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

MBlume comments on Eutopia is Scary - Less Wrong

33 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 January 2009 05:28AM

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

Comments (121)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: MBlume 28 January 2011 11:04:36PM *  21 points [-]

Of course I'm not sure -- that would be quite silly given my track record =)

What changed my mind...I'm still working on this one[1]. It was half conceiving a specific ideal of myself -- looking at the way I had experienced jealousy in the past and deciding that that wasn't a part of myself that I liked, wasn't a set of motivations that I endorsed. And it was half looking at how poly relationships seemed to work, and deciding that they seemed better engineered[2] to my eyes -- they don't present some life-altering crisis every time you realize you're really really attracted to someone else. They allow for an ebb and flow of relationship intensity -- friends become lovers become partners, break up, wind up friends and occasional lovers -- that appealed more than the almost catastrophic shifts in status that monogamy seems to require.

[1] As I write this, it occurs to me that I should probably start being suspicious when I say things like this -- I suppose it's entirely possible that this simply means "My brain is still piecing together the optimally self-congratulatory story for me to tell myself." I need to journal more.

[2] If this seems an odd turn of phrase, it's worth adding that I'm a software engineer by trade, and that the parts of my brain that made these judgements felt like the same parts that look at a piece of code and decide whether it's well-factored, maintainable, etc. etc.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 28 January 2011 11:28:48PM 13 points [-]

Thanks for elaborating.

On some level, polyamory has always been part of my self-ideal; I have been committed to not being jealous, and to giving my partners whatever freedom they need to be happy. On the other hand, I've never felt a need for more than one partner, so for most of my life I've been monogamous because it was the norm, even if I made it clear to my partners that they need not be.

Discovering the polyamory community and, almost as importantly, the very term polyamory, representing a thing people could actually do changed that for me, and I've been in non-monogamous relationships for about a year and a half now.

However, my confidence has been a bit shaken by the degree to which I've seen problems. A girlfriend of about a year started acting very jealous of another girlfriend of about five years. The former has been outspokenly poly and in many relationships for more than seven years, and her self image was tangled up with being poly to the extent that she refused to admit that she was acting out of jealousy. She refused to talk about her feelings (unheard of for her, being a professional counselor), and would only say that she was "over it" and nothing was going to happen again. This ended up poisoning and eventually ending our relationship.

And while I've seen examples of this working---two of my other girlfriend's boyfriends have become good friends of mine (she knows how to pick 'em!)---I've also seen several examples of people who aren't being honest enough with themselves to make it work.

So polyamory, as always, matches both my own ideal of myself, and my idea for how a good relationship should be engineered, as you put it. However, I'm a little dispirited as to how many people can make it work, if the community is already so small that it consists of the people who most desperately believe in it, and they still keep falling down. I'm glad to hear of your continuing success.

Comment author: MBlume 02 February 2011 10:05:59PM 12 points [-]

I'm glad to hear of your continuing success.

Thanks, but I've been at this for a couple months -- congratulate me next year =)

The former has been outspokenly poly and in many relationships for more than seven years, and her self image was tangled up with being poly to the extent that she refused to admit that she was acting out of jealousy.

As I say, I'm pretty new, so I feel really hesitant to say this, but it really seems like she was just doing it wrong.

I mean, I dance. Dancing is part of my self image. I go out and dance swing every Thursday evening and every Saturday afternoon. I'm not that good yet, but I'm getting better every week.

And sometimes it hurts. Sometimes my feet get sore. Sometimes I get really out of breath. Sometimes I get really warm and sweaty and uncomfortable. Sometimes I can tell my heart just can't keep up with the amount of oxygen my body's demanding. One time I fell straight over on my face and banged my knee, and it was painful to walk for the next couple days.

None of these things mean I'm not a dancer -- they're just things I deal with because I like dancing.

I'm new at this, so I suppose this is particularly to be expected, but still. I feel jealousy sometimes. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I ask my partner for help/support/care and she helps me deal with it. Sometimes I seek a friend. Sometimes I deal with it on my own. And sometimes I just have to sit there and feel it and get on with what I'm doing. That doesn't mean I don't want to be poly, and it certainly doesn't mean that I'm lying when I call myself poly -- it means I like being poly so much that I'm willing to handle these things from time to time.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 February 2011 10:18:10PM 8 points [-]

(nods) My version of this, back when my social circle was dealing with the question, was that poly was like turning somersaults. Some people are good at it and some people aren't, some people enjoy it and some people don't, some people can significantly damage themselves and others by trying it if they don't choose a time and place carefully, and even people who are good at it and enjoy it will get hurt doing it from time to time, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't do it. Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 02 February 2011 11:38:32PM 1 point [-]

and even people who are good at it and enjoy it will get hurt doing it from time to time

This I think is true. The woman in question does polyamory well, and has for a long time, and in my opinion should continue to for her own happiness. However, she definitely wasn't doing it right at that time. To my knowledge, it's the only problem she's had that has stemmed from her.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 February 2011 11:43:07PM 1 point [-]

(nods) My husband and I do monogamy pretty well, also, but we've been known to create problems for ourselves and each other from time to time. Occupational hazard of imperfection.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 February 2011 11:43:34PM 1 point [-]

How large is the poly community? It seems like one of the Common Interest in Rationality groups; but I don't know if it's large enough that marginal investments in evangelism should be targeted there.

Comment author: WrongBot 03 February 2011 12:08:13AM 3 points [-]

I'm not sure whether this is a pro or a con for evangelism attempts, but a very large swathe of the poly community is of a new-age and/or neopagan bent. So on the one hand, they really could use some rationality. On the other, they're probably not very receptive to it.

As far as numbers go, I don't think I've heard any good estimates. Judging by the uptick in media coverage of late, though, I'd guess they're growing at a pretty decent clip.

Comment author: Nornagest 03 February 2011 12:12:17AM *  1 point [-]

There's a good amount of crossover with geek culture, too. I think it's growing into part of the usual contrarian cluster, if it isn't part already.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 03 February 2011 12:22:30AM *  0 points [-]

a very large swathe of the poly community is of a new-age and/or neopagan bent

Ugh, agreed.

I think P(newage|poly) - P(newage) > P(rationalist|poly) - P(rationalist) > 0.

I also think P(poly|rationalist) - P(poly) >> P(rationalist|poly) - P(rationalist), which is why we see it as a Common Interest.

As an aside, I've been reading your blog since (I think) before you joined LessWrong; like Wei Dai, you're one of the connections I've made to a different community that has appeared here. I usually read it through RSS, which I think broke. You also appear to have abandoned your earlier blog posts?

Comment author: ciphergoth 03 February 2011 01:32:09PM 2 points [-]

I think P(X|E) - P(X) is the wrong measure - should be the log likelihood ratio log(P(E|X)) - log(P(E|NOT X))

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 03 February 2011 02:36:56PM 1 point [-]

I was feeling uncomfortable about that myself.

In all likelihood, I shouldn't be using probability at all, because probability theory doesn't capture cause and effect well. Thinking back, what I should have said is just that rationalists are more likely to adopt polyamory than polyamorists are likely to adopt rationalism. The actual ratios of each are less relevant.

Comment author: ciphergoth 06 February 2011 11:26:34PM 0 points [-]

To be clear, this is almost the same as the formula you gave; I'm just using the log odds ratios formulation of Bayes theorem

LOR(X|E) = LOR(X) + log(P(E|X)) - log(P(E|NOT X))

where LOR(X) = log(P(X)/P(¬X))

in other words LOR(X|E) - LOR(X) = log(P(E|X)) - log(P(E|NOT X)) the log-likelihood ratio, the weight of evidence you need to update from one to the other.

Comment author: WrongBot 06 February 2011 12:26:07AM 0 points [-]

This comment motivated me to update my blog again, which I am quite grateful for. Has that showed up in your RSS?

My earlier blog posts were eaten when I screwed up the transfer of the site to Wordpress. I wasn't terribly happy with them in any case, but you're not the first person to indicate that they were better than I thought.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 07 February 2011 07:47:24PM 0 points [-]

It didn't; I'm sure RSS also broke during the site transfer. I re-subscribed, and I suspect everything will work again. The re-subscription at least retrieved your two current posts. I really did find your earlier writings interesting and enjoyable. I'm not sure I necessarily need them reposted (I wouldn't classify them as reference material for re-review), but more like that would be appreciated.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 03 February 2011 09:22:03AM *  3 points [-]


Note that naturalistic neopaganism exists.

Comment author: ciphergoth 04 February 2011 08:13:50AM 2 points [-]

Looks like a failure of relinquishment to me. Are there any naturalistic neopagans who are not former non-naturalistic neopagans?

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 04 February 2011 08:23:33AM *  4 points [-]

I don't see where you're coming from — the essay I linked seems to make it extremely clear that its author was never a non-naturalist.

Comment author: Blueberry 04 February 2011 08:24:12AM 1 point [-]

Are there any naturalistic neopagans who are not former non-naturalistic neopagans?

I think I would fall in that description. I see (and have always seen) my neopaganism as a philosophical expression of humor and absurdism.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 February 2011 03:56:53PM 0 points [-]

Yes, many. Indeed, there are naturalistic neopagans who were not formerly neopagans at all, of any sort.

Comment author: MBlume 04 February 2011 08:46:07AM 0 points [-]

Ah. Thank you for that =)

Comment author: MBlume 04 February 2011 07:20:19AM 1 point [-]

My experience was that being a sorta-halfway-decent-rationalist was part of what made it possible for me to do poly. I imagine there's others like me, but they'll already be rationalists (or have innately strong self-awareness skillsets and those may be good targets...). Others would have managed it using completely different sets of skills and I don't imagine they'd be any more interested in rationality than the mean.

Comment author: ciphergoth 04 February 2011 08:09:20AM 2 points [-]

This metaphor I think captures some of it, but it has the downside that it introduces an asymmetry between poly and its alternatives. I've never been anything but poly, so for me it would be any other style of relation ship that would be a potential strain and risk.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 03 February 2011 12:07:08AM *  5 points [-]

it really seems like she was just doing it wrong.

No, this is true. However, I would like to stretch your analogy a bit:

Some people are natural dancers, and don't really encounter the problems you're describing. Some people just know they want to dance, and deal with them.

The person in question is more of the former. In dozens of relationships she's never acted jealous before (I've known her for 10 years). She's never seemed to have an issue with it. This time, the first time I've seen her act jealous, she rejected the notion that jealousy could be the source of the problem because she was proud of the fact that she's never jealous.

I'm a dancer too, a really lousy one. By contrast, my other SO is a great dancer. Within six months of starting blues dancing, she was being paid to travel to other states and teach at blues workshops (by the way, if you like swing, you should really try blues). She picks up new dances all the time; I've worked for years on swing dancing and feel barely mediocre. If she encountered a dance style and had our experience with it, she might just give up. She doesn't deal with those difficulties because she doesn't have to.

In poly, I'm somewhere in between, but closer to "natural". I've felt jealous pangs a few times, but never felt them long enough for me to get a chance to talk them over with someone. I always mention them to the person they were regarding after the fact, but they've always gone away before I need to take action to get rid of them. If the next time it happens it lasts a lot longer, I think I'd know what to do, but it would also be so unusual and unpleasant that it could perhaps shake my commitment to poly. If it did and if my self-image was so wrapped up in poly that admitting that was unacceptable---I'd like to think better of myself, but maybe I'd just ignore that instance and move on.

Comment author: MBlume 07 February 2011 01:30:33AM 2 points [-]

Oh. I now feel really quite silly for not having immediately guessed that where there were naturals there would be a Curse of the Gifted.

I've heard really good things about blues -- basically I've heard that swing originates from a cleaned-up version of blues? -- and your comment is tipping me further towards "oh for goodness sake check this out already," so thanks for that ^_^.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 07 February 2011 07:29:25PM *  0 points [-]

I've heard that blues originates from a dirtied-down version of swing; at least, I think it's genesis is later. I just got back from an all-weekend blues workshop. Campbell and Chris were two of the instructors, and you can get some idea for what it looks like from the videos on their site. You can see that competition blues often looks a lot like (competition) lindy; maybe a little more varied, but a lot slower, fewer lifts and generally lower energy.

In practice (when dancing for a partner rather than for an audience), blues is generally much smaller and closer. Most dances are usually at least partially danced in close embrace, where the chest to chest and inside thigh to outside thigh connections are the main lead---so it can be a very sensual and intense dance. I've noticed a lot of overlap in the poly and blues communities, in that both are heavily populated by very physically affectionate and openly sexual individuals. Not that those attributes make someone poly any more than they make someone a blues dancer, but there is a strong correlation to each.

Comment author: Blueberry 07 February 2011 10:16:17PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for that amazing link... is there an LW article on the curse of the gifted?

Comment author: ciphergoth 03 February 2011 02:26:38PM 6 points [-]

BTW feel free to email in confidence if you find yourself in circumstances where the ear of another poly rationalist might be useful - paul at ciphergoth dot org. Been poly for coming up to twenty years, and had some interesting experiences...

Comment author: Strange7 09 December 2011 05:28:20PM 3 points [-]

next year

I was digging through some records of things I've been provably associated with and saw a link to this. Is it still too early (or worse yet too late) to offer you justifiable congratulations on the topic?

Comment author: MBlume 10 December 2011 12:51:48AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: Blueberry 04 February 2011 11:29:16AM 3 points [-]

So, do you remember why you thought of poly relationships as so disgusting and horrific? I can understand not thinking they would work for you, but why the intense revulsion?

they don't present some life-altering crisis every time you realize you're really really attracted to someone else.

While I agree with you that polyamory is a great approach and works well for a lot of people, I'm not sure this is an accurate description of monogamy: most monogamous people find themselves really attracted to others at times, and just decide not to act on it (as poly people might do sometimes also, for other reasons).

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 February 2011 03:54:25PM 2 points [-]

most monogamous people find themselves really attracted to others at times, and just decide not to act on it

...or decide to act on it in various ways that don't involve getting involved in a romantic or sexual relationship with those others.