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Against Maturity

28 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 February 2009 11:34PM

I remember the moment of my first break with Judaism.  It was in kindergarten, when I was being forced to memorize and recite my first prayer.  It was in Hebrew.  We were given a transliteration, but not a translation.  I asked what the prayer meant.  I was told that I didn't need to know - so long as I prayed in Hebrew, it would work even if I didn't understand the words.  (Any resemblance to follies inveighed against in my writings is not coincidental.)

Of course I didn't accept this, since it was blatantly stupid, and I figured that God had to be at least as smart as I was.  So when I got home, I asked my parents, and they didn't bother arguing with me.  They just said, "You're too young to argue with; we're older and wiser; adults know best; you'll understand when you're older."

They were right about that last part, anyway.

Of course there were plenty of places my parents really did know better, even in the realms of abstract reasoning.  They were doctorate-bearing folks and not stupid.  I remember, at age nine or something silly like that, showing my father a diagram full of filled circles and trying to convince him that the indeterminacy of particle collisions was because they had a fourth-dimensional cross-section and they were bumping or failing to bump in the fourth dimension.

My father shot me down flat.  (Without making the slightest effort to humor me or encourage me.  This seems to have worked out just fine.  He did buy me books, though.)

But he didn't just say, "You'll understand when you're older."  He said that physics was math and couldn't even be talked about without math.  He talked about how everyone he met tried to invent their own theory of physics and how annoying this was.  He may even have talked about the futility of "providing a mechanism", though I'm not actually sure if I originally got that off him or Baez.

You see the pattern developing here.  "Adulthood" was what my parents appealed to when they couldn't verbalize any object-level justification.  They had doctorates and were smart; if there was a good reason, they usually would at least try to explain it to me.  And it gets worse...

The most fearsome damage wreaked upon my parents by their concept of "adulthood", was the idea that being "adult" meant that you were finished - that "maturity" marked the place where you declared yourself done, needing to go no further.

This was displayed most clearly in the matter of religion, where I would try to talk about a question I had, and my parents would smile and say:  "Only children ask questions like that; when you're adult, you know that it's pointless to argue about it."  They actually said that outright!  To ask questions was a manifestation of earnest, childish enthusiasm, earning a smile and a pat on the head.  An adult knew better than to waste effort on pointless things.

We never really know our parents; we only know the face of our parents that they turn to us, their children.  I don't know if my parents ever thought about the child-adult dichotomy when they weren't talking to me.

But this is what I think my parents were thinking:  If they had tried to answer a question as children, and then given up as adults - a quite common pattern in their religious decay - they labeled "mature" the place and act of giving up, by way of consolation.  They'd asked the question as children and stopped asking as adults - and the story they told themselves about that was that only children asked that question, and now they had succeeded into the sage maturity of knowing not to argue.

To this very day, I constantly remind myself that, no matter what I do in this world, I will doubtlessly be considered an infant by the standards of future intergalactic civilization, and so there is no point in pretending to be a grown-up.  I try to maintain a mental picture of myself as someone who is not mature, so that I can go on maturing.

And more...

From my parents I learned the observational lesson that "adulthood" was something sort of like "peer acceptance", that is, its pursuit made you do stupid things that you wouldn't have done if you were just trying to get it right.

At that age I couldn't have given you a very good definition of "right" outside the realm of pure epistemic accuracy -

- but I understood the concept of asking the wrong question.  "Does this help people?"  "Will this make anyone happy?"  "Is this belief true?"  Those were the sorts of questions to ask, not, "Is this the adult thing to do?"

So I did not divide up the universe into the childish way versus the adult way, nor ever tell myself that I had completed anything by getting older, nor congratulate myself on having stopped being a child.  Instead I learned that there were various stereotypes and traps that could take people's attention off the important questions, and instead make them try to match certain unimportant concepts that existed in their minds.  One of these attractor-traps was called "teenager", and one of these attractor-traps was called "adult", and both were to be avoided.

I've previously touched on the massive effect on my youthful psychology of reading a book of advice to parents with teenagers, years before I was actually a teenager; I took one look at the description of the stupid things teenagers did, and said to myself with quiet revulsion, "I'm not going to do that"; and then I actually didn't.  I never drank and drove, never drank, never tried a single drug, never lost control to hormones, never paid any attention to peer pressure, and never once thought my parents didn't love me.  In a safer world, I would have wished for my parents to have hidden that book better...

...but I had a picture in my mind of what it meant to be a "teenager"; and I determined to avoid it; and I did.

Of course there are a lot of children in this world who don't like being "children" and who try to appear as "adult" or as "mature" as possible.  That's why they start smoking, right?  So that was also part of the picture that I had in my mind of a "stupid teenager": stupid teenagers deliberately try to be mature.

My parents had a picture in their mind of what it meant to be a "kid", which included "kids desperately want to be adult".  I presume, though I don't exactly know, that my parents had a picture of "childishness" which was formed by their own childhood and not updated.

In any case my parents were constantly trying to get me to do things by telling me about how it would make me look adult.

That was their appeal - not, "Do this because it is older and wiser," but, "Do this, because it will make you look adult."  To this day I wonder what they could have possibly been thinking.  Would a stereotypical teenager listen to their parents' advice about that sort of thing?

Not surprisingly, being constantly urged to do things because they would signal adulthood, which I had no particular desire to do, had the effect of making me strongly notice things that signaled adulthood as mere signals.

I think that a lot of difference in the individual style of rationalists comes down to which signaling behaviors strike us as dangerous, harmful, or, perhaps, personally annoying; and which signaling behaviors seem relatively harmless, or possibly even useful paths to accomplishment (perhaps because they don't annoy us quite so much).  Robin is willing to tolerate formality in journals, viewing it as possibly even a useful path to filtering out certain kinds of noise; to me formality seems like a strong net danger to rationality that filters nothing, just making it more difficult to read.  I'm willing to tolerate behaviors that signal idealism or caring for others, viewing it as an important pathway to real altruism later on; Robin seems to think such behaviors are relatively more harmful and that they ought to be stopped outright.

It's not that Robin is a cynic or I'm an idealist, but that I'm relatively more annoyed by cynical errors and Robin is relatively more annoyed by idealistic errors.  And fitting the same dimension, Robin seems relatively more annoyed by the errors in the style of youth, where I seem relatively more annoyed by errors in the style of maturity.

And so I take a certain dark delight in quoting anime fanfiction at people who expect me to behave like a wise sage of rationality.  Why should I pretend to be mature when practically every star in the night sky is older than I am?

Comments (56)

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Comment author: Tiiba2 18 February 2009 11:58:18PM 0 points [-]

The URL to the anime fanfiction seems to be worse than broken. My browser doesn't even say what you wrote, just that it's "illegal".

(page source: )

Comment author: Tiiba2 18 February 2009 11:59:28PM 0 points [-]

Aw great, now my post is broken.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 19 February 2009 12:09:21AM 3 points [-]

Good post, more or less fully agree, except I still don't get this bit: "In a safer world, I would have wished for my parents to have hidden that book better..."

Why? Not the "in a safer world" part, I get why you put that clause there, I think. It's the rest of it. Why would you have rather not learned the things in that book at an early age? If you don't mind explaining that one, I'm genuinely curious why you would have preferred, (in a safer world) not having learned that at an early age.

(Also, "I don't know if my parents ever thought about the child-adult dichotomy when they weren't talking to me.", well, presumably easy enough, to at least to a first approximation, to find out. (If you're interested) Ask them, or even point them right at this post and see/ask for their reaction.)

Comment author: infotropism 19 February 2009 12:38:04AM 1 point [-]

So if I want to help with issues I believe are important and neglected such as people dying of old age, and if I think that the way you are advocating, superintelligence, makes sense and is the best possible way I've seen so far, I shouldn't try to signal rationality by prattling here, in order to attract attention, but rather, what ? (Especially if I'm not good at math)(the temptation remains great anyway). At any rate, an excellent post, I matured a bit by reading it.

Comment author: a_soulless_automaton 19 February 2009 12:43:56AM 6 points [-]

Good heavens, Eliezer. Rationality is Serious Business. Grow up and stop acting like you... enjoy it or something!

Comment author: michael_vassar3 19 February 2009 12:50:16AM 1 point [-]

Psy-Kosh: My guess is that most learning is deeper and more authentic if it is from one's own experience. Eliezer seems to particularly prize personal learning, favoring secrecy in science in his idea of paradise.

Comment author: Yvain2 19 February 2009 01:01:03AM 13 points [-]

"To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." - C.S. Lewis

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 February 2009 02:00:04AM 2 points [-]

Tiiba, fixed.

Roko, this was not real science.

Info, write Michael Vassar.

Psy, if the average childhood were less dangerous and happier, I'd rather not be told how it goes in such detail as to take out the spontaneity, which really did happen in my case.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 19 February 2009 02:13:01AM 0 points [-]

Eliezer: ah, okay. Didn't realize you intended the "and happier" bit, though you meant that even if childhood development with all the nasty bits were still in place. ie, thought you just meant something along the lines of "there's stuff that really needs to get done, pronto, in this world, so it's a good thing I did things that sped up my climb to rationality and so on so I could get to work on them."

Comment author: Unnamed2 19 February 2009 03:01:13AM 1 point [-]

Eliezer, are you familiar with Carol Dweck's research on intelligence, or has that corner of psychology eluded you? It matches up very closely with what you say here about maturity. Dweck says: some people (like your parents on maturity) have an "entity theory" of intelligence - they think of it as something fixed that you either have or you don't - while others (like you on maturity) have an "incremental theory" - they think of it as continually developing. Incremental theorists tend to learn better and be more eager to face challenges, while entity theorists are more threatened by challenges and care more about signaling that they have intelligence. More here.

Entity views may be a common source of bias, with intelligence and other qualities that people value.

Comment author: Davidicus 19 February 2009 03:48:25AM 2 points [-]

I'll bet you avoided your vision of a "teenager" but so did a million other people. All of these implications of teenage behavior or "inherent" concerns of the teen age are such a bust because so many people recognize it that the commonality of being concerned with it becomes a bore. You could have avoided being "that" teenager but so did everyone else.

Comment author: Edward 19 February 2009 05:40:50AM 1 point [-]

This reminds me of I believe it was Robin's post which cautioned us about interesting writing styles and anecdotes since it seems to subtract from how accurately people recall the main points of a piece of writing. From reading your blog, and others, I have been inspired to take the interesting and informal writing approach when talking about high-level concepts.

I think that perhaps in any one piece it may be a negative factor, especially if the anecdotes and cliches aren't completely pertinent to the topic. Nevertheless, I think on a larger scale that it makes sense to keep things as accessible and entertaining as possible, since that will draw more people in. Freakonomics, for all its numerous flaws, probably drew more interest in the field of economics than the illustrious General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.

I really liked the end where you say, "And so I take a certain dark delight in quoting anime fanfiction at people who expect me to behave like a wise sage of rationality. Why should I pretend to be mature when practically every star in the night sky is older than I am?"

Yet, you still think you should build an Artificial General Intelligence. That seems very much like childish hubris, and yet you seem to simultaneously show humility. Or is it just that you have a really low opinion of everyone else's intelligence and rationality? I wouldn't blame you. Neither would they, since statistics show the majority of people believe that they are above average intelligence.

I think all humans are walking balls of contradictions, so it isn't really surprising that you display both hubris and humility. I can also honestly say I know much much less about AI, physics, neuropsychology, and bayesian probability theory than you, so I can't say one way or another whether AGI is possible or desirable, nor could I if I spent years researching it. I tend to avoid thinking about it generally for that reason.

Just something to think about.... but you probably already have. Smarty pants.

Comment author: Atanu_Dey 19 February 2009 06:01:04AM -1 points [-]

What a wonderful, thoughtful post. As always.

I am reminded of The Moody Blues' lyrics, "With the eyes of a child"

With the eyes of a child You must come out and see That your world's spinning 'round And through life you will be A small part Of a hope Of a love That exists In the eyes of a child you will see

Comment author: tristanhaze 08 February 2012 03:09:36PM -2 points [-]

Kill me.

Comment author: Tiiba2 19 February 2009 06:08:13AM 0 points [-]

Edward, how is it arrogant to want to contribute to science?

Comment author: Joshua_Fox 19 February 2009 06:51:46AM 1 point [-]

I was being forced to memorize and recite

Without getting into the theological aspects, a good technique as part of learning a second language is memorizing a text, particularly one with a poetic structure (like many prayers), even before it can be fully understood.

We were given a transliteration, but not a translation. I asked what the prayer meant. I was told that I didn't need to know

That is an extremely unusual experience, except as a temporary stage of learning. In most Jewish circles, reading Hebrew in the original script is considered important, and it is believed that one does need to understand what texts mean.

Comment author: michael_vassar3 19 February 2009 09:05:43AM 0 points [-]

Infotropism: Michael (dot) Vassar at gmail

Eliezer: You really should tell people how to reach me as well as telling them that they should do so, either with my email or a link to SIAI's "about us" page, which now has my contact info.

Comment author: Edward 19 February 2009 09:11:49AM 0 points [-]

Tiiba,

There is a difference between science and technology. Science is just empirical knowledge and the process of acquiring it. Technology is applied science. It shows hubris to actually think you can build something smarter than yourself in a way that has a reasonable chance of avoiding terrible unforeseen consequences.

That doesn't mean he is wrong when he argues AGI is just on the horizon and it is better that someone who cares about friendliness implements it first. I don't know enough to say one way or another.

Hubris is probably one of the traits that has propelled humanity to it's current stage of civilization. It is debatable whether that was a good thing. Certainly not from a negative utilitarian perspective, but definitely from an aggregate utilitarian calculus.

Now that we are at this stage of human civilization, all we can do is continue onward. Humans taking their destiny into their own hands has the potential to solve the problems of previous attempts to do just that.

It isn't really debatable that the stories of Faust and the Tower of Babel, etc have a point, it is just a matter of figuring out to what degree. The whole idea of FAI inherently gives this idea some credence, but it says that since someone is creating the tech it might as well be us since we care about Friendliness. Oh yea, and by the way you get Singularities and stuff if we don't all die.

Comment author: Anonymous_Coward4 19 February 2009 09:16:13AM 7 points [-]

...never tried a single drug

I'm going to presume you've drank tea, or taken medicine, and under that presumption I can say 'Yes you did'. It's just that the drugs you chose were the ones that adults in your culture had decided were safe... things like caffeine say. Had you grown up in a mormon culture or Amish culture, you might not be able to write the same thing you just did, so isn't what you just wrote an accident of birth rather than a conscious choice about your use of particular chemical structures inside your body?

I would imagine that by choice of locale, you may have passively taken nicotine, too, albeit in small quantities.

, never lost control to hormones...

.... really? Never got angry then, or too depressed to work? Crikey. Or do you mean you only lost control in the way that your parents and culture approved of; again, nothing more than an accident of birth?

Comment author: Manon_de_Gaillande 19 February 2009 11:18:17AM 0 points [-]

I've rarely heard "You'll understand when you're older" on questions of simple fact. Usually, it's uttered when someone who claims to be altruistic points out someone else's actions are harmful. The Old Cynic then tells the Young Idealist "I used to be like you, but then I realized you've got to be realistic, you'll understand when you're older that you should be more selfish.". But they never actually offer an object-level argument, or even seem to have changed their minds for rational reasons - it looks like the Selfishness Fairy just changed their terminal values as they grew older. That may be the case; it may also be sour grapes bias: when they realized their altruism could never have as big an effect as it ought to, they decided altruism wasn't right after all. The best defense I can come up with is: If your moral intuitions change, especially change in a way you've previously noticed as "maturing", only trust them if your justifications for it would convice your past self as their most idealistic.

Is this "stupid teeneager" thing real, or just a stereotype that sells books? I've seen teenagers drink and drive; they don't look like they do it to look adult. I've tried some drugs and turned others down, and the only things that (I'm aware) factored were what I could learn from the experience, how pleasant it would be, and the risks. I consciously ignored peer pressure - as for looking mature, I simply didn't even consider it could be a criterion any more than the parity of my number of nose hair.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 February 2009 03:24:12PM 2 points [-]

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." - C.S. Lewis

This is a near neighbor concept that I consider important to distinguish. I don't think this is a case where it's a good idea to embrace the contradiction of calling it childish to worry about childishness. Then you get into slap-fights about whose worry over maturity signals greater immaturity.

You should just be asking some other question instead - cutting through on some other question that isn't about maturity or childishness.

I quoted "Shinji and Warhammer40k" first and foremost because it had a couple of good quotes, worth adding to my quotes file and then worth selecting. The dark delight in quoting anime fanfiction comes after the simpler deed of asking "Is this a good quote or not?"

Comment author: jb5 19 February 2009 05:08:40PM 0 points [-]

I too, never wanted to be a stupid teenager, although I never read any books about it. I never smoked, never drank, never used illegal drugs. But I also thought my parents didn't love me. Interesting partial overlap there.

Also, unless a new star has appeared in the last 38 years less than 38 lightyears away, there's no star in the night sky younger than you are, or me, or probably anyone else on Earth.

Like you, I feel maturity is a journey, one that too many people seem to give up very early. I notice at dating sites that some women write "I don't want a man who refers to himself as a 'work in progress'". I understand what they mean - they don't want a man who doesn't know what he wants in life, who doesn't have career goals or a purpose. But what it says (to me) is 'someone who is done changing, learning and growing'.

Which is terrible.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 19 February 2009 08:21:14PM 0 points [-]

This is a near neighbor concept that I consider important to distinguish. I don't think this is a case where it's a good idea to embrace the contradiction of calling it childish to worry about childishness. Then you get into slap-fights about whose worry over maturity signals greater immaturity.

Still, that worry over childishness is self-undermining seems like a decent point.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 February 2009 08:45:20PM 1 point [-]

Actually... one reason I was careful to draw the distinction, is that the above (as it so happens) strikes me as a childish point.

Like, it was the sort of thing I never said to my parents as a teenager because it would have been too much like what a "teenager" (albeit a clever one who'd read Godel, Escher, Bach) would have said to his parents.

Is worry over appearing childish self-undermining? In general, no; it is self-undermining only if we assume that children and only children are concerned with appearing adult. As it happens, most adults are concerned with appearing adult. Are they wrong to do so? That depends on why, I'd say. A concern with appearing adult as a strictly pragmatic matter of public relations, coupled with a total unconcern over actually being adult, could well be healthy and rational in certain cases.

Of course, having actually been maneuvered into a position where you have to argue that you aren't childish, the argument itself will seem childish; but this is a matter of being placed in a clever trap, not a matter of the audience making valid Bayesian inferences.

...okay, I've probably been reading too much about logic today.

Comment author: Doug_S. 19 February 2009 09:01:04PM 2 points [-]

Regarding Judiasm: my father had a similar experience as a child. He assumed that the Hebrew passages he was given must have been great and profound because, well, they came from God. When he finally did read a translation, he was annoyed because they were the kind of stupid banalities that any idiot could have thought up. (My father is an atheist.)

Comment author: Seth 19 February 2009 09:01:43PM 5 points [-]

This is sort of a tangential observation, but bear with me. This business of teenagers acting 'mature' by doing stupid, immature things is fostered by 'middle school'. By 'middle school', I mean the quite bizarre institution we have of shoving all of our pubescent offspring into an age cohort, marching them around through artificial structured activities in which they have only the company of other pubescents and a few exasperated chaperones (aka teachers, administrators, etc.) while cutting them off from either the care of younger children or access to the normal adult world.

If preschool is where our kids go to pick up viral diseases, middle school is where we send our kids to be infected with dumb social models to conform to.

End rant ;) Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 19 February 2009 09:38:28PM 0 points [-]

You're right, dang it, I fell for the clever trap.

Comment author: Overcoming_Laziness 20 February 2009 03:19:46AM -1 points [-]

You strike me as more arrogant than Robin. I'm not sure why. Certainly arrogance does not help in overcoming bias.

Comment author: Abigail 20 February 2009 10:54:13AM 1 point [-]

If you quote Shakespeare, we can all see the name and might think, well, that is probably wise and well expressed. If you quote anime fanfic, we might see the source and decide that was probably silly and probably badly expressed;

or consider it a quote with Eliezer Yudkowsky's imprimatur, which might be arrogant of Eliezer, but actually I think worthwhile, that Eliezer values an idea is for me something in favour of that idea;

or I could just judge the quote myself, see what I think of it, see what good I could strain out of it.

Eliezer is my teacher, but I do permit myself to disagree with him.

Comment author: a_soulless_automaton 20 February 2009 05:50:07PM 1 point [-]

" Certainly arrogance does not help in overcoming bias."

On the contrary; when dealing with deep-seated, common, and possibly hard-wired cognitive biases, I'd say it actually requires a certain degree of hubris to even consider attempting to overcome such.

Comment author: iejtgkm4r 21 February 2009 05:57:23PM 0 points [-]

that's quite an astounding amount of adults partaking in supposedly childish things if everyone you talk to recognizes youre quoting anime

Comment author: Avi_Weinstein 22 February 2009 08:45:11PM 0 points [-]

So, Eliezer, Because some ill equipped teacher refused to answer a good question you broke with a time honored tradition that is singularly responsible for the intellectual achievements of the Jewish people? Somehow, we're supposed to see this as rational?

Comment author: Ruth 22 February 2009 09:50:57PM 0 points [-]

This is quite a brilliant and extremely interesting analysis. Thank you!

Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 23 February 2009 12:05:17AM 0 points [-]

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "mere" signaling. If visible feature F did not correlate with hard to observe character C, then F could not signal C. Of course the correlation isn't perfect, but why doesn't it make sense to choose F if you want people to believe you have C? Are you saying you didn't really care what people thought of your maturity?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 February 2009 12:27:34AM 1 point [-]

Robin, I think I've made a pretty good case (by word and deed) that I don't care much about variance in my perceived maturity so long as it stays within certain upper and lower bounds, below Infallible Guru and above 12-Year-Old On 4chan. This reflects a certain increase in maturity on my part; I used to care less.

I'd think that signals can easily come completely unbound from what they're supposed to signal. All this requires is that public image either lag the reality, or that public image be not completely based on reality, or that people are mistaken about what most other people think. Is "signal" by convention used only to indicate cases where someone is manipulating an indicator that retains actual current correlation even after the manipulability is taken into account? If so I'll need another term to indicate what people do when they display a characteristic X that they believe others will associate to Y. I understand that there are cases where you can solve for signaling equilibria assuming full information, but I did not realize this was part of the definition of "signaling" as such.

Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 23 February 2009 01:29:47AM 0 points [-]

Eliezer, in most signaling theories that economists construct the observers of signals are roughly making reasonable inferences from the signals they observe. If someone proposed to us that people take feature F as signaling C, but in fact there is no relation between F and C, we would want some explanation for this incredible mistake, or at least strong evidence that such a mistake was being consistently made.

Comment author: Raw_Power 02 October 2010 06:18:09PM 0 points [-]

Am I right in believing I have found the persons after which Michael Verres and Rationality!Hermione's parents are largely modeled?

Comment author: MixedNuts 13 June 2011 09:52:18AM 0 points [-]

You win nothing. Too easy.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 March 2013 02:50:18PM 0 points [-]

Nope.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2012 04:03:32PM 0 points [-]

I've recently seen a survey about what parents tell their children when asked why the sky is blue. While I'm not terribly surprised that no-one answered “because of Rayleigh scattering”, lots of parents answered “no-one knows”, gave some handwaving bullshit explanation, told the child to ask the other parent, or tried to change the subject, and hardly any said “I don't know, but I'm going to look it up”.

Comment author: living_philosophy 03 October 2012 08:59:36PM 0 points [-]

I never drank and drove, never drank, never tried a single drug, never lost control to hormones, never paid any attention to peer pressure, and never once thought my parents didn't love me.

This line is confusing in an article about "being mature" being an unnecessary and even counter-productive to self-development and rationality. Why did you even mention those? Did you want a pat on the back? Do you feel you met the requirements of being a "mature child" by not doing those things? That seems like the exact opposite of the rest of the article. There have been many posts on LW about how biases and mental structures "linger" long after we have quite believing and embracing them (usually referencing religious belief), and it seems that is what was happening here. You have inadvertently classified those activities as being "stupid teenager" activity, or to rephrase it "immaturity", despite having rejected maturity as a good means for identifying correct, moral, or rational behavior.

People of any age may try drugs, may abuse drugs, may use them recreationally, religiously, medicinally, under peer pressure, in order to impress or meet initiative requirements, or even to commit suicide. There is rational and safe drug use (emotional use, hormonal response) as there is irrational, dangerous and addictive use. As Anonymous_Coward4 already mentioned, the majority of the "drugs" and behaviors you mentioned are completely culturally constructed, and you might be seen as a drug-user (or even abuser if you're a constant smoker/coffee drinker) or hormonal, or angry/depressed based on a particular group's demarcation. What demarcation were you using that you brought this little quip in as a point? It seems like you are grouping those actions under a common node....that of immaturity, to which I'd point you back to your article (minus a sentence) to explain why that's problematic and undeserving of recognition or compliment. In fact many of those things mentioned in that sentence say more about your privilege than your virtues. Many people are forced to drive, even if they wake up not-quite-sober, because they can't afford to miss work, or let their kids miss their school/events; many people actually have parents that don't love them (and strong empirical evidence to prove it, sometimes beat right into their flesh); as for the peer pressure immunity, sorry but I'm going to have to call bullshit. Do you mean that you didn't go to the popular kids parties, didn't join the football team, and didn't socialize much? That's a whole lot of people, and you may have avoided some peer pressure, but it's just because your peer pressure was coming from somewhere else (like your parents, role models, and smart friends/teachers who (whether you admit it or not) helped push you to think more critically, pushed you to "be the best" rationally, and to be able to "win" arguments). Even if all of what you said is true, it really isn't noteworthy, unless you can show how it makes you more rational, moral, or efficient, rather than "mature for your age".

Comment author: keen 04 October 2012 05:21:38AM 0 points [-]

It is possible to avoid peer pressure for an entire childhood. Even to overdo it to irrational levels, which I managed to accomplish, mainly by sheer egomania. An addiction to defiance can be helpful, but reining it in more so.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 05 March 2013 02:29:48PM 1 point [-]

I remember, at age nine or something silly like that, showing my father a diagram full of filled circles and trying to convince him that the indeterminacy of particle collisions was because they had a fourth-dimensional cross-section and they were bumping or failing to bump in the fourth dimension.

Interesting, I came up with a very similar theory when I was a child. Possibly its a fairly obvious connection for people with an abstract understanding of physics but not the mathematics. [I also invented imaginary numbers at one point.]

Comment author: CillianSvendsen 17 July 2014 09:44:24AM *  1 point [-]

Very interesting. When I was 10, a friend and I got together to "crack" the problem of indeterminacy. We also came up with this hypothesis (I fail to recall how).

(On a tangentially related note: After reading a couple of wikipedia articles, we decided we were wrong and moved onto the hypothesis that the universe was a giant simulation, and quantum indeterminacy was floating-point error.)

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 17 July 2014 10:07:31AM 0 points [-]

the hypothesis that the universe was a giant simulation, and quantum indeterminacy was floating-point error.

What're your current thoughts on this? Also, you and your friend sound awesome.

Comment author: CillianSvendsen 07 September 2014 01:15:23PM 3 points [-]

After learning more about the math behind quantum mechanics, I'm pretty sure indeterminacy doesn't work that way. :P

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 17 July 2014 05:34:41PM *  0 points [-]

What problem? If you want to predict, indetrrminacy is inconvenient, but why should the universe be convenient for humans?

Comment author: CillianSvendsen 17 July 2014 09:25:51AM *  1 point [-]

I found this very interesting because when I was 12, I read a very similar book to the Childcraft book you mention, and also vowed never to do drugs, drink, give in to peer pressure, act angry and emotional, etc. Except later on, when I became a teenager, my guardians took this behavior as evidence of my "abnormality" and tried very hard to quash it out of me, even going so hard as to push me to drink and "fit in". Unfortunately they've been partially successful - at very least, I felt very resentful at them for a very long time.

Comment author: Capla 22 October 2014 04:21:12PM *  2 points [-]

I've previously touched on the massive effect on my youthful psychology of reading a book of advice to parents with teenagers, years before I was actually a teenager; I took one look at the description of the stupid things teenagers did, and said to myself with quiet revulsion, "I'm not going to do that"; and then I actually didn't. I never drank and drove, never drank, never tried a single drug, never lost control to hormones, never paid any attention to peer pressure, and never once thought my parents didn't love me.

Me to. The first time someone asked why I don't drink, I was sort of taken a back. It seems pretty simple to me : don't put poisons in your body. Aside from the health effects, why would anyone want to do anything that stopped them from thinking well? It seems amazing that the weird thing is that I don't drink, but that most people do.

But, there's another reason. When I was young, I decided that I would never drink (because it seemed stupid to me). I decided, and I stick by my convictions as a matter of pride*. It's that simple.

I am lucky to have the individualism and a defiant streak that cased me to stick to it: I know at least one person who felt similarly, or at least said she would never drink, when she was under ten, but didn't stay consistent when she was over 15. (But, that person is a vegetarian when we're driving passed a cattle farm, but annoyed at me when I mention that if there's a hot-dog she wants to eat.)

*Of course, I change my convictions when it becomes clear I had been wrong, but not when faced with temptations.

Comment author: Jiro 22 October 2014 07:15:07PM 0 points [-]

why would anyone want to do anything that stopped them from thinking well?

The obvious answer is that thinking well is not a terminal value.

It's like asking "why do people play Quake? You don't learn anything from it, plus it makes you tired and uses up time that could have been used for thinking."

Comment author: Lumifer 22 October 2014 07:35:51PM -1 points [-]

A better example is that getting into bed with an attractive person of the preferred sex usually stops one from "thinking well" :-D

Comment author: Capla 22 October 2014 04:30:02PM 1 point [-]

Why should I pretend to be mature when practically every star in the night sky is older than I am?

Practically? Or am I missing the reference?

Comment author: Jiro 22 October 2014 04:37:00PM 1 point [-]

As I've pointed out before, people on the Internet are depressingly literal, so any argument needs to be full of useless qualifiers to prevent it from getting pounced on by people who don't understand context. If he didn't say that, some idiot probably would have asked him how he didn't know that some object in the sky was 49.9999% to stardom last year and 50.0001% to stardom this year.

Comment author: Capla 22 October 2014 04:40:59PM 0 points [-]

I am assuming, that Eliezer know more than I do, but in order for there to be a star in the sky that is younger than him, it would need to both have formed within about 30 years and be within 30 light-years. That seems to be an improbable combination.

A cursory internet search (hindered by Google recognizing "star" to mean "actor") reveals no new near stars. Anyone want to enlighten me?

Comment author: Lumifer 22 October 2014 05:26:42PM 2 points [-]

One reasonable approach would be to interpret "young star" as a "star that recently became visible to the naked eye".

By the way, a question -- as far as I understand the standard way for a new star to form is to have a cloud of matter gravitationally aggregate into a sufficiently dense object which then ignites. Is the ignition a short event -- how long does it take? In other words, is there a sharp boundary between a "dense cloud, not yet a star" and a "young star"?

Comment author: Nornagest 22 October 2014 06:01:41PM *  1 point [-]

Is the ignition a short event -- how long does it take? In other words, is there a sharp boundary between a "dense cloud, not yet a star" and a "young star"?

It takes a while, although it's relatively short compared to a star's lifetime -- about ten million years for a solar-mass star, followed by a longer period as a young star that's still gaining energy from gravitational collapse. Higher-mass stars form faster, but I wouldn't expect even the heaviest to form on human timescales.

A complication from an observer's perspective is that this sort of thing usually happens inside dense clouds which block out young stars in the visible spectrum. Most of what we know about star formation, we know because of observations at longer wavelengths.