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orthonormal comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) - Less Wrong

25 Post author: orthonormal 26 December 2011 10:57PM

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Comment author: orthonormal 28 December 2011 01:47:11AM 8 points [-]

It sounds like the Straw Vulcan talk might be relevant to some of your thoughts on rationality and emotion...

Comment author: Kouran 04 January 2012 02:37:28PM 0 points [-]

Orthonormal, thank you for suggesting the Straw Vulcan talk to me. It was a fairly interesting talk I was encouraged to see rationality defined through various examples in a way that is useful, accepts emotionality and works with it. I did not myself have a Straw Vulcan view of rationality, far from it, but I do recognise a few of it's flawed features in rationalistic social theories.

However, even this speaker seemed to overstate people´s rationality. An example is given of teenagers doing dangerous things despite stating they consider the risks. The taking of the risk is attributed to flawed reasoning, miscalculation of risks and the like. From my perspective, it is much more likely that the teenagers considered the risks because they were warned against the behaviour and they realised that their peer group was about to do something their parent´s, guardians, etc. disagree with; the were somewhat anxious because they were aware of a moral conflict. However, their bond with the peer group, the emotional dynamic of the situation was not disrupted by the doubt, nor was it strong enough for them to exclude themselves from the situation (to leave), and so they took whatever risk they had pondered. I wouldn't appropriate this to flawed thinking; as I see it the thinking was fairly irrelevant to the situation, as it seems to me that it is to most situations.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 04 January 2012 03:44:46PM *  4 points [-]

Consider this (and this related thread) from the genes' point of view. It may be worth having all of your carriers do risky things, if the few that die of them are more than made up for by the ones who survive and learn something from the experience (such as how to kill big fierce animals without dying).

For a gene, there's nothing reckless about having your carriers act recklessly at a stage in their lives when their reproductive survival depends on learning how to do dangerous things.

Comment author: Swimmer963 04 January 2012 03:18:08PM 0 points [-]

An example is given of teenagers doing dangerous things despite stating they consider the risks.

It seems to be that there is a systematic bias in teenage thinking, especially of the male sex; many teenagers I know/have known in the past place a much higher weight on peers' opinions than on parents' opinions, and a considerably higher weight on 'coolness' than on 'safeness.' Cool actions are often either unsafe or disapproved of by the parents' generation. I've started to wonder whether there might be a good evolutionary reason for teenagers to act this way. After all, being liked and accepted by peers is more important to finding a mate than being accepted by the older generation. In an ancestral environment, young males' ability to confidently take risks (i.e. in hunting) would have been important to success, and thus a factor in attractiveness to girls. Depending on just how risky the 'cool' things to do are, and how tough the competition for mates, the boys who ignored their parents' warnings and took risks with their peer group might have had more children compared to those who were more cautious...and thus their actions would be instrumentally rational. If this hypothesis were true, the 'thinking' that leads modern teenagers to do dangerous things would be an implicit battle of popularity-vs-safety, with popularity usually winning because of an innate weighting.

This is a testable, falsifiable hypothesis, if I can find some way of testing it.

Comment author: MixedNuts 05 January 2012 09:43:42PM 2 points [-]

First step is to see if that's consistent across cultures. Any anthropologists?

Comment author: dlthomas 04 January 2012 05:11:14PM 1 point [-]

If it is in the genetic interests of the children to perform actions with such-and-such a risk level relative to the reward in social recognition, why is it not in the genetic interests of the parent to promote that precise risk level in the child?

Comment author: Swimmer963 05 January 2012 09:39:16PM 1 point [-]

No idea, actually. The following is possible stuff that my brain has produced, i.e. pure invented bullshit.

It could be that this discrepancy used to be less of a problem, when society was more constant from one generation to the next and most 'risky' behaviours were obviously rewarding to both teens and adults . Based on anecdotal conversations with my parents, it seems like some things that are considered 'cool' by most of my own peer group were considered 'just stupid' by the people my parents hung out with when they were teenagers.

There's also the factor that in the modern environment, as compared to the ancestral environment, most people don't keep the same group of friends in their twenties and thirties as in their teens. The same person can be unpopular in high school, when "coolness" is more correlated to risk taking, and yet be popular in a different group later when they have a $100 000-a-year job and an enormous house with a pool in it, and nobody remembers that back in high school they had no friends. Parents who have survived this phase may consider it okay for their children to be less popular as teenagers in order to prepare for later "success" as they define it, but to a teenager actually living through it day by day, the <adaptation executer>(http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0/adaptationexecuters_not_fitnessmaximizers/) in their brain will still rate their peers' approval as far more important than safety, and adjust their pleasure and pain in different situations accordingly...since, in an ancestral environment of small groups that stayed together, impressing people at age 14 would have a much greater effect on your later success as an adult.

Comment author: gwern 04 January 2012 05:08:16PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Swimmer963 05 January 2012 09:09:51PM 0 points [-]

Neat. Thanks.