All of DBreneman's Comments + Replies

Thanks for that, it looks like a great selection. The only one of those I've read before is The Prince, and that was a long, long time ago. I definitely need to track all of those down and give my brain a nice warm bath.

I'd read about politics being the mind killer and all that, and that makes my mistakes even more silly in retrospect. I think I wanted my main focus to be on looking at what's useful/worth discussing about the movements, and whether or not they're something that knowledge could be gained from. I thought that would be apolitical enough, but then I went and injected politics into it anyway.

That wasn't my core intent, and I'm sorry I angered you by making it look like it was. Honestly I'm a bit of a pop-politics junkie. I also followed the tea party closely, as well as the campaigns of minor candidates like ron paul, because I found it interesting to see how well non-core-party rhetoric would work.

I guess I wanted LW to have a discussion page about it or something because we are a big powerful monkey tribe, and because the stupid ancestral part of my brain respects that, and wants to see what the tribe thinks of my interests. Putting in that little bit about potentially getting involved in the party was going too far, and I'm sorry about that.

Actually, a quick google search of your username leads me to believe you. I apologise for being harsh. Your post came across very badly because of that "little bit", which seemed like its focal point, though. Perhaps you were unaware of the strong taboo against overtly political discussion here. I would suggest you sate your interest in politics and community organisation by reading books instead. Implying no necessary endorsement of any of these thinkers, here are some that you might find interesting: The Prince [] by Niccolo Machiavelli is the original article; Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals [] should be relevant to understanding OWS; (selections from) Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks [] outlines progressive bureaucratic incrementalism; Mencius Moldbug's political writings [] offer a reactionary perspective; The Machiavellians [] by James Burnham is a lesser known classic of political science from the mid-20th century; and Public Opinion [] by Walter Lippmann discusses the interaction of journalism and democracy.
Actually, a quick google search of your username leads me to believe you. I apologise for being harsh. Your post came across very badly because of that "little bit", which seemed like its focal point, though. Perhaps you were unaware of the strong taboo against overtly political discussion here. I would suggest you sate your interest in politics and community organisation by reading books instead; you'll probably learn more that way in any case. Implying no necessary endorsement of any of these thinkers, here are some that you might find interesting: [The Prince] by Niccolo Machiavelli is the original article; Saul Alinsky's [Rules for Radicals] should be relevant to understanding OWS; Antonio Gramsci's [Prison Notebooks] outlines progressive bureaucratic incrementalism and the "long march through the institutions"; Mencius Moldbug's political writings [] offer a reactionary perspective; The Machiavellians [] by Robert Burnham is a lesser known classic of political science from the mid-20th century; and Public Opinion [] by Walter Lippmann discusses the interaction of journalism and democracy.

"do you think the Ivy League professor or the media mogul, regardless of what noises are making, really have it in their best interest something that corresponds to an idealised, rationally cleaned up version, of what OWSers really want? "

Of course not, which is where I think most of the difficulty in getting democratic systems to work comes in. It's hard to communicate the will of the majority effectively, and it's hard to tell on which points the leaders diverge sometimes. This ends up making bills that aren't what you want, and making them f... (read more)

Loosely. I'm only entirely in my area with math up to trig and medium-level calculus. I can sometimes feel my earwax burning as I stumble through the more complex QM stuff. I have a few textbooks on it I bought awhile back, and I'm thumbing through them trying to get more comfortable with it, and looking to the QM sequence as a more 'human' understanding of what's going on under it all.

Linear algebra is useful. Not necessarily on much advanced level, just notions of vector spaces, operators, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, commutativity of operators; this is the language of QM. Knowing this (and complex numbers, but that I assume you certainly know already) is enough to fully understand simplest QM systems described by observables attaining finite number of possible values. Unfortunately, this means spin, and spin can be very unintuitive for beginners because it has no exact classical counterpart (and the "partial" classical counterpart, angular momentum, is also not the easiest quantity to reason about). If you want to deal with observables with infinite (or even continuous) spectrum of values (which means position, momentum, energy), you have to know also a bit of calculus and basic differential equations, since you will have to upgrade the linear-algebra formalism to infinite-dimensional spaces, and vectors in such spaces are usually represented by functions. An important note: to understand QM on gut level you don't need to know the whole deduction tree of calculus or linear algebra. Linear algebra and especially calculus courses are usually taught as mathematics, the definition-theorem-lemma-proof style. This illustrates well the consistency and elegance of the mathematical discipline, but unless you want to investigate some more subtle problems of QM, much of that is useless for your goal. You certainly should have an intuitive idea about what integration is, but you don't need to worry about difference between Riemann and Lebesgue integral or between weak and strong convergence of operator series; you should be able to diagonalise a matrix, but don't worry about Jordan blocks or pseudo-inverses.

That is a damn good point, and I don't know if I can entirely counter it, because as far as I can tell it's pretty darn true. I do think that there are arguments that will work for some of the less hippie-esque protesters though, the ones who are there more because of economic issues rather than moral ones.

A major part of what drove the economic recession that lead to most all of the problems that these people are protesting was speculation on subprime mortgages. These are mortgages that are plain-to-see crappy to everyone. However, ratings agencies g... (read more)

A bit late to the party, but I wanted to point out that this is a very inaccurate view of how the subprime mortgage thing went down. I would know; I used to be a wire transfer auditor for a subprime correspondent loan company (Bear Stearns Mortgage, in fact.) I was also in a committed relationship for about ten years with a woman who worked as a loan coordinator. I ate, breathed, and slept mortgages for a sizable chunk of the window for which these things occurred. The thing is -- what the ratings agencies were ensuring wasn't the loans themselves, but the expected payout rate of the loans, when bundled into aggregate products. (I.e.; if 20% default each loan that doesn't default brings in 25% profit, then the aggregate is worth 5% more than its invested value. This is a VAST oversimplification.) It's worth noting that subprime loans were very often amortized in such a manner that the first few years of their existence, they were pure interest payments. People were sold on the notion of buying a house as a way to improve/repair their credit; spend five years on a subprime and then refinance into a better mortgage. The single most common loan product out there in many areas was a 5-year Option ARM. This was a mortgage that was termed for five years, with a balloon payment due at the end of the five years for the remainder of the note. It was designed to be refinanced away. So from the ratings' agencies perspective, these products were pure gold at the time. Of course, that was only true because the housing market kept going up -- but it was the genuine widespread belief of nearly everyone in the industry that housing prices could only keep going up. Homes were described as one of the best/easiest possible investments. ( It's also worth noting that some of this came down from Federal statutes coming out of the Clinton administration's push to increase homeownership in the US. The lending regulations were adjusted for political reasons and... well, we've all seen wh
I do not think you have really addressed Logos01's point, which I understand to be that the OWS folks are characterized by epistemic zeal for existing beliefs. Your strategy does not seem designed to alter that. Instead, you suggest starting by affirming a bedrock zeal-inducing belief, making sure it pisses them off, and then (somehow) getting them to apply the insight that admitting that they are wrong about a lot of things is one of the keys to becoming less so.

Agreed in full! On its own, changing the political discourse has only a short term effect. But it also serves to legitimize the protestors' viewpoints. Once you have serious discussion, you can start assembling voting blocs and existing candidates who do support your views (the progressive party seems a likely ally.) As the discussion grows more legitimate, and the voters grow more confident, your political allies gain more power. And they in turn can use that power to further spread the discussion.

You'd never have a big win, just lots of small wins, never taking a single leap of improbability too big to flip the whole thing over, until you're where you want to be.

This only works if you optimize for positive attention in media and academia. While I can see getting positive or very positive coverage from both, let me ask you, do you think the Ivy League professor or the media mogul, regardless of what noises they are making, really have it in their best interest something that corresponds to an idealised, rationally cleaned up version, of what OWSers really want? Even if the believe themselves to be pursuing something, what has LW taught us of self-deception and selection effects? This is essentially part of the theory behind why a democratic process, or at least modern parliamentary democracy, should work. It is here that I also think the failure point is. I think there are systemic issues with which opinions and programs can and which can not cascade in this fashion.

I'd not discount the movement's potential for change entirely. Consider the effect that the Tea Party has on politics right now. Are any of their candidates going to win? Probably not. But they have high priority advertising space in the political spectrum, and they can force ideas and discussion onto stage.

Likewise, while the Occupy movement probably won't reach even a tiny fraction of its goals, it most certainly will change the political discourse, and potentially upset a few elections.

I can agree that is plausible. Where I suspect we may disagree is that I am sceptical of democracy. I don't think upsetting or winning a few elections is something that amounts to meaningful or lasting societal change. Even political discourse, at least as it exists in the public sphere, might not matter much beyond the short term.

We should probably wait and see what kind of response this initial proposal gets over the course of a day or so, to see if there are people interested in discussing it further, and to see if there are potential actions to coordinate. After that, setting up an alternate forum is pretty easy (Maybe a community blog over on blogspot or something, or even just a facebook page would do)

As for advertising, I don't know... I'm very new to discussing things here on LW, I don't really know what does and doesn't work in drawing community attention.

Agreed, waiting for a larger response is a good idea, and might bring attention from people who do know how to advertise things. If that doesn't happen, I'd also be happy to discuss things in PMs or over e-mail or skype if you just want someone (rational?) to talk to and having a larger discussion seems unlikely.

Ah, I see what you're getting on about now (And yes, I did accidentally think you meant the post-modernist art style rather than the philosophy, sorry about that,)

I've been trying to figure out why philosophies like that tend to profuse in the left more than the right, actually. I've not come up with much yet, and I think that it may just be a Rattlers-v-Eagles type thing, where one party takes on a philosophy just to differentiate themselves from the other party.

So I think that this may just be a very good opportunity to help educate people out of those ... (read more)

I don't know what to say about "left" and "right" here -- I don't find those terms descriptive enough to be useful for analysis; they are more useful for branding -- but it seems almost definitionally true that the sorts of people who find a mode of thought that emphasizes deconstructing conventional beliefs appealing are more likely to identify as political or social progressives than as conservatives.
"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into." in the sense that it maps to free-floating beliefs [], was my first thought when reading this. But I think you are right about this. Maybe a small group of LW volunteers should try?
A fundamental value of the political left is multiculturalism and egalitarianism -- the notion that "everyone ought to be 'equal'": equal in personal value, equal in economic outcome, equal in productivity and talent, equal in rank. These simply aren't values of the right. And from that root extends the notion that all beliefs are "equal". In that sense, post-modernism is a 'core value' of the political left just as much as 'tradition' is a core value of the political right. ... The one thing protestors definitely have in common is the existence of strongly-held beliefs and/or opinions. They're not there to have their minds changed; they're there because they believe -- strongly -- that "the truth" is being ignored. That's not exactly a hotbed arena for rational discourse.

You're right, there are great big swaths of the Occupy movement that are too prone to becoming sides to take, or teams to cheer for, and would take far too much time and attention to unravel for the utility they'd provide. But I don't think the problem's entirely prohibitive, at least not all of its parts. Broad discussions on whether the protests' methods are moral, or whether their cause is just, those probably are too messy. But I think that problems that the protests bring up that we'd not see in normal day-to-day society, like the increasing militarization of police forces in the US of late, they could be useful discussions to have.

Post modernism most certainly, you can even see its artistic influences in some of the signs protesters are carrying.

I'm not familiar with post-rationalist opinions in the left though (or in general really.) Can you please provide me with a few examples/links?

The fundamental error here is assuming that I'm talking about two different things. This is, as it is an ongoing political phenomenon, a difficult topic to get concrete materials on but there have been instances of post-modern philosophers delivering speeches to OWS groups. Post-modernism, further, is definitely not an "artistic" phenomenon -- though there are classifications of art called post-modern. Post-modernism [] is a philosophical movement which rejects the notion of objective truths; holds that there is no "global meta-narrative". It is a common belief to post-modernists that "rationalism" is an Enlightenment term and as such is 'parochial, patriarchical, and fallacious'. This is where you get New Agers who say "Well that's just your opinion, man." This is a directly antithetical view to notions Eliezer has expressed in the hoary past. Have you read The Simple Truth []?

I mean that I shouldn't have snarked back like that using that language, it was immature. Sorry about that.

... Wow I seem to be getting a lot of downvotes.

I joined the BayAreaLessWrong group, but had to move out of the bay area shortly after, and right now I'm way out in the rurals, a long way from any of the meetups. I also imagine that there are a lot of LW readers in similar situations, or who can't regularly attend their local meetup for some reason. Therefore I think if we move the discussion out of LW, it should be to an online forum (easier to do international comparison and organization that way too.)

At the same time, we want to make sure that the LW community at large knows that conversation is happening, so we'd have to advertise the link to that thread/forum pretty well. And extend it to other rationalist communities if we can.

I agree that restricting these things to meetups is overly prohibitive. I agree that getting the community informed about a different forum for these topics is a difficult logistics problem. I do still think that turning Less Wrong's attention to these kinds of emotional and political problems is likely to damage having a peaceful place to simply try to learn to be rational without distractions. So that leaves us with a difficult logistics problem... but difficult is not the same as unsolvable. If you are interested in creating or finding a forum that would be appropriate for political topics, especially concerning taking actual real world actions and coordination, I would be happy to participate or even to help writing material or researching links to get some things going.

Yeah I realized that myself shortly after writing it, mostly the 'blind monkey' bit.

What do you mean here? You're not the one who wrote that comment.
I wouldn't be so quick to make that assumption. There's a strong "post-modernism" "post-rationalism" bent amongst the political-left -- and based on the published "demands lists" the OWS-esque groups are reliably well on the political-left.

Actually, a lot of the movements have addressed the political source of the problems. Some of them locally (A lot of Occupy Oakland's rhetoric has been against the decisions of the city trade council and its mayor) some of them more universally (occupyDC has drafted a deficit/jobs bill in rough, and is currently petitioning and protesting to get it through, )

And the squawking itself also serves a purpose. Because a blind monkey sees a lot better than the legislative bodies of most modern nations, if the rhetoric and bills and such are any indication. Sometimes you do have to create a lot of noise to draw attention to a problem.

This statement in itself deserves an up vote.

Oh I've already gone past and read Metaethics and the stuff past it. I just keep coming back to QM because I don't understand it, and I'd very much like to. Partially because I'm interested in how the world works, partially because I just don't like that I don't understand it.

Do you understand QM (the mathematical formalism, how to make predictions etc.)? If not, the QM sequence is not the right text to learn it.
You can read it for fun (it is fun to read), but it's the most controversial one and it teaches you little about rationality. The whole thing has maybe one equation, and if you think you can understand QM without the relevant math, your critical thinking is not up to par. Basically, Harry's musings in MoR on partial transfiguration cover the essence of EY's views on QM, if you discard the many worlds advocacy.

It's not exactly a textbook series, but I've found the videos at khan academy to be really helpful with getting the basics of a lot of things. The most advanced math it covers is calculus, which will get you a long way, and the language of the videos is always simple and straightforward.

... Guess I need to recommend it against other video series, to keep to the rules here.

I do recommend watching the stanford lecture videos , but I recommend Khan over them fo... (read more)

I think the community that I grew up in might have something that can be looked into as a sort of semi-example. I grew up in a rural town, and it had no shortage of religiosity, but most community events didn't happen at the churches. There were weekly sermons sure, but marriages, town hall meetings, debates, just about any big event would happen at our Grange hall .

( , it's basically freemasonry for farmers)

The grange serves as sort of a meta-communal arranger of all th... (read more)

Just a (very primitive) version of Space Hulk I made in school and a metroid-vania style platformer that never reached completion before the team split. I'm still building up a website for myself and a couple of my fellow designers ( that I'll post them to as soon as I can.

Not much I know, but I literally just graduated at the end of February. Still hunting for that first job where I can really make a name for myself.

Hi there everyone, I'm a programmer by trade and a video game maker by inclination. I first ran across Less Wrong while random-walking through tvtropes. I read a little of it, found it daunting but fascinating, and it... sat in my bookmarks for about a year after that.

Later, I random-walked upon Harry Potter atMoR, and it rekindled my interest. I'd read a chapter, get on lesswrong, and try and find all the tricks that harry (or other characters) used for that chapter. It was still slow going, because I wanted not just to read the material, but to abs... (read more)

Welcome! 'nother Programmer here, and game maker too (I think there are a few of us here). D'you have any nice games to show?

Hi there, nice to know I'm not the only one absolutely new and quaking in my slippers here.

I don't think you're quite making the mistake of believing in belief. I can't model your brain accurately just by reading a few paragraphs of course, but you don't seem to show much flinching-away from admitting the judeo-christian god and the catholic interpretation of it is wrong. I think you're more identifying the religion of your family and peers as your 'group' (tribe, nation, whatever wording you prefer) and shying away from dropping it as part of your ide... (read more)

Experimental and Organizational tests seem to be the most important test types here; if the students and methods are able to show they're capable, and are measurably better than the students of another craft, then their school is obviously doing something better than other schools anyway, no Reputational test needed. So I'll concentrate on those.

What do we need for an experimental test? We need a way of comparing the strengths of students and ideas, to see which are stronger. The problem here is that there's not really a standard unit of rationality. I... (read more)