Failing all this I think we really should consider if the overly-strictly interpreted no mindkillers rule that was prevalent as little as a few months ago that much reduced political discourse wasn't a good thing that should be restored.
I used to be excited about the idea of harnessing the high intellectual ability and strong norms of politeness on LW to reach accurate insight about various issues that are otherwise hard to discuss rationally. However, more recently I've become deeply pessimistic about the possibility of having a discussion forum that w...
If I remember correctly, you replied to several of my comments on fairly controversial topics recently, but for the record, I didn't downvote any of them. I downvote direct replies to my comments only if I believe that someone is arguing in bad faith, or when I'm annoyed with some exceptionally bad failure of basic logic or good manners.
It seems like you're losing focus of my point. I am merely trying to demonstrate that it's wrong to consider studies of this sort as solid and conclusive evidence about the overall effects of the social interventions under consideration. I mentioned this scenario only as one plausible way in which one of these studies could be grossly inadequate, not as something I'm trying to prove to be the case.
I'm not sure what exactly you're trying to imply with this comment. You have complained that I was reading your comments too uncharitably in the past, so I'm trying to interpret it as something other than a taunt, but without success.
As it usually happens in the social "sciences," it's very naive to believe that in any of these cases we have anything like solid evidence about the total effect of the programs in question. Even ignoring the intractable problems with disentangling all the countless non-obvious confounding variables, there is still the problem of unintended consequences -- which may be unaccounted for even if the study seemingly asks all the relevant questions, and which may manifest themselves only in the longer run.
Take for example this nurse-family partnershi...
Clearly it's a very complex topic, but generally speaking, I do believe that Haidt's recent work is more or less on the right track in this regard.
That said, much of his insight is not very original, and can be found in the work of other, often much older thinkers, some of whom Haidt cites. Haidt's significance is mainly that he's trying to pull off a "Nixon in China," i.e. to leverage his own liberal beliefs and credentials to formulate these insights in a way that's palatable to liberals, who would be instantly repulsed and incensed by the oth...
It's hard to tell, but if they have been influenced by that post, then considering the lack of adequate reception of the post in the first place, this probably didn't improve their understanding of my comments, and has perhaps even worsened it.
Also, I don't claim to be anywhere near the ideal of optimizing for feedback in practice. After all, "When vanity is not prompting us, we have little to say." But I would certainly change my posting patterns if I were convinced that it would improve feedback.
I also don't think that low returns from top-l...
Most of the points relevant to your comment are covered in this reply to Tyrrell McAllister, so to avoid redundancy, please follow up on that comment if you think it's not an adequate answer.
How do you reduce autonomy to sacredness? I think of sacredness as something that inheres in some single object of veneration towards which a group of people can genuflect, such as a family shrine, a flag, a saint, or (for the left) "the environment". I would also extend the notion of a "single object" to slightly more abstract things, such as a single holy text (which might exist in multiple copies) or a single ritual way of eating (which might be enacted on multiple occasions).
One way in which sacredness commonly manifests itself i...
I haven't read The Happiness Hypothesis, but I've just read these pages on Amazon's preview. It seems to me that this was indeed an earlier phase of Haidt's thought, when he advocated a much more simplistic theory of the moral foundations and was still a partisan liberal. (I'm not just throwing around an ideological label here -- these days Haidt indeed describes himself as a "partisan liberal" in past tense.)
In these cited pages, Haidt gives some clearly biased and unrealistic statements. For example, we are told that "On issue after issue...
Just in case I don't remember correctly, I've just checked The Righteous Mind's index for "abortion." It lists three pages, each of which mentions abortion only in passing as an example of a public moral controversy, without getting into any analysis whatsoever of the issue. To the best of my recollection, there is no such analysis elsewhere in the book either, nor in anything else I've read by Haidt.
As for the blog you link to, I strongly suspect that the author is in fact extrapolating from his (her?) view of what Haidt believes, not relaying an actual argument by Haidt. I might be wrong, but a few minutes of googling didn't turn up any relevant statements by Haidt.
I'm not complaining about a lack of upvotes and links, but about the lack of responses that leave me with more insight than I started with, and also a general lack of understanding of the nature and relevance of the problems I'm trying to discuss. I'd rather have a comment buried deep in some obscure subthread with zero upvotes, which however occasions a single insightful response, than a top-level post upvoted to +200 and admiringly linked from all over the internet, which however leaves me with no significant advance in insight (and possibly only reinfor...
I haven't read Haidt, so I don't know how he accounts for "concern for autonomy" under his system. Does he reduce it to fairness and harm somehow? Or does it arise incidentally out of diminished concern for authority?
I've read Haidt's book, and I'd say he skirts around the topic of autonomy (sexual and otherwise) in liberal thinking, never giving it a satisfactory treatment, and avoiding issues where it would unavoidably come to the fore. For example, as a notable and glaring omission, the book doesn't address the controversies over abortion a...
I tried that a while ago, but the results were disappointing enough that in the meantime I've grown somewhat embarrassed by that post. (Disappointing both in terms of the lack of interesting feedback and the ruckus occasioned by some concrete examples that touched on controversial topics, which I avoided with less scrupulousness back then.) For whatever reason, insofar as I get interesting feedback here, it looks like I get more of it per unit of effort when I stick to run-of-the-mill commenting than if I were to invest effort in quality top-level posts. (I don't think this is a general rule for all posters here, though.)
You're right, these topics do make me sound like a broken record, and I also didn't take into account the broader context. It's just that I'm really irritated with papers like these.
(retracted, see below)
To me this reads like changing the subject to your favorite topics. But, in fact, you don't want to have a public discussion about them, so this winds up seeming pretty useless.
Perhaps I'm wrong, do you have some line of investigation into institutional incentives or ideology that would, e.g. greatly help Stuart in his effort to parse expert opinion on AI timelines? Or is his problem an exception?
That would indeed be a fully general counterargument, but it's not the sort of argument that I'm making. My theory is not that liberals elevate harm and fairness so much that they should be called "sacred" for them. Rather, my theory is that they have their own peculiar moral intuitions of sacredness -- which is evidenced by the fact that if these intuitions are challenged by arguments based on harm or fairness analogous to those they accept in other cases, they react with emotions and rationalizations in a manner typical of people brought into dissonance by an attempt to elicit conflicting moral intuitions.
Of course, my view may be wrong, but I don't think it can be dismissed as a fully general counterargument.
OK, if you want to delve into a concrete example with all the inflammatory details, PM me your email address. (I find the PM interface on this site very annoying.) If the discussion produces any interesting results, maybe we can publish it later suitably edited.
I'll also post a further reply later today, addressing some of your points that I think can be answered satisfactorily without going into too much controversy.
Sorry, I composed the above comment in a rush, and forgot to address the other questions you asked because I focused on the main objection.
Regarding other forums, the problem is that they offer only predictable feedback based on the ideological positions of the owners and participants. Depending on where I go, I can get either outrage and bewilderment or admiring applause, and while this can be fun and vanity-pleasing, it offers no useful feedback. So while I do engage in ideological rants and scuffles for fun from time to time on other forums, I've never ...
I agree that this is a valid concern, but I don't think your evaluation of the situation is entirely fair. Namely, I almost never open any controversial and inflammatory topics on this forum. (And I definitely haven't done so in a very long time, nor do I intend to do it in the future.) I make comments on such topics only when I see that others have already opened them and I believe that what has been written is seriously flawed. (In fact, usually I don't react even then.)
Therefore, while I certainly accept that my incomplete arguments may cause the proble...
I think the concrete objection from your comment fails to recognize the relevant concerns I outlined above.
Yes, it's quite possible that you've thought through these issues more thoroughly than I have. But one thing that makes me more skeptical than usual is that you're the only person I know who often makes claims like "I privately have better arguments but I can't share them because they would be too inflammatory". If your arguments and conclusions are actually correct, why haven't other people discovered them independently and either made t...
I don't have any significant disagreement here, except that I'm not sure if you believe that people's ideological views tend to be actually motivated by this kind of self-interest. I certainly don't think this is the case -- to me it seems like a very implausible model of how people think about ideological issues even just from common-sense observation, and it's also disproved by the systematic evidence against the self-interested voter hypothesis.
I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this.
"Lying" is not the right word, since it suggests conscious deception. The term I have used consistently is rationalization.
In order to demonstrate that liberal sexual values are sacredness rather than harm based, you'd need to point out some specific practice that was harmless but which liberals still vio
You're right, I shouldn't have used the word "lying". That mistake bothers me when other people do it, and I'm sorry for doing it myself.
But other than that...I'm afraid the whole point of my last post was to ask for examples, that we have different standards of what constitutes an example, and that I'm still not happy. For me, "Liberals have strong norms around equality" is not an example; I'm thinking something more along the lines of "You know how liberals are pro-choice? That's irrational for reasons X and Y and Z."
Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?
Are there liberals who try to crack down on commercial advertising wars? As far as I know, some liberals may grumble about the social waste of Coca-Cola and Pepsi spending millions to expand their relative share in a zero-sum competition, but they don't actually try to suppress it.
If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public he
So, while I can readily point out concrete examples of the sort you're asking, unfortunately in many of them, crossing the inferential distances would be an uphill battle, or there would be immediate unpleasantness that I'd rather avoid. Therefore I'll limit myself to a few more vague and general points:
I've often seen you say this kind of thing in your comments. Do you participate in another forum where you do describe the details? Or alternatively, are you preparing us to eventually be ready to hear the details by giving these vague and general points...
Fallacy of gray? Arguably no one has completely removed all minor unconscious belief in purity/sanctity/authority based values, but I think endorsing harm/fairness values at least correlates with holding fewer values based on P/S/A, even secretly.
There are two distinct questions here:
Are the standard liberal ideological positions (in the American sense of the word) really as low on the sacredness/authority/in-group values as Haidt would claim?
Are there, generally speaking, significant numbers of people (perhaps weighted by their influence) whose id
I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this. Or else "Some people say they are utilitarians, but obviously they are lying and have sacredness and purity and authority values just like everyone else" and not justified that either.
For example, where exactly is this liberal sacredness around sexual autonomy? The place I see liberals really get worked up abou...
Looking back at my comment, I did perhaps use a very broad brush at certain points, which is unfortunately hard to avoid if one wishes to keep one's comments at reasonable length. However, I'd still be curious to hear where exactly you think my description diverges from reality.
I think part of the difference between my experience and your statement, is that the liberals I know tend towards the libertarian end of the spectrum. At least on the drug issue, this might be a function of age.
The liberal argument against libertarianism is not that it is irrational to have a preference for liberty, but that (a) liberty is a more complicated concept than libertarians say it is (see Amartya Sen, for instance), (b) that libertarians often equivocated between the moral and practical arguments for libertarianism (see Yvain's non-libertarian ...
Well, yes, but that's basically a rationalization for the glaring inconsistency, which in fact exists as a sheer historical accident. Americans would be bothered by explicitly random traffic stops. But in reality, cops have the de facto authority to pull over whomever they want, and you have no right to defy them even if they decide to do it purely on a whim.
Note that it's irrelevant for my point that you can get tickets and charges suppressed later if you somehow manage to convince the judge that you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion. I'm focusing purely on the interaction between you and the cop on the spot.
The thing is, what determines when autonomy is absolute and inviolable, and when it should be weighed against other concerns?
When it comes to interventions in human affairs by the state and other institutions, modern liberals pride themselves on their supposed adherence to (what they see as) rational and scientific cost-benefit analysis and common-sense notions of equality and fairness. They typically assert that their opponents are being irrational, or acting out of selfish interest, when they insist that some other principle takes precedence, like for ...
the sexual norms based on sacralized individual autonomy end up working very badly in practice, so that we end up with the present rather bizarre situation where we see an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing about all sorts of sex-related problems, and at the same time proud insistence that we have reached unprecedented heights of freedom, enlightenment, and moral superiority in sex-related matters.
The unprecedented amount of hand-wringing might not be indicative of an increase in the number or magnitude of sex-related problems if it turns out that pr...
On the contrary -- it seems to me that the modern Western societies are, by all historical standards, exceptionally obsessed with sacredness norms on sex-related issues. See my old comment I linked earlier, in which I elaborate on some particularly striking manifestations of this.
(Also, among the most amusing posts on Overcoming Bias are those where Robin Hanson elicits outrage from the respectable progressive folk by putting some sex-related issue under dispassionate scrutiny and thereby violating their sacredness intuitions.)
As for the polyamorists, I ...
But I think it's probably wrong to say that all discussion of morality is rationalization. If that were true, nobody would ever be swayed by a moral argument. In fact, people do change their views -- and they frequently do so when it is pointed out that their stated views don't match their actions.
This is a non sequitur. An argument may change people's moral beliefs and intuitions by changing the underlying tacit basis for their rationalizations, whereupon they get displaced by new ones. The most frequent way this happens is when people realize that a r...
Or to take an even more poignant example, what will happen if you refuse to be humble and obedient when you get pulled over by a cop? Historically, in many places and times, this example would have had similarly great emotional power as those employed by the author of the original post.
(In fact, I find it fascinating that present-day Americans would see it as a creepy totalitarian idea if you proposed that cops should be authorized to stop and detain pedestrians for random paper checks, even though the same thing is considered a normal and unremarkable fa...
The number of instances that a typical American will need to be 'humble and obedient' - such as while getting pulled over by a cop, are possibly far fewer than the number of instances a woman in a traditional society such as the one described by Haidt is required to do so.
Possibly by an order of magnitude.
Even if humans have loyalty, authority and sanctity built-in, they can still recognize their instrumental role and can only instrumentally optimize for those.
The trouble is, absent certain unusually favorable circumstances, attempts at such optimization run into insurmountable practical problems. For start, such analysis would be tremendously difficult even for a superhumanly unbiased intellect. And then there is the even worse problem that realistic humans will be under an almost irresistible temptation to bias their analysis in favor of their own particular authority, sanctity, and in-group norms.
The questions Haidt ask are about what we judge to be moral. I simply don't judge disrespect for authority (for instance) as immoral in itself.
I am not going to analyze you in particular, but what I write certainly applies to typical people who adhere to modern ideologies that claim to be concerned exclusively with harm and fairness.
These people would presumably insist that they "don't judge disrespect for authority... as immoral in itself." But what people say are rationalizations, not the real motivations for their beliefs and actions. To e...
If you want to get a job providing safety equipment for workplaces, you should probably not proclaim that you believe that workplaces are too safe.
It looks like here you have inadvertently provided a good argument for the opposite of what you wanted. Namely, what you write applies even if your belief that workplaces are too safe is correct. (Workplaces can certainly be too safe by any reasonable metric, at least in principle. Imagine if office workers were forced to wear helmets and knee pads just in case they might trip over while walking between the ...
It is, however, missing a piece: why are there people who don't share all five foundations?
You are right that Haidt is missing that piece, although judging by his recent writings, he might be slowly converging towards the answer. Namely, the answer is that, contrary to Haidt's model of contemporary ideologies, there are in fact no such people.
What does exist are people whose ideology says that harm and (maybe) fairness are the only rational and reasonable moral foundations, while the other ones are only due to ignorance, stupidity, backwardness, malic...
I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society.
While they are likely necessary for organized human society, I think the argument is that their purpose is purely instrumental. It's sort of like how in the prisoner's dilemma, the concept of 'trust' ('tit for tat with forgiveness' variants) is an instrumentally useful strategy for winning points in a group of a certain kind of agents. Even if humans have loyalty, authority and sanctity built-in, they can still recognize their instrumental role and can only instrumentally optimize for those.
Basically, the problem is that K&T-style insights about cognitive biases -- and, by extension, the whole OB/LW folklore that has arisen around them -- are useless for pretty much any question of practical importance. This is true both with regards to personal success and accomplishment (a.k.a. "instrumental rationality") and pure intellectual curiosity (a.k.a. "epistemic rationality").
From the point of view of a human being, the really important questions are worlds apart from anything touched by these neat academic categorizations...
I really like this post. Could you make the link go both ways?
That said, I think you are overstating your case.
Also, if you figure out what local social norms are and that the stories are BS, you can accomodate the norms and ignore the stories internally. You can also optimize separate internal stories and external ones, or alternatively, drop out of the official story entirely and just be some guy who hangs around and is fun to talk to and mysteriously seems to always have enough money for his needs (the secret being largely that one's needs turn out to...
My vague impression is that it's closely related to distrust of authority. If one trusts authority, any change takes you farther away from a trusted safe state and thus carries a large hidden cost.
On the other hand, unless you have the enormously rare constellation of talent and circumstances to give you a realistic chance to rise to the very top, too little trust in authority leads to a state of frightened paralysis or downright self-destruction. What you need for success is the instinct to recognize when you should obey the powers-that-be with your he...
It seems to me that the decision theory generally favors acting as if one has rare talent and circumstances, as opposed to the alternative, more likely hypothesis, which is probably the contrarian hypothesis of being a simulation in any event. Attempts to justify common sense, treated honestly, generally end up as justifications of novel contrarian hypotheses instead.
Also, one who tries to conform to official norms rather than to ubiquitous surrounding behavioral patterns will rapidly find oneself under attack, nominally for violating official norms. ...
Looking at the world, we can see that even if not perfect, there are many cases of things which are done "outside of the market" but does works, from CERN to Appolo project, EDF/SNCF as I said in my original comment, European-style universal healthcare, ... it feels to me that being libertarian in this context is more like akin to refusing vaccines and keeping Azathoth alone.
When you mentioned economic "engineering," the first thing that occurred to me were various schools of macroeconomics and their proposed measures for economic pl...
Of course, for competition to really work out, immigration should not be regulated.
How does this follow? Unless I'm having a severe case of reading misapprehension, this is equivalent to arguing that there should be a market in housing because competition between landlords will result in good housing with reasonable rents -- and then adding, as if it were obvious, that for competition to work out, landlords should not have any rules for screening potential tenants.
I'm not a principled libertarian who will defend the "free market" consistently (in fact, I think the very notion is rather incoherent), but the sort of "engineering" you're talking about runs into two problems:
We still lack the epistemological means to obtain the expertise necessary for such engineering, except for some basic simple insights that were already known to governments of civilized countries centuries ago. Insofar as any economic engineering interventions have been successful historically, they have been based on this anc
I understand this point of view, but it doesn't feel to really watch the situation we are in right now.
We are more like with current medicine : we don't yet how to build a purely synthetic body that will not age, be sick, tired, ... and the best we have is the Azathoth-built biological frame, but yet we can do lots to improve that biological frame (like vaccines) or fix its flaws (glasses, painkillers, pacemaker).
Looking at the world, we can see that even if not perfect, there are many cases of things which are done "outside of the market" but do...
"Illegal contracts" is a misleading term here. These are not contracts that are illegal because they stipulate some action that is ipso facto criminal (like e.g. an illegal drug sale contract) or because they stipulate a transfer of rights that is inherently unenforceable in the existing law (like e.g. an indentured servitude contract). Rather, the issue is about perfectly normal and ordinary transactions that just happen to run afoul of the law in some relatively minor way, as in the given examples of ordering a meal in a restaurant that stays o...
If the institution looks at the terms of the contract and declines to have anything to do with the matter […] that is not a limitation on anyone's freedom to enter into such a contract. They can still write that contract. They merely do not have a claim on anyone else's assistance in enforcing it against the will of the other party.
The problem with this argument is that in the modern liberal order (and again ignoring some marginal exceptions), the state has a monopoly of violence, including violence that may be necessary to enforce a contract. Therefor...
Conformity too. This is a factor often overlooked in discussions of this sort.
(There are in fact two ways in which education signals conformity. The first one is the fact that you have conformed to the social norm that you are supposed to signal your intelligence and conscientiousness with this particular costly and wasteful endeavor, not in some alternative way that would signal these traits just as well. The second one is that you have successfully functioned for several years in an institution that enforces an especially high level of conformity with c...
I wouldn't call the present U.S. system "absurdly lenient." The system is bungling, inefficient, and operating under numerous absurd rules and perverse incentives imposed by ideology and politics. At the same time, it tries to compensate for this, wherever possible, by ever harsher and more pitiless severity. It also increasingly operates with the mentality and tactics of an armed force subduing a hostile population, severed from all normal human social relations.
The end result is a dysfunctional system, unable to reduce crime to a reasonable le...
It seems to me very different to say that it is difficult to assess whether something is a provocation than to say that there are some definitions of provocation under which it is and some under which it isn't.
If we could read minds (including those in the past), it would probably be possible to come to agreement about which concrete acts have been provocations in all cases, by looking for the mens rea: was the given act specifically motivated by the desire to induce a hostile reaction?
But since we can't read minds, the practical criteria for what coun...
Assuming your summary is correct, it would be an insult for the cargo cults to use them as a metaphor for this sort of "science."
Another important reason is that Americans have in the meantime embraced a lifestyle that would have struck earlier generations as incredibly paranoid siege mentality. (But which is completely understandable given the realities of the crime wave in the second half of the 20th century.)
Yet another reason is, of course, the draconian toughening of law enforcement and criminal penalties.
Even in that scenario, Japanese victory is conditional on the political decision of the U.S. government to accept the peace. My comments considered only the strategic situation under the assumption that all sides were willing to fight on with determination. And I don't think this assumption is so unrealistic: the American people were extremely unwilling to enter the war, but once they did, they would have been even less willing to accept a humiliating peace. Especially since the Pacific great naval offensive could be (and historically was) fought with very...
Are you familiar with the signaling theory of education? I think that, properly considered, it makes sense of a lot of the things you find so aggravating.
Steve himself seems to be pretty tonedeaf- I suspect a lot more people would listen to him if he didn't post stuff on such overtly racist locations.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, he was writing for respectable mainstream conservative papers. The trouble is, once you've written too openly about certain topics, you will be ostracised from the respectable media, and these limits of acceptability are getting ever stricter and narrower. And once you've been placed under such ostracism, unless you're willing to restrict yourself to writing for free on your personal blog, you can only write for various disreputable outlets where you'll have to share the URL or column space with less seemly people.
Worse yet, the new users may comply with the culture in form but not in spirit. In the concrete case of LW, this means new users who are polite and non-confrontational, familiar with the common topics and the material covered in the classic OB/LW articles, making appeals to all the right principles of epistemology ... (read more)
When I first joined, I barely commented, because I felt it would inexcusably lower the average comment quality. I still refrain on topics which I’m interested, but not competent in; but for the last 18 months or so I’ve felt more comfortable with the vector my comments apply to the site average.
Separately, I generally agree with Will Newsome about the high quality of your contributions.