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Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015

3 Post author: elharo 03 October 2015 01:23PM

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.

Comments (265)

Comment author: [deleted] 03 October 2015 06:45:05PM 29 points [-]

The history of the shuttle is a typical example of a generic problem that occurs frequently in the development of science and technology, the problem of premature choice. Premature choice means betting all your money on one horse before you have found out whether she is lame. Politicians and administrators responsible for large project are often obsessed with avoiding waste. To avoid waste they find it reasonable to choose one design as soon as possible and shut down the support of alternatives. ... The evolution of science and technology is a Darwinian process of the survival of the fittest. In science and technology, as in biological evolution, waste is the secret of efficiency. Without waste you cannot find out which horse is the fittest. This is a hard lesson for politicians and administrators to learn.

Freeman Dyson, From Eros to Gaia

Comment author: hawkice 15 November 2015 11:53:12AM 0 points [-]

Odd that Freeman Dyson thinks politicians and administrators are particularly difficult to persuade here. This is the whole point of why capitalism works better than having clever people run a command economy. You can be clever enough to notice you need roads and infrastructure, but no one is clever enough to predict what technologies will run the future (truly, this principle applies to almost every reasonably complex thing, not just technology -- the finance angle in particular is the standard phrasing, hence me bringing up capitalism).

Comment author: Gram_Stone 15 November 2015 01:17:55PM 0 points [-]

Odd that Freeman Dyson thinks politicians and administrators are particularly difficult to persuade here. This is the whole point of why capitalism works better than having clever people run a command economy.

How many American politicians and administrators do you think were actually 'persuaded' into believing that capitalism works, in the sense that you mean to use the word? It's probably more like they were born into it.

You can be clever enough to notice you need roads and infrastructure, but no one is clever enough to predict what technologies will run the future (truly, this principle applies to almost every reasonably complex thing, not just technology -- the finance angle in particular is the standard phrasing, hence me bringing up capitalism).

What the Shuttle and public infrastructure have in common is that they're projects suited to the public sector, (the Shuttle was, at least, in the 1970s-80s), as opposed to the private sector. The Shuttle was so risky and costly in the late 70s that only a national government could consider trying it. This is one niche for the public sector in a mixed economy that is largely capitalist: projects that require lots of capital and incur lots of risk. But even if it's ultimately a public project and not a product or service in a market, we can incorporate some of the benefits of market competition with the suggestions that Dyson offers. The point is that if we allow competition, then we don't need to be as clever to predict what technologies will run the future, and it seems silly that the politicians and administrators would praise capitalism and limit their projects in this way.

But it shouldn't seem that silly to us, because we know that the capitalist dogma never told them that they should apply competitive principles in public projects, and because they're tasked with doing what other people want even though they don't in their heart of hearts want to do what other people want.

Comment author: dspeyer 04 October 2015 07:57:04PM 22 points [-]

[T]he kind of mirage that came from modern data-dredging capabilities: if you watch trillions of things, you will often see one-in-a-million coincidences.

-- Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End

Comment author: FairWitness 28 October 2015 02:54:27AM 7 points [-]

"When you are looking for something beautiful and satisfying, it's much harder to find the ugly truth." Penn Jillette, in his book "Oh, God, No" , talking about showing how magic tricks are done.

Comment author: satt 29 October 2015 03:22:43AM 3 points [-]

the great tragedy of Science–the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact

— T. H. Huxley, "Biogenesis and Abiogenesis"

(I thought someone might've posted this under Rationality Quotes before, but Google just finds paraphrases in other threads.)

Comment author: ike 20 October 2015 12:36:58AM 6 points [-]

So long as we allow the terms of the debate to be shaped by what is politically possible, we’ll only ever be taking tiny steps and calling them major.

Mychal Denzel Smith

Comment author: VoiceOfRa 21 October 2015 01:15:39PM 6 points [-]

True, of course the article you linked to, by reiterating the currently acceptable dogmas as if they were objective truths, goes a long way towards making them problem worse.

Comment author: ike 21 October 2015 01:44:59PM 0 points [-]

Are you saying they got the object level question wrong, or that abolition is politically possible right now?

Comment author: VoiceOfRa 22 October 2015 04:28:40AM *  4 points [-]

They got the object level way wrong, abolition of prisons is a very very stupid idea.

Let's look at the article itself to see some of its most grievous flaws:

For example, the article admits that an "explosion in the incarcerated population [] has occurred over the past 40 years". However, it fails to note that that implies that something must have occurred over the last 40 years that caused this explosion and thus the solution should involve figuring out what changes have lead to this explosion and undoing them. The article instead going in the direction we have been going only more so.

Later the article quotes Tony Papa of Drug Policy Alliance, and says he spend 12 years serving an "unjust sentence", but fails to specify in what way the sentence was "unjust". Was he wrongly convicted, if so the problem is that and not the existence of minimum sentences. However, one gets the impression from the authors lack of interest in the question (or for that matter in what crime Tony Papa was incarcerated for) that the use of the word "unjust" is BS in Frankfurt's sense.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 October 2015 05:51:20PM 12 points [-]

'Twas grief enough to think mankind

All hollow servile insincere -

But worse to trust to my own mind

And find the same corruption there

  • Emily Bronte
Comment author: 27chaos 22 October 2015 03:55:18AM 11 points [-]

The world of to-day attaches a large importance to mental independence, or thinking for oneself; yet the manner in which these things are cultivated is very partial. In some matters we are, perhaps too independent (for we need to think socially as well as to act socially); but in other matters we are not independent enough; we are hardly independent at all. For we always interpret mental independence as being independence of old things. But if the mind is to stand in a real loneliness and liberty, and judge mere time and mere circumstances, and all the wasting things of this world, if the mind is really a strong and emancipated judge of things unbribed and unbrowbeaten, it must assert its superiority, not merely to old things, but to new things.

It must forsee the old age of things still in a strenuous infancy. It must stand by the tombstone of the babe unborn. It must treat the twentieth century as it treats the twelfth, as something which by its own nature has already had an end. A free man must not only be free from the past; a free man must be free from the future. He must be ready to face the rising and increasing thing, and to judge it by immortal tests. It is a very poor mark of courage, in comparison, that we are ready to strike at ancient wrongs. Our courage shall be tested by whether we are ready to strike at youthful and full-blooded wrongs; wrongs that have all their life before them, wrongs that are as sanguine as the sunrise, and as fresh as the flowers.

G.K. Chesterton, http://platitudesundone.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-world-of-to-day-attaches-large.html

Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2015 09:32:32PM 10 points [-]

If your only tool is deconstruction the whole world looks like narrative.

Sketch of Person

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2015 04:07:00AM -1 points [-]

I guess I never stopped to question whether my deconstruction adn narrative making was neccersary or not.

Comment author: elharo 29 October 2015 04:01:26PM *  9 points [-]

Your tactics are self-centered. You have forgotten that you are not the only player on the board, that inherent talent speaks for no more than experience, and that others around you seek to expand their authority and constrain yours. Your error is fundamental to the human psyche: you have allowed yourself to believe that others are mechanisms, static and solvable, whereas you are an agent.

Purity Cartone, in The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, p. 180

Comment author: AABoyles 21 October 2015 07:20:58PM *  8 points [-]

Nobody wants to hear that you will try your best. It is the wrong thing to say. It is like saying "I probably won't hit you with a shovel." Suddenly everyone is afraid you will do the opposite.

--Lemony Snicket, All the Wrong Questions

Comment author: signal 18 November 2015 06:46:46PM *  1 point [-]

The Hollywood version of that is quite popular, sounds less rational though.

Losers always whine about their best, winners go home and f* the prom queen. --Sean Connery, The Rock

Comment author: Lumifer 19 November 2015 04:42:37PM 1 point [-]

The definition of rationality is "winning", is it not?

X-D

Comment author: masters02 11 October 2015 08:29:25AM 8 points [-]

"I’ve found that’s all you have to do to get ahead in life, be non-idiotic and live a long time. It’s harder to be non-idiotic than most people think." - Charlie Munger

Comment author: [deleted] 21 October 2015 05:38:12AM *  7 points [-]

“All the things I have done in my life that I am proud of are all things on the threshold of which I felt immense fear.” - Washington here

Comment author: VoiceOfRa 04 October 2015 03:10:21AM 10 points [-]

As usual, if you reverse the dependent and independent variables, the resulting headline is 100% intuitive.

Joel Grus

Comment author: Nomad 20 October 2015 08:47:42AM 4 points [-]

So I guess the real lesson is "figuring out which ideas are true is hard."

The alt-text of this xkcd comic.

Comment author: ZoltanBerrigomo 01 November 2015 07:02:07PM *  2 points [-]

For those people who insist, however, that the only thing that is important is that the theory agrees with experiment, I would like to make an imaginary discussion between a Mayan astronomer and his student...

These are the opening words of a ~1.5 minute monologue in one of Feynman's lectures; I won't transcribe the remainder but it can be viewed here.

Comment author: WalterL 06 October 2015 03:15:14PM 5 points [-]

"All men are greater than dead men." -R Scott Bakker

Comment author: Nomad 06 October 2015 04:37:03PM 4 points [-]

That quote reminds me of this, so much.

Comment author: Jiro 15 October 2015 08:51:56PM 3 points [-]

Why would you need to go to a cemetery for that? "Hey, pencil on my desk, I'm a sentient being who can respond to its environment and you're not!"

Comment author: Nornagest 15 October 2015 11:19:14PM *  8 points [-]

Mocking tombstones is edgy and transgressive. Mocking pencils is just weird.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 06 October 2015 07:03:21PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2015 02:55:34AM -1 points [-]

That's really twisted.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 October 2015 11:41:31PM 6 points [-]

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

C.S. Lewis, "God in the Dock"

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 October 2015 11:41:45PM 1 point [-]

The application to Coherent Extrapolated Volition is left as an exercise.

Comment author: AndHisHorse 26 October 2015 12:29:49PM 2 points [-]

An important part of the quote, it seems, is "may be" the most oppressive. Only if the goodness of these "omnipotent moral busybodies" is actually so different from our own that we suffer under it is there an issue; a goodness well-executed would perhaps never even be called a tyranny at all.

Comment author: CCC 27 October 2015 07:57:58AM 2 points [-]

But, from the inside, how to you tell the difference between doing actual good for others or being an omnipotent moral busybody?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 December 2015 02:51:06PM 2 points [-]

But, from the inside, how to you tell the difference between doing actual good for others or being an omnipotent moral busybody?

"She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression."

Comment author: Philip_W 04 November 2015 06:47:04PM 1 point [-]

Having a good factual model of a person would be necessary, and perhaps sufficient, for making that judgment favourably. When moving beyond making people more equal and free in their means, the model should be significantly better than their self-model. After that, the analyst would probably value the thus observed people caring about self-determination in the territory (so no deceiving them to think they're self-determining), and act accordingly.

If people declare that analysing people well enough to know their moral values is itself being a busybody, it becomes harder. First I would note that using the internet without unusual data protection already means a (possibly begrudging) acceptance of such busybodies, up to a point. But in a more inconvenient world, consent or prevention of acute danger are as far as I would be willing to go in just a comment.

Comment author: CCC 09 November 2015 07:28:47AM 0 points [-]

Having a good factual model of a person would be necessary, and perhaps sufficient, for making that judgment favourably.

For a single person, yes, but it takes a significant investment of time to build an accurate, factual model of a single person. It becomes impractical to do so when making decisions that affect even a mere hundred people.

How would you recommend scaling this up for large groups?

Comment author: Philip_W 06 December 2015 06:05:35PM 0 points [-]

Sociology and psychology. Determine patterns in human desires and behaviour, and determine universal rules. Either that, or scale up your resources and get yourself an fAI.

Comment author: CCC 09 December 2015 09:11:35AM 0 points [-]

This is a difficult problem, which very few people (if any) have ever solved properly. It's (probably) not insoluble, but it's also not easy...

Good luck.

Comment author: AndHisHorse 28 October 2015 12:24:36AM 1 point [-]

Willingness to be critiqued? Self-examination and scrupulous quantities of doubt? This seems kind of like the wrong question, actually. "Actual good" is a fuzzy concept, if it even exists at all; a benevolent tyrant cares whether or not they are fulfilling their values (which, presumably, includes "provide others with things I think are good"). The question I would ask is how you tell the difference between actually achieving the manifestation of your values and only making a big show of it; presumably it's the latter that causes the problem (or at least the problem that you care about).

Then again, this comes from a moral non-realist who doesn't see a contradiction in having a moral clause saying it's good to enforce your morality on others to some extent, so your framework's results may vary.

Comment author: CCC 28 October 2015 07:12:13AM 1 point [-]

Willingness to be critiqued? Self-examination and scrupulous quantities of doubt?

Both of these will help. A lot.

"Actual good" is a fuzzy concept

True. One could go with "that which causes the greatest happiness", but one shouldn't be putting mood-controlling chemicals in the water. One could go with "that which best protects human life", but one shouldn't put humanity into a (very safe) zoo where nothing dangerous or interesting can ever happen to them.

This is therefore a major problem for someone actually trying to be a benevolent leader - how to go about it?

The question I would ask is how you tell the difference between actually achieving the manifestation of your values and only making a big show of it

I'd suggest having some metric by which your values can be measured, and measuring it on a regular basis. For example, if you think that a benevolent leader would do best by reducing crime, then you can measure that by tracking crime statistics.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 27 October 2015 12:09:57PM 1 point [-]

If someone clearly wants you to stop bothering them, then stop bothering them.

Comment author: WalterL 27 October 2015 04:09:45PM 5 points [-]

"Quit bothering me, officer, I'm super busy here."

Comment author: Lumifer 26 October 2015 02:39:46PM -1 points [-]

I think you entirely missed the point.

Comment author: Philip_W 27 October 2015 07:42:15AM 6 points [-]

I don't think that helps AndHisHorse figure out the point.

Comment author: AndHisHorse 28 October 2015 12:20:46AM 2 points [-]

As best I understood it, the point was that one's belief in one's own goodness is a source of drive - and if that goodness is false, the drive is misaimed, and the greater drive makes for greater ill consequences.

I think we agree that belief in one's own goodness has the capability to go quite wrong, in such cases as the quote describes more wrong than an all-other-things-being-equal belief in one's own evil. Where we seem to disagree is on the inevitability of this failure mode - I acknowledge that the failure mode exists and we should be cautious about it (although that may not have come across), whereas you seem to be implying that the failure mode is so prevalent that it would be better not to try to be a good overlord at all.

Am I understanding your position correctly?

Comment author: Lumifer 28 October 2015 02:50:40PM 1 point [-]

Partially. Yes, I would assert that the failure mode you're talking about is prevalent (and point to a LOT of history to support that assertion; no one is evil is his own story). However the main point in the quote we're talking about isn't quite that, I think. Instead, consider such concepts as "autonomy", "individuality", and "diversity".

Comment author: 27chaos 26 October 2015 07:22:18PM -1 points [-]

I think this depends almost entirely on how often you expect the busybodies to be wrong when they override people's judgement.

I don't think classifying adult humans in the same category as infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals is always an unreasonable decision. I refer to myself with this sentiment as well.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 28 October 2015 10:13:33AM 0 points [-]

I think this depends almost entirely on how often you expect the busybodies to be wrong when they override people's judgement.

"Always" is a good place to start.

Comment author: dxu 01 November 2015 02:34:00AM 1 point [-]

Could you expand on this?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 November 2015 01:07:10PM 0 points [-]

Could you expand on this?

Only by repeating the same thought in more words, but the original quote from Lewis does that.

Comment author: dxu 03 November 2015 06:54:20PM 1 point [-]

See, my problem with the Lewis quote is that it consists largely of a set of bare, unsupported assertions. Now, being unsupported doesn't mean they aren't true, but it does mean that they're not very convincing. Speaking as someone who really is neutral/undecided on this topic, the quote doesn't sway me one way or the other. So if, as you say, the only possible way you could expand on this claim is by "repeating [it] in more words", I don't find your position very well-supported.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 November 2015 09:22:27AM *  1 point [-]

Well, here's some more from Lewis, as interpreted by me. But any piece of writing can be read as "a set of bare, unsupported assertions", as the tortoise said to Achilles. The reader always has to work out for himself how the things fit together to make a machine that goes, especially with an isolated quote.

The quote is from an essay called "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment". (You can google up the full text.) The eponymous theory, which he opposes, is that the sole functions of punishment are deterrence and reform. This implies (he says) that the sole standard by which to judge the laws prescribing punishments for crimes is the matter of fact: whether those aims are achieved. Are potential criminals deterred, and are actual criminals reformed. Justice is irrelevant. There is no such thing as justice, only welfare, collectively assessed. This implies the view of people expressed in the quote: to treat them no better than children, animals, or imbeciles. No individual matters to the advocate of this view, any more than a single cow matters to a farmer, who will slaughter it at once if it has picked up an infectious disease. The good of society as a whole is all that matters to this sort of humanitarian; which means, as Lewis is not the only one to observe, the good of the people on top, the would-be tyrants for whom, as I remark in another comment on this thread, a view of how people should live is necessarily a view about how people should be made to live.

Comment author: gjm 12 November 2015 04:45:46PM -1 points [-]

I think Lewis's contention in that essay is wrong, because he confuses two claims.

  • That the sole functions of punishment are deterrence and reform.
  • That nothing other than deterrence and reform should be considered when contemplating punishment.

The second of these may well lead to the conclusions he deplores (e.g., that there's no such thing as too harsh a punishment, if it has the effect of deterring and/or reforming). The first doesn't, because there can be other constraints on punishment. (E.g., it seems to me perfectly consistent to hold that what punishment is for is deterrence and reform, but that it is wrong to inflict any punishment more severe than some limit derived from the severity of the offence being punished.)

I think (some) people believe that the sole functions of punishment are deterrence and reform in the same way as they believe that the sole function of cancer surgery is to remove tumours; that doesn't commit them to accepting limitlessly harsh punishment in the pursuit of reform, any more than it commits them to having cancer surgeons remove so much non-cancerous tissue that they kill their patients.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 November 2015 01:06:49PM 0 points [-]

The first doesn't, because there can be other constraints on punishment.

There can be, but but the theory he is opposing knows only these two, constrained only by their production of collective welfare, just as the cancer surgeon cuts out tumours as required for the patient's health. A metaphor that excellently conveys Lewis' horror at what he calls the humanitarian theory. The committers of bad deeds are a cancer to be cut out. Their status as people does not weigh in the scales. The collective is all.

Lewis is arguing that while these two things matter, they are not the only thing, and that when desert (i.e. what one deserves) is missing, one ends up with the moral consequences he describes.

Comment author: gjm 13 November 2015 02:22:25PM -1 points [-]

Lewis is less than perfectly clear about what theory it is he is opposing, but whatever it is he claims it is "almost universal among my fellow-countrymen". I do not find it plausible that almost all Englishmen[1] in 1949 believed that there should be no constraints on how criminals are treated other than the overall interests of "the collective"; do you, really?

[1] "Englishmen" should here be interpreted with exactly whatever degree of assumed maleness Lewis employed when he wrote "countrymen".

The nearest thing Lewis gets to a clear statement of "the Humanitarian theory" (as he calls what he's arguing against) is, I think, this:

According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic.

Now, as it happens, I believe (at least as a first approximation) that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. I don't quite think that "crime is more or less pathological", and nor for that matter do I believe that even a majority of 1949 Englishmen thought so, but I don't think this makes an essential difference here. But I do not hold that there are, or should be, no other constraints on punishment, nor do I hold that the only appropriate constraint is the welfare of the collective[2]. I am pretty sure that these are not in any useful sense implied by the belief that the only legitimate motives for punishing are, etc.; nor do I see any other reason to think that someone who thinks the only legitimate motives for punishing are, etc., should think there are no other constraints on punishment.

[2] I might endorse a sufficiently careful claim that the only appropriate constraint is some sort of global utility, but note that "sufficiently careful" includes, e.g., taking into account the fact that treating some individuals very badly "for the general good" is likely to have all kinds of second-order side effects, mostly very bad ones.

Lewis does not (at least, not as I read him) regard the claim that there are no other constraints on punishment as part of the Humanitarian Theory; he suggests that it follows from that theory, but he is wrong. Specifically, his argument goes like this: (1) The HT, unlike the older "Retributive Theory", is not concerned with desert. (2) The question "is it just?" is specifically a question about desert; it doesn't make sense to ask "is this a just deterrent?", only "will it in fact deter?", and similarly for curing. (3) Therefore, "when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether".

But note what he's done in step 3. "When we cease to consider what the criminal deserves". He is conflating two notions of desert. (a) What punishment does the criminal deserve, on account of the wickedness of his conduct or the harm it has caused? (b) What treatment does the criminal deserve, according to whatever general principles govern how we treat people? The "Humanitarian" theory of punishment indeed declines to make question (a) central, but that doesn't mean it forbids you to ask question (b). And if you refuse to ask question (b) then you are on the road to totalitarianism quite independently of any questions about punishment.

Lewis goes on to say (purporting to describe the opinions of adherents of the "Humanitarian theory") that " the only two questions we may now ask about a punishment are whether it deters and whether it cures". But, again, this does not follow from the HT, nor is there any other reason why an adherent of the HT should endorse it.

If you prefer to read Lewis not as saying that this follows from the HT, but as saying that it is part of the HT, then my objection is different: so far as I know, scarcely anyone has ever endorsed this "extended Humanitarian theory", and his arguments are not relevant to anyone who endorses merely the "unextended HT" that simply says that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter and the desire to mend.

* * * *

Now, Lewis does write this:

The immediate starting point of this article was a letter [...] The author was pleading that a certain sin, now treated by our Laws as a crime, should henceforward be treated as a disease. And he complained that under the present system the offender, after a term in gaol, was simply let out to return to his original environment where he would probably relapse.

Of course we don't have the original letter; we don't even know that Lewis didn't make it up, or misunderstand it. (Though I would guess that, being generally both honest and intelligent, he did neither.) So it's hard to tell very much about what its author actually thought. But maybe Lewis did in fact encounter an adherent of what I've called the "extended Humanitarian theory". If so, fair enough; let us agree that the EHT is unpleasant and conducive to totalitarianism. But let us not pretend, as unfortunately Lewis does, that the EHT is either the same thing as, or a necessary consequence of, the idea that punishment should be for deterrence and reform rather than for retribution.

Comment author: 27chaos 28 October 2015 04:20:23PM -1 points [-]

Would you object to behavioral nudges a la Thaler?

Comment author: Lumifer 29 October 2015 03:41:08PM 2 points [-]

Would that count as "behavioral nudges a la Thaler"?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 28 October 2015 04:56:21PM 0 points [-]

On the scale of evil, it does not rank with marching dissidents off to reeducation camps to be purified of their delusions through daily toil for the greater collective utility of the people. Does that answer your question?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2015 03:08:11PM *  0 points [-]

How does Lewis, a conservative Christian, defend God or himself against this charge?

Comment author: VoiceOfRa 12 November 2015 06:18:25AM 2 points [-]

God gave humans free will. Yes, He commands people to act morally, but He doesn't compel people to do so.

Comment author: JDR 12 November 2015 12:29:51PM 2 points [-]

He doesn't compel people to do so.

The threat of severe punishment if one goes against the commands seems pretty similar to compulsion to me. If I commanded you to do something on pain of being thrown in an eternal pit of snakes, you could reasonably say I was forcing you to do it.

I would also be interested to know how C.S. Lewis separated righteous divine intervention from omnipotent busybodiness if anyone has the knowledge and a few minutes to save me from the terrible trials of actually looking up this myself!

Comment author: gjm 12 November 2015 03:51:16PM 2 points [-]

Not only is it "pretty similar to compulsion"; it's the exact sort of compulsion that we complain of in human tyrants. The problem with Hitler or Stalin or whoever isn't that they somehow make their citizens literally unable to choose for themselves; it's that they hit them with terrible punishments when they choose the "wrong" way.

The kind of tyranny God allegedly refrains from exercising is precisely the kind that no human tyrant has ever had the option of exercising.

(Though that might change, and plenty of people have worried about the possibility -- see e.g. Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World. For that matter, IIRC the paragraph quoted above is in the context of Lewis worrying about human tyrannies with the ability to mess with their subjects' minds.)

I think Lewis's actual response would not be the one VoiceOfRa gives; rather, I think he would say that God doesn't really send people to hell, he merely permits them to send themselves there, and that the awfulness of hell is not a matter of devils with pitchforks or lakes of molten sulphur but of the inhabitants of hell -- who have selected themselves by their refusal to align themselves with God who is the source of all goodness -- living out the freedom-from-God on which they have insisted.

I should add that I think that's also a pretty hopeless response, though less obviously hopeless (to me) than the one VoiceOfRa suggests. (But also that it's some time since I read much Lewis and my mental model of him may be less than perfectly accurate; perhaps he could give a better account of his position than I have sketched above.)

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 November 2015 04:06:15PM 2 points [-]

The problem with Hitler or Stalin or whoever isn't that they somehow make their citizens literally unable to choose for themselves; it's that they hit them with terrible punishments when they choose the "wrong" way.

Stalin didn't only punish people who choose the wrong way but also because he feared that they might be against him. Hitler did horrible things to jewish people and other groups because of their identity and not because an individual did something wrong.

Comment author: gjm 12 November 2015 11:36:14PM 1 point [-]

Sure. And Hitler started a world war, and Stalin suppressed varieties of artistic expression that he didn't like, and both of them did plenty of other awful things. I wasn't purporting to give a complete account of all the awfulness of Hitler or Stalin or any other tyrant. I was commenting on one particular aspect of human tyranny, the one already being compared against divine tyranny in this discussion: their tendency to try to control subjects' behaviour by coercion.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 13 November 2015 03:20:52PM 1 point [-]

C.S. Lewis gives his actual response in "The Great Divorce", and it is much as you say. In fact, he asserts that people in hell do not ever want to leave it, so God is just giving them what they want.

As you say, this may ultimately not make a lot of sense, but at least he is not saying that God is being tyrannical.

Comment author: gjm 13 November 2015 03:59:42PM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure that "The Great Divorce" is intended to tell us Lewis's actual opinions about hell and how one gets and/or stays there. Isn't he at pains, in his interchange with George MacDonald at the end, to insist that it's mere speculation and not intended to be any kind of statement of doctrine?

(It's years since I read it, so I may well be wrong; in particular, I'm not more than 80% confident that what he says there can't be interpreted as "I expect things actually are somewhat like this, but it's important for the reader to understand that I could well be wrong about that".)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 13 November 2015 05:11:29PM 1 point [-]

Yes, I think that's right, although I think he would be much more certain that God is not a tyrant, and would be proposing this as one possible explanation.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 31 October 2015 04:31:29PM 0 points [-]

I doubt Lewis would be in favor of pestering people to convert, and it is quite certain that God does not pester anyone.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2015 05:09:43PM *  0 points [-]

Lewis spent much of his life writing books that were supposed to help people persuade other people to convert, and it is quite certain that nearly all of the pestering Lewis was familiar with was done in the name of his own God. I find it unlikely that, if an army of Lewis clones were made rulers of England, they would allow gay marriage, prostitution, and polygamy.

The name of the book is God in the Dock because it is about accusations against God--and this is most properly an accusation against the Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim) God. It would be hilariously ironic if Lewis were not using it that way.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 November 2015 01:10:02PM *  2 points [-]

Lewis spent much of his life writing books that were supposed to help people persuade other people to convert,

How does that constitute the tyranny which he described?

I find it unlikely that, if an army of Lewis clones were made rulers of England

Speculations on how Lewis might be corrupted by such power are not useful. What would happen if an army of Phil Goetz clones were made rulers of the US?

ETA: One might also compare and contrast the writings of Lewis (who did not become a tyrant), with, say, Mein Kampf (written by someone who did).

Comment author: Jiro 04 November 2015 07:35:56PM *  0 points [-]

Speculations on how Lewis might be corrupted by such power are not useful.

Speculation about "an army of Lewis clones" is not (direct) speculation about Lewis becoming a tyrant, but about Lewis honestly implementing his principles. His principles say that some things we consider good are bad and need to be enforced (unless you actually do think Lewis would permit gay marriage and polygamy if he ran the country).

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 November 2015 10:07:54AM 3 points [-]

Speculation about "an army of Lewis clones" is not (direct) speculation about Lewis becoming a tyrant, but about Lewis honestly implementing his principles. His principles say that some things we consider good are bad and need to be enforced

When there we have it. To you, and to Phil Goetz, a moral belief implies an imperative to make everyone conform to it, had one only the power to do so. The implication is so unconscious and axiomatic to you, that when you and he read Lewis saying how he thinks people should live (and he would indeed be against gay marriage, prostitution, and polygamy), you immediately imagine him imposing it on everyone, and pointing to the unwelcome result as a refutation of Lewis. Of course, the result is only unwelcome to you and Phil because you do not agree with Lewis on how people should live. But then, how will an army of Jiro clones rule, or Phil Goetz clones?

The briefest acquaintance with Lewis' writing, including the quote in question, would indicate that this is antithetical to both his written views and his life. He was an Oxford don, who once refused an honour in order not to be drawn into politics. But if you do not see a gap between "this is how people should live" and "people should be compelled to live so" then you will not only fail to make any sense of Lewis, you should on no account be allowed such power over anyone.

Comment author: Jiro 11 November 2015 04:15:11PM 0 points [-]

It's true that Lewis separated religious and secular law, but presumably Lewis would want laws against, for instance, murder. It's hard to consistently believe that we should have laws against harmful things, have a skewed idea of what constitutes "harmful things", and not want laws against them.

One possible response is that the harmful things only harm oneself, but Lewis believed that such things harm society, not just oneself. Another possible response is that as a practical matter, it would be a bad idea to ban such things, but that only lasts as long as it's practical--such principles would not lead to the conclusion "we should not ban gay marriage" but rather "we should only ban gay marriage if we can get away with it".

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 November 2015 04:52:45PM 3 points [-]

It's hard to consistently believe that we should have laws against harmful things, have a skewed

fnord

idea of what constitutes "harmful things", and not want laws against them.

There it is again. You think it inconsistent to think a thing harmful, and let people do it. Would you ban alcohol?

C.S. Lewis wrote a great deal about how he thought people should live, and why, yet did not lift a finger to compel them. In this, he follows the example of He who Lewis believed the Father of us all. You do not understand this. Well, I do not pretend to write better than Lewis.

BTW, to talk of "banning" gay marriage is tendentious, presupposing that it is and always has been a thing that can only fail of existence by being "banned". What has actually happened in recent years is that there was no such thing recognised by church, state, or anyone, that a demand for social recognition of same-sex unions has developed, and that in various places, secular marriage has been so extended.

Comment author: Jiro 11 November 2015 06:28:06PM *  0 points [-]

You think it inconsistent to think a thing harmful, and let people do it. Would you ban alcohol?

I think it's inconsistent to think a thing harmful, and let people do it anyway, given that

1) you don't consider personal freedom good in itself or you don't think the gain to personal freedom balances out the harm, and 2) it's practical to ban it

I wouldn't ban alcohol, because of points 1 and 2. Note that if by "harmful" you mean "harmful, in the net" #1 is equivalent to saying that alcohol isn't harmful.

I am skeptical that Lewis believed #1. I find it hard to think that Lewis believed that divorce is harmful by itself but has enough good effects to more than balance out the harm.

And refusing to ban things based solely on #2 would mean only conditionally refusing to ban them. If you don't want to ban divorce based on #2 and society changed so that you could ban divorces without nasty side effects, you should then ban it.

Lewis actually said he didn't want to ban divorce, but his rationale could equally apply to banning murder--it's incoherent.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 16 November 2015 05:35:07AM *  -1 points [-]

To you, and to Phil Goetz, a moral belief implies an imperative to make everyone conform to it, had one only the power to do so.

Richard, this is not what I believe, but rather what Lewis almost certainly believed, as evidenced by how all Christians, everywhere, throughout all history up to Lewis' time, have behaved. It would be an astonishing coincidence if the one Christian we were talking about were the one secretly willing to grant religious freedom to non-Christians.

(Yes, religious freedom includes the right to polygamy and prostitution.)

In fact I have several times explicitly stated the same thing you wrote here, as a critique of Eliezer's outline of CEV, which assume (without even noticing it) that a moral belief implies an imperative to propagate itself.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 16 November 2015 12:55:54PM 2 points [-]

Richard, this is not what I believe, but rather what Lewis almost certainly believed, as evidenced by how all Christians, everywhere, throughout all history up to Lewis' time, have behaved.

I prefer to determine what Lewis almost certainly believed by looking at what he certainly wrote. The very quote that started this discussion is explicitly saying the opposite.

Besides, it's nearly five hundred years since the Thirty Years War knocked the stuffing out of Christian proselytisation by the sword, and the imperative to force people into belief, or at least practice, has been declining ever since. Further history here.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 November 2015 08:04:10AM 0 points [-]

The fact that they no longer tell people to convert or die does not mean they grant freedom of religion. I'm not aware of any society with a Christian majority that has ever refrained from enforcing its moral rules on the rest of its society. I am aware of probably hundreds, if I added them up, throughout history, that have done so. Find me a dozen counterexamples and I'll listen.

Comment author: CCC 16 November 2015 07:20:25AM 1 point [-]

It would be an astonishing coincidence if the one Christian we were talking about were the one secretly willing to grant religious freedom to non-Christians.

I believe, at this point, that it might be helpful to quote from "Dignitatis Humanae", an official Vatican document on the subject of religious freedom:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.

To elaborate slightly:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

Now, I'm not saying that all denominations of Christianity have an equally strong stance in favour of religious freedom (I've heard about some extremely militant modern Protestant groups, particularly in America). But this is strong evidence that there is a rather large group of Catholics who do believe in the idea of religious freedom; and if Lewis had done so as well, then he would hardly be alone in this stance.

(Dignitatis Humanae was published about two years after Lewis' death)

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 November 2015 07:59:39AM *  0 points [-]

And yet the Catholic Church and its members still work to ban birth-control in countries where it thinks that's possible.

I don't care what they say they do. I care what they do.

Comment author: VoiceOfRa 11 November 2015 09:53:50PM 2 points [-]

His principles say that some things we consider good are bad and need to be enforced (unless you actually do think Lewis would permit gay marriage and polygamy if he ran the country).

No country permited gay marrige until about 20 years ago and western countries haven't permitted polygammy for millenia. Are you saying they were all tyranical?

Comment author: Jiro 12 November 2015 05:50:17AM 2 points [-]

It's "tyranny" in the sense that Lewis describes: using force to be a moral busybody.

It may not be tyranny if by tyranny if your definition of tyranny requires a certain amount of being a moral busybody, and just a little bit isn't enough to count as tyranny. I suspect that this is the definition you're using, but Lewis's definition doesn't contain a quantity threshhold.

Comment author: gjm 13 November 2015 09:02:48AM 1 point [-]

IIRC, "God in the Dock" is the title of just one of the essays in the book, and many (most? all?) of the others aren't particularly about "accusations against God". The quotation in this thread, I think, comes from one of the ones that isn't.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 November 2015 12:09:55PM 1 point [-]

The quotation is from "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment", which can be found by itself online.

BTW, anyone searching out the book should beware that there are two versions, one a subset of the other and not including this essay. The shorter volume is "God in the Dock: Essays on Theology", which is the first section of the longer, "God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics", also published under the title "Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics".

The essay called "God in the Dock" actually has little connection with its title. It is about the difficulties he found presenting the Christian faith to modern (i.e. of 1948) unbelievers of the working classes, based on his experiences in teaching soldiers in the R.A.F. These difficulties are mainly about wide differences in cultural and intellectual background.

The closing sentences of the essay may have wider application:

The simple, emotional appeal ("Come to Jesus") is still often successful. But those who, like myself, lack the gift for making it, had better not attempt it.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 31 October 2015 06:04:22PM 0 points [-]

The book is a collection. Lewis did not choose the title.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2015 06:57:43PM *  0 points [-]

(The title is taken from the title of one of the essays. It was published well after Lewis died, so I assume he didn't intend them to be a book at all.)

It would still be hilariously ironic if Lewis made such an observation, and didn't explain how he and his God are not such moral busybodies. It would be another example to add to my list of examples of people whose criticism of others is accidentally truer criticism of themselves.

Comment author: dspeyer 04 October 2015 08:02:03PM 4 points [-]

The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed. Almost as horrible, but not quite.

-- Granny Weatherwax. Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett

Comment author: ike 16 October 2015 02:17:01PM 1 point [-]

Like it is easy for me to sit here and say to young people, one, you should invest in broad index funds, not funds concentrated in trendy areas like the Internet or clean technology, and, two, you should try to minimize fees instead of paying someone just to rebrand index funds for you. But you should drink tap water instead of Coke, too, and stay home and read Proust instead of blowing a whole month of your salary on Taylor Swift tickets. All consumption is dumb, if you think too hard about it. That's why it is consumption.

Matt Levine

Comment author: lmm 24 October 2015 06:06:38PM 4 points [-]

I think there's an analogy with "purchase fuzzies and utilons separately" here that Levine misses. If you want to be trendy and have a bunch of investment return in the future, it's probably more efficient to buy those two things from separate sources than to try and get both with a single product.

Comment author: ike 24 October 2015 06:41:16PM 0 points [-]

That's true, but he's talking from the company's side. If the target market are those that wouldn't invest at all, then the company could be providing real value overall.

I wouldn't use such a company, of course; but the target demo is not "people who think logically about investments unless they get fuzzies".

His argument is

  1. Let people spend their extra cash however they want
  2. This company seems likely to be a net utility plus for society

The fact that its users are still irrational seems irrelevant then, and it's reminding me of the whole "Copenhagen ethics" post (to make the analogy explicit, the company is being blamed for the fact that its users aren't perfect, even though they're better off than without the company.

Comment author: lmm 04 November 2015 01:11:38PM 0 points [-]

I think it's legitimate to criticise a company for pretending to sell utilons when it isn't. Yes, this company may well be a better use of your money than Taylor Swift tickets. But Taylor Swift isn't marketed as an investment.

Comment author: ike 06 November 2015 01:07:48AM -1 points [-]

They're selling hedons, which factor into people's utility functions.

I'd also point to

Stash, which is going after younger and less informed investors, instead sees it as its mission to get people to start putting away some amount of money in to the market and then get them into a more optimized portfolio over time.

"We’re going to be able to provide really solid advice around their portfolio around making smarter investor habits," Robinson said. And hopefully, for them, that's what young people believe in, like, and want.

That doesn't seem so objectionable. If they're attracting people who wouldn't be investing otherwise, that's a gain.

Also, do you have examples of their marketing that you think are inaccurate?

Comment author: Lumifer 16 October 2015 02:38:40PM *  2 points [-]

All consumption is dumb, if you think too hard about it.

Says someone who clearly hasn't been just hungry for a long while if ever.

More to the point, I don't see what consumption habits have to do with picking investments. When you are "paying someone just to rebrand index funds for you" you don't get Miley Cyrus to twerk you.

Comment author: gjm 16 October 2015 11:31:00PM 2 points [-]

Says someone who [...]

I think you may be taking him a little too literally. He's criticizing that position as much as he's endorsing it. (The context is that he's commenting on a sort of "financial services for The Youth Of Today" product, and he's saying: "yeah, from one perspective this is silly because those people should just be investing in index funds; but that's also the perspective that says they should never actually be spending anything, which is pretty unreasonable when you think about it; so why shouldn't one thing they spend their money on instead of robotically trying to maximize it be financial services that they enjoy more?"

I don't see what consumption habits have to do with picking investments.

He's suggesting that investing with this company called Stash might best be viewed as a variety of consumption that happens to produce not-completely-crazy investment as a side effect, which makes it look less like a rather crappy sort of investment and more like a more than averagely productive sort of consumption.

(Is it reasonable to see it that way? I dunno; it sounds rather contrived to me. But that's the argument he's making.)

Comment author: Lumifer 19 October 2015 03:31:08PM 0 points [-]

from one perspective this is silly because those people should just be investing in index funds; but that's also the perspective that says they should never actually be spending anything

The guy just doesn't look coherent. In particular, no, that is NOT "also the perspective", these are two different unconnected things.

more like a more than averagely productive sort of consumption.

More word salad. What in the world is "averagely productive sort of consumption"?

I think classifying all this under "marketing nonsense" is much more productive.

Comment author: gjm 19 October 2015 04:25:49PM -1 points [-]

these are two different unconnected things

My mental model of the author says: no, they are not unconnected things; the perspective you need to adopt to lead to the conclusion that it's terribly wrong to invest in ways that don't maximize (something like) your expected long-term wealth, even if you find doing so more satisfying and enjoyable than just dumping your money into index-funds, is a sort of straw-Vulcan one that cares only about long-term wealth maximization, and from that perspective all "consumption" just leaves you poorer in the long run and is therefore a bad thing.

What in the world is "averagely productive sort of consumption"?

I think the idea is something like this. If you buy a soft drink or go and see a movie, this provides you with some enjoyment but not much in the way of long-term benefits. Most consumption is like this: it gives you something you want, but in the long run you'd have been better off investing what it cost you. Stash's services are intended to be enjoyable to use, so that using them feels more like consumption than it does like investment, while having some of the same long-term benefits that investing in an index fund would have.

(I repeat that I'm merely attempting to explicate his position and not endorsing it myself. In particular, I gravely doubt that Stash have made investing actually fun to anyone who wasn't already investing as well as they could with Stash.)

Comment author: Lumifer 19 October 2015 04:34:38PM 0 points [-]

I repeat that I'm merely attempting to explicate his position and not endorsing it myself.

In spite of your heroic efforts :-) I continue to think that the author is incoherent and has fallen prey to marketing nonsense.

Comment author: ike 16 October 2015 07:24:38PM *  -1 points [-]

I understood him as saying that paying for anything (with perhaps the exception of items necessary to live) is spending money on something you presumably enjoy, and criticising someone for spending money on something they enjoy is misplaced. So if someone enjoys the rebranding of index funds enough to pay for it, he's fine with it.

Edit: "When you are "paying someone just to rebrand index funds for you" you don't get Miley Cyrus to twerk you." both are forms of paying for enjoyment. People are paying a fee for someone to rebrand index funds for them, just like they might pay a fee to go to a concert or, for that matter, buy a newspaper with stories about companies that interests them.

What difference are you claiming between the two?

Comment author: Lumifer 16 October 2015 08:11:58PM 5 points [-]

People are paying a fee for someone to rebrand index funds for them, just like they might pay a fee to go to a concert

I don't think this is true. People pay a fee for rebranded index funds not because they especially enjoy rebranded index funds, but because they are misled to think that what they are getting is something different from what they are actually getting. People pay a fee because they are told that the fund will bring them higher returns (or less risk, etc.).

I can imagine someone investing in a hedge fund to be able to claim that he is a "hedge fund investor", but I don't think this situation is applicable to the great majority of money invested. And it's paying for signaling, not paying for consumption.

Comment author: ike 16 October 2015 08:28:26PM -1 points [-]

People pay a fee because they are told that the fund will bring them higher returns (or less risk, etc.).

That's not how it sounds from the article and its source

What Stash tries to add, and what it’s charging users for, is both the unique framing of the funds and ease of use.

Investing in these tech or green energy companies is “self expression,” Robinson said, even if a bog-simple Vanguard index ETF plan “is probably the smart investment.”

Of course, there are still a great many young adults who are more focused on their returns. For them, Stash has an “I Want” tab that includes more diverse investments with snazzy labels.

“We talked to 100 people, and we heard the same thing over and over again: the whole concept of investing was confusing, it was expensive, it was unrelatable, it isn’t my world,” Ronick said about the conversations.

There's nothing there that implies an expectation of getting a higher return that if they'd invest traditionally.

Do you at least agree that Stash claims it's doing what Matt claims it is? And you then think that Stash is wrong about what motivates its users?

Comment author: Lumifer 16 October 2015 08:39:25PM *  3 points [-]

I think the key word here is "marketing".

“We talked to 100 people, and we heard the same thing over and over again: the whole concept of investing was confusing, it was expensive, it was unrelatable, it isn’t my world,”

This is not consumption preferences. This is needing to do something you have no idea about -- so you go to whoever claims to be an expert and you believe whatever he tells you. There are many people claiming to be experts, so it becomes crucial to use the right marketing to lure in the marks... err. customers. The old marketing style which mostly used a reliable-looking oldish white guy in a suit and a tie isn't working all that well any more, so there is a new marketing style that goes for young and hip and cool and all that.

I still don't believe that people consume and particularly enjoy investment offerings. Giving money to a mutual fund just isn't a notable sensuous experience :-D

What I do believe is that it is very much in the interest of certain people to make you convinced that giving them money has special significance.

Comment author: ike 16 October 2015 08:56:00PM 0 points [-]

I think it's important to note here that their fee is $12 a year. That's a lot more in line with "paying for a good experience" than "paying for investment advice". I don't think this $12 a year product falls into the same reference class as typical financial advisors.

Comment author: Lumifer 19 October 2015 03:27:01PM 1 point [-]

I think it's important to note here that their fee is $12 a year.

I don't see how this is a meaningful number. The cost to the user is much higher since they're now stuck in a high-fee fund. And I'm pretty sure that a lot of Stash's revenue comes from something other than $12/user/year. In particular, high-fee funds tend to pay commissions to those who sell them.

Comment author: Raemon 30 October 2015 05:50:45PM 0 points [-]

I think a much better analogy would have been "drink tap water instead of bottled water." It's a more similar instance of paying explicitly for branding with a misguided understanding of what's for sale. (i.e. most bottle water is literally tap water)

Comment author: Lumifer 30 October 2015 07:19:33PM *  1 point [-]

I think a much better analogy would have been "drink tap water instead of bottled water."

I drink bottled water. I don't care about branding in general, but the particular water which I drink tastes different from the water in my tap and I can easily recognize the difference.

Comment author: Crivens 25 October 2015 08:51:41AM 0 points [-]

This quote would have been better without those last two lines. Those two lines have distracted all of your readers from the point of the quote.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 October 2015 05:02:12PM *  1 point [-]

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

-Rick

Comment author: Nomad 18 October 2015 09:49:19AM 4 points [-]

To me, that sounds suspiciously like "The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long and no longer than the power by which he is able to compel that obligation." It's gilded up so it sounds better, but that's how it was in practice.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 18 October 2015 10:33:58AM 2 points [-]

Whatever the practice of sovereignty may have been from place to place and from time to time, Hobbes is setting out a normative view of what constitutes legitimate sovereignty. He is plainly saying exactly what he is saying in the quoted fragment, viz. that obedience to a sovereign authority is undertaken in return for its protection, the agreement being void where the protection is wanting. As opposed, for example, to the theory of the king being set by God over his people, against whom rebellion is necessarily a sin, whatever the king's character and conduct; or the theory that all are masterless and owe obedience to none, for (Hobbes says) the result is a continual war of all against all in which none have the liberty which (he argues) it is the function of a sovereign authority to protect; or your observation, as of Athens to Melos, that the strong do what they will, while the weak bear what they must.

Comment author: FourFire 26 November 2015 12:31:43PM 1 point [-]

You seem to have suddenly lost some karma due to your other posts in this thread, I am discouraged from commenting on those posts, so I shall do so here instead.

At first I was surprised that 100% of the downvoted beyond default visible threshold comments in this thread belonged to the same person, and considered that you might be the victim of a downvote brigade, but after reading the comments themselves I realize that I too would downvote these ones, and so do not consider it a conspiracy beyond the stated purpose of the site.

Tangentially, I notice that downvoted comments discourage any response save from those with so many fake internet points that the loss doesn't matter (which may well be the exact intent), or those who don't care about said number. As I understand the mechanism is supposed to prevent flamewars, but it also severely reduces responses from everyone besides the top posters, especially longtime lurkers like myself, when the top posters may not have the time or will to comment on elementary mistakes, as their time is comparatively worth more (and here I notice I am confused, is the time of prolific site users really that valuable? I mean sure, what they have to say has been worth upvoting, but if they have invested so much time into the site then perhaps their time is worth less).

On Telling the story of yourself: undesirable starting states of people exist, it is more beneficial for both the person in question and society as a whole that such people learn and improve rather than maintaining undesirableness, in common psychology this process is called "socialization" and noticeably, those who through circumstance avoided or had lacking and/or deviant socialization have worse outcomes in general.
You would be courageous to do so because it will cost you.

On seduction: A more accurate quote (as in matching reality) would explain that the degree to which you can manipulate another mind is bounded, but unknown, rather than known to be unbounded.

On "True focus": Though I agree that it is important to reassure other people that your decisions are in part (though not mostly) emotionally motivated: by appearance, and that focus is strongly correlated with motivation, I am wary of all claims of "True X", that phrasing speaks of sounding wise.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 28 October 2015 08:45:28PM 1 point [-]

The worst of all auguries is from consent in matters intellectual.

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, section LXXVII.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2015 03:06:32PM 0 points [-]

I don't get it.

Comment author: Morendil 31 October 2015 03:53:28PM 2 points [-]

"Just because many believe in something doesn't make it true - the opposite, actually." (This from Googling the too-short excerpt and reading a bit of the surrounding text.) He spoils it by excepting two domains, religion and politics.

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 07 November 2015 09:46:13AM 0 points [-]

the opposite, actually.

Ahem.

Comment author: WalterL 13 October 2015 03:20:23PM 0 points [-]

They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?

Princess Diana

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 October 2015 05:10:35PM 5 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2015 03:44:11PM 0 points [-]

If these lines are read by a young geologist, then, especially for him, it should be noted that excitement in scientific work is harmful rather than useful. Caught in 'rare-metal fever', I took hundreds of samples but missed plenty of interesting things. I almost did not study enclosing rocks, totally ignored unique carbonate concretions, which in themselves could be a subject of a whole thesis, but saddest of all - I very superficially studied fossilized soils. Alas, the find fell in the hands of underprepared researcher.

Ya. E. Yudovitch. Gramm more expensive than tonne: rare elements in coals (p. 102, Moscow, 1989.)