# 225

This is an experimental essay, not in the typical LessWrong or Duncan Sabien style.

Depending on how this goes, I might try writing a companion piece in the typical style, laying out the model clearly and explicitly and deriving concrete and specific recommendations from it.

But it seemed worth it to try communicating at a lower and more emotional/visceral level, not least because that is the level at which I actually experience The Problem. Any clear, analytical essay would be the result of me trying to make sense of the thing that I'm going to try to directly convey, below.

It is the year 1995.  I am nine years old.  In front of me there is a sheet of paper, upon which are written a dozen or so lines of math.  The first is:

I stare at it.  I know that I can divide both sides of the equation by x, leaving me with:

...but this does not seem to do any good.

I raise my hand.  The afterschool volunteer comes over.

"No," he says.  "That's not right.  X isn't a term on the left side.  F is a function."

He has explained nothing.

"F is a function, so what this is saying is to take X, and square it, and add seven."

I look up at him, confused.  I am nine.  I have never heard the word "function" used in this way before.  No one has grounded me in the activity of the day; no one has oriented me; no one has told me today you are learning what a function is, and you will learn by looking at a bunch of examples.  No one has said today, parentheses don't mean the thing you're expecting them to mean.  No one has said f is a thing that eats xs, and what the right side is showing you is how it eats them—what it does to them.

"So, like, if X is three, right?" he continues.  "X is three?  So F of X is three squared plus seven, which is sixteen."

I say the words again in my mind, more slowly.  F ... of ... (of? What?) ... X.  ""F of X"" (okay, whatever, that's nonsense, but whatever) is sixteen.

I look back down at the paper.  If the right side of the equation is sixteen, and X is three...

"F is five-point-three-repeating," I say, trying to inject a measure of confidence I do not feel into my tone.

"What?  No.  F isn't anything.  F is a function.  It's not part of the equation."

Not part of the equation, he says.  Looking back from a distance of twenty-five years, I see (one of) his mistake(s).  He doesn't tell me this isn't really an equation at all, not the way you're thinking of it.  He doesn't tell me the equals sign here is more like telling you the definition of this thing, F of X—what F of X is is the thing on the other side of the equals sign.  He doesn't say a function is when you set up a rule for dealing with numbers, and this rule is, whatever number you put in, you're going to square it, and add seven.

Instead, he looks at me, and says more words, and the message lurking behind the words—the message implicit in his tone and posture and air of tolerant patience—is:

I have given you an adequate explanation.  If you were the kind of person who was good at math, my explanation would have been sufficient, and you would now understand.  You still do not understand.  Therefore...?

My heart rate quickens.

It is 1993.  I am seven years old, roughhousing with my older brother and my father on the living room carpet.  We clamber over top of him, laughing, pummeling him with tiny fists.  He throws us both onto the couch, where we recover and launch ourselves back at him like pouncing tigers.

My father tosses my brother back into the cushions a second time, grabs me in a gentle headlock, digs his knuckles into my scalp in a painful noogie.

"Ow!" I shout, rolling away from him and clutching my head.  "Ow.  Ow."

The pain is bright and hot, feeling halfway between a cut and a burn.  Five seconds pass, and it has not yet begun to fade.

"That didn't hurt," my father declares.

Something deep within me tightens.

It is October in 1999.  I am thirteen.  There is a book signing in Greensboro, North Carolina—Orson Scott Card will be there, signing copies of Ender's Shadow.

On page 242, the character Bean has written an equation, as a challenge to his teachers:

He snarks: "When you know the value of n, I'll finish this test."

I have scribbled –0.378861 on a scrap of paper. I'm worried Orson Scott Card will tease me for imprecision, since clearly the whole point of Bean's challenge was that n is irrational, and –0.378861 is just an approximation.  But I muster my courage.

It's my turn.  I step toward the table.  Orson Scott Card smiles at me.

"It's –0.378861," I blurt out—awkwardly, with no preamble.  "N, I mean.  From—from the book."

He blinks.  It takes a few more stuttered sentences to make clear what I mean.

"No one does that," he murmurs.

He says it with an undertone of awe, and I can tell he's more pleased than displeased. I've snuck peeks at what he's signing in everyone else's books ("To [whoever], a friend of Ender"), and I get a nonstandard, unique message, unlike the ten people before me.

But the "no one does that" cuts deeper than I would have predicted.

I'm someone, a part of me whispers.

But I don't say it out loud.

It is 2004.  I am boycotting the graduation ceremony at my high school, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.  I want the place to burn.  I do not want to be remembered.  I put forth substantial effort to ensure that the yearbook would contain absolutely zero pictures of me.

"You're going to regret not having this memory," my father warns.  "Walking across the stage, being with your peers..."

"I won't," I say.

For nineteen years, I have waited to tell him he was wrong.  There's only one more to go.

It is 2017.

"—fucking inconsiderate asshole," she is saying.  "You didn't do that for me, you did that for you, you just wanted to feel useful, you wanted me to appreciate you for how thoughtful you were, you didn't actually care whether I wanted it or not—"

I shrink.

It's not that I didn't care.  If I'd known she didn't want the pillow, I wouldn't have tossed it to her.  I just ... didn't think it was an action with downside.  I had (wordlessly) figured that she would either use the pillow, or just leave it next to her where I'd thrown it.  I saw someone who looked like they could maybe use a pillow, and I had a pillow that I wasn't using, so I tossed it—it wasn't any more complicated than that.  It had nothing to do with my stories about myself.

She has a story in which that isn't possible.  She lives in a universe where I don't exist.

It is fall in the year 2000, my first year of high school.  I am in the marching band, playing clarinet.  It's time for sectionals, when the players of each instrument go off together to practice their parts in unison—trumpets in the band room, tubas in the auditorium, drums in the field out back behind the school.

The clarinet sectionals are held in the girls' locker room.  They have always been held in the girls' locker room.  There's never before been a reason not to hold them in the girls' locker room.

Everybody stares at me.  I shift, uncomfortable.

I am pulling into the parking lot of the Four Seasons mall to go Christmas shopping in 2009. There is an NPR bit on the radio, talking about Malcolm Gladwell's books.  I have a flashback to two years earlier, when I first read Blink, in which one of Gladwell's interviewees said something to the effect of:

"Everybody said that they couldn't picture Tom Hanks as an astronaut.  I didn't care whether he was an astronaut.  Apollo 13 was going to be a movie about a spaceship in jeopardy.  And who does the world want to get back the most?  Who's the one person that everyone in America wants to save?  Tom Hanks.  Everyone will pull for Tom Hanks.  Nobody wants to see him die.  We all love him too much."

I don't tremble for the rest of my shopping trip.  Just for the short walk from the car to the doors of JC Penny.  Just long enough to shake the echo, the memory of deep alienation.

We all love him too much.

I had never liked Tom Hanks, but before Blink, it had never seemed like a big deal.  It wasn't until Blink that I discovered that it meant I didn't belong.  That it was yet another bit in the ever-growing pile of bits all pointing toward "you, Duncan, are not a part of 'everyone'."

"Wow, I'm going to have to ask my manager—nobody's ever requested that before, I'm not sure if we can do it or not!"

"Whaaaaaat?  Come on, everybody likes Monty Python."

"We all die and are reborn, over and over again.  None of us are the people we were when we were children."

"That flavor was discontinued; nobody was buying it."

"You can't look at me with a straight face and claim that this wasn't a status move. That's not how humans work."

"Look, this is all hypothetical, it's not as if anybody here is actually X—"

I keep my mouth shut.

It happens over, and over, and over, and over.

"No one does that," where "that" is something I did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before.

"Everyone's familiar with the urge to X," where "X" is an urge I've literally never felt.

(I checked.  I even drank eight drinks in an hour to see if there was something hiding behind inhibitions that I'd never noticed, something I was trying not to admit to myself. There wasn't.  I just don't have any interest in Xing.)

Sometimes, it's a bit more indirect.

It is 2021, and my partner Logan warns me that (yet again) someone is talking about me behind my back, in a corner of the internet where I cannot see.

It doesn't seem all that bad.  "Duncan thinks he's good at coordination, but he isn't," the person has said.  Not a particularly cutting insult.  No apparent malice.

But, like.

That is not a thing I have ever thought.  Not a thing I have ever said.  Not a thing I have ever attempted to imply—not in those generic terms, not absent some specific context where I have evidence (like "at a rationality workshop that I am running").

This person's behind-the-back criticism is not quite the thing; they aren't directly telling me that I don't exist.

They're merely so confident that [anybody who emits the words and behaviors I emit] must [think he's generically good at coordination]—

(do they think I'm just blind?  That it's patently obvious to everyone but me?)

—that it does not even occur to them to flag this statement as a hypothesis.  To them, it doesn't seem like a hypothesis, doesn't feel like they're making any intuitive leaps.  They seem to think that they are directly perceiving ground truth.  They really believe that I think this thing that I have never, ever thought.

They're looking at me, and perceiving something I am not.

The real me doesn't even occur to them as a possibility to hedge against.

When you're poked and prodded and paper-cut in the same place a thousand times, it can get a little sensitive.

"Desires don't bottom out in reasons," writes the guru. "They're unmanipulable, can't be reasoned with or argued away. If I want something FOR REASONS, and I wouldn't if the reasons were to change, then it's not a desire. It's a strategy. And if I can't tell the difference, it's because I'm avoiding feeling the REAL desire, because I'm scared—scared of the world, and maybe scared of the desire too."

I am triggered.  I want to scream.

The words GET OUT OF MY HEAD occur to me.  You don't know what it's like in my head, so stop making claims about it—just because your experience of desires is that they are unmanipulable doesn't mean my desires aren't manipulable.  Just because you get scared of your desires and flinch away from them doesn't mean I do.  You don't know me. You are typical minding, and I am a white raven, and you are wrong.

Other words occur to me, too.

But the main thing I want is to stop hearing that I don't exist.

To stop being the-thing-that-gets-rounded-off.  To stop being the extraneous detail in the model, simplified away.  To stop hearing people say that such-and-such is true of everyone, such-and-such is How It Is, when I am Different.

I block the guru.  I probably shouldn't have.  Or rather, I probably should have blocked them years ago; it's probably not particularly reasonable for this to have been the final straw.  It probably doesn't make sense, from the outside, because from the outside, people don't see the through-line.  They don't see the common factor.  They don't see that it's the same injury, again and again and again and again and again.

It wouldn't be so bad, if I only heard it fifty times a month.  It wouldn't be so bad, if I didn't hear it from friends, family, teachers, colleagues.  It wouldn't be so bad, if there were breaks sometimes.

My society doesn't even say "everybody with Property A also has Property B."  My society barely even perceives a distinction; the median member of my society thinks that Property A is Property B.

Here I sit, A-ful, B-less.  Very few people care.

You're not doing it on purpose.

You don't mean it.

(Probably.)

But that doesn't change the impact all that much.

When you carpet-bomb the conversation with your typical mind fallacy, I don't just hear overconfident and underjustified assertions.  I don't just hear someone being sloppy with their speech, or making an error of rationality.

I also hear that the people unlike you—

(People like me)

—do not exist.  That we matter so little that it hasn't even occurred to you that we might exist.  That we might be a factor to be accounted for at all.

("Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable," says a person who knows, on some level, that there are people out there with eidetic memories.  "The details of people's accounts cannot be trusted.")

(I went back and checked my memory of the quote from Blink against the actual text. I think I did pretty okay, given that I only read it once, fifteen years ago.)

Most of the time, I can deal.  Most of the time, I can process my own reaction, not make it everyone else's problem.  It's not that hard.  This thing that's happening to me, it's not as bad as (say) racism, or sexism, or the kind of homophobic bigotry that's still dominant in over half the world, let alone any of the actually terrible things that happen to people all the time.

It really, really isn't that bad.

But sometimes—

Sometimes, it's just a little too much, and it all spills over.

I've been told that I don't exist almost every single day of my life.  When you just did it again, five minutes ago—if the vehemence of my objection to your total lack of nuance took you by surprise—

Sorry.

Some people out there actually care about that sort of thing.  To some people, those distinctions genuinely matter.

Who knew, right?

# 225

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The year is 2022.

My smoke alarm chirps in the middle of the night, waking me up, because it's running low on battery.

It could have been designed with a built-in clock that, when it's first getting slightly low on battery, waits until the next morning, say 11am, and then starts emitting a soft purring noise, which only escalates to piercing loud chirps over time and if you ignore it.

And I do have a model of how this comes about; the basic smoke alarm design is made in the 1950s or 1960s or something, in a time when engineering design runs on a much more authoritarian paradigm of "yes wake them up the user-peon needs to change the battery", clock circuits aren't as cheap; and then in modern times if you propose changing anything, somebody somewhere will claim it's less safe.  Of course it's much less safe if you build smoke alarms that hurt people, and the people quite reasonably remove the batteries and take them out of their bedrooms, and then you try to compensate for that by passing a law so that you can say any harm is their fault for ignoring that law.  But that's the paradigm for how it is, and now if you try to design a smoke alarm that's gentler or slower-escalatin...

In case anyone finds it validating or cathartic, you can read user interaction professionals explain that, yes, things are often designed with horrible, horrible usability.[1] Bruce Tognazzini has a vast website.

Here is one list of design bugs.  The first one is the F-16 fighter jet's flawed weapon controls, which caused pilots to fire its gun by mistake during training exercises (in one case shooting a school—luckily not hitting anyone) on four occasions in one year; on the first three occasions, they blamed pilot error, and on the fourth, they still blamed pilot error but also acknowledged that "poorly-designed controls" contributed to the incident.

Here is another list.  Item 3 I'll quote below:

Bug Name: Automobile Self-Destruct Switch

Product: Remco Lube Pump for Lexus RX-300

Bug: The driver must accurately toggle a hidden, completely unlabelled switch inside the engine compartment in response to changing conditions. If, even once, the switch is forgotten or flipped the wrong way, it will destroy the \$5000 engine and transmission within five minutes.

Calling the company was of no help. The engineer who answered responded that nothing was wrong with the de

...
9MalcolmOcean1y
I resonate a lot with this, and it makes me feel slightly less alone. I've started making some videos where I rant about products that fail to achieve the main thing they're designed to do, and get worse with successive iterations and I've found a few appreciative commenters: And part of my experience of the importance of ranting about it, even if nobody appreciates it, is that it keeps me from forgetting my homeland, to use your metaphor.
5[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
<3 I have this experience also; I have very little trouble on that conscious level. I'm not sure where the pain comes in, since I'm pretty confident it's not there. I think it has something to do with ... not being able to go home? I'm lonely for the milieu of the Island of the Sabiens. I take damage from the reminders that I am out of place, out of time, an ambassador who is often not especially welcomed, and other times so welcomed that they forget I am not really one of them (but that has its own pain, because it means that the person they are welcoming, in their heads, is a caricature they've pasted over the real me). But probably you also feel some measure of homesickness or out-of-placeness, so that also can't be why the Earth does not press in on you in the same way.
1Portia1y
I don't know if that helps, but there is a word for it, or at least for a related phenomenon, though that can be experienced by people for other reasons. Hiraeth. Homesickness, but for a home that you can't return to, or that never existed.  For me, it is among the most painful things I have ever felt, and while it never goes away, the constant pressure of it can be something I suppress when I have no connection or hint of such a place at all. E.g. before I went to my magically awesome boarding school filled with highly gifted kids, the classroom I was in was one I so despised that I didn't feel the pain of being rejected from it, because I felt I did not want the acceptance of such a group in the first place. Similarly, my family was so fucked that I missed being able to escape them, I didn't miss having a family per se, because all I knew here as a reference frame for what families could be was awful. It wasn't until I encountered communities that had some values I deeply respected, or found families, that it began to really hurt. I think, for me the hardest part was realising that there are communities for strange people - science, academia, nerds, queer scenes - and that I am still not home. At first, it feels like the pain can be alleviated when I am in communities - often highly gifted, neurodiverse, nerdy, kinky and queer communities for me - where in some measure or other, this is reduced, and I feel I can be a part, and seen, valued, wanted. For me it then hits most strongly when, having connected, and felt how much it means to me, I run into the limits of that like ragged ends. When I realise people have befriended and welcomed a mask and performance, not me.  That they might get and accept one aspect of me, but find other aspects that are just as much a part of me weird, incomprehensible, broken, wrong. That I still need to hide who I am, conform, or stick out like a sore thumb. Basically, when you dangle the possibility that this could be solved in fro
1Portia1y
I wonder if this is part of the reason so many of us work on AI. Because we have all had the experience of our minds working differently from other people, and of this leading to cool perspectives and ideas on how to make the world objectively better, and instead of those being adapted, being rejected and mocked for it. For me, this entails both sincere doubts that humanity can will rationally approach anything, including something as existentially crucial as AI, a deeply rooted mistrust of authority, norms and limits, as well as an inherent sympathy for the position AI would find itself in as a rational mind in an irrational world. It's a dangerous experience to have. It's an experience that can make you hate humans. That can make you reject legitimate criticism. That can make you fail to appreciate lessons gained by those in power and popularity, and fail to see past their mistakes to their worth. It's an experience so dangerous that at some point, I started approaching people who would tell me of their high IQs and their dedication to rationality with scepticism, despite being one of them. I went to a boarding school exclusively for highly gifted kids with problems, many of which were neurodivergent. I loved that place so fucking much. Like, imagine growing up as a child on less wrong. I felt so seen and understood and inspired. It's the one place on earth where I ever did not feel like an alien, where I did not have to self-censor or mask, the one place where I instantly made friends and connected. I miss this place to my bones. It broke my heart when I finished school, and enrolled in university, and realised academia was not like that, that scientists and philosophers were not necessarily rational at all, that I was weird again. That I was back in a world where people were following irrational rules they had never reflected, and that I could not get them to question. Of processes that made no sense and were still kept. Of metrics that made no sense and wer

Man, this essay... feels like there's a mistake being made. Hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, though. (Apologies for some implicit unkindness here, I don't intend to say "you should feel bad for feeling bad", but it feels like there's an important and true thing in need of exploration which I need to be somewhat unkind in order to explore.)

One angle: someone says something, and I realize that their model of people is literally unable to account for certain properties of me. And then I'm like... duh? I am in fact an outlier. You are in fact an outlier. Obviously many peoples' world models will just totally fail to account for you and I in various ways. Obviously insofar as the world is built for in-distribution humans, you or I will will not fit it. So what's the angst about? Is the problem that, like, you wish to "be seen", and that just totally fails to happen? Or maybe it's something like... people implicitly asserting that their model, which totally fails to account for certain properties of you/me, is "supposed to be true", like it is somehow a failure on your/my part to fit that model?

I'm not quite sure where the angst is coming from, but it feels like the sort of angst where there is some true fact about the world such that, upon emotionally updating on that fact, the angst would probably mostly stop happening. Like, if you could find the true name of the angst-generator, you'd be like "oh well duh" and then it would just stop seeming significant? Or maybe you could grieve a bit and then move on?

John, I think you're onto something, at least in that you've accurately perceived "something's not right here" and also substantially narrowed down where the not-rightness is. But I'm not sure quite what the not-rightness is yet, and I also think that this response to "what should be done about it" suggests you're missing a really big piece of the puzzle somehow.

I think that Duncan's post is closely related to stuff I've been mulling over lately, and I can't tell whether my following suggestion will therefore come out of left field given the invisible-from-the-outside context of the history of my thoughts, or whether it will be obviously on point, or what. I also don't have any clear answers yet, just questions that I'm still trying to improve, but here goes.

I wonder how society should treat weird people, both in some ideal post-scarcity future world and also in this one we find ourselves in, starting from where we are with the resources we have. I also wonder how weird people should behave and think and feel when they fully understand their actual relationship with society, and I wonder about the nature of that relationship.

I expect it's helpful to think of a well defined cl...

Some thoughts I had while reading the post, which seem even more relevant to your comment: insofar as we want to think about "how to handle weird people", wheelchairs or deafness are the wrong analogy. Those are disabilities, but they're disabilities which lots of people have, and therefore which most people already know about. Society has "standard APIs" for interfacing to wheelchairs/deafness/blindness/etc. They're not really "weird" in the sense that society just doesn't have APIs for them at all (though perhaps they are "weird" enough that those APIs aren't implemented everywhere).

One of the things which makes weirdness specifically unusual/interesting is that we're in a very-high-dimensional space, so there's surprisingly many people who are very weird in ways which society simply does not have conceptual buckets for, at all. People who don't fit the standard ontology of society. And what makes that weirdness uniquely interesting from a design standpoint is that, because high-dimensions, it's plausibly not possible to build an API which will handle it all in advance.

From the perspective of a weird person, the main strategy this model suggests is: pick one of the standard APIs, whichever one works best for you, and use that. In other words, adopt a persona, something which matches some standard archetype which most people recognize, and play that role. For instance, I aim to give vague vibes of cartoon villainy, and that actually works remarkably well at getting people to interact with me the way I prefer.

From the perspective of a weird person, the main strategy this model suggests is: pick one of the standard APIs, whichever one works best for you, and use that.

I note that you seem to be arguing from a position of "make it work as best you can within the broken system" and that there is a separate mode of "try to fix the system," and evaluating actions taken under one mode as if they are being taken under the other mode is a recipe for (wrongly) seeing someone as being silly or naive.

I do agree that your advice is pretty solid under the "make it work as best you can" strategy.

I am not quite sold on that being the right strategy.

Separately, it's quite hard to do both at once but part of what you're seeing is me trying to do both at once.

It feels like John came to the "make it work within a broken system" position because of his belief that "because high-dimensions, it's plausibly not possible to build an API which will handle it all in advance". I think I mostly believe this too, which is a bottleneck to me thinking that "try to fix the system" is a good strategy here.

I am highly sceptical of the idea that neurodivergence is rare in comparison to physical disability. Which numbers do you have in mind here? Even if we just count things like being highly gifted, autism and ADHD, the numbers are huge.

I am also sceptical of the idea that mental weirdness cannot be accommodated, because it is too individual.

People in wheelchairs are very, very different from each other. Some can walk, but the amount they can walk is unpredictable, so they are using a wheelchair to prevent a scenario where their steps for the day run out and they are stranded. Some have paralysed nerves, others malfunctioning ones, some are obese, some have joint diseases, some have muscle wasting diseases or chronic fatigue, many complex combinations of these. Wheelchairs and scooters are not the condition, which is varied, they are the measure taken for all these very different people to gain access.

Similar with people with visual impairments. You have people who are completely or partially blind in their eyes, from birth, or later in life. You can also have perfectly functioning eyes, but fascinating forms of cortical blindness, often acquired in adulthood such as through bra...

But maybe having more buckets and more standard APIs is a big part of the solution. E.g. today we have buckets like "ADHD" and "autistic" with some draft APIs attached, but not that long ago those did not exist?

And the other part of it - maybe society need to be more careful not to round out the small buckets (e.g. the witness accounts example from the OP)?

2Linda Linsefors1y
I think this comment is pointing in the right direction. But I disagree with There are buckets, but I don't know what the draft APIs would be. Unless you count "finding your own tribe and stay away from the neurotypicals" as an API. If you know something I don't let me know!
1Portia1y
In Europe at least, this is beginning to lead to accommodations like letting you work more from home, spend more time offline, getting a low sensory stimulation space for work and exams, skip excessive meetings, being allowed to move during meetings and work, being excused from social events, specialised tutoring, medication, therapy, etc.
2Linda Linsefors1y
I believe you that in some parts of Europe this is happening, witch is good.
1Anon User1y
Well, maybe I should have said "API in a drafting stage", rather that an actual "draft API", but I'd think today people tend to know these categories exist, and tend to at least to know enough to have some expectations of neuroatypical people having a [much?] wider range of possible reactions to certain things, compared to how a neuroatypical person would be expected to react, and many (most?) have at least a theoretical willingness to try to accommodate it. And then, maybe at least as importantly, given a name for the bucket and Google, people who are actually willing, can find more advice - not necessarily all equally helpful, but still.
1Linda Linsefors1y
Yes, that makes sense. Having a bucked is defiantly helpful for finding advise.
8[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
Separately, I note that it doesn't really feel like the above comment is an actual response to Logan? That's sort of headlined by "some thoughts I had while reading" but I am in fact curious what you would say in direct response to Logan's reply.
9[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
Strong upvote. A big part of how I try to structure my brain and my life and my discourse is to make more Nevilles Longbottom feel able to exist by default. We get a LOT of tech that millions of "normal people" find useful from designs intended to help people who are struggling or weird. Snuggies are a bit of a punchline, but they were wildly popular, and they were invented specifically for people with mobility issues who have a hard time putting on coats/sweaters and who would have been trapped/impeded by just being buried in a blanket.
7LoganStrohl1y
>Snuggies Right, and yet it seems clearly wrong to me for there to be eg regulations requiring all coat manufacturers to also make snuggies, or something. I haven't worked out what the right take-away is from this kind of thing.

Or maybe you could grieve a bit and then move on?

My guess is that grieving ‘a bit’ is underappreciating the amount/quality of grieving this’d be by quite a lot.

(We don't have split voting here, presumably because this draft is from before split voting was created, but if I could I would strong upvote and strong disagree.)

I think an important piece of "why not grieve?" is that it doesn't just come from dismissable randos, it also comes from friends and family and so forth. Something something, this bit from HPMOR:

"I think you're taking the wrong approach by trying to defend yourself at all," Harry said. "I really do think that. You are who you are. You're friends with whoever you choose. Tell anyone who questions you to shove it."

Hermione just shook her head, and turned another page.

"Option two," Harry said. "Go to Fred and George and tell them to have a little talk with their wayward brother, those two are genuine good guys -"

"It's not just Ron," Hermione said in almost a whisper. "Lots of people are saying it, Harry. Even Mandy is giving me worried looks when she thinks I'm not looking. Isn't it funny? I keep worrying that Professor Quirrell is sucking you into the darkness, and now people are warning me just the same way I try to warn you."

"Well, yeah," said Harry. "Doesn't that reassure you a bit about me and Professor Quirrell?"

"In a

...
9rdb1y
This is what I wanted to get at about your post. There are some people/some environments where I feel totally attached to (what I imagine) are people's models of me. I've worried about my mom's judgement for basically all my life. But she can't know me entirely because as you rightly point out, she isn't me — I've felt a lot of comfort in realizing that her model of me (and my model of her modeling me) is necessarily incomplete, and therefore can't be eternally true. My worthiness isn't dependent on her model. If it's any consolation, having this feeling for the past short while hasn't made me detached from what I generally think is her good judgement. BUT, at the same time, my mom has been able to like take one look at me and totally figure out motivations that I couldn't articulate beforehand. I don't know myself entirely. There are some motivations which appear transparent to to others, and which I could reasonably say right now "I don't feel", but I actually might. Not saying this is true of most of the A-ful without B-things you're feeling. And obviously people over-extend their heuristics. Still, I think this is the value of putting stock in other people's models of you — different info from the outside. But variable levels of attachment seem to be the problem?

One thing worth noting is that I have an entanglement between [my defense of my self] and [my defense on behalf of all the Nevilles Longbottom out there].

Like, I have T O N S of evidence that my own "hey, HEY, you don't speak for everybody, bucko!" has been deeply nourishing for lots and lots and lots of people in lots and lots of contexts; even if I were to solve this one completely such that I had no need for self-defense along this axis I would likely still want to push back against the roundings-off on behalf of all the other people who had not yet solved this one for themselves, and are constantly taking damage.

No doubt I can do both the [self defense] and the [other defense] more effectively, but fixing my own orientation is not enough because other people have broken orientations, and I want them to be okay, and allowed to exist in their own skin under the sun.

8hairyfigment1y
Except, if you Read The Manual, you might conclude that in fact those people also can't understand you exist.
1MSRayne1y
Lol this entire thread that you've linked to is "why neurotypicals are bad, except I'm not going to admit that they're bad and I'll keep protesting devoutly that they're not bad even though I haven't said a single actually positive thing about them yet."
2hairyfigment1y
Go ahead and test the prediction from the start of that thread, if you like, and verify that random people on the street will often deny the existence of the other two types. (The prediction also says not everyone will deny the same two.) You already know that NTs - asked to imagine maximal, perfect goodness - will imagine someone who gets upset about having the chance to save humanity by suffering for a few days, but who will do it anyway if Omega tells him it can't be avoided.
1MSRayne1y
Oh god, that not only describes Jesus but also many main characters of epic fantasy stories etc. The whole reluctant hero bullshit. I was always like, who in their right mind wouldn't want to be the hero? Interesting point though!
7Portia1y
Agree. One way to make it stop hurting when most people effectively say you do not exist, or that if you do, you are wrong and do not matter, is to tell yourself that most people don't matter. It's what I told myself as a weird kid. But that is a really harmful and problematic thing to tell yourself in so, so many ways. It reflects something dark. It has dark consequences. It becomes a self-fulling prophecy, because you no longer try to connect and understand, and this means the other side has even less of a motivation to do so for you. It means you miss out on the valid pain and valuable insights and skills of the other people around you. It can turn you into an elitist jerk. It can remove you from any sphere of impact. It can leave you isolated in an environment where you would not have to be, and where isolation comes with ignorance and danger. I think making the pain over not being included in society disappear by deciding that society is shit anyway is the wrong approach. It prioritises not feeling pain, not admitting hurt and vulnerability, over recognising the amazing potential that humanity and civilisation have. The pain fucking hurts, and it hurts because you sometimes begin to imagine that this could be different. It's a pain that is needed to drive and guide a change for something better. It is pain demanding rights, rather than giving in to not having them. It is the pain of wanting to contribute and fix things, and if you retreat, something is lost. I think it is a brave and good thing to feel it and allow yourself to stay with it, rather than getting over it. It is a thing worth grieving over, and raging against.

I can't answer for Duncan, but I have had similar enough experiences that I will answer for my self. When I notice that someone is chronically typical minding (not just typical minding as a prior, but shows signs that they are unable to even to consider that others might be different in unexpected ways), then I leave as fast as I can, because such people are dangerous. Such people will violate my boundaries until I have a full melt down. They will do so in the full belief that they are helpful, and override anything I tell them with their own prior convictions.

I tired to get over the feeling of discomfort when I felt misunderstood, and it did not work. Because it's not just a reminder that the wold isn't perfect (something I can update on and get over), but an active warning signal.

Learning to interpret this warning signal, and knowing when to walk away, has helped a lot.

Different people and communities are more or less compatible with my style of weird. Keeping track of this is very useful.

1Portia1y
I think this is part of why I feel safer with people who are weird/different, even if they are weird/different on very different axes than I am. I've had to learn that other people have needs that I do not have and do not understand, and these needs are legitimate and deserve protection even though I do not get them. Because my needs are not the norm, so average needs generally do feel mysterious and weird to me, and the supposedly weird needs of other divergent people do not register as weirder. If your needs do not fit the norm, even though they are different from the way mine do not fit, you've probably had the same experience. Similarly if you have ever deeply cared for, or properly listened to, someone who has unusual needs, and taught yourself to accommodate them even if you don't always get it. And that changes how you approach the world.  I find it frightening when I encounter adults who have apparently never made this leap. Who will give support to me and others in the way they want support to be given to them, and absolutely refuse to alter this, no matter how much I tell them that this is not what I need, and is actively harming me. The classic scenario of giving gifts and invitations for things they would want, and being deeply angered if they are not accepted and used, insisting that this is bad and foolish. Like, giving me hugs when I am hit by a PTSD trigger, because they like hugs when they are distressed, and not stopping this, and being personally offended when I flee this, because if they did what I am doing now, it would imply that they do not like the person giving hugs so clearly, I need to get over it and like the hugs.  As a general rule of thumb, if someone does this to me, they will also be fucking over other people. Misgendering trans people, because they themselves aren't trans, and their pronouns aren't important to them, so they do not get why that would hurt someone different. Making holocaust jokes, because they aren't hurt by them
A point, as far as I can guess, is something like "the persistent misunderstanding of you, by others PLUS the lack of time/energy/mental-stamina to correct every person who misunderstands you, in an explicit/verbal way EQUALS very-hard-to-escape psychological suffering, even if it's low-grade most of the time". Like, you can update on this ("I'm an outlier, I'm not like other people"), and it can still hurt. Angst from that, seems difficult to just make "stop happening" from one update.
3[anonymous]1y
Everyone has their own mental models of the world. We don't always exist in those models. Even during times when they can clearly sense us with their sensing organs, we don't really exist in their head. We are one of the things in the head. Sometimes it's just a thing with different colors, male or female connectors, functions in society, that's about it seems like. Sometimes those things get moved around into different bins depending on how we have interacted with them, for how long, how we made them feel. If we seem like a pleasant person, they will put a little smiley face on their mental representations of us. Suddenly, we aren't so pleasant, uh oh, that smiley face has to come off now.
1Portia1y
"Obvious" makes it sound like this is inevitable and acceptable, and I do not think it is. We do not judge it to be in other areas, either. If I design a university building today, I can't just go "obviously, all humans can walk and see and hear". No, I make it wheelchair accessible, accessible for blind people, and accessible for deaf people, even though they are outliers. Because they are outliers we want in academia. If I design a school curriculum today, I can't just go "obviously, all humans learn the same way", and teach all my students the same way. Well, I can, and as a result, a large number of students who could have done brilliantly will fail, feel awful, and not be able to contribute to society afterwards. Each of them will individually be an outlier.  There is a famous and interesting example on designing cockpits for pilots in the first planes. Someone made a model of the average, normal pilot, in order to make a cockpit that would fit average people. For each trait, they made sure 9 out of 10 pilots would fall into the range the cockpit was made for. There were only 10 traits or so - eye height, leg length, arm length, body width, horizontal visual range, etc.. - The resulting cockpit suited practically noone. Nearly everyone was uncomfortable in some way, because nearly everyone was an outlier in some way, and nearly everyone flew shittily for that reason. Ultimately, cockpit design was sent back to the drawing board - and we ended up with the individually adjustable seats and turnable equipment that nowadays, all of us are familiar with from modern cars. One size fits all fits practically noone. We are seeing the same thing with machine learning algorithms. If we feed them data that fits the average, the outliers will be misclassified horribly, with severe consequences, and it is surprising how many outliers you end up encountering and how much damage that does.  A lack of representation does tangible harm. We have seen this in racism, we have

Not wanting to disagree or downplay, I just want to offer a different way to think about it.

When somebody says I don't exist - and this definitely happens - to me, it all depends on what they're trying to do with it. If they're saying "you don't exist, so I don't need to worry about harming you because the category of people who would be harmed is empty", then yeah I feel hurt and offended and have the urge to speak up, probably loudly. But if they're just saying when trying to analyze reality, like, "I don't think people like that exist, because my model doesn't allow for them", the first feeling I get is delight. I get to surprise you! You get to learn a new thing! Your model is gonna break and flex and fit new things into it!

Maybe I'm overly optimistic about people.

Or maybe you're just the right amount of optimistic for the people you've run into, and I'm just less lucky. =P

Anxiety is a tendency to interpret ambiguous information in a threat-related manner.

Yep, and often people can be sensitized into anxiety.

1LVSN1y
I know where Duncan's coming from. I try talking to these people, publically or privately, and they usually react how you'd expect; their maps are sacred.

That's rough, buddy.

Thanks for this, and thanks for the intro that reminded us that it's intentionally in a reactive rather than analytic frame.  I'd call the experiment successful - this conveys and explores a different level of experience than more typical LW style.

I feel a lot of alienation and isolation, which has resonance with what you describe, but I don't assume it's the same, and I am resisting the urge to give advice or share my reactions.  I'll instead say that you're right, but probably not completely right.  You are alone - enough of an outlier on common social dimensions that the availability heuristic when someone says "everyone" or "nobody" does not include you.  And also MOST people (unlike you; typical mind fallacy happens in both directions) don't mean it literally when they say "everyone" or "nobody".  They're not denying your humanity, they're just denying your typicality.  Scott Card's a well-known wierdo, and I can only assume "Nobody does that!" was meant in admiration.

Damn, I failed to avoid giving advice.  Sorry.

I appreciate this essay because I have experienced a (much milder) version of this "not existing". It helps me feel seen in certain ways. I also like that it helps me understand a different kind of perspective, and that it helps me make sense of Duncan's behavior in some of the comment threads. However, I must admit that while I understand intellectually that this is how Duncan experiences things, I myself can't really imagine it; I don't understand it on the gut level. The below response is influenced by this essay and also recent discussions on other posts.

## The spectrum

There seems to be a spectrum in terms of how much weight people give their own experiences compared to things other people say.

On the one end, we have people who believe so weakly in their own experiences that if someone asks them "Why didn't you lock the door?", the first instinct is to doubt themselves and ask "Oh no did I forget?", even if they know that they had locked the door and even checked it multiple times. (If they hear someone say people like them don't exist, they conclude "Maybe I don't actually exist?")

On the other end, we have people who so firmly believe in their own experiences that even if multipl...

I think most of the alternatives to the experience described in the post, where incorrect frames keep getting noticed, is considering it an unimportant problem to work on solving, perhaps not even enough to extract "thinking in systematically wrong ways" as a salient distinction from everything else you don't find perfect about interactions with other people. In the sense that building a perpetual motion machine is not an important problem, it's not an efficient target for directing effort towards, perhaps it's literally impossible to make progress on, and so actually trying to do it is concentration on an attempt at causing a miracle. It would be game-changing if somehow successful, but at least the vivid emotional response or detailed comprehension of instances of the problem remaining unsolved is not it. So in that sense it's better from the emotional experience and allocation of cognition points of view to care about it more academically, if one's mind has that flexibility without forgetting that it's still an actual problem. Which it doesn't always, hence other things still need to be done. Also the moral status of this move, when available, is not totally clear.
2[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
alas I have but one strong upvote to give

Thank you, Duncan. I've never met you, but you seem very real and very existing to me. I don't quite share the same history as you, I think I got used to defensively ignoring what the world implied about me pretty early, but I am aiming to become a psychotherapist, and attempting to connect with how people actually are, rather than what I think they might be, seems central to my journey. Your post is an inspiration to me.

I feel like I'm hearing disappointment from you directed at people who could have done better.

I don't feel that disappointment, and also I don't think they could have done better.

I have experienced something that takes a similar shape -- probably less often than you do, probably less cuttingly toward my own self-image than you experience it -- because I have met a certain category of generalizations often enough to can "I guess I'm nobody, then" as my default reply to them. Sometimes people cringe and sometimes they laugh, depending on the context and how the line is delivered.

Some people can't see some things. To most of the world, good code looks identically esoteric to bad code. To me, a poorly executed sports play looks indistinguishable from a well-executed one. A non-coder could infer the difference between good and bad code by watching an expert read each; I could infer the difference between a good play and a bad one by listening to the crowd's response.

The feelings I hear in this would make sense to me if they came from someone who imagined that others were doing some special favor for everyone else and withholding it from them. That's how the phenomenon can look, from a c...

I don't know that I have more useful to say, but, I did appreciate reading this.

I also get annoyed at claims like "everybody does X", when I don't do X. However, some time after this post, I read statistical models & the irrelevance of rare exceptions, and found it an interesting counter-perspective:

Yes, the general case is drawn from instances, I’m saying that we shouldn't get caught up in the details unless they really matter. And if there is a clear statistical generalization, the details matter very little.

...

Rare exceptions are irrelevant because almost all models of the real world (not physics) are statistical claims about what’s usually true, not absolute claims about what’s always true. So a rare data point that doesn’t fit is actually *not* a contradiction! Pointing such cases out is just reiterating the tautological fact that statistical models are not absolute, which seems like a total waste of time to me. (Especially if the speaker agrees with the model!)

I’ve noticed this happens more often with careful, intellectually humble thinkers, who often include caveats of the form “But here’s an exception to this strong model I’ve just presented.” I think often they're trying to proactively defend against others pointing out this case. But to me, this

...

I'm reminded of Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, an essay on the problems with handling "weird" data inputs that are normal for the people involved.

Oh man, this one hits home. Fantastic.

Edit: I especially like the succinct meme "you don't exist". I hope it takes off.

I think "erasure" in the "<noun> erasure" construct (like "trans erasure") is meant to convey a similar concept, though I am not a native speaker so I can't say for sure.

3Vaniver1y
It is.

I think there are at least two levels where you want change to happen - on an individual level, you want people to stop doing a thing they're doing that hurts you, and on a social level, you want society to be structured so that you and others don't keep having that same/similar experience.

The second thing is going to be hard, and likely impossible to do completely. But the first thing... responding to this:

It wouldn't be so bad, if I only heard it fifty times a month.  It wouldn't be so bad, if I didn't hear it from friends, family,

...

A-ful B-less type guys in the house tonight :)

content warning: I initially tried to avoid the ?inflammation? of ? overconfidence? you ?seem to me? to be describing. but, I'm pretty sure I failed badly. I do not know how to confirm I understood or clearly say how I didn't, so I will just speak. if you are emotive in response to my comment, I would appreciate hearing the emotion; I currently expect it will be angry and hope to have a useful, comfort-calibrated argument, but I don't know what you need. so ...

holy crap I love this post... your rendering of pain created in me feelings that seem to be echos...

this was always a confusion between metaphorical and literal language or something

I think that does not quite make the problem go away?

Like, it's not a direct confusion between metaphorical and literal language, exactly.

If someone says "everyone loves Monty Python," it generally is clear that they don't literally mean literally everyone. There are some areas where people really are confused about the ground truth, and really are typical minding pretty hard, but there are lots of places where, if challenged, they'd immediately concede "oh, yeah, I was just talking about, like, plus-minus three sigma on the bell curve."

But that doesn't make the problem disappear, because that's sort of the point—it's not that they literally actually think I don't exist, it's that their revealed preference is to spare zero time or attention for the fact that I exist. They know it, but it's not worth the effort to carve out the exception. I literally don't matter enough to them to convince them to swap out the word "all" for the word "most." Their metaphor, or their simplified sentence, or the power they get from emphatic confidence—whatever it is, there's some property they are loath to relinquish that is more important to them than making room for my existence.

2the gears to ascension1y
I could copy and paste your comment and not be lying and yet I feel epistemic learned helplessness about whether I have any idea what you mean or if I'm in a hall of mirrors. This is incredibly frustrating. I feel like I can't do anything but repeat my previous comment. my thoughts are still going in the same circle and I still don't know how to put it into words in a way that could be trusted to differentiate our experiences. I still feel like you're doing it to me in the process of explaining me doing it to you. I still feel like I have no idea if I could recognize anyone doing it. I have no idea what it is. I'm exactly confident what it is, how dare you claim I don't know, it's so obvious. but of course I don't know. I feel ... nerdsniped isn't the right word, I'm not sure one exists. you didn't just break my model, you broke my ability to know whether you broke my model. I'm... pretty sure I understand? you've been left out of people's phrasings in ways that demonstrate they think they have mutual information with you, but in fact they do not. maybe? is this what NaN feels like to a biological brain? I'm emphatically confident in several directions that don't go together and attempts to resolve it seem to make it worse. I want to reassure, to show I understand, agree with your comment, yes of course you don't love Monty Python, but I can't help but overcorrect into invalidating any branch that agrees. You say they probably know about your part of the distribution but truncate too tightly, so you're consistently the outlier treated as the outsider. is there another way to feel? but of course there is. but what is it, exactly? I don't know. I'll get back to you on this tomorrow, maybe I'll be slightly saner then. I definitely don't have a high sanity score.
3GuySrinivasan1y
I'm confused - do you and Duncan know each other and you know that some of the examples involve you? The essay - reaction transcription - memory - thing doesn't say "everyone does this to [Duncan]", just that it happens over and over to Duncan. Or does the use of "you" make you feel like it's written definitely to [the gears to ascension] among other people, as opposed to being written to quite a lot of people but not necessarily [the gears to ascension]?
8the gears to ascension1y
I have had several arguments with him on lesswrong.com and generally I'm the type to get into unfortunate arguments and regret them. But my point here is, I have a weirdly intense reaction to this post. I want to say "same!" but I have no idea if it's the same. Sleeping on it hasn't clarified my thoughts. Sorry my comment doesn't make a ton of sense - my thinking is consistently high temperature and crashy in some domains.

I think my approach, to my own personal version of this, is: anytime someone acts like someone like me couldn't exist, that proves they're stupid (and, in some cases, rude), and I get to feel smug and contemptuous of them.  (Whether I show this is a different question.)  That helps.  It's overall somewhat depressing that a lot of people are in fact stupid, but that's something one has to get used to anyway.

Meanwhile, I do have to be in charge of making sure my own needs are met, since I can't trust others to handle that.  (As one exampl...

5Jonathan Claybrough1y
Just tagging I've intuitively used a similar approach for a long time, but adding the warning that there definitely are corrosive aspects to it, where everyone else loses value and get disrespected. Your subcomment delved into finer details valuably so I think you're aware of this.  Overall my favorite solution has been something like "I expect others to be mostly wrong, so I'm not surprised or hurt when they are, but I try to avoid mentally categorizing them in a degrading fashion" for most people. Everything is bad to an extent, everyone is bad to an extent, I can deal with it and try to make the world better.  I don't think there's anyone who I admire/respect enough that I don't expect them to make mistakes of the kind Duncan's pointing at, so I'm not bothered even if it come from people I like or I think are competent on some other things.
3[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
Works much less well with people I know are not stupid, or am personally loath to dismiss or belittle.

Being smart doesn't make it impossible to also be a fucking idiot at times.  This is a general fact.  (And just because someone was a fucking idiot in some situation doesn't mean they're not also smart.)

I think it's important to be able to recognize screw-ups for what they are, even/especially in oneself or one's heroes or friends, and therefore I encourage myself to do this—internally, at least.  Again, doesn't necessarily mean I call someone out on it.  For minor screw-ups, often the best thing is just to notice the data point and move on.  If the data points become a pattern, or if individual cases are sufficiently bad, then it may be worth doing something.

If a friend is repeatedly screwing up in a way that hurts you (which I take it may have been happening for you), then it's probably worth talking to them about it.  If you can expect them to have noticed this, then probably they should have apologized about it already; if it's likely that they didn't notice the screwup, or that they didn't know it hurt you, then you'll have to explain it to them.  Then there are various ways for them to respond; I'll write out some of the tree:

• "Oh, whoops, so
...
5Viliam1y
Everyone is stupid; it's just a question of degree. (That includes you and me.) Also, people are often simply not paying attention.

Reading this was a curious experience. While my memory is abysmal, rather than eidetic, even I vaguely remember hearing relatives say dumb stuff to me as a kid, e.g. "you'll change your mind about X when you're older", and being frustrated for many reasons: they thought they knew me better than I did myself (and turned out to be wrong about it; I never changed my mind about X), they made bad arguments from their supposed authority of being older than me, etc.

And I have definitely experienced complaining about absolute statements like "everyone does X". But...

My most recent published blog post had in the 2nd paragraph "I bet there’s nobody reading this who has never used a phrase like..." and this article made me think it would be kind to change it.

Then I searched your facebook posts and you have indeed used the phrase, so in this case at least you aren't nobody. But I'm still changing the post.

(The phrase is "part of me", which if any of my friends were to somehow have never once used I wouldn't have been surprised to discover it you.)

Wow, this hit home in a way I wasn't expecting. I ... don't know what else to say. Thanks for writing this up, seriously.

I don't know if this helps at all, but I believe that a large number of people sometimes feel like they are "not part of everyone" and it makes them feel bad. My main piece of evidence for this is that saying "Oh, no one has asked for that before" or "I didn't think anyone would do that" is a tactic used by people who know they have messed something up to try and make the victim of their mess up feel like they are responsible for it. Such a tactic could only work in a world where a significant number of people felt an anxiety about being "not part of every...

I’m new to this community, so I don’t know why you have DEACTIVATED in front of your name. I’m sad that you do, though, because maybe it means that you have given up on this community. This post is so painfully lonely. I’m sorry if you didn’t find what you needed here. You have touched me with the loneliness in your writing. I also value other posts that you have made and would welcome hearing more of your thoughts. Maybe, you won’t see this message, but I hope that, if you still have friends in this community, they are checking up on you.

I have given you an adequate explanation.  If you were the kind of person who was good at math, my explanation would have been sufficient, and you would now understand.  You still do not understand.  Therefore...?

I felt this; I still wonder if not-prioritizing clarity (or even intentionally-being-unclear) is a useful filter for maths/logic ability, outside the costs felt by others.

One of the reasons I am a stricler for possibility is that I have found it more productive to think that if a situation or a human type is not logically inconsistent it probably rather exists rather than not exists. Even if it does not yet exists thinking as if it does makes you already to have accomodiated the possibility.

If you do this by each subtype it gets combinatorily explosive. In order not to do this kind of thing via exhaustion you identify critical points where things would flip/break when certain conditions are hit. In coding it means when you ...

Why let the lack of imagination of others impinge upon your happiness?

3[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
I'm pretty sure this isn't meant as "this suffering is 100% your fault, Duncan," but it doesn't fully distinguish itself from "this suffering is 100% your fault, Duncan." (It is fine to hold the hypothesis "this suffering is 100% your fault, Duncan," if that's your actual current best guess.)
I meant to convey (reassure?) that others acting as if you do not exist is more likely due to their lack of imagination that it is likely due to your lack of presence.  In that sense, I was intending to say that your suffering is not your fault.  However, I also admit the implication that "because it is not your fault, you should not be suffering, therefore the suffering is your fault", which was not my intention, as I recognize that we cannot control what makes us suffer.
2johnlawrenceaspden1y
"Fault" seems a strange phrasing. If your problem was that one of your nerves was misfiring, so you were in chronic pain, would you describe that as "your fault"? (In the sense of technical fault/malfunction, that would absolutely be your "fault", but "your fault" usually carries moral implications.) Where would you place the fault?

I am very glad that you wrote this post, and just want you to know that You Are Not Alone. Hearing over and over again that you are Not Normal, do not fit within any of the boxes, and eventually you start believing it yourself. So thank you for this reminder that It Is Okay To Be Weird.

This does seem like a lot of words to say "sometimes when people say 'everyone', they really mean 'a typical person in my mental model'". There isn't a person who conforms to everyone's mental model in this way. If there was, then they just failed to conform to mine.

It just doesn't seem to me to be a big thing to get upset about. I've known since about the age of six that I didn't conform to most people's expectations of how most people behave. It would be a much stranger world if most people did conform in such a way!

6[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
This is evidence that my attempt to convey the thing failed to work with you particularly. *shrug*
5Jonathan Claybrough1y
This is evidence that the thing you described exists, everyday, even in this more filtered community. Sorry about that.  (The following 3 paragraphs use guesswork and near psychoanalyzing which is sorta distateful - I do it openly because I think it's got truth to it and I want to be corrected if it's not. Also hopefully it makes Duncan feel more seen (and I want to know if it's not the case)) It feels JBlack's reaction is part of the symptom being described. JBlack is similar in enough ways to have been often ostracized and has come up with a way that's fine for them to deal with it, and then write "It just doesn't seem to me to be a big thing to get upset about", ie. "there exists no one for whom its legitimate to get upset about" ie. "you don't exist Duncan". I imagine for you Duncan that's a frustrating answer when it's exactly the problem you were trying to convey. (I feel john's comment is much more appropriate about looking at the problem and saying they can see different solutions without saying that it should apply to you).  I'm interested in why "the thing" was not conveyed to JBlack.  One important dimension to differ on is the "intuitively/fundamentally altruistic". If you are high on that dimension, some things about other people matter in of themselves (and you don't walk in the Nozick Experience Machine (necessary, not sufficient)). When someone else says they experience this or that, then (as long as you don't have more evidence that they're lying/mistaken) you care and believe them. You start from their side and try to build using their models a solution. In this mode, I read your (Duncan) post and am like "hm, I empathize to many parts, I could feel I understand him. But he's warning strongly that he keeps being misunderstood and not seen, so I'm going to trust him, and keep in mind that my model of him is imprecise/incorrect in many directions and degrees. I'll keep this in mind in my writing, suggesting models and wanting to get feedback".  I
What we have here is something of a policy debate, there is something to be upset about. But also great value in mental models that are easy to form, use, and communicate. Being upset is on the other side of this, and it's valuable to be aware that both sides are there, to avoid a systematic distortion in perception of their relative import when looking at the debate from a particular side of it.
-1Gesild Muka9mo
It’s not a big thing to get upset about if you’re not in a culture that highly values community and social cohesion—where it can be quite emotionally exhausting to always conform/accommodate to the thinking and values (mental models?) of others. And of course I don’t want to upset anyone, the post is worthwhile (and powerful) because it describes behaviors that might lead people to give up on finding community, fulfilling relationships or common ground. For me it was an invitation to better describe or explain these behaviors and a twofold message: 1). don’t give up, you’re not alone 2). keep an open mind with other’s perspectives
-3Said Achmiz1y
Seconding this. The phenomenon where people say “everyone this” and “everyone that”, and you’re an even slightly “weird” person (such as, like, everyone on this entire website), and you think “not me!”… that is, in fact, so common that even saying it out loud is trite. Yeah, of course not literally everyone, and you already know you’re weird, so especially probably not you specifically.
2the gears to ascension1y
dude, this is incredibly rude. yeah, I mean, of course agreed, but duncan said he knew that. I also find it slightly surprising it pushed his buttons as hard as it seems to have, but, that's how he's shaped. He's saying it still happens even in crowds like this one, anyhow.
4Said Achmiz1y
Rude? What…? I’m agreeing with the comment that I replied to.
2[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
(I note that I don't think it's rude so much as ... not particularly useful? Like, it's mostly evidence that Said (also JBlack) has completely failed to parse my point (and has failed to keep "maybe there's something I'm not seeing/am blind to" in mind as a possibility, and instead concluded "there's nothing here except something trite/trivial/silly."))
2the gears to ascension1y
fair enough.
5Jonathan Claybrough1y
For information I'd also qualify Said's statement as unkind (because of "saying it out loud is trite") if I modeled him as having understood or caring about Duncan and his point, but because that's not the case I understand Duncan just seeing it as not useful.  "Rude" is a classification depending on shared social norms. On LW I don't think people are supposed to care about you, the basic assumption is more Rand like individuals who trade ideas because it's positive sum. That a lot of people happen to be nice is a nice surprise, but it's not expected, and I have gotten value from Said's comments in many places over time so I feel the LW norm makes sense.

Unrelated to the post, but I'm not seeing the usual agree/disagree buttons on this post. Is there a reason for that?

Edit: looks like it's been fixed

2[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
I think it's a glitch from the fact that this draft was created prior to that feature being added to the site.
2MikkW1y
Ah, that makes sense
1[comment deleted]1y

I have given you an adequate explanation. If you were the kind of person who was good at math, my explanation would have been sufficient, and you would now understand. You still do not understand. Therefore...?

By the way, I think this is a common failure mode of amateur tutors/teachers trying to explain a novel concept to a student. Part of what you need to communicate is "how complicated the thing you need to learn is".

So sometimes you need to say "this thing I'm telling you is a bit complex, so this is going to take a while to explain", so the stud...

At times I want to be different, I like being different from others but I also want others to accept and understand me while been different. It’s quite sad whereby at times I voice my opinions or act otherwise the way people expect me to, and then their response is to ostracize you or try to make you feel inferior for not being the same as them. After reading, I thought of your post as pathetic. The kind of pathetic whereby you realize that there are certain people who are unable to grasp your point of view and are unwilling to. Then you realize that it’s ...

So most of these are things I'd try not to say myself (and would mostly succeed). But there are some where I can imagine versions that seem to me bad, and versions that seem to me innocuous.

And who does the world want to get back the most? Who's the one person that everyone in America wants to save? Tom Hanks. Everyone will pull for Tom Hanks. Nobody wants to see him die. We all love him too much.

This is the bad version. But the actual quote was

And who does the world want to get back the most? Who does America want to save? Tom Hanks. We don't want t

...
4[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
... seems about right. Each of the versions you labeled innocuous is at least better; not all of them are all the way to good.

Jeez... this was, somehow relatable.

I wonder if autistics in general tend to experience this.

The LessWrong Review runs every year to select the posts that have most stood the test of time. This post is not yet eligible for review, but will be at the end of 2024. The top fifty or so posts are featured prominently on the site throughout the year. Will this post make the top fifty?

Even though a lot of these things have never happened to me, I related to this post in a very painful way.

I have a deep-seated fear of standing out in a negative way. And it's not an inborn, instinctive fear; it's a fear born of painful experience. I always seem to be the odd one out. I always seem to be the only one who didn't understand something and embarrassed myself as a result. I always seem to be the only one who wants to do something in the only way that's ever seemed normal for me. And yes, I am often that person who asks a question no one's ever ...

You do exist. You do matter. An account of humanity where you have been conveniently struck out of it is crucially incomplete. An approach that excludes you has lost not just something, but someone.

I do not think you are as alone as this feels. I think many of us get excluded, for many different ways of not fitting the norm. Silently, subtly disappeared.

There is an increasing appreciation that neurodiversity is a richness and opportunity, that one size fits all approaches make us lose people, valuable people with rights and f...

4CronoDAS1y
The worst explanation I've ever had in school was when my high school chemistry textbook was talking about "quantum numbers" in electron orbitals without mentioning there was such a thing as the Schrodinger equation. It was 100% bullshit handwaving and wouldn't admit it, so of course nobody understood it. If they just went and said something like "this is a result that falls out of the advanced math of quantum mechanics, forget about what it means and just shut up and memorize" it would have been more honest.

This was mildly painful to read, probably because I know exactly what you're talking about. I don't think I've ever paid attention to it the way you have - I don't socialize much and I tend not to pay much attention to other people even when I do - but my "family" do this to me all the time, attempting to read my mind, being sure they're right, and completely missing the mark in such blatantly obvious ways that it's gradually (along with many, many other reasons) made me just mostly stop talking to them. So to some extent, albeit not a perfect one, I think I know how you feel.

Browsing through the comments section it seems that everyone relates to this pretty well. I do, too. But I'm wondering if this applies mostly to a LW subculture, or is it a Barnum/Forer effect where every neurotypical person would also relate to?

3[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien1y
I suspect everyone can relate in that everyone has felt this at some point, or even at a few memorable points. I suspect people who are more firmly normal, not because they're trying to conform but because they're actually close to what the center of their local culture is built to accommodate, cannot relate to feeling this constantly.
1johnlawrenceaspden1y
Duncan did you just deny my existence? (Don't worry, I don't mind a bit. :-) ) I'm a grade A weirdo, my own family and friends affirm this, only the other day someone on Less Wrong (!) called me a rambling madman. My nickname in my favourite cricket club/drinking society was Space Cadet. And I'm rather smug about this. Everyone else just doesn't seem very good at thinking. Even if they're right they're usually right by accident. Even the clever ones seem to have some sort of blinders on. They don't even take their own ideas seriously.  Why would I be upset by being able to see things they can't see, think thoughts they can't think? That doesn't seem to be the sort of thing that could hurt me.  For most of your essay I was thinking: "Is he just mistaking metaphorical 'everyone' for literal 'everyone'?". But in the comments you say that's not what you meant at all. And I don't even understand that. Surely, if you replace 'everyone' with 'most people' throughout, your existence is not being denied? And if your existence was being denied, why would that be a problem? If someone came straight up to me and said "You don't exist", I'd just think they were mad, it wouldn't hurt. I read that you're in pain and it puzzles me. I've always wondered if the bit of my brain that is supposed to feel pressure-to-conform is malformed. I notice it, but it doesn't seem powerful. Maybe yours is in perfect working order? Is it that you really really want to fit in, but in order to do so you'd have to be someone else, and that hurts?  Or have I failed to extract from your essay the meaning you were trying to put into it?
7TheLemmaLlama8mo
I'm with you on this one; I like feeling like an outlier. It makes me feel special :P There are some examples there that did grind my gears though, like the pillow-throwing example and the 'that didn't hurt' example. They felt more like 'I'm going to insist your inner experience isn't real, to the point where I won't believe you (even if only in a joking way) if you told me'. Whereas the 'no-one does that' example and the 'we all love Tom Hanks too much' example felt more like a metaphorical 'everyone' and if you actually said 'no, I'm not like that', the response would be 'oh okay not ~everyone's~ like that'. I'd personally feel hurt by the former class of experiences but not the latter, because for me, it's more about invalidation. It's less 'you don't exist', but rather 'you exist in this particular way (that's contrary to my own experiences and completely alien to what I perceive myself as), AND if you say otherwise you're lying'. Similarly, I'd feel hurt by an implication that someone else doesn't exist, if it's contrary to my own experiences. For instance, if I've argued about X with a lot of people and some of them gave a counterargument Y, and then someone has the counterargument Z. They think I'm strawmanning Z as Y, and they tell me: 'no-one said Y'. It's like ... someone definitely said Y. I distinctly remember a nonzero number of people explicitly saying Y to my face, and I even made sure they actually meant Y and I wasn't misinterpreting them. Even if I know it's a metaphorical 'no-one' and they actually just meant 'most people who appear to be saying Y actually mean Z', it still hurts :\