Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

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

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (1430)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Rejoyce 18 March 2012 09:18:07PM *  8 points [-]

Salutations and whatnot! My name is Joyce, I'm a high school sophomore. Probably on the younger side of the age spectrum here, but I don't mind starting young. The idea of rationality isn't new to me, I've always been more inclined to the "truth", even when it sometimes hurts. In my mind knowing more about the truth = better person, so that's my motivation for being here. I'm have better grades than the average, but for the past couple of years the thing I hated most about myself was the fact that I usually "coast" a class, get my A, and then promptly forget everything I've done in the class. My goal was "get an A", not "learn something new". I'd like to learn new things now, and actually retain it, instead of just coasting by. Knowledge is power. I want to be the best, like no one ever was.

Um. When I was younger, perhaps ten, while I was tinkering with Photoshop, my older cousin approached to me and tried to introduce to me the idea of fallacies. He's...nine years older than me, so he was a barely an adult. I forgot most of the conversation, but from what I DO remember, blaming a stomachache on the last thing you ate was falling prey to SOME fallacy because it takes a day to digest food and thus you should think about what you ate 24 hours before, not two. (by the way I think this is wrong, your body reacts to bad food quicker than that, and can anyone tell me what fallacy this is? If it exists?) He also said if I wanted to win a lot of arguments I should learn about more fallacies. I was kind of doubtful and sort of didn't really care about the whole thing, but it must have been significant if the hard drive that is my brain hadn't completely forgot about it already.

What brought me here was Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and what brought me to HPMoR was the writer Aspen in the Sunlight who wrote the Harry Potter fanfiction series A Year Like None Other (I didn't capitalize that correctly), and what brought me there was dragcave.net and from there I'm not quite sure. It was nearly three years ago, after all.

Ah, what else should I say. I'm an INTP. Psychology is the loveliest subject ever, oh it's just the most fun subject ever. I'm sort of taking AP Psych next year. And by that I mean buying the textbook off ebay or something and self-studying it along with my friend from another school who actually has the course, because my school doesn't offer the class. sigh Milgram's experiment was interesting and a little shocking, it's almost become my conversation starter ("Did you know that two-thirds of people would administer 450-volts of electricity through a person because a guy in a white lab coat told them to?"). Not sure what I want to be when I grow up, though I'm very well versed in computer technology. If not that, then law.

Someyears in my life I want to teach for a few years, just to experiment and find out what the best teaching method actually is. Traditional methods are so boring, and since a significant amount of my peers don't actually respond well to the current learning environment there obviously needs to be some updating to do. Electronics are going to be so cheap in the future, I could probably make my potential students shell out some 30 dollars for a decent tablet, install some heavily modded operating system, (Android/Apple if advanced enough by that time, Linux if not) lock it so my students can't tinker, and integrate that heavily in the curriculum. Sync my own tablet with all of theirs, kill some poor school's wi-fi. Maybe actually make a points system. Now that I typed that out it's losing its effectiveness appeal, but gosh, it'd at least be interesting.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 18 March 2012 11:51:27PM 4 points [-]

He also said if I wanted to win a lot of arguments I should learn about more fallacies.

This is actually one danger of learning about fallacies: you become more able at defeating arguments, and this holds irrespective of their truth, so if you have a standard tendency to privilege arguments for the positions you already hold, that makes it harder for you to change your mind. See the post Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People.

Comment author: Rejoyce 19 March 2012 12:09:41AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks for the post, I'll definitely look at it after I'm done replying to this one.

When you say "privilege arguments for the positions you already hold", do you mean "only allow arguments that allow you a better chance of winning"?

This sounds like the wrong thing to say, but... I'll say it anyways, I want to see your reaction: what if you don't develop a tendency to fight the easier battle? What you say makes sense: losing less = learning less, until the point where you start to win/lose at a 50/50 rate at least. What if you pick arguments for the sake of arguing, or you promise yourself that you would only argue for the truth? Or, as is the case for me, what if you you have the tendency to fight for both sides (heck, this post)? I actually agree with you on all points, but for some reason I want to know how you would answer the opposing side, if I were on it.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 March 2012 08:47:17PM *  1 point [-]

Ideally, you should aim to defeat the strongest version of your opponent's argument that you can think of--it's a much better test of whether your position is actually correct, and it helps prevent rationalization. Rather than attacking a version of your opponent's argument that is weak, you should attack the strongest possible version of it. On LessWrong we usually call this Least Convenient Possible World, or LCPW for short. (I've also seen it called "steel man," because instead of constructing a weaker "straw man" version of your opponent's argument, you fix it and make a stronger one.) You may be interested in the wiki entry on LCPW and the post that coined the term.

I'm not sure about the merits of arguing for positions you don't actually believe. It can certainly be helpful in a context where your discussion partners are also tossing around ideas and collaborating by playing Devil's Advocate, since it can help you find the weaknesses in your position, but repeatedly practicing rationalization might not be healthy in the long run.

Comment author: arundelo 18 March 2012 10:33:35PM 1 point [-]

can anyone tell me what fallacy this is?

Probably post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Comment author: Rejoyce 18 March 2012 10:38:10PM 0 points [-]

There you go! That's the one. :)

Comment author: TimS 18 March 2012 11:19:07PM 0 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong.

Thanks for mentioning that other fanfic, I hadn't seen it and it looks great.

I'm glad you find the moral theory stuff interesting - I do as well. I want to let you know that law is a terrible career for that sort of thing.

Comment author: Rejoyce 18 March 2012 11:47:16PM *  0 points [-]

I've heard. Failing a case makes you feel worthless, and sometimes winning one makes you feel soulless. Maybe I should go into the milder forms of law. Patents, perhaps?

Comment author: TimS 19 March 2012 01:52:19AM *  0 points [-]

Some of that, but not much - the stakes aren't usually that high. My intended point was that the practice of law is about repeating what you are good at, over and over and over again. Like if you are a divorce lawyer. You can try to argue every case about the theory and purpose of alimony and child support - or you can just reference the schedule of presumptive amounts from the statute or the regulations.

The first one is interesting, like thinking about the implications of Milgram's experiment. The second one is the way it actually works.

Lots of people think that want to be lawyers because they want to translate their idealism into real-world consequences. I'm not saying that's impossible (heck, I'm trying to do it now), but it isn't the natural progression of a career in law. In short, I'm given to understand that "The Firm" is a moderately accurate picture of what the practice of law is often like.