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

Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on A Sense That More Is Possible - Less Wrong

61 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 March 2009 01:15AM

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

Comments (210)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 March 2009 05:05:34PM 22 points [-]

I think the akrasia you describe and methods of combating it would come under the heading of "kicking", as opposing to the "punching" I've been talking about. It's an art I haven't created or learned, but it's an art that should exist.

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 13 March 2009 07:06:19PM *  24 points [-]

This "art of kicking" is what pjeby has been working toward, AFAICT. I haven't read much of his writing, though. But an "art of kicking" would be a great thing to mix in with the OB/LW corpus, if pjeby has something that works, which I think he has at least some of -- and if we and he can figure out how to hybridize kicking research and training with punching research and training.

I'd also love to bring in more people from the entrepreneurship/sales/marketing communities. I've been looking at some of their better literature, and it has rationality techniques (techniques for not shooting yourself in the foot by wishful thinking, overconfidence, etc.) and get-things-done techniques mixed together. I love the sit-and-think math nerd types too, and we need sitting and thinking; the world is full of people taking action toward the wrong goals. But I'd expect better results from our rationalist community if we mixed in more people whose natural impulses were toward active experiments and short-term visible results.

Comment author: Yvain 13 March 2009 11:04:30PM *  19 points [-]

Pjeby's working on akrasia? I'll have to check out his site.

That brings up a related question that I think Eliezer hinted at: what pre-existing bodies of knowledge can we search through for powerful techniques so that we don't have to re-invent the wheel? Entrepreneurship stuff is one. Lots of people have brought up pick-up artists and poker, so those might be others.

I nominate a fourth that may be controversial: mysticism. Not the "summon demons" style of mysticism, but yoga and Zen and related practices. These people have been learning how to examine/quiet/rearrange their minds and sort out the useful processes from the useless processes for the past three thousand years. Even if they've been working off crazy metaphysics, it'd be surprising if they didn't come up with something. Eliezer talks in mystical language sometimes, but I don't know whether that's because he's studied and approves of mysticism or just likes the feel of it.

What all of these things need is a testing process combined with people who are already high-level enough that they can sort through all the dross and determine which techniques are useful without going native or opening themselves up to the accusation that they're doing so; ie people who can sort through the mystical/pick-up artist/whatever literature and separate out the things that are useful to rationalists from the things specific to a certain worldview hostile to our own. I've seen a few good people try this, but it's a mental minefield and they tend to end up "going native".

Comment author: HughRistik 14 March 2009 02:40:21AM *  22 points [-]

In the case of pickup literature, there is a lot to attract rationalists, but also a lot to inspire their ire.

The first thing rationalists should notice about pickup is that it wins. There are no other resources in mainstream culture or psychology that are anywhere near as effective. Yet even after witnessing the striking ability of pickup theories to win, I am hesitant to say that they are actually true. For example, I acknowledge the fantastic success of notions like "women are attracted to Alpha Males," even though I don't believe that they are literally true, and I know that they are oversimplifications of evolutionary psychology. Consequently, I am an instrumentalist, not a realist, about pickup theories.

If we started a project from scratch where we applied rationality to the domain of sex and relationships, and developed heuristics to improve ourselves in those areas, this project would have a considerable overlap with the teachings of the seduction community. At its best, pickup is "applied evolutionary psychology." Many of the common criticisms of pickup demonstrate an anger against the use of rationality and scientific thinking in the supposedly sacred and mystical area of sex and romance. Yet it falls prey to certain ideological notions that limit its general innovativeness and empirical exploration, and some of its techniques are morally questionable.

I would be happy to say more on the relationship between pickup and rationality at some point, and you can tell me how much I've "gone native."

Comment author: wedrifid 07 April 2011 06:02:01PM *  8 points [-]

For example, I acknowledge the fantastic success of notions like "women are attracted to Alpha Males," even though I don't believe that they are literally true, and I know that they are oversimplifications of evolutionary psychology.

I tune out wherever I hear the term 'alpha male' in that sort of context. The original scientific concept has been butchered and abused beyond all recognition. Even more so the 'beta' concept. Beta males are the ones standing right behind the alpha ready to overthrow him and take control themselves. 'Omega' should be the synonym for 'pussy'.

But I must admit the theory is at least vaguely in the right direction and works. Reasonably good as popular science for the general public. Better than what people believe about diet, showering, and dental hygene.

Comment author: MBlume 14 March 2009 02:47:06AM 10 points [-]

Also, since this particular community leans altruistic, I'd hope that such a project would emphasize the future happiness of potential partners more than does (correct me if I'm wrong) the current pickup community.

Comment author: taryneast 07 April 2011 11:51:22AM 8 points [-]

Many of the common criticisms of pickup demonstrate an anger against the use of rationality and scientific thinking in the supposedly sacred and mystical area of sex and romance.

Actually, the best (and most common) criticisms I see are more due to the use of lies and manipulation in the area of sex and romance.

The evo-psych stuff (and thereby any science and rationality) is perfectly fine by me.

Comment author: Vaniver 07 April 2011 12:22:50PM *  -2 points [-]

This seems to me like criticizing the presence of lies in humor- that is, it's something normal and acceptable in practice but unsettling in theory.

Comment author: CuSithBell 07 April 2011 03:42:10PM 7 points [-]

We disagree.

You seem to be suggesting that lies and manipulation in pickup serve to lead the target to a desirable outcome they would not deliberately choose, as in humor. I and many others have repeatedly asserted here that this is not the case. There are pickup techniques that are simply not acceptable - attacking self-esteem, manufacturing breakups, etc.

You (collectively) need to abandon this soldier.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 April 2011 05:30:35PM 8 points [-]

You seem to be suggesting that lies and manipulation in pickup serve to lead the target to a desirable outcome they would not deliberately choose, as in humor. I and many others have repeatedly asserted here that this is not the case.

I assume you mean to include 'all' in there. Some pickup practitioners (and pickup strategies) do use lies and manipulation without consideration of whether the outcome is desirable (and the means appropriate.) That is a legitimate concern. It would certainly not be reasonable to assert this is the norm, which you didn't make clear in your declaration of repeated assertion.

There are pickup techniques that are simply not acceptable - attacking self-esteem

Here it is important not to beware of other optimising. For the average Joe and Jane a courtship protocol that involves attacking each other's self esteem would just be obnoxious and unpleasant. So I wouldn't 'accept' in that sense self esteem lowering tactics to that kind of target. Yet for particularly high status folks within that kind of social game self-esteem attacks are just how it is played - by both sexes. They attack the heck out of each other with social weapons to assure each other that they have the social prowess to handle each other. And they both love every minute of it. Of course even if you take away 90% of their self esteem they probably still have more that enough left!

The biggest problem with self esteem attacking as a strategy come when clumsy PUAs try to use a tactic that is appropriate for 10s on 6s and 7s (in terms of approximate rank in the dating social hierarchy). That is just unpleasant (not to mention ineffective.) A related problem is confusing gender atypical girl with a gender typical girl (often due to complete ignorance of the possibility of that kind of difference). Again that will be unpleasant for the target in question - instead of exactly what she needs to facilitate a satisfying sexual encounter.

Rather than being 'simply not acceptable', pickup techniques that involve attacking self esteem are complexly not acceptable, depending on the context and parties involved.

manufacturing breakups

I am comfortable in labelling individuals who do this as assholes and do anything possible to keep them out of my social circle and generally undermine their status.

You (collectively) need to abandon this soldier.

You collectively? Exactly which collective are you referring to here? It would be reasonable to level the gist of your objection at Vaniver - or at least his specific comment here. But if you mean to level it at the ancestor (by HughRistik) then you are totally missing the mark.

The biggest opportunity to improve discourse on these kind of subjects - and to actually potentially benefit those participating in the dating game - is to abandon judgements on collectives.

Comment author: CuSithBell 07 April 2011 06:31:51PM 2 points [-]

I assume you mean to include 'all' in there. Some pickup practitioners (and pickup strategies) do use lies and manipulation without consideration of whether the outcome is desirable (and the means appropriate.) That is a legitimate concern. It would certainly not be reasonable to assert this is the norm, which you didn't make clear in your declaration of repeated assertion.

In context, I was responding to a generalization with a counter based on exceptions to a proposed rule. I agree there is variety within the pickup community. I disagree that it is uniformly a force for good - and thus that opposition to it is based on dislike for science.

Here it is important not to beware of other optimising. For the average Joe and Jane a courtship protocol that involves attacking each other's self esteem would just be obnoxious and unpleasant. [...]

You're right. I meant to indicate the case of attacking someone's self-esteem in order to make them feel bad (and become pliable), rather than to engage them in a duel of wits.

You collectively? Exactly which collective are you referring to here?

The posters on lesswrong who claim that opposition to pickup on lesswrong is due to women being uncomfortable with explicit analysis of social reality, or (relatedly) that pickup is a uniformly altruistic enterprise (wrt sexual partners).

It's only a judgment on a collective because it's a judgment on a position, and the collective is people who hold that position.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 April 2011 07:15:01PM 3 points [-]

You're right. I meant to indicate the case of attacking someone's self-esteem in order to make them feel bad (and become pliable), rather than to engage them in a duel of wits.

No, I don't mean duels of wits in that sense. I really do refer to the case of attacking someone's self esteem to make them become pliable. Not bad per se (that doesn't help), but less secure and less confident and in general that which is lowering self esteem. The judgement you make of all instances of that behaviour is actually narrowminded in as much as enforcing the judgement would worsen the experiences of life of a whole class of people. And I do not refer to a class denominated by sex.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 April 2011 07:23:04PM 1 point [-]

The posters on lesswrong who claim that opposition to pickup on lesswrong is due to women being uncomfortable with explicit analysis of social reality,

or (relatedly) that pickup is a uniformly altruistic enterprise (wrt sexual partners).

Everyone who does make the claim that pickup is uniformly altruistic is clearly and obviously mistaken. And can look forward to a world of disappointment when they realise their fairytale ideas about romance are absurdly naive. Most people learn the hard way during their teens. (Although nerds tend to take longer on average.)

Comment author: Rings_of_Saturn 14 March 2009 12:50:06AM 9 points [-]

Yvain:

You've hit on something that I have long felt should be more directly addressed here/at OB. Full disclosure is that I have already written a lot about this myself and am cleaning up some "posts" and chipping away here to get the karma to post them.

It's tough to talk about meditation-based rationality because (a) the long history of truly disciplined mental practice comes out of a religious context that is, as you note, comically bogged down in superstitious metaphysics, (b) it is a more-or-less strictly internal process that is very hard to articulate (c) has become a kind of catch-all category for sloppy new-age thinking about a great number of things (wrongheaded, pop quantum theory, anyone?)

Nevertheless, as Yvain notes, there is indeed a HUGE body of practice and tried-and-true advice, complete with levels of mastery and, if you have been lucky enough to know some the masters, that palpable awesomeness Eliezer speaks of. I'm sure all of this sounds pretty slippery and poppish, but it doesn't have to be. One thing I would like to help get going here is a rigorous discussion, for my benefit and everyone's, about how we can apply the science of cognition to the practice of meditation and vice versa.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2009 07:53:46AM 2 points [-]

Think you've got enough karma to post already.

Comment author: anonym 16 March 2009 07:08:53AM *  1 point [-]

There has been quite a bit of research in recent years on meditation, and the pace seems to be picking up. For a high level survey of recent research on the two primary forms of Buddhist meditation, I'd recommend the following article: Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. PDF Here

Comment author: olimay 16 March 2009 05:49:57AM 6 points [-]

Yvain, do check out pjeby's work. I have to admit I some points I found myself reading OB as a self help attempt. I'm glad I kept up, but dirtsimple.org was the blog I was actually looking for.

Your point about mysticism is interesting, because I find pjeby's perspective on personal action and motivation has a strange isomorphism to Zen thought, even though that doesn't seem to be main intention. In fact, his emphasis seems to be de-mystifying. One of his main criticisms of existing psychological/self-help literature is that the relatively good stuff is incomprehensible to the people who need it most, because they'd need to already be in a successful, rational action mindset in order to implement what's being said.

Anyway, I hope pjeby chimes up so he can offer something better than my incomplete summary...