Over the past few months, I've become aware that my understanding of social reality had been distorted to an extreme degree. It took 29 years for me to figure out what was going on, but I finally now understand.

The situation is very simple: The amount of time that I put into interacting within typical social contexts was very small, so I didn't get enough feedback to realize that I had a major blindspot as I otherwise would have.

Now that I've identified the blindspot, I can work on it, and my social awareness has been increasing at very rapid clip. I had no idea that I had so much potential for social awareness. I had been in a fixed mindset as rather than a growth mindset, I had thought "social skills will never be my strong point, so I shouldn't spend time trying to improve them, instead I should focus on what I'm best at." I'm astonished by how much my relationships have improved over a span of mere weeks.

I give details below.

How I spent my time growing up

I've been extremely metacognitive and reflective since early childhood, and have spent most of my time optimizing for my intellectual growth. Even as a child, the things that I thought about where very unusual: at age 7, upon reflection, I realized that there's no free will in the sense that people usually think of it: that brain chemistry drives our decisions in a very strong sense.

As I grew up, my interests became more and more remote from those of my peers, and the pool of conversation topics of mutual interest diminished rapidly as I got older. For this reason, I generally found my interactions with others to be very unfulfilling: other people were rarely interested in talking about what I wanted to talk about, and I struggled to find points of mutual interest.

Because I was much more unusual than most of my conversation partners, there was an implicit assumption that the responsibility of finding common ground fell exclusively on me, rather than being shared by me and my conversation partners. Even when I tried really hard to connect with my conversation partners, it often came across to my conversation partners though I wasn't trying, because our interests were so different that even if I bridged 95% of the gap, the remaining 5% was uncomfortably large for them, so that they would feel resentful toward me.

There were almost no people who shared my interests. So my choices seemed to be

  1. Socialize and talk about things that I have no interest in.
  2. Socialize and try to talk about what I'm interested in, at risk of alienating my conversation partners.
  3. Keep to myself
Each of (1) and (2) tended to be very unpleasant, which pushed strongly in the direction of (3). I essentially never engaged in normal social activities. In college, every day I would see my classmates sitting with their friends in the cafeteria, whereas I would almost always be sitting alone. 

In the subsequent intervening years I developed further and further in the direction of having deep insights about the world.a strong focus on abstraction and generality. I essentially never engaged in usual social activities. In college, almost all of my classmates would sit at tables in the cafeteria with their friends, and I would almost always sit alone. I almost never went to Less Wrong meetups, because I had already thought about most of what people discussed, so that it was more efficient for me to learn on my own.

I found these reminders of my isolation to be depressing, but didn't think much about it. In hindsight I see that I erred in not thinking about the situation more deeply.

I've found that Malcolm Gladwell's view that developing mastery of a field takes ~10,000 hours is largely true.

When people tell me that they were bad at calculus, my internal response had become "When I was learning calculus I spent ~20 hours a week on it. it's not at all surprising to me that you wouldn't become good at calculus without having done so, independently of whether or not you had the ability to."

How many many hours had I spent socializing by age 29? Lots, but almost exclusively with a small handful of people who are very unusual in the same ways that I am. When I was in a group conversation, I would usually find the conversation uninteresting, and let my mind wander, without attempting to participate myself. Thinking it over, I probably spent less than 5% as much time participating in usual social contexts as other 29 year olds had by the same age. 

It didn't occur to me how significant this was. The number of hours that I had is perhaps as small as the number of hours that most people have by age 10. In hindsight it's obvious: of course I didn't have good social skills relative to other adults, in the same way that a 10 year old doesn't have good social skills for an adult. I just hadn't put nearly enough time in!

What went horribly wrong

Throughout my life, I've yearned for companionship, and have had a strong desire to contribute to global welfare. Up until the past year, I was extremely socially isolated, and my positive social impact was utterly negligible. This gave rise to a huge amount of cognitive dissonance. As Eliezer wrote:

I keep trying to say that rationality is the winning-Way [...] Be careful [...] any time you find yourself defining the "winner" as someone other than the agent who is currently smiling from on top of a giant heap of utility.

If I cared so much about connecting people and about contributing to global welfare, then why wasn't I getting anything done?

My theory of mind was based on my knowledge of my own mind (c.f. Yvain's post Generalizing From One Example). I engage almost exclusively in metacognition and deep reflection. I therefore had no reference frame for what other people are like: I projected my own style of thinking on the people who I interacted with. The effect of this was that I became a figurative space alien, almost totally out of touch with the rest of the human race.

Concretely, how was I socially oblivious?

My implicit model of other people's minds was along the lines "everyone always has access to a transcript of all conversations that we've ever had at his or her disposal." This probably seems loony, and rightly so. I was very focused on carefully organizing my interactions with everyone in my mind. It just didn't occur to me that my conversations partners weren't doing the same thing! My subjective sense of what was going on in my conversation partners' mind turns out to have usually been completely different from what was actually going on in my conversation partners' mind.

Some of my common self destructive patterns of behavior were:

(a) "Person X expresses insecurity over Y. I spend several dozen hours contemplating how to reassure person X. I then broach the subject with person X without offering any background context, assuming that person X knows that I'm following up on a specific conversation thread from several weeks ago, and wants to continue the conversation about the subject. In person X's eyes, it looks like I'm bringing up a triggering subject for no reason, and person X develops an Ugh Field around me, of the type "when I talk to Jonah, he says things that make me feel bad, so I don't want to talk with him anymore."

My reaction to this was "this is so weird, these people are really touchy, such that they're unable to have conversations about topics that they themselves bring up. How is it even possible for people to have conversations given how touchy they are?"  

I didn't know that when someone brings up a sensitive subject, that's not necessarily an invitation to talk about it, and that they didn't realize that I was responding to something that they had said weeks ago 


(b) A woman sends signals of romantic interest, either accidentally, or whimsically. I mistakenly assume that she's carefully deliberating over the possibility of dating me, as I would be in her position. I decide to express interest in her.

She hasn't been thinking about whether or not she'd like to date me at all, she was instead engaging in casual preliminary flirting and/or wasn't carefully guarding against accidentally sending signals of romantic interest. So from her point of view it looks like "This guy expressed romantic interest in me without paying attention to how I'm feeling." She reactively reprimands me, or cuts contact with me, usually with connotations (even if slight) that I might not respect her boundaries.

I mistakenly think that she had carefully deliberated on how to respond to my expression of romantic interest. So I mistakenly perceive the false dichotomy:


  1. I'm a delusional potential rapist, and she sees this.
  2. I'm not a delusional potential rapist, she knows that she's made me feel like I might be one. The woman who I loved has turned out to have so little empathy that she doesn't mind the fact that she's done this.

Both of these possibilities are extremely upsetting, and I fall into severe depression, totally oblivious to the fact that she was behaving in a reactive way and that her reaction is neither evidence that I'm a potential rapist, nor evidence that she doesn't mind me feeling like a potential rapist.

(c) A lot of things that people find offensive I don't find at all offensive. For example, if a student tells me that I'm the worst teacher he or she has ever had, it makes me feel bad because I feel like I'm not contributing value, but I'm not at all upset with the student: my attitude is that the student is conveying valuable information to me, and that I should be appreciative.

I always knew that it's best to soften such things, but I didn't know how triggering unexpected criticism is – I didn't know that far more gentle remarks can be triggering for most people.

So I might tell a friend:

"There's strong evidence that there are only a few people in the world who have a chance of solving the math research problem that you've been working on for the past few years. It's very unlikely that you have the innate ability to solve it regardless of how hard you work on it. You're a good mathematician, you could make a lot of progress on easier problems, and that would probably make you happier."

In my mind, what's salient is the facts that I want him to be happy, and that he'd plausibly be happier doing something else. But that's not what's most salient about the situation him: instead it just sounds like I'm just saying "you're too bad at math to be able to meet your goals."

(d) Often when I talk, I'm trying to illustrate a general principle, and give an example to illustrate it. Sometimes I'm drawing an analogy between two general principles, and give an example to illustrate one of them. Sometimes I'll state a general principle as a special case of a still more general principle, and give an example to illustrate one of the two.

What's salient to my conversation is the example that I'm giving, not the general principle that I'm trying to illustrate. So my conversation partner and I are talking past each other: I don't know that the person doesn't know that I'm talking about a general principle, or an analogy between general principles, or a general principle being a special case of a general principle, my conversation partner doesn't know that I don't know.

For example, I might say:

"Sometimes our perceptions of social reality are very distorted. For example, I used to be confused and mistakenly believed that I'm the only good person in the world."

My conversation partner might respond to this "Look Jonah, you're very confused, you're not the only good person in the world!", because what's salient is "I'm the only good person in the world", not "I used to be confused and mistakenly believed..."
I mistakenly interpret the situation as "people are so obsessed with status that they're totally blind to anything that's not a status grab," when the person doesn't actually have any way of knowing what I was trying to say, because my strong focus on general principles is so unusual.

(e) I say something that someone doesn't understand. I think "maybe the person needs more context," and follow up by giving more context. The person still doesn't understand, so I think "ok, I guess I have to give even more context" and so continue in the same direction. In fact, the amount of context that I would need to give for my point to be clear would take ~100 hours to convey, so that what I'm doing is actually not at all productive. The person perceives the situation as 

Jonah is totally ignoring the fact that I'm not understanding what I'm saying, and keeps going on and on about the same thing, oblivious to my feelings

because he or she has no way of knowing that I'm explicitly trying to address the fact that the person is uncomfortable about not understanding.

(f) I mistakenly believe that when people are unhappy with me, they'll tell me, because I know that I wouldn't be offended, and because I'm so verbal that I relate a very large fraction of my thoughts when I talk with someone.

So people will smile and show superficial indications of good will while being unhappy with me, and I have no idea what's going on. 

If you've followed what I've said so far, it's probably not hard to understand how my misunderstandings would almost totally nullify my ability to contribute to global welfare :-).

How did I escape?

(a) Learning data science resulted in a huge boost to my intellectual caliber – the ways of thinking about the world that I developed are very powerful, and confer an advantage of the same magnitude as learning about selection effects and regression to the mean.

After this, even my closest friends could no longer understand what I was talking about, and told me as much, and I realized "Ok, I have some sort of serious blindspot, my intuitive sense is that people are understanding me when they're not, I need to figure out what's going on.

(b) A relative who's a salesman gave me very helpful advice after I had been rejected from a large number of jobs that I interviewed for explaining "When somebody asks you a question, you're giving answers that are way too long and you're not gauging where your interviewers are coming from. When they ask for you to describe your project, they're looking for a 1-2 minute response, not a ~6 minute response – from their perspective you're hijacking the conversation and talking about something that they're not interested in.

After this, I paid closer attention to my interviewers' body language and how they were directing the conversation, and I saw that he had been right.

I recently got very helpful explicit feedback from students that made me realize that I was on a totally different wavelength from the students, when I had no idea that that was the case.

(c) I started socializing more with people who are similar to me on dimensions other than the one that this post is about, and this resulted in me getting more useful feedback, because they could understand me more deeply than most people who had gotten upset with me for no apparent reason

(d) Learning data science made me realize that I could use the Wisdom of the Crowds to tease out what the common problem was in all of my interactions with people. It wasn't easy: the different instances were superficially totally different. It's not at all a priori clear what the two things


  • "I expressed interest in a woman when she appears to have sent signals of romantic interest, and she rejects me in harsh terms."
  • "I told a friend that I think that the math problem that he's working on is really hard and probably not feasible for him to solve, and he's mortified and cuts contact with me."


have in common. But learning data science gave me new ways of thinking about the world that enabled me to see the underlying pattern. 

Figuring out what was going on has enabled me to improve my relationships with my family members, patch up relationships with friends who I alienated earlier in life, and interact more productively with people who I've just met.

Generalizable takeaways

(a) Focusing on understanding how one is similar to others and how one is different from others can be a better way to become socially aware than usual efforts to "develop social skills." 

I knew that people thought I had bad social skills, but they weren't able to explain the situation to me in a way that I could understand, because they were totally misinterpreting me, on account of not knowing what was going on in my mind. So almost everything that they said about my social skills seemed wrong – they would claim that I didn't care about people's feelings, to which my response was  along the lines "What are you talking about? I spend dozens of hours thinking about my friends' feelings."

They didn't have the information that they would have needed to help me: they didn't know that they needed to say "I know that you're thinking a lot about people's feelings as they appear to you from the outside, but you're not thinking about people's actual feelings: you can't assume that you know what's going on in their minds, you have to carefully feel out the situation."

(b) Finally figuring out what was going on corresponds to a huge boost in potential productivity: I finally have nontrivial prospects of transforming from  

"The guy who has deep insights but who doesn't get anything done, because he he's socially dysfunctional so nobody listens to him" 


"The guy who has deep insights and can use them to change the world"

(c) I now have realistic prospects for having a romantic relationship, which was not the case before.

My past attitude had been "The emotional cost of going through yet another traumatic experience of a woman getting angry at me for telling her that I love her isn't worth it. Even if I were able to make a favorable impression, I wouldn't want to date a woman who would hurt me so much just because I approached her in the wrong way."

Now I see that the women in question had no idea what was going on, so I can work on improving my communication skills. Once I get to the point of being able to communicate clearly, I can plausibly have a happy relationship.

(d) The experience made clear to me the extent to which the people who had appeared to be hostile toward me weren't hostile toward me, they were instead hostile toward their construal of me. They wouldn't have been at all hostile if they and known what was going on in my mind.

I had always known on some level that this was true, but I didn't feel it. I now have a deep understanding that there are many instances in which people appeared  to be hostile toward me when their feelings weren't directed at me, instead they didn't know enough about what was going on in my mind to be able to see that I wasn't the person who they thought that I was.

I've developed the capacity to feel universal love and compassion the way Martin Luther King was able to. If somebody is angry at me and insults me, I know that it's not me who the person is insulting, it's instead the person's perception of me. So people can't hurt me anymore. Instead my response is "let me try to understand where the person is coming from, and help the person understand where I'm coming from."

This has made my life so much better than it had been before. I understand intuitively that Martin Luther King wasn't some sort of god, that he was human like you and me, and that the human race has the capacity to shift in his direction, and be much happier than we are now. 

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Can you be more explicit about what it was in your study of data science that led you to notice your blindspots, or more generally what the "very powerful" ways of thinking about the world you found were? You mention the Wisdom of the Crowds, but it sounds like there was something in particular that made you realize the opportunity for growth.

This is a very long conversation – communicating it is my highest priority right now, but it's a huge undertaking. For now I'll just say that the most important part to my mind is learning to think in terms of dimensionality reduction. See Chris Olah's post Visualizing MNIST: An Exploration of Dimensionality Reduction if you're unfamiliar with the subject.

I knew that people thought I had bad social skills, but they weren't able to explain the situation to me in a way that I could understand, because they were totally misinterpreting me, on account of not knowing what was going on in my mind.

A useful analogy is bug reports made by non-programmer users. They are sometimes right that there is a problem, but most attempts on their part to formulate what it is or "${deity-}" forbid what is the cause is so confused that saying nothing is an improvement. You have to reproduce and debug the problem yourself. Another example is writing: "the reader is always right" in the sense that unexpected negative reaction is a flaw in your model of the reader's perception of your work, even if the reader is wrong about the reasons for their reaction.

Each clue about an error is a poorly or misleadingly stated bug report, and there is usually nobody qualified to investigate the issue if you don't do it yourself, of your own initiative: formulating hypotheses, running tests, observing responses.

Some quick background: a friend and I run the sales department of a multi-million dollar company. We built that company from the ground up from about 15 clients to 5,000 and counting, and now manage 20+ sales reps.

Contrary to popular opinion, social interaction is really fucking easy. There's one common trait among likable people, (and I don't mean likable in the shitty, salesy sort of way where a person is so outgoing you feel obligated to say you like them, when in fact you think they're a giant turd)). That trait can be easily explained: you truly, ge... (read more)

Thanks for this comment; I don't know about social interaction being really fucking easy, but I agree wholeheartedly with your recommendations for how to see other people. Seeing this modeled in the people around me has had a huge positive impact in my life. I'm surrounded by people who, while not skilled at rationality, continually look for the potential and value in other people and openly strategize about how to nurture that viewpoint. (Of course, it would be even better if they were also skilled rationalists, and I'm trying to add that component into my community life as well.) I'm not sure how many, but I think most people around here are "pro-human" in the sense of thinking every persons life, happiness, and fulfillment is a value to be ultimately pursued (though I make no argument about the opportunity cost of doing so in general at the current time.) Accepting this on an intellectual level is different than emotionally integrating it, and the emotional integration of this has been really fulfilling for me, as well as having the positive impacts on social interaction that you mention. I think the tendency to feel negative toward "baselines" can be seen as an attribution error in light of those values. You may be annoyed/disgusted/confused by the other person's lack of understanding in the moment, but the cause of your response can be seen as conditional to that situation, and you can remind yourself of all the good things you would wish for this person given the ability to make them happen. I'd tentatively recommend anyone finding themselves feeling negative toward "baselines" cultivate a group of people around them who take this view, even if they have bad epistemics. I hear that Unitarian Universalists may be good for this, as they're open to atheists while having some of the same pro-human community values. My recommendation is tentative, since I think other people may respond differently to the trade-off of community epistemics versus nurturing this v
Thanks for the reply. The part about it being "really easy" was a glib attempt at humor, in the same vein as saying, "Losing weight is really easy: you just stop eating so much and start working out more!" Or "It's easy to quit smoking, just don't smoke!" As with many things in life there's a big gap between knowing what one should do and then actually doing it. As you said, intellectually accepting something tends to be much easier than emotionally integrating it. I wish I had better advice when it came to that part of things. The best I can do is just point to the key premise behind social skills and hope to highlight some mistakes that smart people tend to make when approaching the issue.
Another example of what you mention in your first paragraph that I've said before: It's easy to break the world record in any running event. Just run faster than the world record holder did! It should be fairly obvious that it's not just a case of running faster. A list of necessary conditions for success is not a solution. (Though it can be a good start.)
I go into this in further detail in this post Defining the success conditions is a critical first step, and you'd be surprised at how many people don't do that. Many people frame their goals as a state-of-being, e.g. "I want to be the fastest runner in the world" rather than a success-condition, e.g. "I want to beat the current world record holder."
I'm not sure that something that requires a fundamental way in my values (I'm sorry, but I do not care about most people's success more than myself and I don't see why I should and don't want to; in fact, I think I owe it to my friends to care about them and myself more than about a random stranger) and the acquisition of a delusion (most people are not potential singular geniuses; neither am I, of course) is really the optimal strategy here... But fortunately, there must be other strategies, because lots of people are good at social interaction without having either those values or that delusion.
Your reluctance is both common and understandable. But it's actually not that difficult to reconcile. Let's talk about this from an egoist perspective. First of all, why should you care about other people? Simple: other people are a potentially valuable resource. Despite protestations otherwise, many smart people labor under the delusion that they are of singular genius and importance, and thus have a very difficult time truly grasping the idea that other people can be as valuable as they themselves are. Your car, computer, bike, house, appliances, etc. are all resources that can accomplish certain ends much more efficiently than you can. So it doesn't feel alien to put your own short term needs secondary to the long term maintenance of these resources. The reason it feels so alien to do the same thing with people is that you haven't quite internalized the value of other people. But what does that have to do with valuing other people's success more than yours? Simple: if you've already made the right meta-cognitive choices, then the incremental value of spending "unallocated" time on yourself isn't all that high. If you already devote an hour a day to reading, then opting to spend two hours at home reading on a weekend instead of going out doesn't really provide much incremental benefit. If you are confident enough in your own life choices, then you don't need to spend much active time on your own success because it's already taking care of itself. The stereotypical charismatic, socially adept extrovert tends to be much more confident and slightly less "intelligent" than your average LWer. Why is that? First of all, they're not worried that the time they spend on others will affect themselves negatively. And because they aren't as "intelligent", they have a more acute awareness of just how valuable other people can be. TL;DR: it only requires a fundamental change in your values if part of your fundamental value system says "other people are worthless". And it on
It sounds like you're talking about two different things. You're misinterpreting "I don't see why I shouldn't care more about my friends than random people" to be "I don't see why I should care about people at all".
I never said anything about caring about random strangers more than you friends.
Neither did I. (Note the difference between "more than" and "equally with".) You said that he should care about "other people", without you distinguishing between classes of people. This implies that you don't think he cares about other people now. Phrased that way, that implies you think he doesn't care about other people in general, not about non-friend other people. All of your arguments apply to people in general anyway. But he never said that. He cares for some other people (his friends). He just doesn't care for other people equally. EA is weird, and most people don't share belief in it.
My use of the term "you" when I said "why should you care about other people" (and the rest of the post for that matter) was a stylistic use in the global sense, not personally directed at him.
The context seems to indicate otherwise.
The egoistic perspective on people as a resource-to-be-developed doesn't help at all, because it's not what I understand by "genuinely caring about other people's success". It also breaks the analogy with the case of children, because the potential that parents and educators see in children is (hopefully) not the potential to be a useful resource for them later on. I think we're looking at a huge inferential distance between us due to a difference in life situation and probably personality...
If you understand the concept that other people have value, then it sounds like your primary issue is just with the semantic meaning behind "genuinely caring about other people's success". Which is fine, it's an overly complex idea to try to distill into a single sentence and I would expect there to be a fair amount of clarification needed. But to be clear, it's a semantic disagreement rather than one about the underlying meaning. If I had to be less succinct with my explanation I'd say: "Being confident enough in one's own self-improvement processes that one expects more incremental value in dedicating unallocated time to other people's success than one's own." If you have a disagreement with that, I'd much rather discuss that than semantics. (The reason I chose one phrasing over the other is that, "I care more about your success than my own" sounds a lot more palatable to the person I'm helping out than, "I expect to see more value if I spend this time helping you than if I spend this time helping me.")
Of course it sounds more palatable to other people, but actually it's a completely different attitude from the one you're actually taking! You're just viewing other people's success as a means to what is eventually your own success after all. This is not at all the bizarre universal love and self-abnegation that the initial post suggested to me. I also suspect you might be in a relatively atypical life situation if you manage to leverage this business-like perspective into universal social skills because you can just apply it to practically everyone you meet. But then it might be my own situation that's more atypical. (It's also not clear how "spending time helping you" translates into felicitous interaction - most people I meet don't need and couldn't use my help; but I'm not asking you to explain because I don't think I can use your approach anyway.)
There's a pretty noticeable difference between someone doing something for their own sake and someone doing something for the sake of another. Compare two pretty universal experiences: "Talking to someone who is only interacting with you because they want something" and "Being the recipient of a no-strings-attached favor". This attitude is universal; it's not specific to business. Everyone has wants and goals, not just business people. What you imagine my life situation to be isn't really very relevant. Unless you live in a solitary confinement, this is applicable to you.

Nice article, congrats on improving your social skills! Some people are more social than others, but everyone is at least a little social :-)

I've improved mine a lot, too, and your post inspired me to stopped and think about how:

  1. I realized that people are different. Just because I happen to like my characteristics a lot doesn't mean I am inherently better than anyone else. Other people might prefer their own characteristics. From this realization came a natural mastery of the art of self-deprecation, which turns out to be quite useful as a social skill.

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to. If somebody is angry at me and insults me, I know that it's not me who the person is insulting, it's instead the person's perception of me.

If you really believe that, wouldn't the same thing apply to praise of you as well?

It does apply to praise: I take statements of the type "you're so wonderful" as having much more to do with how the person feels than it has to do with me.

I suppose you already drew the obvious conclusion, but I still think it's worth spelling out: The key to people liking you is making sure they feel good when you're around. Causality is secondary.
I learned to translate statements like "you are smart" as meaning "you agree with me". And, analogically, "you are stupid" (often phrased as "first I thought you were smart, but now I see you are not") as "you disagree with me".
Sometimes perceptions are accurate and sometimes they aren't. If you have reason to believe that a person's perception of you is inaccurate, you should be less inclined to take their judgements of you at face value.

(b) A woman sends signals of romantic interest, either accidentally, or whimsically. I mistakenly assume that she's carefully deliberating over the possibility of dating me, as I would be in her position. I decide to express interest in her.

She hasn't been thinking about whether or not she'd like to date me at all, she was instead engaging in casual preliminary flirting and/or wasn't carefully guarding against accidentally sending signals of romantic interest. So from her point of view it looks like "This guy expressed romantic interest in me without

... (read more)

I think that's largely depends on whether you manage to be explicit enough about your reasoning so that people who haven't taken the social justice class can follow your reasoning.

There's inferential distance. If you just reiterate SJW talking points that's likely not well received. If you manage to get deep enough that you actually communicate new insights, that's appreciated.

Ah, so ridiculously OP..? [1] X-D If politics tend to mind-kill, discussions of SJ tend to disintegrate brains into dust. People just haul out their flamethrowers and go to town... [1] For those not well-versed in DnD minutae, combining the abilities of a glass-cannon class (like a wizard) and a stealthy burst-damage class (like a rogue) tends to result in a quite overpowered character.
I think this is very edition dependent and what multiclassing rules you are using.
Eh, unless 5e changed things significantly I don't think wizard/rogue was ever a good combo. Both of them have features that are heavily dependent on class level, and so multiclassing makes you less effective at your core skill for both.
My thoughts exactly. The first commandment of multiclassing in 3rd is "Thou shalt not lose caster levels". Also, Wizards are easily the most OP base class, if played well. Multiclassing them into anything without wizard spell progression is just a waste. OTOH, using gestalt rules to make a Wizard//Rogue isn't half bad, even if a little short on HP and proficiencies. I prefer Barbarian or even the much ridiculed Monk in place of the Rogue.
No offense to you guys, but this is why I don't play RPGs with other people. Instead of playing a role almost everybody is trying to make "efficient" "overpowered" characters as if it was some sort of a competition which you can win. I think entirely the other way around, I would make my character a wizard because and only because this career choice matches his personality, background and so on, and multiclass only when it looks like my char really would. And would not give no heed to efficiency and power. It would be the DMs job to match difficulty level to our characters, not the other way around. I will have to invent an RPG where all armor has the same AC, all weapons the same damage, so that players don't try to make overpowered optimization monsters but plain simply choose whatever matches a characters style, background, culture, or the players general sense of coolness. Thus, for example, a player would be comfortable with a fighter character that wears no armor and carries only a rapier because he is a D'Artagnan type swashbuckler, that is his personality, background and style.
I typically play storytelling games (like Dread) in order to get the story as uncontaminated by tactics as possible. This simply does not work. The issue is matching the players to each other, not the difficulty to the characters. The three primary dimensions are time spent talking vs. fighting, plot vs. autonomy, and competence. Mismatch between the players on any dimension will cause conflicts. It's everyone's responsibility to form a group with accord on desires, and then the DM's responsibility to deliver sessions that line up with their desires.
There's a concept in game design called the "burden of optimal play". If there exists a way to powergame, someone will probably do it, and if that makes the game less fun for the people not powergaming, their recourse is to also powergame. Most traditional RPGs weren't necessarily envisioned as competitive games, but most of the actual game rules are concerned with combat, optimization, and attaining power or prowess, and so there's a natural tendency to focus on those aspects of the game. To drive players to focus on something else, you have to make the rules of your game do something interesting in situations other than fantasy combat, magical attainment of power, or rogue-flavored skill rolls to surmount some other types of well-defined challenges. All of these things can make for a very interesting game world of a certain flavor, but in that game world, some kinds of players and characters will inevitably do much better than others, usually the ones that have some progression to a god-like power level using magic. The flexibility afforded to the DM allows people to hypothetically run their game some other way, and many succeed, but the focal point of the game is defined by the focal point of the rules. They can decide to make their game center more around politics, romance, business, science, or whatever else, because they get to choose what happens in their world, but the use of an RPG system implies that the game world will be better at handling the situations the game has more rules, or more importantly, better-defined rules, for. The rules of a game are the tools with which players will build their experience, even in a more flexible game like an RPG. A few friends of mine invented a system that I'm helping them develop and playtest. It's somewhat rough at present, but the intent is to make rules that center more around information and social dynamics. In playtesting, people naturally gravitate toward situations the game's rules are good at handling, so a
This is the recourse if they disliking powergaming a little. If they dislike it a lot, they play with someone else, or if they cannot then not. Note: I have nothing against a competitive spirit, just 1) I think it is not an ideal avenue to exercise it 2) OP characters are simply boring, too narrow and predictable, walk around in full plate and carry the heaviest weapons, or shoot fireballs all the time and so on 3) it makes them "unrealistic", although in fantasy a better term would be "unmovielike" or "unnovellike". It is just hard to convey in the rules system that just because I am a medieval noble I won't walk around everywhere wearing 40 kg of metal, hauling a huge sword and shield around just because it gives me the best stats. It would be uncomfortable, unfashionable, ridiculous and socially unacceptable but how would you encode that in rules? Now, your analysis sounds a lot like a traditional libertarian market analysis: choices flow from incentives. But in this case, there is an omnipotent dictator so it is nothing like a market - if a DM dislikes powergamers, he can easily drop astral dragons on them, while treat non-powergamers well. And if his / her circle is largely non-powergamers, it works well. Because of the ominpotent nature of the DM, it is not a market nor like a sport nor any comparable thing, not even like a videogame. It is like a story, telling it as you fit or as you have agreed. Nevertheless you are right that perhaps rules could encourage it. Hm. Maybe I should take an idea from Game of Thrones. Real power is not a spell or weapon but political, social power which is gained through intrigue which the player must personally roleplay and acquire, not just roll a dice and get. Once a traditional powergamer gets surprised the same way how Ned Stark was, that another player with low stats and bad gear can still make 100 city guards attack him because he is a social, political powergamer, a lesson will be learned. The system you mentioned s
I think you're confusing two different genres -- games and realistic simulations. As a matter of fact, it turned out (after much wailing and gnashing of teeth) that accurate simulations tend to make lousy games. Essentially the problem is that they need to optimize for different incompatible things. This was discussed to death in the gaming world. Note -- you can certainly have good games which focus on e.g. political and social power and not on getting a full plate set with the ability to cast unlimited fireballs. But they are not going to be accurate simulations either.
Well, I was left out of it so you could give me some pointers that would be nice. I was just thinking it over myself. AD&D was infamously bad as simulation, in a "not even wrong" sense, you could literally not have a fight in the game mechanics that looks anything like normal fencing (i.e. 20 rounds without damage then one killer wound, instead it would be a death from a thousand cuts bullshit), so almost every other tabletop RPG e.g. Shadowrun or Vampire The Masquarade improved on that tremendously, which improved to me the fun factor to extent that it did not feel stupid at least, but indeed in itself did not max it out. I figured out, to max it out, it is not realistic simulations you want but movie-like or novel-like. Simulate a really good movie, not real life. So study the craft of writing, screenwriting, learn the trade of writers, and base the rules on that. This is where I am currently. Where to go from here?
Not that AD&D does any better, but if you're in a fight and you've exchanged blows twenty times without serious damage, at least one of the fighters isn't trying to win. Realistic personal combat (other types of combat can be more drawn out) is like Hobbes' state of nature, or a cannibal elf: nasty, brutal, and short. The problem is -- well, there are several problems here, but the main problem is that it's really hard to build a multiplayer game that's actually fun but that looks and plays like realistic fighting; the winners haven't had time to play, and the losers feel betrayed. You can do it in single-player games, where there's an endless supply of mooks to shank and no particular requirement that killing your avatar take you out of the fight for more than a few seconds, but you usually end up with a very hard game. Aiming for cinematics rather than realism is indeed the correct approach, but this wasn't clear in the tabletop RPG world for a long time; I suspect that has something to do with its roots in the strategy wargame genre, which values realism very highly and has the structure to mostly get away with it.
I found the rules of Shadowrun the most realistic and also playable, Second Edition if I remember right, I didn't keep up - I just hate the setting and the artwork with a fury. I don't remember all the exact details, but splitting damage into stun and health, having damage an effect on your abilities, rerolling sixes so that with good luck a weak weapon can do a lot of damage, damage modified by weapon skill (accurate aiming), adding inborn ability to learned skill together (not the most realistic but better than nothing), having dice pools reflecting what you pay more attention to, and the cleverly cinematic karma pool, are all things that seem like cinematic realism to me and IMHO playable. If only the rules were more open source like the d20 and used in different settings that make more sense... having both technology and magic is not necessarily a bad idea but somehow the Shadowrun world manages to make it very childish, and the novels that introduced the world are pretty much the weirdest fantasy I have ever read, just who comes up with the idea of a fundamentalist Christian hero who is also a peacenik hippie and refuses to use weapons in a cyberpunk-magical world?...
A liberal/progressive trying to make a "sympathetic" fundamentalist Christian, i.e., one sympathetic from the prog point of view.
I can recommend a book -- A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Or look e.g. at debates between strategy grognards and people who want to have fun throwing heavy metal at each other (on screen, that is). Or look at the evolution of long-lived games like WoW -- simulation inconveniences are ground away and you're left with pure-game design. You have to think in terms of abstraction layers. AD&D is a high-level simulation and I don't think rounds were ever meant to represent actual attacks and parries in a swordfight. Not to mention that are you asking for realism from a game that involves wizards and dragons..?
Realism is a poor term, but yes. The fantasy genre is strange. The very term would involve that anything goes, yet in practice what we usually have is a version of the Medieval world with the modification that the kind of legends they tended to believe in are actually true. The problem is usually having far too many wizards and dragons, Tolkien got it better with four and one, respectively, that is roughly how many of them would a superstitious medieval guy expect. So it is realistic more or less from the angle of the medieval guy who would expect to find dragons in Cathay and wizards in Hyperborea yet his ideas of a swordfight are either very realistic or he is dead. Consistency may be a better word, not consistency with itself, but consistency with how it modifies actual reality. Let's call it Consistent Deltas. If it is a fight between two monsters with 143 tentacles and 5 beaks I don't care how it is, as I have nothing to compare it with. But if it looks like a real human using something that looks like a real sword... then it should work more or less it works here. And yet another twist - "here" does not necessary mean real reality, but believable movie / novel reality. The kind of illusions we usually believe, where veterans of battles don't deal with PTSD and don't kill themselves five year after retiring. Thinking of it as a high-level simulation is new to me, perhaps true, in that case we really needed DM's who can describe it so... Thanks for the book idea.
That's the simulation argument, but I don't think it applies. Go up one abstraction layer. You have a conflict between your party and some creatures. You need to represent this conflict balancing (at least) three different things: (1) Resources (stat points, swords, spells); (2) Skill (ability to utilize the said resources); and (3) Luck (to prevent this from becoming a spreadsheet exercise). You can't overdo on any of them -- if resources dominate, the game becomes the search for the Sword of Pwnage. If skill dominates, the items in the game lose their attraction and you might as well play chess. If luck dominates, people tend to get frustrated and unhappy with their powerlessness. Game mechanics are an attempt to balance all these demands and have the result be fun. For emotional engagement you also want to tie these mechanics to familiar tropes, but it's just decoration. If the mechanics are not fun, arguments "but this is realistic" do not work. Imagine your character catching some intestinal disease so that for the next three or four days all he can do is run to the latrine every half an hour and that's it (and no, you don't get to wave a magic wand and say "Four days pass"). Realistic -- yes. Fun -- not so much.
Hm, okay, I get it, you are working from a bit of a different premises. I play both tabletop (rarely) or computer games for the immersion, for the feeling of being in a very different world. I don't really care about excitement, winning or anything, if I wanted that I would just take a first-person shooter but in my mind RPGs are markedly different category. To me it is pretty much literally an interactive novel or movie. I think you are working from premises that everything that is called a game is a game, is not different in essence from a shooter, or playing chess or basketball. There are rules, winners, losers and suchlike, excitement, overcoming challenges and all that. If you work from these premises, then you are right, but from that angle there is no point in being such a thing as an RPG genre at all. "Immersion and suspension of belief in a different world that is like a movie or a novel" and "the excitement through beating challenges according to rules" are IMHO two very different categories of things. In this sense RPGs don't even exist, because to the extent they are role-playing and thus the immersion, suspension of disbelief, and simulation elements are there, to that extent they are not fully games. In fact there is even a term "that is a too gamey move" where players pursue efficiency according to the literal letter of the rules and end up with something that is against the spirit / is too unrealistic in the simulated universe. I am willing to admit that most players want more gaming and less role-playing than I, both in tabletop and computer games, though. In fact I wondered why doesn't anyone makes a strategy videogame I would personally like. It would be like Medieval Total War 2, but without this hugely competitive aspect of everybody trying to conquer the known world ASAP. It would be more like just running your country. Sometimes there are wars, then you try to win them, but you are not trying be a second Alexander. You just try to keep your
There is no bright line (nowadays) separating games from interactive movies and there are certainly hybrids around. The problem with good full-immersion games is that they really hard to make, I think the screen and the controls actually get in the way and a good book is able to achieve better immersion because your imagination has more freedom. Usually, if you want to experience a game just for the story, you can put the difficulty on Easy, one-hit everything and travel the game world. Some very successful games -- like Skyrim -- aren't so much about "winning" as they are about constructing your own experience. The landscape of games is pretty varied, though. If you want to "realistically" swing your sword you can play the Witcher series; if you want a Medieval-ish open-world sandbox without much pressure to conquer anything you can play the Mount & Blade series; Civilization-style games offer country management without the necessity to conquer everyone else... That's Total War Shogun 2 :-)
I generally don't play "optmized" characters, but the fact that there are some character types which are more optimal for most purposes (surviving games, making DMs cry, etc.) is well acknowledged. One can have fun discussing those issues independent of any characters one actually plays in a game. There are however, some circumstances where it really does matter. Say for example one is playing a very high intelligence wizard in D&D 3.5. The fact is that throwing fire balls at everything is very fun, but not at all effective compared to battlefield control and buffing. So if one has a wizard who likes doing that sort of thing, you need an in game explanation for why they enjoy solving things with explosions so much. It is also worth noting that in some games, the problem of optimal characters gets so severe that it makes it for some arrangements of characters where it is extremely difficult or impossible for a DM to match something that corresponds to the difficulty level of all the characters. A genuine threat to some characters will be the same level that makes other characters useless or dead. The 3.5 Tier list was made to try to help understand and fix this problem. So these issues do impact real game play.
Multiclassing in 2E was a lot more forgiving. You had a choice between ugly and horrible math and ugly and horrible game design, and 2E's unforgivably clunky race restrictions limited implementation substantially, but you'd natively end up with a lot more class levels for a given XP total, such that you'd usually be out one or two levels in both classes, or in your highest class if you were dual-classing. There's a lot you could do with that, especially if you were working with the thief's percentage-based skill set.
I would like to apologize for nerd-sniping :-)
I'm very interested in what you have to say, but I'd prefer it if you didn't post publicly – there's a possibility that the discussion might attract extremists. Feel free to send me an email.
Great work 'Seek first to understand, then by understood' edit: misplaced apostrophe 'What you should NOT do: Four types of reacting from an egocentric perspective, that are unproductive: Evaluate: do not immediately let the other know whether you agree or disagree; Probe: do not keep asking questions and investigating; Advise: do not counsel purely based on your personal experiences; Interpret: do not try to define the motives of the behavior based on your personal experience. Four keys to EMPHATIC listening Empathic listening is the way to go, and can be divided into different levels: Mimic the content: repeat what the other just said. This makes sure that you are listening and that the other knows you are. The good thing of mimicking is that there is no place for judgment; Rephrase the content: tell the same story, but in your own words. You do not only show that you are listening, but also that you understand what the other is (literally) saying; Reflect on feelings: focus on the emotions that lie behind what is told, not on the words that try to express these emotions; Rephrase the content and reflect the feeling: this is a combination of the second and third form of empathic listening. It shows that you are really listening and understanding what message lies behind the words.'

For example, if a student tells me that I'm the worst teacher he or she has ever had, it makes me feel bad because I feel like I'm not contributing value, but I'm not at all upset with the student: my attitude is that the student is conveying valuable information to me, and that I should be appreciative.

I'm tempted to take that as a Crocker's rule invocation. But I have realized that you wrote this for people-like-you, that is, after all, pretty much its explicit purpose. As such, I'm not sure I have an criticism that I can't definitively think is helpf... (read more)

The second is that you come across as exceedingly arrogant.

As a datapoint, I didn't get this impression; I felt it was a pretty humble recounting of one's flaws and mistakes. (Though I'm probably much less perceiving of arrogance than the typical person.)

Seconded. To me it was both arrogant and humble, and I too do not have very strong emotional response to arrogance. Although I want to point that arrogance !== miscalibration.
As another datapoint, I think it's both -- I read an unusual combination of both humility AND arrogance.
Thanks very much for the feedback. What would you cut out? The reason that I went into so much detail is that the information would have been so crucial for me personally, and that other readers may have similar issues. I'm curious why you that I'm not part of your target audience – feel free to elaborate. I might be oblivious, but I don't see where I called myself smarter than the typical LW reader ... the difference in intellectual sophistication between me and the average LWer comes primarily from how I spent my time growing up, not from a difference in innate ability. I spent tens of thousands of hours optimizing for developing my mathematical ability and epistemic rationality, and as far as I can tell, most LWers haven't. My subjective sense is that what I'm saying is analogous to doctor saying "I spent 15 years training to be a doctor and practicing medicine" in response to somebody asking "why do you think that you know more about medicine than we do?" I know that I'm coming across arrogant, but I don't have an intuitive understanding of why I'm coming across as arrogant. I'd appreciate any insight and/or suggestions.

I don't have an intuitive understanding of why I'm coming across as arrogant.

Think in monkey-terms. Humans are just hairless bipedal apes and status matters, a lot.

Statements of what you perceive as (fairly obvious) facts have implications, in particular social/status implications. Human conversations are simultaneously an exchange of information and an exchange of signals. Most people automatically process these signals on the slightly subconscious level and respond with signals of their own without necessarily being aware of it. Women, in particular, are quite adept at this.

People in whom the signal-processing mechanism is inefficient, miscalibrated, or just plain broken have trouble with navigating social interactions. The interaction flows on (at least) two levels but the invisible layer is malfunctioning and if you don't even know it exists you are confused why the overt information-exchange layer is doing so badly.

I suspect that if the subconscious mechanisms are not doing their job, you have to bring the signal-exchange layer into the territory of the conscious and explicitly manage it.

Accept that every conversation has two layers even if you don't see one of them. Evalua... (read more)

Thanks. I'm not as oblivious as it sounds :-). My mistake was in greatly underestimating the extent to which LWers are like this, given the unusually high IQ and the explicit goal of refining the art of rationality. I thought "these people are different so I don't have to worry about that." The situation is that not all humans react negatively when someone else says "I'm better than all of you." That's the way almost all humans react, but having a sense of self-worth rooted in relative status is not biologically inevitable. It's possible to rewire status motivations so that they're rooted in the extent to which you're achieving a goal. Empirically, people who learn to do so are much more productive. My problem was that I didn't know that you didn't know this: I didn't realize that you had no way of knowing that it's biologically possible for somebody to genuinely not care about relative status. I didn't know that you didn't know what Poincare wrote:

but having a sense of self-worth rooted in relative status is not biologically inevitable.

Hold on, hold on. I wasn't talking about self-worth, this is an entirely separate topic. Status, in this context, is a social ranking. It's not about your internal feelings or perceptions, it's about the rank that the social group grants you.

I think that humans, generally speaking, are hardwired to chase status (to a greater or lesser degree), but, as usual, if you go far enough out into the tails, it's not that hard to find people who completely do not care about status. That's perfectly fine that they do not care, but that does not mean that they are outside of the status system because, again, status is what your social group assigns to you regardless of whether you asked for it or not.

It's possible to rewire status motivations so that they're rooted in the extent to which you're achieving a goal.

Well, it's certainly possible to care very much about some goal and not care about one's status, I am not sure there is any need for a rewiring. You can attach your self-worth to the extent that you are successful at achieving your goal, too, but that's not status.

I didn't realize that yo

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Ok, thanks, this is helpful. No, I know that I'm sending such signals. What I was thinking in writing my last comment was "Lumifer seems easily emotionally agitated by signals that I'm very high status. Presumably this is because Lumifer is concerned about looking lower status by comparison with me. But I know that there's no actual cause for concern, because it's possible to feel good irrespective of relative status. So I'll address that, in hopes that Lumifer will see that I'm not a threat." Was that unclear? (Btw, what's your gender? Which pronoun should I use? )
LOL. The style of my writing is not actually a direct function of my emotional agitation. If anything, the more fun I see in a situation, the more rant-y my writing gets. About things of deep emotional concern to me I would probably just shut up. Yes, it's possible, but are you actually saying that I should become like you in the sense of not caring about the status? That seems a fairly radical thing to demand. And while you might try to explain to me that you're "not a threat", that seems to be a very convoluted procedure -- first you send out a signal, then you need to explain that you don't actually mean it this way. You had plenty of experience with this procedure going wrong. Wouldn't it be much simpler and... more robust to not send out the problematic signal in the first place?
Ok, thanks for clarifying, this is helpful. Where I went wrong is in having the model "most people aren't like me, but a few are. The people who aren't like me might not be able to, but the people who are like me can." I didn't have social difficulties with the people who I saw as different from me. I had social difficulty with the people who I saw as similar to me, because my implicit premise was in the direction "they can easily turn off their concern for relative status," which was almost never true. So the set of people who I saw as "like me" became smaller and smaller, and I became more and more isolated, until ~6 months ago, when I finally started to figure out what was had happened. Ok, so when it comes to you: Where I was coming from was "doesn't everyone want to be free of feelings of jealousy and resentment?" It didn't occur to me that it's something that you might not want. Is it something that you like having even though it sometimes hurts you? For the sake of argument, suppose that I know things that would greatly improve LWers' lives if they knew them, that they can't learn anywhere else. In this hypothetical, if the situation became widely known, it would result in me being very high status, because lots of people would pay attention to what I said, and lots of people would want to be around me. In this hypothetical, I don't see how I could communicate the important information without signaling very high status. Of course you and everyone else might have good reason to doubt whether the information that I want to share would in fact greatly improve LWers' lives. But my focus here is on the meta-level: I perceive a non-contingency about the situation, where even if I did have extremely valuable information to share that I couldn't share without signaling high status, people would still react negatively to me trying to share it. My subjective sense is that to the extent that people doubt the value of what I have to share, this comes primarily fro
Well, being a unique snowflake and all that, I can't speak for others, but I can point out certain things from my own point of view. You are making the assumption that one's self-worth needs to be tied to one's status. Status is a part of what you are. This is not correct. You can keep your ego separate from it. Status can be a tool, it is what you have, not what you are. Think about money. Some people associate their self-respect and self-confidence with their monetary worth -- that leads to obvious issues. But the conclusion from that is not that smart people should take a vow of poverty: money is highly useful. Your bank balance should not be a concern that overrides everything else, but still more money is better than less money, in fact, spending some of your time and energy on acquiring money is a very reasonable thing to do. This is true even in spite of the fact that some people go overboard on the value of money, and sometimes bank balances cause "feelings of jealousy and resentment". If you're operating in a social setting, status is a nice thing to have. It is not the most important thing in the world, but it is useful, especially if you keep your ego from being entangled with it. The initial clash on LW wasn't really even directly about status. It was about rudeness. Regardless of whether one wants to play status games or not, there are social norms of politeness and etiquette. Even if the guy in the chair next to you smells really bad, you don't tell him "Dude, you stink!" -- that's rude. This is relevant because politeness norms govern statements that could be interpreted as status grabs (regardless of the intention behind them). The underlying offence behind sentences to the tune of "You guys are so stupid, just shut up and listen to the wisdom I'm about to bestow on you if you behave and ask nicely" is status-related, but the immediate norm that they directly break is the norm of politeness. They are rude. No, you are mistaken about that. You wo
No, I wasn't making such an assumption, I was trying to guess what was going on in your mind: a lot of people do attach their self-worth to their social status. I'm trying to get calibrated. At first, I thought "LWers will be like me and not care about their relative status on an emotional level " then I thought "LWers care a huge amount about their relative status, that's why they all got angry when I wrote a strong criticism of Eliezer and SIAI in 2010, then I thought "maybe LWers don't care that much about their status after all." If LWers weren't emotionally invested in relative status, we wouldn't be having this conversation :-). There's clearly some sort of issue of self-worth being tied to status. I just don't know how large the effect size is, and in what contexts I should and shouldn't expect it to show up. Can you help me understand? I'm aware of this, I was intentionally departing from these norms, in an attempt to support Less Wrong's stated purpose as A community blog devoted to refining the art of rationality. Up until recently, my attitude had been "these people are all hypocrites who don't actually care about rationality." I now know that I had been overly cynical. But taken seriously, the view "when Jonah writes things on Less Wrong, he should be careful to refrain from saying true true things when they might offend other participants" corresponds to "Less Wrong is not a community for some like Jonah whose focus is on refining the art of rationality." Note that I do adhere to standards of polite discourse except to the extent that I express my views when I think that they're important. I meant in expectation, not necessarily. You're doing it again :D. You seem to think that I'm coming across as arrogant because I'm egotistical. This isn't at all the case – it would be a relief for me if someone else was writing about the things that I want to communicate. I've found myself in the difficult position of having important information to communica

tl;dr: Claiming your information is really hard to communicate doesn't make me think it's actually inherently difficult (Mind Projection Fallacy) - it makes me think you either don't understand it well enough to communicate it but were motivated to post this as a status grab, or you're intentionally being deceptive. My recommendation from a social perspective, if you're actually interested in communicating the info is to claim not that it's really hard, but that you haven't figured out a way to communicate it effectively. Lay out the key principles as best you can, and preferably as well exactly why you think this info is key or at least known to the productive, high status people you cite.

What I want to convey is really hard (and perhaps impossible) to convey succinctly: that's why nobody's been able to do it successfully before! There are tens or hundreds of thousands of people who have known it. Bill Gates knows it, Warren Buffett knows it, Bill Clinton knows it, Freeman Dyson knows it. But it comes close to being impossible to externalize –historically people have learned how to do it by carefully observing others who can do it, generally as mediated through in-person interac

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1. If you were doing what you describe here, you would be correct. 2. Many people don't think you're actually doing what you describe here. Read the comments people are making. Most of of them are objecting to the connotations and implications of what you are saying. Not much of the objection is to the explicit factual claims you are making. This isn't about people understanding the importance of your information, because you haven't even gotten that far yet. People are saying "a crackpot would talk like that"--not "a crackpot would make those claims".
I think there is large variation here and it's difficult to give generic advice. I would probably expect it to show up everywhere -- if it doesn't you can be pleasantly surprised... So, reality check: how well do you think it worked? And another reality check: looking at actual results, do you think that it was helpful to getting your point across? No, I just remember you writing "I'm not going to hide who I am just so that people don't have to feel uncomfortable about someone being more sophisticated and empathetic than they are." Well, not that heavily. In specific areas -- math and programming come to mind -- claims of 10x more productivity are reasonable because we know it's possible to have that large a difference in productivity between adequate people. We know it's possible because we can observe it in real life. Whether you can teach that is another question, though. On the other hand... ...this matches crackpottery nearly perfectly. I'm not sure what is the precise problem that you are facing. If your wisdom can be conveyed in a text, well, write the text, put it on teh interwebs, and hope for the best. Someone will try it and if it works the method will spread. On the other hand, if you only can transfer this wisdom in person, ancient master/sensei/sifu-style, start looking for disciples. Finding worthy disciples is a traditional challenge for the masters :-)
At the moment Eliezer has the goal of doing Angel investing to prove to the world that he has high skill at judging the merit of ideas. Without achievements that aren't easily fakeable it's hard to signal that you are right. But the great thing isn't that you have to send a reliably signal that you are right to get people on LW to listen to you and engage with your arguments. Keep a journal yourself about your attempts to explain it to reflect on what works and what doesn't. Journal about how you use your productivity strategy. Journaling is a way to develop semantics to speak about an effect for which you lack words. Try having 1-1 interactions where you communicate your ideas and have feedback about where the other person get's lost.
I read his goals there as making money and increasing the efficiency of the startup ecosystem.
I think the author's note was written in the background of the media debate around UFAI in the last year. Eliezer had no place in it. Bringing himself into the discussion wouldn't have helped. At the same time UFAI still is the most important topic for him. I don't think he has written something that argues that improving the efficiency of the startup ecosystem is something that's important for it's own sake.
For what it's worth, these recent comments of yours have been working on me, at least sort of. I used to think you were just naively arrogant, but now it's seeming more plausible that you're actually justifiably arrogant. I don't know if I buy everything you're saying, but I'll be paying more attention to you in the future anyway. I've tried to convey certain hard-to-explain LessWrong concepts to people before and failed miserably. I'm recognizing the same frustration in you that I felt in those situations. And I really don't want to be on the wrong side of another LW-sized epistemic gap.
Have you considered doing it on your blog instead, and posting links to it here and elsewhere? It would make it easier for you to filter out unconstructive discourse.
I have no particular suggestions for you, but it's clear that it's at least possible to convey valuable information to LW without giving off a status-grabbing impression, because plenty of people have done it (eg lukeprog, Yvain, etc)
Certainly, they've done a very good job, and I commend them for it. But people who are so talented as them at communicating are rare.
Fair. So, random anecdote time: I remember when I was younger my sister would often say things that would upset my parents; usually this ended up causing some kind of confrontation/fight. And whenever she would say these upsetting things, the second the words left her mouth I would cringe, because it was extremely obvious to me that what she had said was very much the wrong thing to say - I could tell it would only make my parents madder. And I was never quite sure (and am still not sure) whether she also recognized that what she was saying would only worsen the situation (but she still couldn't resist saying it because she was angry or whatever) or whether she was just blind to how her words would make my parents feel. So my question to you would be: can you predict when your LW comments will get a negative reaction? Do you think "yeah, this will probably get negative karma but I'm going to say it anyway"? Or are you surprised when you get downvoted? (Not to say that it's irrational to post something you expect to be downvoted, of course, whereas it would be sort of irrational for my sister to say something in a fit of anger that she knew would only make things worse. I'm just trying to get a sense of how you're modelling LWer's)
I can predict it now. I was oblivious at the time when I started posting on LW under my pseudonym multifoliaterose in 2010, but I learned to pattern match: e.g. I was not surprised by the pushback on my reference to MLK, or by the heated response to this comment. The issue isn't that I don't know when something that I'll say will make people angry, it's that I don't know how I can communicate it in a way that won't.
Have you used the Try Harder? Specifically, I see responses where people say "this sentence is arrogant" and you will respond with "ah, I meant to say X," which is better worded and does not come across as arrogant. Now, sometimes they have specific information--"the comparison to Y is what makes it arrogant"--and the improvement uses that information. But if you asked yourself "What is the minimal claim I want to make here?" you might be able to drop the dross just by dropping everything unnecessary.
Thanks, this is a very good point.
I suspect that you're correct that you don't have to worry about arrogance as a strong communication barrier here -- I noticed that you registered as arrogant, but didn't really count it against you. Based on the other comments, it sounds like most readers did the same. There's a lot of conversation about status in the LW-sphere, particularly in the Overcoming Bias region. Since you wrote a post on social skills, and since that post did not seem to be using the social skill of status management, several commentators felt that it was worthwhile to tell you.
This is true, and one of the reasons I strive for this. But let's continue and think another layer deeper. Suppose A and B both believe this, and are happy to learn from anyone else, regardless of their arrogance. But if A displays arrogance, B might say "hmm, A isn't good at dealing with people; they'd be a poor choice for my ape-coalition." B still is polite to A, still learns from A, and so on--but silently fails to offer A opportunities that A's arrogance might sink.
Yes, this makes sense. I didn't know that people had legitimate reason to think that I was being disingenuous and / or putting on airs and / or attempting to assert superiority, because I didn't know how uncommon what Poincare describes is. I've been trying to shift LW social norms toward being more prosocial since 2010: it goes that far back. See my first post under my pseudonym multifoliaterose, on zero-sum bias. What I ran into over and over again was people thinking that I was smugly asserting moral superiority: they didn't understand that what I was trying to say was that I knew another way of doing things that would make them happier. "Who are you to think that you know what would make us happier?!?" The factually true answer is "I've read Poincare and others like him." But just communicating that information comes across as a status grab! I did succeed in playing a role in introducing the LW community to GiveWell. But if one puts that aside, I haven't been able to influence community norms to date. What I finally realized is that I can't do it alone: I can't unilaterally change community norms, I need to be a part of a community to do it :D. I'd welcome any suggestions.
Not sure if this is relevant, but since you asked for "any suggestings"... When I read your linked post, somehow it didn't work for me in a similar way that e.g. Eliezer's "Tsuyoku Naritai" did. The motivation part was missing, or rather I would have to derive it logically from the text. It felt almost as if you told the first half of sentence, then stopped, leaving the other half as my homework to discover. I have no idea whether my reaction is typical or unique. Terse writing is a status move "you should pay more attention to my text", but more importantly an inconvenience in debate. If I am not 100% sure what you wanted to say, I am less likely to write a reply, because it's possibly irrelevant. I am more likely to close the browser page, and read another article. First step is to catch attention and motivate. In a perfectly fair universe, people would automatically pay more attention to the articles that deserve it, but in our universe, we need some kind of marketing.
What changes in community norms would you like to see?
What I see is that people are warm and fuzzy when it comes to human interest type stuff. But that when it comes to hardcore rationality material, commenters often seem focused on getting other people to be less wrong rather than trying to be less wrong themselves! Jesus's comment seems highly relevant here, as does my (perhaps unnecessarily inflammatory) comment here. I know that I may be misreading the situation, as my social skills are mediocre, so if your own take on the situation is different, I'd be happy to hear it.
Advice I wish the teenage me had heard!
0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 9y
Personal experience :-P Not an ironclad rule of course, but a statistical tendency. You might also notice that the autism spectrum is dominated by males.
A quick google search found this: Emma Chapman, Simon Baron-Cohen, Bonnie Auyeung, Rebecca Knickmeyer, Kevin Taylor & Gerald Hackett (2006) Fetal testosterone and empathy: Evidence from the Empathy Quotient (EQ) and the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test, Social Neuroscience, 1:2, 135-148, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17470910600992239 I can't find a citation for the whole story right now, but as I remember it, it goes something like this: When the first wave of testosterone hits a male fetus, it kills off well over 80% of the brain cells responsible for empathy and reading emotions. Which is not as bad as it sounds, some of them do grow back. And then comes puberty...
I'm not sure we understand each other here, but I'm assuming you want to know why I do not consider myself part of your target audience. I don't have a concrete answer here, it's just that I read this and thought it didn't apply to me. I had some of the same difficulties as you, but not in a way that I feel your advice would have applied or still does apply. I can think of a friend for whom some of your advice would probably apply, though, and imagine you are targeting him and not me. This is what I take from: " I almost never went to Less Wrong meetups, because I had already thought about most of what people discussed, so that it was more efficient for me to learn on my own." and similar comments. I can see how you would take it as saying that you simply have already thought about that ahead of time and so you're not claiming to be smarter. (I've tried to explain that circumstance to people before myself.) But most people will take that to mean that you think you're too smart for them. Other comments suggest that this "most people" does not transfer to "most LW readers," though, so maybe I'm misplaced. This is also something that I thought could have been left out entirely. If you had to include this I would have suggested mollifying it a bit: make the problem seem to be yourself rather than others. Something like, "I struggled to find common ground to talk about even during LW meetups." This loses some specificity, but I'd play around with that kind of phrasing where you claim the fault is your own. Another example would be something like describing yourself as "The guy who has deep insights but who doesn't get anything done, because he he's socially dysfunctional so nobody listens to him". This is a pretty big humble brag. If I wanted to say that to a typical person I might have said, "The guy who doesn't get anything done, no matter what insight he has, because he's socially dysfunctional so nobody listens to him." It's more cautious and definitely doesn't cla
:D. I should clarify that I recently made a decision to be more explicit about the facts in order to better understand where people's negative reactions are coming from. It's not the case that I don't know that people react negatively to connotations that I think that I'm knowledgable than them. Just using the vocabulary that I use by default can give an impression of the type "this guy is using fancy words in order to bamboozle us." So your comments and Lumifer's aren't my first introduction to the phenomenon – I've been dealing with it since I was in preschool :D. Over the course of my life, to a large degree, I dealt with people's negative reactions to connotations that I was more knowledgable than them by giving up on communicating. My attitude was "I can't be who I am around other people, so my only choice is isolation." This is why I've never had a relationship at 29 years old, even though it was not uncommon for women to express interest in me. So I'm experimenting with how much it's possible or me to open up without social backlash, and how much it's possible for me to clarify what my beliefs are with disclaimers and/or appropriate phrasing, as opposed to it not being possible to say what I think at all. I haven't stated this explicitly yet, but since you seem to have genuine interest in me, on a personal level: My experience for Less Wrong (dating back to 2010 under a pseudonym) was traumatic for me. I thought "finally I've met people who are like me and committed to optimizing for charitable readings and for the truth." When I discovered that essentially no LWers were actually optimizing for epistemic rationality, I felt bitterly disappointed, and totally misunderstood the situation as "LWers are hypocritical borderline sociopaths." The actual situation was as I describe in my post: I was greatly underestimating the inferential distance, so that I didn't understand that behavior that appeared to me to be appallingly hypocritical was only so within m
Hi Jonah! Here is what weirds me out here a bit. I always had poor social skills. I also always disliked people. I tend to assume if you would like people (of course I like some people but the point is is what the default baseline is: and that is annoyance), you would need not skils as such because if you like whoever you talk to and it is clearly visible, what other problems could you have? People like to be liked. It is probably not this simple, yet, I wonder how much truth is in this. I never understood the stereotype that "nerds have poor social skills". My experience was we nerds were fucking angry at other people for them being popular, pretty and whatnot and us not so it was not just a skill thing. It is not that we did not know how to please people, but more like we had no intention to at all. And it is fairly obvious really, this is why every second nerd I knew wore Cannibal Corpse type death metal t-shirts, to signal anger, or "users are idiots" types of t-shirts from thinkgeek.com and so on. How much of it is skills really and how much is really disliking? For example I don't think I had any social skils problems with people I liked but on the other hand, maybe they just tolerated it because they liked me too. Because if they did not like me and did not humor me probably I started disliking them. Heh. Is it possible that skills are meant to bridge over disliking? How can a conversation where you like the other go wrong?
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You can participate in, or even help form, communities and still be socially inept. The stereotype should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to individual cases, but it's not pointing to an absolute lack of social interaction so much as a limited social range: your stereotypical nerd has hobbies and friends and can probably talk your ear off about them, but he's lost when it comes to social tasks outside the narrow scope of his community. Your example about flirting seems to be gesturing in this direction, but I think you're assuming a tradeoff where none exists; socially adept people are just as good at shop or hobby talk as the average nerd, but they also have the skills necessary to bridge communication gaps when they don't have a huge body of shared enthusiasm to fall back on.
"Normal" people choose their interests, in part, based on their appeal to other people. Nerds don't necessarily have bad social skills; they usually just prioritize socialization below other things (which clusters with some other non-normal mental traits). Socialization is a side effect of their interests, rather than their interests being a side effect of their socialization. They socialize fine - provided the other person shares their interests, inwhichcase, the socialization advances their interests. They just don't seek out socialization for itself. This limits their opportunities for socialization, reducing their opportunity for gaining skills in socialization.
I've only heard nerd used in a condescending way, or an ironic/reclaiming way. I would contest that nerds don't value socialisation less, so much as they are victims of relational aggression who's distinctiveness can't be seperated from their academic pursuits - something common to all students, since bullying often happens in a school setting. Anime fans were referred to as more 'geeks' where I come from, nerd1 if you will.
I don't know what people usually mean when they say that nerds have poor social skills. But I say that nerd communities function worse than regular communities. It's not just that nerds don't know how to flirt with regular people, but nerds have great difficulty flirting with nerds.
Yes. I am unaware of the terminology used by young people, but some suggested that "real nerds" today are called "neckbeards" and as far as I can see they resemble what I and two classmates were at 16. We enjoyed each others company but even nerd culture i.e. a gaming shop was a bit too scary. How to put it... it is not skills and not the classical "interaction drains the energies of introverts" thing. It is more like we could only enjoy the company of people we really knew well, they were from the same high school class. It was a little like a huge distrust for strangers.
The term nerd seem to be overloaded with a lot of different meaning.
I suspect you're right. All the "socially skilled" people I've talked to about this report that they like (meeting) other people by default. I, on the other hand, dislike people by default and can't seem to do anything to improve my "social skills deficit".
Let me throw another axis into the analysis. My go-to definition of introverts and extroverts goes like this: Extroverts gain energy from being with other people. Being with others is a relaxing thing which recharges their batteries. Introverts pay energy to be with other people. Being with others tires them out. Note that it's not about like/dislike and also not about fun/not-fun. Introverts might like being with someone and have much fun in process, but it still drains them, they need solo time to recuperate afterwards.
That's right, but it's not clear to me that this would give rise to the effect that DeVliegendeHollander and me are talking about. I'll grant that it's conspicuous that all the "socially skilled" people I mentioned are all extraverts. It would also seem natural that an introvert has a less positive attitude towards meeting people because his expected utility from the encounter is naturally lower. But it's not clear that introverts would necessarily have to have a negative response that I have to meeting people. For one thing, I've seen people who are definitely more introverted than me and are doing way better. As a matter of fact, I'm also completely confused about my own degree of extraversion/introversion because there are people who I can stand only for a short time, but there are also people who I can't get enough of, with no recuperation time needed. This seems to be better explained by a relational trait like "liking" than one that is inherent to me like extraversion/intraversion.
I'm not claiming this is the sole or even the most important axis -- it's one more way to look at the situation. I expect that not liking people (or, say, be bored by neurotypicals) is correlated with introversion, but these two characteristics do not have to go together hand in hand. And social skills (defined as the ability to manipulate social situations -- regardless of what you like or how you feel) are a different thing entirely.
This is IMHO too textbook. It is possible to dislike both social interaction and being lonely. This sound contradictory but desires and personalities are not necessarily logical.
What exactly does energy mean here? How many joules does it cost? I have the impression that when new age people use energy is a way that doesn't correspond to something that can be measured in joules that's bad, but when people with a more rational background do so, it's completely fine.
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"Energy" in such a context refers to a subjective physical and mental sensation, which has in common with joules that it is experienced as being used up and replenished. Newage types may attribute physical existence to it, but everyday usage need not be making any such claim. But I'm rather surprised by your question, given the amount you've written on the importance of proper physical awareness and use of our bodies.
I know you intended your comment to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but it is actual energy, measured in Joules, we're talking about. Exerting willpower drains blood glucose levels. I don't know of studies that indicate intraverts would drain glucose faster than extraverts when socializing, but that seems to be a pretty straightforward thing to measure, and I'd look forward to the results. At least, i can tell from personal experience that I need to exert willpower to stay in social situations (especially when there are lots of people close by or when it's loud), and I'm a hardcore intravert. Also, I can conclude from the observation that there are actually lots of people who like to go to these places, while very few people enjoy activities that force them to exert willpower, that not everyone feels about it the way I do.
Some doubt has been cast on that theory (Googling /willpower glucose/ turns up various papers for and against), but besides that, someone reporting sensations is not reporting the physiological causes of those sensations, even if they have a belief about what those causes are. There's an annual 100 mile bicycle ride at my home town that gets above 3000 participants every year. There are 50 and 25 mile options, and perhaps only a minority do the full 100, but it's still a sizable number. Anything that one is serious about wanting to do, one will exert as great an effort as required. "Having to exert willpower" sounds more like not actually wanting to do whatever it is but grinding on with it anyway. It's the activity that's unenjoyed, rather than the effort.
As if sensations don't have physical existence. A core part of developing physical awareness is to get clear about what words one uses to label what phenomena. If you can distinguish more different states by having clear labels for them, you get more awareness. To me "Extroverts gain energy from being with other people. [...] Introverts pay energy to be with other people." feels like a cached thought. If you assume that humans have something like "batteries", it's worth thinking about the physical reality of what you are talking about. Are you talking about glucose level in the blood or aren't you? Is this about Roy Baumeister's glucose based willpower and the amount of joule in that glucose? I think it's worthwhile to consciously think about what we actually mean instead of only relying on metaphors. That doesn't mean that metaphors are always bad but it's important to be conscious of the reason one has for using them.
They do. So does the physical mechanism that produces them. I was intending to point to the fact that these are two different things -- not a non-thing and a thing. The everyday use of "energy" refers to the former. Cached vs. newly thought is orthogonal to this. That a thought is familiar does not invalidate it. A sharp taste. A dull pain. A piercing scream. Fluent speech. Raw weather. Feeling energetic. We all know what these expressions mean. Metaphors are unproblematic as descriptions. The important thing is to be aware that they are descriptions, not explanations. When misused as explanations they amount to magic: an explanation with no moving parts, just a name. Real explanations require more than thought alone, but also observation and investigation. Actually, the first definition that Google gives for "energy" is "the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity", not the sense it takes in physics. In the OED, of the six senses distinguished, the thing measured by joules is in last place and dates from 1807. So it isn't even a metaphor here.
If by "metaphor" you mean "using a word with a sense other than the historically oldest one, then whenever you're talking about checking something when not playing chess you're using a metaphor.
I think you overrate the difference from New Agey people in that regard. Someone who does energy healing speaks labels certain sensations he perceives as energy. I don't think "invalidation" is the point of asking questions. These expressions can usually refer to a bunch of different things. Also if you know what the expression means, it shouldn't be hard for you to break it down.
They mean certain generally familiar sensations. What has that to do with "breaking it down"? You can stare really hard at those sensations, and examine how they arise and change and pass away, which I am guessing is what you are referring to as "breaking it down", and you can study them from outside the experience with the usual methods of science, which might also be part of what you are referring to, but that has nothing to do with knowing "what these expressions mean". If I learn from a carpenter about the construction of tables, I am learning about tables, not about the meaning of the word "table".
There's a sensation of having a high muscle tonus. There a sensation of feeling the need for sleep. There's a sensation that comes with an increase in testosterone. There's a sensation of reduced inhibition for movement. There's a sensation of motivation. There's low/high blood sugar. There's heart rate variance. There's willpower. Those are all different variables that person could mean when he speaks about "paying energy". If you are interested in actually understanding what happens when introverts pay energy for social interaction it's useful to mentally distinguish those things. Distinguishing them allows you to intervene. I personally don't drain when in social interaction. But I'm also not a typical extrovert.
They use it in an unempirical way that corresponds to things that are literally nonreal. Besides, "energy" is a fine word to describe people "getting tired in social situations".
Are you arguing that those people aren't feeling a sensation of energy? If you think energy when used to talk about introverts paying energy during social interaction is meaningful and describes more than a subjective impression, what metric would you use to measure that energy?
Are you somehow implying that subjective impressions are not meaningful?
If you consider them to be meaningful in this context I don't think you have grounds to object with a large portion of the way the word energy is used by New Age people in practice.
Causes you to subjectively feel more tired.
Or maybe you only liked people you didn't have social problems with.
Liking highly tolerant people, for example?
Although I liked the post overall this was my impression, especially when you wrote "I've developed the capacity to feel universal love and compassion the way Martin Luther King and Gandhi were able to."
I think part of the arrogance is degree of certainty in the presumption that you have a personal insight into what that means. I think what you're trying to convey is "I've developed the capacity to feel universal love and compassion the way I think Martin Luther King was able to." Which is still brave and direct but doesn't make me cringe so much :)
I think on Less Wrong of all places people should be able to say things like that if they think they are true. Gandhi and Martin Luther King aren't really known for their internal experience of universal love and compassion, they are known for the remarkable works they accomplished. The magnitude of their compassion as far as we know is a reflection of the mythology surrounding them. There is absolutely no reason to believe that having the same internal experience as them will lead to accomplishments so grand, and in fact it seems very unlikely to me given the large number of extremely accomplished meditators who claim to have the internal experience of universal loving-kindness. Though they are large in number, very few (potentially = 0) are as well known as Gandhi. Not being able to point to works as remarkable as some of the most remarkable historical figures in our current cultural awareness is very scant evidence that someone does not experience universal love and compassion of the same sort.
What's the prior on understanding the mind of MLK or Gandhi well enough to make a realistic comparison? And why choose people who are practically venerated as modern saints? I don't think that such a comparison is ever truly innocuous. It's a common Dark Arts ploy to associate oneself with beloved historical figures in the hope of basking in the light of their greatness. The objection isn't whether someone actually experienced compassion similar to that of Gandhi. The objection is that comparing oneself to Gandhi raises the specter of the Association Fallacy.
Yes, so you're doing what everyone else did throughout my life: you're attributing unflattering motivations to me that I don't have. It's not just you, it's almost everyone who I've interacted with. My uncharitable interpretation of this sort of thing was I never talked about this, because I figured that there was no point: I thought "these people have dug themselves into such a deep epistemic rabbit hole that they can't out of it – they can't see me for who I am independently of what I say. My current hypothesis is that you're not doing this, you don't have some sort of evil Hansonian agenda, rather, the situation is instead that you don't know that it's possible for humans to rewire their motivations so as to be almost completely unrelated to relative status. What do you think?
My point is that comparing yourself favorably to someone like Gandhi is a very common rhetorical tactic. For example, here's Dan Quayle comparing himself to JFK. While the statement he made was literally true, it was perceived as implying other similarities and his opponent called him on it. From the other comments it seems that you did not intend to imply other similarities to MLK or Gandhi. I wish to convey that even if you personally don't have this motive, in common use such comparisons do have this motive. Therefore, for someone hearing such a comparison made, there's a very high prior that such a motive exists. The philosopher who provided my username counseled indifference to status. I am familiar with the notion. My objection is not about motivation, but about motivation as perceived by an outside observer. I take it as a general principle that the message one intends to send, the message one actually sends, and the message received need not be the same. Consider Polya's traditional math professor: "He says a, he writes b, he means c; but it really should be d." What are the poor students to make of this muddle? Back to our hypothetical observer. If the observer does not know your mind, all he has to go on are the literal meaning of the words you use and any connotations associated with them via common usage or community standards. It is possible for these connotations to warp the meaning to something altogether different from what you intended, even if the observer is wholly neutral. Real people have their own filters and perceptions, which can further change the meaning. I have a vague hypothesis that much social convention is just a way of standardizing communication to avoid these kinds of problems.
What you're writing here is very close to what's been on my mind. What I was responding to was "I don't think that such a comparison is ever truly innocuous." That sounds like it's about your perceptions as opposed to other people's perceptions. :-). Did I misunderstand?
That specific line was my perception, yes. The bit that followed it was intended as a general statement.
Ok, so can you help me understand your own perception?
Sure. Here are my observations: It's a common tactic among politicians to favorably compare themselves to famous historical figures. It's common among cranks to compare their own struggles to the persecution of Galileo. In general, there's a rhetorical device of people comparing themselves to famous figures in order to imply that they have other characteristics in common. This has led me to assign a very low prior probability to such a comparison being wholly innocuous. As a result, when I see such a statement made, my reaction is to become more a lot cynical about the piece and to question the author's motives.
Sure, this makes sense. But sufficiently strong filters will filter out people when they say very unusual things independently of whether or not they're true :D. Catching diamonds in the rough requires more refined heuristics. How would you be able to tell if somebody actually felt universal love and compassion like MLK?
I don't think I'd ever reach that conclusion based on someone's self-reporting. Too prone to bias. So what would convince me? Well, the same way MLK convinced me: actions. Not in the sense of having to lead a civil rights movement, but rather in the sense of displaying that level of love and compassion when there is a cost to doing so. Are you so committed that you'd risk imprisonment or assassination? There's really no way for me to tell unless real life tests your mettle. I admit, it's a high bar. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. How then would I gauge the love and compassion of someone who had to hazard neither life nor liberty? I have on occasion witnessed people perform generous acts which would not have even occurred to me, but upon seeing them I could not doubt their rectitude. More common is just a general pattern of behavior: how an individual interacts with others.
In a text-only medium, what you say is all there is. Even face to face, what you say is a large part of what there is. And in any case, what you say flows from who you are. What would you have people do instead?
Are you actively trying to misinterpret his point?
No. It is possible that I have, nonetheless, misinterpreted his point. However, having reread the context, I see nothing amiss; I am not seeing whatever it is that you are seeing. What are you seeing?
He's saying, more or less: people take me too literally, they miss the forest for the trees. Your response was to nitpick his statement in a way that missed that point he was trying to make. It seemed ironic, in a way that would irritate me endlessly if I were Jonah.
Ok, yes, I find nitpicking tedious and a great pain also, and far too much of it goes on on LW. But I was not intending a nitpick, but the basic point that what anyone says is their presentation of who they are. Charitable reading and forest and trees and etc. understood, everything that Jonah wants to communicate still has to come through the bottleneck of his words.
Yes, what 9eB1 said: I'm not claiming that I have noteworthy real world accomplishments, or that I'm exceptional in having this capacity. The Bayesian update that I intended to report on was "it's possible for lots of people to feel universal love and compassion like MLK and Gandhi," and I was citing the fact that I learned how to as evidence. But I'm not pushing back on you in particular: pretty much everyone who I've been talking to has been reacting to what I've been saying in the same way, and I'd welcome any suggestions for how to convey the relevant information without coming across as arrogant and/or grandiose.

Just as you usually shouldn't compare your enemies to Hitler, you probably shouldn't compare yourself or your allies to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. These individual's auras are just too strong, making comparisons mind-kill territory. Also, comparing yourself to both MLK and Gandhi in the same sentence reads like something the character Michael Scott would do.

I removed reference to Gandhi. The strength of the aura is part of the point that I was trying to make: This is exactly the sort of miscommunication that I've struggled with throughout my life. I want to convey "I know that people have much better prospects than they believe to become like Martin Luther King, because he's not a god, he's a human" and instead it comes across as "Jonah thinks that he's like a god." Any suggestions for how to rephrase?
Here I present you with a technique known as "softening". Use case: only when you are presenting yourself as above the average people of a particular context or when you are comparing yourself with someone with a very strong positive status. When not to use it: when you are presenting others above everyone else, as it's perceived as a praise although never taken literally ("she is smarter than Einstein"), or when you compare yourself with someone with a very strong negative status, as it's perceived as irony ("I'm less coordinated than an epileptic"). Never compare yourself with someone with a very strong negative status for real, as it generates strong mistrust. That said, to soften a comparison: you first bring up everyone else to the positive example, then you compare yourself to that. You did that correctly with the doctor example and the MLK explanation: 1. Just as a doctor is required to study 10k hours to become a master of the trade, to become an accomplished rationalist requires that much study, and it's an effort I've undertaken. 2. Everyone can learn to feel the universal love exemplified by MLK, and I too have learned to do that; you just didn't know it was necessary.
Thanks, this is really helpful.
Do you have the social feedback from other people that they feel such an aura from you? If you do, you should probably share that information. If you don't you are overrating your abilities. Given what you wrote elsewhere about your level of social skill I think that's likely to be the case.
This was a miscommunication. I'm not saying that I exude such an aura. I'm saying that the aura that people attribute to them is misleading, as it carries connotations that they're super human, when the actual situation is that they were operating within (roughly) the same biology that all humans are.
It seems to me that you say that without having interacted with any such individuals. Above you speak about having learned that "caring about people" requires not only thinking about their feeling but actually feeling. Other people react towards the emotional states that are in your body. If your body would actually resonate strongly with the emotion of compassion that's something that other people can pick up. It's produces an aura for someone like Ghandi that makes other people want to follow him. Having the same biology is one thing, acquiring a skill at world class level in weeks or months is another.
Add something like "of course I know I personally will never come close to having his level of compassion."
I don't know whether you're being playful, defeatist, or misreading me. :-) My point is that it is possible to come close to having his level of compassion: that the difference is apparently to a surprisingly large degree more environmental than genetic. Are you claiming that communicating this point is hopeless?

I think it is worse than hopeless on multiple fronts.

First problem:

Let's take another good quality: Honesty. People who volunteer, "I always tell the truth," generally lie more than the average population, and should be distrusted. (Yes, yes, Sam Harris. But the skew is the wrong way.) "I am awesome at good life quality," generally fails if your audience has had, well, significant social experience.

So you want to demonstrate this claim by word and deed, and not explicitly make the claim in most cases. Here, I understand the reason for making it, and the parts where you say you want good things to happen to people are fine. (I have on LW said something like, "I have a reputation for principled honesty, says me," in arguing that game tactics were not dishonest and should not apply to out-of-game reputation.) But the MLK thing is way-too-much, like "I never lie," is way-too-much.

Second problem:

As others have said, the comparison is political and inapt. You couldn't find anyone less iconic? Penn Jillette? Someone?

And MLK is known for his actions and risks and willingness to engage in non-violence. I read somewhere that ethnic struggles sometim... (read more)

No worries; just say that you've "begun to develop" the same capacity, after establishing (as I believe you've already done with clarity) that you believe that the whole human race can attain the fullness for which you are also striving. Unless you really did mean "developed," as in, you've already developed it. In which case, that's an extraordinary claim. People will tend to assign it low probability and (seeking an alternate explanation) attribute your claim to it as plausibly resulting from an inflated sense of your own accomplishment, i.e. pride and arrogance, unless you provide extraordinary evidence that you speak truly. If you really think you've already achieved MLK or Ghandi-esque compassion, based on what you're describing, I wonder if an apter comparison might be the Greek Stoics, a lack of negative reaction resulting from not perceiving an authentic attack, rather than by superhuman dominance of your negative emotions, and a superabundance of positive emotions. Your description of not feeling insulted because people are only responding naturally to a misunderstanding of you is familiar to me, as is the accompanying lack of offense stemming therefrom. I don't doubt you might really have no offense at all in this area, and if it is only in this area that you believe to have Gandhi-esque powers, just clarify that you aren't referring to mastery of every manifestation of love, only this particular one, and that for you it has come by not perceiving an offense, rather than by overcoming your offense.
Thanks, this is fine. What I mean is "what I've developed recently is in the same general direction of what they had", not "my affective disposition is identical with that of MLK's." I don't have strong views how exactly how close the similarity is, I just know that I'm much further in that direction than I was before.
I don’t personally know that MLK had this specific quality. I've made explicit what you have implied, that he did. Even if he did have it, I don't think you could reduce his general capacity for love to this one idea, hence "part of." But to avoid apparent arrogance, perhaps the first sentence of the second-to-last paragraph might be written like so. "This perspective I’m developing is part of what gave Martin Luther King the capacity to feel universal love and compassion."
I misread you. How would you differentiate between someone who (1) has shifted in the direction of MLK via compassion, or someone who has (2) reached his level of compassion?
James_Miller has covered the ape-coalition elements of that comparison in a sibling comment. I'll focus on the skill elements. The way the claim is worded makes two different unintended (I suspect) claims. The first is "developed the capacity ... the way" ambiguates between "now perceive a skill, and am at the first level" and "have the same skill level." If I say "I have developed the capacity to swim the way Michael Phelps can," people will ask me where all my gold medals are. I could have in mind that I can swim at all, and am just using Michael Phelps as an example of what human swimming looks like for people whose only experience of swimming is what they see on TV. (This last sentence is important, and the underlying assumptions might be worth a post if I can figure out the right way to explain them.) The second is "the way Martin Luther King" claims discernment. If I were to say "I know why Michael Phelps is as good a swimmer as he is," that implies I am a critic of swimming with at least as much discernment as Phelps has quality as an athlete. It's not necessarily the claim that I personally could be as good as swimming as he is--perhaps I need different genes to have arms proportioned better for swimming, and to have spent my childhood in a different way. But it is the claim that my model is strong enough that we can use it for correct counterfactual reasoning on extreme cases. When I read that statement, I inserted qualifiers like "as I understand them." This is how I would have worded it, with minimal content changes: ("one" is the weakest part of that sentence; substituting "me" runs into status issues, substituting "almost anyone" runs into challenges about inherent aptitude / the rivalrous nature of positions like those held by MLK and Gandhi, and so on.) [edit] I just noticed JRMayne's comment, which covers much of the same ground. Specifically, their third problem is my problem of discernment, and their first problem is similar to my "same skill
I more get the impression that he's just not trying to mince words. His statements of his thoughts and his perceived reasons for social isolation are expressed bluntly and succinctly. It would have been more socially acceptable for him to preview all of his good points with disclaimers about how wrong he believed himself to "probably" be, and we probably would have understood him as expressing social deference rather than actual uncertainty, but I get the feeling he's focusing on appealing to LW's reputed value of truth and meaning, and cutting out the niceties for brevity's sake. All of which I personally approve so long as he's aware of it. It could be a stumbling block to communication in other forums.

I find it useful to have a conceptually explicit translation layer in some social interactions. Essentially, the meaning behind the words is often quite different from the literal words uttered and it's the job of the translation layer to figure out the former.

To riff off another thread, for whatever reason I don't have a problem pronouncing words "I don't know". But many people do. So if I ask someone a specific question and start getting some vaguely related bullshitty handwaving in response, the literal interpretation would be "He didn't ... (read more)

There is also something else going on here, which I realized after learning about personality types, especially Jung's theories and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. One dimension separates along the primary mode of seeing the world (Sensing vs iNtuitive), with the former ones collecting individual facts and strictly following isolated rules, and the latter ones always looking for the generalized principle behind the facts and questioning the origin and sense of rules.

These two types have a lot of trouble understanding each others' way of thinking and frequ... (read more)

It didn't occur to me how significant this was. The number of hours that I had is perhaps as small as the number of hours that most people have by age 10. In hindsight it's obvious: of course I didn't have good social skills relative to other adults, in the same way that a 10 year old doesn't have good social skills for an adult. I just hadn't put nearly enough time in!

Just out of curiosity - do you think that all other people who put massive amounts of time into socializing get benefits that are proportionate to the amount of time put in? From our poin... (read more)

Intelligence is basically how quickly you learn from experience, so being smart should allow you to get to the same level with much less time put in (which seems to be what the OP is hinting at). I'd also expect diminishing returns, especially if you always socialize with the same (type of) people. At some point, each social group (or even every single person) becomes a skill of its own. Once your generic social skills are at an acceptable level, pick your specializations carefully. Life is too short to waste it on bad friends.
I am not at all sure it is true (at the very least it depends on the type of learning, intelligent people often do not learn music or sports movement fast) but to the extent it is true, it would be then very useful to send highly intelligent people through the equivalent of an obstacle course where they gain a lot of different type of experience, like a month long summer camp for gifted students with a different profession or difficult activity tried every day. Because, you see, we tend to have literally the opposite. Usually the highly intelligent are shut-in savants who have hardly any experience that does not involve a computer, books or paper.
That's exactly what school is supposed to do.
My school was largely about memorizing things and barfing it back. No understanding or practical use required. To be fair, this is part of why places like the US or UK tend to be ahead from most places, because their education is more... life-like? Because mine, in the rougher parts of Europe was pretty much exactly what Feynman wrote about Brazil in Surely You Are Joking. PDF: http://buffman.net/ebooks/Richard_P_Feynman-Surely_Youre_Joking_Mr_Feynman_v5.pdf then Ctrl-F for "I discovered a very strange phenomenon". My schooling was very similar. But even in the more pragmatic type of US / UK style schooling, it is still purely dry theoretical intellectual academic things. How many highly intelligent geeks there learned at school and by the school how to climb a rock, swim, or not get lost in a forest? Or something far, far more important: to present an idea before an auidence, like they do at Toastmasters? Show me one school in the world that does something more or less Toastmasters'-like on a mandatory basis... this is one of the most important skills for the intellectuals. A scientist has to be able to give a presentation that convinces the fat cats to give a budget to the research project. Without money nothing moves forward.
That's why I said "supposed to do". The core argument behind schooling is that we can make a person much more capable by exposing them to things they would not otherwise be exposed to, and that it is valuable to give a broad background in many different topics. Fundamentally this is similar to what you're suggesting, and the differences you point out just indicate that school has a bad choice of curriculum and teaches it badly. The primary novelty in what you're suggesting is that you want "a lot of different type of experience" with a shallow view on each topic ("a different profession... every day"), whereas school typically spends a lot of time on a couple of different topics but with essentially the same type of experience. I do not intend to comment on whether I think this will work better. For the record, I don't know what Toastmasters does, but the schools I've to had Drama class and occasionally required giving presentations.
I can think of a few people I know who do put a substantial effort into socialising, and yet it seems to me that they are not getting much return for their efforts. In different ways, their efforts are going wrong, and to see this in action is like seeing a plane going down an endless runway but never taking off. I sometimes wonder if the pilot even knows there is such a thing as flying. Grinding the hours does not on its own lead to mastery. It's how you use them.

Just wanted to mention that I like this write-up, though I suspect that the only transferrable takeaway for many others struggling with similar issues would be

Focusing on understanding how one is similar to others and how one is different from others can be a better way to become socially aware than usual efforts to "develop social skills."

Bu the description of your meta-cognition process is hopefully encouraging enough for others to try to emulate.

Thanks. Do you think that the particular set of issues that I had is largely disjoint from that of most LWers? I know there are differences, but do you think that the overlap is too small for it to be relevant? The reason that I ask is that there may be parts of my posts are highly relevant and not yet salient, that I can make more explicit.
I mentioned your post to a couple of people online who I found to be in the most dire need of a similar action, and their reaction was a complete misunderstanding and rejection. Here is the anonymized quote: So, unsurprisingly, the people most in need are the least likely to benefit. For the same reason you did not find the neurotypical feedback useful. The spectrum is wide and multi-dimensional, and those far from the center are not necessarily close to each other.
Thanks for the information.

I now have a deep understanding that there are many instances in which people appeared to be hostile toward me when their feelings weren't directed at me, instead they didn't know enough about what was going on in my mind to be able to see that I wasn't the person who they thought that I was.

... If somebody is angry at me and insults me, I know that it's not me who the person is insulting, it's instead the person's perception of me. So people can't hurt me anymore.


I will point out that I much more frequently see people giving similar, but 'revers... (read more)

For me it's somewhat different: If somebody is angry at me and insults me, I know that it's not because of me that the person is insulting, It's instead caused by the person's history and their perception of me in relation to it. If they convey factual information of my behavior that I might profitably change for all involved I (try to) do so. But I almost never see it as my 'fault'. So people can't hurt me (almost never could).
This is a fleshed out version of what I meant :-).
Hm. Interesting. I saw the difference between my and your description as "their perception of me" vs. "my perception of them". But now it looks like "my perception of them vs. my perception of their perception of my perception of them" but that's probably sufficiently near a perception-fixpoint to count as the same..

I've developed the capacity to feel universal love and compassion the way Martin Luther King were able to.

This is interesting. How do you know?

Well, I don't know how things felt to MLK from the inside, but his speeches resonate with me a lot, and I've been able to sincerely forgive everyone who had harmed me.

(e) I say something that someone doesn't understand. I think "maybe the person needs more context," and follow up by giving more context. The person still doesn't understand, so I think "ok, I guess I have to give even more context" and so continue in the same direction. In fact, the amount of context that I would need to give for my point to be clear would take ~100 hours to convey, so that what I'm doing is actually not at all productive. The person perceives the situation as

Jonah is totally ignoring the fact that I'm not understand

... (read more)
Only say things that can be heard. If you can anticipate that you are too many inferential steps away, you should talk about something else. Which means in this case: Be patient and build their knowledge from the bottom, not from the top. If you have already started and notice the problem too late, yeah, you're kinda screwed. The honest answer seems pretty rude, and not saying anything is worse. I'd probably try to salvage what I still can by saying something along the lines of "I know this is a complicated and confusing issue, and it takes a while to explain where I'm coming from*. I can point you to these resources if you're really interested in the matter." And not bring it up again unless they start it. This allows you to drop a conversation that's going nowhere, while they can research it if they want to or ignore it if they don't while still saving face in both cases. *Or, if it went really bad: "...and I suck at explaining." - taking the blame for the failed communication can defuse the sting of making them feel stupid.
This post is about my horrible social skills, I'm not complaining about other people's behavior. My main life focus right now is on learning to communicate better.
Try to ask questions that probe for the reason they don't understand (rather than assuming you know the reason), see if you can reformulate your point as an analogy that makes sense given their level of knowledge and doesn't require all that context? (A little hard to answer in general without knowing more specifics of the situation.)

edit: the tone of this post is angry, so you know. The anger is directed primarily at the paragraph I quote, which I consider utterly outrageous. It definitely spills over onto you also but I have nothing against you other than what spills over from this paragraph. I found your post had interesting insights in it otherwise. Anyway this post is pretty much an outraged rant so be warned.

Actually, here are the cliff notes because there were some objective things I identified.

teaching is a public performance role. dealing with customers complaints is literally... (read more)

With respect to gauging where people are coming from, one trap I've seen among smart people is to assume that who you are talking to is stupid based on a proxy, when it's easy to get better information.

To give an example, I'm an engineer and I see this sort of behavior relatively frequently from people who majored in physics, math, or computer science. Many of these people seem to believe that all engineers are stupid, or at the very least they see themselves as superior to engineers. After revealing that I'm an engineer, some of these people either stereo... (read more)

There's definitely a cultural tendency among those educated in the arcane (Computer science, Math, Physics is a reasonable start for the vague cluster I'm describing) to be easily convinced of another person/group/tribe's stupidity. I think it makes sense to view elitism as just another bias that screws with your ability to correctly understand the world that you are in. More generally, a very typical "respect/value" algorithm I've seen many people apply: -Define a valuable trait in extremely broad strokes. Usually one you think you're at least "decent" on (Examples include "intelligence", "popularity", "attractiveness", "success", "iconoclasm", etc.) -Create a heuristic-based comparator function that you can apply to people quickly -Respect/value people based on their position relative to you on your chosen continuum (Defined by your comparator) This is at least common enough to note as an anti-pattern in social reasoning. When I fall into that pattern, I usually use "intelligence," as I'm sure many in the "Techie/Programmer/Atheist/Science nerd"-cluster tribe I find myself most affiliated with also do. I think it helps to taboo the idea of intelligence. Intelligence is pretty great, but it's also a word with vastly disparate connotations, all of which are either too specific to be what people are actually talking about when they say the word, or too vague to be a useful measure to actually judge whether I like and find value in another person. I find that tabooing the idea of intelligence often will disrupt my "fast intelligence comparator" evaluation. Once you don't let yourself use your easy cached comparator, you can start trying to assess people without it. Trying to think of a person in terms of their competencies is a good exercise in respecting them more. For example: "This person is good at reading subtle emotional/social cues" or "This person is good at encoding complex ideas in accessible analogies" or "This person is good at quickly coming up wit
I don't know about that. I do have a tendency to quickly evaluate people on the stupid <-> smart axis and I think it's perfectly fine. The thing is, evaluation is not a one-time action -- it's an estimate that is continuously updated throughout the interaction. And as you learn more about the person, your estimate grows more specific and more granular. That does not mean the initial quick estimate was useless: if you had a choice of people to talk to, talking to someone who got tagged as "looks smart" is a better bet than talking to someone who got tagged as "looks stupid". Dissolving "intelligence" is not a problem -- in a social (as opposed to e.g. academic) setting I define "intelligent" as "thinks clearly, correctly, and quickly". And of course being smart (or not) does not automatically sum up the worth of anyone -- there are a LOT of human qualities that go into whether you want to have some sort of a relationship with this person. Smart jerks are not uncommon. However I still find distinguishing smart and not-so-smart people to be highly useful.
I'll admit that there's a bit of strategic overcorrecting inherent in the method I've outlined. That said, it's there for a good reason: First impressions are pretty famously resilient, and especially among certain cultures (Again, math-logic-arcane-cluster is a big one that's relevant to me), there's what I would argue is a clearly pathologically high false-positive rate for detecting "Dumb/Not worth my time". If you ever have the idealized ceteris paribus form of the "I may only talk to one of two people, I have no solid information on either" problem, I seldom see a problem in using whatever quick-and-dirty heuristic you choose to make that decision (Although with the caveat that I don't endorse the general case for that being true: some people's heuristics are especially bad). However, over longer patterns of interaction with a given person, this problem does still seem to emerge, and the reasons why are modeled well by assuming a classifier that values being fast over being accurate (A common feature of human heuristic reasoning, and an extremely easy blind spot to overlook). Even with a simplified operational definition like the one you've provided, I have severe doubts that anyone should be confident in their ability to reasonably make that assessment accurately in a short amount of time, or even over a long period of time in a single context or limited set of contexts. Also, to be frank that operational definition isn't doing much better than just saying "intelligent" with no clarification. To pick it apart: -"Thinking clearly," as in "not making reasoning mistakes I can immediately identify?" Very easily confounded by instantaneous mental state as well as inferential distance problems. -"Thinking correctly," okay, a success rate might be useful, except that anyone can regurgitate correct statements and anyone can draw mistaken conclusions based on bad information. -"Thinking quickly" is really only useful given the other two. As for intelligence not b
Do you, by any chance, have any data to support that? I am sure there are people for whom it's a problem, I'm not sure it's true in general, even among the nerdy cluster. That's a very common situation at parties where you circulate among a bunch of unknown to you people. Nope, that is thinking correctly. Clear thinking is a bit difficult to put into words, it's more of a "I know it when I see it" thing. Maybe define it as tactical awareness of one's statements (or thoughts) -- being easily able to see the implications, consequences, contradictions, reinforcing connections, etc. of the claim that you're making? I don't think I would agree. Making fine distinctions, maybe, but in a sufficiently diverse set there is rarely any confusion as to who's in the left tail and who's in the right tail. And I found that my perceptions of how smart people are correlate well with IQ proxies (like SAT scores).
Very good point. I don't want to claim it's a statistical tendency without statistics to back it up. Nonetheless, given articles like the OP, it seems like a lot of people in said clusters (Could be self-selecting, e.g. intelligent nerd-cluster-peeps are more likely to blog about it despite not having a higher rate, etc) have a problem that consists of feeling socially isolated, unable to relate to people, and unable to engage people in a conversation. I'm simply pointing to a plausible explanation for at least some cases of that phenomenon, which I've built up from some observation of myself and my peers, and some theoretical knowledge (For example, http://psiexp.ss.uci.edu/research/teaching/Tversky_Kahneman_1974.pdf , well-known social cognitive biases such as the Fundamental Attribution Error, the "cached thought" concept that is well-known to lesswrong readers, etc) and come up with a rough strategy for mitigating it, which I think has been reasonably successful. I'd be very interested in knowing through some rigorous means whether this bears out in aggregate, but I can't point to any particular research that's been done, so I'll leave it as a fuzzy claim about a tendency I've observed, I don't claim that I would need extremely strong evidence to be convinced otherwise I agree, and I'm sure your heuristics are well-tuned for choosing who to talk to at parties given options that fit your criteria. The problem of having a social network limited by an unreasonably high minimum-intelligence requirement for interest in a person may not be one that you have, and even if you do, I suspect that it is seldom going to come up at a party you intentionally went to. I'd think that would be more succinctly stated as "thorough" (It actually doesn't matter, you defined your term well enough so I'm glad to use it, but it strikes me as a counterintuitive use of "clear"), but I still think it's a poor indicator. People sufficiently good at rehearsed explanations of an opinion or
I think it gets a bit more complicated than that because there are feedback loops. The problem is that an expression of the "s/he is dumb" sort is not necessarily a bona fide evaluation of someone's smarts. It may well be (and often is) just an insult -- and insults are more or less fungible. Recall the "sour grapes" Aesop's fable. Imagine that a nerd tried to get into some social circle and that circle rejects him. A normal human compensatory mechanism will make the nerd believe (post factum) that this social circle isn't all that great and one of the standard ways for him to express it would be to say "they are dumb". That problem is likely to be mostly a function of two things: (1) How large a social network do you want to have (or are capable of maintaining); and (2) What's the quality of the fish in the pond in which you are fishing? Basically, if you don't want to have a very large circle of friends and are a student at, say, Caltech, you're unlikely to face that problem. But if you are gregarious and live in the middle of South Dakota, well, yes, there will be problems. How do you define and measure intelligence, then? When you say "Alice is more (or less) intelligent than Bob", what exactly do you mean? Of course, intelligent people and interesting people are different subsets, overlapping but not identical. I would agree there is a lot of self-fulfilling prophesies happening here, but I think they have much more to do with things like self-confidence and much less with making correct intelligence estimates, especially ex ante. These things are not exclusionary -- you start with a speed-optimization and you continue with a better scheme as you get more information. If you get stuck on your cache hit, that's a general problem not specifically tied to evaluating other people.
I definitely don't discount the "sour grapes" scenario as something that probably happens a lot. In fact, I think that a lot of people's assessments of other people's intelligence involve, to put it kindly, subjective judgments along those lines, which is part of why I'm advocating trying to disrupt those. I definitely agree that those factors are pretty relevant to the aforementioned problem, but they're kind of moot. After all, (1) is equivalent to "Having a utility function that defines this as a problem", and (2) is something you can't necessarily control (If you see it as enough of a problem to move, I suppose you can, but that seems pretty expensive and it would be a shame to come to that solution without trying something like what I'm suggesting first). I'm merely suggesting that the perception of (2) may sometimes arise from an ill-formed manner of assessing "quality of fish". Um, well, I guess I should quote myself here: I think that as far as things we can assign cardinal values to and compare on a continuum, IQ is our best bet, but there do seem to be some nebulous other contributing factors (Maybe the much-touted EQ, a decent education, or some other "general life experience" factors? I dunno) which can make someone at least appear more or less intelligent than their IQ might imply (Again, operationally defined as "seeming to think clearly, correctly, and quickly". If you'd like to revise this operational definition to "exactly IQ" we can do that, and I'll still argue that it's not something most people are good at detecting from a first impression). Like I actually said, I think IQ is fine, and that most people undervalue its importance. I'm not sure where you got mixed up here. We could redefine "clear, correctly, quickly" as "interesting" rather than "intelligent," although for me personally that's necessary but not sufficient Self-confidence may be some people's problem, but it's definitely not everyone's problem. Does it strike you as impossible
That is very likely, but you are assuming a large social circle is an unalloyed blessing. I think there are at least two failure modes here: one is to assume the mantle of the suffering lone genius and descend into misanthropy; but the other one is to suppress one's weirdness, start talking mostly about beer and baseball (or makeup and gossip) and descend into mediocrity. I don't know if getting stuck on the definition of intelligence is the underlying problem such people are having. I would probably reformulate your position as advice to see people as diverse and multidimensional, to recognize that there are multiple qualities which might make people attractive and interesting. You are basically arguing against a single-axis evaluation of others and that's a valid point but I think it can be made directly without the whole "tabooing the word" context.
I definitely don't think it is. Too large a social circle can be unwieldy to manage, eating up a ton of someone's time for the sake of a huge variety of shallow and uninteresting relationships, even if somehow every person in said social circle is interesting. I don't mean to imply that everyone should strive to broaden their social circle by any means. There are plenty of people who don't feel socially isolated at all, and there are even plenty of people with the opposite problem. I don't deny the existence of uninteresting people, but I think the descent into misanthropy failure mode is more common to high-intelligence people who feel socially isolated than the other failure mode, and hope that trying to more accurately assess people based on varied criteria and hack one's perception to see more people as interesting will not necessarily lead to dumbing down one's interests in order to relate to people on a more least-common-denominator basis. That's a choice that can be made once you've assessed people more accurately or favorably, and definitely one that doesn't have to be made just because you've updated your beliefs about the people you encounter. I agree with you, and in fact my original comment mentioned that "intelligence" is not the only single-axis evaluation label that people use. I think a more general phrasing might be "identify social single-axis fast-comparators that may be causing you to have cached first impressions about people. Fix your assessments by tabooing whatever label you happen to use, and making new assessments based on trying to counter your initial impression (Identify strengths of people you initially dislike, weaknesses of people you initially like too much). You may not change your mind about those people upon closer inspection, but it's still worthwhile to do as an exercise, particularly if you are unsatisfied with your social circle in general or your relationships with particular people." Intelligence happens to be a pretty co
I think we're in general agreement :-)
I don't have any hard data, but I can go back to my example of engineering. Speaking with physicists in particular it's clear that many don't respect engineers much at all, well beyond what is justified. It's not clear to me why they hold these opinions.

Hey Jonah, props on being so honest in writing this article. I can relate to pretty much everything that you wrote.

I know that it's not me who the person is insulting, it's instead the person's perception of me.

Where do you apply this knowledge?

Over here, my perception is that you somehow disagree with most of the field of education. (If that's false, you can probably think of a way to show us.) And of course, even if I knew who you were, it would be ridiculous for me to believe you over most other experts just because you have "knowledge of the subject" in the same way that many others do.

You could write a different comment, excoriating Less Wrong for tru... (read more)

So ... Should I understand that you're now talking about subjects you have no interest in ?

Or your final point is that you're working on talking about subjects you do have an interest in with more "sociality" (and I don't get why people would take it differently if the subjects are, as I perceive, not common) ?

No, socializing has become fascinating to me because I realized the degree to which social skills have been the limiting factor for me, how much room for improvement I have.
Does your increase in social skills made you better at discussing (without boring others) subjects you have an interest in then ?