All of Gray's Comments + Replies

The world is unfair and poor, and not everything is actually possible for everyone, even though a lot more is possible than people may expect. People shouldn't need to deceive themselves about the extent of what's possible, to do what is possible.

Upvoted for this. In fact, someone should right a post about this, to stamp out some of the almost naive optimism found elsewhere on the site.

The prefix 'meta' is incredibly overused...just saying.


You're right. Interpreting that text as meaning that God wants paperclips to multiply and have dominion over the earth is incredibly self-serving.

This is basically the same thing as the noble lie that Plato discussed in The Republic.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." King James Version, Genesis 1:28

Wait, God was talking about paperclips, right?

That is a rather hasty inference on your part. The passage is encouraging humans, not paperclips, to multiply.

One should not simply take a random passage from an ancient text and retroactively infuse it with self-serving meaning that violates the obvious historical and literary context.

Because that would be stupid -- not the kind of thing I'd expect humans to fall for.

Personally, I don't have any problem with religious people. I know there's a sequence that makes the claim that "atheism = untheism + anti-theism", but I guess that has never been my interpretation, otherwise I'm an untheist. And I'll defend religious people from skeptical attacks when they are stupid, or perhaps not skeptical enough. own opinion, I don't want rationalism to become Christianity without the mythology, it's not the mythology that I object to. I object to the servility, and the docility (this was once considered a virtue ... (read more)

The LDS Church is different enough that much of Christianity does not consider us to be Christian. We believe that most of the history of Christianity occurred in a state of apostasy, or not according to the truth that is in God. Therefore we reject almost all of Christian theology as commonly understood and have the claim to have again the revealed word of God. We flat out claim to be "the only true and living church" on the earth and believe that all others are in some state of being wrong. I am sure having a belief in Christ and some knowledge of the Bible would help one to understand LDS theology. However, in many ways it is easier to understand by ignoring all other Jewish and Christian theology as it is quite different.

Djikstra said that computer science is as much about computers as astronomy is about telescopes, so it shouldn't be surprising that things like algorithms and data structures has relevance to even mundane reality. I think one way I look at myself is an extremely small and limited computer. On the fly, my brain is slow at performing operations, I have a hard time recalling information, and I do so with limited accuracy. Sometimes I make mistakes while performing operations.

So what are we doing when we try to organize ourselves and make plans but trying t... (read more)

I don't know if this makes sense to anyone else, but one thing that I've started that seems to be useful to me is to write down a bunch of notes about the topic before, and while, researching. I think part of this is because I've become used to criticism, and I find I can criticize my own thoughts better after I have written them down, or while I'm writing them down. I just use a blank text editor (using org-mode) for this. It is also helpful dumping whatever preconceptions I might have about the subject matter, before I know what to search for. It als... (read more)

Just so you know, what you're advocating for LW are practices that have helped Christianity become a dominant and universalizing religion. Christians want everyone to be a Christian, that's basic to Christianity. Does, lets call it "rationalism", want everyone to be a rationalist? I guess that's a good question, and should be asked.

But lets also be mindful about how Christianity tries to attain a universal status:

"a strong focus on strengthening the family"

It is key that Christianity spreads within the family, and importantly, throug... (read more)

I think many proponents of rationalism do, judging by the popularity of the phrase "raising the sanity waterline" around the site. However, I also notice that LW is not as expansion-focused in its practical actions as its closest neighbor, the skeptical movement. I've heard some people express a fear that we might end up with forever-early rationalists who learn just enough to be dangerous and stop there, and later we end up having to correct the public misperceptions they generate. My personal view: I think spreading rationalism is good, but that we are best off focusing on people who are already primed for it, such as those who are already very into skepticism or science and are looking for something hardcore to sit at the center of those interests.

Hmm? Thomas Bayes was a Presbyterian minister, C. S. Peirce was Catholic and Newton was an unorthodox Christian described as "highly religious". I'd be more interested in seeing a list of esteemed rationalists who were not religious compared to such a list that were religious. In any case, it is pretty clear that it is possible to hold rationality and religion in your head at the same time. This is basically how most people operate.

While I think there exists a level at which mainstream religious faith is inimical to epistemic rationality, I also think it's most likely a pretty advanced level, higher than most if not all of the regulars here have attained. (Note however that people can and do give up religion on grounds of rationality before hitting that level.) It's certainly possible to make substantial contributions to the advancement of human rationality in its present state while also being a theist, and that was still truer a few hundred years ago when the foundations of the art were being laid. That being said, there's also a distinction to be made between esteemed rationalists and esteemed scientists or mathematicians whose work contributed indirectly to LW-method rationality. Of the people that worked on the early foundations of statistics, Laplace is the only one I can think of offhand that strikes me as having had strong public commitments to rationality in this site's usual sense.
More generally, "In any case, it is pretty clear that it is possible to hold rationality and irrationality in your head at the same time. This is basically how most people operate." I'm no more surprised to hear about a religious rationalist than I am when I notice yet another of my own irrational beliefs or practices.
People who solved math problems useful for rationality but espoused false beliefs would not qualify as "esteemed rationalists" in my book. (Robert Aumann belongs on this list, by the way.)
He must be talking about LW-style rationality or X-rationality as distinguished from traditional rationality. And learning about X-rationality has been known to deconvert people on whom the traditional rationality -based arguments of Dawkins and skeptics didn't work. And then there are additional arguments for why X-rationality is the real thing and deserves to be called just rationality.

Great post. With respect to your final statement, I was wondering if using the results of your research to contribute to Wikipedia isn't the obvious thing to do? Not speaking to you specifically, lukeprog, but concerning the general topic.

Also, it would be interesting if your post here inspires other people here to also pursue similar research enterprises, which makes me think that this will involve a lot of duplicated effort. This is against efficiency, which makes me wonder if there's a good place for people to correspond when they are involved in similar research topics. But then I think the answer to this is also Wikipedia.

Good suggestion. Added.

Adding to the tangent, in my opinion, the concepts of scholastic philosophy are actually incredibly useful for rationality in general. They usually end up being logic terms, and they are employed well outside of their concept even in modern works. A lot of times, for example, when you read an argument and understand there is something wrong with the argument, but have a hard time putting your finger on what is wrong with the argument, there's typically some scholastic term that will nail it for you. The scholastics were incredibly subtle, and are typica... (read more)

Not really. Something "can be done" if some possible being, which may not be actual, can perform it. If there's a 500 pound barbell in front of me, and I can't lift it, this doesn't mean that the barbell can't be lifted, only that I can't lift it. If you're omnipotent, then you can lift it.

I guess I've always understood omnipotence as being so powerful that no possible being can be more powerful than you are.

With a lever, and a place to stand, you can lift the barbell. Defining omnipotence in respect to all possible beings seems more like "suprapotent" or "ultrapotent". How is this the actual meaning of "omnipotence" and how does it relate to "a descriptor who's actual meaning makes an argument self-evidently bad, but which is sound if you do really think about it" I'd taboo "actual" and "really".

Yep, that's what I'm looking for doing at the moment. There are places around here for around $400/month; but first I'm trying to find a place with a somewhat higher wage.

Thanks for your reply, and I think right now I would be a much better student than I was eight years ago, when I was twenty. Either I'll go back to college or, if I can't manage the funding, I'll try a more disciplined self-study approach. Not giving up.

I guess I never tried this. It would be weird though. How do I message another guy, for instance, without that guy thinking that I'm hitting on him?

Well, how do you message a woman without that woman thinking you're hitting on her? I suspect many of the same techniques would apply.
Include the phrase "no homo" somewhere in the message. Actually, I've both messaged and been messaged by guys on OKC, and as far as I know, neither of us thought there was anything romantic going on.

Yeah, I've checked out before. Good idea, by the way, there is an atheist group near here, but their activity seems to have died off, and there only seems to be a few people who are active. But this is a good reminder to look into it further.

Just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, however, one of the most active groups local around here seems to be the Tea Party Patriots.

Toledo also has a democratic party, believe it or not. You could maybe get involved with them, if you find the left more appealing.
Keep an open mind, you might be surprised. There might be a few thoughtful libertarians there just because its a focal point for people of that persuasion. If you're in a low activity area, that might mean that you have to take more initiative and be more of a leader/organizer in making things happen. Create your own Rationalist community [] :)

I'm already on OKCupid, and I have been messaging someone on there. But I was more interested in looking for friends or even just intellectually interesting acquaintances. Doesn't have to be single or of the opposite sex :)

OKC is also not bad for this! I know lots of people who have made friends from the site, though I haven't personally.
OKC is probably not a good venue for making friends since that's not what most people signing up for it primarily intend. The context of interaction is tainted with romance.

I'm the same age, and in a similar situation to you. I'm not self-reliant yet, but I'm living in my grandfather's house who recently passed away, so now I'm going through the transition process of living on my own. My problem is trying to find a job and an apartment where I can sustain myself. This seems to be impossible without a college degree.

For several years I was working entry-level jobs (retail; telephone tech support) and living by myself. The "trick" was that I shopped around for a place with low rent. (This may be harder where you live. I'm in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.) Right now I'm a computer programmer, despite not having any degree. Good luck (and sorry about your grandfather).

I think you're technically correct, but especially on the internet, the term "awesome" has been used more and more loosely such that it nearly does have the super-general meaning that STL is talking about. To say that X is awesome is usually just a strong, emphatic way of saying that "I like X".

And that's what morality always was in the first place. It's a way of getting other people to do otherwise than what they wanted to do. No one would be convinced by "I don't want you to kill people", but if you can convince someone that "It is wrong to kill people", then you've created conflict in that person's desires.

I wonder, in the end, if people here truly want to "be rational" about morality. Myself, I'm not rational about morality, I go along with it. I don't critique it in my personal life. For instance, I refuse ... (read more)

That's one of the things morality has been, and it could indeed be the main thing, but my point above is it all depends on what the person means. Even though getting other people to do something might be the main and most important role of moral language historically, it only invites confusion to overgeneralize here - though I know how tempting it is to simplify all this ethical nonsense floating around in one fell swoop. Some people do simply use "ought" to mean, "It is in your best interest to," without any desire to get the person to do something. Some people mean "God would disapprove," and maybe they really don't care if that makes you refrain from doing it or not, but they're just letting you know. These little counterexamples ruin the generalization, then we're back to square one. I think the only way to really simplify ethics is to acknowledge that people mean all sorts of things by it, and let each person - if anyone cares - explain what they intended in each case. No, scratch that. The reason ethics is so confused is precisely because people have tried to simplify a whole bunch of disparate-but-somewhat-interrelated notions into a single type of phrasing. A full explanation of everything that is called "ethics" would require examination of religion, politics, sociology, psychology, and much more. For most things that we think we want ethics for, such as AI, instead of trying to figure out that complex of sundry notions shoehorned into the category of ethics, I think we'd be better off just assiduously hugging the query [] for each question we want to answer about how to get the results we want in the "moral" sphere (things that hit on your moral emotions, like empathy, indignation, etc.). Mostly I'm interested in this series of posts for the promise it presents for doing away with most of the confusion generated by wordplay such as "objective ethics," which I consider to be just an artifact of language.
This is a widespread but mistaken theory of morality. After all, we don't - and can't - convincingly say that just any old thing is "wrong". Here, I'll alternate between saying that actually wrong things are wrong, and saying that random things that you don't want are wrong. Actually wrong: "it's wrong to kill people." Yup, it is. You just don't want it: "it's wrong for you to arrest me just because I stabbed this innocent bystander to death." Yeah, right. Actually wrong: "it's wrong to mug people." No kidding. You just don't want it: "it's wrong for you to lock your door when you leave the house, because it's wrong for you to do anything to prevent me from coming into your house and taking everything you own to sell on the black market". Not convincing. If there were nothing more to things being wrong than that you use the word "wrong" to get people to do things, then there would be no difference between these four attempts to get people to do something. But there is: in the first and third case, the claim that the action is wrong is true (and therefore makes a convincing argument). In the second and fourth case, the claim is false (and therefore makes for an unconvincing argument). Sure, you can use the word "wrong" to get people to do things that you want them to do, but you can use a lot of words for that. For example, if you're somebody's mother and you want them to avoid driving when they're very sleepy, you can tell them that it's "dangerous" to drive in that condition. But as with the word "wrong", you can't use the word "dangerous" for just any situation, because it's not true in just any situation. When a proposed action is really dangerous - or really wrong - then you can use that fact to convince them not to pursue that action. But it's still a fact, independent of whether you use it to get other people to do things you want.
I've read Nietzsche, and I'm an ethicist of sorts, and I think Nietzsche is not a prerequisite for understanding either normative ethics or metaethics.
I reject your appeal to authority or sophistication. I also suggest you are confused about what discussion of metaethics entails. The 'meta' implies that the discussions of ethics can be separated entirely from normative moralizing and be engaged with as a purely epistemic challenge. This is not to say that people don't throw their own moralizing into the conversation incessantly but that is a mix of confusion and bias on the part of the individual and not intrinsic to the subject. It is useful to be able to describe precisely what people mean when they make ethical judgments and even what the associated words mean and how they relate to intuitions.

I somewhat relate to his comment, and for me it's because of how much persona, holding myself back, and not letting myself go it requires to be accepted by others. When, and if, it actually does work, it feels like here all I was trying to do was be a nice guy, and now the ruse worked? Now it's like you've committed yourself to it.

Let the people suppose that knowledge means knowing things entirely; the philosopher must say to himself: When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, "I think," I find a whole series of daring assertions that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to prove; for example that it is I who think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an "ego," and, finally, that it is already determined what

... (read more)

I agree entirely. I hate the idea that "rationality" is being identified with the way your dress and compose yourself. Also, I know there's a sequence post somewhere that basically says that being rational doesn't mean being dispassionate.

Perhaps you're thinking of Feeling Rational [], one of my personal favorites.

Maybe it would be useful to show a frequency score (karma points per week/day) on the main page next to your username, rather than your overall score. You can still get your overall score on your profile page.

I know you guys are all well-credentialed, pretty solidly middle class people; but I was wondering, what would be the rational thing to do for someone without any sort of educational credentials, and doesn't make a high wage? At what income does "investment" begin to make sense, lets say if you're upper lower class or lower middle class?

The relevant factor isn't income, it's assets. It's bad to have 20kUSD and no other investments, no matter what your income. On the other hand, in practice lower- or lower-middle class typically means having small or negative monetary assets. In that case, buying securities at all is probably a bad idea. First of all, there's a research, setup and monitoring overhead to any such investment, and that overhead isn't worth it if the amount you have to invest is too small. And second, the really high-return investments aren't securities at all, they're purchases of things that make your life better, save time, or help build marketable skills; and the less money you have the less likely it is that you've hit diminishing returns on those sorts of investments.

That's a good point, which means that heat is too general to function as the hypostatic object. I would guess that it's a particular way in which heat is applied. The heat has to be applied to the surface, and it has to be transmitted through the air. And, at least relative the reflexes of the cook, the temperature can't be too high.

Makes you wonder if a marshmallow can be toasted with a hair dryer :D

Marshmallow Update (sorry for the lateness): I tried with a relatively weaker hairdryer and, while it didn't toast brown, the marshmallow did have a outside, crispier layer with a gooey inside, and tasted very good. I'll be trying with a stronger hair dryer on Friday, seeing if browning is possible.
Don't forget the kiln. My metal smithing instructor made some killer peeps (I normally dislike peeps) in a kiln.

Makes you wonder if a marshmallow can be toasted with a hair dryer :D

Challenge accepted; if I get my hands on both materials, I'll do it this weekend. I don't know if I can take a video, though, so my word may have to be trusted when I answer.

Update: Comment here

I think I see where you're going with this, but to be more analytical than you intended, the answer to one of your questions is hypostatic abstraction. It's an immediate (and therefore deductive) logical inference that, in this case, goes like this:

  1. You can toast marshmallows with an open flame.
  2. There is some means/power/virtue/relationship by which you can toasts marshmallows with an open flame.

This relationship inferred is called the hypostatic object. It's a deductive inference, so if it seems like this hasn't actually added any information, you're... (read more)

Not all heating methods would satisfactorily toast marshmallows. The microwave makes them blow up and boiling them would dissolve them. So merely being consciously aware that heat is involved in the roasting wouldn't be enough to make me think that not only one specific type of heat would do.

I don't think that it is "old way" versus "new way"; but it seems clear to me that someone has to know the recipe. If you buy a pre-made can of mushroom soup, obviously the manufacturer must have used the recipe. And then there's the issue if none of the brands of mushroom soup are of adequate quality for your purposes.

It's like the difference between a programmer writing his own routines or using a pre-packaged library. I think, in order to be considered a competent programmer, you should be able to write your own routines, even if you don't have to in the majority of cases. A cookbook is open source for food. "Buy 3 cans of Kraft spaghetti sauce" is cheating.

So is canned soup with excess sodium the culinary equivalent of a pre-packaged routine library with bad built-in assumptions?

I gotta admit that he has a point. I don't know that published studies should be the only way of producing rationalist self-help; I think the way is open for sound DIY empirical studies (but hasty generalization is an inductive fallacy). But look at it this way--you can imagine a lot of really bad advice being given front page status, and the problem is that there is no threshold, no point at which enough is enough.

I think your post is interesting as an abduction instead, and should probably be in the discussion pages. This should be a way of describing... (read more)

It's like falling and missing the ground. Happens all the time. For some reason people don't let me borrow their computers anymore.

I was going to ask where the constant for the exponent came from, but with a calculator and the Wikipedia page on exponentiation, I figured it out myself. This site is good for me.

I think a lot of learned blankness comes about because of fear of being wrong, or more correctly, fear of someone else blaming them for being wrong. In certain social strata, you aren't supposed to think about a problem, or let others know you're thinking about a problem, unless it is your job to think about it. If you think about a problem, and get it wrong, then you are irresponsible for not going to an expert with the problem.

So that's where learned blankness gets it's traction, in my opinion, and this is the reason why you'll find people spending an ... (read more)

Most people I've known who have a "learned blankness" about computers are genuinely scared that they'll cause significantly more damage than the expert charges - usually they're worried they'll basically destroy their computer beyond salvaging, which is probably a good $1,000 - $2,000. For myself, I had a "learned blankness" about languages, because my only source of education was school, and each failed language class seriously hurt my GPA. Now that I have a friend teaching me a bit of Chinese, and am home-studying on sign language, I'm finding it much easier. I'd expect a lot of these quite possibly start as a fear of genuinely reasonable consequences. Your example strikes me as a definite subset of this, of course :)
I tend to assume that I'm going to make a mistake, especially with new things. It doesn't help fix them, but at least I'm not surprised when it blows up in my face. Once I'm comfortable with it I assume less failure until it fails, usually in the perfect way to make me look totally foolish. Somehow the really bad failures seem to happen after I brag about them. I brag a lot less now, but that hasn't stopped them either. Meh. Edit - please disregard this post

I think what you say is plausible. But I also think that it is also plausible that a "likable impression" isn't just an appearance, but the effect of you actually starting to like the guy. I think that's the sort of thing that concerns me, that at a certain point our social instincts take over and we lose the ability to detach ourselves from the situation.

That's a valid point. Women who have read about the pickup artist techniques report that the techniques still work on them even when they're aware the person is using them. On the other hand, SWIM says that being aware of various techniques has helped him guard against HR methods on the basis of "Oh, now he's moving into stage x, next he's going to...". SWIM would say that it depends to what degree you're predisposed against the person using them. Be aware that some techinques are more obvious than others. Some are really obvious when you know they exist, but also really obscure, so you won't know they're being used unless you've read about it before.

I wonder about this idea that knowing how someone will be manipulating you is any defense at all from being manipulated by that person. It sounds plausible, but is there any evidence at all that knowledge can have this affect?

Or is knowledge not wholly intellectual, and can be considered a species of manipulation, but not manipulation of the dark arts variety. Maybe even "light arts manipulation"? Sorry, had to throw this last paragraph in there because I thought it was interesting.

Interesting. My intuition and experience say this is screamingly, overtly incorrect. The fact that yours do not means I'm probably wrong - either about the 'overtly' or the 'incorrect'!
Compare "I've only known this guy for half an hour, but he seems really likable" and "I've only known this guy for half an hour, he's been running through the tricks from the cult salesman playbook and is giving off a real likable impression at this point". You still need to have your own head game in order to actually counteract the subconscious impressions you are getting, but it will probably help to know that a contest is even happening.

Thanks for your post, but this is the first time I've heard of what sounds like practical mind-hacking at all. Where's the good mind-hacking stuff? I mean, the page you link to make it sounds like all of this brainwashing/mind manipulation stuff is standard understanding, but is it only standard in the dark arts sense, or is there a more general understanding about this sort of thing that can be used for good as well as for evil?

Robert Cialdini []'s Influence is a good read. Cialdini emphasizes influencing people by using behavioral reflexes (like reciprocity, recognizing authority etc.) and how to defend oneself against it. Then, some of the pop-psy books on irrationality give good insights - I particularly liked Dan Ariely []'s writings, and Chabris/Simons' The Invisible Gorilla [] -- but of course they are primarily about pointing out bugs in our mental wetware rather than 'hacking' it. Anyhow, beware Sturgeon's Law.
I haven't read it yet myself, but I'd suggest that "Mind Hacks" is likely your best bet: []
I don't have a list to hand, but you are absolutely right to flag the need for one. There are various posts on LessWrong which talk about little hacks you can do, accounting for your biases, to achieve results such as getting more stuff done better (beating akrasia). Someone (i.e., probably not me) really needs to compile a list and put it on the wiki.

Hmm. If "the wife of John" is the null set, it seems false, rather than meaningless, to predicate "red hair" on the null set.

But "the wife of John" doesn't denote the null set. It denotes the unique member of the null set. I'm sticking with "meaningless".

Looking at some of this, I wonder if people are biased towards thinking that the more concrete statement is more likely? Somehow, in my mind, "feminist" is more abstract than "feminist book keeper". The latter seems closer to being a person, whereas the former seems to be closer to a concept. The more descriptive you are about a subject, the more concrete it sounds, and thus the more likely it is, because it sounds closer to reality. The less descriptive, the more abstract it sounds, and therefore the less likely it is, because it s... (read more)

Not a big fan of this. Seems like you could replace the word "think" with many different adjectives, and it would sound good or bad depending on whether I think the adjective agrees with what I consider my virtue. For instance, replace "think" with "exercise", and I would like if I'm a regular exerciser, but if I'm not I'd wonder why I would want to waste my life exercising.

The cognitive faculties are what makes humans distinct from other species, not any particular proclivity for exercise or any other such feats. A person refusing to think is like a fish refusing to swim. Furthermore, we often benefit from these faculties even when pursuing interests that seem completely unrelated. Many of the best athletes are also decent thinkers. They have to be able to optimize their training regime, control their diets, cross the road, etc.

Ouch. There is too much truth to this. Dangerous stuff.

Glad to see some respect for Nietzsche around here. I don't think most people truly understand what this philosopher was about.

Ah yes, I definitely agree with you. I don't think of Nietzsche as a philosopher - rather - I think of him more as a social analyst with penetrating insight.
Yes, the quote ('some progress in working out the meaning of the word "the"') was a reference to Russell's theory of descriptions. I already knew that, though I suppose I didn't make that explicit. I was looking for the source of the quote itself. I have a sneaking suspicion that I read that quote in a comic book. Well, "graphic novel", actually. Logicomix. I'll be able to check that suspicion at the library within a few days. Edit: Nope. Wasn't there. My reason for wanting to nail down the quote is that I intend to make a blog posting in which I argue that Russell's theory of descriptions is a mistake. That if John is unmarried, then the sentence "John's wife has red hair" is meaningless, rather than false as Russell would have it. A bit disheartening, that, but I'm not sure the philosophers did much better back when they were working on the meaning of life.

I apologize, I edited my after submitting it. I did realize the issue of relevance, and I also think that my criticism was unfair in that I think the critique of "Traditional Rationality" is meant to be a methodological critique. I think the critique is very much in terms of valuing process (even a particular scholarly process) over results; which was also part of your point.

I guess I'm very much used to the scholarship process, and I'm not entirely clear on what "Traditional Rationality" ultimately is meant to imply, other than finding clues on various pages. I shouldn't have expressed my confusion as disagreement.

Hmm...I had something else written here, but had a thought causing me to be less certain of what I wrote. I do think Popper should be criticized by someone on this site, to point out what is wrong with his epistemology.

I agree that the whole Popper debate has passed the point of being silly; I'm ashamed to have continued to participate in it so far past the point where it was clear that further headway was unlikely to be made. I dispute the allegation of bad scholarship though. The purpose isn't to criticize the authors, but how the specified people behave. What the authors actually say is irrelevant; the criticisms of the people specified by the reference to "traditional rationalists" would be equally applicable whether Popper and Feynman's writings on epistemology were complete nonsense or identical to what Eliezer is arguing. There are, of course, wide selections of views encompassed in mainstream philosophy and traditional rationality, but the differences between them are only salient to the discussion if they distinguish them from the qualities that are being referenced.

Good post, except I disagree with your first point. I think when you say that "social life is a war" but qualify that it's a polite war, and a positive-sum war, I think you're stretching the analogy to the point of breaking.

In my opinion, I think economics is the better model, if you look at social interaction as a sort of market, and people are trading back and forth. People don't like the idea of sex being a commodity, but in a very important sense, it is. Friendships and family are also commodities in this way. Acting out of duty corresponds, as I see it, as investing in your relationships with other people. There's always disutility in acting out of duty, but it's an important part of any relationship.

Ahah, that certain aids in understanding your statement.

I think I heard an excellent answer, somewhere, that suggested that upvotes/downvotes merely represent "I want more people to see this" or "I want less people to see this". This is implied in the system that will reorganize the posts such posts with higher scores will be put in a more conspicuous on the page.

As excellent as that answer is, however, I do wonder if it misses something. As much as we might prefer votes to have a consistent interpretation, I think this bends to the idea that the meaning of a vote on a post depends on the ... (read more)

I was just trying to think of what obnoxious means in this context because, well, who of us wants to come across as obnoxious? And I think it means, with some latitude, that the writer suggests that he or she is aiming at something different than what the other participants are aiming at. This could be egotism/narcissism, persuading others towards a pet belief system, or taunting others/trollishness.

The other alternative could be issues concerning rhetorical style. Either the rhetoric of the writer is uncomfortable to what the reader is accustomed to, or the emphasis of the posts makes it difficult for readers to pierce the arguments for substance.

Or other meanings I'm not aware of.

If I were to do this analysis, there are a few dimensions I would look at first to see how much variance they account for: * ratio of words devoted to negation, vs. words devoted to proposing an alternative idea or to asking for clarification * nonresponsiveness... that is, where comment C1 = X, and C2 = "-X, because Y1..Y3", and C3 = X with no significant addressing of Y1..Y3. (This is a little tricky, though because in general I expect the absolute value of karma scores to decrease the more nested they are.) * the combination of stridency and incoherence. (Either in isolation I wouldn't expect to account for much negative karma.)
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