Survey of Deviant Ideas

by lsusr1 min read23rd Nov 202011 comments

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I once wrote a list of things which are true which almost nobody agrees with me on. Then I redacted 86% of what I wrote because I'm uncomfortable associating myself with my more controversial beliefs. (It's okay if you disagree with my beliefs but this post is not the place to argue about them.)

I'm curious how other people would answer this same question, if asked anonymously instead.

Click here for the survey.

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Isn't this extremely social-context-dependent? Do you mean “almost no other LW readers would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in the (poorly-defined) ‘mainstream’ would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in your ‘primary’ social group (whatever that is) would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in the world (to what threshold? that's a lot of people!) would agree with you on”?

Edited to add: To make the concrete connection explicit, I can think of a number of things I believe that I wouldn't dare say out loud on LW, and a number of things I believe that I wouldn't dare say out loud in another very different social setting I'm attached to, but they don't intersect much. I'm not sure I can think of much I believe where I have no social group that would agree with me.

This. I decided to answer based on "Or 'almost nobody in the world (to what threshold? that's a lot of people!) would agree with you on'?" since that seems to me to be more in line with the original list's remaining unredacted points. I don't think it would be useful for each of us to spout things we learned from or because of LW or that are common in the LW community. And I agree with you that I hold very few opinions that aren't common in at least one social group.

Unfortunately that last category is absurdly large, and would include almost all beliefs I would ever bother to think of as beliefs. I filled in a few I thought could be interesting

Will you be posting the anonymous beliefs?

The question here for me is why bother? When people don't want to hear something you cannot make them. If I want to talk about an idea and nobody else does then I can't make them, whether or not that is an unpalatable truth.

The purpose for writing and thinking about things isn't only to talk with people about.  I keep such a list (encrypted and not online) for my own internal exploration of truth and prediction.  

Anonymous surveys like this (if I actually thought it were truly anonymous) could be useful if they show that the Overton window is closer than I thought to my private thoughts.  And could be incredibly useful if it give me ideas (even if held privately) that let me model the world better.

The purpose of writing for others is transmission and dialogue.

I don't need a list of my own beliefs because cognition is function and beliefs are nothing more than a collection of rules. What I do keep 'lists' of is how other people think because I don't have access to their intrinsic state, only their transmitted state and the opportunity for dialogue with them.

Now that the list has been published it can be examined with plausible deniability in the public forum. Without discussion I could only either accept, deny, or ignore a given belief on that list within myself. With discussion I can get multiple views on my response to said beliefs.

I wonder if I am (or you are, or both of us) falling prey to the typical mind fallacy.  I get a lot of value in structuring my ideas for writing, even if not shared.  I get a fair bit of value as a reminder as well, for later consideration.  I guess that could be "transmission and dialogue" with my future self, but that doesn't feel like a simple model.

For me, I also get value from anonymous lists like this, even if I can't estimate the frequency or weight of such beliefs in others - it can spark ideas or help me analytically update aspects of my models to even consider things that I hadn't before.  

A list is memory that can be transmitted. The format is typically the same for private or public consumption. You are saving something as it is at that point for later use because your brain isn't a static storage medium.

If you wish to preserve and review thoughts then I don't see how you can do so without some form of authorship as transmission. The brains fallible nature for accurate recall is well known.

I have gotten value from that anonymous list too. I would get more value by addressing it directly in a forum, but it's not like I get no value at all from it specifically, or from intrinsic analysis in general. As I previously stated I am of the opinion that discourse is external and novel processing. I don't see how I can access either of those without discourse.

Why I might mkae a list of my beliefs:

To revise them.


Hypothetical situation:

Suppose I come up with an idea about how to solve a math problem. I decide to (try to) write a proof, with no intention of sharing the proof with anyone. Later on, I'm better at working with stuff in that domain of math, which is useful for communicating with others about the subject - whether it's being better at asking questions, or better at answering them.

At a more meta level, I might create a list of 'math beliefs' I have. Over time, thinking it over, doing research, learning more, trying to write proofs, succeeding and failing, sometimes finding a statement is true, or that a special case is true, or the whole is wrong, etc. - my beliefs change upon reflection/computation/research/feedback.

See my other answer, specifically the statement that I don't see how preservation and review of thoughts can be accomplished without authorship as transmission.