Shephard

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Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

I don't think you should consider doing it if you don't actually feel any over desire, but it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at that lack of desire. I feel the same way, actually, and I plan on never having children, but I often wonder if that ties into deeper, subconscious issues that might be doing me a disservice.

Also keep in mind that agreeing to have a child out of a sense of obligation or a desire to please your partner could have a detrimental (if unintentional) impact on how you treat the child (especially if something went awry with the original relationship, which can happen).

Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

I respect your emphasis on trying to avoid hyperbole, but there's got to be some room for speaking loosely (even in the hyper-vigilant Less Wrong community). And notice I prefaced that sentence with "I'd say that" which I think is a pretty good indication that it was more of an opinion than a bold assertion of fact. I haven't made up my mind about anything, but I can have strong opinions about an issue without getting a degree in the relevant field.

If you disagreed with me, why not skip the reprimand, and instead shame me (and enlighten me) by offering a strong counter-argument to my perspective?

Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Okay, so it's not obvious to you. But do you think there's enough evidence for the opposite opinion to warrant encouraging people to stop thinking about the impact of how many children they might have?

Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

That sounds like what he might say, but I agree with Waveman. For one thing, the overall economic and environmental impact of one child in the developing world far outweighs that of one child born in poorer countries. Furthermore, if there's any detrimental impact of the bloated world population, then we need as many people as possible encouraging self-restraint, even if any one group of citizens can afford to indulge themselves.

Also, the claim that the percentage of innovators born to each generation is enough to offset the overall negative externalities is dubious at best. I'd say that our pace of innovation is still very obviously struggling to keep up with the pace our reproduction.

Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

I've commented more extensively on the scientific and logical basis for Caplan's ideas elsewhere, including my serious concern about his reliance on separated-at-birth twin studies, but I'll limit my comments here to something a little more subtle.

While some of his data about intelligence and physical health seemed pretty sound, I remember his conclusions about personality and happiness seeming a lot sketchier. Which makes sense since the psychological health of any given individual is extremely difficult to quantify (much less the effect of one person's psychological health on another's). But I think it's these aspects that good parents are most concerned with: Will my child live a life that is largely stress free? Will I pass on my bad habits? How can I teach my child to be able to form strong and healthy emotional connections to others?

When I (non-scientifically) observe the reasonably sane parents I know, my general fear is not that they're making their children stupid or that they're sabotaging their child's future health. My fear is that they're passing on a host of much more insidious problems - body image issues, co-dependency, repression of anger, etc. When adults go into therapy, it's usually not because they're worried about their lack of income or talent or intelligence, it's because they're struggling with complex issues relating to self-esteem, trust, and identity.

Now I admit that these are extremely fuzzy concepts - the "science" of psychological health is still extremely young and hard data is difficult to obtain - but I'm not the one writing a book on parenting. What I'm trying to get at is that while I agree that the modern trend of "tiger-parenting" is useless at best and damaging at worst, that doesn't mean there might not be some less-cartoonish improvements that parents ought to adopt. And Caplan's book doesn't just present the research for your consideration, he makes a point of boldly telling you to just stop worrying. I think his evidence doesn't justify such boldness, and that he's trying to take the air out of a question which still deserves a great deal of cultural attention.

Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute

I don't believe LW is a cult, but I can see where intelligent, critical thinking people might get that impression. I also think that there may be elitist and clannish tendencies within LW that are detrimental in ways that could stand to be (regularly) examined. Vigilance against irrational bias is the whole point here, right? Shouldn't that be embraced on the group level as much as on an individual one?

Part of the problem as I see it is that LW can't decide if it's a philosophy/science or a cultural movement.

For instance, as already mentioned, there's a great deal of jargon, and there's a general attitude of impatience for anyone not thoroughly versed in the established concepts and terminology. Philosophies and sciences also have this problem, but the widely accepted and respected philosophical and scientific theories have proven themselves to the world (and weren't taken very seriously until they did). I personally believe there's a lot of substance to the ideas here, but LW hasn't delivered anything dramatic to the world at large. Until it does so it may remain, in the eyes of outsiders, as some kind of hybrid of Scientology and Objectivism - an insular group of people with a special language, a revered spokesperson, and who claim to have "the answers".

If, however, LW is supposed to be a cultural movement, then I'm sorry, but ”ur doin it wrong". Cultural movements gain momentum by being inclusive and organic, and by creating a forum for people to express themselves without fear of judgment. Movements are bottom up, and LW often gives the impression of being top down.

I'm not saying that a choice has to be made or even can be made, merely that there are conflicting currents here. I don't know if I have any great suggestions. I guess the one thing I can say is that while I've observed (am observing) a lot of debate and self-examination internally, there's still a strong outward impression of having found “the answers”. Perhaps if this community presented itself a little more as a forum for the active practice of critical thinking, and a little less as the authoritative source for an established methodology for critical thinking.

And if that doesn't work, we could always try bus ads.

[Link] Personality change key to improving wellbeing

While I personally agree that "personality can and does change" and that such changes have the potential to trump so-called "external" factors, the research cited in this article doesn't seem to pack much of a punch.

Furthermore, I think that there are some major obstacles in the way of this kind of research in general. The average person's concept of what shapes one's personality is still heavily influenced by poorly understood notions of genetic determinism, philosophically naive definitions of free-will, and lingering ideas about human beings possessing a "soul" (even if such ideas are subconscious or secularly re-imagined).

Until there is a significant paradigm shift in those respects, I don't think we'll see the support or funding necessary to produce studies that yield actionable data.

Art vs. science

There definitely are parallels between studying either the process or the "content" of a scientific field and studying what I would refer to as "technique" in the art world. Musical composition is one example, and as a visual artist I can add things like color theory, semiotics, visual composition, and the handling of various mediums. These are phenomena that can and have been taught and written about. They can be as objectively addressed as any scientific subject in that you can say "if you follow procedure X, you'll get Y result".

But these things are supplemental to the primary goals of art/artists which are profoundly different from the goals of science/scientists. The goals of artists are generally personal and/or subconscious. They don't (normally/consciously) involve a hypothesis to be proven or disproven (and artist statements are typically written after the work is complete, not beforehand).

There are formal studies of what groups of artists may be trying to achieve (surrealists, cubists, expressionists, etc), but the cultural and biographical details are usually very relevant. I guess I'd say that your test is one possible measure of a more general question: "Is the endeavor more focused on making a statement, or on answering a question?". The more it emphasizes the former the more likely it is to be art (or politics, or lunatic raving. Or all three, depending on how entertaining, persuasive, or coherent it is), the more it emphasizes the latter the more likely it is to be something deserving of the name science (even if it may also deserve to be preceded by the words "sloppy" or "pseudo").

Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012)

Imagine a snowball that's rolling down an infinite slope. As it descends, it picks up more snow, rocks, sticks, maybe some bugs, I don't know. Maybe there are dry patches, too, and the snowball loses some snow. Maybe the snowball hits a boulder and loses half of its snow, and what remains is less than 10% original snow material. But it still can be said to be this snowball and not that snowball because its composition and history are unique to it - it can be identified by its past travels, its momentum, and the resulting trajectory. If this can be taken to be one's life (an analogy that I hope was obvious), then the "I" that we refer to in our own lives isn't even the whole snowball but merely the place where the snowball touches the ground.

People who "don't rationalize"? [Help Rationality Group figure it out]

Evidence has smashed my belief's face quite solidly in the nose, though.

Evidence other than the repeated denials of the subjects in question and a non-systematic observation of them acting as largely rational people in most respects? (That's not meant to be rhetorical/mocking - I'm genuinely curious to know where the benefit of the doubt is coming from here)

"I knew eating a cookie wasn't good for me, but I felt like it and so I did it anyway."

The problem here is that there is a kind of perfectly rational decision making that involves being aware of a detrimental consequence but coming to the conclusion that it's an acceptable cost. In fact that's what "rationalizing" pretends to be. With anything other than overt examples (heavy drug-addiction, beaten spouses staying in a marriage) the only person who can really make the call is the individual (or perhaps, as mentioned above, a close friend).

If these people do consider themselves rational, then maybe they would respond to existing psychological and neurological research that emphasizes how prone the mind is to rationalizing (I don't know of any specific studies off the top of my head but both Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain" and Douglas Kenrick's "Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life" touch on this subject). At some point, an intelligent, skeptical person has to admit that the likelihood that they are the exception to the rule is slim.

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