All of syllogism's Comments + Replies

Does COVID-19 have a long "incubation period" because we don't have any immunity to it?

This is a "makes sense to me" idea I merely thought of, and I have 0 medical expertise. So this is probably dumb, but now that I've thought of it I keep wondering whether it's true.

My thinking is that the early symptom onset we feel when we get a cold or flu is partly down to our immune system responding, which causes inflammation etc. With the novel coronavirus, the immune system isn't responding early on, and the infection itself will be in the slow ramp stage of its exponential growth, so the infection is already well established by the time you start to feel it.

I mean...The same way we always do? It depends on whether the risks are reasonably forseeable. We know that if you go about your business as normal while infectious with the coronavirus, you might infect 4 people on average. If we take a lowish infection fatality rate and say that 0.1% of infected people die, then you have a something like a 0.4% chance of directly causing someone's death.

How bad is a 0.4% chance? Should the law tolerate people putting others in danger, at about that level? If you could load up a 200-barrel revolver, would it be okay ... (read more)

1Jay Molstad3y
It's the "someone is in fact harmed" that is the tricky part in this case. If somebody who was previously asymptomatic got coronavirus a week after Bob walked past them, how do you propose to determine whether they got it from Bob? If you're proposing a criminal penalty in the U.S., then you will need to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. Probabilities of less than 99% won't do, and there may be a few jurors who think 99.9999% still gives a reasonable doubt (the jury system has been described as "trial by people you would not normally consider your peers").

But quarantine isn't a punishment, nobody's saying the person being quarantined has done anything wrong. It's just that you've suddenly become extremely dangerous, and that means you have to change your behaviour quite extremely to avoid harming other people. That's very inconvenient, sure, but nobody's convenience gives them the right to put others in harms way.

I'm not a lawyer but criminal negligence is definitely a thing:

... (read more)
Due process isn't restricted to finding that a person has done anything wrong. Frankly, I think that the government should simply shut down the courts for the duration of the emergency, enforce quarantine without regard to the law, and then claim sovereign immunity afterwards, while acknowledging that it had questionable constitutional authority to do so. The pretense of rule of law in US government has already been abandoned, we might as well get some practical use out of that before the revolution.
2Jay Molstad3y
Quarantine actually is the same thing as imprisonment, because you can't leave. You are deprived of liberty. The justification is different, but a justification and $3 would get you a coffee if Starbucks weren't closed. The US Constitution was written with the understanding that politicians are prone to lying when convenient. Negligence can be an element of a crime. You need a guilty act and some level of guilty mind (purpose, knowledge, recklessness, or negligence, in declining order of culpability). Walking around isn't a guilty act. Homicide is a guilty act, but you'd have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's actions caused the death. It will be very hard to prove that the victim's infection came from the defendant and not from any of the large number of other infectious people that are the defining feature of a pandemic. Endangerment might work, depending on circumstances and jurisdiction, but I would expect courts to be skeptical. Walking around isn't reckless or wanton, by conventional definitions.

You can extend the same negligence standard further, though. You can tell people: check your temperature in the morning, and if you have a fever you are lethally dangerous. That facts of the situation we're in are such that, going outside with a fever really does burden other people with unconscionable risk. But we've left it for individual people to deduce that, which means we can't enforce that as a standard.

A law could be passed that said, if prosecution can show beyond a reasonable doubt that you either knew or did not care to know wheth... (read more)

That law is void, because the right of the people to assemble peaceably shall not be infringed. Requiring that people check their temperature in order to go outside violates several constitutional rights, including due process. You might be able to make a law which covers people who have been formally diagnosed with an infectious disease. But that law could not be passed in time to not be moot.

(Not a lawyer so potentially this isn't correct, but:) Legally negligence is a bit weird in that it doesn't really work probabilistically. If you actually cause the harm you suffer the culpability, but otherwise, maybe not. I do find it a bit unsatisfying, but I suppose the advantage is it's robust to the state being completely wrong about whether something is risky. In practice most people do adjust their behaviour to the potential downside for themselves, preventing the potential downside for others. But it does depend on the individual to... (read more)

3Jay Molstad3y
Bob walks around most days. People die every day. Sure, Bob might have been unknowingly transmitting COVID, or any of a thousand other viruses. Bob was definitely, by the act of breathing, affecting the course of every hurricane for the rest of time []. How do you assign culpability?

I agree that actually eradicating influenza feels far-fetched. But on the other hand, it's quite a lot easier to work with than COVID-19. Influenza isn't nearly as infectious, most people have immunity, and it's barely transmissible at all when the carrier is asymptomatic.

Imagine you actually did have the "hazmat curtain" situation. Everyone is asked to take their temperature on the way in, and significant fines (and potential visa cancellations) are imposed if you lie. At first nearly everyone is checked to verify, but this is re... (read more)

Most tests you carry out on anyone else will be negative, so even if you think there's an 80-90% chance the patient is COVID-19 positive, you still get more information from running those tests than the lower symptomatic people.

Also, it does change all sorts of decisions. It probably changes what precautions the healthcare workers need to take, and it lets you tell the person's family to self-isolate. Otherwise the husband is in critical condition, and the wife might be a week behind, so she's in the waiting room making everyone sick.

Hm, can you say more about information? I believe you should get the most direct information (in the information-theoretic sense) out of running tests where the outcome is most in doubt (i.e. where your prior is approximately 50%, although I think this might budge a bit depending on the FP/FN rates of the test if they are different.) You also get information about their contacts -- if their contacts have a lower-than-50% base rate of exposure, then it seems like you get more of that "secondary information" from a positive than from a negative. (I'm not too confident about that, but certainly at worst it's equal, right?)

But why can't we eradicate the virus? Let's say China shuts down international travel, keeps doing what they're doing, and then slowly eases back up in some area, letting the people in that city comingle and go back to work, but still restricting travel in and out. Let's say they get that city back running, with no coronavirus cases after a month.

At the same time...Won't they also have basically eradicated other influenza there? Even if not entirely, there should be much less cold and flu, right? So as soon as coronavirus creeps ba... (read more)

I've already heard that influenza cases are down in countries that enforced social distancing / lockdowns for coronavirus. However, it really only takes one country not doing this for influenza to return to typical incidence -- there's no real reason to believe it will be eradicated. (However, the same seems true for COVID-19, so I'm not sure what to expect there.)

I don't think I meant to imply that -- could you point out where I seem to be making that assumption?

Obviously there are more exploits for a computer running Windows 95 than a carefully firewalled Linux server.


Okay, I'll paste the content in. I think you're right -- a link post is pretty much strictly worse.

First post on LW2, so apologies if I've not kept norms properly -- let me know if I should edit.

I considered doing this as a cross-post but it felt weird without rewriting, as the knowledge assumptions were all wrong --- so I decided to just link.

I'll note that I personally always prefer crossposts (and if the context/background info is non-obvious, maybe just include a disclaimer at the top about what assumptions the article makes). Also, having read it, it seemed pretty reasonable for the expected background knowledge of a LW reader. In other news, welcome to the site. :)

I don't think the Hamming advice is so great. It's akin to asking, "What are the highest salary professions? Why aren't you entering them?".

Academia is a market-place. Everyone wants high research impact, for a given expenditure of time. Some opportunities are higher-value than others, but as those opportunities appear, other researchers are going to identify them too.

So in academia, as in the economy, it's better to identify your comparative advantage --- both short-term, and long-term. You usually need to publish something quickly, so you need to know what you can do right away. But you also want to plan for the medium and long-term, too. It's a difficult trade-off.

It is worth noting that advice is given to particular people, and Hamming was asking this at Bell Labs.
I totally agree. But in the job market, I have search tools to find the best job close to where I live, within my skills, and in my salary range to maximize my comparative advantage. And don't even get me started on all the tools and advice you can get for the stock market. But there is currently no tool for maximizing the comparative advantage of volunteer work. The good news for me is that there are a lot of similar tools to what I want to do, so I don't have to be terribly creative. You did give me an idea. Let me edit my post.

I'm interested in developing better language learning software.

For the movie case, do you think these would be helpful? Any other ideas?

  • Read in the subtitles file before viewing, so that vocab can be checked and learned via spaced repetition
  • Option to slow down the dialogue, with pitch-shifting to keep it from sounding weird and bassy
Slow-down should surely be helpful...I would think that ideally you want the words-per-minute to approximately correspond to the speeds seen in infant-directed-speech. I'd generally opt to watch a movie that you've seen many times but don't remember word for word, to prevent translation, so I wouldn't personally watch the subtitles before reading - but not everyone is me so maybe you should test a few people first? In terms of subtitles, I'd say fewer words, more high quality is better. The most useful thing I think would be explanations of idioms, expressions, and other things that can't be understood well as explanations of un-common words. For example, if a movie had the line "You're really gonna hand over the Avatar for a stupid piece of parchment?" then the subtitles would say "parchment - a primitive page made out of animal skin", since you couldn't possibly know that from context. (though I suppose one might argue that this type of information is not very important for a speaker starting out)

You'd go pretty far just telling the audience the character was unintelligent, by giving them unintelligent status markers. Give them a blue-collar career, and very low academic achievement, while also coming from a stable family and average opportunity.

It's been a while since I watched it, but do you think Ben Affleck's character in Good Will Hunting was rational, but of limited intelligence?

There are scattered examples of this sort of "humble working man, who lives honest and true" throughout fiction.

It's been a while since I watched it, but do you think Ben Affleck's character in Good Will Hunting was rational, but of limited intelligence?

Yep, a pretty good example, I think

Look, you're my best friend so don't take this the wrong way, but if you're still living here in 20 years, still working construction, I'll fuckin' kill ya. Tomorrow, I'm gonna wake up and I'll be fifty, and I'll still be doing this shit. And that's alright, that's fine. But you're sitting on a winning lottery ticket and you're too scared to cash it in, and that's bullshit. Cau

... (read more)
We didn't see enough of his character to really judge how rational he was. You need to get a good sense of the available information.

Can't say I'm impressed with his reasoning there.


Why not? If you can't quantify an line of action easily then it's out as a candidate for effective altruism, which removes a very large set of possible causes, most of them in fact. And there is no reason to think that the currently quantifiable causes are the most effective.

It doesn't seem to me that he has that any more than ther Jeopardy! contenders.

In ML, everyone is engaging with the academics, and the academics are doing a great job of making that accessible, e.g. through MOOCs. ML is one of the most popular targets of "ongoing education", because it's popped up and it's a useful feather to have in your cap. It extends the range of programs you can write greatly. Many people realise that, and are doing what it takes to learn. So even if there are some rough spots in the curriculum, the learners are motivated, and the job gets done.

The cousin of language processing is computer vision. The ... (read more)

I'm currently a post-doc doing language technology/NLP type stuff. I'm considering quitting soon to work full time on a start-up. I'm working on three things at the moment.

  • The start-up is a language learning web app: . What sets it apart from other language-learning software is my knowledge of linguistics, proficiency with text processing, and willingness to code detailed language-specific features. Most tools want to be as language neutral as possible, which limits their scope a lot. So they tend to all have the same set of features,

... (read more)
TIL: NLP can mean Natural Language Processing, as well as Neuro Linguistic Programming. I was confused for a while there.
Why is that, do you think? This doesn't seem to be the case in the ML community as far as I can judge (though I'm not an expert). What's special about NLP? What prevents the nltk people from doing what you did?

Yeah, I came across that idea in the Jaynes book, and was very impressed.

Denying that 100% confidence is ever rational seems to be equivalent to denying that logic ever applies to anything.

It's just saying that logic is a model that can't describe anything in the real world fully literally. That doesn't mean it's not useful. Abstracting away irrelevant details is bread and butter reductionism.

Yes I agree, there is only a rough isomorphism between the mathematics of binary logic and the real world; binary logic seems to describe a limit that reality approaches but never reaches. We should consider that the mathematics of binary logic are the limiting case of probability theory; it is probability theory where the probabilities may only take the values of 0 or 1. Probability theory can do everything that logic can but it can also handle those real world cases where the probability of knowing something is something other than 0 or 1, as is the usual case with scientific knowledge.

I have a fairly wide variety of friends. Here's some advice I find myself giving often, because it seems to cover a lot of what I think are the most common problems. The wording here isn't how I'd say it to them.

Health and lifestyle

  • Don't engage the services of any non-evidence based medical practitioner.
  • If you have a health problem, you're receiving treatment/advice, and not obviously improving, get a second opinion. And probably also a third. (I am not in the US)
  • Don't smoke cigarettes. If you already smoke cigarettes, buy an e-cigarette (like, right n
... (read more)
Don't hold a credit balance on a credit card might be valid general advice. There are however many cases where the miles or cashback you can get through credit cards provide a valuable benefit. It also builds a credit rating that might be valuable to get a mortage and given the tax reducted status of mortages for buying a home they aren't completely bad.
Make that “never gamble large sums of money” -- spending €7 for a poker tournament with your friends isn't obviously worse than spending €7 on a movie ticket IMO. I agree about pretty much all of the list -- and most of it is also good advice for pretty much all people, not just normal ones.
That's an interesting list. Without going into individual items, what goal structure does it support? In other words, what is it that you want to do (or, maybe, be) that following the advice on this list enables you?

Recent trends in my field of research, syntactic parsing

We've been trying for a long time to make computers speak and listen. Here is what has been happening with the part I work on for the last few years, or at least the part I'm excited about.

What makes understanding hard is that what you are trying to understand can mean so many different things. SO many different things. More than you think!! In fact the number grows way out of line with the number of words.

Until a few years ago, the number one idea we had was to figure out how to put together just a f... (read more)

Why is the IQ 70 kid not able to do laundry as so many others once did earlier, if the economy is so productive - shouldn't someone be able to hire him in his area of Ricardian comparative advantage?

In addition to gwern's objections, what if his RCA price-point turns out to be, say, 50c an hour? The utility curve is not smooth. Past a point, a starvation wage is still a starvation wage. Even in a hypothetical world where there were zero welfare and no opportunities for crime, he'd be better off spending the time looking for low-probability alternatives than settling on spending 40 hours a week working for sure starvation.

-2Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
An awful lot of people on this Earth would be very glad of 50c/hour.

If you want to poke at this a bit, one way could be to test what sort of interferences disrupt different activities for you, compared to a friend.

I'm thinking of the bit in "Surely you're joking" where Feynman finds that he can't talk and maintain a mental counter at the same time, while a friend of his can -- because his friend's mental counter is visual.

Neat. I can do it both ways... actually, I can name at least four different ways of counting: * "Raw" counting, without any sensory component; really just a sense of magnitude. Seems to be a floating-point, with a really small number of bits; I usually lose track of the exact number by, oh, six. * Verbally. Interferes with talking, as you'd expect. * Visually, using actual 2/3D models of whatever I'm counting. No interference, but a strict upper limit, and interferes with seeing - well, usually the other way around. The upper limit still seems to be five-six picture elements, but I can arrange them in various ways to count higher; binary, for starters, but also geometrically or.. various ways. * Visually, using pictures of decimal numbers. That interferes with speaking when updating the number, but otherwise sticks around without any active maintenance, at least so long as I have my eyes closed. I'm still limited to five-six digits, though... either decimal or hexadecimal works. I could probably figure out a more efficient encoding if I worked at it.

Well, for me, believing myself to be a type of person I don't like causes me great cognitive dissonance. The more I know about how I might be fooling myself, the more I have to actually adjust to achieve that belief.

For instance, it used to be enough for me that I treat my in-group well. But once I understood that that was what I was doing, I wasn't satisfied with it. I now follow a utilitarian ethics that's much more materially expensive.

That could be because rationality decreases the effectiveness of distress minimisation techniques other than altruism.

..because it makes you try to see reality as it is? In me, it's also had the effect of reducing empathy. (Helps me not go crazy.)

I've been doing this wrong, and this advice will likely save me a few thousand dollars. Thanks.

Do you really think 1/3rd of users named gothgirl* would be male? I'd guess something like 1-10%, compared with 1-3% transsexualism on LW:

Yeah, sure. This is the internet. (Acknowledged that the base rate of transsexualism on LW is higher than I had expected.)
That isn't the relevant number. The likelihood ratio is P(named gothgirl | female) / P(named gothgirl | male), not P(female | named gothgirl) / P(male | named gothgirl).
On Less Wrong in particular, I would assign a high likelihood to various permutations of "gothgirl" being ironic, rather than sincere self expression of the user.

I needed fewer than 13 bits of evidence:

I likely committed some level of base-rate fallacy though (regardless of what the truth turns out to be). Trans* is more available to me because I hang out in queer communities, and know multiple transgender people.

Well with the username I really thought it more likely he was trans. Shrug.

This is a nice Bayes learning opportunity. It's reasonable to infer that a female-looking username makes someone more likely to be female, maybe twice as likely (not much more than that; this is the internet and people give themselves weird usernames all the time, and actual women may avoid using female-looking usernames in male-dominated forums to avoid drawing attention to their gender). However, the base rate of transsexualism, even within a community as unusual as LW, is still incredibly low and requires a lot of evidence to overcome (e.g. someone telling you they're transsexual).
You thought his username gave you over 13 bits of evidence? []

am a 19 yo male (as of tomorrow)

So, are you trans?

If so, the queer clubs are a slam dunk, if you get along okay with that "type". One thing to bear in mind is, a lot of the opening chatter will be about gender and sexuality issues, which gets a little tiresome. Just accept that this is the new smalltalk for these spaces --- instead of talking about sports or what your major is, young queer kids often ask each other about coming out stories, etc. People are also trying on the role --- it's all new and unfamiliar to them, too. Many are unused ... (read more)

I'm pretty sure he meant "19 yo as of tomorrow" and not "male as of tomorrow", though I did consider teasing him about that (which may be what you are doing! Those things can be hard to tell online).

Here's a piece of advice I haven't seen mentioned on this topic: people are typically irrational about sex, and you can make yourself an appealing partner to a minority of people who aren't being "well served" by the general population simply by being extra open-minded. In short, I'm going to advocate exploring kink spaces.

First, cultivate the aliefs that there is zero shame associated with consensual sexual activity of any kind, and that there is no space for sex-specific morality in your code of ethics. The slogan "everyone owns exactly on... (read more)

I also think that people who hang out in kink spaces are more likely to have non mainstream sexual tastes. You are, I would think, more likely to find women who are really keen on fat guys (these women do exist) in these spaces. It's been my experience that in kinky and similar communities (e.g. the poly community) people (both men and women) who are not conventionally attractive are more likely to be sexually successful than they would be outside these communities.

These things wash back and forth depending on associations. Hanging out on feminist parts of the internet, I see a lot of ladies rolling their eyes at the term "females" -- mostly based on the types of guys who seem to be using it.

Some say they find the term "othering", because it's a bit sterile and biological, but I think it's a mistake to say it's anything intrinsic in the word itself.

Do you have an easy way to ensure housework is maintained to an acceptable level?

One possible approach is: If you don't need something, throw it away; then you have an "easy" solution for given thing not cluttering your home anymore. A similar but less extreme approach could be to buy a lot of stackable boxes and put everything there, and only take out things that you really need at some moment. After some time the things you didn't need would naturally stay in the boxes. This could solve some of my problems; I don't know if your problems are of this type. Now that I think about it, I would have to do some research about a good system of boxes (big boxes for large items, small boxes for smaller items, and a system to put them all in one place), but the impact on my home could be great. I had a suspicion for a long time that the storage system has a strong impact on how the rest of the house looks, but I didn't [] spend time researching a good storage system.

People sometimes use the term despotism to refer to a system of government where there is no expectation that the ruling group (often of one) will obey a rule of law. I think that's a better way to demarcate the systems.

I've seen governments organized in a 2x2 categorization where the two factors are despotism (whether or not the ruling power is arbitrary) and penetration (how much capacity to interfere in the lives of its subjects does the ruling power have). Possibly by accident of history (most monarchies are pre-modern and most dictatorships are modern) monarchies have generally been high despotism, low penetration, while dictatorships have been high despotism, high penetration. (A functioning modern democracy would be an example of low despotism, high penetration -- it can interfere in many ways in the lives of the citizenry, but doesn't generally do so arbitrarily.)

Related thought: is a conversation bot crudely optimised to game the Turing test smarter than a labrador or a dolphin?

I don't think Alex the parrot [] could have passed the Turing test, but his use of language was rather impressive. Given that such a conversation bot would be an extreme specialist, parrot intelligence is much more general, and the bot would be only slightly better at its specialty than Alex the parrot is, I'd say it's highly unlikely that such a conversation bot would be smarter than the average parrot (which I assume to be only slightly less intelligent than Alex) by any reasonable measure of intelligence. Same goes for dolphins, and probably even for labradors.

That's not unreasonable, but I think that a lot of the problems people have come from not even really trying to be careful.

I think selection effects explain almost all of this phenomenon. My nerdy friends don't really have trouble holding to their pre-commitments. The reckless 20 year olds I meet in bars don't even really understand the idea of pre-commitments, and the whole thing is just sort of...uncool, to them.

People don't regularly pre-commit to how much TV they'll watch, how much internet they'll surf, or how much chocolate they'll eat --- and when they do, I expect they fail often. When it comes to alcohol, two drinks becoming many is a total cliche.

Objectivism comes with a bunch of baggage about e.g. economics and psychology that's simply untrue, empirically. For instance an objectivist would say that status seeking inhibits self-actualisation. The objectivist plan is to learn to care less about status. As I understand the evidence, this is bad advice for almost all humans, as almost nobody can self-modify to just not care about their place on the totem pole.

In a nutshell, I think objectivists live in the "should universe", and this leads to a bunch of whacky nonsense.

For a first time user, I recommend 60-80mg as a good dose, and I always advise people to pre-commit to not re-dosing, no matter whether the first hit feels weak or strong. I usually take 80-150mg, and I don't always follow my own advice about re-dosing. Sometimes it depends what my friends are doing.

After a camping trip where I over-indulged quite alarmingly, I noticed that I was more "pleasure seeking": I spent more time seeking sex, more time on buzzfeed and YouTube, etc. This faded after a week or two.

I found that regular marijuana use causes worse anhedonia in me. If I smoke two or three times a week for a few weeks in a row, my affect is fairly flat, and I'm quite unmotivated.

Given that people often fail at precommiting, I'm reading this post and the grandparent as "stay far away from this stuff; it's dangerous."

Definitely agree that changing your name is a good option to have on the table.

I'd note though that in some industries having a Google-unique name is king. It really depends what your "personal brand strategy" is. I remember reading an interview with a marketer who recommended people consider name changes. Her name was "Faith Popcorn". I read that single interview probably 5-10 years ago. It wasn't even a particularly interesting interview. I still remember her name, though.

(The below is stated with no modulation for my level of confidence, which actually isn't very high.)

MDMA is a useful way to improve social skills permanently, or help make you more emotionally available.

While under the influence of it, you're very empathic, and very socially fearless. The experiences you have talking to people in this state can then transfer to when you're sober. For instance, you might notice that your openness is well-received, which lets you see that you've been under-confident.

Many people do something similar with alcohol: they learn t... (read more)

What's your dosage schedule? Have you noticed a decreased ability to experience pleasure?

Ze Frank is amazing. Mostly they're funny and interesting, slightly poetic, takes on life and normality.

"Make Believe"


"Hack to power, Brian"

Ze Frank is amazing. Mostly they're funny and interesting, slightly poetic, takes on life and normality.

"Make Believe"


"Hack to power, Brian"

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Thanks for posting recommendations. It would be great if you used the category threads, though -- they help people find the stuff that they're interested in more easily.

Anyone who has been through high-school knows a lot of unattractive or socially undesirable men get tremendous backlash for behaviors that a desirable men get away with.

I didn't go to a coed highschool, but I imagine a lot of that backlash was status signalling, and the target of the advance wasn't genuinely aggrieved. So, that isn't just.

But factoring that out, I think it's quite right to view a guy making a bunch of unwanted advances as rather a jerk, depending on how much he makes rejecting him suck for the targets. He's generating a bunch of negativ... (read more)

"I think it's quite right to view a guy making a bunch of unwanted advances as rather a jerk, depending on how much he makes rejecting him suck for the targets. He's generating a bunch of negative utility." Yes in that situation one would be jerk, but not everyone was complaining about a bunch of advances (and I did say that some of the grievances were justified), but even one advance or something that could have been miscontrued as an advance. If we (safely) assume the anecdotes come from people who have freely given out their number or have let a guy talk over them, then it sets a tone that the socially awkward should come off as asexual as possible to avoid offending a member of the opposite sex. That doesn't seem like a reasonable expectation to put on others.

I don't think making a move in an elevator is an expression of confidence. I haven't read a specific analysis of the situation from a PUA guy but I would expect them to advice against that behavior.

I think tabooing "confidence" would end up being revealing here. I suspect yours, confidence-1, would read something like "not signalling anxiety or nervousness", whereas I'm talking about confidence-2, the anticipated probability of success, which informs the expected value of an approach.

I accept responsibility for the miscommunication. ... (read more)

Anticipating success in an approach in no way implies that it's a good idea to constrain another person to reject you. If a girl thinks that she only gave you her phone number because you coerced her to give it to you, why should she answer the phone when you call and look forward to going on a date with you? The way people backwards rationalize their behavior matters a lot.

I've always thought of this incident in terms of the calibration idea above.

The chance of his advance succeeding, given that in that context she was a celebrity and that they hadn't established any rapport, were incredibly slim. It was a total hail mary. And it was made in a context that made rejection more uncomfortable (confined space), and it was pretty directly sexual.

In short, the advance was wildly miscalibrated: it was such a stunningly bad bet, she concluded that he just didn't have her interests on the ledger at all. And that pissed her off, and I think that's thoroughly reasonable.

Agree totally. It was not, however, in itself worth the outrage. The only reason anybody remembers it as Elevatorgate is because of the huge war that developed over it.

There no way to develop a well-calibrated model without making some mistakes along the way.

Would you say you were a proficient driver before you had your first car accident? We learn skills in fault intolerant contexts all the time. There's a bunch of learning theory work about Bayesian models not needing negative examples too, although I don't really think it's relevant here.

I don't think the potential downside of having to reject someone is much bigger than getting rejected.

There's two things here. First, even if that's true, the person who's doin... (read more)

I made mistakes ALL THE TIME when learning to drive, and my driving instructor normally caught them and yelled at me in time for it not to be a problem. You're creating a false dichotomy when you compare any mistakes with a car crash.

It depends. Last week I was at a seminar where most seats are filled with people. I sat down next to the place where a girl put her bag and jacket with whom I chatted previously. She sat the lecture next to me. Afterwards she asked me whether I was okay with her sitting next to me. In her mind she did make a choice to sit next to me for which I didn't ask. I don't think it's automatically more ethical to engineer a situation in a way where the other person thinks they are making the approach and proclaim you have no responsibility for being approached. Most people are pretty bad at interpreting what goes on in an interaction and who actually initiates various things. Sometimes people interpret things wrong and do make honest mistakes. I grant that point. It makes sense to calibrate with acts that don't produce much harm. Especially with acts that don't contrain the ability of the other person to issue the rejection. I don't think making a move in an elevator is an expression of confidence. I haven't read a specific analysis of the situation from a PUA guy but I would expect them to advice against that behavior.

I don't see that as much different than doing a little "come here" sign with your finger. That's not a question, and you didn't receive verbal consent in reply. You can accomplish the same effect just by doing - approach, but don't continue without a positive response in answer.

In that specific case the verbal aspect isn't so important, no. And the big difference from the context in the advice thread is that I don't have trouble communicating my intent with the body language anyway. But it has felt once or twice that saying something, even som... (read more)

I could probably work up some context specific thing too. I largely had the first kiss in mind. I don't think it's a winner for that. Part of going slow is feeling if they're relaxed and comfortable. If I'm relaxed. If they're uncomfortable, it's time to back off.

That seems a comment based in ideology, and not reality. I guess there must be some women for whom that would work, but I believe most women would find that a massive cold shower - perhaps permanently. The offer and consent should be nonverbal. Going slowly and incrementally allows you to minimize any delta between act and consent.

I think this is really an imagination failure for how "verbal consent" would work. An example that includes a minor verbal component: I often smile and say something like "come here" while shifting myself a... (read more)

I think this is really an imagination failure for how "verbal consent" would work. An example that includes a minor verbal component: I often smile and say something like "come here" while shifting myself around (e.g. putting my arm around him/her). We then meet half way. This works just fine.

I imagine a great many things, and many of those I don't call "verbal consent".

I don't see that as much different than doing a little "come here" sign with your finger. That's not a question, and you didn't receive verbal co... (read more)

The dichotomy breaks down a bit here, but the important property is that both parties maintain plausible deniability. An argument I've heard Steven Pinker make (but might not be originally his) is that you can avert awkwardness by avoiding the creation of shared knowledge, and that's the reason the plausible deniability is important.

The dichotomy breaks down a bit here, but the important property is that both parties maintain plausible deniability.

Right. I mentioned this example partly because it's a PUA technique in the category of "forced IOIs", which is an awkward name for maintaining plausible deniability about whether a request has been made and whether it has been rejected, to avoid awkwardness and social status loss.

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