EY "Politics is the Mind Killer" sighting at Washington Examiner and Reason.com

by buybuydandavis1 min read27th Sep 201261 comments


Personal Blog

Original at Washington Examiner



Politics makes us worse because "politics is the mindkiller," as intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky puts it. "Evolutionary psychology produces strange echoes in time," he writes, "as adaptations continue to execute long after they cease to maximize fitness." We gorge ourselves sick on sugar and fat, and we indulge our tribal hard-wiring by picking a political "team" and denouncing the "enemy."

But our atavistic Red/Blue tribalism plays to the interests of "individual politicians in getting you to identify with them instead of judging them," Yudkowsky writes.


Examiner Columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and the author of "The Cult of the Presidency."

Repost at Reason.com


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I imagine this is some of the fruit from this tree. I'm curious if there's a story how EY got into the position to write that article.

(Another alternative is that journalists are finding LW through HPMOR, and of course there are others.)

I'm the editor of Cato Unbound, and I've been a fan of Eliezer Yudkowsky's for several years. I'm fairly sure that I introduced Gene to his work as well.

There is no real story behind the article. There almost never is, with me. It's just my job to identify interesting and talented writers, and to pay them to write for us. He was overwhelmingly qualified. I asked, and he accepted.

One thing I love about Less Wrong is these Annie Hall Marshall McLuhan moments.

Not really related, but your comment reminded me of a hilarious story about David Chalmers (of zombie fame). He tried to correct a mistake in the Wikipedia description of his views of consciousness, registering an account with his name and saying in the discussion section:

Marshall McLuhan here. Philos is right about each of the points above. The philosophy section would be much improved if it reverted to the “philosopher’s” edit of a few days ago.

Alas, the other editor had not watched Annie Hall:

How is he right about the points above? The points are clearly detailed and you could easily explain your criticism. Please could you also explain how cutting the historical, empirical descriptions of conscious experience and supervenience would improve the article. Why do you have the ID “DavidChalmers” yet use the name Marshall McLuhan? The only famous philosopher called Marshall McLuhan died in 1980. Are you taking the piss or are you philos with a duplicate ID?

The user with ID DavidChalmers who claims to be the deceased and famous Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan should note that using the name of a living, prominent person as a USERID is against Wikipedia guidelines.

The log is here.

Yeah - I had originally typed "'Marshall McLuhan here' moments" and then realized I was making an obscure reference to David Chalmers referencing Annie Hall, and thought a direct Annie Hall reference was better.

Thanks for responding! Do you remember how you found EY in the first place?

Every semester I teach the Cato Institute's intern class about elementary forms of argument, logical fallacies, and the like. Something must have clicked for one of the interns, because she asked me what I thought of EY. She recommended some of his papers.

Well. He was totally unknown to me then, but I've since added Less Wrong to the sites that I recommend in the talk.

I've lurked extensively around here for quite a while, and what disagreements I have with the community consensus are so minor as not to need bothering about. (I'm a bit more of a fatalist about the matter of my own death, for example, in that I personally doubt that I will live a longer lifespan than a typical human has so far. But anyway.)

Keep up the good work, folks. Both my husband (SRStarin) and I always come away from Less Wrong with a lot of great stuff to think and talk about.

I think libertarians probably found EY through Overcoming Bias, which they read because of Robin's affiliation with GMU.

(Note that Reason is a libertarian magazine)

I am familiar with Cato, Reason, and GMU. Of the GMU econ professors, I don't think Hanson is that famous among libertarians (especially compared to among transhumanists), as he writes about libertarian things far less often than, say, Bryan Caplan. (Try searching both of their names on Reason.) He's also not a guest lecturer at IHS, like Caplan, Cowen, Coyne, Klein, Lavoie, Nye, Smith, or White.

(Amusingly, even though I had known Robin for years as one of Bryan's gaming friends, I didn't find Overcoming Bias until a few months after I found LW, and then connecting that to Robin took a few more months.)

My point isn't that Robin is famous among libertarians, it's that he's associated with famous libertarians. When yet another GMU econ professor starts a blog, especially one Bryan Caplan routinely calls one of the sharpest thinkers he knows, libertarians are likely to at least check it out. Also note that Patri Friedman, another famous name in libertarian circles, was one of the original contributors to Overcoming Bias.

I found OB and thus EY through the mechanism I'm describing, so the availability heuristic might be at work here, but my experience at libertarian organizations suggests that I'm not alone* - I've dropped EY's name or mentioned something from the sequences in conversations with libertarians and they often know what I'm talking about.

* Though admittedly, it's been a couple years since I've been to an event put on by a libertarian organization.

Repeats to self: Do not say "Go Eliezer!", do not say "Go, Eliezer!", do not say "Go, Eliezer!"

Go Eliezer!

Oops, must be all that priming.

If I were evil, I would have people repeat Epiphany's slogan and they would think they were practicing dutiful nonconformity while actually their brain was thinking "Go Eliezer" all the time...

[-][anonymous]9y 1

Or you might pretend to be good, and push on us in nefarious ways we wouldn't even notice so that we end up saying things like "Go Eliezer".

I've heard you are in the possession of fully general mind-hacks. Just like painting asteroids and poisoning tigers, right?

Go Eliezer! Save us from the Forces of Bad. (ha ha only serious).

Or you might pretend to be good, and push on us in nefarious ways we wouldn't even notice so that we end up saying things like "Go Eliezer".

How would you tell the difference between him pretending to be good and being good, whatever you mean by good? (This is the basic question of rationality.)

That would be very hard to do in a public forum where he could read our methods of distinguish between him pretending to be good and actually being good. You could try to figure out what unconscious signals of "goodness" are, but again that's hard through text where the person in question knows what you're testing and can optimize the writing to score well on the test.

Or you could just go with your priors. Or message privately, though that runs into the problem of sampling people who are likely to agree with you.

[-][anonymous]9y 1

in principle, you can't.

A rational evil would pretend to be good until it didn't matter anymore

I've heard you are in the possession of fully general mind-hacks.

If so he must have been using them on us in order to make his argument that such a thing is not theoretically possible so compelling. ie. Eliezer needs to be operating from outside our physical reality in order to have fully general mind-hacks and in that case the mind hacks are the least of our worries. (Unless that is what he wants us to think.)

But our atavistic Red/Blue tribalism...

It's Green/Blue. Noobs.