All of alvarojabril's Comments + Replies

Two links that might foster discussion:

Fun online rationality and anti-bias oriented games. I particularly enjoyed "Staying Alive" (testing conceptions of selfhood). And

Great discussion, I hadn't seen Gendler before but Bloom is always good. Reminded me a little of the IAT discussion here a few months ago.

Not only that, often people's goals require irrational thinking. If you're hoping to find a mate in a religious community, or if you're a businessman bringing the free market to the boonies there's an obvious rational incentive to believe irrational things.

Just read over that for the first time and it seems to me that Eliezer's argument relies heavily on the anthropic principle, that is, it underestimates the amount of resources it has taken the universe to produce a very small amount of life, so far as we know.

Despite the anthropic principle, we should still expect to have been produced in a relatively likely way for intelligence to have been produced; it would still be surprising for us to observe ourselves to have evolved from chimps so quickly, conditioned on it being extremely hard to go from chimp to human. ...well, in general. In this particular case, it could also be, say, that conditions selecting for intelligence are very unlikely to persist for more than a few million years, but I can't think of any independent reason to think that likely. Anyway, I'm pretty sure most of Eliezer's statements about evolution are just slogans [] to illustrate arguments with deeper support.
This is not something I know a lot about, perhaps that is why I don't understand either part of your comment.

Could you elucidate what you intend with this gem?

"The Master of the Way treats people as straw dogs."

It's from the Tao Te Ching: "Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs." One might accuse this of falling afoul of the appeal to nature, but that would assume a fact not in evidence, to wit, that Annoyance's motivations resemble that of a typical LW poster (to the extent that such a beast exists).

I also think we can think of "prejudices" or pre-judgments common in popular media which aren't necessarily bad. Star Trek, for instances propagates prejudices toward tolerance, rationality, exploration, etc. So I think there's a lot of popular media which is also "good." I guess I may have misread your point - I'm talking instrumentally and you mean aesthetically.

Promotes rationality? Star Trek? Where?

You've never thought about it that way before because it's completely silly. How on earth does Annoyance make these judgments? I'm not nearly prideful enough to think I can know others' minds to the extent Annoyance can, or, in other words, I imagine there are circumstances which could change most people in profound ways, both for ill and good. So the only thing judging people in this manner does is reinforce one's social prejudices. Writing off people who seem resistant to reason only encourages their ignorance, and remedying their condition is both an exercise and example of reason's power, which, incidentally, is why I'm trying so hard with Annoyance!

Annoyance, your argument has devolved into inanity. If you don't want to popularly cultivate rationality then you disagree with one of the core tenets of this community. It's in the second paragraph of the "about" page:

"Less Wrong is devoted to refining the art of human rationality - the art of thinking. The new math and science deserves to be applied to our daily lives, and heard in our public voices."

Your circular word games do no good for this community.

Someone should document and categorize the most common signaling tropes of this community. Maybe once I get up to 40 or whatever.

Why are we assuming these categories are mutually exclusive? Like Will points out, if we just accept that altruism and status-seeking are inextricable then we can design societies where altruistic behavior has high status returns. I guess I don't get the usefulness of the distinction.

Annoyance, you're still dodging the question. Joe didn't ask whether or not in your opinion everyone is a useless prole, he asked why it's useful to make people feel like that. Your notion that "social cohesion is the enemy of rationality" was best debunked, I think by pjeby's point here:

more flies with honey and all that.

I don't want to catch flies.

So you tell me what you think they're for, then.

It's demonstrated by the fact that you can up/down vote and report anyone's posts, and that you need a certain number of upvotes to write articles. This is a method of policing the discourse on the site so that social cohesion doesn't break down to an extent which impairs our discussion. These mechanisms "reinforce correctness," in your terms. So I'll ask again, can we do away with them?

I don't think humanity follows obviously from rationality, which is what I meant about rationality being a means rather than an end.

You're assuming a fact not in evidence.

Thank you. An opinion is a thought. What does it mean to say that you are not entitled to a thought?

In this case, it means that you're not entitled to refuse to change a belief that's been proven wrong. If you think "everyone likes chocolate ice cream", and I introduce you to my hypothetical friend Bill who doesn't like chocolate ice cream, you're not entitled to still believe that 'everyone' likes chocolate ice cream. You could still believe that 'most people' like chocolate ice cream, but if I was able to come up with a competent survey showing that 51% of people do not like chocolate ice cream, you wouldn't be entitled to that belief, either, unless you could point me to an even more definitive study that agreed with you. Even the belief "I like chocolate ice cream" could be proven false in some situations - peoples' tastes do change over time, and you could try it one summer and discover that you just don't enjoy it any more. It also implies that you're supposed to go looking for proof of your claims before you make them - that you're not 'entitled' to have or spread an opinion, but instead must earn the right by doing or referencing research.

"teach them that they have no right to an opinion."

I know people throw the term around (I try not to), but this is maybe the most fascist thing I've seen on this board. They have no right to an opinion? You might want to rephrase this, as many of my opinions are somewhat involuntary.

2Eliezer Yudkowsky14y []

Could be a pretty wild dystopia for the people who aren't hooked up - elites constantly disappearing and the clocks are all wrong. Come to think of it, did I say DYStopia?

Yes, and most of what I said reduces to "Annoyance is not practicing rationality with statements like "'social cohesion is one of the enemies of rationality.'" You said you had a "problem" with my contention and then I pointed out that Annoyance had made a qualitatively similar claim that hadn't bothered you. Aside from our apparent disagreement on the point I don't get how my claim could be a problem for you.

I think I've made myself clear and this is getting tiresome so I'll invite you to have the last word.

Hmm, might you have been referring to this []? That's not a judgment against less intelligent people; it's a judgment against all of us, himself included. I recognize it as being the more rational decision in the situation I mentioned here [] as one that I'm failing at from a rationalist standpoint, and am not going to bother challenging his rational view on a rational forum when the best defense I can think of is "yes, but you shouldn't say that to the muggles".
I hope I'm not the only one who sees the irony in you refusing to answer my question about your reasoning, given where this thread started. I guess the best option now is to sum this disagreement up in condensations. For simplicity's sake, I'm only going to do comments on the branch that leads directly here. I'm starting with this comment []. * JamesCole: Quoted hypothetical social-norm suggestion, disagreed, offered altenate suggestion suggestion, offered supporting logic. * JamesCole: Restated supporting logic. * Me: Agreed, offered more support. * Annoyance: counterargument: "Most people are not interested enough in being rational for that suggestion to work; they'll find a way around it, instead" * Me: disagreement with Annoyance - I was wrong * Annoyance: Pointed out my mistake * Me: "Oh, right" * Annoyance: "That is a common mistake, and one that I haven't fully overcome yet, which means I still have trouble communicating with people who are not practicing rationality" (probably intended to make me feel better) * You: "I object to the above exchange; you're just masking your prejudice against irrational people by refusing to communicate clearly with them" * Me: "Actually, it's not a refusal, it's just hard." * You: "No, it's not hard, and refusal to do it means that you don't value social cohesion." with a personal example of it not being hard. * Me: "Okay, you got me. It's only hard for some people." * You: "Okay, it is hard for some people, but it's still learnable, and harmful to the cause of rationality if you present yourself as a rationalist without having those skills." * Me: "They're good to learn, but I think you're over-valuing them, and judging people for not sharing your values." * You: "Why are you complaining about me being judgmental when you didn't complain about Annoyance being judgmental?", plus what appears to be some so

Look, this whole thread started because of Annoyance's judgment of people who have higher priorities than rationality, right? Did you have a problem with that?

All I'm saying is that this community in general gives way too short shrift to the utility of social cohesion. Sorry if that bothers you.

Quote, please? Most of what he said condenses to "people who are not practicing rationality are irrational", which is only an insult if you consider 'irrational' to be an insult, which I didn't see any evidence of. I saw frustration at the difficulty in dealing with them without social awkwardness, but that's not the same. Have I missed something?

"When it happens to reinforce correctness, it's not needed"

Can you elaborate?

I'll note that rationality isn't an end. My ideal world state would involve a healthy serving of both rationality and social cohesion. There are many situations in which these forces work in tandem and many where they're at odds.

A perfect example is this site. There are rules the community follows to maintain a certain level of social cohesion, which in turn aides us in the pursuit of rationality. Or are the rules not needed?

Why can't it be? How is that demonstrated?

Right, I get that people fare differently when it comes to this stuff, but I do think it's a matter of practice and attention more than innate ability (for most people). And this is really my point, that the sort of monastic rationality frequently espoused on these boards can have politically antirational effects. It's way easier to influence others if you first establish a decent rapport with them.

I don't at all disagree that the skills are good to learn, especially if you're going to be focusing on tasks that involve dealing with non-rationalists. I think it may be a bit of an over generalization to say that they should be a high priority for everyone, but probably not much of one. I do have a problem with judging people for not having already mastered those skills, or for having higher priorities than tackling those skills immediately with all their energy, though, which seems to be what you're doing. Am I inferring too much when I come to that conclusion?

The problems you cite in bullets are only nontrivial if you don't sufficiently value social cohesion. My biggest faux pas have sufficiently conditioned me to make them less often because I put a high premium on that cohesion. So I think it's less a question of social intelligence and more one of priorities. I don't have to keep "constant focus" - after a few faux pas it becomes plainly apparent which subjects are controversial and which aren't, and when we do come around to touchy ones I watch myself a little more.

Social cohesion is one of the enemies of rationality. It's not necessarily so in that it's not always opposed to it, but it is incompatible with the mechanisms that bring it about and permit it to error-correct. It tends to reinforce error. When it happens to reinforce correctness, it's not needed, and when it doesn't, it makes it significantly harder to correct the errors.
I thought I would get away with that simplification. Heh. Those skills do come naturally to some people, but not everyone. They certainly don't come naturally to me. Even if I'm in a social group with rules that allow me to notice that a faux pas has occurred (not all do; some groups consider it normal to obscure such things to the point where I'll find out weeks or months later, if at all), it's still not usually obvious what I did wrong or what else I could do instead, and I have to intentionally sit down and come up with theories that I may or may not even have a chance to test.

I'm glad we've hashed this out. I think that bias about the messianic/apocalyptic role of technology has largely been overlooked on this site, so I was glad to see this entry of Eliezer's.

Regardless of whether or not they're true I tend to think that arguments about the arc of history etc are profoundly counterproductive. People won't vote if they think it's a landslide, either for their guy or against. And I suspect I differ from others on this site in this respect, but I find it hard to get ginned up about cosmic endeavors, simply because they seem so re... (read more)

So you agree that yes, intelligence is continually generating "extra problems" for us to deal with. As you point out, many of the most pressing problems in the modern world are unforeseen consequences of useful technologies. You just believe that increases in human intelligence will invariably outpace the destructive power of the problems, whereas I don't.

The premise of this diary was many earths, so I'd submit that certainly there are many earths for which the problem of nuclear warfare outpaced humanity's capacity to intelligently deal with it,... (read more)

I agree completely. If intelligence-generated problems cannot outpace the solutions total destruction awaits. I apologize if the stupid pill characterization feels wrong, I just was trying to think of a viable alternative to increasing intelligence.

This little tidbit highlights so much of what's wrong with this community:

"Many of my social 'problems' began once I recognized that other people didn't think like I did, and were usually profoundly stupid. That's not a recognition that lends itself to frictionless interaction with others."

You'd think a specimen of your gargantuan brainpower would have the social intelligence to handily conceal your disdain for the commonfolk. Perhaps it's some sort of signaling?

I agree here: Reading stuff like this totally makes me cringe. I don't know why people of above average intelligence want to make everyone else feel like useless proles, but it seems pretty rampant. Some humility is probably a blessing here, I mean, as frustrating as it is to deal with the 'profoundly stupid', at least you yourself aren't profoundly stupid. Of course, they probably think given the same start the 'profoundly stupid' person was given, they would have made the best of it and would be just as much of a genius as they are currently. It's a difficult realization, when you become aware you're more intelligent then average, to be dropped into the pool with a lot of other smart people and realize you really aren't that special. I mean, in a world of some six billion odd, if you are a one-in-a-million genius, that still means you likely aren't in the top hundred smartest people in the world and probably not in the top thousand. It kind of reminds me of grad school stories I've read, with kids who think they are going to be a total gift to their chosen subject ending up extremely cynical and disappointed. I think people online like to exaggerate their eccentricity and disregard for societal norms in an effort to appeal to the stereotypes for geniuses. I've met a few real geniuses IRL and I know you can be a genius without being horribly dysfunctional.
I think you're underestimating the degree of social intelligence required. To pull that off while still keeping the rationalistic habits that such people find offensive, you'd have to: * Recognize the problem, which is nontrivial, * Find a way of figuring out who falls on which side of the line, without tipping people off, * Determine all of the rationalistic habits that are likely to offend people who are not trying to become more rational, * Find non-offensive ways of achieving those goals, or find ways of avoiding those situations entirely, * Find a way not to slip up in conversation and apply the habits anyway - again, nontrivial. Keeping this degree of focus in realtime is hard. You'd also probably have to at least to some degree integrate the idea that it's 'okay' (not correct, just acceptable) to be irrational into your general thought process, to avoid unintentional signaling that you think poorly of them. If anything, irrational people are more likely to notice such subtle signals, since so much of their communication is based on them.
Or perhaps simply the recognition that it's sometimes impossible to fluff other people's egos and drive discussion along rational paths at the same time. If people become offended when you point out weaknesses in their arguments - if they become offended if you even examine them and don't automatically treat their ideas as inherently beyond reproach - there's no way to avoid offending them while also acting rationally. It becomes necessary to choose.

Joe, what you are forgetting is that human beings are not governed solely by their intelligence. I think Annoyance was referring to a sort of moral intelligence which isn't in your definition.

And intelligence doesn't generate extra problems? Ever hear of the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or, say, pollution?

I think those problems weren't caused by too much intelligence, but by too little. I know, intelligence enables these problems to form in the first place -- These entities wouldn't be making the problems if they weren't volitional agents with intelligence, but that seems like a kind of cop-out complaint -- Without intelligence there wouldn't be any problems, sure, but there also wouldn't be anything positive either, no concepts whatsoever. Pollution is a great example: It's intelligent thought that allowed us to start making machines that polluted. Intelligence allowed us to realize we could capitalize on the well-being of the environment and save money by trashing it. More intelligence realizes that this is still a value trade off, that you aren't getting something for nothing -- Depending on the rate at which you do this, you could seriously damage yourself and the people around you for the trade-off. You have to weigh the costs with the benefits, and if the benefit is 'some money' and the cost is 'destroying the world', the intelligent choice becomes clear. To continue to act for the money isn't intelligence, it's just insanity, overpowering greed. The cuban missile crisis may have been caused by intelligence building the structures that led up to it, but the solution wasn't making everyone dumber so they couldn't build that kind of thing -- that just reduces overall utility. The solution is to act intelligently in ways that don't destroy the world. I see your point about moral intelligence being considered separately though, I hadn't thought of that in the context. It's a more elegant package to wrap everything up together, but not always the right thing to do... Thanks for the reply.

"Indeed, our Earth's Westphalian concept of sovereign states is the main thing propping up Somalia and North Korea."

Sure it is. It hasn't got anything to do with nukes/quagmire. I remember the Westphalian concept of sovereignty propping up Iraq in the spring of '03. How we laughed and laughed. Oh, Westphalia, you dog! I particularly enjoyed the part when Eliezer suggested that what Somalia needs is more Ethiopias.

There's a severe paucity of imagination in this post, or maybe empathy is the word I'm looking for. This planet doesn't fail Eliezer's ... (read more)

This comment would be better if it were less emotional and stuck to serious, constructive criticisms.

This actually gets to something interesting...perhaps there are some objects of beauty we could agree on...the sun, the human form, etc...but these things are so primeval that their beauty is continually contextually mediated by "truth" (the thrill of science, EY's space expansion) or "lies" (religion et al.).

His point seems to be that rationality isn't the only way to experience the world, which is absolutely, 100% right.

But it's the one that wins. And people do want to win.

I want to take issue with this Less Wrong mantra. It's just not true for many people, and you'll have a hard time winning them over if you can't empathize with that. We value rationality first and foremost because if you take the long view it wins and in the world we populate it wins. But for many people recklessness wins, or faith wins - for whatever reason, the social systems they have in... (read more)

You seem to be making an argument both for and against our cause in the same breath. The reason irrationality "wins" for the "many people" you mention is that they re-define winning in hindsight when things don't work out []. We are challenging those social systems, which are unaccountable and only provide mysterious explanations when they fail. We aspire to build more robust systems. That's what I think winning is. I imagine you feel bad for all the religious people being left out, but that's only because of their large numbers. No one feels bad for string theorists. A large following doesn't make religion right. Lots of stupidity is not intelligence. The point of emphasising this distinction is to put the value of human intelligence on the right order. And if your main point is recognising the fact that bad or irrational decisions may perhaps be a result of variability in intelligence or its use, then religion only functions to hide that truth. We are at least admitting it and saying it's not fair []. Denial is not a path to improvement. []

but in the end the fact may remain that religious stories are better at generating them than any formulation of the truth is

This is exactly right. The question isn't whether or not it's chemically possible for people to get their fuzzies from places other than religion - this is obviously true. The question is whether or not us getting them to do so is politically feasible. I think not, and seeing how there are many believers who live decent lives I'd rather spend my time cultivating the more cosmopolitan varietals.

I think you're mistaking economics for math.

My experience with psilocybin leads me to think few participants would be interested in blog-reading.

Excellent second point, Michael, this is essentially what I was getting at below.

Eliezer, are we to assume from your final comment that the "baby steps" you're taking are a means to eliminate the feeling of the sacred from your life? Otherwise I don't get the baby metaphor.

I remember an interesting Slate article about the vagus nerve and the feeling of the sacred. I can't speak to the science behind it, but I think there's an interesting relationship between the notion of the sacred and AnnaSalamon's excellent "Cached Selves" post. Don'... (read more)

I think he meant that a baby's first steps are sacred even though they're not impressive qua steps.

That which is significant in the Unfolding Story.

Isn't it possible that many of the flaws you've listed creep into your thinking in via the Unfolding Story? For instance, your Story is probably somewhat private in that if we were watching a space shuttle launch you'd find it sacred and I'd think it was a harbinger of space militarization. And obviously, the faith charge often comes up on this score when it comes to futurists.

Curiously, no one seems to agree on which are best, which suggests that people value very different aspects of his writing.

Shouldn't we then consider that the awesomeness mean to which authors (broadly) regress reflects less their talent/circumstances and more our own subjective experience?