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David_Gerard comments on Bridging Inferential Gaps - Less Wrong

8 Post author: atucker 08 December 2010 04:50AM

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Comment author: David_Gerard 08 December 2010 09:07:48AM *  12 points [-]

I have a Google doc (so I can fiddle with it wherever I am) with lots of fragments on the subject of toxic infectious memes, including how not to come across as the subject of one. This includes how to actually sell someone on an idea without coming across as a droning crank. Snippets below:

Precis: pull, not push. You have to be interesting and lure them in. Then they'll do the work to close the gap themselves. You cannot inflict it on them, it just doesn't work like that.

If you need to change someone else's mind, you need to actually sell the idea. And this always has to be done with a pull, not a push - attract them to your idea. This is not quick, but push just doesn't convince.

Note that you won't find their true rejection by bluntly asking, as they will detect "sales!" and go defensive, which is quite rational.

(I am awful at selling things for money, but try to sell people on ideas more or less every second I'm writing or talking. How am I doing on this one?)

Some people have an immediate "ugh" reaction to the idea of selling anything in any way, but there are plenty of white-hat means to do so, e.g. 1 2. There is danger of dark arts here, but keep an eye on your moral compass and you'll be fine.

To herd cats, first work out the local value of tuna. (This is my law of volunteer motivation, but it certainly applies here. There is danger of dark arts when you apply this to selling an idea; watch moral compass more closely.)

Comment author: Manfred 08 December 2010 07:33:06PM 2 points [-]

To herd cats, first work out the local value of tuna.

I'm a bit confused by this. Could you elaborate?

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 December 2010 07:43:10PM *  2 points [-]

Stretching a metaphor "to herd cats": attempting to control the uncontrollable. Volunteers will work ten times as hard as any paid worker, but only on what they want to. So getting volunteers to do what you want them to is commonly compared to herding cats.

Cats can't be herded - they do whatever they want to, which will not be to follow in an orderly fashion. However, you can get them to come to you very quickly and effectively if you have a can of tuna to hand. Similarly, you can get volunteers to work productively by making what you want them to do highly attractive to them.

That is, you apply a "pull" rather than a "push".

I mentioned it because you can use this a bit in attracting people to your ideas. The danger is that they'll cargo-cult the idea instead of understanding it, and that they'll start following you. For extra loss, have both happen at once. For extra evil, don't be worried that this happened. For maximal evil, invoke it deliberately. So if you want to use this to attract people to your ideas and you have a functioning moral compass, you need to be quite careful.