Terminological point: I don't think you can properly describe your hypothetical rationalist in Stalinist Russia as "paranoid". His belief that he is surrounded by what amounts to a conspiracy out to subjugate and destroy him is neither fixated nor delusional; it is quite correct, even if many of the conspiracy's members would choose to defect from it if they believed they could do so without endangering themselves.
I also note that my experience of living in the US since around 2014 has been quite similar in kind, if not yet in degree. I pick ou... (read more)
Endorsed. A lot of this article is strongly similar to an unfinished draft of mine about how to achieve breakthroughs on unsolved problems.
I'm not ready to publish the entire draft yet, but I will add one effective heuristic. When tackling an unsolved problem, try to model how other people are likely to have attacked it and then avoid those approaches. If they worked, someone else would probably have achieved success with them before you came along.
To be fair, I haven't followed Less Wrong all that closely over the years. It's more that I've known some of the key people for a while, notably Eliezer himself and Scott Alexander.
It seems to me that you've been taking your model of predictivism from people who need to read some Kripke. In Peirce's predictivism, to assert that a statement is meaningful is precisely to assert that you have a truth condition for it, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have the capability to test the condition.
Consider Russell's teapot. "A teapot orbits between Earth and Mars" is a truth claim that must unambiguously have a true or false value. There is a truth condition on on it; if you build sufficiently powerful telescopes and pe... (read more)
Eliezer was more influenced by probability theory, I by analytic philosophy, yes. These variations are to be expected. I'm reading Jaynes now and finding him quite wonderful. I was a mathematician at one time, so that book is almost comfort food for me - part of the fun is running across old friends expressed in his slightly eccentric language.
I already had a pretty firm grasp on Feynman's "first-principles approach to reasoning" by the time I read his autobiographical stuff. So I enjoyed the books a lot, but more along the lines of... (read more)
I have run across Bucky Fuller of course. Often brilliant, occasionally cranky, geodesic domes turned out to suck because you can't seal all those joints well enough. We could use more like him.
Great Mambo Chicken and Engines of Creation were in my reference list for a while, until I decided to cull the list for more direct relevance to systems of training for rationality. It was threatening to get unmanageably long otherwise.
I didn't know there was a biography of Korzybski. Thanks!
"Galaxies continue to exist after the expanding universe carries them over the horizon of observation from us" trivially unpacks to "If we had methods to make observations outside our light cone, we would pick up the signatures that galaxies after the expanding universe has carried them over the horizon of observation from us defined by c."
You say "Any meaningful belief has a truth-condition". This is exactly Peirce's 1878 insight about the meaning of truth claims, expressed in slightly different language - after all, your "truth-conditio... (read more)
I reiterate the galaxy example; saying that you could counterfactually make an observation by violating physical law is not the same as saying that something's meaning cashes out to anticipated experiences. Consider the (exact) analogy between believing that galaxies exist after they go over the horizon, and that other quantum worlds go on existing after we decohere them away from us by observing ourselves being inside only one of them. Predictivism is exactly the sort of ground on which some people have tried to claim that MWI isn't meaningful... (read more)
The reference to the Book of the Law was intentional. The reference to chaos magic was not, as that concept had yet to be formulated when I wrote the essay - at least, not out where I could see it.
I myself do not use psychoactives for magical purposes; I've never found it necessary and consider them a rather blunt and chancy instrument. I do occasionally take armodafinil for the nootropic effect, but that is very recent and long postdates the essay.
Probably, but there is something else more subtle.
Both the cultures you're pointing at are, essentially, engines to support achieving right mindset. It's not quite the same right mindset, but in either case you have to detach for "normal" thinking and its unquestioned assumptions in order to be efficient at the task around which the culture is focused.
Thus, in both cultures there's a kind of implicit mysticism. If you recoil from that word because you associate it with anti-rationality I can't really blame you, but I ask you to consider the idea of m... (read more)
I think a collection of examples and analysis would be a post in itself.
But I can give you one suggestive example from Twelve Virtues itself: "If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it."
It is a Zen idea that the essence of enlightenment cannot be discovered by talking about enlightenment; rather one must put one's mind in the state where enlightenment is. Moreover, talk and chatter - even about Zen itself - drives that state away.
Eliezer is trying to say here that the the center of rationalist practice is not in what you know about rati... (read more)
I actually wouldn't call Zen a "central theme". More "a recurring rhetorical device". It's not Zen Buddhist content that the Sequences use, it's the emulation of Zen rhetoric as a device to subtly shift the reader's mental stance.
I described myself as a subject-matter expert in epistemology. That means I'm familiar with the branch of philosophy that considers the maintenance and justification of knowledge. and considers different theories of same.
Since you're using the name 'metatroll', I think I'll leave it at that.
I know who Deutsch is, and I'd never even heard that he had a movement around him.
Which is relevant. I've had my ear to the ground for interesting rationality training since, oh, 1975 or so, and I definitely run in the right circles to pick up rumors of stuff like this. The fact that your report is my first sign for that crew is from my POV pretty good evidence that its impact was very, very low.
I also question some of your other premises. Speaking as a person who approaches the Yudkowskian reform from a perspective formed by a previous r... (read more)
There's a technical problem. My blog is currently frozen due to a stuck database server; I'm trying to rehost it. But I agree to your plan in principle and will discuss it with you when the blog is back up.
Heh. Come to think of it from that angle, "a bit true, but not really" would have been exactly my assessment if I were in your shoes. Thanks, I appreciate the nuanced judgment.
Since you've mentioned Rootless Root, I will say that there is another essay I am now thinking of writing about the playful use of Zen tropes. The rationalist community and the hacker culture both have strong traditions of this sort of play...but, the functional reasons for the tradition are not the same! And the way they differ is interesting.
That's enough of a teaser for now. :-)
I don't really have an interesting answer, I'm afraid. Busy life, lots of other things to pay attention to, never got around to it before.
Now that I've got the idea, I may re-post some rationality-adjacent stuff from my personal blog here so the LW crowd can know it exists.
The way I have set this up for writers in the past has been to setup crossposting from an RSS feed under a tag (e.g. crossposting all posts tagged 'lesswrong').
I spent a minute trying and failed to figure out how to make an RSS feed from your blog under a single category. But if you have such an rss feed, and you make a category like 'lesswrong' then I'll set up a simple crosspost, and hopefully save you a little time in expectation. This will work if you add the category old posts as well as new ones.
Author of "Dancing with the Gods" checks in.
First, to confirm that you have correctly understood the points I was trying to make. I intended "Dancing with the Gods" to be a rationalist essay, in the strictest Yudkowskian-reformation sense of the term "rationalist", even though the beginnings of the reformation were seven years in the future when I wrote it.
<insert timeless-decision-theory joke here>
Second, that I 100% agree with your analysis of why "Meditations on Moloch" was important.
Third and most importantly, to say that I like your use of... (read more)
You have an outside view of my writing, so I'm curious. On a scale of 0 = "But of course" to 5 = "Wow, that was out of left field", how surprising did you find it that I would write this essay?
If you can find anything more specific to say along these lines (why it's surprising/unsurprising) I would find that interesting.
I was slightly surprised, mostly because I had the expectation that if you've known about LW for a while, then I would have thought that you'd end up contributing either early or not at all. Curious what caused it to happen in 2021 in particular.
Ironically, I disagree a bit with lukeprog here - one of the few flaws I think I detect in the Sequences is due to Eliezer not having read enough philosophy. He does arrive at a predictivist theory of confirmation eventually, but it takes more effort and gear-grinding than it would have if he had understood Peirce's 1878 demonstration and expressed it in clearer language.
Ah well. It's a minor flaw.
Essay is up.
Alas, I can't give you a sweeping history of a bunch of movements and factions. The last group really comparable to today's rationalist movement was the community around Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics. My essay will talk about them.
What is now being mulled over by my beta readers is somewhat more personal and depends on the premise that my experience was representative of a lot of 20th-century proto-rationalists, including in particular Eliezer. Fortunately I don't have to handwave this; there's reasonably good evidence that it's true, some of which is indicated in the essay itself.
I have a draft I'm fairly pleased with. Has gone out to some beta readers.
Now I'm laughing, because looking through those explicit lists I am finding pretty much all of the two dozen or so sources I expected to find based on various hints and callbacks. Almost all of them books very familiar to me as well.
Yes, this essay is going to be fun to write.
Broader history, focusing on certain important developments in the 20th century.
I actually have not seen such a bibliography, though I could infer a lot from his language choices in essays like Twelve Virtues. Can you share a pointer to his list of forerunners?
I don't expect there is much on it that will surprise me, but I would very much like to read it nevertheless.
I agree that the distinction you pose is important. Or should be. I remember when we could rely on it more than we can today.
Unfortunately, one of the tactics of people gaming against freedom is to deliberately expand the definition of "interpersonal attack" in order to suppress ideas they dislike. We have reached the point where, for example:
I'm considering writing, as a first post, a reflection on "Rationality Before The Sequences": some history on what the public project of less-wrongness looked like before Eliezer's heroic attempt at systematization.
This is a probe to discover if there would be significant interest in such an essay.
I remember David Stove's What Is Wrong With Our Thoughts (1991) being discussed on early-LW, and being influenced by it. I don't really know whether this was an outlier-unusually-good essay, or the tip of an iceberg of good pre-LW less-wrongness.
I agree with the reasoning in this essay.
Taken a bit further, however, it explains why valuing "safety" is extremely dangerous - so dangerous that, in fact, online communities should consciously reject it as a goal.
The problem is that when you make "safety" a goal, you run a very high risk of handing control of your community to the loudest and most insistent performers of offendedness and indignation.
This failure mode might be manageable if the erosion of freedom by safetyism were still merely an accidental and universally regretted effect of trying... (read more)
I think this is utterly horrible advice.
I have blogged a detailed response at Against modesty, and for the Fischer set.