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Be someone – be recognized by the system and promoted – or do something

True also for non-military organisations. I imagine tenure and position has a lot to say for many medium-large sized companies.

As romantic as being someone, it's typically those who are someone that have the power to sway.

Though I presume most employed people are "being someone" rather than doing something.

If I must eat meat, I eat pork

How much meat were you eating before deciding to take the toll, and how much did you enjoy it?

We have been vegan-ish in our household for a while now, but never really ate much meat before. It was very simple way to be less evil.

Wikipedia usage survey results

If any, is there a shortlist of alternatives that people use over wikipedia? i.e. people who just go to the first result or who avoid wiki; where do they end up?

In my experience, the first link is typically wikipedia if you search for an exact term rather than a question ("What is the capital of italy" vs "Italy capital". the latter puts wiki at the top for me).

Open thread, Jun. 13 - Jun. 19, 2016

Appreciative of the broadness here, but I take trust in the readership here to recommend interestingly.

I'm looking for an introductory book on non-democratic political systems. I'd be particularly interested in a book that argues some of the core issues in democracy, and proposes alternative solutions.

I often find myself critical of democratic systems ("we shouldn't be voting, I don't trust these people"), but have little arguing power to the alternatives when needed. Often hear neoreactionary / anarchism thrown around, but I'd actually like to ready beyond a wikipedia article.


Open Thread April 25 - May 1, 2016

Great response, thanks.

Finding the hardest to argue against are the deontologists. Morality is a hard one to pin down and define, but my original thought process still holds up here.

"you're not allowed to kill civilians"

Unless moral objectives are black and white, we can assign a badness to each. Killing and allowing death are subtly different to most people, but not to the chime of 80 people. In both cases, you will kill civilians - and in that light, the problem becomes a minimisation one. I still would then say that inaction is less moral than action in the above situation.

drone operators quite often face the possibility of collateral damage, and that in most cases they could avoid killing civilians (without much compromise to military objectives) by taking some extra trouble: waiting a bit, observing for longer, etc.

Civilian death is acceptably bad (to everyone) and to be minimised - if waiting doesn't jeopardise the mission, then minimise away. This was a big part of the film, but it got to a point where they could no longer wait. There is a call to be made - will waiting actually bring us anywhere, or are we delaying the inevitable at a risk to the mission. (The civilian in the film was a young girl selling bread. She had a load of loafs to sell.)

This opens up a whole other can of worms. Is it worth waiting to minimise civilian deaths at the chance to fail the mission?

Then if "you're not allowed to kill civilians" they will take that extra trouble, but in the absence of such a clear-cut rule they may be strongly motivated to find excuses for why, in each individual case, it's better just to go ahead and accept the civilian deaths.

The danger of thinking in such a clear cut way (as a person or as an organisation) is ignoring the cases where inaction is worse. Nobody likes to "kill civilians" and making up a silly rule that frees you the responsibility of doing so does not make the situation better. Your rule should not be "never kill civilians" or "kill target no matter what, ignoring civilian deaths" but "minimise civilian casualties in any possible manner".

Or perhaps your friend is a virtue ethicist: good people find it really hard to kill innocent bystanders

I think I'd have many arguments (ehrm - discussions) with a friends like that.

From the drone drivers perspective - Not sure an organisation would hire a virtue ethicist drone pilot. Somewhat defeats the purpose. "Spying on people is always bad"?

One other remark: this sort of drama always makes me uncomfortable, because it enables the people making it to manipulate viewers' moral intuitions. Case 1: they show lots of cases where this kind of dilemma arises, and in every case it becomes clear that the drone operator should have taken the "tough" line and accepted civilian casualties For The Greater Good. Case 2: they show lots of cases where this kind of dilemma arises, and in every case it becomes clear that the drone operator should have taken the "nice" line because they could have accomplished their objectives without killing civilians. -- Politicians are highly susceptible to public opinion. Do we really want the makers of movies and TV dramas determining (indirectly) national policy on this kind of thing?

I thought something similar, actually. I think overall, films that properly convey the issue at hand are a good thing. The film talked about the conflict above, as well as some intra-country disputes (USA vs UK vs Kenya) and media issues (what would the public think).

Sure, this might change the view of many people. But the media is already filled with opinionated content on air strikes and foreign warfare. You're not going to remove opinion, but perhaps forcing 90 minutes of debate on to someone is the next best thing.

Open Thread April 25 - May 1, 2016

I watched "Eye in the Sky" this past week, and ended up having a large argument with a friend after.

Story follows the UK Army following most-wanted terrorists in Kenya using a drone in the sky. They follow them into a house where they start preparing suicide vests. Plan turns into a remote drone strike, but the pilot keeps delaying as there is a young girl outside the house.

Essentially, a story line similar to the trolley problem - do you (potentially) save 1 innocent girl's life, or potentially watch terrorists attack a crowded place (film estimated 80 deaths).

I found it really hard to sympathise with the "wait and save girl" argument - the moral conflict here is fairly small, and could have been made worse in the film. Friend disagreed saying what they did was wrong.

Am I missing something?

Suggest best book as an introduction to computational neuroscience

Not particularly math-y, but people around me loved "how the mind works" from Steven Pinker.

Lesswrong 2016 Survey

Perfect, thanks. Suppose a couple days wait can't hurt ;).

Lesswrong 2016 Survey

Any way to get a list of the questions asked here without me going through the survey again and adding bad data?

Was interested in some of the blogs / book related questions for sources.

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