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How do you write original rationalist essays?

I can teach, I can write short fiction, but can't write this type of essays either.

My problem is that teaching and fiction seem like opposites. Fiction is just some random bullshit, written in an entertaining way. Teaching is like solving a puzzle. Fiction does not require any special knowledge (on reader's side). Teaching, at best, is tailored to student's current knowledge, so the first step is to figure out what your student already knows and knows not.

In an essay, you kinda do all of this at the same time. You have a topic, you make some funny sidenotes, but don't lose the main topic. You expect your audience to already know some basic things, to already think in certain ways (to accept a certain type of argument). You aim to be technically correct, but to keep a conversational style.

I find this somewhat easier to do when talking than when writing. At least, when I say something, I can't take it back anymore; I have to continue. When I start writing, you will usually find me one hour later, still revising the first sentence of the first paragraph. (So, maybe, talk and record yourself at home?)

The bonds of family and community: Poverty and cruelty among Russian peasants in the late 19th century

But my dad's family seems to have stayed pretty terrible despite the changes of the last fifty years

Maybe it is difficult to change your habits when you are older, but in childhood you are more flexible. The question is, how can children of terrible parents become less terrible? Not just today -- the usual answer for today might be "education" -- but generally, in history, how did non-terrible behavior even start, given that the first non-terrible generation was brought up by terrible parents (and terrible institutions)?

I could make up some stories myself, but I wonder what the actual answer is.

The bonds of family and community: Poverty and cruelty among Russian peasants in the late 19th century

Maybe in given culture the idea of not stealing from your spouse is so counter-intuitive that...

  • most people don't even get the idea, ever;
  • those who do, find it extremely difficult to convince their spouses that it is a good idea;
  • even those who agree, usually succumb to the temptation, because they have spent their entire life building an opposite habit.

In other words, cooperation is actually so hard, that it is almost impossible even for two people to cooperate unless their culture has already provided them some basic training in this skill.

Frame Control

I'll bet the surface rationalist culture doesn't provide any protection against potential abusers.

Related: Reason as memetic immune disorder

The average person has a defense system against many types of abuse, which works like this: they get an instinctive feeling that something is wrong, then they make up some crazy rationalization why they need to avoid that thing, and then they avoid the thing. (Or maybe the last two steps happen in a different order.) Problem solved.

A novice rationalist stops trusting the old defense system, but doesn't yet have an adequate new system to replace it. So they end up quite defenseless... especially when facing a predator who specializes at exploiting novice rationalists. ("As a rationalist, you should be ashamed of listening to your gut feeling if you cannot immediately support it by a peer-reviewed research. Now listen to my clever argument why you should obey me and give me whatever I want from you. As a rationalist, you are only allowed to defend yourself by winning a verbal battle against me, following the rules I made up.")

Not sure what would be the best way to protect potential victims against this. I consider myself quite immune to this type of attack, because I already had previous experience with manipulation before I joined the rationalist community, and I try to listen to my instincts even when I cannot provide a satisfactory verbal translation. I am not ashamed to say that I reached some conclusion by "intuition", even if that typically invites ridicule. I don't trust verbal arguments too much, considering that every rationalization is also a convincingly sounding verbal argument. Whenever someone tells me "as a rationalist, you should [privilege my hypothesis because I have provided a clever argument in favor of it]", I just sigh. You can't use my identity as a rationalist against me, because if you say "most rationalists do X", I can simply say "well, maybe most rationalists are wrong" or "maybe I am not really a good rationalist" and I actually mean it. -- But my original point here was not to brag; rather to express regret that I cannot teach this attitude to others, to help them build a new defense system against abuse.

Frame Control

Yeah, instinctive accepting of other people's frames seems like an important part of "agreeableness".

Which is different from the skill of switching to different frames intentionally, which is generally useful for everyone (it allows one to consider a situation from multiple perspectives, and understand the thinking of other people), but agreeable people need to learn this as a self-defense skill -- to switch away from other people's frames and maintain their own frame when necessary.

Why Bedroom Closets?

I wonder if there is a business opportunity here, especially in cities where most people rent their flats:

Imagine that you build a house that contains identical flats. (Or maybe two or three types of identical flats, like there would be a small type A, a medium-sized type B, and a large type C, but all A's would be the same, all B's would be the same, and all C's would be the same.) Then you also build a house with exactly the same types of flats in another part of town, or in a different town.

Now in addition to renting these flats, you offer people the service of hassle-free relocation. Suppose you live in a B-type flat in town X, and you indicate a desire to move to town Y. The owner will tell you when a B-type flat in town Y is available, and will help you move things. That is: they will completely clear the destination flat, provide you lots of boxes to put your property into, optionally provide a temporary place to stay during the relocation, then they will photograph the positions of the furniture in your original flat, move all the furniture into your new flat and put it in exactly the same position (unless you agree otherwise), and bring the boxes there for you to unpack. It would be almost as if your flat was teleported to the new location.

Of course this all would happens for a fee, but I think it could be more convenient and/or cheaper than the traditional way. First, there is a lot of uncertainty removed: if both the old and the new flats are owned by the same company, you don't have to worry about quality and hidden defects; if your overall experience was good at the old place, it will likely be good at the new place. Second, there is much less negotiation: you never meet the previous owner of your new flat, you don't even need to sign a new contract, you just pay a one-time relocation fee, and maybe your rent changes because the costs in town Y are different than in town X, but otherwise everything stays the same. Third, if the company does this routinely, they can become more efficient about it.

The company could even give you a "preview" of what it is like to live at the new place (rent you a temporary room in the new location for a month, while your original flat remains untouched until you make your final decision), so you could experience the town Y and decide whether you actually like it.

Frame Control

A few days ago I had a Zoom call with an insurance agent, they probably take lessons how to do this.

First, his secretary called me, "hey, you have an account at this financial institution we cooperate with, do you also have a life insurance?" Not interested, but she keeps pushing, and at some moment I am like: yeah, given that they are willing to talk online so I don't have to walk anywhere, it will not take that much time, I guess maybe they will tell me something I don't know and make me change my mind. Okay, feel free to call me.

Then the guy calls me, and starts with (I don't remember the exact words) something like: "So, what do you need me to help you with?"

Frame control: It's not him begging for my attention; suddenly it's me needing his help. The audacity!

Then some more things, but that was the usual manipulative stuff that typically happens when you talk to an insurance agent. But this one thing stuck in my mind as a completely outrageous reversal of reality. (I didn't comment on it, but I gave him a bad point in my mind, and a few more bad points later, I ended the call. It was probably all completely predictable and I am stupid for wasting my time like this.)

Frame Control

It could be both. First the students almost literally throw themselves at the teacher. Then the teacher gets used to it and mistakenly assumes the same about a student who was not throwing themselves at the teacher, but was afraid to resist the teacher's advances.

Frame Control

If I punch you and say "I am only doing this for your own good; someone needs to punish your sins to make you stronger; you will thank me later", that is frame control.

If I punch you and five minutes later say "no, I have never punched you; what made you make this horrible accusation", that is gaslighting.

So perhaps "gaslighting" is a special case of "frame control", but the main difference seems to be whether unambiguous sensory perceptions are denied (as oppposed to e.g. denying motivation).

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