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

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

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Comment author: HalMorris 14 December 2012 05:08:07AM 8 points [-]

Thanks to Emile for suggesting I come here write something. I hope to get to the New York meetup on Sunday; I'm not ready for "rituals" and futuristic music just yet.

I just ran across LW by trying google terms along the lines of memetics "belief systems", etc., which led me to some books from late 90s like "Virus of the Mind", and in the last 2-3 years some just "OK" books on religions as virus-like meme systems. This kind of search to see what people may have said about some odd combination of thoughts that I suspect might be fruitful has brought me interesting results in the past. E.g. by googling ontological comedian, I discovered Ricky Gervais which has brightened my life (his movie "The Invention of Lying" out to be of interest to LW-ers). I'm interested in practical social epistemology -- trying to come up with creative responses to what looks like major chunks of the population (those pesky folks who elect presidents) being less and less moored in reality and going off into diverse fantasy lands -- or to put it another way, a massive breakdown in common sense about what sources are reliable.

I asked someone how she makes such decisions and she answered that she trusts people who are saying things consistent with what she already knows. Unfortunately, much of what she already knows isn't true.

I wonder why people have such a tin ear for bullshit. Someone kept sending me the latest "proof" that global warming is a big hoax, and as far as I'm concerned their own arguments are the best case against them. I.e. if this is the best they can do, they must not have a case. This sort of reasoning isn't part of classic epistemology, but I can hardly think of anything more important getting a quick read on a source as to its trustworthiness - esp. whether those contributing to it are truth seekers or propagandists. I think Alvin Goldman's Social Epistemology (which is far from the "social construction of reality" folks) can help with some of my concerns. I'd like to see an "economics of ideas" concerned with what makes ideas fly, whether they're true or not -- pretty close to memetics and from a different perspective, "media ecology", analogous to the set of topological T3 space and then find embedded within that [Social] Epistemology analogous to the more constrained T4 spaces.

I'm not so much interested in Philosophy 401 syllabi, but more interested in finding ways to teach truth seeking and bullshit avoidance in elementary schools. Also how to push back against the propagandists and liars with some viral techniques of our own - browsers that facilitate fact checking, maybe make it fun in some way; walling off purely factual data and building consensus that on one side of the wall the data really is factual; and building tools for synthesizing answers to particular questions based on that data.

I hope to learn something from the "black arts" threads on LW.

Comment author: Nominull 14 December 2012 05:49:05AM 1 point [-]

Please don't learn anything from the black arts threads. That's why they're called "black arts", because you're not supposed to learn them.

Comment author: almkglor 14 December 2012 09:31:50AM *  3 points [-]

Although it might be good to be aware that you shouldn't remove a weapon from your mental arsenal just because it's labeled "dark arts". Sure, you should be one heck of a lot more reluctant to use them, but if you need to shut up and do the impossible really really badly, do so - just be aware that the consequences tend to be worse if you use them.

After all, the label "dark art" is itself an application of a Dark Art to persuade, deceive, or otherwise manipulate you against using those techniques. But of course this was not done lightly.

Comment author: Nornagest 14 December 2012 10:50:50AM *  1 point [-]

That's why they're called "black arts", because you're not supposed to learn them.

Is that why? I wonder, sometimes.

Given our merry band's contrarian bent, it occurs to me that calling something a "dark art" would be a pretty good way of encouraging its study while simultaneously discouraging its unreflective use. You'd then need to come up with some semi-convincing reasons why it is in fact too Dark for school, though, or you'd look silly.

On the other hand it doesn't seem to be an Eliezer coinage, which would have made this line of thinking a bit more likely. "Dark Side epistemology" is, but has a narrow enough meaning that I'm not inclined to suspect shenanigans.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 14 December 2012 06:00:31AM 1 point [-]

Well, one could certainly learn from the dark arts threads what not to do and what to be aware of to watch out for.

Comment author: HalMorris 14 December 2012 04:19:06PM 1 point [-]

Well, yeah, my point exactly to reiterate from elsewhere

[I'm interested in] spreading dark-art antibody memes, but you can't do that without taking a sample of the dark arts most prevalent at the moment, much as they must round up viruses every year to develop the yearly flu shot. So I wouldn't be looking for "the best" dark arts but rather the ones one is likely to encounter. E.g. a good source would be Newt Gingrich's "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" memo (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm) EXCERPT:

"In the video 'We are a Majority,' Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: 'I wish I could speak like Newt.' That takes years of practice ..."

This introduces the famous word list: a list of smiley-face words to use when describing your own positions, and nasty-face words to use when putting words in the mouths of your opponents (or do I say 'enemies'?). Or there is the Paul Wyrich farewell letter which did much to propagate the meme "political correctness is cultural Marxism", or the Weyrich-inspired "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" (http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2011/02/integration-of-theory-and-practice.html), a document Lenin might have been proud of.

I'm all about blunting the effectiveness of certain tactics that reduce the possibility of our thinking clearly (and by "our", I mean not that of LW, or the Second Foundation, but of the whole mass of people whose votes determine who we get to have as President, etc.) ASIDE: One place where Thomas Jefferson was one of the least small-gov't-ish founding fathers was education, and he was also all about disempowering religion memes

NOTE: I don't mean to get onto politics per se - just practices that tend to turn it into a struggle between hidden conspiracies, but I think it's hopelessly abstract to try to discuss that without the aid of current examples.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 14 December 2012 09:42:29AM *  1 point [-]

I wonder why people have such a tin ear for bullshit.

The obvious evolutionary argument that comes to mind is that not believing in bullshit, particularly the bullshit believed by powerful people in your tribe, could get you killed in the ancestral environment. Domains of human knowledge in which bullshit is not tolerated are those where that knowledge is constantly being tested against reality - computer programming is a good example, since you can't bullshit a compiler - and in other domains terrible things can happen.

Global warming in particular seems to me to be a case where most people hold beliefs one way or the other primarily to signal affiliation with either the pro- or anti-global warming tribes. That belief certainly doesn't get tested against reality in any meaningful way in many people's lives.

Comment author: HalMorris 14 December 2012 08:02:07PM 0 points [-]

The obvious evolutionary argument that comes to mind is that not believing in bullshit, particularly the bullshit believed by powerful people in your tribe, could get you killed in the ancestral environment. Domains of human knowledge in which bullshit is not tolerated are those where that knowledge is constantly being tested against reality - computer programming is a good example, since you can't bullshit a compiler - and in other domains terrible things can happen.

Not so obvious. From all I've read, hunter-gatherer societies were and are largely governed by consensus although no doubt there are sometimes extremely dominant personalities. What you're describing is more like early civilization (e.g. Aztec), and what we used to see in Tarzan movies.

I have quite a different theory about the evolutionary advantage of tending towards orthodoxy, but that seems like a different issue anyway.

Global warming in particular seems to me to be a case where most people hold beliefs one way or the other primarily to signal affiliation with either the pro- or anti-global warming tribes. That belief certainly doesn't get tested against reality in any meaningful way in many people's lives.

My construction: The "AGW is a hoax" meme is exhibit A in movement conservatism's massive (most of you probably have no idea how massive and thorough) and mostly spurious argument that the MSM (Mostly sane Media), Academia, and every left-of-Milton Friedman institution are joined in one big lie factory aimed at bringing about one-world socialist government. That, I believe is why GOP congressmen are so nearly unanimous, or at best tiptoeing around if if they know the thing is a crock. Toe the line or be called a RINO and then "primaried"

Comment author: wedrifid 14 December 2012 11:57:39AM 0 points [-]

I hope to learn something from the "black arts" threads on LW.

You may be looking in the wrong place. I don't recall encountering any particularly impressive "Dark Arts" insights on this blog. You may be interested in, say, Robert Greene's The 48 Laws Of Power.

Comment author: HalMorris 14 December 2012 03:02:04PM 1 point [-]

That sounds a bit like a "how to" book of black arts - if so, not what I had in mind, except for the purpose of developing and spreading dark-art antibody memes, but you can't do that without taking a sample of the dark arts most prevalent at the moment, much as they must round up viruses every year to develop the yearly flu shot. So I wouldn't be looking for "the best" dark arts but rather the ones one is likely to encounter. E.g. a good source would be Newt Gingrich's "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" memo (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm) EXCERPT:

"In the video 'We are a Majority,' Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: 'I wish I could speak like Newt.' That takes years of practice ..."

This introduces the famous word list: a list of smiley-face words to use when describing your own positions, and nasty-face words to use when putting words in the mouths of your opponents (or do I say 'enemies'?). Or there is the Paul Wyrich farewell letter which did much to propagate the meme "political correctness is cultural Marxism", or the Weyrich-inspired "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" (http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2011/02/integration-of-theory-and-practice.html), a document Lenin might have been proud of.

I'm all about blunting the effectiveness of certain tactics that reduce the possibility of our thinking clearly (and by "our", I mean not that of LW, or the Second Foundation, but of the whole mass of people whose votes determine who we get to have as President, etc.) ASIDE: One place where Thomas Jefferson was one of the least small-gov't-ish founding fathers was education, and he was also all about disempowering religion memes