I've been thinking about this post a lot lately. (Scott Aaronson and Scott Alexander were both obviously writing about the James Damore affair, in case you don't remember.) There are many of us who are "Kolmogorov complicit" right now, with respect to various issues. https://t.co/JBFU3OepYx
Scott should stay out of politics, even meta-politics.
We currently have a president who thinks Nazis are kinda-okay, a popular senator who thinks communism is kinda-okay, and bunch of media and political elites who think democracy and capitalism are kinda-okay.
Every society worth living in has some form of social orthodoxy. The problem we face today is a complete disintegration of the social orthodoxy. Having created a free, open society where atheists can go howling at every odd-colored moon, we have proceeded to let every atheist howl be treated as equally meritorious and the result is complete cacophony.
Other commenters on this thread speculate about what possible social orthodoxy Scott wants to remove. But of course they can't name it, because there is no social orthodoxy left to remove. Frankly, at this point, we'd be better off if we could agree on some useful social orthodoxy just to stop all the screaming.
If you disagree with this, I ask you to name one non-trivial belief that someone could publicly hold today in the United States (or similar democracy) that would amount to a serious risk to themselves. (Examples from non-free societies: Chinese exiles who criticize China will can get their families who still live in China jailed. Russian exiles who expose corruption at the highest level get murdered even after living abroad for years.)
Maybe someone can come up with a few. I can't. I can name a few from the past. But whichever ones you come up with represent the dwindling hope for cultural unity in free society, so think twice before challenging them.
Good article, I almost never regret reading something by Scott Alexander.
This one is about societies in which freedom of thought is curtailed and how scientifically-minded people often fail to adapt to such conditions.
He lists a number of scientists who were supposedly burned at the stake for their scientific discoveries, but in actuality had been severely punished for their opinions on non-scientific questions such as the nature of the Trinity, or for making political missteps like antagonizing the Pope.
Scott contrasts it with scientists who played the political game well and managed to create a bubble of rationality around them, like Andrey Kolmogorov who
lived in the Soviet Union at a time when true freedom of thought was impossible. He reacted by saying whatever the Soviets wanted him to say about politics, while honorably pursuing truth in everything else.
The author never explicitly mentions an object-level issue of how this relates to the cultural landscape we live in now, but I'm sure we can connect the dots. James Damore, for example, could probably be described by this paragraph:
If you think it’s impossible to be that oblivious, you’re wrong. Every couple of weeks, I have friends ask me “Hey, do you know if I could get in trouble for saying [THING THAT THEY WILL DEFINITELY GET IN TROUBLE FOR SAYING]?” When I stare at them open-mouthed, they follow with “Well, what if I start by specifying that I’m not a bad person and I just honestly think it might be true?”
It's a good read and the discussion in the comments is great too. I guess it's on-topic for this sub insofar as it deals with speaking truth to power of refraining to do so.
Motte, meet [bailey](http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/01/untitled/). There's nothing inherently wrong with the core concept, at least not in my opinion, but the term is so broad, and the modern understanding of it contains a lot of _super_ toxic and nasty behavior. [Exhibit B](http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/31/radicalizing-the-romanceless/), [exhibit C](http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=838877).
And yeah, a lot of this is people broad-brushing. Complain about sexism in video games and it doesn't matter whether you're the guy pointing out that it's kinda fucked up that Remember Me's devs had to fight their publisher to get a female protagonist, or if you're the kind of person who legitimately gets mad about people assuming their gender, [you're going to get called an SJW and dismissed as such](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je72mH9OmuU).
But there's no denying that certain areas of social justice culture are just really, _really_ nasty. In feminism, the idea of the ugly autistic nerd gets treated as a punching bag disturbingly often. Feminists very often [pattern-match in rather disturbing ways](http://squid314.livejournal.com/329561.html) - going from "I'm not an asshole, why am I doing so badly with women when my abusive friends aren't?" to "I'm a Nice Guy^(TM) because I ostensibly pretend to respect women, why aren't women flinging themselves at my cock?" in their minds quite easily. _That's a problem_. And it becomes very difficult to push back against this, no matter how rational or sensible it is, [because then you're fighting against the proposition that women should be equal to men, and what kind of monster fights against that](http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/)?
ITT: People quietly congratulating themselves on Scott having finally revealed his tacit approval for their personal prejudice or ground-axe.
Also people quietly gnashing their teeth in frustration at his inability to grasp how important and obvious their personal prejudice or ground-axe is, as shown by his subtle hint that he doesn't agree with it.
Luckily, we don't live in a society with actual secret police; and learning that $topic is a taboo is not that hard: You need to be convinced that $topic being taboo is a realistic possibility (and you don't need to be convinced that $contrarian_viewpoint is the truth of the matter). This becomes easier if someone explains the actual reasons for $topic being taboo to you.
Once this possibility has been brought to your attention, it does not need too much savvy to figure out whether $topic is really taboo.
Censorship and punishment for heresy are not so strict that you need whisper-networks for this. Meta-Punishment is not so strict that you get punished for publicly stating "the norms of this discussion of $topic appear to be quite toxic; hence I chose not to participate".
In Scott's analogy: Something you cannot do under Stalin, but very much can do in our society, is to say: "You know, this thunder-lighning thing is pretty politically charged, and does not look like a healthy topic. I pity all the people who made the choice to die on that specific hill; this appears unwise, regardless of the actual arguments."
In so far, I think it is a pity that Scott did not explicitly list off a bunch of taboo topics, as a PSA for people who might otherwise be drawn to these topics like moths to a flame without stopping to think about it.
Most of such taboo topics share the amazing traits that the object-level truth is entirely irrelevant in 99% of the cases, from a decision-theoretic viewpoint. Pointing out this fact is luckily not taboo.
For example, if you believe that it would be moral to discriminate against half-orcs in Dungeons&Dragons, then I think you're evil and have nothing more to say to you (conflict of values; we might need to compromise on decisions, though).
If you think such discrimination would suck, then we have established that HBD is irrelevant (outside of scientific inquiry), since not even the most die-hard racists believe that the span of human biodiversity is larger in real life than in DnD [in DnD you would classify orcs, elves and humans as different races of the same species, since they produce viable offspring- AFAIK half-orcs are not sterile. In DnD, baseline-humans and half-orcs differ on quite a few stats on the population-level, like lower intelligence and charisma, but higher strength for half-orcs. This is truth (read the rule-book!). Doesn't change the fact that your typical half-orc-wizard will have quite a lot more Int than your typical human-warrior, and both should have equal moral worth].
Now, there is a good reason for the norm that HBD is a taboo topic: If you believe that sufficiently many people are morally deficient enough to believe that discrimination against DnD half-orcs would be OK, then you should declare any discussion of HBD as heresy. I am not that cynic, but have some understanding for people who are.
What if I want people of INT less then 6 not to reproduce, regardless of if they are half-orcs or not, and intend to accomplish this via non coersive means (I create a "cursed item" that, when first picked, proclaims its own curse. Put this belt on, and you get stronger and more intelligent, but if you have 6 or less INT, also sterile).
Then you notice that half orcs are getting sterilized more. The item does exactly what it said, though.
Am I bad? Are also all the variations of me bad? Is there no way to use the relevant information for the betterment of the quality of life of everyone?
AutisticThinkerr/HardcoreRationality is for topics too controvers1 year ago
The main issue with any scientific topic being taboo is that it hampers science. Then what's worse is that to justify certain dogmatic position anti-epistemology would have to be introduced. So eventually any taboo scientific topic causes about the same degree of harm to epistemology which is a much worse problem than the taboo scientific topic itself.
Normatively speaking you can have evil policies with incorrect cognition, evil policies with correct cognition, good policies with incorrect cognition and good policies with correct cognition. I'm not sure why we can't pick the last one. Again to avoid CW I only speak at the meta level and the idea does not only apply to one or two specific taboo scientific topics. We don't need white lies to have good policies.
D&D also has the advantage of "detect evil" being a thing you can do, that actually works. That's going to be difficult to achieve in our world, although frankly a reliable and repeatable neurological/genetic test for sociopathy, narcissism and deceptiveness would go a long way towards filling that role.
If the "asshole gene complex" can be identified, what right do we have to *not* eugenically excise them from our species?
"Detect evil" sees something like the moral judgement of the gods, not the human-based moral judgement.
These may clash, making for hilarious campaigns (e.g. the villain is considered evil by both the gods/rulebook and the player characters, while actually being the good guy by modern moral standards; alternatively the players can take up such a role, but I find it more interesting for characters to have morals that are not identical to player morals).
This is quite an ancient trope, cf eg Prometheus.
> If you think such discrimination would suck, then we have established that HBD is irrelevant
Not Culture Warring here, but the truth or falseness of HBD is directly relevant to the evaluation of Affirmative Action and similar policies. I disagree that it or other heresies spoken here are irrelevant.
AutisticThinkerr/HardcoreRationality is for topics too controvers1 year ago
I think we as rationalists can use the termite approach in weakening dogmas no matter what they are as long as they are factually inaccurate. We just need to push for the right epistemology while shutting up outside anonymous places about the actual controversial dogmas (i.e. no culture wars). If someone has the right epistemology and universally applies it then they are getting rational and their belief in dogmas are weakened.
This can also prevent people from leaving one dogma and then get stuck in another such as the negation of the first dogma.
Factual accuracy of claims is orthogonal to the power of the one who makes the claim.
I had a friend who was trying to “find” herself, and she would change her ideology like you would change your clothes, and accept no criticism. She would spout the party line perfectly, and then flip within days. Obviously, her underlying epistemology was a mess and had no consistent relationship with reality. So yes, I agree that is the most important thing.
In case you were wondering, she eventually stabilized as a Jesus freak and is happier than ever.
I find the kolgomorov option morally repulsive, but dying quietly to a stalinist purge is a futile sacrifice. Then again, you don't have to pick one or the other.
I guess it depends on the proportion of kolmogorovs to kantoroviches to true believers, as well as the moral quality of the regime. If it's 95% true believers, culling 5% kantorowitches every year, you might as well live to keep the truth in play. But what if the regime is only maintaining its grasp on power because half the scientists are kolmogroveling? That would be a moral disaster. You would have abilene paradox'ed your way to hell.
There is an intellectual arrogance I possessed in my youth, that I thought being correct was all that mattered. I thought that if I was competent enough, and didn't care about status enough, I would be untouchable. And I was, sort of.
I had a job I loved. A dangerous, exciting, terrifying job. And I was excellent at it. I was given responsibility beyond my years and experience, a team of my own. Because I didn't care about promotion, I felt free to be extremely blunt about the idiocy my superiors came up with. What could they do? They needed me, and I didn't care about position or money. Unfortunately, I found out.
Because of my inability to be polite or at least quiet, I was not promoted. I didn't care. But in my place they promoted a hysterically unqualified shithead, who decided he wanted my team, that I had built and trained and cared for and protected. He got part of it, and promptly got himself and one of my most promising protégés killed.
With maturity, experience and a hint of survivor's guilt, I can see that my desire to "speak truth to power" left me without the position to protect my guys. I can't really blame my superiors for disliking me, I was pretty unlikable. I do blame them for being morons totally unsuited to their jobs, but that's another story. What did I gain? The moral superiority of knowing I had said something technically correct? I buried a kid barely over his nineteenth birthday, who wouldn't be dead if I could have kept my mouth shut. Trust me mate, it's not worth it.
Obviously the Soviet Union has fallen, the House Un-American Activities Committee has disbanded, the internet happened, social media happened, and for better or worse intellectual freedom in much of the world is at an all-time high. All these concerns about political savvy vs. complicity among thinkers in a "censored society" are fascinating and disturbing, but are they actually relevant anywhere today? It's tempting to guess China, but although China has a deep censorship problem and some deep science problems, they're not the same problem (if anything the opposite).
No, though Scott clearly has something specific in mind, it's closer to home. A strong orthodoxy exists among a large part of his home culture about certain questions of scientific fact. This orthodoxy seems obviously motivated by political concerns, which might even be understandable ones depending on your view, but facts are facts and the domain experts all know the truth. Nonetheless, top administrative leadership in their field has openly spoken against what the experts know to be true, or at best encourages public debate among laypeople in order to blur the issue while stifling discussion among the actual researchers. Organizations go out of their way to avoid mentioning the subject in public statements, or if necessary they take up evasive euphemisms and hedges. Real social harm is at stake depending on what actions people take based on this knowledge, so researchers discuss in hushed tones whether it's nobler to avoid complicity and quit their careers, or stay and try to change things from within by doing the best work they can in the conditions they have. Scott is obviously talking about Scott Pruitt's leadership of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
However, our Scott's "whisper network" already exists and it's not very whispery. It's the academic press. Regardless of how the political orthodoxies might fluctuate in some part of the world for some number of years, the rest of the academic world is still chugging right along with theory and data and peer review. Maybe the world lost some potentially great work from suppressed dissident thinkers in the USSR and USA during the Cold War, but e.g. Lysenko had no influence outside his country and never actually got to move the global state of the field backward. Likewise with the subject Scott's transparently alluding to, climatology, there are plenty of people who live outside the censored society (even if not geographically) and are continuing to move their field forward. When they give presentations at conferences and publish articles in journals, they speak quite plainly; the social orthodoxy doesn't even have enough presence to merit disclaimers or subtlety. Socially they may be encircled between hateful denialists and hair-shirted zealots, but the global institution is large enough and strong enough that they can do their work undisturbed in the academic bubble and only have to deal with the social friction when they go home and visit their families for the holidays.
For sure there's still the question of what to do when the experts possess socially important knowledge that contradicts widespread public belief. I think it's only fair to consider that different people have different roles. It's not entirely incumbent on the thinkers who actually do the discovering to be in charge of communicating it to the lay public; those are different skill sets, and frankly they frequently lose public debates to people who know less but are better at persuading. Instead there's a separate role for popularizers, who don't create new knowledge at the center of study but help diffuse it out into the rest of society, which still requires them to have a great deal of expertise and close connections to the first group so they don't risk misinforming instead of informing. It is most definitely the role of policymakers, whether they're conversant in a given subject or not, to seek and heed informed guidance instead of just reading the polls. And then there are the allies, who love the ideas of intellectual discovery and free inquiry but aren't skilled or employed in that particular field ourselves (even if we're in some similar but unrelated field). Perhaps it's not really our role to try to win arguments against the orthodoxy by memorizing as many relevant facts as we can to bring them, because even if we don't accidentally get something wrong, we're still perpetuating the notion that armchair debates between laypeople are a good way to settle these kinds of issues, which is a big part of the problem. But we can still learn and share knowledge just for the sheer joy of knowing it, and we can still argue correctly that the orthodoxy is overwhelmingly rejected by a virtual consensus of the experts, and we can march in rallies to support taking that consensus and those experts more seriously.
AutisticThinkerr/HardcoreRationality is for topics too controvers1 year ago
As far as I know China does not have any natural science-related nonsense except for TCM. But even anti-TCM attitudes are not censored. Epistemology is probably still a problem but overall the nonsense in China does not affect natural science a lot.
Can we please stop speculating about which particular object-level heresy this is about? Per Paul Graham’s follow-up FAQ to “What You Can’t Say” (which is the spiritual ancestor to the meta-level discussion Scott is having):
Why didn't you say some of the things you can't say?
The most extreme of the things you can't say would be very shocking to most readers. If you doubt that, imagine what people in 1830 would think of our default educated east coast beliefs about, say, premarital sex, homosexuality, or the literal truth of the Bible. We would seem depraved to them. So we should expect that someone who similarly violated our taboos would seem depraved to us.
If I said this kind of thing, it would be like someone doing a cannonball into a swimming pool. Immediately, the essay would be about that, and not about the more general and ultimately more important point.
Another alternative would be to say milder, moderately controversial things, like those Larry Elder wrote about in The Ten Things You Can't Say In America. I haven't read this book and have no idea if it's any good, but these are certainly not the ten things you can't say in America. I can easily think of ten that would be more shocking.
If I stuck to this kind of mildly shocking statement, it would give people the comforting illusion that these ideas, which you hear often enough on talk radio and in bars, represent the outer limits of what you can't say.
In fact, finding the outer limits is very, very hard. Popular controversialists just go for the low hanging fruit. To really solve the problem would take years of introspection. You have to untangle your ideas from the ideas of your time, and that's so hard that few people in history have even come close. Isaac Newton, smart as he was, wasted years on theological controversies.
Scott’s position is even more perilous than Graham’s because he is explicitly talking about the subset of What You Can’t Say that turns out to be true. There’s a lot of WYCS that turns out to be false anyway (two examples: defeatism among the Allied Powers during the World Wars and communist ideology during the Red Scares), so the only real lessons we can draw from, say, McCarthyism is something along the lines of, “don’t go too crazy trying to weed out crypto-heretics, because you’re going to have enough false positives to ruin innocent people”. The parable of the witch hunt only makes sense to people who realize that witchcraft doesn’t exist. Scott’s writing a guide for heretics to conspire to protect and investigate the truth while hiding from the Inquisition. If he comes out and says he’s talking about the yellowists, he’s no longer writing about how heretics can continue to operate in all times and places; he’s writing about yellowism.
While I'm probably more social justice aligned* than the average SSC reader, I will say that it is a problem.
I remember a few years back, there was this big call in a bunch of corners of the media to have, "a national conversation about race." Then Mark Cuban decides to talk about how, to his shame, he's sometimes afraid when he sees a group of young black men at night. Those people then jumped on him for being racist. I'm not trying to white knight for a billionaire- I mean he didn't really suffer any actual repercussions for that, but I do think it's a bit telling that the 'national coversation about race' was supposed to be one sided.
That said, I think a bigger taboo than race in American society is questioning the purpose/heroism/honor of the US military.
*funnily enough, I was much more on the fence about stuff like that before Trump was elected. I guess certain events just force you to pick one way or the other.
> I guess certain events just force you to pick one way or the other.
This is a very important point. Moving the Overton window is *vital*. Never negotiate for what you want, negotiate for *much more* than what you want.
That's another distinction between "nerd culture" and "mainstream culture". Nerds negotiate *for what they want*. Nerds just outright *state* what they want. Particularly confident (and Dunning-Kruger-cursed) nerds tend to become intransigent, and argue that either they get what they want or nothing happens at all, but they still negotiate from the position of "I want $100 so I'm asking for $100".
The mainstream, neurotypical, negotiation style is "I want $100, so I'm asking for $150, so you're going to 'argue me down' to $100, and both of us will leave happy."
Nerds grossly undervalue the importance of *leaving the counterparty happy*. To the point that a lot of the time, the concept *doesn't even cross their fucking minds*. This is a major reason *why* nerds have their reputation, well-deserved, of being terrible people. The nerd might have gotten what he wanted *that* time, but he left a scorchmark behind him that ensures he'll never be dealt with again.
This is why there's hostility between nerds and SJWs. Nerds just don't understand that if you want $100, you have to ask for $150, and this applies to social negotiation also. The purpose of making the white male feel like you want him to apologise for his own existence, is not actually to make the white male apologise for his own existence. It's to make him *consider*, often for the very first time, the *concept* that his existence might not actually be *more* important than the existence of others, that others are *also* protagonists of their own stories. If he does *that*, he'll have no "problem with SJWs" at all, because he'll stop the behaviours that cause friction with women, racial minorities, etc.
Of course talking openly about the strategy isn't done, and we will deny it and revert back to making the white man feel like we want him to apologise for his own existence, because we're asking for $150 when we want $100.
> The purpose of making the white male feel like you want him to apologise for his own existence, is not actually to make the white male apologise for his own existence. It's to make him consider, often for the very first time, the concept that his existence might not actually be more important than the existence of others
How do you tell the difference between that and the people who really do want the white man to apologize for his own existence? There are some such people, after all.
Also, by that reasoning, shouldn't it work both ways, so the nerds should demand more from the SJWs than they really want? If you want greater compassion from feminists, you can say that all feminists are radical man-haters, and negotiate this position down to just demanding compassion. If you think that pay for men and women is equal given equal circumstances, you can say that women are stupid or that women deserve less pay, and negotiate that position down to "women may not deserve less pay, but they don't deserve more than they have now, either".
Of course, it doesn't work that way. Nerds who ask for more than they want don't get praised as skillful negotiators. They're just treated as horrible racist and sexist neckbeards. The idea that you should ignore bad behavior because it's just part of negotiation gets applied very selectively.
In this formulation, aren't literal Nazis just clever conservatives willing to be argued down from Race War Now to maybe some marginal tax cuts? Nerds just don't understand that all that talk about ZOG is just a negotiating ploy!
Ah. So, when social justice is referred to as a cancer, it's not because it literally infects and kills and spreads itself, but just to make you consider, possibly for the first time, that its favored groups aren't actually more important than everyone else, yes?
I don't buy it. This is a justification. A world in which this was the true purpose of the over-ask would be one in which SJW pressure against the white male stepped drastically down as the median white male became aware of the existence of other people. This is not that world. This world is a world in which over-asking within the boundaries of your group is an effective social strategy, and one in which it's acceptable to come up with justifications for your team.
If you lead with $150 for a $100 piece, then some people will start with $50 and you'll end up with an equitable outcome. But if someone counters your $150 with a $100 offer and sticks to it, then the right response if you want a fair value is to go "You're right, this was clearly a tactic meant for someone else who is deceitful and you're not, let's go for $100." You are not leaving the other party happy. You are fulfilling your local norm of "It's okay to negotiate and stretch the truth of the value of your product inside a given window, not just as a self-defense measure, but to your own gain."
When you don't go for $100, or when you don't admit "Yes, this is us doing a strategy we don't like to talk about.", you're not bargaining for fair value. And you can get away with that exactly as long as it takes the other party to consider their BATNA.
And...hell, now that I mention it, consider this; it may well be that nerds have indeed spent the last decade or so learning this concept, and that's why Nazis are a thing again now. Hell, if you're against some minor values of Team SJW, why not advantage Team Nazi so that your opposing team has to give up some position in response?
This is not a stable equilibrium. It only lasts until one party starts consistently saying "Fuck you, I bid negative infinity dollars." The tactic you mention is a valid tactic, but only insomuch as the other party doesn't blow you off and stop dealing with you.
And I fear that much of what we see in current events is exactly that.
AutisticThinkerr/HardcoreRationality is for topics too controvers1 year ago
Thanks for another "Introduction to neurotypicality" post. Yeah! That's another reason why NTs make no sense to me. In fact all kinds of NTs make no sense to me. Their viewpoints don't really matter because none of the NT viewpoint packages and bluegreensmanship makes any sense to me. I guess these serve social purposes instead of being what they are.
Does it cross your mind that when you are asking for $150 we see you as being completely irrational and hence unpredictable because you tend to phrase it in a way if literally read can sometimes be simply absurd?
The military taboo is bigger than race? I'd disagree, though I will say it's now the biggest taboo favoring the right side of the political spectrum. I grew up in the post-Vietnam era and trust me, the post-9/11 bump was abnormal.
Yeah it's definitely not. There's just no reason to question the integrity of the military; it's not seriously in doubt and left-leaning politics questions the point of the *intervention*, not the integrity of the individual soldier or even the military as a whole (as opposed to the policymakers and President who direct the military). Foreign policy is absolutely fair game for political debate.
I've seen this "military taboo is bigger than race taboo" argument a couple of times now -- best I can tell, parts of the left are starting to realize that HBD denialism is becoming increasingly tenuous, so they're drifting away from strict denialism and toward whataboutism.
I'd argue you're wrong because Donald Trump got elected President - meanwhile, even Bernie Sanders says friendly things about the actual troops. Even Hollywood gives the military free press in tons of massive movies.
Yes, small independent films that are only seen by coastal elites attack our foreign policy.
Meanwhile, films like Transformers and other big budget flicks have for seemingly no good reason, a bunch of pro-military scenes, along with shots of heroic soldiers that wouldn't be out of place in a propaganda film. I mean, quality of film notwithstanding, Hollywood attempted to make an action flick out of Battleship.
Is there really no reason for the pro-military stance these films take?
I can't source this, but I thought I had heard that Hollywood studios open-secretly courts military favor / US military open-secretly pressures Hollywood to include those propaganda scenes.
Similarly unsourced, but I thought I had heard the same thing happens between Hollywood and the Chinese government. Big budget films consistently portray Chinese govt as competent and human-values-aligned, bc Hollywood studio execs want their films to run in China or bc Chinese govt pressures them or bc incentives align for both parties.
You're correct that it's not for *no reason.* The military offers extras and equipment to movies that portray it in a flattering light, and the studio saves $$$ on their props and casting. Still, it's a de facto propaganda pipeline.
Trumpians (and Americans) have no problem attacking specific soldiers - but not the military in general. Note also, Trump has been smart about who he has attacked, probably by accident.
He has attacked the actual institutions or say, the parents of a good ole' white boy who went and fought for his country.
Potential counterpoint or caveat to this post: The economist and blogger Tyler Cowen has convinced me to start viewing the world through more of a Straussian lens. Here is the key idea:
"That a successful society is necessarily based on some amount of lies..."
I think there is at least one founding myth of the US that is potentially this kind of lie. More charitably, perhaps we could call it "deliberately vague nonsense"? This is the myth:
"All men are created equal."
Now obviously, not every person is born with the same set of skills and capacities, so it can't mean equal in that sense. What about something more vague, like "equal moral worth"? I would argue that when we reflect deeply on that idea, we are going to run into some version of the trolley problem when it comes to actual policymaking.
But I think Tyler Cowen's claim here, and I would agree with him, is that having a society where people believe that "All men are created equal" may be extremely helpful towards fostering a culture of strong work ethic, helping out one's neighbors, making sacrifices for the country, etc.
I assumed that the "all men are created equal" idea simply meant to oppose a hereditary aristocracy; it needs not imply that all men have the same cognitive potential or economic worth, or be incompatible with meritocracy.
Yeah, in context of the Founding Fathers and the rest of the document, that clearly means equal in the classical liberalism sense, as in no one should have legal privilege or favor due to their birth, and you should have to earn positions of responsibility in the government instead of just marrying the king's cousin or whatever people did in those days.
A big part of Strauss is the importance of esotericism, though. The undiscerning public needs a different message than the studied skeptic, so important ideas need to be concealed and obfuscated so that only those who can crack the code are trusted with the dangerous truth.
This aligns really well with what Scott is saying, although in a different direction. It is the nature of truth-seeking to run into some unpalatable ideas, and that its is always necessary to build ways of communicating these ideas without drawing the attention of a normative public that will burn you as a witch. Anonymity and a bit of caution might actually be a bit more workable than the traditional suggestive silences of the ancients.
lunaranusmade a meme pyramid and climbed to the top1 year ago
I'd like to bring in the role of capitalism in all of this. Why did we not get Lysenkoism in the West? I think the answer is that a farmer who has to compete in the market cannot afford to be wrong for very long. Capital selects for beliefs that are genuinely predictive by awarding them with more capital.
Similarly you may notice a disconnect between rhetoric and business practices. Let people say what they want, but observe how they act. The problem comes when government starts to enforce the rhetoric across all businesses, thus destroying the selection mechanism...
Have any social justice activists publicly declared that ending sexism and misogyny would lead to a world where tech is 50% women? Whenever I bring up this question to my friends who are very passionate about social justice, they seem to kind of dodge the question and say something vague like "well I'm not saying there should be gender quotas".
To me, the seeming unwillingness of people to answer that question makes me kind of hopeful, because it probably implies that at some level, social justice activists know that there are other factors contributing to skewed gender demographics in tech other than just sexism?
30 seconds of googling found this:
> In the context of a market which is 50% women, choosing to hire a larger portion of men when there is an overabundance of the right stuff in women even if you assume against evidence in a disparity of population competence is moronic.
Wow, what a terrible article.
> I have a simple approach to determining whether something is sexist, racist or homophobic. I mentally substitute a historically subjugated subgroup for the referenced group in whatever I’m reading.
Yeah, r/StormfrontOrSJW and r/menkampf have that as their schtick too.
> Looking at the Google memo, it’s clear that if it were written about African Americans or coders who were Jewish, it would be completely unacceptable.
It was "completely unacceptable" as it was; now he's just determined whether it's subject to taboo, not whether it's accurate.
> The best evidence is that there are some brain function differences between men and women, but they don’t result in inferior performance on standardized, blind-assessed tests, the idiot memo from the Google coder notwithstanding, a desire to point at idiot male behavior patterns.
This sentence doesn't parse, but I'm pretty sure the phrase 'idiot male behavior patterns' fails his test. The part about standardized tests simply isn't true; [males have a consistent advantage on the SAT-M](http://www.aei.org/publication/2016-sat-test-results-confirm-pattern-thats-persisted-for-45-years-high-school-boys-are-better-at-math-than-girls/), for instance.
> Ada Lovelace and the women who ran the computers which put a man on the moon prove that the top end of computational ability is about the same for men and women.
Ada proves only that one woman was able to develop algorithms for machines to run; no one disputes that. But "computational ability" isn't what we're talking about (computation is what the machines do), and one high-ability team run by a woman demonstrates nothing either way about the very "top end".
> Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that there are more men who are capable of achieving that level, perhaps 5% of the world’s populace compared to 4.9% of women.
How about we make the more reasonable assumption that the ratio is closer to 1.9 to 1 (the proportion of boys to girls scoring over 700 on the SAT-M)? And the actual proportion of the population capable of doing the work certainly orders of magnitude smaller that 5%. Probably smaller than 5% of CS grads, in fact.
This is what flows from accepting an unquestionable lie into your belief system; it corrupts the rest in its own service.
> Have any social justice activists publicly declared that ending sexism and misogyny would lead to a world where tech is 50% women?
I can think of at least one (an ex-Googler whose name turned up in association with the Damore thing) but I don't know if she's said it publicly.
That may be so, but its doubtful that any amount of advancement would be "enough". We're still hearing about the horrors of sexism in universities, with the number of men under 40% and shrinking.
All that is rather orthogonal to my point though. Places like Google and Yahoo are full of people who believe passionately in this stuff, but they can't find women to hire. Even suggesting a different way to increase the number of women other than quotas and male-shaming is responded to with immediate termination. And yet, they have the same percentage of female techies as everyone else.
Firing geeks who agree with your goals but not your methods is what you do when you know you are full of shit, but are desperate to keep everyone else from finding out. If they really gave in to the demands of social justice, they would not be a dominant company. They pay off the most vocal critics with positions like Diversity Chief, fire a lowly programmer or two, and hope to stay on the good side of the mob.
More of a historical question, but with relevance to the kinds of social structures behind Kolmogorov complicity situations: in pre-modern Asian states (e.g., Qing China and earlier) were there any Galileo- or Bruni-like scientific heretics? If not, why not? The only thing that comes to mind is the Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars, but that's one time, a long time ago.
For starters, the late medieval and early modern Catholic Church made it *very easy* to tell when you were on their wrong side, well before it got to the point of persecution. No whisper network needed to tell you "Psst! Don't deny the divinity of Christ, the Church doesn't like that!" The dogmas of the Church are exactly those things that the Church says if you don't toe the line, you're a heretic. And they're explicitly proclaimed, all of them, either by a ecumenical council or by the pope *ex cathedra*. And if somehow you missed that, once you started talking or preaching, someone would come and tell you "knock it off, that's heretical". Those who got persecuted were those who persisted in heresy.
Now, obviously, that's still bad. But it belies the point about the woefully socially awkward medieval nerds who just couldn't realize that the Church didn't like people speculating about the divinity of Christ.
Being fair to Scott, the list of "toasted heretics" he gave also came with an acknowledgement that they were punished for heresy, not science.
Then he blew it by going "Sure, if we accept the excuse" - argh! That's what drives me crazy about this whole discussion! The modern idea that people can't *really* care about religion, so the *true* reason must be something else and the ostensible reason - we're busting these guys for heresy - is only an "excuse".
No, funnily enough, back then people really did care about religion, enough to have an entire Reformation at the time. They mightn't care if the earth went round the sun or the moon, but they sure as heck did care what your opinion on the divinity of Christ or the Trinity was. Just because in our era nobody cares if you believe in God, believe God is an alien, or don't believe in anything does not mean that the reasons of past eras were excuses. That's like saying that a paper claiming to run a perpetual motion machine being rejected by a publication because it violates well-grounded laws is only an excuse and the real reason must be because the author and the editor went to the same high school and the author stole the editor's lunch money.
Also, on that list, one of the guys was executed by the Calvinists of Geneva - so *not* the Catholic Church - and one of them was executed by the French secular government in Toulouse, so again not the Church (and it was the secular arm that legally could do the burning, not the Church officials) and so it was probably down to dirty tricks in local politics. There's also no real evidence about Friar Bacon being sentenced to house arrest and dying under same; he got himself into trouble because of believing in prophecies about the end of the world and the Third Era of the Holy Spirit that were going around at the time. This list of "science-minded challengers of orthodoxy" is pretty much "guys that nowadays would be hammered by any rationalist site for believing in woo". Giordano Bruno, if Neil deGrasse Tyson could whip up a time machine to go back and rescue him and bring him into our time, would not be a proto-scientist, he'd be knocking out the same kind of books as Paulo Coelho and copying Deepak Chopra in using "quantum theory" to support wacky New Age crystal vibration healing and how you too can live forever by channelling your chakras. That's why he was so enthused by the Copernican theory: not "ah, at last, true pure science!" but "yes, the mystical power of the Sun is indeed at the centre since Apollo is the greatest god!"
If you're dumb enough to send a book to Calvin, telling him that his theology is wrong, and then ask to move to Geneva where Calvin is pretty much the New Pope, then it's no surprise you end up toast. That's not just sticking your head in the lion's mouth, it's basting yourself in tasty sauce to make it even yummier and climbing down its gullet.
> Then he blew it by going "Sure, if we accept the excuse" - argh! That's what drives me crazy about this whole discussion! The modern idea that people can't really care about religion, so the true reason must be something else and the ostensible reason - we're busting these guys for heresy - is only an "excuse".
That's not what was Scott's point though:
>> The Church didn’t lift a finger against science. It just accidentally created a honeytrap that attracted and destroyed scientifically curious people. And any insistence on a false idea, no matter how harmless and well-intentioned, risks doing the same.
What always bugs me about discussions about Galileo is the failure to note the huge elephant in the room of the political situation at the time, and how it changed between his initial telescopic discoveries in 1610 and his eventual trial in 1633. Notably, the longest and largest European war in history up until the twentieth century, the Thirty Years War, started between them and was still ravaging Germany until 1648. Massive religious war destroying northern Europe, and everyone gets *really nervous* about any potential religious conflict starting in their country too.
Careful, acknowledging that medievals had *actual reasons* for believing the silly things they believed sails very close to wrongthought.
Next thing we'll have to acknowledge that (1) in a society with minimal travel and maximum racial/familial homogenity, in which (2) the diet and living conditions are so near-universal as to amount to experimental control, and (3) people born at different times of year are exposed to different developmental conditions in their mothers' wombs (and those mothers are often marginally fertile, hence only able to get pregnant at certain times of year), there might actually be (4) *something to the idea* that people born at consistent times of year show patterns in their personality traits according to their birth month.
But that'd be *dangerous*. [COMMENTARY REDACTED AT MOD REQUEST]
That's more details than I have, and may involve data that *no-one* has. The theory came originally from a discussion I saw years ago of a study where the researchers had noticed that female sufferers of anorexia more often had the same birth month, and this was because anorexia is a partially-heritable trait *and* a condition that imposes marginal fertility. An anorexia sufferer often can't get pregnant unless her body fat reaches a certain lower limit, which requires cold weather, different diet, etc.
The upshot of this was, if anorexia correlates with month (season, really) of birth, why not other things? Perhaps those superstitious primitives, who all lived in the same place and shared the same diets, really *did* have variations in personality traits that correlated with their season of birth and their mothers' diets.
As to which specific traits, I have no idea.
[A]lthough dog whistles do exist, the dog whistle narrative has gone so far that it’s become detached from any meaningful referent. It went from people saying racist things, to people saying things that implied they were racist, to people saying the kind of things that sound like things that could imply they are racist even though nobody believes that they are actually implying that. Saying things that sound like dog whistles has itself become the crime worthy of condemnation, with little interest in whether they imply anything about the speaker or not.
The comments offer a different understanding of dog whistles: they're leaks in your whisper network. Accusing someone of dog-whistling is saying "I know about your whisper network, and this dog whistle is proof of your heresy". One poster even almost-publicly accuses Scott of heresy via dog-whistle:
Nevertheless, we still both know what the other is talking about (more or less). So consider it a critique from the other side that has pierced your whisper network. Maybe the thunder does come first for some of these unspeakable issues.
Scott suggests that the Authorities turn a blind eye to the whisper networks, but admits that the secret police won't have any reason to do so. The comments section is a microcosm of the issue.
I was disappointed that among the things you can do to nurture truth under an ideological hegemony the subject of esoteric writing wasn't mentioned (with a link to https://www.gwern.net/docs/2007-melzer.pdf for example). Attacking a hostile hegemony should be more or less safe, while giving one an opportunity to explain how ideological hegemonies work and what could be done about it fully generally. All good things should be self-referential!
Maybe if it become associated with Archie Bunker or KKK types; they don't want to be seen as _stupid_. But I think the current open HBD types are too edgy to worry about association with racism otherwise. Those who would worry already avoid it.
If sex and ancestry bell-curve-related matters are a large part of the unmentionable set, I'm pretty conflicted about this whole meta-argument. Why is it that of the present universe of sacred cows, these two always seem to come to the fore?
I tend to believe that it is not because they are basal truths from which society as a whole will extract a lot of utility or remove a lot of dead weight, but because they are the least costly to their prospective discussants. Given human history, highlighting these topics as forbidden seems like asking permission to frictionlessly gore someone else's ox.
I think the shadows cast by these issues trace larger and more fundamental unmentionable questions that will inhibit any productive discussion of these downstream concerns beyond signalling and status transfers. Oddly enough, even though I'm a Singularity skeptic, I think a lot of these larger questions are encapsulated in or tangential to the AI safety debate (i.e. the future of scarcity and resource allocation, market v nonmarket values), where a lot more of the rationalist community has skin in the game.
I come from a a background where bell curve topics were discussed pretty openly, and I think they should be discussed, but I think they fall squarely within the penumbras of the mundane rather than in the outer pantheon of the unquestionable.
> If sex and ancestry bell-curve-related matters are a large part of the unmentionable set, I'm pretty conflicted about this whole meta-argument. Why is it that of the present universe of sacred cows, these two always seem to come to the fore?
Because they are the most sacred and the most demonstrably wrong of all current mainstream beliefs.
I think that as long as you at least appear to listen to arguments and evidence, you shouldn't have any trouble being a Singularity skeptic in these parts.
Unless you want to create some _really_ terrible future. Then we may be confused and dismayed.
>Why is it that of the present universe of sacred cows, these two always seem to come to the fore?
Because those are the ones where 1) the mob takes one side, and 2) the facts are sufficiently against the mob that just discussing the issue rationally puts you in danger.
Nothing to do with cost.
There's no mob dedicated to _arguing_ against organ selling in public debates, or to destroying people's lives if they advocate for it. But if word came out that you were running a for-profit transplant clinic (or even a nonprofit one where you compensate the donors) you'd get lynched. Probably metaphorically rather than literally, but certainly worse than what doctors at abortion clinics go through on a regular basis in the South.
Assuming I'm not over-fitting the parable, "the ancients knew this stuff" does tend to lean in that direction.
I'm sure there are other heresies that fit with this, such as various religions, sex and gender, etc. Anyone want to add to the list?
I wonder what this could possibly be a metaphor for?
Pretending it's entirely a metaphor for that -- because there's more than one metaphor here, but that's the one this applies to most -- I'm concerned by this line:
Even the savvy Kolmogorovs within the global warming community will be forced to admit that their theory just seems to attract uniquely crappy people
The Subject Of The Metaphor is correct. Unbridled, unvarnished truth-seeking in the relevant sphere will lead you to TSOTM eventually.
TSOTM also attracts unusually crappy people. It revolves around a difficult topic, and we live in a world where crazy x-ists outnumber unbridled truthseekers at least a thousand to one. Even people who present as the latter can share more traits with the former -- unbridled truthseekers are for various reasons less likely to be someone who could be personally harmed by some implementations of TSOTM, therefore it doesn't necessarily occur to them to approach the subject respectfully. This spirals to madness on more occasions than anyone's comfortable with.
Recognizing that TSOTM attracts unusually crappy people is vital if one ever wants to live in a world where it doesn't. Knowing how to disavow the other 90% (optimistically) of TSOTM supporters is the only way to possibly advance your 10%. Even a nominal member of the 10% who doesn't do that is dangerous -- it implies they don't notice, at least not as fully as they should, how harmful the 90% is to advancing the conversation.
The possibility Scott doesn't recognize this is worrying, to say the least.
> Knowing how to disavow the other 90% (optimistically) of TSOTM supporters is the only way to possibly advance your 10%.
*If* that is your goal - maybe whether thunder comes before or after lightning isn't that important in the big scheme of things, and there are better hills to die on.
Or to be less abstract - I'm annoyed that James Damore got fired & attacked, and would like to prevent that, but I don't care as much about advancing the actual ideas he was attacked for. Whether or not we can have a high-quality public discussions is more important than the specifics of this or that idea, as long as nobody is burnt to the stake or twitterswarmed over them.
eaturbrainzfeminist superintelligence development1 year ago
And why do you think /u/ScottAlexander is talking about *your* favorite heresy?
Because Scott's been posting a lot about IQ differences (and the biological basis thereof) lately. See the discussion on the success of the Hungarian Jews, the one about groups of people concerned about their IQ scores, and everything about the Damore debacle.
Also because referencing Galileo ("and yet it moves") to make a point about HBD discussion is already a cliche.
> referencing Galileo ("and yet it moves")
Which he [may not] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_yet_it_moves) have said; the anecdote depends on something written in a painting done shortly after his death, and was mostly promulgated years after that, on the grounds that "Well, people alive at the time who knew Galileo never said it was wrong, so it must be true (probably maybe oh who cares it's a good story)".
Oh, hey eaturbrainz! Big fan of your CW posts.
I suspect he's talking about a lot of heresies. I also think the obvious 'it's all the stuff *currently* relevant-adjacent' (Damore, etc) conclusions are red herrings focusing too much on said relevance, that the primary heresy being discussed has to be one of the especially large ones, and that interpreting the analogy closely implies this is the primary heresy. I'd *like* to be wrong -- that bit of the analogy is disconcerting if it's this specific heresy -- but then, it'd be disconcerting for most heresies (the reason 'no friends to the right' is such a great philosophy is because even when rightists are correct, they're still evil).
eaturbrainzfeminist superintelligence development1 year ago
Mind PMing me your idea of what it is? I'm more of a Kantorovich who can hear people whispering, but can't tell what they're saying.
Also, me being a massive fucking heretic on some pretty big stuff, my personal standard is:
* Obscurantism or deliberate over-narrowness when speaking aloud
* Work quietly until I can present "polished pieces" that can slot neatly into others' expectations. Use skeptical others as ways to check my own errors and refine everything.
* Deliberately underplay the significance of any one thing.
* To quote a fun song, "the tallest mountain started as a stone." Just keep slowly accumulating work until the desired results begin to appear as slowly built-up mountains where every stone, every step, every argument was fully justified and reasonable.
* Avoid pointing out what the mountain looks like, lest it kick in how counterintuitive an edifice we've built.
What if one created a sub-sub-whisper network which naturally attracts the 90%. Obviously this would generate more content than the 10% could produce, which would lead to accusations of it being the true heart of the operation. But if the leadership never appeared in or cited this quarantined channel, it would allow for plausible deniability while still filtering out the riffraff.
I don't think you give the Inquisition enough credit. Fundamentally, the modal Inquisitor is a better person than the modal heretic. That just doesn't say much in a world where everyone is terrible and everything is broken.
I think you give them far too much credit. Fundamentally, every single inquisitor is a worse person than the worst heretic. Those who sublimate their sadism and paranoia into conventional bigotries to punish the already marginalized are not the moral superiors of their victims.
I honestly believe that most of the inquisitors were doing what they did for honest reasons, and they sincerely believed that they were acting for the good of society.
One of the major precepts of the Catholic Church is that salvation is a group thing. We will get saved, not because of individual works, but because the entire Church, in apostolic descent from Peter, will get saved as a jog lot. "Look not on our sins, but on the faith of Your Church". This explains a lot of the weirder things the Catholic hierarchy does. Protecting the Church from scandal is essential, as the Church is our only lifeboat, and to lose members or status is to threaten to swamp the only boat we have. There is no alternative way to salvation, so we should do whatever it takes to make the Church stronger.
In this light, the inquisition is an attempt to save our only hope of salvation, which, at the time, was in grave danger of being suborned by other traditions, and thus damning us all.
I do not believe this, but I point this out, as this is what many Catholics, especially the Church hierarchy, do believe.
> I honestly believe that most of the inquisitors were doing what they did for honest reasons, and they sincerely believed that they were acting for the good of society.
So did Hitler. Obviously having good intentions is not the sole (or even a sufficient) yardstick of a good person. You also have to be, on some level, *right*.
I have my doubts about Hitler's intentions. I have a suspicion that he knew that some of what he was doing was morally grey (or worse, much much worse).
Catholicism has a very well developed moral theory, that was almost universally believed at the time (in the West), that justified these actions. We can judge them to be wrong, but we should at least understand where they were coming from. I think that many, but not all, Catholics would still believe that the basic principles behind this behavior were correct.
I am not a moral relativist, but I am not completely confident that I know what the one true morality is. I hope it does not include the worst excesses of the Inquisition, but I can imagine it including the mainstream behavior of the Inquisition, a tribunal of learned people, who did not claim any authority over non-believers, such as Jews or Moors, who recommended penances, such as going on a pilgrimage, to members of the organization who had breached the rules. My ideal society might have something quite similar, if the tribunal was just, and the penances appropriate.
I was using the term "inquisitor" as a general social role, not specific to the Catholic Church. But there I would argue too, that the people who seek out the role of sniffing out heresy and employing the rack to eradicate it, are morally inferior to their victims, even if everything they believed about them was correct.
edit: Honestly believing you are correct is not a moral panacea. Every great evil is perpetrated by people who think they are doing the right thing, the necessary thing for the greater good, etc. etc. No one believes that what they do is evil. We incinerate millions in the pursuit of progress, of divine will, of manifest destiny or theological precision. Someone believing absolutely in their own correctness is the first and most necessary component of evil.
I do not see that much of a dichotomy here maybe just because I think on a meta level. For me clearly the Kolmogorov option works just fine except that it does not only involve the thinkers themselves but also their patrons and mentors.
Take Galileo example. He was educated in benedictine Vallombrosa Abbey that was founded in 1038 and later in University of Pisa that was founded by edict of pope Clement VI - who was himself benedictine scholar educated on Sorbonne College in Paris that was in turn founded by Robert de Sorbon a french theologian in 13th century - an era of high scholasticism when the west was already acquainted with the whole Aristotelian corpus. So in that sense Galileo already stood on the shoulders of Kolmogorovian giants.
Also just to note this whole problem is much older than current culture wars, Stalinism or Inquisition. The story of Socrates taking hemlock because he corrupted Athenian youth with his strange ideas is well known. Pythagoras was founder of strange cult that revered numbers and was on one occasion almost lynched by angry mob that set fire to building he lived with his acolytes. Supposedly Archimedes was killed by random roman soldier after responding "do not disturb my circles" when asked about his name - despite direct order to retrieve him alive by roman general.
So what I mean to say is that for me in a sense it is a lot more about infrastructure. Having a system in place that protects and rewards unique thinkers is almost more important to advances than those thinkers themselves. And now I do not say that one always has to be careful and patient. Maybe sometime it is better to unleash scientific shock troops to show that the emperor is naked. But is should better be coordinated and useful endevour.
I feel like the example of Kolmogorov stands a decent chance of becoming akin to Galileo in terms of people who are very wrong using it as a fully generalized defense. "I'm not allowed to talk about X in polite company and get ostracized for it, I'm just like Kolmogorov". In this case, X meaning things like racism, antisemitism, misogyny, et cetera. This seems like a trap to be careful of.
Well yeah, you still have the underlying problem of *actually being right*. This is just about dodging an incentive gradient that tends to be opposed to truth. Avoiding one failure mode is not sufficient to succeed, it may merely be necessary.
If only there was an anonymous place of communication where people didn't know each other's true identities - so couldn't get them in trouble - and where they could discuss information freely with little to no censorship... if we had such technology, why, the whisper network would be almost redundant, since information would be so readily available.
I think two problems remain even in a completely anonymous situation:
- people finding each other or good communities
- people like Kantorovich not even trying to do so: He *wanted* to tell Stalin about his discoveries. It wouldn’t have made that much sense for him to speak to random people on the internet (if it had existed and would have been completely anonymous, that is)
Then of course, the internet is not the perfect place you describe. Under a powerful oppressive regime, it would likely be heavily controlled and censored. The people using cryptography and trying to stay anonymous would be persecuted.
I‘m not saying we aren’t lucky for having the internet, but it’s not enough to simply dismiss the article.
The point isn't that Kantorovich would've wanted to post online instead of telling Stalin, it's that he would've read on an online forum that telling banned facts to Stalin is something you should _not do_.
Any maybe norms against not listening to people like me who recycle their nicknames every month or so. You have to find a way to turn a nickname into a respected authority if deserves it, but you cannot based it on upvotes, because upvotes track popularity more than respect. So upvotes get you Louis CK's, not Einsteins.
Upvotes are a currency with unlimited supply and a fixed price of 1, 0 or -1. I don't have to be an economist to guess that ranking people by Patreon where it costs real, scarce money you could and there is no price fixing is better:
I also have started to trash my identities every 3 to 6 months. I care not for karma but I would be ruined professionally for my hbd and group iq beliefs. In my state and with the professional regulatory regime I live under my professional license might get pulled, but an open investigation is public and I would lose work.
(By regulatory regime I have a highly regulated profession. By and large the regulation is necessary, for the public's protection and the regulation is done in a professional manner. However, my views could be construed against me in a broad reading of the rules.)
If people are concerned about pseudonyms getting matched to their identities, they might be scared to share truth in a pseudonymous forum. Therefore, if you seek the truth, you must avoid pseudonymous forums and go to fully anonymous ones, where the Kolmogorovs of the world feel safe to tell you what's actually going on.
I guess what I'm saying is that 4chan's /pol/ are *basically* modern-day Galileo.
Dear god has Galileo let himself go.
Or, to put it another way: the problem with whisper networks in the modern world is that they're more than occasionally full of shit. /pol/ is unorthedox, and more likely to talk about taboo or heretical subjects than the New York Times.
It's also _fucking awful_, fully deserving of the subheader given to /b/: "The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood. Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact." It's not a good tradeoff.
Maybe Wikileaks is a better example, but Wikileaks isn't anonymous - it has a clear name and brand reputation backing it up. When Wikileaks says something, you know it's probably true _because_ of that reputation. Sure, it's not great to be Julian Assange when people figure out who Julian Assange is, but it beats the hell out of the mess that is anonymous image boards.
Just to make sure we're all on the same page: I was playing reductio ad absurdum with the concept of a whisper network. It seems clear to me that by Scott's standards in his article, /pol/ should qualify as such a network. And yet it's shit. Why? Basically, because whisper networks have a very common failure mode, where people spend more time LARPing Galileo than they do actually seeking truth. That, plus the usual issue where places safe from witch hunts tend to attract all the actual witches.
The *main* problem with a whisper network is how to determine expertise and distribute trust; it is unrealistic to expect everyone to review all the evidence themselves (that never happens with any science), and yet the usual avenues of establishing trustworthiness - peer-reviewed publications, for instance - are unrealistic when you're only whispering.
The contemporary lunatics of Galileo's day probably weren't any better or worse than 4chan is now, we just don't know anything about them.
In 500 years, the only people from our era that will be cared about will be members if not of 4chan, of some equally hated group. All the assholes will be forgotten, along with all of us.
Pubpeer might be a decent example. The topics are only taboo in that the level of scrutiny is breaking convention, but the conversations are now public where before it really was just reputation and whispers at conferences.
You can do plenty of social good as a Kolmogorovian
Someone needs to staff the committee on well-meaning overreach. And they're not going to pick a heritic.
So, bow your head, say the appropriate prayers, and then run your committee like a reasonable person.
Other commenters have already mentioned it, but I'd say that there are many "bad" things that can affect a child but which are not really fixable, whether it's certain illnesses, behavioral traits, or physical traits. Some examples:
When a kid is sick with a cold, the main cure is tincture of time. Most cold medications do very little or nothing. Parents don't like hearing this.
Some kids (thankfully not a lot) have serious anger management and temper control problems. They are referred for counseling and therapy, but the efficacy seems rather low. There are medications to "treat" the problem, but they can have other bad side effects.
Childhood obesity is a big problem. The general approach we take with parents is counseling them that with proper diet, exercise, and limiting a sedentary lifestyle, obesity can be "fixed". But I am beginning to suspect that for at least some kids, their obesity may be due more to genetic/biological factors that are out of their control.
> ...obesity may be due more to genetic/biological factors that are out of their control.
I think it takes a *very* short memory to believe this. I guess it might be true for a few kids, but it's not likely to be many when one considers that the rates have shot up extremely rapidly and are much higher than in nations with shared ethnic backgrounds.
I suspect that you're correct that counseling parents does basically nothing, but I don't think it's because genetics simply overwhelms their good efforts.
lunaranusmade a meme pyramid and climbed to the top1 year ago
There's no incompatibility between a large increase in the time series and genetic factors explaining the cross-section. All you need is a sufficient change in the environment. Heritability of BMI is extremely high, something like 0.8.
> I am beginning to suspect that for at least some kids, their obesity may be due more to genetic/biological factors that are out of their control.
Hmm. I'm fairly sure that a lot of people holding the *opposite* viewpoint (i.e., that obesity is a deliberate choice and the blame lies on the patient) believe that *they* are being the unpopular heretics. So maybe there is not a real orthodoxy in place here, but rather a general social aversion to discussing the problem at all?
(Reminds me of the Middle East conflict, where either opinion has gotten people fired in the US.)
Have you considered that "Kolmogoroving", "hypocrisy", and "selling snake-oil" may not be particularly easy to distinguish from the inside?
What exactly would be wrong with saying "I don't personally believe anything we do helps in these cases, but it is an open question in the profession. Here are the addresses of some other chaps who sincerely believe that they can help, and you might either get better results from, or get handsomely ripped off by, them".
Obesity is one of the issues that seems not be out of control of some individuals involved, but once people become obese, it is hard to break the circle. Basically, bad results/influences on people and their consequences can sometimes be sticky.
So choices matter, but it isn't as easy as willing yourself out of the problem. It might be that the correct choices (or environment that leads to them) lead to good results, but it is far harder to fix consequences created out of bad choices than it is to live a successful life by making the correct choices the first time around. Genetics might be part of the "likely to lead to success first time around" package depending on issue.
I am not sure genetics is the most major reason for certain sticky problems, though this differs based on circumstance and issue. When it comes to obesity it is just easier to explain why something isn't easy to change (and as a result hateful reactions towards failure isn't a good thing) by pointing to genetics.
Obesity, like depression, stands directly in the way of its own cure. The more obese one is, the more exercise literally *hurts*.
Which leads me to suspect that a suitable treatment for obesity may include the mild abuse of non-prescription pain medication. Three times a week, take two ibuprofen, wait half an hour, and then do a hard workout.
As a formerly fat person, exercise isn't painful in the way that you're thinking of. Ibuprofen before wouldn't help. When you're out of shape, you get tired more easily and are constantly out of breath. Think nasty stitch in your side after running 1/4th of a mile, stuff like that. And then cramps afterward, if you keep going through the discomfort.
> ...it's much easier to refrain from eating 500 extra calories than it is to burn them (it's ~hour of exercise vs a few minutes of eating).
YMMV. I like eating food a lot and I like running a lot. Probably not a great combo for weight loss, but from a weight maintenance perspective, I find it a lot easier to to run 7 or 8 miles and eat 2800 calories than to just eat 2000 calories.
I can imagine that exercising when you're *only* doing it to burn calories isn't any fun though.
I am old enough to remember a time when there was absolutely no childhood obesity, but considerable hunger, and more than occasional malnutrition. Middle class kids were easy to recognize, because they were significantly taller than poor kids, so there may have been some stunting. Obviously, this shows that obesity can be "fixed", but the cure - less food - is difficult in modern society.
In modern society, the ability to live in a world of plenty, and not get obese, may be genetic, but, in general, people can avoid being obese in other societies, thus genetics is not destiny.
A lot of traits are like this, where within a given cultural context, genetics are very important, but the changes in cultural environment over time make a big difference too. Height is another example where (I assume) food is significant.
I think there are lots of things we could do in a modern context besides less food. For example, fruit today is higher in sugar than it was in the past, because it has been bred for that. That could be reversed. And maybe the problem isn't just food--there are some hints that the microbiome might be quite important, so if that gets fully understood, that's another lever to pull.
Absolutely agree that a mindset of "genetics is not destiny" is the right approach to take. And even in cases where genetics may be destiny, I am mildly optimistic about the potential of genetic engineering! :)
I would assume things like "many things about parenting you might read about probably don't have an effect once you account for genes". So surrounding your kids with books or helping with his homework or avoiding punishment or whatnot is probably not going to have a huge effect.
There's probably other stuff, I'm interested in what /u/Roflsaurus16 has to say :)
> "many things about parenting you might read about probably don't have an effect once you account for genes"
Sometimes for the best that sweep this'n under the rug.
Yup, I think that it's tough for many parents to accept that as long as they are doing a "good enough" job, they can just kind of chill out. Ironically, it's the more well-educated and wealthier parents that have a hard time accepting this.
I think that many parents come in with the following model of how childhood development works:
- most bad things about my child will be fixed with time
- if not, more love/attention/childcare books will fix the problem
- if not, a stern warning and/or frightened wishing will work
-and if nothing else, the doctors will hand me a sheet with a prescription, and my child will be fine in a week
The problem being that this breaks down so catastrophically that the parents need someone to blame, so they go down the stack and lash out at the doctors. This makes the doctors understandably reticent to tell parents the whole truth.
Yeah, so what else do you guys think this might be about?
The Google memo came to mind for me too. I study personality and didn't I object to any of the claims it made, yet anyone who defended it got crucified.
Or maybe the post is addressing religion? I've read a few books lately like The Big Picture by Sean Carroll, and I'm kind of getting the impression that physicists have basically disproven God at this point, but can't come out and say it.
> …physicists have basically disproven God at this point, but can't come out and say it.
Yeah, what? Maybe they think that, but I’d like to see it. Not even possible in principle to disprove by empirical means what is by its very nature non-empirical. Anyone who says “physics disproves God” has succeeded only in demonstrating that they’ve misunderstood the question.
> that physicists have basically disproven God at this point, but can't come out and say it.
What do you mean by „disproven“? As far as I understand, most christian ideas of god are unfalsifiable (and so is of course the idea of a supernatural being in general).
eaturbrainzfeminist superintelligence development1 year ago
They only became unfalsifiable once someone pointed out what was otherwise falsifying evidence. Up until then, everyone expected that Hasidic sages could grant miraculous blessings or that the occasional vision of Christ was divinely inspired.
Yes. That makes modern Christianity look fishy, and rational thinking would lead you to dismiss it.
My point is that *dismissable from a rational point of view* is not the same as *disproven*. The latter is generally understood as ‚scientifically disproven‘.
And, as an extreme example, you *can‘t* disprove a belief system which predicts that every evidence against it is an illusion by the devil.
eaturbrainzfeminist superintelligence development1 year ago
That's a really *strained* point of view, especially since it relies on treating scientific models as having Boolean values rather than probabilities (or some other sliding scale). Nothing gets `p(H)=0` "disproven" in science; only *a priori* claims can be truly Boolean.
I can certainly point out that, for instance, your Cartesian demon is showing ever-growing intelligence in anticipating which events he needs to mask in your senses to prevent you from noticing his existence. He thus grows ever-less plausible with every piece of obvious evidence for the divine he buries from your sight.
Stuff gets disproven in science all the time. We just never *prove* anything. There's a multitude of theories or models that don't fit the facts, and are disproven. But there's also usually multiple ones that *do* fit the facts.
> especially since it relies on treating scientific models as having Boolean values rather than probabilities (or some other sliding scale). Nothing gets `p(H)=0` "disproven" in science; only *a priori* claims can be truly Boolean.
That’s not what I am saying.
With scientific models, we assign those probabilities by testing the predictions made by the model.
A sufficiently modern version of Christianity doesn’t make any testable predictions, It’s just not a scientific model.
> I can certainly point out that, for instance, your Cartesian demon is showing ever-growing intelligence in anticipating which events he needs to mask in your senses to prevent you from noticing his existence. He thus grows ever-less plausible with every piece of obvious evidence for the divine he buries from your sight.
The devil is supposed to be a supernatural being and we do not know how any of this stuff is supposed to work. Your assignment of plausibility is completely arbitrary and has nothing to do with scientific proof.
Again, I agree that all of this is implausible, and that’s why I think a rational person shouldn’t believe in it. I‘m just pointing out that ‚disproven‘ is not the right word to use here.
Sure in some senses many religious beliefs are unfalsifiable, however at the same time there's a great many areas of science where it's just not possible to really understand a given field and hold mainstream religious beliefs.
For instance nobody who understands neurology is particularly likely to believe in a soul, and people who understand evolutionary biology are going to be markedly less likely to think that life was the result of any sort of intelligent guidance/design which rules out all but the weakest strains of deism.
Let’s just assume this was true. Then your argument still doesn’t address my point.
Negative statistical correlation of belief with level of scientific knowledge isn’t a proof. Especially since some versions of Christian belief would predict such a correlation.
I know what you’re trying to say and I agree. It’s not rational to believe in Christianity.
I only object to using the word ‚proof‘ here. Doing so is not only factually wrong, it also gives theists an easy straw man and reduces public trust in actual scientific proof.
As your resident Kantorovich (except not a genius in any way, so dumber), it seems clear it's about things like feminism going overboard (i.e. Google memo probably gets the fundamental things right), IQ being a thing, and even correlation existing between ancestry and IQ.
You know, the things you can't say even in this type of pseudonymous environment without being immediately attacked. And if you say them at work, you get destroyed.
It applies generally though, for example after 9/11 you were supposed to support invading arbitrary countries in the Middle East no matter what, and arguing against it was "unpatriotic". This is still kind of a faux-pas in more formal environments, but at least online, disagreement with the invasions is now accepted. So the touchy issues that we all have to pretend about change over time, but the challenge of coping with them is ongoing.
> You know, the things you can't say even in this type of pseudonymous environment without being immediately attacked.
Really ? In this subreddit (or similar places, like LW, SSC blog comments, /r/samharris), that's not my impression, I feel they're discussed quite a bit (especially in the CW threads), and get upvotes and not many attacks (some disagreement, maybe).
Not here specifically. I meant in large, popular subreddits - in the general population.
There are also hate-filled subreddits where people write abhorrent hateful crap, and it is highly upvoted, and people can't seem to write reasonable things without being attacked and shunned. That's the other extreme. Fear of that hateful extreme prevailing is probably why the general population does not tolerate certain true things being discussed. The instinct to use knowledge for hate is in fact overwhelming, and people don't seem to know how to avoid this other than by denying knowledge.
It rubs me the wrong way when rich and influential people like PG hint darkly at "things you can't say" when there is a reasonably healthy online and offline community discussing all sorts of 'unsayable' things. This seems like a particularly unhelpful form of bravery debate, and I find such cryptic pronouncements from elites unsettling.
As an example, a glance at twitter indicates that NN Taleb is currently waging a multifront war against several protected classes, at least one major corporation, and entire schools of historical and economic thought. I have several disagreements with Taleb, but he obviously approaches matters differently from PG.
[This observation is not meant to apply to the Scotts]
Paul Graham could come out as a neo-nazi flat earther and be personally fine.
However if Paul openly says 'crazy' things he is either going to see YC/HN destroyed or lose control of them. If he loses control of them they may well wind up in the hands of his ideological enemies.
Many YC companies depend on Paul's reputation and network. A tremendous number of personal friends of Paul will suffer if he stops taking the Kolmogorov options.
'Openly speaking the truth' isn't worth disrupting the lives of his friends and reducing his ability to shape events in the future.
Taleb is in a different position.
Does PG still control YC/ HN? I thought he had ascended to emeritus status and that SamA was running operations. SamA has stood by Peter Thiel, who is Nosferatu to the left, to no obvious detriment to YC (although he has gotten some flak in the media). I think their business plan is pretty robust to social mobbing. Who turns down YC money? I think even Pinboard took some.
Edit: I think the concern is nearly opposite - PG won't be personally fine, but YC would be largely unaffected. As far as I've heard, PG built an extraordinarily tight ship at YC and is broadly admired for his work there, and his business ethics. But being attacked by "right-thinking" people is unpleasant and stressful, and once you're in the fray, someone is always wrong on the internet about your beliefs and deeply-held personal self concept.
That's kind of my point. I'm not trying to indict people like Scott, but rather to say "what's the point of FU money if you never say FU?"
I think the first rule of Kolmogorov Option is that at a certain level of social status, you don't personally invoke Kolmogorov Option.
Edit: I'm proposing that at higher social strata, the Kolmogorov option transitions from being a defensive play correcting social asymmetries to an offensive play leveraging power asymmetries
I agree with the idea that based on the level of openness in our current society Paul Graham should probably call it 'Things you shouldnt say if you can do more good elsewhere' instead of 'Things you cant say'.
However, I think that social status is only half of the equation when contrasting 'Things to consider tradeoffs before saying' and 'Things you cant say', the other half is the level of openness in current society. For example, General Zhukov had an enormous amount of social status, but there were still things he couldn't say without being killed, because Soviet society was not sufficiently open.
> "what's the point of FU money if you never say FU?"
1) because you might set an example for people who *don't* have FU money, and thus might really get in trouble.
2) because you might get pulled into a bunch of debates and controversies and shit-flinging, which not everybody enjoys, even if it doesn't threaten their livelihood. If your whole shtick is getting into controversies to get the media attention, like Ann Coulter, then that's a feature, not a bug, but not everybody is Ann Coulter.
It's fine to be cautious and not want to wade into these tarpit debates. It's fine to caution your protégés about these traps. It's less commendable to hint that you are in possession of unenumerated hidden truths that society is restraining you from discussing. PG's initial 2004 essay could be construed as a warning, but his later returns to the topic seem more self-interested.
Well, I think it's useful to warn young people that there are things that you should be careful about saying - they could hurt your career, or make your friends or family hate you, or attract an anonymous hate mob, etc.
That doesn't mean you should *never* talk about those, just that you should be careful about where and when. What bothers you about Paul Graham giving that kind of advice?
Yeah, likely based on Scott's comment "I don’t want to lie and say I don’t have specific things in mind when writing this. But I think this post stands on its own as a generic claim about why white lies can be bad at the social level."