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Open thread, Apr. 17 - Apr. 23, 2017

Nutrition is taught in colleges to so people become qualified to become accredited dieticians. You should be able to find a decent undergrad textbook on Amazon. If you get used and an edition behind the current one it should be cheap as well.

Against responsibility

Rationality means achieving your goals and values efficiently and effectively.

The model of rationality presented on LessWrong usually treats goals and values that are of negative utility to the agent as biases or errors rather than as goals evolved to benefit the group or the genes. That leads to a view of rationality as strictly optimizing selfish goals.

This is a false dichotomy. Just because a value is not of negative utility doesn't mean it is optimized to benefit the genes. Scott Alexander for example is asexual and there are plenty of gay people.

As to old Utilitarianism 1.0, where somebody just declares by fiat that we are all interested in the greatest good for the greatest number of people--that isn't on the table anymore. People don't do that.

GiveWell exists, Peter Singer exists. The Effective Altrusim movement exists. They may not be perfect utilitarians but most rationalists aren't perfect either, neither are most christians and they still exist.

This ended up giving him worse-than-human morality, because he assumes that humans are not actually moral--that humans don't derive utility from helping others. He ended up convincing himself to do the selfish things that he thinks are "in his own best interests" in order to be a good rationalist, even in cases where he didn't really want to be selfish

I finally remembered the Less Wrong meta-ethics sequence which you should read. This in particular.

Against responsibility

Rational Utilitarianism is the greatest good for the greatest number given the constraints of imperfect information and faulty brains.

Rationality is the art of making better decisions in service to a goal taking into account imperfect information and the constratints of our mental hardware. When applied to utilitarianism you get posts like this Nobody is perfect, evertyhing is commensurable

Rationality plus Utilitarianism plus evolutionary psychology leads to the idea that a rational person is one who satisfies their own goals.

I don't see how this follows. Evolutionary psychology provides some explanations for our intuitions and instincts that the majority of humans share but that doesn't really say anything about morality as Is Cannot Imply Ought. Some quotes from the wiki page on evolutionary psychology.

We are optimized for an "ancestral environment" (often referred to as EEA, for "environment of evolutionary adaptedness") that differs significantly from the environments in which most of us live. In the ancestral environment, calories were the limiting resource, so our tastebuds are built to like sugar and fat.

Evolution's purposes also differ from our own purposes. We are built to deceive ourselves because self-deceivers were more effective liars in ancestral political disputes; and this fact about our underlying brain design doesn't change when we try to make a moral commitment to truth and rationality.

Against responsibility

It sounds less like he rewrote his natural morality and more like he engaged in a lot of motivated reasoning to justify his selfish behaviour. Rational Utilitarianism is the greatest good for the greatest number given the constraints of imperfect information and faulty brains. The idea that other people don't have worth because they aren't as prosocial as you is not Rational Utilitarianism (especially when you aren't actually prosocial because you don't value other people).

If whoever it is can't feel much sympathy for people in distant countries then that is fine, plenty of people are like that. The good thing about consequentalism is that it doesn't care about why. You could do it for self-esteem, social status, empathy or whatever but you still save lives either way. Declaring yourself a Rational Utilitarian and then not contributing is just a dishonest way of making yourself feel superior. To be a Rational Utilitarian you need to be a rationalist first and that means examining your beliefs even when they are pleasant.

Open thread, Mar. 27 - Apr. 02, 2017

I've had the experience where I read for a long time and then go talk to people and my voice doesn't work correctly on the first try and is barely audible. I assume it is because my brain got too good at suppressing subvocalization while reading.

Tips for writing philosophical texts

That was my point. Philosophy uses subjective words in order to confuse meanings. Once you translate it into one of it's objective interpretations it becomes simple. A good example is the concept of free will.

Tips for writing philosophical texts

Present the complicated problem and then break it down into understandable parts. Much of philosophy is basic but not widely understood because it is obfuscated by multiple meanings and ends up arguing about definitions such as "What is consciousness?". It is helpful to disambiguate these questions by choosing an objective interpretation and then answering that. For example "What is consciousness?" can be defined as "What makes a creature aware of it's environment?" "What process produces thoughts?" "What process produces sensation"?

This is why we can't have social science

In the second paragraph of the quote the author ignores the whole point of replication efforts. We know that scientific studies may suffer from methodological errors. The whole point of replication studies are to identify methodological errors. If they disagree then you know there is an uncontrolled variable or methodological mistake in one or both of them, further studies and the credibility of the experimenters is then used to determine which result is more likely to be true. If the independent studies agree then it is evidence that they are both correct.

The author also argues that replication efforts are biased because they are mostly made by people who disagree with the original study. That seems like a valid point.

Specifying designs in advance is a good idea, though not orignal

LW Australia's online hangout results, (short stories about cognitive biases)

The Mike story can be considered an example of the halo effect if you assume that Mike can interpret the obtuse language better than Jessica can because of his morality. On the other hand if Jessica interpreted it herself she would probably have gotten the same wrong impression of the law as Mike.

Or it could be that Mike interpreted the law correctly but has a few quirks in his morality that you don't. In which case it is not the case of the halo effect and more of a generalization or heuristic failing in a specific instance.

Tvtropes:Broken pedestal has some good examples of the halo effect.

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