All of abigailgem's Comments + Replies

I think the meaning is, that on reading something unpalatable, one may be tempted to write it off as "crazy" or "stupid" quickly, and then ignore it, and trying to see the good in it may be more useful; and calling the writer crazy or stupid will make further communication more difficult. So when someone uses those words too readily, that person is called "mean", and seen as not "nice".

Yes... This is the exact sort of problem of which I am trying to make people (the atheist faction) on the Richard Dawkins website aware. The site is obviously a haven for atheists, yet most of them are aggressively hostile to any theistic (or even deistic) beliefs, which in turn, makes communication almost impossible. In many cases, it even turns a person or two away who might have been teachable in terms of rationality (I advocate teaching of critical skills rather than the assault of their beliefs). Although, even doing this (teaching critical/rational skills) can be incredibly hard when the core of a person's belief is based upon the very irrationality that one is trying to correct. This creates a very obvious Catch-22 situation.

"cleverness" comes to mind as a better substitute

Or "Hubris". In the examples, the people go wrong not because they are using reason and they should not use reason, but because they falsely imagine they are capable of using reason sufficiently to deal with the particular issue.

Deism in the 17th century was a move towards rationalism, away from the idea of a God who interfered in the world. Rationalists now will not be deists, but deists during the Enlightenment were more rational than society in general, and were moving towards atheism. I suggest that you use the word "atheists" rather than "non-deists" in the title.

I'd use "materialist". I'm sure there are some philosophies out there that don't believe in gods but do have an idea of the immortal soul.

A rewrite, using Feeling words: if you feel happy, content and fulfilled, you will be better able to do the things you have to do. If you believe that doing those things is likely to accomplish a goal you have, you will be better able to motivate yourself to do them. If you cannot bring yourself to do what you have to do, find something which will make you feel happy, content or fulfilled; or if you cannot do that, play Tetris or whatever which will at least take your mind off the guilt, until it comes back worse later.

What will make you feel fulfilled? What will make you feel that doing the task you have to do will make achieving your goal more likely?

The goal is the satisfaction of greatest utility, and akrasia seems to come into play when that isn't the path of greatest perceived immediate reward, or is a path of a lot of perceived initial difficulty. Accomplishing the greatest total utility is the real goal, not necessarily experiencing fulfillment, happiness or contentment any time soon. Indeed some of the things that make me feel happy and otherwise content just drive me to do more of them, which isn't my real goal. What I strive for more than those three things is motivation, and indeed I look for activities that the more I do them, the less happy I am about doing them and not doing what I know I ought to. At least if I'm not currently working towards the real goals themselves. But yes, I will at least agree that it's harder to be productive if you really feel like crap, so a certain level of contentment is important. This is an idea and strategy I've found a lot of success with, working to align what brings fulfillment with what I rationally expect to bring the greatest utility. This is feeling content about doing the things I have to though, not in order to do them.
Fight Akrasia by playing tetris???

When I tried this technique, I did it very slowly. It was like asking whether a word to write felt right. Then I did a drawing which seemed to contradict what I had been thinking consciously shortly before.

I am not aware of research on the technique.

I'll share this anecdote, on the chance that it is relevant.

At a rate of about once every two years, I am jolted awake in a peculiar mental state in which I feel very convinced that I have discovered something profound, and all experience till then has been an illusion. The next morning I would feel normal and unable to recall what I was thinking. So I resolved to write down my thoughts the next time it happened in order to analyze the experience.

It happened again about 3 months ago. I rushed to my desk and began writing. To my astonishment, what my hand w... (read more)

Edit: major plot spoiler in this comment.

You miss out a major point of the story, that those who agree to sacrifice others' children are dishonourable, and that this matters; and that the main character, who sacrifices only one child to save all the rest (his grandchild) suffers terribly for this.

I would not argue from fictional evidence, but the storytellers seem keen to point this out. Also, when deciding to sacrifice children, all possible other courses of action must be eliminated first.

Edit: for me, the main interest of the trolley problem is the em... (read more)

I think of trolley problems as being related to Newcomb's problem. If you expect to encounter Newcomb-like problems, you change your source code to precommit yourself to one-box, even though it seems less rational. Evolution expects us to encounter trolley-like problems, and has changed our source code (that's the "horror and disgust") so that we are in some sense precommitted to not throw the switch. And in general, if you're not considering theoretical dilemmas in an armchair, there are very good reasons for that source code change.

Among lawyers, this can show high status. Lying to a court is completely unacceptable, and can make an advocate useless to future clients. However NTL is OK.

The pupil barrister: "To be honest..."

Head of Chambers: Lawyers are always honest. The lawyer will say, "To be frank..."

(taken from the BabyBarista blog)

"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them" - Mr Gradgrind, Hard Times (Dickens)

An anti-rationalist quote. Dickens believes there is more to life than rationality. Does his satire upon us here have any basis in reality?

Not signalling is

plausibly a more honest mental mode

Why should it be more "honest" not to signal? We are a social species. I conceive it possible to make a close relationship closer by signalling to ones partner what is actually the case.

Things like exercise, studying, which increase fitness and status may be motivated by the desire to increase fitness and status, with signalling only a by-product of this.

In moments of threat where the amygdala takes over, and time seems to slow down, a person responds to the threat, probably without signalling. But it is meaningless to say that I am "honest" when in a fight or flight situation, and at no other time.

If most of the groups and relationships you're in are with people who actually value honesty, yep, that'll work very well. Unfortunately, that's not most people's highest priority. There's also the issue that when you're dealing with people that you can't entirely trust, dishonest signaling is intrinsic to staying safe. Autistics have a lot of trouble with that concept as a general rule - I found it counter-intuitive to have to do, and very hard to learn the skill - which is why we have such a reputation for being 'too trusting' and 'gullible'. I still have to consciously notice that I'm in an unsafe situation and specifically engage that skill, and I suspect that if you don't have to do that consciously, you're going to badly underestimate how often you do it.

I am irritated to find my post named as "nitpicking" when I was answering a direct question. I too "got the meaning and moved on". Alvarojabril below, much clearer- "The glance of a lover will still be alluring". Why not go with that?

Sorry, the rather harsh 'nitpicking' should really have been addressed to the top comment in the chain that started this line of discussion. I placed it as a comment after your contribution because I wanted to point out that even your attempts to give a more generic and widely applicable example will be doomed to failure, because you will always end up making some assumptions about the audience.

women will still be alluring

I am much less offended by this than by the suggestion I will be attracted to Jessica Alba. "Women" includes me. I will take it as a compliment.

I can tolerate all sorts of stuff, and can just accept the maleness of this site, but it should be easy to amend to no longer be gender specific, or heteronormative. "The touch of another person's skin will still be wonderfully sensuous", perhaps? Or miss out sex as an example, stick to sunsets, music, rainbows, animals, the vista from a hilltop, the sea, great literature.... for examples of the merely real.

... and when we're done with that can we braid each other's hair? I'm all for having a community that is inclusive of both men and women. I'm not so enthusiastic about a community that welcomes only women and emascalated husks who have to talk like women lest they give offence. Miss out sex as an example? Hell no! When we're talking about those things that we can experience as humans that distinguish us from intelligent, epistimcally rational AI bots or sims then why on earth would I leave out the primary one? Sure, once we've uploaded our brains into silicone emulators I'll stop talking about the allure of a woman's breasts as an obvious example of an 'experience that is more than just knowledge' and start blurring my sexual identity with filtered vocabulary. But until that day I'm going to keep my balls attached thankyou very much.
how about "lover"?
I find this type of nitpicking really annoying. Surely everyone (no matter their gender / sex / preferences) understands the sentence 'Women will be alluring' to be a generalised example and can easily convert this to include their own specific preferences without the author having to jump through hoops to provide examples that apply to everyone. "The touch of another person's skin will still be wonderfully sensuous" - you can't say that - you are discriminating against those without a sense of touch! "sunsets" - you can't say that, what about blind and/or extreme photo-sensitives and so on. If he had written 'Football games will still be exciting' I would have got the intended meaning and moved on, despite the fact that I have zero interest in football.

No, "you are an organism".

You are a mammal, and all that is within your skin is you. This includes the unconscious bits, as well as the conscious running dialogue in your head. This includes all your other organs, whose functioning affects the functioning of your brain.

Suppose I define myself otherwise, identifying only with my mind rather than body. Would there any reason to argue your definition is better? And before anyone tries to remind me that the mind isn't separate from the body - consider that it's still useful to talk about computer programs as computer programs, separately from the hardware that runs them, even though these programs cannot run except on hardware.
Does this include the other organisms inside my skin?
The statement "You are a brain" means that your brain is the part of you that is essential to your identity. This is not entirely accurate, and other threads in this discussion address some clarifications. But essentially, it makes the point that an injury that destroys part of your brain would cause you to be a different person in a way that the loss of a limb would not.

I said, "only if you believe that to be the case". By "that", I intended to refer to the belief that [thinking the post is worthless means that you are unenlightened].

This is thinking in rigid categories. "All people who do not value koans are unenlightened". I do not really know what "enlightenment" is, but that false view is unenlightened.

"As above, so below". This is an explanation of Astrology. As above us the stars and planets move in their courses, so below, on this flat Earth, we follow our Destiny.

I do not believe in Astrology more than I believe the Earth is flat, but I love this sentence, expressing so much in so few words. It is my favourite such quote: beautifully and elegantly expressing an idea which is completely wrong. .

I work in an advice agency. We had an anonymous postcard, which read, "The otherbugger will get on your back if he can That is all the advice you ever need to give If he's on your back already it's TOO LATE!"

I find that both horrible and untrue, but it is elegantly expressed.

I do not define "enlightened", claim to be enlightened, claim that you are less "enlightened", or say that you would be in any way better if you tried koans, or better if you wanted to try koans. I only said I had found them valuable.

I do not define "enlightened", because it is something which I only, as it were, gain the odd glimpse, from my peripheral vision. If I define "enlightenment", that means I place it in a box, make my understanding of it concrete. If I did, that would make it more difficult for me to gain... (read more)

That's good. It's just that the way you used the words in the context did make those claims. I have a lot more respect for your perspective as presented here than for the logic of the replies that you made. Unfortunately, while there is certainly perspective to be gained in (some) usage of (some) koans, one thing that tends to be uniform is that they encourage sloppy reasoning. For example, if you say "Woah, go easy there Cam! There are some potential benefits!" then I'll probably acknowledge the point. However, if you feel the previous sentiment but actually reply with explicit claims like "only if..." then your words are no longer opinion or perspective. They are logical claims with very interesting implications. For example, you did make a couple of those claims regarding enlightenment although I can see that your actual beliefs are far less insane!

I value koans as an exercise. I am not sure whether this makes me "enlightened", or whether I have a "better" way of understanding than anyone else, merely that I have valued the experience.

The point of the koan isn't to find the 'right answer', the point of the koan is to struggle with it

I have struggled like that. It seems from the inside like I have come out the other side of that struggle, better able to be in the World.

If I say "What a load of crap! This post conveys about as much insight as a Rorschach test!" then

... (read more)
Believe that to be the case? That seems to imply you define 'enlightened' as 'believing that you are enlightened'. When Eleizer uses that phrase I tend to cringe but mostly let it past without comment because Eleizer tends to include it among a page or three of quite sound reasoning that explains what he is actually trying to convey. Apart from preferring actual true statements on things that are important, the only problem I have with Eleizer's use of the 'rationalism is winning' is that it opens the door for abuse and confusion. Like here for example. How in the heck does 'only if you are not winning', in the usage as intended on Less Wrong, imply the conclusion 'contempt for koan usage as described implies that I am unenlightened'? It doesn't.. The worst kind of bullshit is that which comes dressed up to look very nearly like insight and happens to include a 'if you don't agree you are naive/unsophiscated/unenlighted/possibly heretical'.

Exercise 2. The accelerator will go to maximum, and the driver would have to brake maximally, until something burned out or the driver put the car out of gear or turned off the cruise control.

Exercise 4. When targets were imposed on British GPs, the effect at my practice was that only a few appointments were available. I had to sit by the phone from 8.30am when the practice opened, phoning, getting the engaged tone, repeatedly pressing the redial button. Then I got the appointment time I wanted. Phone later in the day and there were no appointments available.

A GP may decide that his amour propre (signalling?) is more important than conforming to targets.

Experience on targets appears to indicate that people find ways of meeting the target, which may or may not be by achieving what the target-setter wished to achieve.

Exercise 1. Assuming the truth of the statement that the candle has the effect of raising the temperature of the thermostat like that, (I do not have the knowledge to state whether that is or is not the case) the room temperature will oscillate between 15 and 16 degrees as the temperature of the thermostat continues to oscillate between 20 and 21, until the candle burns out.

There may be left wing Conservative Party members in the UK who would be closer to Democrats in the US. I think UK centre ground is to the Left of US centre ground.

I have no ability to create images in a "mind's eye". I read of a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique, which suggested that one try to imagine a very simple image, such as a cloudless sky, the sea (no ships or other coastline) and a beach. So, two lines, the shore and the horizon. I tried this without success.

Have you ever been to the beach? If so, do you remember what it looked like? If so, you're done at that point, whether you actually "see" the beach or not. Imagination is really just a form of memory, and vice versa; some people have difficulty with it simply because they try to create an image from scratch in their mind, having no idea how to go about it and nothing to start from. In general, when any self-help book tells you to imagine or visualize something, you're better off asking yourself if you can remember something like that, or asking yourself what something like that would look like. You don't need to consciously attempt to manipulate imagery - you just ask yourself questions that presuppose you can see something, whether you feel you can "actually" see them or not. The underlying assumption here is that your brain is absolutely capable of manipulating visual information -- otherwise, there are a wide variety of things you simply wouldn't be able to do. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can consciously perceive that information, without practice at observing it. In other words, your brain can visualize, but you may not be able to see that visualization without practice. Another common block to visualization is a conceptual one: the objection that you're not "really" seeing things because they're "not real". (e.g. someone who gets told as a kid that the things they imagine aren't real and to stop it). Anyway, not saying that you necessarily can visualize consciously or that any of these issues is yours; just pointing out that there are a lot of reasons why a person can be able to visualize in principle while not being able to perform it in practice. Practice is actually important, too. As a computer programmer, I have considerable practice doing black-and-white visualization of boxes and lines representing data structures, but less practice at vivid color images or anything panoramic. However, if I look at something and close my eyes, I

if you can believe in God, you can believe in anything.

The trouble with that is that I believe in some pretty weird things. I believe in a universe with a hundred billion galaxies, each of a hundred billion stars, of the Earth being a globe rushing round the sun when it appears to be still, with the sun going round it. I believe these things not because I have worked them out for myself, but because I understand that Academe believes them, more or less, and people with whom I associate believe them.

Right. The idea that we as individuals arrive at our scientific beliefs via perfect rationality is a fiction. It's good to keep in mind that our scientific beliefs are a product of a particular social network -- we believe things largely because people and institutions we trust believe those things. The difference between being a Mormon and being a scientific materialist is less a qualitative difference (i.e., one person is rational, the other is not) than one of degree, circumstance, and where you place your faith.

I just think it's important to understand what doing better really involves.

For me, it has been the acceptance of other people, which has given me trust in myself, enabled me to relate better to other people, reduced my acrasia, made me more effective and happier. Internalising "It's alright to be you", "You have a right to be here". I am here to seek greater rationality, but do not think that rationality alone improves my life.

Scott Peck, author of "The Road Less Travelled", which was extremely popular ten years ago, theorised that people became more mature, and could get stuck on a lower level of maturity. From memory, the stages were:

  1. Selfish, unprincipled
  2. Rule- following
  3. Rational
  4. Mystical.

Christians could be either rule-following, a stage of maturity most people could leave behind in their teens, needing a big friendly policeman in the sky to tell them what to do- or Mystical.

Mystical people had a better understanding of the World because they did not expect it ... (read more)

I suspect most, if not all, regulars will dismiss these stages as soon as reading convinces them that the words "rational" and "mystical" are being used in the right sense. That is, few here would be impressed by "enjoying the mystery of nature". However it might be useful for beginners who haven't read through the relevant sequences. Voted up.

Yes. That is why the comment that an article was a "random mostly useless piece of trivia" stood out. These are Boo words, rather than reasoned criticism.

Got me. The reason is that, as I tried to explain the article to my family, they asked me "but what's the takeaway?", and I couldn't answer that. I'll add that to the article.

I vote this article down for discourtesy.

I do not think that "the apologist and the revolutionary" is a random mostly useless piece of trivia. I think it is an interesting introduction to a particular way a damaged brain can work, such that the map and the territory are grossly different. I was fascinated by the blast of cold water in the ear, and the effect of that.

I consider that if we are too discourteous to each other we may drive people away. It is quite possible to disagree courteously, or to vote down an article, or leave a comment there.... (read more)

4Paul Crowley15y
Actually I think this is overall an extraordinarily courteous site, compared to practically any open discussion forum anywhere else.

A suggestion on voting:

Get rid of down votes. Only allow up-votes, and suggest the ground for upvoting would be that the voter believes the comment or post should be higher up the sort, even if the voter disagrees with it. This would be a simple rule, easy to apply, easy to understand. The fact that a comment had only one point would indicate that only its author thought it interesting or worthwhile.

Comments made late to older posts would have a lower value simply because fewer people had read them. This is a flaw in this proposal. However all sets of ru... (read more)

I enjoyed Mensa. I went to weekends away, and evenings in the pub. I met some nice people, and some crushing bores. I took the test initially to try and boost my social life. I do not think I had more intellectual discussions than I do with work colleagues.

Sir Clive Sinclair for a time hosted weekends in moderate hotels, with dinner parties. So I have enjoyed a couple of long general discussions in a group of about a dozen including him and Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, and he is still one of my best name-drops.

When I foolishly disclosed to a... (read more)

I find Newcomb's problem interesting. Omega predicts accurately. This is impossible in my experience. We are not discussing a problem any of us is likely to face. However I still find discussing counter-factuals interesting.

To make Newcomb's problem more concrete we need a workable model of Omega

I do not think that is the case. Whether Omega predicts by time travel, mind-reading, or even removes money from the box by teleportation when it observes the subject taking two boxes is a separate discussion, considering laws of physics, SF, whatever. This mi... (read more)

In what ways? Most insights that arise from Newcomb's problem seem to me to be either phony or derivable from simpler problems that don't feature omniscient entities. Admittedly you can meditate on the logical loop forever in the illusion that it increases your understanding. Maybe the unexpected hanging paradox will help snap you out? That paradox also allows perpetual meditation until we sit down and demystify the word "surprise" into mathematical logic, exposing the problem statement as self-referential and self-contradictory. In Newcomb's problem we might just need to similarly demystify the word "predict", as I've been trying to.

James, when you say, "be rational", I think this shows a misunderstanding.

It may be really important to impress people with a certain kind of reckless courage. Then it is Rational to play chicken as bravely as you can. This Wins in the sense of being better than the alternative open to you.

Normally, I do not want to take the risk of being knocked down by a car. Only in this case is it not rational to play chicken: because not playing achieves what I want.

I do not see why a rationalist should be less courageous, less able to estimate distances and speeds, and so less likely to win at Chicken.

No. The point is that you actually want to survive more than you want to win, so if you are rational about Chicken you will sometimes lose (consult your model for details). Given your preferences, there will always be some distance \epsilon before the cliff where it is rational for you to give up. Therefore, under these assumptions, the strategy "win or die trying" seemingly requires you to be irrational. However, if you can credibly commit to this strategy -- be the kind of person who will win or die trying -- you will beat a rational player every time. This is a case where it is rational to have an irrational disposition, a disposition other than doing what is rational at every margin.

Yes, but...

Of course there is random noise and different starting points, but there is also some evidence of whether one is really rational. It is a question of epistemic rationality what Wins should accrue to Rational people, and what wins (eg, parentage, the lottery) do not.

Suggestion: "Rationalists seek to Win, not to be rational".

Suggestion: "If what you think is rational appears less likely to Win than what you think is irrational, then you need to reassess probabilities and your understanding of what is rational and what is irrational".

Suggestion: "It is not rational to do anything other than the thing which has the best chance of winning".

If I have a choice between what I define as the "Rational" course of action, and a course of action which I describe as "irrational"... (read more)

There is an issue never remembered here, about the question that we believe the world is X but it is Y: Are you sure that rationality is pure product of brains... Are you sure that mind is pure product of brains... What if mind is product of a hidden superior natural system whose bits-information are invading our immediate world and being aggregated to our synapses... If so, rationality as pure product of mind will make the most evolved rationalist a loser, by while... Or don t... (sorry, I have no punctuation mark in this keyboard) Here, in Amazon jungle, lays our real origins. And you see here that this biosphere is product of chaos. We are product of chaos, not order. It seems to me that we are the flow of order lifting up from chaos. So, for long term winning, those that best represents this flow will have bad times because the forces of chaos are the strongest. Then, the winners now, are still representants of chaos, less evolved... But it seems to me that above the chaotic biosphere I see Cosmos at ordered state. So, I suspect that this Cosmos is the " natural" super-system sending bits-information and modelling this terrestrial chaos into a future state of order. It is acting over the last evolved system here, and I think it is the mind, not the brain. So, if one is being driven for to be rationalist (in relation to Cosmos and ordered state), he,she will be a loser in relation to this biosphere in chaotic state. The intelligent best thing to do should to find a middle alternative, fighting this world at the same time that do it with less sacrifice. What do you think...
Choosing what gives the "best chance of winning" is good advice for a two-valued utility function, but I'm also interested in reducing the severity of my loss under uncertainty and misfortune. I guess "maximizing expected utility" isn't as sexy as "winning".
The problem with this is that winning as a metric is swamped with random noise and different starting points. Someone winning the lottery when you don't is not evidence that you are not being rational. Someone whose parents were both high-paid lawyers making a fortune in business when you don't is not evidence that you are not being rational.

I think you need evidence about what effect non-tug of war voting has.

Suppose I support the free ownership of weapons, but think a seven day waiting period is better than none.

If I vote for that waiting period, am I demoralising my fellow gun supporters, and invigorating the gun control types, who will therefore struggle harder for more restrictions? Or invigorating my side, which will make sure it does not get defeated next time? Too little evidence to make a prediction.

Or what if I say, well, seven days is OK, but if they win this the gun control types ... (read more)

Newport, South Wales (Casnewydd, De Cymru). Rarely in London, willing to travel to Bristol or Swansea.

As Michael's comment has been upvoted, I will respond. I have deluded myself a great deal, and decided some years ago to try to ferret out the lies I tell myself, and the motivation for these.

The main motivation was, "I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a Good person".

In May 2008 I decided, "I am a human being". I have the value of a human being. One among seven billion of us; but one evolved over four billion years, fitting beautifully into my environment, fitting into society with the attributes needed to live in society.... (read more)

Good call. You can only start any investigation from where you actually are, and you can only live the life you have.

Try to wean yourself off the need for warm fuzzies instead.

EDIT: No, don't try to wean yourself off the warm fuzzies, but get the warm fuzzies from friends and family, not from people in distress in need of charity. Feel good about yourself because you are achieving your goals, including altruistic ones. (end of edit)

Carl Rogers, founder of person centred counselling, theorised that there is an "organismic self", with all the attributes and abilities of the human organism within its own skin, and a "self-concept" built up from what the ... (read more)

Maybe one does not "overcome" bias in the sense of vanquishing, but in the sense of getting the better of? Roll with your ape? Makes me wonder how hard-wired our various tendencies to see (or cling to) certain obscuring maps are, and how much we can obliterate, suppress, or Aikido flip them. Without much thought I feel that I'm not averse to, um, shocking my monkey if need be, to get myself closer to rational behavior. But, yeah, up to that extremity there's doubtlessly a humongous lot of workable "therapies" or techniques to encourage rational inclination. I will repeatedly bring up the concept of self-valuation because I believe it's critically involved in a lot of irrationality. The pain of the cognitive dissonance caused by the "ought to be" self map differing from actuality is the pain of devaluation. Find a way for folks not to experience that aversive grief and you'll have removed a great barrier to clearer thinking. I think it's possible.
I don't recommend this but I'm interested in knowing how it works out for abigailgem. A future post on the topic would be nice, esp after substantial movement in the direction described.

A psychic medium.

My colleague, let’s call her Sally, tells me she is a psychic medium. She tells me she first spoke to a dead person when she was three: she was talking to a woman on the stairs, and her mother was concerned when she went to tell her mother about it. Now, she tends not to see people, she realises they are not physically present in the way that a living person is present, but she senses them.

She reports three ways in which the Dead communicate. Normally, it is as if she hears them speaking, and relays the message to the living. During her... (read more)

1Paul Crowley15y
It might be worth a post, if you can relate it to rationality in general, and make an interesting point or two. You have the karma for it.

Eliezer: "Similarly, if you find yourself saying "The rational thing to do is X, but the right thing to do is Y" then you are almost certainly using one of the words "rational" or "right" in a way that a huge chunk of readers won't agree with. In this case - or in any other case where controversy threatens - you should substitute more specific language: "The self-benefiting thing to do is to run away, but I hope I would at least try to drag the girl off the railroad tracks""

Yes. Rational does not equal &qu... (read more)

I am not sure I can be rational about this at all, because I find suicide repulsive. Yet my society admires the bravery of a soldier who, say, throws himself on a grenade so that it will not kill the others in his dugout. I might see a tincture of dishonesty in the man's actions, and yet he enters a contract, with a free contracting party, and performs his part of the contract.

So. Something to practice Rationality on. To consider the value of an emotional response. Thank you. I am afraid, I still have the emotional response, shameful. I cannot, now, see it as admirable.

I was about to give the exact same example of the soldier throwing himself on a grenade. I don't know where the idea of his actions being "shameful" even comes up. The one thing I realize from your comment is there's the dishonesty of his actions, and if lots of people did this insurance companies would start catching on and it would stop working plus it would make life insurance that much harder to work with. But it didn't sound like the original post was talking about that with "shameful", it sounds like they were suggesting (or assuming people would think) that there was something inherently wrong with the man's altruism. At least that's what's implied by the title, "really extreme altruism". Edit: I didn't catch the "Two years after the policy is purchased, it will pay out in the event of suicide." bit until reading others comments- so, indeed, he's not being dishonest, he made a bet with the insurance company (over whether he would still intend suicide two years later) and the insurance company lost. I don't know how many insurance companies have clauses like that, though.

What can be done about it? We can fight.

The Master can argue for Creationism, and try to defeat the pupil's refutation of it. We can argue for or against One-boxing on Newcomb's problem. Or pretend to be the AI arguing that the Gatekeeper should free it. The Master is only Master for as long as s/he is undefeated.

This is the skill of Debating, which is highly respected and taught the world over. Because it wins at politics (convinces the other chimps) even if it loses at matching the territory. It's damned useful, but it's a bit Dark Arts prone. (That's not a reason to avoid it, but one to take care.)

This equates rationality with victory in argument on an arbitrary side of an issue regardless of the truth; which is not at all the skill we want to inculcate.

It might be useful to teach the Santa Claus myth in order to teach fantasising. It is necessary to know the difference between reality and fantasy, but fantasy is where one can explore how one might Like the world to be, and then begin to plan a way towards it; and fantasy can lead in to lateral thinking.

If you find yourself classifying the goal for where you want to bring the world as "fantasy", you either should update your estimates of what can be real, or exclude the fantasy goal. Don't waste hope on unreal things, but see the real potential in absurdly good things to come (to do). Explore how you'd like the world to be within what's possible, and make sure that your model of what's possible includes the wonders that are possible. That will make your worldview that much brighter and that much saner.

I do not base my life on the fiction of Newcomb's problem, but I do take lessons from it. Not the lesson that an amazingly powerful creature is going to offer me a million dollars, but the lesson that it is possible to try and fail to be rational, by missing a step, or that I may jump too soon to the conclusion that something is "impossible", or that trying hard to learn more rationality tricks will profit me, even if not as much as that million dollars.

I think he meant it is Not rational to do something which will observably make you lose, in Newcomb's problem. The process which the two-boxer goes through is not "rational", it is simply a process which ignores the evidence that one boxers get more money. That process ignored evidence, and so is irrational. It looked at the map, not the territory- though it is impossible, here there really is an Omega which can predict what you will do. From the map, that is impossible, so we Two-box. However from the territory, that is what is, so we One-box.

Except if your decision procedure results in you one-boxing, then you'll lose more often than not in similar situations in real life. Sure, people who give this answer are ignoring things about the thought experiment that make one-boxing the obvious win - like Annoyance said, if you use rationality you can follow the evidence without necessarily having an explanation of how it works. Sure, tarot cards have been shown to predict the weather and one-boxing has been shown to result in better prizes. However, we don't make decisions using some simple algorithm. Our decisions come primarily from our character - by building good habits of character, we engage in good activities. By developing good rationalist habits, we behave more rationally. And the decision procedure that leads you to two-box on the completely fictional and unrealistic thought experiment, is the same decision procedure that would make you win in real life. Don't base your life on a fiction.

In addition, there are issues where it is not possible to be rational. In choosing goals, one cannot always be rational: the emotional response decides the goal. One can be rational in choosing ways of achieving that goal, or in making the map fit the territory.

EDIT: As I have been voted down, I will provide an example. I am transsexual. I decided it was "rational" to attempt to live as a man, and arguably it is: and yet I could not, and the most important thing for me was to change my presentation. I cannot assess that goal "rationally"... (read more)

abigailgem, I'm not sure that your goal was irrational. You say that it had certain disadvantages (e.g. not being able to reproduce, being seen as a weirdo, being difficult...). You also say that it was the most important thing in your life. Even though that calculation is probably very emotionally complex, it seems like your decision was the rational one, if those were indeed the pros and cons. And I agree with you that we cannot always rationally choose goals. Some of our goals (even including rational goals such as truth-seeking) are hardwired by evolution, prenatal development, or formative experiences and are difficult to change. For example, I have a major sweet tooth. This pushes me towards a goal of eating lots of sugar, which is not a predisposition that I would necessarily choose (at least, not so strongly), if I had a choice over what food my body likes.
As Aristotle would say, your emotions are an important part of rationality. A virtuous person feels the right emotion in response to events, and can simply 'follow his gut' to do what's right. Which is why it's important to follow moral exemplars and build virtue - to make sure you have good character before you make a life-changing, irreversible decision.

A friend of mine recommends writing with the non-dominant hand to access alternative brain functions. I have done this, and found myself disagreeing with myself.

I've learned to type very fast with my non-dominant hand (through online gaming) and never experienced such effect.

What subject did you use as a test? I used my non-dominant hand to type this and the only difference is that it took much longer!

The reasons for punishment are deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and prevention. Criminal law balances these. English Law and Scots Law do not award punitive damages in civil actions, and it is hard to see why a Claimant should receive money which is more than his/her financial loss, in order to punish the Respondent. Should not that money go to the State?

Should punishment be allocated "rationally"? Perhaps, but I think human reactions to a wrongful act should be part of what is rationally assessed.

I do not have rational control of my fee... (read more)

Why should the money automatically go to the state? To partially answer my own question: possibly, to compensate for court costs. However, if that were the rationale, then this cost should be levied for every trial.

"The monster will get me if I make a mistake" can be a deep concrete belief, one looks at it rationally, and thinks, that is ridiculous- but getting rid of it can be hard work.

"I have the potential to be the sort of person who continues even in the face of adversity", or "it is more in my interests to pass up that cookie", or "I really do have a choice whether or not to pass up that cookie". That is what I would recommend.

bill, below, has mentioned "Act as if": "I choose to Act as If I can continue even in the face of adversity, and I intend in this precise moment to continue acting, even if I may just fall down again in two minutes' time".

These have the advantages of being mor... (read more)