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TheOtherDave comments on Applause Lights - Less Wrong

89 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2007 06:31PM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 February 2011 08:12:33PM 4 points [-]

I definitely endorse tracking specific proposals/substantive assertions, and explicitly labeling vague or empty assertions that nevertheless elicit positive feelings or invite you to project your own preferences onto the speaker.

I definitely endorse asking the "is anyone really considering doing otherwise, and why?" question.

Something I also find useful is explicitly labeling implied affiliations.

E.g., consider the difference between "we need to prepare our children with the tools they need to be leaders in the 21st century," versus "we need to instill our children with the values they need to make the right choices in the 21st century." They are both empty statements -- I mean, who would ever claim otherwise? -- but in the U.S. today the former signals affiliation with teachers and thereby implies support for public schools, education funding, etc., while the latter signals something I understand less clearly.

And those in turn signal alliances with major political parties, because it's understood by most U.S. voters that party A is more closely tied to education and party B to values.

In fact, even if the statement includes a specific proposal, it is often worth labeling the implied affiliation.

Comment author: pnrjulius 19 May 2012 05:48:42AM 0 points [-]

It's interesting; with the connotations and associations in our discourse, I can actually make some predictions about planned policies from those two supposedly "empty" statements.

The former is probably going to spend more money on math and science education.

The latter is probably going to fund "faith-based initiatives" or something similarly silly and religious (but I repeat myself), because "values" in American politics is almost always code for "conservative Evangelical Christianity".

So does this mean that they really aren't empty at all?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 19 May 2012 02:47:11PM 0 points [-]

Well, yes, I chose those statements precisely because of their connotative affiliations.

As for whether they're really empty... (shrug).

In ordinary conversation I would consider "I like likable things!" an empty statement, but of course it conveys an enormous amount of information: that I am capable of constructing a grammatical English sentence, for example, which the Vast majority of equivalent-mass aggregations of particles in the universe are not. I can use a different term to describe that category of statement if this one is too ambiguous.