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sark comments on Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge - Less Wrong

138 Post author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 08:44PM

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Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 02:45:28PM 1 point [-]

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:09:02PM 6 points [-]

No! There very much is an arms race. (There were studies about how many man of each generation got to procreate.) You have the most beautiful women in relatively poorer countries. You have women in the industrial world complain about the lack of real man, and run to those of other cultures who are perceived as more manly. You have a few males getting most of the sex from active non-married female crowd, and you also have unhappy 40yo virgins.6 You need to be relatively better than those around you. Which leads to interesting results if you act in male dominated fields :-). Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it. Likewise being inept is not a life time curse. You can learn things later in life too, assuming there is useful material available. But you do not need to become a complete master of any particular domain. Just good enough to get what you happen to want.

The point i tried to make above was another one. If someone is incapable to speak correctly he can go to a doctor and train. If someone wants to improve his vocality he can take acting classes, learn the ways actors use to speak varied and understandable. Which is good. If you are unhappy with your social life you can do very much the same. If a PU book then tells you to take acting classes to learn to speak better it does not suddenly become evil advice. It is the same. Just from a different source.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 03:14:28PM 5 points [-]

Naturals are not naturals by birth. They develop and hone their respective skills at some point and get a lot of practice in it.

This is worth emphasising.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 03:22:51PM 2 points [-]

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

»The key to this mystery is to rephrase the question slightly. Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests? .... The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. .... Even if nerds cared as much as other kids about popularity, being popular would be more work for them. The popular kids learned to be popular, and to want to be popular, the same way the nerds learned to be smart, and to want to be smart: from their parents. While the nerds were being trained to get the right answers, the popular kids were being trained to please.«

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 04:29:24PM 2 points [-]

Why don't smart kids make themselves popular?

Anecdotal evidence: I did. Maybe nerds stay nerds because they only profess a desire to be popular and don't actually hold it; maybe group distaste for popularity if it ever was achieved ("I wouldn't want to be popular even if I could be" sour grapes style) is also a factor. Maybe not being popular is a defining part of nerd; certainly I was not considered a nerd despite being smart and interested in all the same areas.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 04:37:29PM 1 point [-]

How did you do it?

I lacked the ability to recognize the underlying structures completely and utterly failed.

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 05:04:52PM 3 points [-]

Attended six schools, mostly. Threw myself at the popular cliques and remembered how I failed, didn't fail that way at the next school.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 05:30:45PM 1 point [-]

I don't see how that works by itself. If you ever do a write up or feel like talking about it in a detailed way, you got +1 reader.

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 05:43:08PM 4 points [-]

I don't think I will, sorry. The audience that could understand it are well past when they could use it and I don't believe it's general enough for popular groups past high school. It is an interesting story about idea generation (one science class about cornflour+water had me modelling cliques as a non-Newtonian fluid - you don't make a splash, you make a thud and fall off) but of course my brain would say that about itself.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 04:21:50PM 2 points [-]

Agree, but i think it's more peers than parenting, and more genetics than peers. Also I would not praise nerds so highly, the popular kids don't aim exactly to please, and the nerdy kids don't aim exactly to get the right answers.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 22 January 2011 03:34:16PM 1 point [-]

This is a nice explanation but it fails since in many cultures outside the US the popular v. nerd dichotomy doesn't exist or doesn't exist with nearly the same strength. In much of US culture and some other areas in the West there really is a stereotype that smart people are/should be unpopular.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 04:24:20PM 1 point [-]

This doesn't seem to depend on existing social categories. Individual proclivities and social feedback seem to be enough. The stereotypes could simply be a reflection of the macro outcome of this proclivity-feedback process. Though admittedly in a conformist culture there is less room to deviate.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 04:19:10PM 1 point [-]

My point wasn't that PU was somehow unique in its 'evilness'. I would disapprove of speaking or acting classes as well if most of it was simply positional. So no, not attacking solely PU here, just anything that is positional and causes more grief than joy.

I like wedrifid's point of these social games being fun. I somehow managed to forget that. But this needs to be put into perspective of the desired end result here. Most people I'm sure would enjoy the journey of social dancing along the way to the destination of getting laid/love. But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing. Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

Let's not forget that anything 'fun' probably indicates that it is a status game. Which means there will be huge inequalities. If the final result of this instrumental pleasure (which is not to say it is all that matters, just the magnitude of its importance) were getting sex/love or not, then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 04:35:15PM 0 points [-]

I think life is generally not designed as fair. But it is possible to change a part of your position.

But most of the utility is derived from the sex/love, not the dancing.

That can be changed. If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it. Especially if your own hourly rate is high enough. But to get love you also have to offer the other person something. You will not get loved for your brain, or your collection of comic books, or your knowledge about human history or any other topic. You get love for a set of properties that can be surprisingly trivial. One thing I am interested in is what these properties are and how to develop them. But you really have to enjoy the trip itself, otherwise there is a high chance you become a very grumpy single. It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

Bored lovers might complain that their relationship was getting stale, but they are already much better of than the 40yr old virgins.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

then I am certainly willing to compromise some of the social fun for more people getting the sex/love they want

I do not think I understand the meaning here. Social games are not played consciously. You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind, where John Nash tries to do away with the social conventions and get down to business right away. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfS-8X8PNx8

Does not work.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 05:02:48PM 0 points [-]

But to get love you also have to offer the other person something.

It is more fun to enjoy dates, or what ever social activity you choose to find your partners, than to see it as an annoying step on the way to your terminal goal.

You seem to simultaneously claim it is an arms race, yet imply that all the socially inept people need to do was to learn some social skills so that they can offer the other something.

I certainly agree that the horribly socially inept can learn to improve their social skills so that at the very least they get themselves across to the other person more effectively. Dating/flirting certainly does serve a practical purpose of letting us assess our compatibility, which besides being fun in itself, contributes to the relationship.

But if there was an arms race then this simply won't be enough. Past a certain point, the social maneuvering won't contribute to signaling anything relevant to compatibility anymore, and it will all be a zero-sum contest. Fun perhaps, but if so, then for its own sake only.

I doubt that for many cases. You find enough married couples where the partners at least seem to be worse off than even the 40yo.

Quick google search gave me at least this: http://spr.sagepub.com/content/22/5/607.abstract

I do not think I understand the meaning here.

I'd rather we relinquish some of the fun of the more sophisticated zero-sum dating/flirting techniques for more people actually hooking up with each other. (arms races creates inequalities)

Social games are not played consciously.

They don't have to.

You maybe saw the scene from A beautiful mind

That was a disaster. I don't recommend it.

If sex alone is the goal, there is a trivial way to get it.

I'm not sure if sex with prostitutes contribute enough to self-esteem/happiness. Anyone?

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 05:51:59PM 3 points [-]

Oh boy. What did I get myself into. From time to time I run into sophisticated arguments about relationships and usually fail to bring anything useful across. But I try anyway.

You seem to simultaneously claim it is an arms race, yet imply that all the socially inept people need to do was to learn some social skills so that they can offer the other something.

That is no contradiction. If you (in a very broad sense) aim to be the most sociable guy in the room, than the difficulty of that task depends on who you hang with. You can raise your own status to some degree with a few easy things. But that does not mean you are at the top. And then the average can shift. If more people go into actively raising their status you get a visible arms race for the top positions. But if that happens slow and more intuitively than the race is slow, and maybe even non existant. I think you do have to be better than the competition. But lots of the competition does not act.

it will all be a zero-sum contest I think status games pretty much are a useless contest in a productive view.

Quick google search gave me at least this As a sociable inept person you might have a higher risk to end up in a bad relationship. (This is just an estimate. Might be very very wrong.) If you get to choose between a bad relationship and eternal singledom I choose the former. Making a good relationship, and more so a consistently good one is something I strive to learn, but yet have no data on.

I'd rather we relinquish some of the fun of the more sophisticated zero-sum dating/flirting techniques for more people actually hooking up with each other. (arms races creates inequalities)

That sounds awesome. And I have no clue how to actually do it. Not even in theory.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 06:30:57PM 1 point [-]

But if that happens slow and more intuitively than the race is slow, and maybe even non existant.

Speed really isn't the issue. An arms race will create waste and inequality.

That sounds awesome. And I have no clue how to actually do it. Not even in theory.

I think a typical person would be receptive to some of the PU techniques but not others. If as you say (I really need to educate myself on PU), most of it is obvious social skills then I don't think they would have any objection. Some techniques they might think 'unfair' or 'evil', in which case their deontological ethics already takes care of this not degenerating into an arms race.

So perhaps PU may be unfairly maligned. But I think when its techniques are presented in a non-PU context, most people already have the right built-in ethics to accept what is useful for themselves and reject what is on net harmful to all of us.

I guess it was kinda unfair for me to press this point about arms races. Because if I'm getting this right, it seems that PU serves more to help the socially inept achieve basic social functionality than keeping up with the sophisticated players in the field. This is an honorable effort.

Comment author: MartinB 22 January 2011 07:06:50PM 0 points [-]

I think a typical person would be receptive to some of the PU techniques but not others

I think you might have a mistaken view on what a PU technique is, and does. A discussion would make more sense if you were specific about what you think works or does not work. It is not a clearly defined field anyway. The comparison with magic also does not hold that well. In magic you have spells, and it is clear when you cast a spell, and when not. Your PU toolbox consists of wider variety of issues.

Comment author: sark 22 January 2011 08:09:08PM 0 points [-]

Whoops you might have misunderstood me there. I meant a typical person would be willing to employ some PU techniques but not others. I'm sure most of them do work.

Comment author: MartinB 23 January 2011 07:37:03AM 0 points [-]

Which do you have in mind for each?

Comment author: shokwave 22 January 2011 06:00:55PM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure if sex with prostitutes contribute enough to self-esteem/happiness. Anyone?

Huge status hit is problematic. Maybe it is enough for self-esteem, but the hit brings esteem down again.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 03:00:01PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks. So I guess you are saying there is no arms race. Just naturals, and the socially inept?

(He certainly didn't say anything remotely like that in the grandparent.)