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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Things You Can't Countersignal - Less Wrong

51 Post author: Alicorn 19 February 2010 12:18AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 February 2010 01:56:26AM 30 points [-]

When incomplete strangers - i.e. not literal complete strangers off the street, but people who've been introduced to me by a mutual friend without having any idea who I am - ask about my cryonics necklace, I often lead with, "It's my contract of immortality with the Cult of the Severed Head".

This seems to work fine.

In fact, I strongly suspect it works better than most other cryonics explainers, because I don't sound the tiniest bit nervous. It helps to understand that most people have no independent grasp on reality. I may post about this at some point.

In any case, this is successful countersignalling performed on very loose acquaintances.

Comment author: Nic_Smith 19 February 2010 05:54:38AM 12 points [-]

I assume the usual conversation goes on from there, somehow? By what measure does it "work fine?" E.G. What happens next?

Comment author: Chris_Hallquist 19 February 2010 02:55:35PM *  14 points [-]

I've found such tactics work even with people who are more or less complete strangers--say, people I've met on pub crawls while I was traveling Europe. Early in a conversation, I'll say things like "I've never had a real job, and I never would have lost my virginity in high school if the slutty girl hadn't joined the math team," and people have told me it's the funniest thing they've ever heard.

It would be a mistake to conclude, on this basis, that countersignaling is a magic pill to make yourself superhigh status. However, Alicorn seems to underestimate its value.

I would love to hear people brainstorm hypotheses about how such countersignaling could work. If countersignaling were as limited as implied by Alicorn and the paper David J Balan points to below, it would be a hell of a lot easier to understand. Some suggestions:

(1) The sort of countersignaling Eliezer and I talk about is tricky, like humor in general. The explanation of what you're doing has to be embedded in the act. Therefore, anyone who does it well must not be a complete idiot, and perhaps feels secure enough to have experimented with countersigaling a fair amount. (2) The most effective signaling with complete strangers may be mixed signaling: straightforward signaling to show you're not a loser (not low status), with countersignaling to show how cool you are (not merely medium status).

Another observation: it seems that countersignaling is iterable. In a room full of ultra-ironic hipsters, or douchebags trying to flaunt their indifference to what people think of them, refraining from such tactics, a sort of counter-counter-signal, may be the strongest status move.

Comment author: saliency 20 February 2010 05:46:08AM 10 points [-]

I think your and Eliezer's statements contain much more signaling then counter-signaling and is why they work with strangers.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 March 2013 11:27:00AM *  2 points [-]

(2) The most effective signaling with complete strangers may be mixed signaling: straightforward signaling to show you're not a loser (not low status), with countersignaling to show how cool you are (not merely medium status).

See here

Another observation: it seems that countersignaling is iterable. In a room full of ultra-ironic hipsters, or douchebags trying to flaunt their indifference to what people think of them, refraining from such tactics, a sort of counter-counter-signal, may be the strongest status move.

I throw so many “counter-” in that the series stabilizes, and you can't even reliably tell from a picture of me whether or not I was on a fancy dress party. (I forget to stop counter-counter-counter-signalling when I'm in an unfamiliar place, leading to weird stuff such as people mistaking me for a local.)

Comment author: [deleted] 23 March 2013 11:23:08AM *  0 points [-]

while I was traveling Europe

Now I'm starting to think there are side-of-the-pond differences in this kind of things. IME Americans (especially westerners) do seem to take stuff more seriously than Europeans, though the Americans I've talked to are probably not an unbiased sample.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 March 2013 11:14:00AM *  4 points [-]

without having any idea who I am

Even assuming that your friend had never talked to them about you before (which is not guaranteed -- I can't count the times someone I've just met has told me “you're the one who did $thing? my roommate/sister/fellow $town-er/whoever $name [usually a friend or a former classmate of mine] told me about you” -- and I'm not even Eliezer Yudkowsky), they at least know that you're friends with [the person who introduced you], which provides a lower bound on your level of sanity.

Once in a while, shortly after I've been introduced to someone by a mutual friend, I tell them stuff which would make someone I've just cold-approached freak the hell out (I guess -- I have to extrapolate, as I wouldn't even dream of telling someone I've just cold-approached that [redacted], for obvious reasons), and as far as I can tell they react positively.