I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine on the topic of reading others, socially. What they want, what they think, where are they going, etc. During this discussion, I verbalized my intuition on the topic of manipulating others how you think they should act, and what I said had me puzzled for the next few days. So, after much thinking I came to a conclusion, but I want to see what LW thinks of my pondering.
Basically, the idea is that, social clumsiness many very intelligent people face is actually very much self-imposed, a handicap placed upon themselves because we feel iffy about consciously manipulating others as pawns in our grander schemes.
Basically, the reasoning of mine was this: Treating other people as pawns in your plan, rather than actual people, is wrong. You should not strip others of their power to decide for themselves. But say, you are more intelligent than others, and could with planning lead others to do things you want them to. This power over others presents you with an unfair advantage, and this unfair advantage presents you with an iffy ethical dilemma. If you can force other people to do what you will, regardless of their initial disposition, aren't you treating them as pawns rather than autonomous human beings? If you strip them of power to have their initial disposition affect their decisions, aren't you doing wrong? Of course, it's usually very difficult to get people to do what you want. Two equals discussing, both may try this, but both may fail, and even if another succeeds, it's still considered "fair game" by all parties. But more easily this manipulating happens, the more of your brain you need to shut down to make the discussion "fair". At some point, expressing any opinion and leading other people at all seems risky and iffy.
So how do people cope? My theory is this: They stop interacting. Voicing their own opinion, asking other people for things, or even having any goal other than following directions laid out by others becomes off-limits. If they do any of that, it opens an ugly, ethical box of worms of the shape "Should I make them do this?"
So basically, my hypothesis is, the reason intelligent people are so often socially clumsy is because it's a facade, a self-imposed handicap they keep up because evolution has programmed us to have repulsion towards unfairly manipulating others. Because they can make others do anything, they choose to do nothing. This manifests as being easily led, a kind of "doormat", lacking their own will or ego, even.
It's simplistic, there are complications I can readily see that make the whole picture more complicated, but this stripped down dynamic of being more intelligent forcing you to feign helplessness is what I'm interested in, so that's what I presented. Is there any reason to think a mechanic like this actually exists? Is it widespread? Has there been actual study on this mechanic already?
There are aplenty of interesting-looking areas of study if this dynamic is actually a real thing. Say, PUA could look a bit different when aimed at doormat-style people. Aesthetically it would provide more interesting explanation for why smart people are not too social, and it also leads to advice that differs a lot from advice given from stand-point of "You need to learn this". It makes several "is it okay to manipulate others" -type of questions relevant for practical ethics study. Of course, it most likely is not a real thing.
Edit: Also, I was a bit hesitant if I should post this under discussion or wait for that Open Thread to pop up. It's quite lengthy, so I felt discussion post could be appropriate, but dunno, I could and maybe should take this down and wait for Open Thread.
Never use "I'm too good at something to win" or "I only lose because other people are so bad". Those sort of explanations are never true. Not ever.
I don't know if there's some kind of word for this fallacy (maybe a relative of the Dunning-Kruger effect), but if your mind ever uses it in the future then you need to give your logic center a curbstomp in the balls. This sort of logic is ego protection bullshit. Hearing this explanation is the number one indicator that a person will never improve in a skillset.
How could they possibly get better if they think they already have the answer and it doesn't involve any work on their part?
Here's my alternate hypothesis. Manipulating people is hard and takes tons of practice. You haven't put in your 10,000 hours.
Edit: Also, you aren't getting downvoted because this belongs in the Open Thread. The downvotes are because you're wrapped in one of the most dangerous self-delusions that exists. It's even more insidious than religion in some ways because it can snake it's way into any thought about any skillset. The good news is that you've given it voice and you can fight it. And I hope you do.
In general, the the very skilled player would have gotten that way by being smart AND smashing a ton of less skilled players. Trying to say: "I can't go to chess club because I would just defeat everyone and it wouldn't be fair" is ridiculous, and even more so when you've never actually won a tournament. You never hear the story "I was a social butterfly, the most popular person in school, but then I decided that was abusing my powers and now I'm alone. Yay!" On the other hand "I was alone and sad and nerdy, but then I practiced social skills and now I have a ton of friends and am the most popular person in school. Yay!" is, if not very common, a story that I've heard way more than once.
Test it, then. Run an experiment. Find a group of people (don't use the excuse that finding groups of people is hard), and attempt to do just what you said. If it works, congratulations. You're the next dark lord. If it doesn't work, you're probably wrong. (And don't use the excuse that the people just happened to all be immune to your powers.)
While reading the above, if your brain attempted either of those excuses, you're probably suffering from belief in belief.
When has evolution ever caused individuals to pass up personal advantages? The point of evolution isn't to promote fairness.
This seems more like some power-fantasy, along the lines of a kid standing lonely on the sidelines of a party and telling himself "I could control them all, but I don't, because I need to keep my power under control". There are plenty of intelligent people who socialize just great, and use those relationships to their benefit.
This doesn't ring true with my intuition at all. I think that most people capable of easily manipulation would do it pretty readily, either through rationalization or even by accident, or just not do it. At least for myself, most of my social awkwardness seems to be status related, and not some sort of self imposed ethics.
I think you're on to something about a revulsion to manipulating others, but wrong that it comes from a sense of being able to make others do anything we want. I think most of us have never demonstrated that skill, though likely it is trainable, and through training we could get better than most.
Basically, many nerds are social pacifists.
We got that way for many reasons. We're comparatively just not that into other people. Less interested in status. Not as good at reading other people, both naturally and as a result of lack of practice. And likely place a higher moral value on autonomy/fairness than others (Haidt confirms this for liberatrians/liberals, both vastly over represented groups here). Put that together, and social/status pacifism is a natural outcome, both as a natural preference and as a rationalization for our lack of skill and interest in social competition.
By the way, I think the massive downvoting is wholly inappropriate. Of course, I tend toward social pacifism, so I would.
You are free to disagree, but I see nothing wrong in general with manipulating the universe into having a better outcome for me. I can respect other people's autonomy while still offering them incentives to benefit me- in particular, the ability to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship even if the benefits of that relationship are unequally divided.
I think this is probably being too kind to my unhandicapped abilities. Rather than handicapping myself because I'm too powerful, I think the key issue is that I see things on a metalevel and analytically, such that I can notice that there is little difference between "social adeptitude" and "manipulation". And so, in order to avoid being manipulative, I consciously avoid developing social skills. I think reflectivity and pathological non-hypocrisy are the key dynamics, not inherent manipulative ability.
This is more or less true of me, though I don't know why evolution is being singled out etiologically, it seems like even a blank slate mind ... (read more)
This thesis sounds self-defeating. Any argument that you propose that is meant to convince someone is a sort of social manipulation. As a matter of fact, some hypothesize that this is the entire reason that human-level intelligence came about in the first place, because our brains are optimized for social activity and not straightforward intellectual activity; "rationality" being a byproduct of navigating complex tribal politics.
My issue with this argument is that you are implicitly claiming that social interaction --> manipulation. On the face of it this is probably more or less true. Most social interactions do involve (mild) manipulations such as suggesting an activity, asking someone to pass the [object], or telling a story to elicit sympathy/respect. However, you then claim that these types of manipulations are ones intelligent people "feel iffy about."
I'm certainly willing to accept that there are types of manipulation that makes the manipulator feel guilty and ... (read more)
A couple of concrete examples on either side of the acceptability boundary would be useful: one where "manipulation" is "Treating other people as pawns in your plan", and another where "manipulation" (now termed as "influence" to avoid negative connotations) is perfectly "fair".
Using words with strongly negative connotations in a title of the article, is not a way to get upvoted. Was this a meta example of the idea in the article?
I think this articles has a good idea, and bad writing. By which I don't mean the writing is bad in general, but rather that the title and the whole idea have so negative connotations, that the writing is not nearly good enough to balance that. (Also, don't say "PUA" in an article, unless it is essential to the article. The mere using of the word gives you like automatic 5 downvotes. Gender pol... (read more)
Maybe you can come up with a version of the campsite rule for influencing people.