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

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

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Comment author: Petra 31 July 2012 07:10:11PM *  7 points [-]

Hello!

I'm 18, an undergraduate at University of Virginia, pre-law, and found you through HPMOR.

Rationality has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember, but for various reasons, I'm only recently starting to refine and formalize my views of the world. It is heartening to find others who know the frustration of dealing with people who are unwilling to listen to logic. I've found that it is difficult to become any better at argument and persuasion when you have a reputation as an intelligent person and can convince anyone of anything by merely stating it with a sufficiently straight face.

More than anything else, I hope to become here a person who is a little less wrong than when I came.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 August 2012 01:28:46AM 7 points [-]

This "intelligent reputation" discussion is interesting.

I had kind of an odd situation as a kid growing up. I went to a supposedly excellent Silicon Valley area elementary school and was generally one of the smartest 2-4 kids in my class. But I didn't think of myself as being very smart: I brushed off all the praise I got from teachers (because the villains and buffoons in the fiction I read were all arrogant, and I was afraid of becoming arrogant myself). Additionally, my younger brother is a good bit smarter than me, which was obvious even at that age. So I never strongly identified as being "smart".

When I was older I attended a supposedly elite university. At first I thought there was no way I would get in, but when I was accepted and got in I was astonished by how stupid and intellectually incurious everyone was. I only found one guy in my entire dorm building who actually seemed to like thinking about science/math/etc. for its own sake. At first I thought that the university admissions department was doing a terrible job, but I gradually came to realize that the world was just way stupider than I thought it was, and assuming that I was anything close to normal was not an accurate model. (Which sounds really arrogant; I'm almost afraid to type that.)

I wonder how else being raised among those who are smarter/stupider than you impacts someone's intellectual development?

Comment author: Petra 02 August 2012 01:45:43AM 1 point [-]

generally one of the smartest 2-4 kids in my class

This is interesting. Do you think your aversion to what you saw as arrogance, but which turned out to be (at least partially) accuracy, might have been overcome earlier if, for example, you'd been the clear leader, rather than having even a small group you could consider intellectual peers? Was that how you saw them?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 August 2012 02:05:02AM *  3 points [-]

It's possible. Although for me to have been the "clear leader" you probably would've had to remove a number of people who weren't in the top 2-4 as well. And even then I might have just thought of my family as unusually great, because there'd still be my terrifyingly smart younger brother.

Silicon Valley could be an odd place. I actually grew up in a neighborhood where most of the kids were of Indian descent (we played cricket and a game from India that I just found on Wikipedia called Kabaddi (I can't believe this is played professionally) in addition to standard US games). I didn't think to ask then, but I guess they were mostly children of immigrant software engineers? I haven't really lived anywhere other than the SF bay area yet, so I don't have much to compare it to. Right now I'm thinking I should prepare myself for way more stupidity and racial homogeneity.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 August 2012 04:06:58AM 1 point [-]

Silicon Valley could be an odd place. I actually grew up in a neighborhood where most of the kids were of Indian descent (we played cricket and a game from India that I just found on Wikipedia called Kabaddi (I can't believe this is played professionally) in addition to standard US games).

It took me a few seconds pondering the playing of cricket as 'odd' to realize that I need to identify with the Indians in this story.

Comment author: shokwave 02 August 2012 06:09:40AM 0 points [-]

pondering the playing of cricket as 'odd'

Even as a native Aussie I sometimes find playing cricket to be odd.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 August 2012 12:21:02PM 5 points [-]

I've found that it is difficult to become any better at argument and persuasion when you have a reputation as an intelligent person and can convince anyone of anything by merely stating it with a sufficiently straight face.

Or even without a straight face. Sometimes I've made wild guesses (essentially thinking aloud) and, no matter how many “I think”, “may”, “possibly” etc. I throw in, someone who has heard that I'm a smart guy will take whatever I've said as word of God.

Comment author: Petra 01 August 2012 04:26:58PM 3 points [-]

Yes. My personal favorite was in middle school, when I tried to dispel my assigned and fallacious moniker of "human calculator" by asking someone to pose an arithmetic question and then race me with a calculator. With a classroom full of students as witnesses, I lost by a significant margin, and not only saw no lessening of the usage of said nickname, but in fact heard no repeating of the story outside of that class, that day.

Comment author: DaFranker 01 August 2012 05:54:44PM *  6 points [-]

Beware indeed of giving others more bouncy walls on which evidence can re-bounce and double-, triple-, quatruple-, nay, Npple-count! I once naively thought to improve others' critical thinking by boosting their ability to appraise the quality of my own reasoning.

Lo' and behold, for each example I gave of a bad reasoning I had made or was making, each of them was inevitably using this as further evidence that I was right, because not only had I been right much more than not (counting hits and arguments are soldiers and all that), but the very fact that I was aware of any mistakes I was making proved that I could not make mistakes, for I would otherwise notice mistakes and thus correct myself.

TL;DR: This remains a profoundly important unsolved problem in large-scale distribution, teaching and implementation of cognitive enhancement and bias-overcoming techniques. It's even stated in Luke's "So you want to save the world" list of open problems as "raising the sanity waterline", a major strategic concern for ensuring maximal confidence of results in this incredibly absurd thing they're working on.

Comment author: Cyan 01 August 2012 07:51:28PM 3 points [-]

Npple

The term in common usage is "n-tuple".

Comment author: DaFranker 01 August 2012 08:09:27PM 3 points [-]

Thanks. I paused for a second when I was about to write it, because I realized that I wasn't quite sure that that was how I should write it, but decided to skip over it as no information seemed lost either way and it had bonus illustrative and comical effect in the likely event that I was using the wrong term.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 August 2012 04:12:37AM *  5 points [-]

but decided to skip over it as no information seemed lost either way and it had bonus illustrative and comical effect in the likely event that I was using the wrong term.

Given all the evidence on 'bouncy' and 'npple-count' I must admit the comic illustration that sprung to mind may not have been the one you intended!

Comment author: [deleted] 01 August 2012 10:22:35PM 2 points [-]

Well... I just started to refuse to make calculations in my mind on demand, and I think I even kind-of freaked out a couple times when people insisted. It worked.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 August 2012 05:48:23PM 2 points [-]

I try to keep this sort of thing in mind when interpreting accounts of the implausible brilliance of third parties.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 31 July 2012 09:02:48PM 4 points [-]

it is difficult to become any better at argument and persuasion when you have a reputation as an intelligent person and can convince anyone of anything

Yeah, pretty much.

It is sometimes useful, at that point, to put aside the goal of becoming better at argument and persuasion, and instead pursue for a while the goal of becoming better at distinguishing true assertions from false ones.

Comment author: DaFranker 31 July 2012 07:37:31PM *  3 points [-]

Interestingly, the Authority Card seems subject to the Rule of Separate Magisteria. I'm sure you've also noticed this at some point. Basically, the reputedly-intelligent person will convince anyone of any "fact" by simply saying it convincingly and appearing to themselves be convinced, but only when it is a fact that is part of the Smart-person Stuff magisterium within the listener's model. As soon as you depart from this magisterium, your statements are mere opinion, and thus everything you say is absolutely worthless, since 1/6 000 000 000 = 0 and there are over six billion other people that have an opinion.

In other words, I agree that it constitutes somewhat of a problem. I found myself struggling with it in the past. Now I'm not struggling with it anymore, even though it hasn't been "solved" yet. It becomes a constant challenge that resets over time and over each new person you meet.

Comment author: Petra 31 July 2012 07:56:12PM 2 points [-]

Of course, as a young person, this obstacle is largely eliminated by the context. Interact with the same group of people for a long period of time, a group through which information spreads quickly, and then develop a reputation for knowing everything. Downside: people are very disappointed when you admit you don't know something. Upside: life is easier. More important downside: you get lazy in your knowledge acquisition.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 August 2012 12:23:53PM 2 points [-]

Downside: people are very disappointed when you admit you don't know something.

This. Sometimes, when I tell people I don't know how to help them with something, they accuse me of being deliberately unhelpful with them because I'm selfish, angry with them, or something.

Comment author: beoShaffer 31 July 2012 07:37:20PM 3 points [-]

Hi Petra! Minor nitpick, its rationality not rationalism. Rationalism is something completely different.

Comment author: Petra 31 July 2012 07:52:01PM 5 points [-]

Pardon me, that falls into the grey area between typo and mistake, where the word in the brain doesn't come out on the page. I will correct it.

Comment author: [deleted] 31 July 2012 10:10:09PM 1 point [-]

Why the hell was that downvoted???

Comment author: DaFranker 31 July 2012 11:12:00PM 2 points [-]

My most reasonable guess:

Because every cause wants to be a cult, and some unwary cultists of LessWrong could very easily fool themselves into thinking that any nitpicking over the use of similar words is misinterpretation of the Holy Sequence Gospel, because the Chapter of Words Used Wrong clearly states that words are meant to communicate and clarify ideas and meanings, and thus follows that arguing over words instead of arguing over their substance is inherently bad.

Comment author: DaFranker 31 July 2012 11:25:12PM *  3 points [-]

Judging from the immediate downvote, I'll throw in a second guess that I might be doing some cultist preaching myself there.