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HughRistik comments on Of Exclusionary Speech and Gender Politics - Less Wrong

63 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 July 2009 07:22AM

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Comment author: HughRistik 09 April 2010 09:06:42PM *  8 points [-]

I think that the best heuristic is to look for bottom-lining. Have you decided on what you want to convince her of before you have determined what evidence you will selectively show her to bring her to that conclusion? If so, you might be practicing dark side epistemology.

This is an interesting argument, but I don't think that you can hold the same standards of epistemic rationality to matters of social perception. To a large extent, coolness, social status, and attractiveness are subjective qualities that depend on the perception of others. The Earth will not become flatter because you persuade a lot of people that it is flat, but if you can persuade a lot of people that you are cool, then you probably really are cool (general "you," of course).

There is nothing wrong with deciding in advance what "bottom line" conclusion you want people to hold about you (e.g. that you are cool, high status, or attractive), because if you successfully behave in way that influences people to have that perception, then it often magically becomes true, making your original behavior legitimate. Even if you are a shy person adopting that behavior for the first time. At least, it is true in the context of interaction with those people. And if you fail to give them that perception ("this guy isn't as cool as he thinks he is"), then no harm is done because they see through you.

There is nothing "dark side" about trying to act as cool, high status, or attractive as possible, and trying to push the limits (as long as this behavior isn't based on lying or deception). People will either accept you as having those attributes, or they won't. (The only ethical exception is in cases of actual lying or deception, such as about one's job, age, finances, history, social position, etc... In this case, it does become meaningful to say that someone's social perception of you can be based on false pretenses.)

The "truth" about your "real" status and attractiveness is not something that you yourself can decide in advance; at best, you only have a confidence interval. Since you don't know where your "real" status and attractiveness lie, then you shouldn't worry so much about deceiving people about it. Instead of trying to decide your status in advance and "protect" people from having an inflated perception of it, you should try to figure out your status by interacting with people and seeing what behavior others accept from you and respond well to (in more cynical terms, "see what you can get away with"). Other people are perfectly capable of protecting themselves from you acting too big for your britches.

People will tell you, explicitly or implicitly, how cool and attractive you are; there is no need for you to try to decide for them. I will hypothesize that this is how most normal people conduct social interaction, and there is nothing wrong with nerdy people knowingly replicating the same behavior even if it isn't intuitive to them.

Social perception: the only place in the universe where perception actually is reality (at least, to a large degree).