Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

SforSingularity comments on Solutions to Political Problems As Counterfactuals - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Yvain 25 September 2009 05:21PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (36)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: SforSingularity 25 September 2009 07:51:40PM *  34 points [-]

it seems to be a game in which you counterfactually propose different states of the "government policy" node and explain why these would have the best effects, and whoever can give the best explanation gets rewarded with higher status.

no, no. The game is to counterfactually propose different states of the "government policy" node that involve making the government conform more to some ideology X, and then confabulate reasons why this would result in great success. In doing this, you signal your allegiance to ideology X.

But really, the game can work with pretty much anything in the place of the "government policy" node; it can be pretty much any decisionmaking entity, including the companies or diffuse classes of individuals. E.g.

"If binge drinkers went to church more, then they would find the inner strength to overcome the addiction!" (signalling religious allegiance)

"Binge drinkers have the right to run their own lives, the government should keep its hands off them!" (signalling libertarian allegiance)

"Binge drinkers usually come from deprived families and had poor childhoods, it isn't their fault, it's the government's fault for not having enough social welfare!" (signalling liberal allegiance)

"Binge drinking is caused by the breakdown of traditional family values, we need a return to the good-old-fashioned traditional family values!" (Signalling conservative allegiance)

"Binge drinking could be prevented by human neuroenhancements that prevented alcohol from being addictive, we should push for faster research into such technology!" (Signalling h+ allegiance)

Comment author: Yvain 25 September 2009 08:30:42PM 13 points [-]

Oh, very clever. This is a much better explanation for why proposing changes to unchangeable nodes is so well accepted.

Comment author: SforSingularity 25 September 2009 10:21:59PM *  5 points [-]

I do sometimes wonder what proportion of people who think about political matters are asking questions with genuine curiosity, versus engaging in praise for the idea that they and their group have gone into a happy death spiral about.

I suspect that those who ask with genuine curiosity are overwhelmingly chlidren.

EDIT: Others disagree that children are more genuinely curious. Perhaps it's just the nerds who ask genuine questions then?

Comment author: wedrifid 26 September 2009 05:48:00AM 2 points [-]

And what proportion of that genuine curiosity is an adaptation for gaining information and what proportion is an adaptation that encourages signalling a willingness to absorb the happy death.

Comment author: DanArmak 25 September 2009 10:47:15PM 1 point [-]

What makes you believe that? It's as good a theory that they're just trying to find out what Big Idea group they belong to so they can give the right answers / political suggestions when they grow up.

Comment author: SforSingularity 25 September 2009 11:35:11PM *  6 points [-]

A priori we should expect children to be genuine knowledge seekers, because in our EEA there would have been facts of life (such as which plants we poisonous) that were important to know early on. Our EEA was probably sufficiently simple and unchanging that once you were an adult there were few new abstract facts to know.

This "story" explains why children ask adults awkward questions about politics, often displaying a wisdom apparently beyond their age. In reality, they just haven't traded in their curiosity for signalling yet.

At least, that is one possible hypothesis.

Comment author: DanArmak 25 September 2009 11:53:26PM *  4 points [-]

I do expect children to be knowledge seekers in a sense. When they see their parents avoid a plant, they learn to avoid it also. When they hear them say that binge drinkers should go to church more, they learn to say this also. In both cases it is the same behavior.

The difference between our descriptions is that calling them "knowledge seekers" implies some kind of deliberate rationality, whereas they are really just executing the adaptation of copying their parents. Most children who repeat their parents' political views won't try to understand what the words actually mean, or check different sayings for consistency.

Of course this is a generally good adaptation to have. Even if children had better innate rational skills and even if they could fact-check their parents' words, there's little benefit to a dependant child from ever disagreeing with its parent on politicized issues.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 25 September 2009 11:55:15PM 2 points [-]

But the greater vulnerability of children means that we should also expect them to be more clannish. They should be all the more eager to demonstrate their loyalty to a group, because they rely more on support from others to remain alive.

I've observed far more clannishness among children than political perspicuity. I don't see that there's much displaying of "wisdom apparently beyond their age" in need of explanation.

Comment author: SforSingularity 26 September 2009 12:20:13AM 0 points [-]

I've observed far more clannishness among children than political perspicuity

but what about the relative amounts in children vs adults?

Comment author: DanArmak 26 September 2009 12:36:06AM 0 points [-]

Of course children are more clannish than adults. But the "clan" of a child is that of its parents, not of its friends and peers.

Adults can move to a new clan, band together to start a clan or sub-clan, replace or influence a clan's leadership. Children are pretty much powerless and are tied to their parents' clan. If anything ever really threatens that bond, I expect "clannishness" to completely override other priorities.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 25 September 2009 09:20:47PM 4 points [-]

The tech might already exist, but prejudices, inertia, and the lack of a strong financial incentive have kept it from being adequately tested.

Maybe if people would eat more fish oil they'd be more mentally flexible.

Comment author: SforSingularity 25 September 2009 09:39:41PM *  1 point [-]

<HANSIONAIN CYNICISM>Great! now that we've both signalled our allegiance to the h+ ideology, would you like to mate with me!? </HANSIONAIN CYNICISM>

for an explanation of why I call this "Hansonian", see, for example, this. Hanson has lots of posts on how charity, ideology, etc is all about affiliating with a tribe and finding mates.

Comment author: eirenicon 25 September 2009 09:55:12PM *  1 point [-]

Hansionain, twice? Really?

As an aside, I love what you get when you google Hansonian. Most of the top results are in reference to Robin Hanson, and among my favorites are "Hansonian Normality", the "Hansonian world", and "Hansonian robot growth". (Un?)Fortunately, "Hansonian abduction" is attributed to a different Hanson.

I wish my name was an adjective.

Comment author: jimmy 26 September 2009 06:15:28PM 0 points [-]

That website just had claims of "It works!" which by itself isn't all that credible.

How do we know it actually works? Whats the theory behind it?

Comment author: Wei_Dai 26 September 2009 06:40:49PM 3 points [-]

From http://www.olivierameisen.com/faq

A Baclofen is one of only two substances known to affect the GABA-B receptor in the brain, and the only one that is itself non-addictive. Through the GABA-B receptor, baclofen has a beneficial effect on three neurotransmitters — dopamine, glutamate, and GABA — that are part of the brain’s reward system and are involved in all addictive and compulsive behaviors, as well as in disorders such as anxiety and depression. More research is needed to discover exactly how baclofen does this.

Comment author: jimmy 26 September 2009 09:46:46PM *  2 points [-]

Wow, that really didn't take much legwork. I guess I should have at least looked that far.

Speaking of promising solutions that won't catch on due to predjudices, inertia, and lack of financial incenives, "Psychedelics" (loosely defined) are also pretty effectiveat this if used right.