All of kess3r's Comments + Replies

Levels of communication

Nice post. I don't think people ever really step out of the status level. Maybe when thinking alone or among trusted friends...

The level of facts only works right when the topic is status neutral. This is my guess from numerous anecdotal evidence. - Track your calibration

Just out of curiosity, are you a startup, a non profit or a guy doing a side project?

I predict the site's userbase will not explode overnight but will escalate in the shape of a hockey stick. That's how these things usually happen. You will have to keep improving it even while the userbase is still low, otherwise people will think the site is dying and they will stop showing up. Interesting things need to already be happening on the site before a larger audience will keep coming back to it, not vice versa.

Also, you need to add documentation no matter how ... (read more)

3matt12yWe're Investling [], which is a handfull of startups and an IT consultancy. We're for-profit, with some non-profit projects on the side (in part because we'll make more profits if we can help save the world from surprise conversion to paperclips). The majority of our non-profit work is SIAI [] related. Some projects follow that pattern. Some projects never hockey-stick. How can you tell which curve you're riding? We have many projects running: some have maintained exponential growth since we became involved; some are too young to judge; and some are on the low end of a curve that may be a hockey stick and may just be a project that doesn't have any legs. I very much hope that the LW crowd will latch on to PBook (keep coming back, tell your friends, etc.). If you do (we do - several of us are very keen LWers) and we see traffic growing, we'll flood more resources into the project. If it languishes we'll continue to host it and may even open source it, but it seems more sensible to flood our resources into projects that are winning. I really don't want to see PBook die, but I'm trying to count warm fuzzies [] consciously. We know the documentation is sparse (or, more precisely, the user interface isn't intuitive - documentation is evidence of a UI failure and good design is self-documenting ['s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Kill-o-Zap_gun] ). If you guys are still around in 14 days we should talk about more dev resources. - Track your calibration

Also, there need to be more explanations of how things work and the interface needs to be tweaked for better user friendliness. Also, please add more bandwidth. Otherwise, awesome idea.

0matt12yYeh - sorry about the slow. Speed optimizations are one of the things we left out. If enough of you keep using it, we'll make it faster. - Track your calibration

This is pure awesome. Finally something has been done! This is akin to the mythbusters going on TV and doing science instead of just talking about how awesome science is.

Apologies for my little rant above.

As for the site itself, other than being awesome, it needs a few tweaks. There is no place to discuss the site itself and possible improvements to it. Also, I wish there was a feature to hide the result until after I vote.

0matt12ySee the Feedback tab floating on the right.
Unspeakable Morality

[quote]the worst part of a factory farm cow's existence isn't death, but life[/quote] I disagree on multiple levels.

-Dying is worse than living no matter how bad of a place you live in -cows don't think like humans. the biggest factor in their happiness is food. cows might be quite happy in farms, or at the very least I think their life is not a permanent state of torture.

0Tiiba12y"Dying is worse than living no matter how bad of a place you live in" Would you rather die and disappear, or die and burn in hell? Or burn in hell while alive? Never say never. "cows don't think like humans" Yes. They don't anticipate death. They don't stay up all night fearing it. It comes as one sharp blow, and then oblivion.
Unspeakable Morality

It doesn't bother you if cows go extinct but it bothers you if humans kill cows for food? I don't understand. Going extinct is worse than individuals periodically dying. Going extinct means the ALL die.

5Alicorn12yThe cows that already exist are the only cows I wish to spare suffering. They will die anyway; no one is planning to make any cows immortal. If they simply don't have calves, the cow species will go extinct without doing any harm to any cows that already exist.
1Tiiba12yThou know’st ’tis common; all that live must die, passing through nature to eternity. This way, though, they don't leave descendents to toil in cages. As I said before, the worst part of a factory farm cow's existence isn't death, but life.

I am trying to make a point AND I am curious about people's answers to my questions. These are not mutually exclusive. It is my style to ask many questions.

If I don't ask questions, I will have to make more assumptions about what you actually think. I don't want to make declarative statements as if I already know exactly what you think about a topic. That is how people end up talking past each other. They don't fully understand what the other one is trying to say.

Unspeakable Morality

So if I understand you correctly, you say that the reward 'quality of life of whoever might eat cows' does not justify the cost of taking the life of said cows.

Well, why not? Not only are cows delicious, cows need humans to survive. Many humans enjoy the deliciousness of cows. It is a symbiotic relationship, cows evolved deliciousness and passivity to be easily handled while humans use their technology to protect and provide for cows in return.

Interrupting this relationship will result in the extinction or near extinction of cows. If said cow is not eaten... (read more)

0thomblake12yI'm not sure a 'species' is the sort of thing that is could be hurt.
0Alicorn12yYou don't. This is the opposite of what I said. Yes. I have already said I don't care if cows go extinct, except inasmuch as they are useful. If they stop being useful (if people stop eating them and using their byproducts) then they can go extinct and this will not bother me.
She Blinded Me With Science

Let's call it 'genetic determinism'.

Unspeakable Morality

Ok, you got me on the topic of where bacon comes from. For the sake of argument, substitute bacon with beef jerky.

As for your second point, are you saying it's ok to drive a species to extinction or near extinction as long as the individuals of the present generation get to live a bit longer?

What do you think of the following idea? Would you go to a wild life park and erect electric fences to keep lions away from antelopes and instead feed fish to the lions? This would stop the unethical violence lions commit against antelopes.

0Alicorn12yNo. I'm saying that except for the part where I really like dairy and make some use of leather, I don't care if cows continue to exist. The individual, living cows that already exist, I would prefer not to unnecessarily harm. There are some species that I like and want to keep around. For instance, pandas are cute. I'd miss them. Honeybees are important to all kinds of things very important to me. I would miss them too. Lions are not persons, and are therefore not morally responsible for anything they do, so there is nothing unethical about lion-on-antelope violence. I think there are things I could do with the fence construction money and the fish (or the grocery budget) that would be better uses of resources than keeping lions on a pescetarian diet.
Unspeakable Morality

Hey, I very much agree with your explanation. Jonathan Haidt has a very good theory on what makes humans feel this "ick". Don't be turned off by his implication that liberals should be more conservative. Strictly as an empirical model, his theory is quite good.

Unspeakable Morality

But if people ate less bacon it would diminish the population of cows. It would hurt cows.

2Alicorn12yBacon is not made from cows. Even if bacon were made from cows, it is not clear that a reduced cow population would hurt any existing cows.

I am trying to make a point. One cannot infinitely regress one's explanations. At some point one starts engaging the brains' basic machinery. Avoiding pain is a drive coming from our basic machinery. It is possible to explain how humans evolved pain. But it is pointless to ask for justification for wanting to avoid pain.

Incidentally, English is not my first language.

3thomblake12yAh. I suggest doing it differently next time. It is much clearer (and less deceptive) if you do not ask questions when you are trying to make a point. Instead, ask questions when you are curious about something and think someone has the answer, and use declarative statements (like those in the parent comment) to make a point. It should greatly aid in your communication.

What's 'useful'? What's 'purpose'?

Unspeakable Morality

Do you think it is unethical for humans to eat other animals? If so, what do you suggest?

1Alicorn12yI think it is unethical for humans who can enjoy an excellent quality of life as vegetarians to eat other animals. I have a friend who becomes seriously ill if she tries to do without eating a mammal or a bird for more than, at best, one meal. She should not be a vegetarian. People with serious allergies to many vegetarian protein sources, people who are living in economically marginal situations and have to take whatever they can get, and maybe even the people who seem to worship bacon as nigh unto a god should not be vegetarians. I think more people should be vegetarians than are. I think all people should consider the possibility with some serious thought, because there are more ways to be a vegetarian all the time. I suggest legumes, soy products, seitan, mycoprotein, dairy, eggs, the least formerly-intelligent meat you can find if any, and lots and lots of plant-based dietary variety.

What's 'bad'?

0thomblake12yGood meaning 'useful for a particular purpose', bad is its negation. Whether the middle is excluded might be a matter of contention.
Unspeakable Morality

So does that mean vegetarians are ok with eating animals that were treated very humanly or that died of natural causes? Could a vegetarian here explain?

In case there are no vegetarians on this site, how are we driving away or failing to attract vegetarians?

0anonym12yI'm a vegetarian, and if I weren't a bit repulsed by meat, I would have no ethical qualms about eating the flesh of a wild animal (or person) that died of natural causes, assuming my eating it didn't have other negative consequences.
0Tiiba12yI was, actually, fine with eating free range meat at first. After all, even their deaths might be less horrible than my own. But then I thought that if everyone did that, having so many animals living like people might be more than the Earth can take. It's having trouble with people living like people. Basically, free-range meat is a move in the right direction, but suboptimal.
1Alicorn12yI'm a pescetarian, but let's assume I count. I wouldn't eat those animals because non-fish meat no longer resembles food to me; because if I resumed eating meat of any kind, it would be more difficult to resist meat of inappropriate provenance; and because humanely-treated meat is hard to come by (and still has to be slaughtered) and naturally-dead meat is of suspect quality. For an idea of how many vegetarians we have, check out this poll [].
Unspeakable Morality

Hey, could someone explain the logic of vegetarianism to me? I get the part where vegeterianism is supposedly healthier. But I don't get the part about not wanting to eat animals because they get killed. I mean, it's not like cows would live happily ever after if nobody ate them. If all humans suddenly stopped eating cows, there would be no reason to raise cows anymore apart from zoos, and cows are not very good at taking care of themselves in the wild. It seems like vegeterianism would lead to cow extinction or very close to it.

0MichaelBishop12yThere are many different logics. See this thread [] for some of them, including my own.
7Alicorn12yI value a lack of cow suffering. I do not value the existence of the cow species, except inasmuch as cows are useful towards ends I care about, and since I don't eat them and don't think they're cute or interesting, they are useful to me only for milk and, in limited quantities, skin. (I'll assume you meant to assume that widespread veganism and leather boycott would lead to the extinction of cows.)
3AllanCrossman12yIt would, but that's an entirely separate issue from animal cruelty.
The Hero With A Thousand Chances

What I want to know is if any of them are black.

4Eliezer Yudkowsky12yI honestly haven't the vaguest idea. In the beginning I was visualizing Aerhien as having pointed ears, which made her light-elvish, but I decided against that. Generally I don't give my characters a color unless they need an ethnic background.
The Nature of Offense

By heresy I mean preemptively denouncing an idea because it doesn't adhere to some doctrine with no regard to whether the idea is true or false.

1thomblake12yThat's definitely not a way that I've heard 'heresy' used. From Wikipedia []: In the Catholic tradition, heretics (people committing heresy) were condemned for leading people to believe that Catholicism is about something that it is not, and therefore putting their souls in danger. Perhaps in the definition you gave above, you were referring to the attitude the Church had towards heresy, rather than heresy itself? Also, your definition doesn't fit what Alicorn suggested above. It might if you replace 'idea' with 'utterance' and understand 'denounce' to not mean 'reject as false'.
-1thomblake12yI don't think that's very helpful. It doesn't seem to me that he as a very good grasp of what 'heresy' means, and you didn't explain what you meant by it in context. Did you mean: * What you're doing is the modern-day equivalent to heresy (which I'd need explained) * What you're suggesting is something that could serve the same purpose of accusations of 'heresy' in past days * something else Note that for literal readings, the modern-day equivalent of 'heresy' is 'heresy'. It still means the same thing and is used the same way by the Church.
The Nature of Offense

I don't like this rule. I don't like rules that restrict truth seeking. I think this amounts to modern day heresy.

-1thomblake12yI don't know what you mean by this. What's 'heresy' outside of a religious context, and why should we care?
The Nature of Offense

Hmmm. I can see a difference between religion and gender / race etc. So is the rule: "It's ok to offend a group if individuals have the option of belonging or not belonging to that group, but if individuals don't have such a choice, then it's not ok to offend them."?

0Alicorn12yThat seems like an acceptable gloss of the distinction, although there are probably fine-grained intuitions it won't cover.
The Nature of Offense

"You may offend people who do or believe foolish things" How does one determine which acts and beliefs are foolish?

"Of course, there are some situations where the need not to offend an off-limits person or group must take the backseat to some greater need." What are these situations? Who are the off limits people? What is the greater need?

I'm not asking to annoy, I really want to know. I don't get it. Please explain.

0Alicorn12yI don't have an airtight definition handy, but it seems to me that (at least in the modern day in the developed world), religion is foolish, and (for instance) being a particular gender / race / etc. is not.
The Nature of Offense

Indeed, people can be offensive accidentally and/or ignorantly. And yet, people can also be offensive while seeking truth. The offensive thing might not even be true, but to reach a conclusion either way, the offensive thing must be entertained as a hypothesis.

What if there was a hypothetical situation where the goal of seeking truth and the goal of not offending were at odds with each other such that one had to chose one or the other? Which goal is more important, truth seeking or non offense?

People have hinted that it depends on the situation. Pretend I'... (read more)

1thomblake12yDo you want the real answer? Humans don't use algorithms for communication. At the very least, they don't use explicit ones.
0Alicorn12yYou may offend people who do or believe foolish things, unless they meet the criteria for mental illness/retardation or you can avoid it without changing the substance of your claim. Of course, there are some situations where the need not to offend an off-limits person or group must take the backseat to some greater need.
The Nature of Offense

I have another question: Would statements of the type made by Lawernce Summers* be considered too offensive for LW or is discussion allowed?


7jimrandomh12yThe only way something can be offensive enough to justify banning is if its author's intended goal was to offend, rather than to seek truth. I don't think that Lawrence Summers was trolling, and his remarks have a non-negligible chance of being true.
3[anonymous]12yIt should definitely be allowed, but the poster should also expect many to react in disagreement. Myself, I think anyone calling Summers sexist for his comments is incorrect. But I also think Summers is incorrect in his conclusion, that the biological difference between the sexes is not great enough to be a cause of the low enrollment discussed. Maybe we should all play a game of rationalist taboo with the words "sexist"... and another game with the word "insensitive"...? It seems to me we all have different ideas about these and related concepts. Maybe this could be a helpful response to offenders and offendees in the future-- whenever and whyever it pops up.
The Nature of Offense

What about "everything that can be destroyed by the truth should be"? There might be an inconsistency between saying maximally true things and not offending people. What is the priority on LW?

On a somewhat related note, I can see it already. You spend years carefully programming your AI, calculating it's friendliness, making sure it is perfectly bayesian and perfectly honest. You are finally done. You turn it on and the first line it prints: Oh dear, you are quite ugly.

5eirenicon12yThat statement obviously only applies when there is falsehood to be destroyed. I'm sure that guy knows he is not especially pretty. Telling him he's ugly may be truthful but it's also kind of like yelling "You're really hot" at the sun.
The Nature of Offense

Under which circumstances would 'saying true things' win and under which other circumstances 'not saying anything' would win? I would also add, under which circumstances would you 'say something you believe to be false' or 'agree with something you believe to be false' in order to avoid offense?

1FrankAdamek12yI think this is a life skill which you've developed already but aren't thinking of as the same thing. The stereotypical example: your mother looks terrible in a dress but really loves it and she doesn't need to impress anyone, so you might say she looks good anyway. That's just one point in an extremely wide spectrum the issue encloses, in which you probably have feelings already on what's best when. I think the decisions are personal, dependent on the situation, and often hotly debated.
3thomblake12yUm. That's a very complicated question about life, the universe, and everything. There are many circumstances during which saying particular things are beneficial. Maybe some examples would help? You and your friend Anna (to pick a name) are having ice cream. She's talking about how she felt when her mom died. You point out in response that the atomic weight of molybdenum is 95.94. This is very unhelpful and probably should not have been said, and she's offended that you don't care about her feelings as much as she thought you did. Now you and your friend Anna are being held at gunpoint. You are hooked up to a lie detector and asked if you think Anna looks fat in those jeans. If you lie, they shoot you both. Anna would be offended if you think she looks fat. (ETA: as it happens, you do think so.) In this case, it is probably best not to lie. And there are various other sorts of cases as well.
0[anonymous]12yHow do these questions relate to your first comment? Are you asking if I would lie to not give offense?
The Nature of Offense

I have a small question, and this is an abstract question not specifically about any particular controversy on LW: -Suppose there is a statement that happens to be true, but which will also lower someone's or a group's status resulting in offence. Will you chose not to offend and keep the statement to yourself, or will you say it?

0pwno12yDepends on the reason the true statement needs to be said.
4[anonymous]12yStatements that are true, important to the development and practice of rationality, and lower a group's status should be said. Persons stumbling upon information of this nature would benefit from doing their best to present the information in a way that will sting the least for this group's status (post would be less controversial, would have to hear less distress calls). The more altruistic might consider how the community benefits from conscientiously proffered information. A person who may have been offended despite all this will probably feel compelled to comment. I think it is important not to just be irritated at someone reacting this way, but to consider whether they have any valid point. Any time someone is offended by what we say, we may have an opportunity to learn how to prevent offense in the future (while still conveying the information accurately). In some cases, we might even learn we missed something and were wrong.
5thomblake12yYou haven't given enough information. There are a lot of offensive things that "happen to be true" that you don't say all the time. It being offensive is a good reason not to say it, but presumably you have in mind some reason to say it. One would need to evaluate that against the 'giving offense' to see which one wins.
It's all in your head-land

Could I get step by step instructions on how to more active in real-land instead of head-land?

2David_Gerard10yTry more stuff in real-land.
-4nero12ywhy don't you try zen, maybe you'll visit blissful now.... hmmm down woted, zen is really a great technique, for staying in real-land. Just doing no thinking (or rather no pondering)
0thomblake12yYou should check out the welcome thread [] and post an intro or something.
3RichardKennaway12yNo. Step-by-step instructions reside in head-land. (Maybe you know this and were just joking?)
4colinmarshall12yI second this request.