by defilippis1 min read22nd Oct 2019160 comments


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I have no particular interest in sharing any of my own, but there does seem to be a bad dynamic going on here that is worth pointing out.

Some people are downvoting the comments that they find abhorrent. This would normally be fine, but in this case it punishes people for correctly following instructions.

I've done what I can to remedy this by giving a strong upvote to the responses with low scores, but LessWrong needs to have a way to deal with this in future so the platform doesn't disincentivize the very behaviours it wants to encourage.

Following instructions doesn't really ring as a bell as a site goal. The setting of the question seems fair but the ill committed in ignoring the context is different from disobeyance.

Humans are incredible un-secure systems, so compelling arguments can be made for almost any position that anyone takes seriously. Political, identity, and commercialized issues are where you'll find the most pre-existing examples, simply because that's where people have incentives (psychological or tangible) to make arguments whether or not a position is true.

I guess you're asking for examples that we (presumed intellectuals) find most compelling, but note that there's a serious selection effect going on here, because now you're not selecting merely contrarian ideas, you're selecting contrarian ideas and arguments that are pre-filtered for appeal to the sort of person you're interested in researching. You'll get a very different set of ideas and arguments here than if you ask alternative medicine practitioners what arguments they find compelling. And if you use these different sets of arguments in a study, I predict you'll find they convince quite different sets of people.

To give a really on the nose example, consider the contrarian position "I have the power to make a rubber band colder than the surrounding room just by pulling on ... (read more)

Standard schooling practices constitute child abuse for an appreciable fraction of children without resorting to an outlandish definition of abuse.

Euthenasia should be a universal right.

Euthanasia should be a universal right.

This doesn't sound non-normative at all?

3Davis_Kingsley1yI can tell you that I at least found it abhorrent! :P
1paul ince1yIt was just legalised in Western Australia. The second Australian state to do so.

I am currently conducting research on the seductive appeal of contrarian positions, particularly among intellectuals.

[Emphasis mine]

I just want to note that the bolded phrasing is really quite tendentious. I hope you’re not actually taking the perspective on contrarian positions that this sentence implies… if you are, then you’re starting from a severely biased perspective, which can hardly bode well for the validity of your research.

2defilippis1yPoint taken. I've edited the main body to limit editorializing. I have a hypothesis, and that hypothesis is rooted in survey data suggesting highly educated people are more likely to entertain beliefs that are inconsistent with majority opinion. I’m not concerned about the truth value of these contrarian positions, just why certain arguments in support of them appear appealing to certain kinds of people (and if that’s experimentally testable). To be clear: this study is about testing different argumentative techniques on different kinds of positions (conventional vs contrarian). It's not about the overarching reasons why someone who already subscribes to a contrarian position might have been persuaded by it in the first place.

I’m not concerned about the truth value of these contrarian positions, just why they appear appealing to certain kinds of people (and if that’s experimentally testable).

This seems a very odd way of approaching the question. Surely the truth value of any given position has something to do with how appealing it is?

At the very least, you’ve got to examine—even if only to rule out!—the obvious explanation: that more highly educated people are better at discerning truth, and that “contrarian” positions appeal to such people to the extent that they are more correct than the “mainstream” views in each case. How can you hope to have any kind of a sensible answer to your question if you ignore the issue of the truth of any given position?

EDIT: And since we’re on the topic—doesn’t it seem likely that a position is more likely to have “compelling arguments” for it… if it’s true? That seems like it should influence your conclusion somehow, doesn’t it?

2defilippis1yAt the current moment, I’m not interested in having to be the arbiter for deciding what is true for particularly complex topics. (Indeed, the research has nothing to do with this question, as it's about testing the persuasiveness of ARGUMENTS -- contrarian and conventional are just two factors that are varied). Initially, I was interested in only generating contrarian positions that were decidedly untrue (eg vaccines cause autism, or the moon landing was faked), versus more ambiguous contrarian positions, but most of what I’m interested in are the unpopular views that are plausibly compelling — at least on the first hearing.

I understand your quite sensible reluctance to set before yourself the task of making and proclaiming a judgment on the truth of each of your chosen “contrarian claims”. Unfortunately, this means that you’re excluding a big chunk of hypothesis space for reasons of convenience and not on any principled basis, which means that your entire investigation is fundamentally of questionable epistemic value.

Suppose you do your investigation and you conclude that the reason that highly educated people are attracted to your chosen “contrarian claims” for reason X (where X is something that has nothing to do with said claims’ truth values). Now suppose I read your findings, and I say to you: “You say the reason educated people are attracted to these claims is reason X; but I think actually the reason is that these claims are true. What steps did you take to rule out this alternate explanation, and on what basis do you judge said explanation to be less plausible than your provided explanation (which invokes reason X)?”

You would have no answer for me, isn’t that so? You could only say “I took no such steps; and I can make no such judgment.”

And given this, why should anyone take your proffered explanation seriously—whatever that explanation might be?

0defilippis1yYou are misinterpreting the purpose of the study, and then accusing me of missing something fundamental that makes you doubt everything about my epistemic value. The actual study involves an experiment in which different sets of arguments are offered for the same contrarian position in a between subjects study of belief change. The truth value is not actually relevant to me — just the kinds of arguments people find compelling, conditional on whether the position is contrarian or conventional.
4Ben Pace1yI understand you to be saying that you just want to find out, if a belief is known to be contrary to popular opinion, whether people who have university degrees from high-status universities are more likely to take it on as their own. I guess there's something interesting here about what kinds of beliefs people wear as clothing and which kinds of beliefs transmit because of truthful arguments for them. I don't think that testing the hypothesis "Do people ever like to believe things because they think they're in on a secret that the rest of the world is too foolish to realise?" and "Which particular demographic does it the most?" is likely helpful. I expect it will likely come up with "Yes, we found a small but positive effect-size" and "Well-educated people do it a very little bit" and "People employed at tech jobs do it a little bit more". Maybe you have a reason that this is helpful? Like, it's not clear it's going to be a very robust result - depending on whether it's in-season to be contrarian, or whether it's in-season to be meta-contrarian, studies like this will give you opposite results, and the only real result is that "We can use information about the current fashion to change people's beliefs." I think there are more interesting questions to ask, like: * Which are the current conversations that are propagating because of status/class signalling? * What are the main mechanisms by which such coordination on signalling occurs? * What / where in society is the true conversation that is trying to figure out true things, and by what medium is that conversation had? * What causes people to use one type of reasoning versus the other?
2defilippis1yYour assumptions about the research interest are incorrect (although likely no fault of your own, as I was being vague intentionally). The actual experiment tests different argumentative techniques on certain kinds of positions, depending on the initial level of background support that a position has (contrarian or conventional). See the comment I made at the top of the thread: "To be clear: this study is about testing different argumentative techniques on different kinds of positions (conventional vs contrarian). It's not about the overarching reasons why someone who already subscribes to a contrarian position might have been persuaded by it in the first place."
2Said Achmiz1yHow do you propose to separate the effects of argumentative techniques from the effects of “the overarching reasons why someone who already subscribes to a contrarian position might have been persuaded by it in the first place”? That is, how would you correct for this clearly quite serious confounding factor?
2mr-hire1yThis seems fairly easy by randomizing the types of arguments and the positions, no?
1defilippis1yI identify individuals who don't currently subscribe to a contrarian belief. I give a random half of them one kind of argument for this position, and the other another kind of argument for the position. I compare belief change in either camp. There are more components to the study, but I'm not interested in defending the research methodology.
2Dagon1yI agree with Said that truth (or precision of model, for untestable positions) is likely to be an important upstream causal factor if you're talking about correlation with IQ or education. Other correlates may have other causes. Do you have a metric for conventionality or contrarian-ness of an idea in a population? How do you decide whether "credit is risky; prefer cash" is the normal position or the rebel? This metric could be useful on it's own - seeing how different groups accept or reject various hypotheses could be a fascinating study.
1defilippis1yThe problem is that I can’t possibly have the expertise to discern which of the contrarian positions are true, and if I were to try to independently arrive at my own conclusions, I would invariably end up deferring to experts and authorities on the subject, which would, in most cases, be the non-contrarian position. My current simple method for operationalizing contrariness is simply looking at how popular a given belief is, across the relevant social groups you ascribe to.

Utilitarianism, and most forms of consequentialism, are not just normatively wrong but also logically incoherent.

1Teerth Aloke1yThen, what is your preferred ethical theory?
3clone of saturn1ySomething like quasi-realist [] Hobbesian contractualism [].

I don't recycle paper. I want to economically encourage tree farms to sequester more carbon, and paper is one of the least problematic things to have in landfills, so I want a larger percentage of waste to be that.

1defilippis1yThis is a good example, and it’s one we currently use

My first thought is that belief popularity is often (usually?) specific to a particular community, and for most of my beliefs I can identify at least one community I identify with in which the belief is not unpopular.

For example, I recently told someone that most people are not consequentialist decision makers, and instead think in terms more akin to separate magisteria, doing in each context what they and their culture customarily do. This person was shocked and took some time to process that. I don't think it would have been shocking to anyone here.

But to answer the spirit of the question: many of my mainstream!unpopular opinions come from the fact that I'm naturally drawn to more esoteric ideas and chains of reasoning, whether those take the form of math, physics, philosophy, or something else. That's how I ended up here in the first place. Examples include:

  • Humans should be using vastly more nuclear power than we currently do, and this would be true even if we didn't have better reactors designs available than those currently in use, but only if everyone believes this. This is based on my reading of historical data on relative safety and pollution output of
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1Liam Donovan1yI know this is off-topic, but I'm curious how you would distinguish between moral progress and "moral going-in-circles" (don't know what the right word is)?
1AnthonyC1yI don't know. In practice, I don't think I do. On the one hand, I look over what I know about the last few thousand years of history and find that the farther back I go, the more horrible many of the people that were, in their own time, considered saintly, mainly seem, like St Augustine. On another hand, I have the most famous moral teachers of history from Jesus and the Buddha and Mohammed and Confucius and so on, and I feel like as a society we have been grappling with the same handful of basic underlying moral principles for a really long time. And on yet another hand, I have Robin Hanson's discussion of forager and farmer values arguing for cyclic trends on an even longer timescale. I'm sure I can find a few more hands besides. If I had to give a more concrete answer, I might go with something like this: over time we try to individually and collectively reconcile our moral intuitions and ethical precepts with the actual world we live in, while at the same time we're developing better methods of evaluating arguments and evidence to reduce mistakes in thinking. We keep finding contradictions in the practices we inherited, and look for ways to resolve them, and so on average those discrepancies will decrease with time. For the past few thousand years, despite huge oscillations and real losses, there seems to me to be a general trend in some overall direction that involves greater wealth, more options for individuals to choose their own lives, and capacity for cooperation among strangers across larger distances. So I think, if you sent me forward a hundred years, that once I got over the shock and started to understand the new world I was in, I'd be able to look at morally significant changes and consistently evaluate them as gains vs losses, even the ones the intuitively horrify my early 21st century expectations.

I thought it better to separate these out:

The FBI denied the existence of the Mafia until 1957.

The Masons and the Vatican conspired to take over the Italian media and thence the country kind of like what Silvio Berlusconi did. In fact, in 1982, his name was published as part of this plan.

Of the hundreds or thousands that died in the 1989 Beijing protests, fewer than 10 were in Tiananmen Square.

The NSA spied extensively on nominally allied countries and this was widely known in Europe, at least by 2000.

The CIA intentionally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999.

Hillary Clinton had serious health issues during her 2016 campaign.

I hope these aren't too political:

The Bible was not originally written in English, or even in Latin.

The seasons aren't caused by distance from the sun.

Edmund Burke was a Whig, opposed to the Tories.

Alexander Hamilton was an elitist banker.

Andrew Jackson was a Democrat.

Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

The North won the Civil War.

Um, you might also want to ask people to PM you, in case some people have contrarian beliefs that they don't want to report in the public comment section?

3clone of saturn1yIt seems like it would've been more productive to set up an anonymous google form or similar (like this recent EA forum one [] ).
5Said Achmiz1yAgreed, but this time, for God’s sake do not publish the submissions until you’re done collecting them!

Secondhand smoke is mostly not harmful.

People become enraged by this, so I think it qualifies:

Women's agency, especially their sexual agency, is contrary to a society's progress and stability.

Men do the bulk of the work when it comes to creating, maintaining, and defending everything in society. They are paid for their labours with access to sex and reproduction. Women's agency causes there to be nothing to pay men with, because if women are given a choice they favour a minority of males, harem behaviour, promiscuity, childlessness, etc. When women have agency, they choose to und... (read more)

I just want it to be clear to anybody who might be reading this and wondering what sorts of beliefs people on LessWrong hold that I do not hold any of the beliefs in the above post and that I find the beliefs expressed there to be both factually incorrect and morally repugnant.

But the fact that you feel compelled to say that says something worrying about the state of our Society, right? It should really just go without saying—to anyone who actually thinks about the matter for a minute—that when someone on a no-barriers-to-entry free-to-sign-up internet forum asks for examples of unpopular opinions, then someone is going to post a terrible opinion that most other commenters will strongly disagree with (because it's terrible). If, empirically, it doesn't go without saying, that would seem to suggest that people feel the need to make the forum as a whole accountable to mob punishment mechanisms that are less discerning than anyone who actually thinks about the matter for a minute. But I continue to worry that that level of ambient social pressure is really bad for our collective epistemology, even if the particular opinion that we feel obligated to condemn in some particular case is, in fact, worthy of being condemned.

Like, without defending the text of the grandparent (Anderson pretty obviously has a normative agenda to push; my earlier comment was probably too charitable), the same sorts of general skills of thinking that we need to solve AI alignment, sh

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9Said Achmiz1yThe cynical hypothesis is that the media (or Twitter, or /r/SneerClub) fundamentally do not care about the difference between us and Stuart Anderson, and even if they can tell the difference, it doesn’t matter. But more importantly— Suppose you were asked to briefly describe what such a place (which would, by construction, not be Less Wrong) would be like—what would you say?

Invite-only private email list that publishes highlights to a pseudonymous blog with no comment section.

You might ask, why aren't people already doing this? I think the answer is going to be some weighted combination of (a) they're worthless cowards, and (b) the set of things you can't say, and the distortionary effect of recursive lies, just aren't that large, such that they don't perceive the need to bother.

There are reasons I might be biased to put too much weight on (a). Sorry.

(c) unpopular ideas hurt each other by association, (d) it's hard to find people who can be trusted to have good unpopular ideas but not bad unpopular ideas, (e) people are motivated by getting credit for their ideas, (f) people don't seem good at group writing curation generally

6Zack_M_Davis1yThanks. (e) is very important: that's a large part of why my special-purpose pen name ended up being a mere "differential visibility" pseudonym (for a threat-model where the first page of my real-name Google results matters because of casual searches by future employers) rather than an Actually Secret pseudonym. (There are other threat models that demand more Actual Secrecy, but I'm not defending against those because I'm not that much of a worthless coward .) I currently don't have a problem with (d), but I agree that it's probably true in general (and I'm just lucky to have such awesome friends). I think people underestimate the extent to which (c) is a contingent self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a fixed fact of nature. You can read the implied social attack in (a) as an attempt to push against the current equilibrium.

Suppose you were asked to briefly describe what such a place (which would, by construction, not be Less Wrong) would be like—what would you say?

I'm a big fan of in-person conversation. I think it's entirely possible to save the world without needing to be able to talk about anything you want online in a public forum.

5Ben Pace1yI disagree. (I mean, 'possible' is a weak word, many things are possible, but I think it's the sort of massive handicap that I'm not sure how to get around.)
6Said Achmiz1yAs per my other comment [] —is it the “public” part that you feel is critical here, or the “online” part, or are they both separately necessary (and if so—are they together sufficient? … though this is a much trickier question, of course).
4Said Achmiz1yThere’s a false dilemma there, though. “In-person conversation” and “online public forum” are surely not the only possibilities. At the very least, “private online forum” is another option, yes?
6Stuart Anderson1yWhen you understand that this is just a modern puritan non-theistic religion playing out then all the denunciation makes perfect sense. You don't need to denounce someone that's demonstrably wrong, you just point out how they're wrong. Heresy on the other hand, well, there's no arguing with that, is there? You argue with bad ideas, but you *burn* sinners lest their corruption infect you. What exactly do people think is the endgame of denunciation? If denouncing me is enough then by all means, do that and forget about me. I would argue that if people feel that strongly about it then they need to do a lot better than that. You don't debate intractable idiots in the public forum for the benefit of the idiot, you do so for the forum. The majority say nothing, they just listen. Since I'm playing the role of the Devil already: I specifically said I offered no solution in that post. I had hoped that people would be more rational and less pissed off, but you win some you lose some. It's as good a place as any to raise my solution to the problem. The fundamental problem is biological. Women have an exclusive gatekeeping role on reproduction. We aren't that far away from artificial gestation. The solution isn't to take away women's choices, it's to take away their reproductive monopoly and give it to everyone. Women and men can get their babies from the factory. The government can simply order a bunch if there's a projected population shortfall. The evolutionary need for sexual dimorphism will disappear, evolution will take care of the rest. This is the path to *true* gender equality. We're going to become a post biological species sooner or later, we may as well speed up the timetable to deal with the birth rate crisis into the bargain.

You don't need to denounce someone that's demonstrably wrong, you just point out how they're wrong.

I think you're misunderstanding the implications of the heresy dynamic. It's true that people who want to maintain their good standing within the dominant ideology—in the Cathedral, we could say, since you seem to be a Moldbug fan—can't honestly engage with the heretic's claims. That doesn't imply that the heretic's claims are correct—they just have to be not so trivially wrong as to permit a demonstration of their wrongness that doesn't require the work of intellectually honest engagement (which the pious cannot permit themselves).

If a Bad Man says that 2+2=5, then good people can demonstrate the arithmetic error without pounding the table and denouncing him as a Bad Man. If a Bad Man claims that P equals NP, then good people who want the Bad Man gone but wouldn't be caught dead actually checking the proof, are reduced to pounding the table—but that doesn't mean the proof is correct! Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

What exactly do people think is the endgame of denunciation?

Evading punishment of non-punishers. Good people who don't shun Bad Men might fall under suspicio

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6Dagon1yIn other words, "insufficiently seductive".

I do not accept this premise, and I'm surprised that it seems to you to be "almost unconsciously accepted by everyone" you've raised it with.

1Stuart Anderson1yWhat I mean is that people will happily object, but they won't say what they object to, or how, or offer any alternative or contrary hypothesis. People make choices and those choices have consequences. That's rarely contested *until* that person is specifically a woman and specifically making choices *exclusive* to the domain of women. The acceptance of the premise I'm talking about is in the objection not to what I've said, but to *who* I said it about. We don't get to a real discussion because people are already burning me for heresy. If I'm incorrect, that's fine. If I'm incorrect because of *who* I'm questioning, that's not fine. When you look at responses from my perspective it becomes very difficult to sort whether a reply is coming from the former or the latter (especially when all I get is one sentence to work with).

How are you defining society and progress?

2Stuart Anderson1yA stable society is one where violence is low and engagement is high, and where the replacement rate is both positive and high enough to account for natural attrition at least. I believe the former is impossible to sustain without the latter. Progress is having all the supportive apparatus of society in order and functioning to the degree that the people who create disproportionate improvements in science that feed back into the society are supported and promoted. If I want the benefit of a Stephen Hawking then I need to have a smelter for the metal in his chair, a chip foundry for his computer, a school for his doctors and nurses, a pharmaceutical factory for his medicine, etc. Basically, cognitive work has the biggest and most complicated supply chain problem possible. Without a stable society progress will diminish and eventually fail.
7Elizabeth1yThis seems like you're defining "depriving half the population of agency" as not requiring or being violence

All expectations on the citizenry from the state come with the threat of violence for non-compliance. If we can draft men to extract utility from them at their risk, then unless there's special pleading going on we can do exactly the same to women. I don't think that's the answer, but it's a possibility and is congruent with other areas of custom and law.

Violence is unnecessary here, all that is required is for the state to pick up the responsibility that women don't want. I don't want to remove women's agency, I want to remove society's dependence on their gestation. If women don't want to have babies that's fine by me, but society needs babies so it's going to have to source them from somewhere else. This is a supply and demand problem.

Fortunately, procuring gestational services is a solved problem. Depending on what options you select, a child that is the product of in-vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, and surrogacy can be had for about 40K USD. That's completely within the realms of state spending given the return on investment. If Western women don't want to have children there are tons of rural Indian women with no such qualms. Outsourcing tasks that Westerners won't do is something the West has been doing for longer than I've been alive.

The ultimate solution to this problem is artificial gestation but we aren't there yet.

-2Said Achmiz1yThat… seems like a perfectly ordinary definition, actually? Historically, in many time periods, many or even most people lacked meaningful (or, for large subsets of those, any) agency, and… this usually didn’t require violence, because it was simply how things were. And while you can certainly consider this state of affairs to be unjust—I certainly do (to a first approximation)—nevertheless saying that having much of the population lack agency is violence, is a severe abuse of language. Things can be bad without being violence. (In fact things can even be worse than violence, while still not being violence.)

We really need better "vocabulary tech" to talk about the natural category that includes both actually-realized physical violence, and credible threats thereof. When a man with a gun says "Your money or your life" and you say "Take my money", you may not want to call that "violence", but something has happened that made you hand over your wallet, and we may want to consider it the same kind of something if the man actually shoots. Reactionary thinkers who praise "stability" and radicals who decry "structural violence" may actually be trying to point at the same thing. We would say counterfactual rather than structural—the balanced arrangement of credible threats and Schelling points by which "how things are" is held in place.

On the one hand, you’re certainly right in the abstract, and I do agree that more precise terminology is desperately needed here.

On the other hand—you don’t rob liquor stores, do you? Snatch old ladies’ purses? I’ll assume that you don’t. But why don’t you? Is it ‘violence’? After all, the state can and does credibly threaten violence to perpetrators of such actions, so is ‘violence’, or ‘counterfactual violence’, or ‘structural violence’, your reason for not doing things of this nature?

A slave on a plantation in the old South has no agency at all (or close enough to none, for government work), and the reason for that slave not running away may quite reasonably be described as ‘violence’.

A slave in ancient Greece has somewhat more agency than the Southern plantation slave—though, perhaps, still close enough to ‘no agency’ for the term to be used in good faith; and the reason for that slave not running away might, with only some amount of stretch, be described as ‘counterfactual violence’.

A Jewish peasant living in the Pale of Settlement has quite limited agency, but does ‘no agency’ still describe his situation? Perhaps, perhaps not. Why doesn’t he move to somewhere else—is it ‘vio

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5Raemon1yCame here to say a similar thing. I'm also curious about what Said was actually referring to with the 'most of history' clause, because there's plenty of things (slavery, some forms of serfdom, etc), where "threat of violence" was explicitly part of what was going on. But I could also him meaning to refer to... well, probably situations where threat-of-violence is still involved at some point, but is a couple steps removed (where maybe the threat is more like explusion from the tribe, which then increases your chance of death or harm)
4Said Achmiz1yExactly.
3Said Achmiz1yCan you say more about what you mean by ‘engagement’?
3Stuart Anderson1yA society is a group of people. Much as with any group, the more that people care and are on the same page, the more you get done. When you don't give a damn at all, or when your tribe is fighting the other tribes, you have less time and interest in progressing. For you to labour effectively your labour must matter and it must be constructive.

Since this is in a bit of an unusual context, I want to make it clear that I strongly disagree with the theory stated above. This doesn't mean I downvoted it, because the OP explicitly asked for contrarian unpopular opinion, and this sure qualifies (at least on this site).

What does male sexual agency look like, historically?

It's not a gender thing, humans given power are mostly terrible. Women behave badly in the bay area where they can get away with it due to demographic imbalances. Men behave badly in nyc where they can get away with it due to demographic imbalances.

-4Stuart Anderson1yIf women choose to mate with the winners, then male sexual agency is men doing whatever is required to look like a winner. Is now a good time to mention that codpieces were a thing?
3romeostevensit1y'choose' the overwhelming majority of humans take the best option they think they can get.

Disinclination and proscription aren't the same.

The Tragedy of the Commons is the problem here. If everyone (or enough) chooses themselves over the common good then the common good will suffer as a consequence. Everyone wants the utility of the next generation, nobody wants to actually give birth to them.

It's very clear that sexually dimorphic behaviours work. They're present in thousands of species. What isn't present in thousands of species is human society. Biology just happens but society must be created and maintained, some of which is contrary to our biological imperatives. If we want the advantages of the kind of society we live in then we're going to have to make a lot of compromises on our biological imperatives. Everyone, not just women. In many domains. Either we give up on the utility we gain from society or we start ensuring that utility is maintained.

8pjeby1yThere are so many problems with this statement I hardly know where to start. First off, if men are being paid with sex (from women -- note that gay men exist and also make contributions to society, even if you want to ignore the non-natal contributions of women!), then doesn't promiscuity mean more availability of sex, not less? Also, when some women have agency, they work in porn or prostitution, further providing greater availability of sex to more men, and it's even mediated by money, so you can't argue it's going to men who aren't contributing to society. I also don't think that your "favour a minority of males" holds up either. Any individual woman favors a minority of males due to individual preferences... just like each man favors a minority of women. Sure, there exist males that are favorites of lots of women, but this is vastly more relevant to short-term mating than pair bonding. There's a reason there's a game called "Fuck, Marry, Kill". Wilt Chamberlain might have had sex with a lot of women, but he didn't have long-term relationships with them. Both men and women have differing interests for short-term mating vs. pair bonding, so promiscuity doesn't actually much affect the availability of pair bonding. (And paternity tests are a thing, for anyone who cares.) Polyamory, swinging, "hotwife" and other lifestyles often involve women having both a husband and either a boyfriend or multiple casual partners, so I'm really confused by how this choice leads to a restriction of available sex or reproductive opportunities for men! In addition to attractiveness being on a bell-curve for men, it's also not uniformly distributed among women. This means that in your theoretical environment where a few men grab all the women, there's actually a limit to how many these super-attractive dudes will accept, since they have the pick of the best and limited time to go around... leaving the "rest" of the women for the "rest" of the men. Most women are also not intereste
-1Stuart Anderson1ySome of these statements are ridiculously obvious, but given the reductive assumptions counter argument has already popped up I'm just going to try to cover it all: * What's good for an individual and what's good for society are not the same thing. Social contract is restrictive and onerous and that's the entire point of it. * Women decide whether sex occurs or not. Circumstances shape everyone's willingness to pursue the choices open to them. * Female mate selection isn't an average distribution ( Men do not favour a minority of women. If you have an even number of men and women, then given the above virtually all women that want sex are getting it, many men that want sex are not getting it. * Sex is a pacifying agent. It is the strongest incentive we have. Society understands and exploits that. All societies do. * Monogamy and marriage are artificial social constructs designed specifically to place limits on our biological imperatives. Humans are primates, and primates are not monogamous. * If sex was the only thing that mattered in relationships, and was neutral on social status in society, then men paying for prostitutes would be a non-issue. Unsurprisingly, men that have to pay a woman just to touch them tend to have different attitudes to both women and society thanks to being cut out of the social contract. * The payment of the social contract (for men) is sex *and* reproduction, the requirement is utility. Without payment, men have no incentive (beyond self interest) to provide their utility to anyone but themselves. Good luck trying to wring 60 solid years of slavish labour from a man that has checked out of the race and just wants to play xbox. We don't have robots for everything yet, so labour still matters. Even today, post suffrage, post Pill, post radical feminism, with women increasingly chained to the millstone as men have been, the social contract

The CDC has data on promiscuity and pair bonding ( I can find no data that indicates neutral or positive effects for promiscuity.

The study focuses on STI rates. How would promiscuity possibly improve these rates?

It seems to me that when pressed on the compact claim you made above, you just made a lot more claims (as pjeby pointed out).

1Stuart Anderson1yThe CDC data has figures on numbers of relationships, including marriages, by age and gender in the tables at the end of the document. The data and conclusions about STDs is irrelevant to me in that, I am interested in what happens to people's pair bonding abilities as their number of sexual partners increases. Promiscuity appears to have effect there, which would imply that it is at the very least a correlate with relationship failure (and therefore relevant to the topic of pair bonding). Is it causal, are there other factors at work? I can' t answer that question, I can only do the best with what I have. Unsurprisingly, research into possible negative effects of promiscuity on mental health, life outcomes, self reported metrics on happiness, etc. isn't exactly well funded. This is an area of research that is made radioactive for social reasons. I will say the same thing to you that I did to pjeby: I made a mistake in trying to cover too much ground. For me to address every little point pjeby makes (because from my perspective a giant portion of what pjeby writes are claims that have nothing to do with anything I've written, or are misinterpretations, etc. For example, he makes a false equivalency between his experience as a member of the class and the entirety of the class) it turns into an essay, which then feeds straight back into the whole *death by a thousand cuts* game. I've cut that right off with pjeby because I'm not interested in that kind of a back and forth and I don't think it's productive. On the other hand, you've asked a single question, and I've given you a single answer. That's manageable. You can just go ahead and tell me I'm full of shit and it ends right here, no diversions or *whaddabout-isms* or *not alls*.

So, your response to my questioning your premises is to propose more premises?

Men do not favour a minority of women

What? Of course they do. I'm a man, I would think I would know if I favored the majority of women. I don't. Similarly, you state that "men" require reproductive opportunity. I don't. I don't want children. So I'm a trivial counterargument on both counts.

These seem to me like trivial refutations of large portions of your ideas about men, without even getting to such notions as "what social contract?" "Who made this contract with whom?" Or, for example:

Good luck trying to wring 60 solid years of slavish labour from a man that has checked out of the race and just wants to play xbox.

My response to that is, why on earth would I want to? I'm similarly baffled as to what value you see in the constructs you see as decaying. Many of them seem like things I'm more than happy to see us rid of. For example:

birth rate crash of the West

I'm not sure why I should see fewer people existing as a problem. Perhaps the people that do exist will be ones who feel wanted, rather than that they are being born into a society that expects them to do things they don't want

... (read more)
6Stuart Anderson1yMy response is an attempt to provide answers to a complex subject, where the tendency of participants is to act as if their own catastrophising of ALL WOMEN or NO WOMEN scenarios are something that has actually been voiced and supported by me. This easily turns a discussion into a death by a thousand cuts where every tiny little statement is attacked (potentially disingenuously) from every single angle possible. Let me give you an example: I say: > Men do not favour a minority of women Then you say: > What? Of course they do. I'm a man, I would think I would know if I favored the majority of women. I don't. Similarly, you state that "men" require reproductive opportunity. I don't. I don't want children. So I'm a trivial counterargument on both counts. Straight up you make a false conflation between the individual and the class (I don't as a part of the class, therefore nobody/not enough in the class do to matter). I cite the OKCupid data that specifically supports my statement here. I am saying men, as a class, do not favour a minority of women. I do not state that men require reproductive opportunity *anywhere*. I can't respond to a false conflation other than to point it out, I can only give you the citations I cannot force you to read them, and I absolutely cannot be expected to defend statements I didn't make and don't believe. I am more than happy to respond to any point you wish clarified, and/or to discuss any matter in relation to this topic, but it's pretty clear that if we can't make it six sentences without two showstopper errors my usual *word vomit* format isn't going to work here. If you still want to talk, pick the single most important element and be as reductive as possible. You are going to object to *everything* I have to say, so keeping a very narrow focus is the only way this is going to work.
3pjeby1ySince your reply to my bringing up problems is to bring up more stuff that has problems, while not addressing most of the problems I previously raised, I don't see how a conversation can meaningfully proceed from here, without it feeling like a Gish Gallop. For example: I read the article you linked, and it says that 2 out of 3 messages sent by men are to the women in the top 1/3 of attractiveness, while on the other hand, women rate 80% of men as below-average attractiveness... and then message most of them anyway. This sounds to me like it 100% contradicts your statements about men and women's mating preferences. If the very data you cite literally contradicts the premises you're citing it to support, I don't see how to have a sane conversation about this, given that you don't even remotely touch on the majority of my objections. Also, the part where we have thoroughly different value systems means that there's a ton of difference in what's considered even relevant, so a meaningful discussion is probably not possible.
1TAG1yAt this point, I'm beginning to wonder if you've ever been in an IT department. The coding world contains significant numbers of single men who make money to pursue hobbies. And not all work is "slavish". The best-rewarded kinds are often intellectually stimulating as well.
4Dagon1yIt's worth looking at the highly-downvoted comments - they are very interesting examples of things that are TOO FAR down the contrarian path for this group.

It's sad because the OP is specifically asking for contrarian opinions! In that specific context, the grandparent is an on-topic contribution (even if it would be strong-downvote-worthy had it appeared in most other possible contexts on this website).

6Liam Donovan1yI downvoted because I think the benefit of making stuff like this socially unacceptable on LW is higher than the cost of the OP getting one less response to their survey. The reasons it might be " strong-downvote-worthy had it appeared in most other possible contexts" still apply here, and the costs of replacing it with a less-bad example seem fairly minimal.
9Zack_M_Davis1yCan you elaborate? I think the costs (in the form of damaging the integrity of the inquiry) are quite high. If you're going to crowdsource a list of unpopular beliefs, and carry out that job honestly, then the list is inevitably going to contain a lot of morally objectionable ideas. After all, being morally objectionable is a good reason for an idea to be unpopular! (I suppose the holders of such ideas might argue that the causal relationship between unpopularity and perception-of-immorality runs in the other direction, but we don't care what they think.) Now, I also enjoy our apolitical site culture, which I think reflects an effective separation of concerns []: here, we talk aboout Bayesian epistemology. When we want to apply our epistemology skills to contentious object-level topics that are likely to generate "more heat than light" [], we take it to someone else's website. (I recommend /r/TheMotte [].) That separation is a good reason to explicitly ban specific topics or hypotheses as being outside of the site's charter. But if we do that, then we can't compile a list of unpopular beliefs without lying about the results. Blatant censorship is the best kind!
5Liam Donovan1y(Keeping in mind that I have nothing to do with the inquiry and can't speak for OP) Why is it desirable for the inquiry to turn up a representative sample of unpopular beliefs? If that were explicitly the goal, I would agree with you; I'd also agree (?) that questions with that goal shouldn't be allowed. However, I thought the idea was to have some examples of unpopular opinions to use in a separate research study, rather than to directly research what unpopular beliefs LW holds. If the conclusion of the research turns out to be "here is a representative sample of unpopular LW beliefs: <a set of beliefs that doesn't include anything too reactionary/politically controversial>", that would be a dishonest & unfortunate conclusion.
4Dagon1yHeh. It's interesting to even try to define what "representative" means for something that is defined by unpopularity. I guess the best examples are those that are so reprehensible or ludicrous that nobody is willing to even identify them. I do understand your reluctance to give any positive feedback to an idea you abhor, even when it's relevant and limited to one post. I look forward to seeing what results from it - maybe it will move the window, as you seem to fear. Maybe it'll just be forgotten, as I expect.
4Zack_M_Davis1yOkay, that makes sense.
6Dagon1yI've upvoted them because I think they are specifically appropriate and on-topic for this post, even though I agree that they'd be unwelcome on most of LW. When discussing (or researching) contrarian and unpopular ideas, it's a straight-up mistake (selection and survivorship bias) to limit those ideas to only the semi-contrarian ones that fit into the site's general [] .
4defilippis1yAgreed. There’s no value in spreading this opinion

What did you think was going to happen when you asked people for unpopular opinions?!

3maximkazhenkov1yI think people are confused about how to evaluate answers here. Should we upvote opinions we agree with on the object level as usual, or should we upvote opinions base on usefulness for the kind of research the OP is trying to conduct (i.e. not mainstream, but not too obscure/random/quirky either like 2+2=5)? It seems like most have defaulted to the former interpretation while the most-upvoted comments are advocating the latter. Clear instructions is warranted here; the signal is all mixed up. A close analogy would be a CNN segment bashing Trump posted on an Alt-Right site: the audience there might be confused as to whether they should dogpile on this post as a representative of the opposing tribe or to upvote the post as a heroic act of exposing the ugly nature of the opposing tribe (usually it's resolved by an allegiance-declaring intro segment by the OP but isn't always the case).

That is a dangerous opinion to hold. I believe there is value in all ideas, even if they are horrible to our own subjective views. Stuart has proposed something that may be ridiculous but ignoring it doesn't provide any insight to why it was proposed. You could easily springboard off of it and propose ideas such as:

It could be possible, very intelligent people whom disagree with the norm trap themselves in dark areas while searching for answers.

1maximkazhenkov1yWhy is it a dangerous opinion to hold? I don't know about others, but to me at least valuing freedom of expression has nothing to do with valuing the ideas being expressed.
1iterativecode1yLet us review ideas and make comments without bias. Expressing that some ideas are so bad they cannot be stated is dangerous because we are ignoring them in favour of a bias.
1maximkazhenkov1yThey can be stated, nobody is contesting that. They can also be downvoted to hell, which is what I'm arguing for.
3eigen1yI understood OP as looking for unpopular beliefs that many people have; not only one random person. I've never heard anyone have this belief before so I think, therefore, it does not apply.
8Matthew Barnett1yI'm just confused because the post specifically said non-normative, and this is clearly normative.
9Zack_M_Davis1yNot that clearly? I agree that Anderson is using vague, morally-charged (what constitutes "progress"?), and hyperbolic ("everything in society"!?) language, but the comment still has empirical content: if someone told you about an alien civilization in which "blerples do the bulk of the work when it comes to maintaining society, but splapbops' agency causes there to be nothing to pay the blerples with", that testimony would probably change your implied probability distribution over anticipated observations of the civilization (even if you didn't know what blerples and splapbops were).
8Matthew Barnett1yNormative beliefs are ambiguous unless we have a shared, concrete understanding of what constitutes "good", or "progress" in this case. I suspect my understanding of progress diverges from Stuart's to a large extent. Stability might be less ambiguous, but I wish it was operationalized. I agree with Hanson that value talk is usually purposely ambiguous [] because it's not about expressing probability distributions, but rather about implying a stance and signaling an attitude.
-3iterativecode1yI neither accept or deny the ideas presented but I do believe you are tapping into something greater. It seems most dislike your theory because it doesn't follow modern western philosophy.
1iterativecode1yI should have expressed that western philosophy may be a reason we view the idea as 'bad' on first glance. Further investigation of the comment reveals it is logically flawed but that initial negative feeling is a bias we cannot ignore. Is our own philosophy of enlightenment altering our perception? That is a question that comes to mind from the whole ordeal.
1maximkazhenkov1yIt's a question about value, not fact. "Bias" is not even a criticism here; value is nothing but bias.

Almost everything is "alive" or "conscious" because the only interesting property that separates things that are "alive" or "dead" is whether or not they contain feedback processes (that, as a consequence, generate information and locally reduce entropy while globally increasing it).

1wearsshoes1yDo you use a separate word for the subjective experience of thought and perception?
2Dagon1y"myself" could be that word. I have no evidence of any other subjective experiences. Alternately, you may not need a separate word - everything experiences things, perhaps as some function of the complexity of feedback mechanism.

The history of World War II has been rewritten to protect the guilty.

2Teerth Aloke1yThat is partially true. The extensive atrocities carried ot by the Western Allies have not been given as much spotlight as the atrocities of the Axis and now the Soviets.
2iterativecode1yTo the victor goes the spoils, and that includes the text books. I think most would agree with this, although they wouldn't dare express it in public. That in itself brings up a large quantity of questions.
-3maximkazhenkov1yYet you dare expressing it on LessWrong? What's "in public" then? Soap box on the street?
1iterativecode1yYou seem to be following my every comment. I hope you hold no bias against me, as that would not lead to a productive discussion. I don't understand the point of your comment, what exactly are you trying to express? Is it perhaps my articulation and word choice? Language and words are a bit more complicated than a definition, sometimes you understand through context. This comment isn't a science, by public I meant out in the open not anonymously on a small online forum.
1maximkazhenkov1yNo I haven't, I just click through comments on posts that interest me. What I'm confused about is what you mean by "they wouldn't dare express it in public". There are entire communities and subcultures built around conspiracy theories on the web, whether it's 9/11, Holocaust denial, moon landing or flat earth. How much more public can it get?
2iterativecode1yI was talking for the average person, of course those groups exist but it doesn't mean everyone is comfortable stating the obvious in public. Western culture is sensitive about world war 2. Look at Japan you can go over there and mention the bombs and their war crimes and most won't care. We see this in comparing how the west vs east censor media such as games and movies. The ideas are public but most people are not willing to state them and risk their social lives.
3maximkazhenkov1yI really don't think picking out the most conservative and conformist country on the planet supports your point very well. Of course they don't care, denying their past war crimes is the official position. Meanwhile in the US, the evils of Western Imperialism (including recent ones) is standard textbook material. Whether you agree with those textbooks or not, the phrase "history is written by the victors" usually doesn't imply self-critical writing. Or perhaps people are not willing to state them because they don't agree those ideas? If people are protected by legal rights to free speech and anonymity on the web yet some ideas still can't gain any traction on the market of ideas, you should start considering the possibility that those ideas aren't even secretly popular.
3paul ince1yThere are not many anonymous free speech places left. I only know of one or two and they are constantly under DDOS attack (amongst others) to shut them down. All the major platforms don't allow contrarian opinions to gather momentum and the mainstream news just ignores what they don't like. This mass censorship ensures that 'those ideas' never have a chance to become popular.
3maximkazhenkov1yI was going to bring up Red Ice TV as a counter-example but just found out they got banned from Youtube 2 weeks ago. Troubling indeed.
2iterativecode1yI do not wish to further this discussion since it is off topic and you seem to not understand my point. That said I will give you a small response. Obviously culture can repress and encourage certain opinions and facts. Just because there is law for free speech doesn't mean you can say anything you want without repercussions.
1Pattern1yEven if you suppose that the U.S. and China would want to censor the same types of things (past embarrassing things), there can exist different levels of censorship (and openness). The fact the U.S. talks about some past misdeeds does not mean 1) that it talks about current misdeeds, or 2) there are other past misdeeds it doesn't talk about. Establishing more specific examples would require more discussion - what do you mean by "Western imperialism"? Particularly, recently? Except when it's written by the losers [].
1Pattern1yHow do they differ?
2iterativecode1ySorry, It should be what they censor. A good example is the game Fallout 3, the American company that created it decided to censor a quest relating to the use of nuclear weapons just for the Japanese version. Funny enough, Japanese gamers complained that the quest was removed and they moded it back in. More examples of censored content in western games: the swastika in Battlefield 5 and Hitler's moustache in Wolfenstein. Some things are allowed in 1 country and others aren't , clearly we are more sensitive about that part of history.

Expressing unpopular opinions can be good and necessary, but doing so merely because someone asked you to is foolish. Have some strategic common sense.

Free speech. Total or should be restricted to 'civil speech'?

9Viliam1yTruly contrarian position: Should be restricted to uncivil speech. (No, I don't actually hold this opinion. But I imagine that an interesting movie could be made using it.)
1leggi1yComment was written in a hurry with the buzz of mentioning the sacred-to-many word - 'democracy' in another suggestion. Although wouldn't it be free speech or total censorship (silence?)? civil v. uncivil conjures some amusing ideas! If behaviour was civil and people actually thought from themselves rather than repeating. then would it matter how uncivilly we spoke? (random thoughts)

I strongly expect that "contrarian" is too general a category to really cut reality in any useful way. I think it's mostly about signalling (want to show individuality and leadership, without being too weird).

This implies that what is "contrarian" vs "conventional" is contextual, based on which group(s) are being signaled to. I don't know if this is a contrarian position or not - probably yes to some and no to others.

An interesting take on the topic (along with idea clustering) is : (read more)


“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isil and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” -Hilary Clinton

(this statement is pretty conventional around here)

note that "hold an opinion" is a framing that doesn't match my experience. I consider opinions and assign probabilities to their predictions. I don't really "hold" any of them - more that I use some models more than others, and give them a bit more weight than others. None of them are zero, none 1.

It would be interesting to categorize the "seductiveness" of arguments and cross-check that against the importance of decisions that can be made with the opinion. I t... (read more)

  • Disappointment in sexual love is one of the most destructive forces on the planet, today, and our cultures lack the capacity to understand or work on this problem.
  • There is a living spiritual ecology, that we are all participating in. All living beings are striving, in one way or another, towards the divine world. The most important thing we can work towards, is the development of a society of dream, and this is the religious orientation for humanity.

I'm going to classify my opinion on this as non-normative because it appears to be presented as a "good thing" whenever I come across it, and I don't agree.

Economic growth.

Shouldn't we be considering stability and sustainability for our resources rather than this magical "X% growth" I hear of?

Increase of understanding and spread of knowledge should always be encouraged.

I take Bostrum's Simulation Hypothesis seriously and strongly suspect that our reality is a simulation, in the literal sense of the word.

I play a form of Russian Roulette (which as far as I know, I invented) involving a torch lighter that only has a 1/6 chance of working on any given pull and hundred dollar bills. The two players take turns risking their own money until someone quits. Nothing prepared me for how controversial this game turns out to be. This may be an odd one as the underlying belief doesn't sound controversial; the value of an ac... (read more)

I have a view that would seem contrarian in this community.

SIAI shifted its focus from triggering an AI-based Singularity to doing 'saferty' research, because Yudkowsky understood that SIAI is no better off at building AGI than any other AI research organization. Actually, worse, because of low funding and at that time the sole full-time member.

I hold a lot of contrarian positions but only because I actually believe them (guess I'm hard to seduce...). You might enjoy Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism by Scott Alexander for a cool take on contrarianism's seductive appeal though.

If you want to watch a funny (but unproductive) video about being contrarian, you might also enjoy Jreg's "Burn The Fence Down." He's a comedian who (ironically?) promotes the idea of Anti-Centrism.

World Trade Centre building 7 did not collapse at free fall into its own footprint because of office fires.

downvotes? too contrarian? hahaha.

3jacobjacob1yI downvoted this even though it followed instructions, because the final sentence has a scornful tone that does not seem conducive to good-faith intellectual discourse.
4paul ince1yApologies, the final sentence was an edit after the downvotes rolled in. I should have marked it as such. I was very surprised though that I met the brief and was downvoted.
2Charlie Steiner1yIndeed. Have a compensatory upvote.
-13Teerth Aloke1y

Are you looking at any domain in particular?

1defilippis1yAny domain works

Mandatory national service is a terrible idea.

6Said Achmiz1yIs… is that a contrarian idea? I was not aware of the negation of this claim being a mainstream view. Who is advocating for mandatory national service?!
4Vaniver1yI had seen claims that Pete Buttigieg had made calls for mandatory national service, but turns out it was actually a substantial increase in the number of paid service opportunities [].
3Andrew McNabb1yAmong the intellectual class, I think it is contrarian, at least in the US. The idea is a common thread in American social thought going back to at least the early 1900's. Particularly since the end of the Cold War, the the widening fissures in our society, It's been very common for elites to bemoan the lack of social cohesion and suggest that mandatory national service is the answer. Not just a military draft, or registering for the selective service, but actual mandatory service by all young adults for a period of one-two years.
2clone of saturn1yIt seems fairly uncontroversial to say that the list of countries with mandatory national service [] doesn't seem like a list of countries that are notoriously terrible.
6Said Achmiz1yThat list includes the United States, so it clearly can’t be a list of countries with mandatory national service.
1Liam Donovan1yI think the US is listed because it's mandatory that we register for the draft
4Said Achmiz1yNo such speculation is necessary; you need only to, you know, read the page, to see that the list is simply a list of countries with national service, period —whether compulsory or voluntary.
4habryka1yThis seems to be the correct list to look at: []
5Said Achmiz1yThanks! Looking at that list, it’s certainly not composed entirely of countries that are “notoriously terrible” (e.g., Singapore, Israel, Estonia, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, are all, I am given to understand, quite nice)… but the list is clearly skewed toward countries I very much would not want to live in, much more so than the list of countries without conscription.
1Liam Donovan1yYep, I misread the page, my mistake

Democracy - good or bad?

In theory and in practice. Around the world.

Campaigning. Levels of honesty, accountability and consistency v. propaganda, fitting in with today's perceived public opinion, who can shout the loudest, or the media's take for the day.

“Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”
Terry Pratchett, Mort

democracy - everyone gets an equal say ...

democracy - a system where 2 i... (read more)

1Matthew Barnett1yDownvoted because the question specified non-normative opinions.
1leggi1yThanks for an explanation of a down-vote, it's good to know why! What is the normative opinion of democracy? (depends on who you ask I guess!) And then the opposite.