toonalfrink

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"human connection" as collaborative epistemics

Forgive me for stating things more strongly than I mean them. It’s a bad habit of mine.

I’m coming from the assumption that people are much more like Vulcans than we give them credit for. Feelings are optimizers. People that do things that aren’t in line with their stated goals, aren’t always biased. In many cases they misstate their goals but don’t actually fail to achieve them.

See my last shortform for more on this

Toon Alfrink's sketchpad

So here's two extremes. One is that human beings are a complete lookup table. The other one is that human beings are perfect agents with just one goal. Most likely both are somewhat true. We have subagents that are more like the latter, and subsystems more like the former.

But the emphasis on "we're just a bunch of hardcoded heuristics" is making us stop looking for agency where there is in fact agency. Take for example romantic feelings. People tend to regard them as completely unpredictable, but it is actually possible to predict to some extent whether you'll fall in and out of love with someone based on some criteria, like whether they're compatible with your self-narrative and whether their opinions and interests align with yours, etc. The same is true for many intuitions that we often tend to dismiss as just "my brain" or "neurotransmitter xyz" or "some knee-jerk reaction".

There tends to be a layer of agency in these things. A set of conditions that makes these things fire off, or not fire off. If we want to influence them, we should be looking for the levers, instead of just accepting these things as a given.

So sure, we're godshatter, but the shards are larger than we give them credit for.

Moloch feeds on opportunity
I am aware that confessing to this in most places would be seen as a huge social faux pas, I'm hoping LW will be more understanding.

You're good. You're just confessing something that is true for most of us anyway.

Where I have a big disagreement is in the lesson to take from this. Your argument is that we should essentially try to turn off status as a motivator. I would suggest it would be wiser to try to better align status motivations with the things we actually value.

Up to a point. It is certainly true that status motivations have led to great things, and I'm personally also someone who is highly status-driven but manages to mostly align that drive with at least neutral things, but there's more.

I struggle hugely with akrasia. If I didn't have some external motivation then I'd probably just lie in bed all day watching tv.

The other great humanist psychologist besides Maslow was Adam Rogers. His thinking can be seen as an expansion on this "subagent motivation is perceived opportunity" idea. He proposed an ideal vs an actual self. The ideal self is what you imagine you could and should be. Your actual self is what you imagine you are. The difference between ideal self and actual self, he said, was the cause of suffering. I believe that Buddhism backs this up too.

I'd like to expand on that and say that the difference between ideal self (which seems like a broader class of things that includes perceived opportunity but also social standards, the conditions you're used to, biological hardwiring, etc) and your actual self is the thing that activates your subagents. The bigger the difference, the more your subagents are activated by this difference.

Furthermore, the level of activation of your subagents causes cognitive dissonance (a.k.a. akrasia), i.e. one or multiple of your subagents not getting what they want even though they're activated.

And THAT is my slightly-more-gears-level model of where suffering comes from.

So here's what I think is actually going on with you: you're torn between multiple motivations until the status subagent comes along and pulls you out of your deadlock because it's stronger than everything else. So now there's less cognitive dissonance and you're happy that this status incentive came along. It cut your gordian knot. However, I think it's also possible to resolve this dissonance in a more constructive way. I.e. untie the knot. In some sense the status incentive pushes you into a local optimum.

I realise that I'm probably hard to follow. There's too much to unpack here. I should probably try and write a sequence.


Toon Alfrink's sketchpad

Right, right. So there is a correlation.

I'll just say that there is no reason to believe that this correlation is very strong.

I once won a mario kart tournament without feeling my hands.

Give praise
People generally only discuss 'status' when they're feeling a lack of it

While this has been true for other posts that I wrote about the subject, this post was actually written from a very peaceful, happy, almost sage-like state of mind, so if you read it that way you'll get closer to what I was trying to say :)

Give praise

I appreciate your review.

Most of your review assumes that my intent was to promote praise regardless of honesty, but quite the opposite is true. My intent was for people to pause, take a breath, think for a few moments what good things others are doing, and then thank them for it, but only if they felt compelled to do so.

Or I'll put it this way: it's not about pretending to like things, it's about putting more attention to the things about others that you already like. It's about gratefulness, good faith and recognition. It's about validating those that are already on the right track, to embolden them and secure them.

And this works to the extent that it is genuine. If you don't feel what you say, people will notice and discard your opinion. Congruency is an obvious first step that I didn't include in the post because I assumed it to be obvious.

But of course not getting that point across is all on me. I suppose I could have written a better post.

Toon Alfrink's sketchpad

I have gripes with EA's that try to argue about which animals have consciousness. They assume way too readily that consciousness and valence can be inferred from behavior at all.

It seems quite obvious to me that these people equate their ability to empathize with an animal with the ability for the animal to be conscious, and it seems quite obvious to me that this is a case of mind projection fallacy. Empathy is just a simulation. You can't actually see another mind.

If you're going to make guesses about whether a species is conscious, you should first look at neural correlates of consciousness and valence and then try to find these correlates in animals. You don't look at animal behavior at all. We have absolutely no reason to believe that behavior correlates with consciousness. That's just your empathy getting in the way. The same empathy that attributes feelings to stuffed animals.

Raemon's Scratchpad

I'm looking forward to a bookshelf with LW review books in my living room. If nothing else, the very least this will give us is legitimacy, and legitimacy can lead to many good things.

Affordance Widths

To me, the most useful part of this post is that it introduces this idea that affordances are personal, i.e. some people are allowed to do X while others are not. I like to see this as part of the pervasive social machinery that is Omega.

I imagine people of a certain political background to want to sneer at me, as in, "why did it take someone in your in-group to tell you this?"

To which I admit that, indeed, I should have listened. But I suppose I didn't (enough), and now I did, so here we are with a post that made my worldview more empathetic. The bottom line is what matters.

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