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komponisto comments on Video Q&A with Singularity Institute Executive Director - Less Wrong

42 Post author: lukeprog 10 December 2011 11:27AM

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Comment author: komponisto 12 December 2011 03:05:46AM *  5 points [-]

I don't understand why you are seeking to escalate a conflict that I specifically tried to de-escalate above (see last sentence of grandparent).

I disagree with the above in the strongest possible terms, resent the insults and hostile tone, and take severe exception to the fallacious appeals to emotion, strawman arguments, and question-begging.

Point by point:

You have gone way beyond an 'honest expression of feeling'

No I have not. My original comment reflects my feelings entirely accurately. There is no posturing or exaggeration involved (for what purpose I can't even imagine). I said exactly what I thought, no more, no less. This statement of yours about my "going way beyond" is completely false on its face and must be interpreted as some kind of rhetorical way of saying that you are offended by how strongly I feel. If that was what you meant, that is what you should have said.

You have successively claimed arrogantly high linguistic abilities

I do not consider the level of linguistic ability I claimed to be "arrogantly high". Just high enough for me to be worth listening to, rather than ignored like I was the last time this issue came up. That was the context of this remark about linguistic ability (of which I had omitted all mention on the previous occasion). Note that "worth listening to" is not the same as "worthy of being unconditionally obeyed". Perhaps if I had claimed the latter, that would have been "arrogant". Note also that several specifically non-arrogant disclaimers were inserted: "It's a bit embarrassing to admit this..."; "My ability in this area isn't perfect..."; "it's overrideable". Apparently you didn't notice these, despite having quoted one of them yourself.

abused badly important terminology worse than any post like 'Rational toy buying'

Nonsense. You are free to disagree with my claims about whether X is Bayesian evidence of Y (I assume that is what you are referring to here), but the mere fact that you disagree with such a claim does not make the claim an abuse of terminology. An abuse of terminology would be if I used the term despite not actually meaning "X is more likely if Y is true than if Y is false"; but that is exactly what I meant above.

you have directly condescended to Luke (who is a better writer than you, IMO, even if not fluent in X languages)

Since I have NEVER said anything here about being a "better writer" than anyone else, this uninvited comparison is simply a gratuitous insult. That is NOT what we are talking about here. There are plenty of subskills that make up writing ability, and sensitivity to the kind of grammatical details that I am sensitive to is only one of them (and arguably quite far from the most important).

It's as if you inserted this in a deliberate attempt to signal hostility and offend me. You succeeded.

Also, I did not "condescend" to Luke. I regard Luke as a peer -- not someone of significantly higher or lower status --and addressed him as such. (If anything, I sometimes feel that Luke is inappropriately condescending, although I think he has been making more effort to avoid this, for which he is to be commended.)

tiny verbal distinction

Here you beg the question. For me, it isn't "tiny". That is the whole point!

brings disrepute upon the SIAI and anything connected

False. I claim it brings "disrepute" (not my word) on SIAI itself. I didn't say anything about "anything connected". (It doesn't particularly bring disrepute upon Less Wrong, for example -- even though LW is clearly "connected" to SIAI.)

called it evidence for a scam

Yes. I expect scam organizations to be twice as likely to use "at X Institute" (instead of "at the X Institute") as non-scam organizations.

I take exception to the tactic of appealing to indignation at the word "scam" as if that were an argument against the factual anticipation I stated above.

and finish by insulting everyone involved who does not think as you do

Wrong again. That is simply not a correct characterization of what I wrote. I suggest you read it again, in context, and more charitably. The comment I referred to had in fact completely misunderstood what I was talking about and showed a decidedly superficial analysis of the issue on top of it. In such a context, it is completely appropriate to say "if [that] comment is representative of SI's actual reasoning on this matter, it frankly doesn't look like you people have a clue what you're doing". I further expect this is exactly what the SI staff would expect me to say if in fact it actually looked like that to me (which it did). It does not even address, let alone insult, "everyone who does not think as [I] do". For one thing, no one actually offered a contrary point of view; the only thing evinced was a lack of comprehension of the opinion and argument that I had expressed.

And I will note that despite a direct request to wedrifid for any random grammarian or language maven reference, none has been provided, despite the fact that you can find recommendations for and against any damn grammatical point (because there is no fact of the matter).

In my original comment on this issue I cited numerous Wikipedia articles illustrating the usage in question. You are free to use Google to find further confirmation. And (not without irony, since someone originally attempted to cite it against me), I can refer to this for explicit confirmation of the existence of the distinction we're talking about (between "strong" and "weak" proper nouns, in the terminology used there).

So not only are you engaged in ridiculous accusations on something that is manifestly not worth arguing about

Once again: completely begging the question. I will again refer you to Generalizing from One Example for a discussion of how something that seems insignificant to one person can be highly bothersome to another, a lesson which you have evidently failed to internalize.

you may not even be right

If you were interested in persuading me of this, you have chosen a completely wrong approach. In fact, you have potentially damaged my ability to form correct beliefs in the future, since there is now a feeling of negative affect -- perhaps even an ugh field -- attached to you in my mind, making me less likely to give proper consideration to any information or argument you may have to offer.

We were on good terms before, despite the occasional disagreement. If you thought I was actually wrong about something here (as opposed to being more inclined to notice and bothered by non-standard language patterns than you), would it have been that hard to simply present an argument?

(If anyone is tempted to suggest that the ancestor comment of this thread was hostile in a manner similar to the parent, not only do I disagree, but that isn't even the relevant comparison. My original comments on this topic were free of any sign of exasperation, yet ignored by Luke and other SI personnel, despite upvotes and verbalized agreement from others; hence the impatient tone of the ancestor.)

Comment author: drethelin 12 December 2011 03:51:05AM *  3 points [-]

if you don't see what's wrong with claiming that your opinion on a linguistic matter is basis for significant Bayesian update, especially in the style that you did, then that significantly lowers any update I would make based on your communication skills. I strongly think that "the singularity institute" sounds better, but you're making me sad to agree with you.

Comment author: komponisto 12 December 2011 04:03:58AM *  2 points [-]

This is a cheap shot.

(1) I have not made any claim to superior "communication skills". Those are highly complex and involve many smaller abilities. The most I did was make a claim to (a certain kind of) superior language skills in order to draw attention to an explicit argument I had given that had been ignored.

(2) Compare the following:

if you don't see what's wrong with claiming that your opinion on a [insert adjective] matter is basis for significant Bayesian update...

For what class of adjective do you regard this as a general template for a sound argument?

Comment author: drethelin 12 December 2011 04:22:58AM 2 points [-]

I'll let you in on a secret. IN THE STYLE YOU DID was a part of what I said, and it was an important part. Claiming to be wise enough that what you think should make other people significantly change their point of view is OBVIOUSLY arrogant. What is so hard to understand about that? Adding lines like "I'll let you in on a secret" makes you come off significantly worse. Your style of communication is dismissive of any contrary opinion, insulting, and ridiculously pompous. If you can't see this, my opinion of your language skills HAS to go down based on them being a subset of being able to understand communication. Your dislike of singularity institute is clearly based on what you think that phrasing communicates, and yet you can't seem to understand why people might dislike your own communications.

The class of adjective is irrelevant. What's wrong with that claim is not whether or not it is true or useful, but how well it persuades. And a flat statement saying you should update on my beliefs, when we are specifically talking about whether to update beliefs based on how something is said, is unconvincing and annoying.

Comment author: komponisto 12 December 2011 05:40:06AM *  7 points [-]

I have now edited the comment, removing what I understand to have been the most offensive passage.

Comment author: komponisto 12 December 2011 04:53:09AM 6 points [-]

Thank you for the feedback. Let me now try to reply to some of your points, in order to help you and anyone else reading better understand where I am coming from. (I don't intend these replies as rejections of the information you've offered about your own perspective.)

Claiming to be wise enough that what you think should make other people significantly change their point of view is OBVIOUSLY arrogant. What is so hard to understand about that?

I was only claiming to be "wise enough" to have my point of view taken into account. Not all Bayesian updates are large updates! Now, of course, in this particular case, I did think a large update was warranted; but I didn't expect that large update to be made on the basis of my authority, I expected it to be made on the basis of my arguments.

"I'll let you in on a secret" makes you come off significantly worse

That seems bizarre, unless you interpreted it as sarcasm. But it wasn't sarcasm: I spelled out in the next sentence that I was actually embarrassed to be making the admission!

Another strange thing about the reaction to this is that I didn't actually claim my "single greatest skill" was actually all that great. I just said it was the greatest skill I had. It could perhaps be quite bad, with all the other skills simply being even worse. The only comparison was with my own other skills, not the skills of other people.

What I was saying was "if you ever listen to me on anything, listen to me on this!".

And a flat statement saying you should update on my beliefs

This feels to me like I'm being interpreted uncharitably. My statement was highly specific and limited in scope. It was not in any sense a "flat" statement; it was fairly narrowly circumscribed.

Comment author: prase 12 December 2011 02:23:59PM 1 point [-]

"I'll let you in on a secret" makes you come off significantly worse

That seems bizarre, unless you interpreted it as sarcasm.

A data point: doesn't seem bizarre to me. Whether I interpret it as (a specific type of) sarcasm I'm not sure. Sarcasm needn't hinge only on the contradiction between the literal and factual meaning of "secret", but also on the contradiction between a relatively familiar / seemingly friendly phrase and the general expression of disagreement.

Comment author: komponisto 12 December 2011 09:10:41PM 3 points [-]

the contradiction between a relatively familiar / seemingly friendly phrase and the general expression of disagreement.

The phrase was intended to be friendly, precisely in order to mitigate the general expression of disagreement!

Comment author: Emile 15 December 2011 11:41:16AM 1 point [-]

Data point: It didn't come off that way to me either, I found it sounded condescending.

I agree that "at Singularity Institute" sounds weird, but I also know that judgement on what sounds weird or what connotations come up - including things like "I'll let you in on a secret" - vary a lot from person to person, even among people from the same language and country and background.

Comment author: gwern 15 December 2011 02:24:16AM -2 points [-]

(I find it regrettable that I am in a hostile exchange with you, since I have found many of your writings here and on your own site interesting and valuable.)...(see last sentence of grandparent)....If you were interested in persuading me of this, you have chosen a completely wrong approach. In fact, you have potentially damaged my ability to form correct beliefs in the future, since there is now a feeling of negative affect -- perhaps even an ugh field -- attached to you in my mind, making me less likely to give proper consideration to any information or argument you may have to offer. We were on good terms before, despite the occasional disagreement. If you thought I was actually wrong about something here (as opposed to being more inclined to notice and bothered by non-standard language patterns than you), would it have been that hard to simply present an argument?

Irrelevant to me. A bad comment is a bad comment. Our past and future interactions do not matter to me. To the extent I comprehend our interaction, it is me commenting on and discussing your Knox materials and you silently reading whatever you read of me; even if I were selfishly concerned about future interactions, I doubt I would value it at very much - you will continue to discuss Knox or not regardless of whether you are angry with me.

If you really do form an ugh-field just over this discussion, you should work on that. Bad habit to have.

This statement of yours about my "going way beyond" is completely false on its face and must be interpreted as some kind of rhetorical way of saying that you are offended by how strongly I feel. If that was what you meant, that is what you should have said.

You stand by everything you said, the personal attacks and absurd inferences, and feel this is perfectly honest? That this violates no LW norms of communication? That all this is perfectly acceptable? You feel that there is no problem with saying all that, because hey, you actually thought it?

WE ARE NOT OPERATING ON CROCKER'S RULES.

I will repeat this; we operate on a number of norms where we do not accuse, in an inflammatory way, someone of making the SIAI look like incompetent crooks simply because we 'feel honestly' this way.

WE ARE NOT OPERATING ON CROCKER'S RULES.

Some of us do, but not lukeprog or anyone I've noticed in these threads.

I do not consider the level of linguistic ability I claimed to be "arrogantly high". Just high enough for me to be worth listening to, rather than ignored like I was the last time this issue came up...My original comments on this topic were free of any sign of exasperation, yet ignored by Luke and other SI personnel, despite upvotes and verbalized agreement from others; hence the impatient tone of the ancestor.

Interesting that you were ignored, you say. I wonder why you weren't ignored this time? Gee, maybe it has something to do with how you expressed it this time?

But no, you were merely honestly expressing your feelings! (I guess you were being dishonest last time, since I don't see any other way to differentiate the two posts.)

Note also that several specifically non-arrogant disclaimers were inserted: "It's a bit embarrassing to admit this..."; "My ability in this area isn't perfect..."; "it's overrideable". Apparently you didn't notice these, despite having quoted one of them yourself.

'I could be mistaken, and my ability in this area isn't perfect (embarrassingly), but I think your mother is a whore.' You're offended? But I just included 3 disclaimers that you blessed as effective!

Lamentably, disclaimers no longer work in English due to abuse. I believe Robin Hanson has written some interesting things on disclaimers. If you are not speaking in a logical or mathematical mode, don't expect disclaimers to be magic pixy dust which will instantly dispel all problems with your statements. If you didn't believe them as stated, why did you write them? Honest expression of feelings, right?

You are free to disagree with my claims about whether X is Bayesian evidence of Y (I assume that is what you are referring to here), but the mere fact that you disagree with such a claim does not make the claim an abuse of terminology.

This post is Bayesian evidence of you being a murderer, because murderers are low on Agreeableness, which correlates with arguing online.

Without any evidence, any framework, or any of what passes for genuine investigation as opposed to 'I don't like it!', to pull out 'Bayesian evidence' is to dress up what is epsilon evidence (charitably) in euphuistic garb to impress readers. It is technical jargon out of place, ripped from its setting for your rhetorical purpose, and worse than Behe defending creationism with information theory twisted into meaninglessness, because you know better.

Since I have NEVER said anything here about being a "better writer" than anyone else, this uninvited comparison is simply a gratuitous insult. That is NOT what we are talking about here. There are plenty of subskills that make up writing ability, and sensitivity to the kind of grammatical details that I am sensitive to is only one of them (and arguably quite far from the most important).

The point is someone who is an inferior writer has little prior credibility when they claim superiority in any subskill.

Yes. I expect scam organizations to be twice as likely to use "at X Institute" (instead of "at the X Institute") as non-scam organizations. I take exception to the tactic of appealing to indignation at the word "scam" as if that were an argument against the factual anticipation I stated above.

This faux precision is hilarious. This is like reporting figures to 10 significant places. How could you possibly be able to give the likelihood ratio down even to an order of magnitude?

Seriously, how could you? Do you keep lists of legitimate organizations which make you linguistically flip out vs scam organizations which make you linguistically flip out?

Is there a study somewhere I am unaware of which classifies a large sample of organizations by their fraudulence and discusses signs by likelihood ratio which you have been consulting?

I'm dying to know where this 'twice' comes from. After all, you've been insisting on oh-so-precise interpretations of everything you said, from 'honest feeling' to 'Bayesian evidence' to your disclaimers; surely you didn't slip on this fascinating claim. What evidence is your 'factual anticipation' based on?

In my original comment on this issue I cited numerous Wikipedia articles illustrating the usage in question. You are free to use Google to find further confirmation. And (not without irony, since someone originally attempted to cite it against me), I can refer to this for explicit confirmation of the existence of the distinction we're talking about (between "strong" and "weak" proper nouns, in the terminology used there).

You're citing non-SIAI examples as proof of your thesis, while acknowledging that there is an entire common class of names where your thesis is outright false? With no evidence which one one is applicable which is the entire question? Now who is begging the question?

It's as if people are being deliberately mischievous by writing both "the SIAI" (which should be "SIAI"), and on the other hand, "Singularity Institute" (which should be "the Singularity Institute").

Gee, it's almost as if there is no fact of the matter and neither is right or wrong. How strange.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 06:33:23AM *  3 points [-]

Irrelevant to me. A bad comment is a bad comment. Our past and future interactions do not matter to me. To the extent I comprehend our interaction, it is me commenting on and discussing your Knox materials and you silently reading whatever you read of me; even if I were selfishly concerned about future interactions, I doubt I would value it at very much - you will continue to discuss Knox or not regardless of whether you are angry with me.

You are aggressively and publicly trolling a prominent member when he is not being hostile. You should not anticipate the negative consequences of that to be limited to his own perception. You seem to be willfully sabotaging your own reputation. I don't understand why.

You stand by everything you said, the personal attacks and absurd inferences, and feel this is perfectly honest? That this violates no LW norms of communication? That all this is perfectly acceptable? You feel that there is no problem with saying all that, because hey, you actually thought it?

He didn't do anything of the sort.

WE ARE NOT OPERATING ON CROCKER'S RULES.

Which seems to be applicable to you, and not kompo at all.

I will repeat this; we operate on a number of norms where we do not accuse, in an inflammatory way, someone of making the SIAI look like incompetent crooks simply because we 'feel honestly' this way.

Saying that a particular behavior gives a terrible signal is not a personal attack. The following, what kompo actually said, is not a norm violation:

As has been explained before, this is annoying, grating, and just plain goofy. It makes you sound like a fly-by-night commercial outfit run by people who don't quite speak English. In my estimation it's about 2:1 evidence that SI* is a scam.

Comment author: gwern 15 December 2011 05:23:10PM *  3 points [-]

You are aggressively and publicly trolling a prominent member when he is not being hostile. You should not anticipate the negative consequences of that to be limited to his own perception. You seem to be willfully sabotaging your own reputation. I don't understand why.

For the same reason people in other articles rail against the 'Rational Xing' meme - because komponisto's sort of comment is the sort of thing I do not want to see spread at all. I do not want to see people browbeating lukeprog or anyone with wild claims about their unproven opinion being 'Bayesian evidence', or all the other pathologies and dark arts in that comment which I have pointed out.

If I fail to convince people as measured by karma points, well, whatever. You win some and you lose some - for example, I was expecting my last comment attacking the Many Worlds cultism here to be downvoted, but no, it was highly upvoted. As they say about real karma, it balances out.

If my reputation is damaged by this, well, whatever. Whatever can be destroyed by the truth should be, no? I think I am right here and if I do not give an 'honest expression of my feelings', I am manipulating my reputation. And if it is so flimsy a thing that a small flamewar over one of the obscurest grammatical points I have seen can damage it, then it wasn't much of a reputation at all and I shouldn't engage in sunk cost fallacy about it.

He didn't do anything of the sort.

Ah, an excellent reply. To many many questions - 'no'. I see.

Which seems to be applicable to you, and not kompo at all.

Tu quoque!

Saying that a particular behavior gives a terrible signal is not a personal attack. The following, what kompo actually said, is not a norm violation:

Yeah, whatever. I already dealt with this BS with the disclaimers and other stuff.

By the way, komponisto has not produced the slightest shred of evidence for that ratio. Is 'making stuff up' not a norm violation on LW these days?

And by the way, you haven't provided any citations for the linguistic point in contention, despite my direct unambiguous challenge several days ago.

How many times will I have to ask you and komponisto about this before you finally dig up something - an Internet grammarian or anything saying you are right about how to refer to the SIAI and its myriad connexions? I think this makes 4, which alone earns you two my downvotes.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 05:59:36PM 0 points [-]

And by the way, you haven't provided any citations for the linguistic point in contention, despite my direct unambiguous challenge several days ago.

I most certainly haven't. The "challenge" in question was a logically rude - and blatantly disingenuous - attempt to spin the context such that I am somehow obliged to provide citations or else your accusation that komponisto is "dressing up [his] linguistic idiosyncrasies in capitalized statistical drag" is somehow valid - rather than totally out of line. I am actually somewhat proud that after I wrote a response to that comment at the time you made it I discarded it rather than replying - there wasn't anything to be gained and so ignoring it was the wiser course of action.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the community saw through your gambit and downvoted you to -4. In most environments that would have worked for you - people usually reward clever use of spin and power moves like that yet here it backfired.

Comment author: gwern 15 December 2011 08:46:27PM 2 points [-]

The "challenge" in question was a logically rude - and blatantly disingenuous - attempt to spin the context such that I am somehow obliged to provide citations or else your accusation that komponisto is "dressing up [his] linguistic idiosyncrasies in capitalized statistical drag" is somehow valid

If his preference is only his preference, why do we care? We should do nothing to cater to one person's linguistic whims.

If we care because his preference may be shared by the LW community, 10 or 15 upvotes are not enough to indicate a community-wide preference, and likewise nothing should be done.

If we care because his preference is descriptively correct and common across many English-speaking communities beyond LW, then a failure to provide citations is a failure to provide proof, and likewise nothing should be done.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the community saw through your gambit and downvoted you to -4. In most environments that would have worked for you - people usually reward clever use of spin and power moves like that yet here it backfired.

This is another kind of comment I dislike.

Karma should be discussed as little as possible. Goodhart's law, people! The more you discuss karma and even give it weight, the more you destroy any information it was conveying previously. Please don't do that; I like being able to sort by karma and get a quick ranking of what comments are good.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 December 2011 09:28:24PM 4 points [-]

[...] 10 or 15 upvotes are not enough to indicate a community-wide preference [...]

They aren't? I perceive that as a fairly large score and practically the second-highest range a comment ever gets, short of the >40 karma of a particularly clever pun or Yvain comment. (That doesn't justify catering to the whim, but I'd take it seriously at least.)

Comment author: gwern 15 December 2011 09:35:32PM -2 points [-]

This is a buried* thread on a Discussion page; the top comment is now down from the cited 10 or 15 upvotes to just +7 (and my first critical comment is currently at +6); and no one comes to a page on a lukeprog video because they want to weigh in on the burning issue of using 'the'. The people discussing are not a random subset of the community, even if one wanted to argue that the votes were in favor, so there's that too.

If this were written up as say a front page Article, I have no idea what the overall reaction would be, because there are all those other factors destroying our ability to extrapolate from this little flamewar to LW in general.

* I take that back, it was buried but apparently my comments have gotten enough upvotes to be unhidden again.

Comment author: paper-machine 15 December 2011 07:35:57AM 1 point [-]

You seem to be willfully sabotaging your own reputation.

I don't know. I gained more respect for gwern after reading his comment.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 07:50:48AM 4 points [-]

I don't know. I gained more respect for gwern after reading his comment.

Pardon me: "... with the obvious exception of the other person who has also been heavily downvoted for abusing komponisto in the same context"

Comment author: paper-machine 15 December 2011 08:04:55AM *  1 point [-]

What's abusive about it? It seemed to me like a straightforward error, but the presentation was admittedly bad. I was tired and possibly inebriated; so it goes. Nobody lost many hedons over it.

On the gripping hand, gwern doesn't even talk about komponisto's tacit conflation of karma with correctness, or that of total karma with total number of people approving. I don't even agree with gwern on the issue at hand, as I said before.

I gained respect for him because it takes a great deal of nerve to write such a thing, and I think that's admirable. Or maybe my model of gwern is more accurate than yours? I don't know.

EDIT: Rereading that thread, I notice drethelin did succeed in convincing komponisto of a related point. As I expected, it took more writing than I was interested in doing at the time. Props to it, as well.