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Manfred comments on Teachable Rationality Skills - Less Wrong

52 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 May 2011 09:57PM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 May 2011 10:30:02PM 2 points [-]

Exercise: PUA. Amy suggests that an exercise of equivalent difficulty for women might be getting a handsome guy to buy you a drink without promising him anything else.

Comment author: Manfred 28 May 2011 02:46:49AM *  5 points [-]

The female possible-equivalent kind of skeeves me out, and doesn't seem to exercise the same skills. I would guess, and I hope, that there are better ways to practice status-projecting, confidence, taking control of interactions, and body language.

Q: What sort of things are these social skills good for other than playing a fairly limited social game?

A: Confidence and social dominance are useful in all sorts of Interactions. However, some of the parts are specific to human romance in this culture.

Q: Do I really care about helping people practice the parts specific to romance in a specific culture, rather than a broad class of social interactions?

A: Nah, not really.

Q: Okay, so what kind of things test your social dominance, without splitting your audience or necessarily practicing culture-specific mating rituals?

A: Getting people to do things (maybe specific behaviors) for you [e.g. go get me a drink]. Practicing specific skills to be dominant [e.g. never giving the appearance that you don't know what to do or need the other person's approval]. Navigating what is considered to be a difficult social interaction that is helped by being impressive [getting a job, making a product pitch].

Comment author: Alicorn 28 May 2011 02:52:04AM 10 points [-]

The female possible-equivalent kind of skeeves me out

There is something to notice here.

Comment author: wobster109 28 May 2011 07:28:04AM 10 points [-]

There is something about this that skeeves me out as well, and it's not simply discomfort at the idea of doing it. It's the idea of manipulating others for drinks. It reminds me of begging, almost, the whole trying to get free stuff from others. Also, it sounds like leading men on far enough to get them to buy you a drink; it sounds like making them think you're interested, even if you don't actually promise anything. I'm not so fond of things that might inconvenience others, nor the idea of getting drinks from others because I've led them to believe something false.

I believe the male version is to get a girl's phone number? What skills does this require? I'd guess confidence, the art of conversation, body language, assertiveness, initiative, etc etc. Everything that's already been listed. However, what skills does convincing a man to buy a girl a drink require? What would make a man want to buy a girl a drink? I'm getting the impression of a great deal of flirtatiousness.

I feel that a more equivalent challenge would be for a girl to get a man to accompany her to one of her hobbies, like a knitting group or an orchestra concert or a rationalists' meetup. That way, she has to present her hobby well, get the guy interested, and he has to be interested in something other than sleeping with her. It will require more communication than sexuality, and I feel it will teach the desired social skills better.

Comment author: handoflixue 31 May 2011 11:04:23PM 3 points [-]

I feel that a more equivalent challenge would be for a girl to get a man to accompany her to one of her hobbies. That way he has to be interested in something other than sleeping with her. (paraphrased)

I'm reasonably confident I could manage that using nothing but sex as a lure. Given that, I'm not sure how you'd really sort out whether the guy went from genuine interest, or because he genuinely believes there's a good chance of getting laid. If you're meeting someone in a bar and expressing interest, you're dealing with very biasing circumstances.

Comment author: Blueberry 27 March 2012 10:40:36PM -1 points [-]

Above I argue that this is an equivalent of at least one part of PUA, and explain the subtext behind why it seems skeevier.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 May 2011 09:01:23AM *  8 points [-]

The female possible-equivalent kind of skeeves me out

There is something to notice here.

Yes, that manipulation to get drinks is a flawed analogy, not equivalent. (I reject your connotation.)

It is not easy to find a direct female equivalent to the kind of skills Eliezer was suggesting developing. Simply because of the huge difference in the usual difficulty level in that kind of interaction. Perhaps the most direct translation would be "learn how to approach, attract and build a connection with prospective mates that would previously have been out of your league".

Comment author: Blueberry 27 March 2012 10:40:39PM -1 points [-]

Above I argue that this is an equivalent of at least one part of PUA, and explain the subtext behind why it seems skeevier.

Comment author: JenniferRM 29 May 2011 02:02:21AM 0 points [-]

I'd suggest something more like Intolerable Cruelty, it retains the sense of the effort and strategy being very personally significant, but also retains the ambiguous attractiveness of what might in another era be called "the glamor of evil".

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 29 May 2011 06:14:54AM *  7 points [-]

I need to think about this more, but my current belief is that it is less of a stretch to say that a pickup artist is satisfying actual preferences of a woman who chooses to sleep with him than to say a woman who sets out to marry a rich guy so that she can divorce him is satisfying actual preferences of the rich guy.

One yardstick our legal system and our society use to determine actual preferences is the principle of "informed consent". It seems to me that the consent of most of the woman who go home with pickup artists is significantly more informed than the consent of the Beverly Hills lawyer in Intolerable Cruelty is.

For your analogy to be illuminating and not misleading, the pickup artist would have to falsely profess a desire to spend the rest of his life with the woman or at least carefully navigate conversations with the goal of concealing the fact that his interest is other than what she thinks it is, and I currently do not think a significant number of them do that. Alternatively, the rich guy would have to know or strongly suspect that her goal is to cash out in a divorce -- and marry her anyway (e.g., because he cannot live without her) -- but the expected fraction of rich guys who would do that is much lower than the expected fraction of women who would go home with a pickup artist even if all of those women were fully informed about the pickup artist's actual intentions.

Please do not interpret this analysis of one particular analogy as my being dismissive of women's concerns about the pickup community -- I'm not. Also, I think some parts of your analogy are illuminating, e.g., the part where for many or most women, sex is very personally significant.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 28 May 2011 06:51:41AM 2 points [-]

I think you'll have to be more explicit, I'm not sure what aspect I should be noticing that is worth italics relative to other aspects. Is it about Less Wrong memes, bar memes, Less Wrong's apparent tacit acceptance of bar memes despite general distaste, or what?

Comment author: katydee 28 May 2011 07:42:51AM 15 points [-]

95% probability: Alicorn is suggesting that, just as the female equivalent of PUA skeeves Manfred (presumably a male) out, the traditional version of PUA skeeves her (and presumably other females) out.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 28 May 2011 05:17:45PM *  33 points [-]

Addressed to general audience, not katydee specifically.

Michael Vassar, 5th comment down: "It's important to pay attention to what people's words actually say. ..." I am going to attempt an exercise trying that out and see what happens. I'll also poorly echo Yvain.

Eliezer and others were looking for exercises to aid aspiring rationalists in developing generally applicable social/conversational skills/attributes. For aspiring rationalist males, the common perception is that PUA has demonstrated large positive effects. Eliezer or Amy suggested that succeeding at "getting a handsome guy to buy you a drink without promising him anything else" would build skills for female rationalists. Eliezer then relays Amy's suggestion that PUA and "getting a handsome guy to buy you a drink" might be of equivalent difficulty. Note that "equivalent" was used as an adjective, not a noun. This is the only flavor of equivalence suggested by Eliezer or Amy. It is a bad comparison. Female attractiveness is harder to substantially improve than male attractiveness, and "handsome" is vague.

The thread goes downhill immediately. Manfred writes: "The female possible-equivalent kind of skeeves me out, and doesn't seem to exercise the same skills." What does 'equivalent' mean here? It does not appear to be a reference to Eliezer/Amy's suggestion of equivalence of difficulty, and Manfred notes that the exercises utilize somewhat different skills. The most likely explanation is that Manfred misinterpreted Eliezer's unfortunate use of "equivalent" as a much stronger claim. He thus probably-accidentally-automatically designated the female rationalist exercise the "possible-equivalent" of the male exercise without finding a concrete and exclusively interesting relationship between the two clusters in conceptspace, simply because he felt no need to do what he perceived as flatly disagreeing with Eliezer's claim of PUA-equivalence. His skepticism that "getting a handsome guy to buy you a drink" is PUA-equivalent is apparent. No one would have independently thought that up.

Also worth noting is Manfred's use of "skeeves". He later clarifies that he is not sure which aspects of the man-buying-drink-for-woman scenario are off-putting, but "Maybe it's the injection of money/commodification, or maybe it's just that I dislike many people in that culture so the badness gets associated." Additionally it should be noted that the rest of Manfred's comment was okay, and the subtly introduced and subtly misleading 'equivalence' blunder could theoretically have been patched.

Then, Alicorn, quoting Manfred's "The female possible-equivalent kind of skeeves me out", replies "There is something to notice here." katydee explained Alicorn's comment: "Alicorn is suggesting that, just as the female equivalent of PUA skeeves Manfred (presumably a male) out, the traditional version of PUA skeeves her (and presumably other females) out." Alicorn essentially confirmed this interpretation. The comment, interpretation, and confirmation picked up 14 karma as of my writing this. I really like Alicorn's posts and think she is awesome. And even here, if you squint your brain a little, her comment seems reasonable. But if you actually read the words, it's insane troll logic.

Manfred is not skeeved by the female equivalent of PUA. No one ever talked about a female equivalent of PUA. Manfred incorrectly called something a "female possible-equivalent" due to what really looks like a combination of a misinterpretation, an accident of doxastic language, and social norms.

One could attempt careful, complex arguments about social psychology intending to show that "getting a handsome guy to buy you a drink without promising him anything" and PUA use cognitive machinery or social capital in similar fashions or have other concrete similarities, but it wouldn't work, and it would be the result of rationalizing a misleading artifact of LW social epistemology to make a demonstrably false point about the preferences of females generally. (If not about youngish American females generally, then a speculative claim about whatever reference class Alicorn thinks she is in.)

For the sake of argument, even given a powerful connection in the territory between "PUA-related behaviors" and "beta-sapping-related behaviors including gold digging" (which, sufficiently generalized, cover most humans), enough to make them "equivalent", it is still not clear that Manfred is averse to either, as long as they are not happening in crass bars with crass beers. PUA skills and wealth-absorbing/gold-digging/beta-exploiting skills can be used anywhere, anytime. And again if there was such a connection, it would still be incorrect to make an argument for skeeving symmetry between PUA (a large class of general purpose social interaction skills/attributes used in many ways towards many ends) and a single bar skill that is known for being particularly easy to use unvirtuously.

If I am wrong to think that Manfred's use of "female possible-equivalent" was unintentional, he still used the word incorrectly, and thus the symmetry arguments still do not apply. And if Alicorn had picked up on clues I had not, and noticed that Manfred had used "female possible-equivalent" intentionally, and furthermore decided to reply to the comment implicitly only addressing those with conceptual schemas sufficiently like Manfred's seemingly accidental one (i.e. no one, I think), then I admit my criticism does not apply as strongly. I find such a scenario to be very unlikely.

Summary: katydee put 95% on a total breakdown of sanity within 4 sentences including Eliezer's 2 word sentence, written by 3 people, 2 of which are number 1 and number 3 on Less Wrong's Top Contributors list, and ended up guessing correctly, as if the reasoning was obvious. And I find it kinda funny...

Comment author: Manfred 31 May 2011 01:44:14PM *  5 points [-]

My assumption that the suggestions were supposed to teach the same skills probably comes from the fact that this is a post labeled Exercise, and so should be intended to teach a set of skills (though my use of the word "equivalent" probably did come from a textual mixup). And I don't think "getting laid at a bar" is the skill that was meant, although I am not as sure of that as I was - it's not that getting laid at a bar is so terrible, but I wouldn't call it a "Rationality Skill."

And it appears that Will agrees with me that the purpose should not be to get laid, since he says "No one ever talked about a female equivalent of PUA." I suppose I could write a whole page about how he missed the other interpretation, and how that made the thread go downhill into insane troll logic, but that seems like a lot of work and I'd probably only get 18 or so upvotes :P

Comment author: Blueberry 27 March 2012 10:40:52PM -2 points [-]

Above I argue that this is an equivalent of at least one part of PUA, and explain the subtext behind why it seems skeevier.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 March 2012 12:40:09AM 1 point [-]

(I recommend not making bulk links like this. Especially not bulk links with that acronym. Downvotes are inevitable.)

Comment author: Will_Newsome 01 June 2011 03:00:14PM 0 points [-]

I agree with your points, though it seems to me that they're not about the part of the conversation that bothered me (which was the unfortunate exploitation of a hanging word for political reasons, not by you). I'm having trouble understanding your meaning. I mentioned your name a lot in my comment but mostly because I was trying to figure out how Alicorn's comment could be interpreted as a response to yours. (It mostly can't.) In my view your original comment was by no means an example of poor reasoning, and I apologize that I didn't make this clearer.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 May 2011 07:08:32PM *  11 points [-]

Summary: katydee put 95% on a total breakdown of sanity within 4 sentences including Eliezer's 2 word sentence, written by 3 people, 2 of which are number 1 and number 3 on Less Wrong's Top Contributors list, and ended up guessing correctly, as if the reasoning was obvious. And I find it kinda funny...

It would only have been surprising if it was the first time the same insanity broke down in the vicinity of the same keyword and you were unfamiliar with the politics of the number three user in the top contributor list. It wasn't exactly subtle.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 May 2011 08:08:05AM 5 points [-]

You win Bayes points.

Comment author: Manfred 28 May 2011 03:07:08AM *  2 points [-]

Did you mean something other than noticing that the sexual roles in our bar-trawling subculture, with common, desperate males and uncommon, passive females, skeeve me out?

EDIT: Passive isn't quite the right word to put there. Certainly women in bars are socially passive with regards to men, but I'm not (very) skeeved out by the fact that, say, men typically ask women to dance. Maybe it's the injection of money/commodification, or maybe it's just that I dislike many people in that culture so the badness gets associated.

Comment author: Blueberry 27 March 2012 10:37:20PM *  0 points [-]

This is really interesting. There is something to notice here, but it's not about PUA, it's about the roles women play in society.

My first thought is that the rules should be:

  1. Get a handsome guy to buy you a drink, but you're not allowed to ask directly. You have to get him to offer.
  2. Make him think you like him, and make him like you for some interval of time.
  3. After a predetermined interval, say 15 minutes, make him lose interest.

I added the extra limitations because of wobster's concerns: basically, it seems like a cheap trick to just ask drunk guys to buy you a drink until one says yes, and it seems mean to snub him afterwards.

Then, after I formulated those rules, I realized that these are basically the rules that women are socialized to follow: women are generally taught to be less assertive than men, to get what they want through manipulation, to not snub or make men feel bad, and to find indirect ways of getting out of situations without offending anyone.

I'd argue that this is the rough equivalent of one specific sub-field of PUA, albeit the most well-known: doing cold approaches in a loud meat-market type of bar, because it consists of approaching someone and controlling their interest level.

(There is some confusion here in that the term 'pickup' originally referred to exactly this, as in 'bar pickup,' whereas now terms like 'PUA' or 'Game' have been broadened significantly to include the entire spectrum of dating and relationship skills. I suspect that this semantic difference causes a lot of problems.)

So, in a sense, it's the female equivalent: the way PUA (in some cases) teaches men to follow normalized gender roles [1], this teaches women to follow normalized gender roles. The reason it seems skeevier than PUA is that the roles women are "supposed" to follow are skeevier and more manipulative. And, as Manfred pointed out, the gender roles in the "bar-trawling subculture" already seem skeevy.

A more general equivalent would be sales: go door-to-door and get people to buy magazines or something.

A good counterpoint might be an assertiveness exercise such as:

  1. Go to a restaurant and order something.
  2. Take one bite.
  3. Send it back because you don't like it, and get the restaurant to take it off your bill.

This is surprisingly difficult for a lot of people to do.

[1] Obviously, this is a huge category, and there are definitely individual teachers who focus on the development of more feminine traits as an alternative strategy; however, a lot of pickup is learning to take on the "man" social role.

Comment author: wedrifid 28 May 2011 09:30:59AM *  4 points [-]

Q: Do I really care about helping people practice the parts specific to romance in a specific culture, rather than a broad class of social interactions?

A: Yes.

Romance is a rather important part of life and success in that area makes a difference in performance in other areas as well. There is real value, both terminal and instrumental, in having a healthy romantic life.

Comment author: Manfred 28 May 2011 10:49:29PM *  4 points [-]

Okay, I'll drop the euphemism. Do I really care about helping people practice the parts specific to getting laid at a bar if you are a man, rather than a broad class of social interactions?

"Healthy romantic life" is also a bit vague, so I'm not sure if you would support this explicitly, or if by "healthy romantic life" you mean a more stable situation, which would mean training in cooperation and communication (and also some rational courage and knowing what to expect) much more than dominance.

Comment author: 333kenshin 09 January 2018 09:33:57AM *  0 points [-]

OK only 7 years late to this thread, but feel I've got a much more apt analogous exercise for a woman, which would be for her to take an assertive role (eg articulate strategy, awarding credit for work done, and delegating tasks) at a workplace meeting in which she is neither the organizer nor the highest ranked attendee. Bonus points if male attendees leave without the feeling she was being "bossy"