Ozymandias_King

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I think the way we conduct debating has become stuck in a bad place.

In a debate we want to win quickly, all else equal. But all else is not equal. If you try specifically to be nice, and complement the person on the things they do get right, they have an easier time accepting criticism. In any other social situation than a purely factual debate, would you even think of only being adversarial?

This general climate is the aggregate consequence of every debate we have.

If the approach is: "Everything about you sucks, now CHANGE!" The reception will not be: "Okay, I will change X and Y, but not Z" but: "My opinions shall be immune to criticism"

The internet has enabled this polarization, by making the rationalist crowd (rightfully) more fundamentalist about their epistemic skill.

When you see that logic and evidence works to clear up so much confusion and falsity in your beliefs, you think that you can cure the "sick" person of all his diseases in one fell swoop.

Thinking of the dilemma as one of opposing "rights" also doesn't help: [My right to criticize your beliefs] vs [Your right to have them not be criticized]

When they refuse to listen to your criticism you feel angry about your rights not being respected, rather than sad that you cannot help them towards better beliefs.


Disclaimer: The "You" in this comment is the "We as rationalists"

IAWY, but

It's easy to overestimate the size of this effect.

  • We would expect a priori that more information is useful
  • We often don't know how much the person who succeeds where others fail in fact did know.
  • "The Wright Brothers succeeding despite lack of experience/knowledge" -story is more easily remembered and spread because it's feels better.

Do you mean something like:

If being merely informed becomes the norm before rational reasoning is a norm, you just end up with the case of more informed political subjects becoming more polarized and more certain of their views. Badly calibrated and worse off than when they started.

How useful are debates in general for changing the opinions of the person you are debating with? Most debates are implicitly or explicitly framed as contests with opponents, a zero-sum game. The right thing might be to focus more on the 3rd party onlookers, some consequences might be:

*Seek bigger debates (more viewers)

*Feel less sad when your opponent "beats" you, using twisted logic.

*Present more and different types of arguments.

*Do wrestle pigs, if the debate is entertaining and public.

*Focus more on getting new info in a debate, then isolate yourself to perform belief updates when you are not in contest mode anymore.

*If the last point applies equally to your opponent, stop before they get annoyed with you. Allow them to perform calm private reasoning later instead.

Can someone think of others?

I agree that the end result would be valuable, but I think that changing norms for a whole society would be very hard.

Although it might still be easier than the converse of raising the rationality of a whole society: being informed has higher status in society than being rational. It is more related to being a professor, journalist or talking head, whereas rationality is more associated to being a nerd, scientist or economist.

I think the causality has to run: X-Rationalists raise the standards for ordinary rationalists and scientists-> People connected to the scientists raise their standards-> Everyone else

Sort of top down by osmosis rather than decree. Everyone gets slightly better, but most ordinary people won't have to unrealistically become X-Rationalists.