All of Virge's Comments + Replies

A Rationalist's Tale

Undramatic for me too.

If you've got a talent that keeps you very popular within a group, it's very easy to get sucked into being what those admiring people want you to be. Being bright, clear-thinking, eloquent, confident (and a musician) moves you very easily into a leadership position, and builds the feeling of responsibility for the welfare of the group.

It took me too long to commit to acknowledging my accumulated doubts and misgivings and examine them in anything other than a pro-Christian light. I had enough religious cached thoughts in an interconne... (read more)

Melbourne Less Wrong Meetup

Thanks Patrick. As it looks like turning out, I think my 3rd is going to be completely taken up anyway. Maybe next time.

Melbourne Less Wrong Meetup

Apologies from me. My October 2nd is already booked for another party. (Not that I attend a lot of parties.)

0Patrick11yWould October 3rd be better?
Attention Lurkers: Please say hi

Hi. I was an occasional contributor on OB and have posted a few comments on LW. I've dropped back to lurking for about a year now. I find most of the posts stimulating -- some stimulating enough to make me want to comment -- but my recent habit of catching up in bursts means that the conversations are often several weeks old and a lot of what needs to be argued about them has already been said.

The last post that almost prompted me to comment was ata's mathematical universe / map=territory post. It forced me to think for some time about the reification of ... (read more)

The Trouble With "Good"

Morality is then the problem of developing a framework for resolving conflicts of interest in such a way that all the agents can accept the conflict resolution process as optimal.

I think we're in agreement here.

For me the difficult questions arise when we try to take one universalizable moral principle and try to apply it at every level of organization, from the personal "what should I be doing with my time and energy at this moment?" to the public "what should person A be permitted/obliged to do?"

I was thinking about raising the q... (read more)

The Trouble With "Good"

It's fairly clear that most people do in fact put greater weight on the utility of their family and friends than on that of strangers. I believe that is perfectly ethical and moral but it conflicts with a conception of utilitarianism that requires equal weights for all humans. If weights are not equal then utility is not universal and so utilitarianism does not provide a unique 'right' answer in the face of any ethical dilemma and so seems to me to be of limited value.

If you choose to reject any system that doesn't provide a "unique 'right' answer&... (read more)

0mattnewport12yIt seems to me that utilitarianism is trying to answer the wrong question. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with individuals simply trying their best to satisfy their own unique utility functions (which generally include some concern for the utility functions of others but not equal concern for all others). I see morality and ethics as to a large extent not theoretical questions about what is 'right' but as empirical questions about what moral and ethical decision processes produce an evolutionarily stable strategy for co-existing with other agents with different goals. On my view of morality it's accepted that different agents will have different utilities for different outcomes and that there is not in general one outcome which all agents will agree is optimal. Morality is then the problem of developing a framework for resolving conflicts of interest in such a way that all the agents can accept the conflict resolution process as optimal. It is not a problem of achieving an outcome that all agents can agree is optimal. For humans, biological and cultural evolution have equipped us with a set of rules and heuristics for the resolution of conflicts of interest that have worked well enough to get us to where we are today. My interest in morality/ethics is in improving the process, not in some mythical quest for what is 'right'. I haven't, but I've seen it mentioned before so I should check it out at some point. To be honest the title put me off when I first saw it linked because it makes it sound like it's aimed at someone who still holds the naive view of morality that it's about doing what is 'right'.
0Paul Crowley12yI have skimmed it and will return to it ASAP. Thank you very much for recommending it!
The Trouble With "Good"

Your intuitions will be biased to favoring a sibling over a stranger. Evolution has seen to that, i.e. kin selection.

Utilitarianism tries to maximize utility for all, regardless of relatedness. Even if you adjust the weightings for individuals based on likelihood of particular individuals having a greater impact on overall utility, you don't (in general) get weightings that will match your intuitions.

I think it is unreasonable to expect your moral intuitions to ever approximate utilitarianism (or vice versa) unless you are making moral decisions about peop... (read more)

Of Gender and Rationality

I've noticed strong female representation (where I least expected to find it) in The Skeptic Zone,an Australian skeptics group. The feeling I get of that community (even just as a podcast lurker) is that it's much more lighthearted than LW/OB. Whether that makes any difference to sex ratios, I don't know.

For most of the time I've listened to the podcast, there's been regular strong contributions from females. My gut feel would have been that having good female role models would encourage more female participation, however I just did a quick eyeballing of the Skeptic Zone's FaceBook fans and it looks typically about 5:1 biased to males.

1MBlume12ySkepchick [] is also notable, I think.
3[anonymous]12yWhich came first? The chicks or the egg?
Where are we?

Melbourne, Australia

0TomM11yMelbourne as well...
0Patrick11ySame here.
0luminosity11yMe too.
Cached Selves

Or what thoughts do you have regarding Michael Vassar's suggestion to practice lying?

(Reusing an old joke) Q: What's the difference between a creationist preacher and a rationalist? A: The rationalist knows when he's lying.

I'm having trouble resolving 2a and 3b.

2a. Hyper-vigilant honesty. Take care never to say anything but what is best supported by the evidence, aloud or to yourself, lest you come to believe it. 3b. Build emotional comfort with lying, so you won’t be tempted to rationalize your last week’s false claim, or your next week’s politi

... (read more)
2AnnaSalamon12yI did preface my list with “I’m not recommending these, just putting them out there for consideration”. 2a and 3b contradict one another in the sense that one cannot fully practice both 2a and 3b; but each is worth considering. Also, many of us could do more of both 2a and 3b than we currently do -- we could be more careful to really only every tell ourselves what’s best supported by the evidence (rather than pleasant rationalizations), and to mostly only say this to others as well, while also making the option of lying more cognitively available. There’s good evidence that people paid $20 to lie were less likely to believe their lie than people paid a mere $1 to lie. And similarly in a variety of other studies: people under strong, visible external pressure to utter particular types of speech are less likely to later believe that speech. It’s plausible, though not obvious, that people who see themselves as intentionally manipulating others, as continually making up contradictory stories, etc. will also be less likely to take their own words as true. I agree this is a potential concern. Vassar’s suggestion isn’t designed to help one avoid noticing one’s own past mistakes. That one really wouldn’t work for a rationalist. It’s designed to let you seriously consider ideas that others may disapprove of, while continuing to function in ordinary social environments, i.e. social environments that may demand lip service to said ideas. See my comment here [].