives, the Flynn effect, etc. It would most likely be an awful idea for me to adopt the same attitude towards my girlfriend as my grandfather has towards his wife when, among dozens of other things, my girlfriend has IQ probably around 130 and makes more money than me whereas my grandma has IQ probably around 90 and has never worked.
The Flynn Effect is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/3 IQ point per year. So unless your girlfriend is 120 years younger than your grandmother... Also the Flynn Effect is observed in similar magnitudes in men and women. IQ_you/IQ_yourgirlfriend is predicted to be the same as IQ_grandpa/IQ_grandma, at least the part of that ratio attributable to the Flynn effect.
(You should escape underscores with backslashes, or they get converted to italics; also, it makes little sense to use ratios rather than differences as the zero of the modern scale is more or less arbitrary.)
He didn't actually mention the Flynn effect in the above post.
OK you've got me freaked out. I'm staring at army1987's comment that I replied to and it says "...contraceptives, the Flynn effect, etc." What am I missing?
I have no idea how I managed to miss that.
Poetic phrasing, although to answer the other arguments to the parent comment, it may be better phrased as "one set of features/behaviors proven sucessfully adaptive to conditions previously." Traditions universally adopted should indeed be dismissed very reluctantly, as it implies that the variation in adapative behavior is likely quite small.
Another term for "men who feel threatened by feminism", apparently.
If you insert "society is" after feel, you'd get agreement from them. However, you probably mean something along the lines of "whose irrational feelings of self-worth" are threatened instead, I presume?
Not really.

What are actually the reasons for saying that the meaning of words are things-in-the-mind rather than things-in-the-world?

(Prompted by a philosophy course on metaphysics)

Taboo the word "word", and what does your question become?

A word is already partly a thing-in-the mind, and partly a thing-outside-the-mind, the latter being a sound when spoken or a string of glyphs when written. Neither the sound nor the glyphs are, or contain, meanings. If you define "word" to mean the whole arrangement, including the meanings, then you have merely answered the question by definition: meanings are contained in words. The same is true if you define "word" to mean just the sound and string of glyphs: meanings are not contained in words. This method of answering a question is incapable of being a discovery about the world.

So the question becomes "what is the relationship between the sound and the meaning?" The answer is that people learn from the speech of those around them to associate a given sound with a given meaning, and that these agreements are what enable meanings to be communicated. However, there is no necessary connection between the two, and no correlation not explained by the shared history of related languages, borrowings, and a few onomatopoeic regularities. Contemplating the meaning will not tell you the sound... (read more)

You mean, do words have an intrinsic meaning? If that were true, there would be only one language, no? I probably misunderstood the question, but I can't think of another interpretation.
If we put you inside a box and told you to think of a name for a cat, could we tell what the name was by looking at the cat? No, we'd have to open up the box and look at (or listen to ) you. Ditto for any similar game, like creating slang, interchanging meanings, creating private spellings, doing math and then giving names to important theorems, etc. This only works for (at least partly-) intentional definition though - if your definition of red is to point at a stop sign, then a fire truck, then a tomato, and then to point at grass and say "not this," then we can't figure out your meaning for red just by looking at what's inside the box. First we have to get the definition from you, and then we have to go look at stop signs and fire trucks. So depending on how you want to cash out "meaning," it can be in your mind, or in your mind+context. But it's not just in the outside world, because there's no way an alien knows what to call a capybara just from examining one.

I am a transhumanist and a futurist, but I've been depressive recently while thinking about the far future. This rarely happens. I found myself being scared of getting smarter due to a Singularity-like event. I was also scared by the arbitrariness of our goals and values. Simply put, I don't fit in to the present. I'm theorizing about intelligence, reading scientific papers, and participating very modestly in the brony fandom. I've made it my life's goal to make major steps towards safe AGI. Living to the point past that, I see aimlessness. Besides my one ... (read more)