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I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions

26 Post author: Multiheaded 25 January 2012 05:43PM

You folks probably know how some posters around here, specifically Vladimir_M, often make statements to the effect of:

 

"There's an opinion on such-and-such topic that's so against the memeplex of Western culture, we can't even discuss it in open-minded, pseudonymous forums like Less Wrong as society would instantly slam the lid on it with either moral panic or ridicule and give the speaker a black mark.

Meanwhile the thought patterns instilled in us by our upbringing would lead us to quickly lose all interest in the censored opinion"

Going by their definition, us blissfully ignorant masses can't even know what exactly those opinions might be, as they would look like basic human decency, the underpinnings of our ethics or some other such sacred cow to us. I might have a few guesses, though, all of them as horrible and sickening as my imagination could produce without overshooting and landing in the realm of comic-book evil:

- Dictatorial rule involving active terror and brutal suppression of deviants having great utility for a society in the long term, by providing security against some great risk or whatever.

- A need for every society to "cull the weak" every once in a while, e.g. exterminating the ~0.5% of its members that rank as weakest against some scale.

- Strict hierarchy in everyday life based on facts from the ansectral environment (men dominating women, fathers having the right of life and death over their children, etc) - Mencius argued in favor of such ruthless practices, e.g. selling children into slavery, in his post on "Pronomianism" and "Antinomianism", stating that all contracts between humans should rather be strict than moral or fair, to make the system stable and predictable; he's quite obsessed with stability and conformity.

- Some public good being created when the higher classes wilfully oppress and humiliate the lower ones in a ceremonial manner

- The bloodshed and lawlessness of periodic large-scale war as a vital "pressure valve" for releasing pent-up unacceptable emotional states and instinctive drives

- Plain ol' unfair discrimination of some group in many cruel, life-ruining ways, likewise as a pressure valve

+:  some Luddite crap about dropping to a near-subsistence level in every aspect of civilization and making life a daily struggle for survival

Of course my methodology for coming up with such guesses was flawed and primitive: I simply imagined some of the things that sound the ugliest to me yet have been practiced by unpleasant cultures before in some form. Now, of course, most of us take the absense of these to be utterly crucial to our terminal values. Nevertheless, I hope I have demonstrated to whoever might really have something along these lines (if not necessarily that shocking) on their minds that I'm open to meta-discussion, and very interested how we might engage each other on finding safe yet productive avenues of contact.

 

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

P.S. Yeah, Will, I realize that I'm acting roughly in accordance with that one trick you mentioned way back.

P.P.S. Sup Bakkot. U mad? U jelly?

 

CONCLUSION:

 

Fuck this Earth, and fuck human biology. I'm not very distressed about anything I saw ITT, but there's still a lot of unpleasant potential things that can only be resolved in one way:

I hereby pledge to get a real goddamn plastic card, not this Visa Electron bullshit the university saddled us with, and donate at least $100 to SIAI until the end of the year. This action will reduce the probability of me and mine having to live with the consequences of most such hidden horrors. Dixi.


Sometimes it's so pleasant to be impulsive.

 

Amusing observation: even when the comments more or less match my wild suggestions above, I'm still unnerved by them. An awful idea feels harmless if you keep telling yourself that it's just a private delusion, but the moment you know that someone else shares it, matters begin to look much more grave.

Comments (848)

Comment author: Nornagest 25 January 2012 07:28:16PM *  58 points [-]

It's posts like this that make me wish for a limited-access forum for discussing these issues, something along the lines of an Iconoclastic Conspiracy.

The set of topics too inflammatory for LW to talk about sanely seems pretty small (though not empty), but there's a considerably larger set of topics too politically sensitive for us to safely discuss without the site taking a serious status hit. This basically has nothing to do with our intra-group rationality: no matter how careful we are in our approach, taking (say) anarcho-primitivism seriously is going to alienate some potential audiences, and the more taboo subjects we broach the more alienation we'll get. This is true even if the presentation is entirely apolitical: I've talked to people who were so squicked by Torture vs. Dust Specks as to be permanently turned off the site. On the other hand (and perhaps more relevantly to the OP), as best I can tell there's nothing uniquely horrible about any particular taboo subject, and most that I can think of aren't terribly dangerous in isolation: it's volume that causes problems.

Now, it's tempting to say "fuck 'em if they can't take it", but this really is a bad thing from the waterline perspective: the more cavalier we get about sensitive or squicky examples, the higher we're setting the sanity bar for membership in our community. Set it high enough and we effectively turn ourselves into something analogous to a high-IQ society, with all the signaling and executive problems that that implies.

We'll never look completely benign to the public: it's hard to imagine decoupling weak transhumanism from our methodology, for example. But minimizing the public-facing exposure of the more inflammatory concepts we deal in does seem like a good idea if we're really interested in outreach.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 25 January 2012 11:14:05PM *  23 points [-]

The set of topics too inflammatory for LW to talk about sanely seems pretty small (though not empty), but there's a considerably larger set of topics too politically sensitive for us to safely discuss without the site taking a serious status hit

And it's not just the site in general, it's also the participants. Some of the stances that have been mentioned in this thread are considered so toxic within some circles that anyone even discussing them risks becoming very unpopular in such circles. At worst, everyone who's known to be an LW regular will be presumed to hold such opinions, regardless of whether or not they've actually even participated in such discussions.

I don't have a problem with such topics being sometimes touched upon, but if they were regularly and extensively discussed, I could imagine getting a little nervous about using my real name here.

Comment author: steven0461 25 January 2012 11:56:53PM 4 points [-]

everyone who's known to an LW regular

You meant "known to be an LW regular", right?

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 26 January 2012 02:01:51PM 11 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 07:40:26PM 6 points [-]

This seems like a generally good idea. What would be your specific proposal? Members only forum? High karma only? invite only?

taking (say) anarcho-primitivism seriously

A while ago, I took x-risk very seriously, and the best solution I could come up with was anarcho-primitivism. FAI is a much better solution.

Comment author: Nornagest 25 January 2012 08:07:31PM *  10 points [-]

What would be your specific proposal? Members only forum? High karma only? invite only?

I should probably mention that this has been discussed before. An invitation-only mailing list was the proposal being thrown around back then, but some fairly reasonable-sounding objections were also brought up. I'm not sure whether the signaling problems of organizing (as pedanterrific put it) secret-society stuff outweigh the signaling problems of discussing the same subjects publicly (though I suspect the former is preferable), or whether either one brings a net gain over not discussing them at all (less sure about this one), but in light of the OP I thought it was worth revisiting.

Comment author: Nornagest 27 January 2012 08:09:13PM 7 points [-]

After thinking about this a bit more, I think it's pretty clear that integrating a limited-access forum for sensitive issues into the LW site structure would be a bad idea; it's security through obscurity, not doing much to dissociate controversial opinions from LW in the eyes of the public or the media and almost certainly not secure against anyone determined to dig up such opinions. A less focused forum with the same access restrictions might actually be a better idea: it looks less like we're running a secret society and more like we want to keep our public-facing image on message. Private social forums are quite common on large websites.

That has its own problems, though, starting with the fact that we already have a Discussion section that does its job quite well, and that privatizing it would complicate outreach: a lot of people make their first posts on Discussion. A private mailing list run by people unaffiliated with SingInst or the LW administration might have most of the desired qualities, though; it could be kept low-key with little effort, pseudonymy relative to LW is easy to set up, discussions would be persistent, and high-karma posters on LW can say conversations are appropriate for the list without necessarily appearing to endorse its content.

Which is about what the first people to bring it up were thinking, but it's nice to have some explicit reasoning behind it.

Comment author: Solvent 26 January 2012 10:54:19AM 7 points [-]

I am intrigued by the idea of a high karma only forum personally, with the karma bar set just below wherever I am currently, of course.

In particular, maybe we'd be allowed to discuss politics in the high karma forum. The "no politics" rule is a shame, I think, because I'm sure we'd get something out of it. I understand that PITMK, but a high karma forum could get around that.

Comment author: Polymeron 05 February 2012 05:53:10PM 5 points [-]

I'm finding it difficult to think of an admission criterion to the conspiracy that would not ultimately result in even larger damage than discussing matters openly in the first place.

To clarify: It's only a matter of time before the conspiracy leaks, and when it does, the public would take its secrecy as further damning evidence.

Perhaps the one thing you could do is keep the two completely separate on paper (and both public). Guilt by association would still be easy to invoke once the overlapping of forum participants is discovered, but that is much weaker than actually keeping a secret society discussing such issues.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 27 January 2012 03:43:54PM 11 points [-]

Specifically, I think this line has already been crossed with multiple polyamory discussions. When I started reading this site (while still being a religiously observant Jew) this is the sort of thing that might have quickly classified LW as a 'bunch of hippies who look for "rational" reasons to operate outside of social norms'.

I think there are good reasons to discuss this specific topic as a test case for rationality, but people need to be acutely aware of the tradeoffs.

More specifically if SI gains enough prominence to be noticed by news outlets I'd prefer more of this image

and less of this

Comment author: siodine 26 January 2012 02:29:33AM 42 points [-]

LWers are largely too confident in the conclusiveness of the research they cite for some of their beliefs.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 26 January 2012 06:56:59AM 42 points [-]

Source?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 January 2012 12:44:23AM 32 points [-]

The scientific process has been so corrupted by signaling and politics that outside the hard sciences, most of what is called "science" these days, especially mainstream opinion at universities, is less entangled with reality then most religions. At least the religions have been around long enough to be subject memetic selection.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 26 January 2012 07:05:02AM 4 points [-]

how do you know this isnt happening in hard sciences?

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 26 January 2012 04:08:34PM *  16 points [-]

They produce results that work, even for people that don't want to believe them. At least, in most parts of the hard sciences - I don't know about the depths of string theory or cosmology.

Comment author: AlexSchell 26 January 2012 05:40:06AM 3 points [-]

Which soft sciences do you have in mind? (I'd say "name three" but that would come off as confrontational.)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 January 2012 05:50:28AM 13 points [-]

For example: economics, psychology, sociology, possibly even medicine (see Hason's discussion of it).

Comment author: AlexSchell 26 January 2012 09:10:29PM *  25 points [-]

On any reasonable operational definition of "less entangled with reality than most religions", you are ridiculously wrong in claiming that medicine fits the description, and I think Hanson might agree. (I'm less certain about this with regard to certain subfields like stroke rehabilitation, certain sub-subfields in nutrition, etc., but I'm talking about the weighted accuracy of the sorts of activities that Western MDs perform, that are taught in Western medical schools, etc.)

EDIT: Full disclosure: I'm a pharmacy student, so it would be moderately devastating to my sense of worth if you were right. Still.

Comment author: Konkvistador 31 January 2012 11:08:10AM 16 points [-]

Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species — if separate species we be — for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.

-- H.P. Lovecraft

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 26 January 2012 03:25:25AM *  64 points [-]

Note that there is a subtler mechanism than brute suppression that puts strict limits on our effective thoughtspace: the culture systematically distracts us from thinking about the deep, important questions by loudly and constantly debating superficial ones. Here are some examples:

  • Should the US go to war in Iraq? vs. Should the US have an army?
  • Should we pay teachers more? vs. Should public education exist?
  • Should healthcare guaranteed by the federal government? vs Should the federal government be disbanded?
  • Should we bail out the banks? vs. Should we ban long term banking?
  • Should we allow same-sex marriage? vs. Should marriage have any legal relevance?

Notice how the sequence of psychological subterfuge works. First, the culture throws in front of you a gaudy, morally charged question. Then various pundits present their views, using all the manipulative tactics they have developed in a career of professional opinion-swaying. You look around yourself and find all the other primates engaged in a heated debate about the question. Being a social animal, you are inclined to imitate them: you are likely to develop your own position, argue about it publicly, take various stands, etc. Since we reason to argue, you will spend a lot of time thinking about this question. Now you are committed, firstly to your stand on the explicit question, but also to your implicit position that the question itself is well-formulated.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 25 January 2013 04:43:18PM *  6 points [-]

Everyone's favorite effigy Moldbug calls this "defining the null hypothesis."

fair disclosure: I don't think Moldbug is good for much more than clever turns of phrase.

Comment author: moridinamael 25 January 2012 06:06:42PM 13 points [-]

"Instead of creating utility, which is hard, we should all train ourselves to find utility in what we already have."

This is my fairly gross simplification of a lot of Eastern philosophy, and it is antithetical to the "Western memeplex" of achievement and progress.

However, relatively few practitioners of Eastern religions really seem to carry through the logical implications of a totally passive philosophy.

I admit the above imperative doesn't seem as horrifying as the ones listed in the OP, but if you really think through to what the consequences would be, I suspect it would be a future we would never choose.

Comment author: Incorrect 25 January 2012 07:06:04PM *  5 points [-]

Instead of creating utility, which is hard, we should all train ourselves to find utility in what we already have.

Should? Should for what purpose? Generating utility? If so, utility by what function?

Comment author: moridinamael 25 January 2012 07:20:22PM 7 points [-]

By a very confused utility function? By a utility function best described as Virtue Ethics with total passivity as the highest virtue?

I wasn't suggesting this was a good idea, I was just putting forward a meme which would be rejected by Less Wrong as "too dumb to talk about" which nonetheless would result in universal bliss if it were actually adopted.

Comment author: APMason 25 January 2012 06:11:28PM 4 points [-]

It's also a strange way to talk about utility - as if utility itself is what we want, rather than a measure of how much of what we want we've got.

Comment author: moridinamael 25 January 2012 06:24:54PM 17 points [-]

It seems to be the case that happiness is actually not caused by getting what you want, but rather by wanting what you get. It's been challenging for me to square this psychological fact with the notion of utility maximization.

Although, I think your point might have been that I could have phrased that sentence more clearly without referring to utility.

Comment author: APMason 25 January 2012 07:14:06PM 4 points [-]

Well, sure that may be true to the extent that you value happiness. What I was pointing out was that if you were completely miserable, saying "I should modify myself to prefer being miserable to being happy because then I'll get some of that sweet, sweet utility" is just wacky.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 25 January 2012 11:42:47PM *  3 points [-]

Eastern philosophy has a lot of emphasis on things that don't needlessly grind against other things. For example, Taoism shares many themes in common with mechanism design and institutional microeconomics generally. In some ways a frictionless mind frictionlessly engaging its environment might be described as "passive", but though the Buddha might've been "passive" in that sense he sure ended up doing a lot of stuff and arguing with a lot of people. Contrast with Nietzsche's mirror men.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 January 2012 08:27:30PM 12 points [-]

Here is a post by Quirinus_Quirrell that is a decent summary. If you want to be more provocative replace "non-zero" with "significant" add sexual orientation/gender identity to the list of characteristics that provide significant information.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 08:55:19PM 5 points [-]

Those topics aren't even that shocking.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 January 2012 12:38:45AM *  3 points [-]

They become more shocking when one presents arguments for them, and/or discusses their implications. But you seem to have already noticed this.

Comment author: Oligopsony 26 January 2012 05:10:21AM *  32 points [-]

Some possibilities on dorky LW topics (as opposed to the topics I assume Vladimir et al. are referring to):

Not only are anti-natalist arguments correct, they are correct in such a way that we should be attempting to maximize x-risks.

Wireheading is necessary and sufficient for the fulfillment of true human CEV; people only claim to care about other values for signalling purposes.

A very strong form of error theory is correct; what people actually care about is qualia, even though there is no such thing. It doesn't all add up to normality; just as bad metaphysics may lead people to think there's a relevant difference between praying to God and attempting to summon demons, bad metaphysics makes people think there's a relevant difference between donating a million dollars to Against Malaria Foundation and kidnapping and torturing a small child.

It would be very fun to have a thread where we attempted to come up with seductive, harmful ideas, and the chance of actually happening upon a very infectious and very harmful one would be very low.

Comment author: J_Taylor 26 January 2012 06:39:25AM *  23 points [-]

Wireheading is necessary and sufficient for the fulfillment of true human CEV; people only claim to care about other values for signalling purposes.

Alternative which I view as being more frightening:

For any given human, its CEV involves that human winning at zero-sum, possibly even negative-sum, games (status would be one of these). As such, the best way to maximize the current collection of humanity's CEV would be to create new agents to which current humans defeat in zero-sum games.

That is, for every current human, create a host of new agents (all of whom are quite human for all intents and purposes) of whom the current human is emperor.

Note: if this is the case, I doubt pseudo-agents will suffice. Just as humans do not wish to love pseudo-humans (that is, humans who cannot really love), humans do not wish to win zero-sum games against pseudo-humans (that is, humans who cannot really lose zero-sum games, with all that losing these games entails).

Comment author: pedanterrific 02 February 2012 06:13:10AM *  13 points [-]

So basically, what you're saying is that CEV might work out to everyone getting their own secret volcano lair filled with harems of catpersons? Now where have I heard this idea before...

Comment author: cousin_it 26 January 2012 12:45:27PM *  5 points [-]

CEV will probably have many contributions from people who don't want the AI to create almost-human slaves. Do you think such desires will lose out in reflective equiibrium?

Comment author: Steven_Bukal 26 January 2012 12:04:47PM 12 points [-]

As near as I can tell I'm -want/+like/-approve on both wireheading and emperor-like superiority.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 05 February 2012 04:33:10PM 18 points [-]

Some portrayals of heaven involve each person having dominion over a host of angels. One can only hope this allows for live action real-time strategy.

Comment author: CronoDAS 26 January 2012 07:58:17AM *  13 points [-]

I am willing to admit to having a desire to feel superior to other people.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 27 January 2012 12:44:04AM 4 points [-]

Same here, but I'm willing to settle for "equal"

Comment author: Will_Newsome 02 April 2012 11:35:15PM *  4 points [-]

bad metaphysics may lead people to think there's a relevant difference between praying to God and attempting to summon demons

What's wrong with the metaphysics? I figured that one of the most powerful magicks developed by the Christians is a system for addressing only the demons who are actually God (using relatively rigid designators like the Word, the Form of the Good, &c.). The biggest reason I'm suspicious of the other Indo-European religions is that they don't advertise that they've developed any such system.

Comment author: cousin_it 25 January 2012 07:43:57PM *  32 points [-]

We have tried to discuss topics like race and gender many times, and always failed. At some point I had this idea that maybe we could get better results if we sometimes enforced political conformity within comment threads :-) For example, if we had a thread of like-minded people discussing "how to make our country more vibrant and diverse" and a separate thread about "how to stop the corrupting influence of Negroes on the youth", I suspect that both threads would have a better signal-to-noise ratio and contain more interesting insights than a unified "let's all argue about racism" thread.

Of course this requires that people from thread A resist the temptation to drop in on thread B for target practice and vice versa. Some especially fervent people may feel threatened by the mere existence of thread A or thread B. (I have actually heard from some LWers that they'd consider it immoral to create such threads.)

Comment author: Humbug 26 January 2012 12:10:07PM *  8 points [-]

We have tried to discuss topics like race and gender many times, and always failed.

The overall level of rationality of a community should be measured by their ability to have a sane and productive debate on those topics, and on politics in general.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 January 2012 03:53:10PM 8 points [-]

Sure, agreed. But it doesn't follow that a community that desires to be rational should therefore engage in debates on those topics (and on politics in general) when it has low confidence that it can do so in a sane and productive way.

Comment author: Konkvistador 25 January 2012 08:11:27PM 10 points [-]

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

I haven't read any comments yet but why do I have a feeling this will be trigger a thread where lots of LWers come out of the closet? I feel left out, being pretty much flaming unPC I can't elicit any drama that way. :(

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 January 2012 12:16:23AM 8 points [-]

I'm very surprised at just how up voted the contrarian statements are in this thread, I must have significantly underestimated how popular certain opinions are among rationalists in private. I've read a few that have surprised and even disturbed me.

Yet I'm also just so excited about what I'll find here tomorrow morning. This thread might actually have been a good idea.

Comment author: Alejandro1 26 January 2012 03:56:01AM 38 points [-]

Bear in mind that some contrarian statements might have been upvoted for being valuable as examples and contributions to the thread, rather than for substantial agreement. Also there is a selection effect: a contrarian sharing an unpopular opinion is very likely to upvote it when seeing a kindred spirit, but a non-contrarian who doesn't share it is unlikely to downvote it (especially in a thread like this one where the point is to encourage contrarian opinions to come out).

Comment author: Polymeron 05 February 2012 06:43:09PM *  8 points [-]

I've up-voted several lists containing statements with which I disagree (some vehemently so), but which were thought provoking or otherwise helpful. So, even if this is just anecdotal evidence, the process you described seems to be happening.

Comment author: Armok_GoB 12 February 2012 03:03:40PM 6 points [-]

You're supposed to upvote posts if you want more posts like that. I want more posts in the reference class of "providing the kind of content the OP asks for".

Comment author: DanielLC 26 January 2012 03:10:35AM 27 points [-]

Zoophilia is perfectly fine.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 26 January 2012 03:30:38AM *  50 points [-]

The prevailing arguments against it are incoherent for non-vegans anyhow. Nonhuman animals can't consent? How can it possibly make sense to claim the relevance of consent for (non-painful) sexual activity for a class of animals which can be legally killed more or less on demand for its meat or skin, or if it becomes inconvenient to keep? The consent argument is bogus; the popular moral beliefs against zoophilia are actually not based on a legalistic rights framework, but on a purity/corruption/ickiness framework.

Comment author: erratio 26 January 2012 02:53:59PM *  9 points [-]

I've tried that exact argument in the past with non-LW-inclined friends. From what I remember the main reactions were either (paraphrased) "I'm too squicked out to engage with your argument" or "you're probably right but it's still gross".

EDIT: there was context involved. Damned if I remember what it was but even with my closest friends I wouldn't defend zoophilia just for fun.

Comment author: APMason 26 January 2012 05:32:18PM 11 points [-]

I tried it once on a different forum. I was immediately called a troll and run out of town.

...Which is sort of fair enough.

Comment author: J_Taylor 25 January 2012 10:42:54PM 27 points [-]

I really hope no outside observers see this thread.

Comment author: oliverbeatson 30 January 2012 12:04:01AM 28 points [-]

It strikes me that searching the internet for this phrase, and meaningfully equivalent variants, would be a really interesting experience.

Comment author: Polymeron 05 February 2012 06:21:41PM 6 points [-]

I came to this thread by way of someone discussing a specific comment in an outside forum.

Comment author: ErikM 26 January 2012 03:56:17PM 41 points [-]

Colonialism was a good system with significant beneficial impact for colonized countries, which are now failing mostly due to native incompetence rather than colonial trauma. It would be a win-win position to reinstitute it competently.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 January 2012 04:50:43PM 11 points [-]

110% agreed. Hell, I often argue that in real life; there's no stigma attached to colonialism in Russia these days, probably in part because any serious attack on it sounds too much like a tired Soviet cliche.

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 January 2012 09:46:30PM *  23 points [-]

I must admit as much as I disagree with some components of the cultural and ideological influence of the British Empire, it is hard to argue with its results. The British Empire seems to have generally produced superior outcomes in terms of quality of life for inhabitants and general development than nearly any other government be it native or colonial. Considering the gains created by this I can't help but wonder if Cecile Rhodes had a point when he said:

If there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible...

Indeed if I found myself magically transported to 19th century Europe with considerable wealth and influence I may yet decide that there is no nobler and benevolent enterprise than to support the expansion and growth of the British Empire. In this light the success of the American revolution may actually plausibly be one of the great tragedies of human history.

Now that I've dumped all these warm fuzzies we may as well enjoy a happy death spiral around it.

Rule, Britannia!

Comment author: Prismattic 27 January 2012 04:36:41AM 9 points [-]

While one can applaud the cultural influence of the British empire on its colonial holdings, allow me to disagree with "it is hard to argue with its results".

Timeline of major famines in India during British rule

Note that Britain was forcibly exporting Indian grain for its own benefit during some of these famines.

Comment author: J_Taylor 27 January 2012 04:57:35AM 4 points [-]

Do we, by any chance, have a timeline of major famines in India during non-British rule?

Comment author: Konkvistador 27 January 2012 07:23:30AM *  10 points [-]

Note that Britain was forcibly exporting Indian grain for its own benefit during some of these famines.

I fail to see why this is somehow horrible or surprising by historical standards. I can hardly think of an empire that would do otherwise. One might quickly argue that native government unlike an empire would have not done this, but seriously, does anyone expect economic growth and development of infrastructure to have grown at a comparable rate? Even rapid population growth that was sometimes the cause of such famines, is in itself an indicator that deaths from disease and violence have likley fallen.

Big sad events like famines grab more attention than say a faster than otherwise increases in GDP growth by 2% or 1% or 0.5%. But the latter sort amounts to far more over the years. Inclusion in the British Empire in itself lifted millions worldwide from the Malthusian margin.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 January 2012 04:10:18PM 4 points [-]

The salt tax (imposed by Britain, eliminated with independence) contributed to the death rate.

This being said, I agree that ex-British colonies have generally done better than places that were colonized by other countries.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 February 2012 05:53:06PM 9 points [-]

All the places Britain has owned, even briefly. I may have been suffering from availability bias. The US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and India are doing better than a lot of other places, but what about Afghanistan? Nigeria? Syria?

The British may have had more successful ex-colonies than other empires, but this doesn't mean all, or even a majority of their ex-colonies were successful.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 12 February 2012 10:09:29PM 3 points [-]

Not to mention Zimbabwe.

Comment author: Mercy 31 January 2012 05:27:57PM 7 points [-]

They are better, did they do better? You need to control for the empire's choice of targets! India accounted for a quarter of world GDP at the time of conquest- by independence it was barely one percent.

Comment author: Anubhav 03 February 2012 09:36:44AM 16 points [-]

India accounted for a quarter of world GDP at the time of conquest- by independence it was barely one percent.

Yes, missing out on the industrial revolution does that to you.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2012 12:12:52PM *  19 points [-]

I don't think these are quite in the original spirit of the thread but seem related to several of the discussions that developed. I would like to have discussions about all of these points merely in the hope that I can be convinced to update away from them.

Things I REALLY hope aren't true and suspect might be. Honestly don't read this if you're already depressed right now.

  • Human beings WANT maximally brutal leaders up to the limit of being able to plausibly signal that they don't want maximally brutal leaders.

  • People can be tortured to create a lower set point on the hedonic treadmill. This allows for far more overall utility.

  • Male/female sexual relationships are fundamentally adversarial due to the differences in dominant mating strategies.

  • There is a large class of violent people for whom no current treatment is available who simply need to be put down.

  • Humans don't care about torture.

  • We could create a virtual utopia fairly trivially by investing in lucid dream research but nobody actually cares because:

  • Anyone with the ability to make the world better almost by definition has a vested stake in the current fucked up one.

P.S. throium reactors. God damn it humans.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 January 2012 01:59:12PM 8 points [-]

There is a large class of violent people for whom no current treatment is available who simply need to be put down.

How large? Executing / permanently imprisoning serial killers e.g. is fairly mainstream, though certainly controversial.

Humans don't care about torture.

What makes you suspect something like that? Pretty much any tribe gets pissed off when <out-group> starts torturing members of <in-group>. Maybe you mean torture as established part of the justice system, as was common throughout much of history? Even then I'd suspect there are plenty of people who have no problem as long as it only affects <out-group> or <criminal>.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2012 02:54:31PM 4 points [-]

I'm talking about putting certain people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder down before they do anything.

Our medical/legal establishment routinely tortures people so that everyone else can feel slightly better about certain aspects of mortality.

Comment author: Bugmaster 30 January 2012 12:18:54AM 4 points [-]

Male/female sexual relationships are fundamentally adversarial due to the differences in dominant mating strategies.

AFAIK there's a sizable portion of feminists who believe this statement (or at least the first half of it) is true, and thus the statement is not as terribly controversial as your other ones.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 30 January 2012 02:21:37AM 6 points [-]

when i say fundamental I include CEV.

Comment author: scientism 25 January 2012 07:28:38PM *  29 points [-]

I can think of a couple of possibilities that are difficult to discuss (although perhaps not here):

  • Multiparty electoral democracy has no real utility, confers no legitimacy and doesn't satisfy any primal urge for freedom laying dormant in non-Western peoples. "Democracy" as a concept is mainly used in international politics as a weapon to suppress other political systems through sanctions and military action. When a country becomes "democratic" by holding elections, it's really just signalling its compliance with the West. The current period of liberal democratic triumphalism has created an intellectual Dark Ages of political thought. There are many valid forms of governance that don't involved voting. Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

  • "Free speech" is a luxury of hegemonic powers. Countries that are trying to self-determine their own political development necessarily have to suppress ideas that are backed up by the military and economic might of Western hegemony. Since multiparty elections don't express the innate yearning of every human for freedom but rather compliance with Western power, whenever you see somebody in another culture expressing a desire for elections and other Western political "rights", you should be extremely wary of their motives. They're really signalling their willingness to sell out their own culture for power. They're probably every bit as treacherous as the "authoritarian regime" in that country claims them to be. If you truly believe in the right to self-determination, you should support crackdowns on certain dissidents, since the marketplace for ideas has such a strong bias in favour of the current hegemonic power.

Comment author: lessdazed 26 January 2012 01:39:01AM 11 points [-]

Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

I think the most important feature of government is that it handle regime changes well and indefinitely. Authoritarianism would have to be awfully good at development to make up for increased intermittent revolutions and civil wars. I leave it to Steve Jobs and his ilk to handle development.

Comment author: thomblake 25 January 2012 07:40:23PM 9 points [-]

Yeah, I don't see anything problematic about discussing these here, except that they're about politics.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 January 2012 07:08:28AM *  8 points [-]

Countries that are trying to self-determine their own political development necessarily have to suppress ideas that are backed up by the military and economic might of Western hegemony.

Who exactly, as in the class of persons doing it, is trying to self-determine what exactly?

They're really signalling their willingness to sell out their own culture for power.

What is "their own culture", who determines it and how does it figure in more or less reflection-heavy utility functions, especially given the heavy cost you approve of?

EDIT: I notice that you, as some of your comments would imply, you simply don't care about the lives and happiness of people who don't have long-term goals ("Life's Great Adventure"... bah). In this case we might just be having a genuine clash of values and can't convince each other about any moral judgment here.

If you truly believe in the right to self-determination

I don't, because I'm more or less imperialist, and neo-colonialist too. I still identify as a socialist and to a lesser extent as a liberal.

Comment author: Konkvistador 25 January 2012 08:33:51PM *  23 points [-]

Multiparty electoral democracy has no real utility, confers no legitimacy and doesn't satisfy any primal urge for freedom laying dormant in non-Western peoples. "Democracy" as a concept is mainly used in international politics as a weapon to suppress other political systems through sanctions and military action. When a country becomes "democratic" by holding elections, it's really just signalling its compliance with the West. The current period of liberal democratic triumphalism has created an intellectual Dark Ages of political thought. There are many valid forms of governance that don't involved voting. Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

Holy Moldbug I swear I get giddy at the very idea of a critical rationalist discussion about democracy on LessWrong! Please someone who has done some heavy lifting on the subject make a post about it!

Comment author: TimS 25 January 2012 08:45:56PM 11 points [-]

From the contrary position, I totally agree that this would be an interesting discussion.

Comment author: JenniferRM 26 January 2012 01:43:44AM 6 points [-]

I don't think this is likely to have good consequence if it happens in a public forum. However, if a private mailing list for this was being organized, I'd be interested in participating.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 26 January 2012 03:26:37AM 7 points [-]

Moreover, so-called "authoritarianism" has a proven track record for development.

Be careful with that around political scientists. I get the impression that some of them define democracy as everything that is good in the world. If you find something else good, they'll just redefine democracy to include it.

Comment author: GLaDOS 25 January 2012 07:44:03PM *  64 points [-]

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

Watson was right about Africa. Larry Summers was right about women in certain professions. Roissy is right about the state of the sexual marketplace.

Democracy isn't that great. A ghetto/barrio/alternative name for low-class-hell-hole isn't a physical location, its people. Richer people are on average smarter, nicer, prettier than poor people. The more you strive to equalize material opportunities the more meritocracy produces a caste system based on inborn ability. Ideologies actually are as crazy as religions on average. There is no such thing as moral progress and if there is there is no reason to expect we have been experiencing it so far in recorded history, unless you count stuff like more adapted cultures displacing less adapted ones or mammals inheriting the planet from dinosaurs as moral progress. You can't be anything you want, your potential is severely limited at birth. University education creates very little added value. High class people unknowingly wage class war against low class people by promoting liberal social norms that they can handle but induce dysfunction in the lower classes (drug abuse, high divorce rates, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, more violence, ... ). Too much ethnic diversity kills liberal social democracy. Improving the social status of the average woman vis a vis with the average man makes the average man less attractive. Inbreeding/Out-breeding norms (and obviously other social norms and practices too) have over the centuries differentiated not only IQs between Eurasian populations they have also affected the frequency and type of altruism genes present in different populations (visit hbd* chick for details ^_^ ).

Have a nice day! ~_^

Comment author: Jack 26 January 2012 01:28:38AM *  7 points [-]

There is no such thing as moral progress and if there is there is no reason to expect we have been experiencing it so far in recorded history, unless you count stuff like more adapted cultures displacing less adapted ones or mammals inheriting the planet from dinosaurs as moral progress.

Does this really belong or am I just lacking the requisite emotional abhorrence regarding its obvious truth?

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 January 2012 07:33:05AM *  14 points [-]

In practice LessWrongers invoke directly or implicitly moral progress all the time. Like this.

They also sometimes invoke "well people changed their opinions in the past on case A, B and C, surely we will change our minds on D too!". Taking the idea of moral progress seriously, its perfectly fine to say that no thank you but you'd prefer not to change your vales to pattern match arbitrary historical processes (and further more a potentially flawed pattern match of historical processes!), so you are not changing your opinion on D.

This is even true for people who happen to disagree with modern stances on A, B or C. Preserving one's values is most likley a prerequisite for maximising expected utility. In this sense all of human history has been a horrible tragedy with the vast majority of people (including people alive today), being born in a uncaring universe with a practical guarantee of an alien valueless future.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 January 2012 08:56:25AM *  4 points [-]

In this sense all of human history has been a horrible tragedy with the vast majority of people (including people alive today), being born in a uncaring universe with a practical guarantee of an alien valueless future.

I agree, but (sheer projection follows) I don't think that our minds can handle that thought in sufficient detail at all without just deciding to give up and play a videogame instead. I.e. such statements might indeed be unproductive and self-destructive for anyone, in any context (although I'm not sure how unproductive or self-destructive).

Comment author: Prismattic 26 January 2012 01:14:26AM 10 points [-]

Too much ethnic diversity kills liberal social democracy.

This one really doesn't belong on the list. The political science research showing a negative correlation between support for the welfare state and ethnic diversity is widely known and not-at-all secret.

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 January 2012 07:39:41AM *  12 points [-]

This one really doesn't belong on the list.

It probably should have been given as something like "Diversity is not strength." to make apparent its political implications as well as cover other cases.

Comment author: Konkvistador 27 January 2012 11:21:09PM 13 points [-]

High class people unknowingly wage class war against low class people by promoting liberal social norms that they can handle but induce dysfunction in the lower classes (drug abuse, high divorce rates, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, more violence, ... ).

Roissy recently quoted and linked to a disturbing parable on this:

The Parable Of The Smart Birds

Once there were 3 classes of birds of a feather: Dumb birds, Smart birds and Genius birds. There was also a genius bird of a different feather hanging around. All summer the genius bird of a different feather went around to the smart birds of a feather telling them how ridiculous it was to fly south for the winter — that these atavistic instincts were a terrible legacy from “the bad old days” and gave very sophisticated-sounding arguments that the smart birds of a feather couldn’t quite understand but understood quite well that they’d better pretend to understand lest they be accused of being dumb birds.

Fall cometh. The dumb birds fly south to the derision of the smart birds. The genius birds of a feather think, “I’ve heard the arguments about flying south for the winter being only for dumb birds, but where really do these feelings come from? Could they have survival value? Could the genius bird of a different feather have a conflict of interest?” Even before thinking the answers through, the mere doubts raised were sufficient to motivate flying south. The smart birds of a feather, hearing these doubts raised by the genius birds of a feather proceeded to attack them as “dumb birds”. They felt superior to the genius birds of a feather. Some genius birds of a feather were even injured enough to stop them from being able to fly south.

Winter hits. The smart birds of a feather die. The injured genius birds of a feather die. The genius birds of a different feather turn out to have an adaptation to cold weather. Spring comes. An evolutionary dynamic reveals itself…

Comment author: Multiheaded 28 January 2012 01:39:28AM *  5 points [-]

Aren't the hypothesis above (could OP please elaborate on which social norms do they perceive as damaging in this way? it's too damn vague) and the parable opposed on who gets hurt and how? It's the lower classes that prove immune to direct destructive propaganda in the parable.

Comment author: Konkvistador 28 January 2012 08:34:47AM *  8 points [-]

It's the lower classes that prove immune to direct destructive propaganda in the parable.

You are right, it is a somewhat different example. I considered it a case of genius birds using their smarts to eliminate competition of smart birds, while not realizing they do so.

But even in the original context the High classes aren't really competing with the underclass for anything like a socioeconomic niche, it is the people who need cultural adaptations or rely on more vunrelable support structures (because of their more modest material means), to make it to the upper class that need to be kept out. By attacking their cultural adaptations and support structures you can significantly reduce competition. Attacking the cultural adaptations of the lower classes might make them more useful tools for maintaining anarchy-tyranny but isn't directly beneficial.

I didn't interpret the parable as being literally about the evolution of the biology of various classes, I did however see it as being about the evolution of cultural norms and intellectual fashion.

Comment author: lessdazed 27 January 2012 01:45:05AM 6 points [-]

I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

Quantity of experience: brain-duplication and degrees of consciousness

Think about it.

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 January 2012 04:18:07PM 29 points [-]

Dear people who post things like "Incest is neat" and "Whites are smarter than blacks": those things are currently controversial. Therefore, they don't come close to being unthinkable or impossible to talk about.

Nitpick: men dominating women and fathers (not mothers) deciding infanticide are not features of the ancestral environment, they come from the invention of agriculture, moving out of the ancestral environment.

Now, "agriculture was a mistake, let's go back to hunting, gathering, and killing babies born during famines", that's more of a sacred cow^W wild aurochs.

Other not-easily-thinkable positions (I don't believe any of these, but believe they're not utterly ridiculous):

  • Radfems are righter than they know; it is unethical to do anything to anyone (such as looking at them or talking to them) without explicit consent.
  • Vertebrates are people. There should be systems to extract their preferences so they can vote and debate. Letting your goldfish die is murder.
  • The above also applies to the overwhelming majority of animals, and maybe some plants, fungi, and other living or not things (e.g. cancer is a person). Stepping on a anthill is mass slaughter. (I used to believe a version of this as a kid.)
  • It's impossible to predictably improve any complex system, let alone a whole country. Anyone pushing for a policy is flailing wildly in the dark. Successes like Atatürk were the product of blind luck and historians with a bad case of narrative fallacy.
  • Personal identity changing over time counts as death. It's better to kill people, so they die once, than allow them to live, so they die creating another doomed person.
  • "<foobar> is ruining our intelligence!" claims are all true. If we'd shunned writing, progress would have been slower and bad at trickling down but ultimately much greater.
Comment author: ErikM 26 January 2012 04:56:44PM *  16 points [-]

Dear people who post things like "Incest is neat" and "Whites are smarter than blacks": those things are currently controversial. Therefore, they don't come close to being unthinkable or impossible to talk about.

ADBOC and that's somewhat beside the point, because it seems to me that things are necessarily somewhat controversial to be taboo. As Paul Graham said:

No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. [...] If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking.

Now, James Watson and Stephanie Grace might want a word with you. (Larry Summers could file an amicus brief.) Chanting "Racist, racist, cow porn, racist, racist, cow porn" seems to fairly closely match Multiheaded's description that "society would instantly slam the lid on it with either moral panic or ridicule and give the speaker a black mark" for at least some parts of society. This is moral panic and ridicule despite the speaker barely tiptoeing near controversy and hedging everywhere with statements such as:

This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic

I also don't think that there are no cultural differences

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility

I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables

I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 January 2012 05:32:19PM 8 points [-]

Whether I like it or not, people tend to overfit the curves associated with past trauma to available data.
If I want to avoid being pattern-matched to someone's trauma, I have to take extreme measures.
Hedge phrases pretty reliably don't cut it... they're like making incremental improvements to my bird-feeder to keep squirrels away: I just end up training the squirrels.

Comment author: knb 26 January 2012 12:51:15AM *  53 points [-]

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

  • Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.
  • A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".
  • Atheists assume that self-identified atheists are representative of non-religious people and use flattering data about self-identified atheists to draw (likely) false conclusions about the world being better without religion. The expected value of arguing for atheism is small and quite possibly negative.
  • Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.
  • Nerd culture is increasingly hyper-permissive and basically juvenile and stultifying. Nerds were better off when they had to struggle to meet society's expectations for normal behavior.

I would also like to endorse GLaDOS's excellent list.

Comment author: Manfred 03 February 2012 08:39:08AM 11 points [-]

Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.

Pff, this one is so normal it has an obligatory link :D

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 04 February 2012 01:43:34AM 4 points [-]

Another relevant link.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 January 2012 01:18:18AM 26 points [-]
  • Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. Because these institutions aren't actually arbitrary, their tinkering is generally harmful and sometimes causes social dysfunction, suffering, and death on a massive scale. Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard, and that is a serious indictment of "rationality" as practiced by LessWrongers.
  • A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".

Agreed except for the part about Less Wrong is unusually bad in this regard. I think it's actually doing better then most gatherings of smart people attempting to reorganize society. Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

  • Atheists assume that self-identified atheists are representative of non-religious people and use flattering data about self-identified atheists to draw (likely) false conclusions about the world being better without religion. The expected value of arguing for atheism is small and quite possibly negative.

Agreed.

  • Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.

You've never lived under a dictatorship have you? I strongly disagree with the above statement and think it's another good example of your first point.

  • Nerd culture is increasingly hyper-permissive and basically juvenile and stultifying. Nerds were better off when they had to struggle to meet society's expectations for normal behavior.

True, however, the previous culture was hyper-conformist, since it was 'designed' to create people intelligent enough to operate machinery but conformist enough to work in an assembly line.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 26 January 2012 03:20:15AM *  13 points [-]

Ceteris paribus dictatorships work better than democracies.

You've never lived under a dictatorship have you? I strongly disagree with the above statement and think it's another good example of your first point.

AFAIK dictatorships are higher variance than democracies, but on average they aren't too differerent (in terms of GDP at least). Most intuitive explanation: a good dictator can do really good things and a bad dictator can do really bad things, but good and bad democracies aren't able to do as much good/bad because the political system moves like molasses.

Comment author: Mercy 31 January 2012 05:41:23PM 5 points [-]

This is the common wisdom at the moment but it's far too short-termist. All theories are provisional and eventually your enlightened dictator will find themselves on the wrong side of history and need to be removed. Of course you can build a democracy which can't do that and a dictatorship which can but I suspect the "moves like molasses" aspect moves with this quality and not the voting ritual.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 09 February 2012 10:55:27AM 7 points [-]

I think it's actually doing better then most gatherings of smart people attempting to reorganize society.

Bear in mind that LessWrong has not actually reorganised society yet.

Comment author: steven0461 26 January 2012 02:41:55AM 19 points [-]

Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

What makes you say that? Reading "lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago" makes me think RAND Corporation.

Comment author: gwern 31 January 2012 11:38:37PM 14 points [-]

As someone who has read many RAND papers and their retrospectives about the people in RAND 50 years ago, I strongly agree - if nothing else, because of RAND's early computer work like constructing MANIAC and developing decision and game theory.

Comment author: tkadlubo 26 January 2012 07:07:40AM 10 points [-]

Keep in mind lesswrong's equivalent 50 years ago would have been advocating Marxism.

60's LessWrong would be Ayn Rand's Objectivism rather than some yet another interpretation of Marxism.

Comment author: paper-machine 26 January 2012 07:28:07AM 14 points [-]

It might be the error where "X years ago" counts back from 2000 instead of the current year.

Comment author: Jack 30 January 2012 12:40:19AM *  10 points [-]

A lot of us pro-market liberaltarian types would have been Marxists before the last 50 years of overwhelming evidence in favor of capitalism came in...

Comment author: Mercy 31 January 2012 05:37:21PM 13 points [-]

I often get the impression, from young american consequentialist libertarians, that they would be socialists in any other country. Certainly they don't resemble right-libertarians elsewhere, or older american libertarians. And conversely your socialist organisations are missing their usual complement of precocious hippy cynics

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 13 May 2012 03:08:45AM 8 points [-]

Can you unpack these intuitions? As a young American consequentialist vacillating between socialism and libertarianism, I'm very curious.

Comment author: knb 26 January 2012 09:50:49AM 6 points [-]

You've never lived under a dictatorship have you? I strongly disagree with the above statement and think it's another good example of your first point.

The Ceteris Paribus is important. The fact that you can think of a lot of democracies that are nice places to live and dictatorships that are lousy isn't good evidence that democracy is beneficial in itself. I view democracy as an extremely expensive concession to primitive equality norms that primitive agriculturalists can't afford. But it isn't a luxury worth buying.

Comment author: NihilCredo 26 January 2012 02:53:35PM 25 points [-]

How many cetera can you require to be paria before you're creating an implicit No True Scotsman?

It's quite possible, and indeed I find the idea highly persuasive, that while dictatorships may not necessarily cause all sorts of unpleasant things (oppression, civil war, corruption, etc.), they do make those unpleasant things much more likely due to more hidden structural flaws (e.g. lack of an outlet for dissatisfaction).

That proposition sounds to me a bit like saying "ceteris paribus, driving at 230km/h will get you to your destination much faster".

Comment author: patrissimo 10 February 2014 06:07:03PM 4 points [-]

As a former Evangelical Polyamorist, now a born-again Monogamist, I enthusiastically endorse items 1 & 2 in this comment.

It can be thought of as the cultural equivalent of Algernon's Law - any small cultural change is a net evolutionary disadvantage. I might add "previously accessible to our ancestors", since the same principle doesn't apply to newly accessible changes, which weren't previously available for cultural optimism. This applies to organizing via websites. It does not apply to polyamory (except inasmuch as birth control, std prevention, and paternity testings may have affected the relevant tradeoffs, though limited to the degree that our reactions are hardwired and relevant).

Comment author: ErikM 26 January 2012 11:46:35AM *  10 points [-]

Smart people often think social institutions are basically arbitrary and that they can engineer better ways using their mighty brains. [...]

While I agree, I disapprove because my impression is that this is not an opinion suppressed much in the outside culture. I can well imagine it being an unpopular one here at Less Wrong, but in the world at large I see widespread support for similar opinions, such as among "conservatives" (in a loose sense) complaining about how "intellectuals" (ditto) were and are overly supportive of Communism, and complaints against "technocrats" and "ivory towers" in general. I also see disagreement with this, but not tabooing of it.

My agreement is based on the opinion appearing to be congruent with the quip "Evolution is smarter than you are", or the similar principle of "Chesterton's Fence".

I also get the impression that this is often because smart people don't see the value of the institutions to smart people. (This may be because it doesn't have such value.) For instance:

A case of this especially relevant to Less Wrong is "Evangelical Polyamory".

I'm fairly confident LessWrongers could engage in polyamory this without significant social dysfunction or suffering, let alone death on a massive scale. (BTW: I couldn't find any articles here by that title. Are you referring to a general tendency, or did I fail at searching?)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 January 2012 04:00:03PM 11 points [-]

Using Chesterton's Fence here is a little misleading.

The whole rationale behind Chesterton's Fence is that clearly someone put the fence there, and it seems pretty likely that whoever that was was just as capable as I am of concluding (given what I know) that putting a fence here is absurd, and it seems pretty likely that they know everything I know, and therefore I can conclude with reasonable confidence that they knew relevant things I don't know that made them conclude that putting a fence here is worth doing, and therefore I should significantly reduce my confidence that putting a fence here is absurd.

Using the same rationale for natural phenomena doesn't really work... there's a reason it isn;t Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

You can, of course, put natural selection in the role of fence-builder, which seems to be what you're doing. But actually there's lots of areas where humans are smarter than evolution. At the very least, humans respond to novel situations a whole lot faster.

Comment author: Nornagest 26 January 2012 10:24:09PM *  16 points [-]

I'd actually extend that from natural phenomena to any sufficiently complex system. I spend a lot of my time working with a codebase that dates back to about 1993 and has been accumulating tweaks and refactors ever since; there's enough obscure side-effects that it's often a good idea to make a good-faith search for unusual consequences of seemingly vestigial code, but more often than not I don't turn up anything. I can be fairly confident that any particular code segment was originally put in place for a reason, if not necessarily a very good reason, but if I understand the rest of the local architecture well and I can't figure out why something's there, it's more than likely that all the original reasons for it have succumbed to bit rot.

Societies are one of the better examples of Katamari Damacy architecture that I can think of outside computer science, so it seems to me that a similar approach might be warranted. Which isn't to say that you can get away with not doing your homework, nor that most aspiring social architects have done so to any reasonable standard.

Comment author: Konkvistador 27 January 2012 03:30:05PM *  11 points [-]

Using the same rationale for natural phenomena doesn't really work... there's a reason it isn;t Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

Isn't this one of the arguments sometimes invoked in favour of environmentalism?

Hm, this sucks, a bunch of birds are eating part of our harvest each year. Lets get rid of them!. Changing some things in your natural envrionment that you aren't quite sure of what they do or why they are there, might be a very bad idea.

Also it as argument that can be used in medicine. It can be a bad idea to take something to artificiality reduce your fever for example. Changing some things in your own body that you aren't quite sure of what they do or why they are there, is probably a very bad idea.

I would say that for societal adaptations that have come into being without design the case is stronger than with the natural environment but weaker than with your own body. Maybe there should be a thing like Chesterton's Fallen Tree.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 January 2012 04:01:58PM 16 points [-]

Sure, changing some things in my natural environment might be a very bad idea.
Failing to change some things in my natural environment might be a very bad idea too.

And, yes, human history is a long series of decisions along these lines: do we build habitations, or keep living in caves? Do we build roads, cities, power grids, airplanes, trains? Do we mine the earth for fuel, for building materials, for useful chemicals? Do we burn fuel on a large scale? Do we develop medicines and tools that interfere with the natural course of biological development when that course is uncomfortable? Etc. Etc. Etc.

Mostly, humanity's answer is "Yes." If we can do it, we typically do, just 'cuz.

Have we thereby caused bad consequences? Sure.

Have we thereby caused net bad consequences? Well, I suppose that depends on what you value, and on what you consider the likeliest counterfactual states, but if you think we have I'd love to hear your reasons.

Me, I think we're unambiguously better off for having chopped Chesterton's Fallen Tree into firewood and burned it to keep warm through Chesterton's Deadly Winter. And in practice, when I see a fallen tree in my yard, I don't devote a noticeable amount of time to evaluating the possible important-but-nonobvious benefits it is providing by lying there before I deal with it.

Comment author: ErikM 26 January 2012 04:26:45PM 4 points [-]

I am surprised and confused. I would have thought that the analogy to evolution would be the one objected to first, as I think of social institutions first as things instituted by someone and second as things subject to vaguely evolution-like processes. (They are modified over time, imperfectly replicated across countries, and a lot more fail than survive.)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 January 2012 04:35:00PM 4 points [-]

Interesting. I haven't given this a lot of thought, but my intuition is the opposite of yours... I think of most social constructs as evolved over time rather than intentionally constructed for a purpose.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 January 2012 11:06:52PM 10 points [-]

Gall's law:

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.

Comment author: p4wnc6 15 May 2012 11:22:12PM 5 points [-]

This might lead us to contemplate the most terrifying and unthinkable proposition yet, not named anywhere else on this thread -- that, perhaps, Stephen Wolfram was right!

Comment author: mwengler 26 January 2012 04:04:00PM 5 points [-]

It seems dictatorships work better (actually I can't think of an example off hand) AND wildly worse. Dictatorships compared to republic is like male compared to female: the main difference is just a much wider spread. So you wind up rolling a much bigger set of dice with dictatorships and then survivorship bias and human bias towards picking off the high spots makes the result look good.

Further, would a dicatatorship work well for long in the absence of republics from which it could steal ideas? I don't think there is a dicatatorship with a good record of innovation and technological development. (Hitler's Germany SPENT technical capital it had accumulated before, Hitler didn't last long enough to see if Germany would have been the exception).

North Korea, ceteris paribus, does not seem to have been helped by dictatorship.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 09:11:20PM *  43 points [-]

Here's some nice controversial things for you:

  • Given functional birth control and non-fucked family structure, incest is fine and natural and probably a good experience to have.

  • Pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation, even if it expressing it IRL is bad (which it is not). Child porn should not be suppressed (tho some of it is documentation of crime and should be investigated).

  • Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

  • Child sexual consent hits the same issues as child acting or any other thing that parents can allow, and should not be treated differently from those issues.

  • Self identity is a problem.

  • EDIT: most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps.

Less controversial in LW, but still bad to say outside:

  • Race, class and subculture are the most useful pieces of information when judging a person.

I run out of ideas.

EDIT: in case it's not clear, I take all these ideas seriously. I would actually appreciate a discussion on these topics with LW.

EDIT: this was productive! I've seriously updated one way or the other on many of these ideas. Thanks for pointing out truths and holes everyone! :)

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 January 2012 02:25:23PM 19 points [-]

Child sexual consent hits the same issues as child acting or any other thing that parents can allow

(Warning: Judging moral claims with System-1 is unreliable.) Thinking that as a kid I could have been allowed to have sex, have had people annoying me with undesired propositions (even after they knew my age), and have had people trying to manipulate me into sex, makes me at most kind of uneasy. Thinking that my parents could have had any kind of say over it gave me a panic attack.

Comment author: ScottMessick 26 January 2012 10:48:10PM 10 points [-]

Wow, when I read "should not be treated differently from those issues", I assumed the intention was likely to be "child acting, indoctrination, etc., should be considered abuse and not tolerated by society", a position I would tentatively support (tentatively due to lack of expertise).

Incidentally, I found many of the other claims to be at least plausible and discussion-worthy, if not probably true (and certainly not things that people should be afraid to say).

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2012 07:04:46PM 3 points [-]

Is that partially from cultural assumptions about children having sex?

What reaction to you get to child acting, religious indoctrination, and such?

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 January 2012 07:50:34PM 17 points [-]

Nah, don't think so. Identifiable sources:

  • How I remember feeling about sex as a kid ("A thing that some strange adults do for some reason, like partying all night long or cheering for football players. Irrelevant until further notice. What's for dinner?")
  • How I remember feeling about people who propositioned me online because I had a female username and they didn't know my age (mildly annoyed at the waste of time, mildly icked at those whose propositions were particularly direct, mildly exasperated at the number of people who looked for cybersex in unrelated chatrooms)
  • How I remember feeling and now feel about attempts to manipulate me into saying sexual things (confused and slightly icked by those I can't detect, amused and condescending and mildly exasperated by those I can)
  • How I feel about my parents controlling what I do (bad)

Child acting: * "You could have been a child actor": Yeah, sure. I didn't want to, but the idea is kinda neat. Actors are cool. * "You could have been pressured by directors into acting when you were a kid": Not cool! Pressure is bad! Pressuring people into jobs is evil and bad and greedy! I would have felt very bad, so I'm glad that didn't happen. * "You could have wanted to be a child actor, and your parents could have prevented you": It's bad and sad to clip the wings off angels. It looks like a mistake decent but overprotective people would make, not evil people who wanted me to suffer, though. * "Your parents could have forced you to act as a child": What horrible evil people. Why are kids not protected against that?

Religious indoctrination: I don't seem to have a strong emotional reaction. Child preachers and the like are sad. Parents who are forbidden to give religious education to their children are also sad.

I don't necessarily endorse any of these reactions.

Comment author: Konkvistador 25 January 2012 09:57:05PM *  39 points [-]

most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps.

I think It would be technically illegal for me to participate or update away from my default position in such a hypothetical debate.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 26 January 2012 04:52:45PM *  11 points [-]

As long as you hold onto the basic idea that extermination was the goal, and they were accidentally assisted by the destruction of infrastructure (which also was instrumental in preventing the rest of them from being killed), is that really downplaying the atrocities?

That said, I don't know if that claim is really true.

Comment author: TimS 26 January 2012 02:03:33PM 11 points [-]

I agree that this doesn't say good things about where you live.

Comment author: NihilCredo 26 January 2012 03:17:13PM *  10 points [-]

Assuming by highest likelihood that you're German, my reading of the relevant section of the criminal code suggest that it's OK for you to debate in Internet fora:

(3) Whosoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or downplays an act committed under the rule of National Socialism of the kind indicated insection 6 (1) of the Code of International Criminal Law, in a manner capable of disturbing the public peace shall be liable to imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine.

(4) Whosoever publicly or in a meeting disturbs the public peace in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims by approving of, glorifying, or justifying National Socialist rule of arbitrary force shall be liable to imprisonment of not more than three years or a fine.

Unless it can be argued that you'd be "disturbing the public peace". But as I understand it, in Germany (and France) it's legal to visit Stormfront, you just cannot promote it.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2012 11:25:02AM 12 points [-]

disturbing the peace is a catchall for "the authorities decided they don't like what you're doing" FYI. Long legal tradition and all that.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 26 January 2012 06:03:58PM 9 points [-]

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

"Life After Rape" is a good (aside from "there is no sex in rape" being false in an important sense) elaboration on (one construal of) this.

An analogous idea, that other people on this thread have come close to but not exactly said, is 'spreading the meme of democracy to non-democratic societies causes needless suffering by making people feel oppressed, when their extrapolated volition if you hadn't done so wouldn't have come to care in the same way.'

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 January 2012 05:16:17AM *  25 points [-]

most of the deaths in the holocaust were caused by the allies bombing railroads that supplied food to the camps

And the shortage of food in Germany, and everything else that provided a disincentive to feed the people that the party line proclaimed to be innnately hostile and seditious.

When you're literally last on the priority list (well, maybe above Soviet POVs in 1941), every economic difficulty will "cause" you to starve while you could've easily endured it in a society that had a more balanced if utterly cynical opinion of you.

(I find the other things you mentioned to be broadly correct, but not without caveats; moreover, if one goes about it naively without minding such caveats, one would likely do much greater harm to most involved than the current self-deception does.)

Comment author: Nornagest 26 January 2012 01:06:23AM 8 points [-]

Self identity is a problem.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean here by "self identity"? I originally parsed it as "membership in identity groups" per Keep Your Identity Small, but on rereading I notice that it might also make sense as something along the lines of "having ego boundaries".

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2012 02:24:22AM *  9 points [-]

I mean both, incidentally. Identity in the Paul Graham sense is the mindkiller.

In the ego sense, I mean that we should seek to cast off identification with our work, so that work becomes about the work not about signaling or growing your reputation. Also, this means not being constrained to try to defend your past actions. This is quite hard, but is made somewhat easier on the internet, especially in paces where anonymous posting is allowed. Being unattached like this also enables you to try new creative things with much lower social cost of failure. This is one of the big theories for why 4chan is so successful as a cultural center when compared with, say, facebook.

EDIT: I also hold that identity is probably a problem in the philosophical sense where you might be considering joining consciousness with someone (or many someones) else.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 09:59:43PM 4 points [-]

Hmmm, I begin to wonder if my assumptions about the typical person's attitude towards incest and pedophilia are based on some black magic a la: http://eugenicist.tumblr.com/post/11786816885/public-opinion-versus-public-opinion

Comment author: Prismattic 26 January 2012 02:49:52AM *  16 points [-]

. Given functional birth control and non-fucked family structure, incest is fine and natural and probably a good experience to have.

The "incest isn't wrong" position isn't novel. The "everyone would be better off if they did" is novel, and I confess I don't understand it at all. Not everyone is attracted to close family members.

. Pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation, even if it expressing it IRL is bad. Child porn should not be suppressed (tho some of it is documentation of crime and should be investigated).

I agree with the first half, but would have phrased the second half as "the ban on computer-generated child pornography should be reversed and indeed subsidized to crowd out pornography using real children".

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

Really? What about for people who don't have access to emergency birth control? Or who were unlucky enough to be raped by someone with an STD? Or who live in a society that murders women who get raped as adulterers?* Or just in a society that tends to divide women into "good girls" and "sluts"?* (Maybe you meant society's self-fulfilling prophecy in the latter two examples, but it's not the woman's self-fulfilling prophecy.)

*Yes, I know men get raped too. That's pretty clearly not the context when people bring this argument up, however.

Race, class and subculture are the most useful pieces of information when judging a person.

Judging them for what? Doesn't work for suitability as an underwear model, for example.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 January 2012 09:36:02PM 7 points [-]

Gender and partially sexual orientation is made up.

Please, that statement becomes more controversial if you negate it.

Comment author: shokwave 27 January 2012 01:35:54PM *  24 points [-]

I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

The LW version:

Friendliness of AGI is impossible; this is because Coherent Extrapolated Volition is impossible; our volitions are in part determined by opposing others' so any extrapolation will produce a contradiction (a la once disease is gone, food is plentiful, hangovers don't exist, and you can have sex with anyone you like, the only thing that Palestinians and Israelis care about is denying the others' desires). Any optimisation process applied to human desires will necessarily make things subjectively and objectively worse. We are, in effect, falling down stairs at the speed of our optimising, and more optimisation of any kind will only make us fall faster and deadlier. There was no guarantee that the blind process of evolution would produce agents that form a consistent or positive-sum system, and indeed, it did not produce such agents. The future is unchangeably bleak and necessarily bad.

The Western memeplex version:

Humans are not essentially good-natured beings. The so-called moral progress of the recent era is no such thing - severe oppression of the minority has been swapped for a larger amount of minor oppression of the majority, abject slavery of some has been swapped for an equivalent amount of wage slavery for many, rape and physical coercion of sex has been reduced with a much larger increase in use of non-physical coercion with alcohol or money, and so on. We might alter the concentrations of suffering, spreading it out over many, but we can only increase the total levels of suffering because a large part of how we actually feel content or happy is based on relatives - that is, the pursuit of happiness ruins the world.

The seeds of our own hellish existences are planted within us from birth, they are irrevocable, and the only thing we can do about it is miserably fail to realise their deadly potential. Any kind of hopeful attitude, any kind of optimisation, any attempt to improve the world, is a guaranteed net negative because that is just how humans are.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 28 January 2012 11:13:45PM 11 points [-]

Self-reported happiness data seems to not agree with this, unless Swedes are keeping some tortured children in the basement.

Comment author: shokwave 29 January 2012 04:22:23AM 7 points [-]

If you took areas of low happiness and made them happy, Swedish self-reporting of happiness would go down, is the gist of this idea.

Comment author: pedanterrific 31 January 2012 08:34:04PM 3 points [-]

The capital of Sweden is Omelas? Hmm...

Comment author: fubarobfusco 27 January 2012 05:16:42PM 7 points [-]

This all seems overtly contradicted by the decline of violence (including homicide, rape, torture, war deaths as a fraction of the population) and the increase in healthy lifespan over historical time.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 January 2012 04:24:58PM 27 points [-]

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

New topics:

We know so little about our minds that conscious efforts to improve them are likely to do damage. Actually, I consider that an exaggeration, but I do think that ill effects of following socially supported advice are likely to be kept private and/or ignored for a very long time.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Following up on the "CEV is impossible" part of the discussion: The only thing an FAI can do is protect us from UFAI and possibly other gross existential threats.

Comment author: cousin_it 28 January 2012 06:05:37PM *  35 points [-]

Most of the impact of rape is a made-up self fulfilling prophesy.

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

Upvoted for saying the only thing in this whole thread that makes my inner animal go "aaaaugh I must fight against people who say that". I didn't know I had it in me.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 January 2012 06:40:04PM 16 points [-]

Hot damn!

Thanks for letting me know.

The funny thing is, I think the idea that cuckoldry would be a non-issue if people were thinking clearly is pretty close to conventional ideas about adoption-- that people shouldn't use biological descent to make distinctions among the children they're raising. See also the fairly successful efforts to reduce the stigma of bastardy.

To extend the idea, we could say that just about all the pain people feel about status-lowering events is self-fulfilling prophecy, but this version less likely to sting because it isn't about something specific.

Just for fun, flip it over. People aren't nearly sensitive enough about their status. If people cared more about their rankings, they'd do a lot more, and enough of it would be worthwhile (by those entirely rational geek standards which are opposed to the bad mainstream standards) that there'd be a net gain.

One more: You can't tell anything important about a person by their taste in art, fiction, music, etc.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 January 2012 07:30:30PM *  17 points [-]

The funny thing is, I think the idea that cuckoldry would be a non-issue if people were thinking clearly is pretty close to conventional ideas about adoption-- that people shouldn't use biological descent to make distinctions among the children they're raising. See also the fairly successful efforts to reduce the stigma of bastardy.

Why stop at cuckoldry, where the child is still genetically half one's spouse's? Outright cuckcooing! Swap everybody's kids around in the hospital!

(If I lived in a world where that was regularly done and I knew it, I would not have a bio-kid; I'd adopt a five-year-old and exercise some control over what sort of person I'm inviting into my home that way.)

Comment author: Konkvistador 28 January 2012 08:07:04PM *  11 points [-]

Why stop at cuckoldry, where the child is still genetically half one's spouse's? Outright cuckcooing! Swap everybody's kids around in the hospital!

Why not take it another step further? Why have random non-licensed people raise children? We usually don't let just anyone adopt kids, in my country one needs to go through a lot of hoops and be financially capable of supporting a child before getting on the list. In practice one demonstrates conscientiousness, a strong desire to have children and financial independence. If all children are adopted children, why not do this? Surely this should only be done by teams of qualified experts in tandem with carefully chosen adoptive parents?

(If I lived in a world where that was regularly done and I knew it, I would not have a bio-kid; I'd adopt a five-year-old and exercise some control over what sort of person I'm inviting into my home that way.)

Eugenics FTW.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 28 January 2012 08:23:19PM *  3 points [-]

Why stop at cuckoldry, where the child is still genetically half one's spouse's? Outright cuckcooing! Swap everybody's kids around in the hospital!

Terrible idea to try actually implement in a multicultural society, since for visible minorities it amounts to cultural genocide. What are the odds the child they get actually assimilate to their culture if he can easily pass in greater society as a member of the privileged one?

Unless one factors in ethnicity in who gets who... which is just a horrible can of worms.

Comment author: erratio 28 January 2012 08:44:45PM 20 points [-]

It sounds very much like you're saying that no one would choose to be part of a minority culture if they weren't forced into it by non-acceptance. If that is what you meant, wouldn't that imply that destroying that minority culture is better than forcing people to continue being part of it?

Stolen generation isn't relevant here since it wasn't reciprocal - the children were taken, not replaced by white children who were then raised in Aboriginal commmunities.

Comment author: cousin_it 28 January 2012 09:01:28PM *  5 points [-]

I think the idea that cuckoldry would be a non-issue if people were thinking clearly is pretty close to conventional ideas about adoption-- that people shouldn't use biological descent to make distinctions among the children they're raising.

I think folk morality only says that if you adopt kids, you should treat them equally to your biological kids. It doesn't say that people who have biological kids instead of adopting are bad people.

To extend the idea, we could say that just about all the pain people feel about status-lowering events is self-fulfilling prophecy

Why do you single out status-lowering events? You could go further and say that anything that doesn't cause physical pain is okay, e.g. stealing someone's car is okay because the victim theoretically could brainwash themselves to not care about material belongings.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 13 May 2012 01:45:56AM 7 points [-]

ill effects of following socially supported advice are likely to be kept private and/or ignored for a very long time

Sharp. I've seen this especially in dieting/weightlifting communities.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 May 2012 04:34:46AM 5 points [-]

I picked it up from fat acceptance.

The Science of Yoga (which generally supports yoga as valuable) has a chapter about the risks of yoga-- which are much higher than a lot of people in yoga knew. These days, at least some yoga teachers are working on making it safer.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 28 January 2012 04:56:17PM *  12 points [-]

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

I agree. Why would there be a switch in the brain "in case genetic tests prove/shaman says child isn't yours go into depression!"? Other cues like smell or facial similarity are already factored into the fathers feelings before he consciously knows about the child's genetics.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

I don't think that's true for teenagers, their sexuality is heavily studied. I don't have very high confidence in academia but they must have produced something useful on the subject. Right? In any case I agree that children's sexuality is a pretty strong mind-killer and that our knowledge about it is woefully inadequate or just plain wrong.

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Possible. But I don't see why this would be controversial.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Come now. White people would be all ecstatic that they now have proof they are to blame for all the problems they've been blaming themselves this entire time (and even more since the opportunity cost of squandered superiority is greater than squandered equality). Who dosen't like being proven right? This also fulfils their deeply ingrained pseudo-Christian guilt complex and desire for original sin. White people love feeling guilty and signalling moral superiority to other white people. I think that's partially genetic btw. Most other people on the planet are not such annoying moral poseurs. I don't have any real data to back me on this last claim but anecdotal evidence is pretty consistent on it.

East Asians and Arabs may react unfavourably though. Also the future would be very bright for mankind since Africa is likley to stay in population explosion mode for most of this century, while say Latin America and the Middle East are showing signs of incredibly rapid drops in birthrates (and the developed world is showing no real signs of recuperation).

Also its pretty obvious that black people are superior in certain aspects to most other races. Besides the obvious stuff like say West Africans being good sprinters and East Africans excelling at marathons, greater resistance to tropical diseases, greater diversity helping the evolve more rapidly to deal with new pathogens, lower rates of skin cancer, ect. humans in Sub-Saharan africa share some nearly continent wide adaptations to their environment that are very desirable. I'm pretty sure African males have an edge when it comes to attractiveness and no I'm not talking about the penis myth (which may not be a myth, it is hard to tell since measurements are ambiguous and conflicting). First off there is the purely physical advantage of darker skin since it is associated with masculinity, then there is the well documented "winning personality" when one controls for other factors. That last one is related to the fact that people of African descent generally have far fewer mental health problems (Europeans be they gentiles or Askenazi Jews and East Asians are really the neurotic freaks of the human race), better self-image, greater self-confidence and are much less prone to suicide than most.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 January 2012 06:47:47PM *  7 points [-]

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Possible. But I don't see why this would be controversial.

It's pre-controversial. I say it now and then, but people just ignore it.

There's a contingent of atheists who are seriously pissed off at people having religions, but I haven't seen anything comparable against nationalism, even though these days, wars are apt to be more about nationalism than religion.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 29 January 2012 07:09:36PM *  4 points [-]

It's pre-controversial. I say it now and then, but people just ignore it.

Mostly because highly educated people on LessWrong don't know many nationalists personally. They do know many religious people.

In any case classical pacifist movements where basically about this. Getting upset about nationalism seems a 19th or 20th century thing to do. Its not that the arguments against it are new and haven't sunk in because of future shock level, its just that elite respectable opinion in the Western world has long ago shifted closer towards that position and most people living in the West suffer very little if any harm from the residual traces of nationalism. And the residual traces aren't that notable, most people in say Western Europe are because of the well known traumas of wars in that time period not very nationalistic.

wars are apt to be more about nationalism than religion.

It is hard to say something like the Iraq war was caused by nationalism, though obviously "spreading democracy" is pretty much not only part of an ideology but is also a key part of America's civic nationalism.

With most wars in the rest of the world that don't directly involve Western states (obviously many of these are proxy wars). Ie. The ones that actually should matter to utilitarian since they consume far more lives, do indeed often seem to revolve around ethnic clashes. But this is where it gets tricky.

How do you classify the conflict in Sudan a few years back? One can claim that civil war was a religious one since Muslims where attacking animists and Christian villages and the latter where retaliating. How do you measure how much of it was because of nationalism. Is destructive Muslim or Irish Catholic nationalism a bigger blemish on religion or nationalism? What is the better approach to attacking it if you feel that the phenomena is not conductive to how you want to order the world?

Also nationalism evokes images of people being proud of the state or considering themselves a part of a people that numbers in the tens of millions and has supposedly some common past and a common destiny before it. Most of humanity has no idea of anything like that (outside of religion). It is basically a Western thing with very similar phenomena in East Asia and to a lesser extent the Indian subcontinent and Latin America. Most of humanity is much more tribal than it is nationalistic in the classic sense. And the types of bloody civil wars and revolutions one sees in Africa and the Middle East are I think evidence in favour of this.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 28 January 2012 05:12:06PM *  5 points [-]

White people love feeling guilty and signalling moral superiority to other white people. I think that's partially genetic btw. Most other people on the planet are not such annoying moral poseurs. I don't have any real data to back me on this claim but anecdotal evidence is pretty consistent on this

This almost reads like you are trying to hint at something but for the life of me I can't figure out what. Nope. No idea.

Comment author: J_Taylor 29 January 2012 12:15:46AM 6 points [-]

Could someone make explicit what is being hinted at? I fear that I am missing the signal.

Comment author: Konkvistador 29 January 2012 11:47:43AM *  18 points [-]

The same would apply to cuckoldry.

Men probably have systematic preferences for how to treat their children according to traits the children do or do not posses and a variety of cues that have evolved to ensure they invest in genetically related children.

But this may have little to do with conscious awareness of such information or emotional distress caused by it.

We know almost nothing about the effects of sex for children and teenagers.

"Teenagers" doesn't really describe anything in the real world except perhaps a subculture.

Black people are actually genetically superior in important ways-- they've had such bad luck from geography and racism that their advantages don't show up as superior results.

Well we already have data about the social status of people who propose such theories.

It's easy to recognize two reasons why my impression that New Guineans are smarter than Westerners may be correct. First, Europeans have for thousands of years been living in densely populated societies with central governments, police, and judiciaries. In those societies, infectious epidemic diseases of dense populations (such as smallpox) were historically the major cause of death, while murders were relatively uncommon and a state of war was the exception rather than the rule. Most Europeans who escaped fatal infections also escaped other potential causes of death and proceeded to pass on their genes. Today, most live-born Western infants survive fatal infections as well and reproduce themselves, regardless of their intelligence and the genes they bear. In contrast, New Guineans have been living in societies where human numbers were too low for epidemic diseases of dense populations to evolve. Instead, traditional New Guineans suffered high mortality from murder, chronic tribal warfare, accidents, and problems in procuring food.

Intelligent people are likelier than less intelligent ones to escape those causes of high mortality in traditional New Guinea societies. However, the differential mortality from epidemic diseases in traditional European societies had little to do with intelligence, and instead involved genetic resistance dependent on details of body chemistry. For example, people with blood group B or O have a greater resistance to smallpox than do people with blood group A. That is, natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in New Guinea than in more densely populated, politically complex societies, where natural selection for body chemistry was instead more potent.

... in mental ability New Guineans are probably genetically superior to Westerners ...

Clearly Jared Diamond is a shunned outcast and publicly apologized for his inappropriate speculation.

"Underdog is actually better but has just had bad luck" or "overdog is only winning because he is evil" is a narrative humans love and are significantly biased towards. Unless overdogs actually consider it plausible that they will be threatened even they derive status from claiming they where just lucky. Or that most (but clearly not them personally) overdogs are unethical.

Nationalism is more destructive than religion, and almost as much of a collective hallucination.

Metternich would approve!

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 29 January 2012 01:51:45PM 7 points [-]

Interestingly, that Diamond quote comes shortly after his dismissal of previous attempts at "big history" for being "racist".

Comment author: wallowinmaya 25 January 2012 07:49:51PM *  18 points [-]

Here are some policy recommendations which would not be very PC:

(Disclaimer: I endorse only a few of these views. See this comment )

  1. Only folks with above IQ 100 should be allowed to vote.
  2. People with high IQ should get money for having more children, dumb people for having less (I'm from Germany and here everybody gets money for having children. Don't know if that's true in the US.)
  3. Africans have (on average) low IQ scores and low conscientiousness. Therefore international aid is hopeless and we should stop it.
  4. Slavery, organ donations and sexual services for all ages should be legal if both parties give informed consent.
  5. The male variance in IQ is greater than that for females which explains why most nobel prize winners, CEOs etc. are men. Therefore we should stop pointless countermeasures. (Men are also more ambitious, aggressive and psychopathic which seems also relevant)
  6. Same for affirmative action.
  7. We should exterminate ourselves because antinatalism is true.

Some of these examples seem rather mindkilling, but nonetheless interesting :-)

Comment author: Multiheaded 27 January 2012 10:56:56PM *  5 points [-]

Africans have (on average) low IQ scores and low conscientiousness. Therefore international aid is hopeless and we should stop it.

The low average IQ and the net harm done by the current model of international aid are more or less statements of fact. The rest of this line literally carries no message. What would be your preferred state for Africa?* What measures would you endorse to move towards that state?

-* ("I truly don't care much because I don't consider Africans to be deserving of sympathy" is a legitimate answer, just a... boring one, and a one that can, in turn, mark your utility function as worth much less consideration in the eyes of some people here - not necessarily being just me.)

Comment author: wallowinmaya 27 January 2012 11:56:42PM *  9 points [-]

My preferred state for Africa would be that all its inhabitants are happy, rich, etc. and live in utopia, of course. What do you think of me? I don't have a clue how to achieve utopia in Africa or anywhere else and I don't have any strong political opinions in general.

Edit: I just reread your post and it seems that I misunderstood your intentions when I read it the first time. I thought you wanted us to guess which beliefs Vladimir_M or folks with similar views might hold. (I therefore tried to think of views that are disturbing and at least somewhat reasonable) It follows that I don't endorse all of the above mentioned views which I thought I said also in the original comment.

But, I'll be honest: 4 and 7 are probably bad ideas. 1 and 2 could have bad unintended consequences. The first sentence in 3 is true, but I don't think we should stop all international aid despite its low effectiveness. (e.g. the "1 laptop per child"-idea is pretty awesome). 5 is also true, we should encourage more women to become scientists, CEOs, etc. nonetheless. IMHO most women are not aggressive and ambitious enough and these traits are obviously culturally malleable, although with a strong genetical component.

Oh, I just realized that lots of people read my comment and now think that I endorse slavery, sex with children and the extermination of the human race. Hmmm.... kinda sucks.

Comment author: Prismattic 28 January 2012 12:43:33AM 7 points [-]

If the main problem with international aid is low IQ and conscientiousness (NB -- not conceding this), then that is just evidence that foreign aid should focus first on things that affect this. IQ appears to negatively correlate with rates of parasitic infection, and also with exposure to mercury. Lead exposure increases impulsiveness, so I expect it correlates with low conscientiousness. So, wiping out parasitic diseases and metals abatement, among other things, should probably be high-priority forms of aid.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 28 January 2012 11:48:59AM *  6 points [-]

prenatal nutrition is huge too but AFAIK has been actively fought against precisely because it implies that the problem is low-IQ which is a no-no.

Comment author: Emile 28 January 2012 12:34:43PM 5 points [-]

I haven't heard that before, any reference?

Comment author: Nornagest 25 January 2012 09:59:28PM *  3 points [-]

I'm from Germany and here everybody gets money for having children. Don't know if that's true in the US.

Sort of. Children and other dependents give you tax breaks in the US, but no direct financial aid unless you qualify for certain limited welfare programs. That's at the federal level; some states might expand on that, but I can't speak for all of them.

Comment author: Prismattic 26 January 2012 01:08:17AM 6 points [-]

Slavery, organ donations and sexual services for all ages should be legal if both parties give informed consent.

How would a 3-year-old give informed consent to be sold into slavery?

Even assuming the "for all ages" only applies to latter item, what would "informed consent' mean for a 3 year old?

Comment author: CaveJohnson 25 January 2012 07:38:29PM 17 points [-]

"How dare you not engage in what you consider counter-productive debate!"

Comment author: TimS 25 January 2012 08:20:43PM 13 points [-]

"How dare you question the coherence of thoughts that I refuse to express!"

Comment author: Strange7 06 February 2012 05:23:28AM 8 points [-]

The only trustworthy, effective sort of chief executive - whether for a small business or a major government - is a sociopath who considers the whole enterprise his (or her, although it's a statistical inevitability that there will be more qualified men) personal property, including the lesser employees or citizens. Anyone capable of genuine compassion is proportionately incapable of unbiased strategic thought. Ideally the sadistic god-kings would also be biologically immortal, but for practical purposes a delusion supported by superstitious anagathic practices would be sufficient; the real societal cost of, say, ritually eating a young child's heart every three months would be trifling compared to the benefits of binding decisions being made by someone who genuinely and incorruptibly wants to maximize the long-term productivity of society as a whole, if only for his own amusement.

Comment author: Multiheaded 10 February 2012 06:17:25PM 10 points [-]

Orwell predicted that in such a situation the god-kings would be so corrupted by power that they'd stop caring about efficiency and personal wealth at all, and instead would turn to deriving pleasure from sadism alone. I don't know whether that's right, but history seems to suggest that power indeed drives men from mere cruelty to insanity.

Comment author: Strange7 11 February 2012 03:03:39AM 3 points [-]

That's what happens with someone who's obsessed with domination and control, yes. I'm talking about someone who is completely confident in their mastery of the situation, regardless of whether that mastery is acknowledged. Someone who doesn't care whether the minions call themselves "friend" or "enemy," whether they're loyal or rebellious, just pushes the right buttons to maximize productivity.

Comment author: Multiheaded 11 February 2012 04:36:44AM *  10 points [-]

I don't think that any actual sociopaths, as observed in society, ever want to maximise efficiency as an end in itself, when it doesn't coincide with their other personal goals. This would absolutely require not selfish whim, but a complex commitment, both an intellectual and emotional one, which is usually labeled as "obsession" - not a generally approved trait - yet is mostly found in extraordinarily mentally developed people, not deficient ones.

Consider Albert Speer; he was thought an administrative and organisational prodigy by many, and even his detractors admit his intelligence and talent (and yes, no opinion of his subordinates would've likely bothered him) - and yet, despite his limited and naively technocratic outlook at first, when he became Armament Minister, he clearly struggled with his conscience to ignore the criminality of Nazi regime, tried to improve conditions for the slave workers that he employed, and even overturned Hitler's orders to destroy German infrastructure near the end of the war. Do you think that a human being could be found who would optimize arms production better than Speer, yet remained more loyal than him to a cause neither logical, nor moral (for any definition of "moral" quickly available to us), nor feasible?

In short, I think that what you demand is a greater contradiction in traits and behavior than Speer or other technocrats of his caliber displayed - almost certainly greater than what humanity's historically observed diversity permits.

Comment author: I_Answer_Probability 25 January 2012 06:17:35PM 8 points [-]

Vladimir_M's statement sounds quite insightful but it's dangerously close to one of these "you can't prove that there aren't any dragons in the garage" type things (not being able to think up with examples doesn't imply they don't exist because their very nature is that they are elusive).

If I were to looking for examples myself - by analogy with the weird sort of thought patterns people addicted to smoking use, to convince themself to keep smoking - I'd try to think of ways to remove things I love from my life (e.g. being able to think whatever I like without monitoring or having my thoughts censorsed/deleted). Some of the Fun theory articles may be a good starting point.

Comment author: Multiheaded 25 January 2012 06:55:17PM *  5 points [-]

being able to think whatever I like without monitoring

Total, ubiquitous and universally available surveillance, including automated facial expression and body language analysis (every citizen being, given some work, able to check out every hour of someone else's life the way we check Facebook status, plus low-level AI monitoring) is part of a short Weirdtopia story I'm writing. I've decided to set it on a planet in the Warhammer 40k universe BTW.

having my thoughts censorsed/deleted

Now that would be completely unacceptable indeed. Is, say, being on the business end of the mental health system in the worst way possible something like that? For myself, I don't consider a life with something like that to be worth living.

Comment author: HeatDeath 27 January 2012 10:56:35PM *  4 points [-]

In the WH40K universe, a small group of acquaintances, doing basic experimental research in applied parapsychology can, and eventually /will/ create a portal to Hell out of which pours a demonic army which then proceeds to do very unpleasant things to everybody on the planet. Given that the Imperium's standard policy in such an event is to sterilize the entire planet, total transparency as described above is probably a relatively stable, safe, and even pleasant model of society to live in (certainly relative to a lot of the other options).

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 28 January 2012 03:38:26AM 6 points [-]

The scary thing is that the real world appears to be approaching a similar situation with respect to epidemiology, or possibly even microbiology more generally.

Comment author: Konkvistador 03 February 2012 03:11:32PM *  6 points [-]

A alternative adaptation to this is to stay indoors. A lot. Imagine people working and socializing in virtual environments only. Sharing physical space or having physical contact with people might soon become something limited to family or sexual partners, and I would argue we are already moving in that direction. Even causal sex, one of the few ways in which we have more interpersonal contact with different people than we used to, may be on the way out if virtual sex or sex bots (sex with a human through a robot avatar might be a superior experience soon) become good enough that only romantics bother with the "natural" kind.

Taking a few additional precautions to systematically reduce the possibility of infection with food and other deliveries one could get a high level of safety. Oceans, moutains and deserts used to be barriers to disease, might our front door prove a suitable replacement? If you live with only a few people, you can make the entire home one big bubble.

This could eventually transition to bodies being sustained by artificial means and people spending all their time in virtual space or incarnated in real life robotic avatars. Might not sound much better than total constant surveillance, but consider, we may actually be able to have more privacy preserved in society that moves first in this direction than if we first eliminate privacy and then transition to a mostly virtual life.

Comment author: dugancm 27 January 2012 12:01:42AM 4 points [-]

Now that would be completely unacceptable indeed. Is, say, being on the business end of the mental health system in the worst way possible something like that? For myself, I don't consider a life with something like that to be worth living.

So, the only reason you're still alive is that you haven't bothered (or been able) to verify whether you've forgotten thoughts you don't remember having had? My sympathies.

Comment author: Multiheaded 27 January 2012 01:20:48AM 4 points [-]

There's probably a pretty big difference, and you're probably just cynically exploiting the fact that I can't formulate it at 5am. And tomorrow I might just forget to address this topic... wait, shi-

Comment author: Armok_GoB 12 February 2012 03:13:16PM *  4 points [-]

Beeep! This is a friendly reminder to continue this train of thought!

Comment author: Konkvistador 12 February 2012 09:19:28PM *  15 points [-]

I never actually read anything by Kipling before reading a certain article by Orwell that a fellow LWer mentioned. I must admit I don't consume much poetry in English, yet I was bothered that I knew nothing of the man's work and did some reading after the reference.

I have stumbled upon this poem and thought it appropriate for some of the topics discussed.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall.
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn,
That water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision, and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selective Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
* * * * * *
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Comment author: Multiheaded 13 February 2012 06:47:00PM 9 points [-]

Here is the same old mistake of heartfelt but naive conservatism; assuming that the "common sense" and "old good values" of one's day, if they seem to bring such security and are so good at shooting down other naive and dangerous ideas, will be good forever. Yet Kipling's world with all its wisdom ended up impaled on barbed wire, choking on mustard gas and torn to pieces by its own Maxim gun.

And who led it to that hell? Socialists? Unscrupulous wheelers and dealers? Naive young men who wanted to throw out musty old books and change everything for the better? Why, none of the public Kipling used to deride had much to do with it; the gunpowder was lit by those wise old men who carried sacred traditions and led empires. I'm sure that it never even occured to Kipling that, say, Marshal Haig was far more debased, murderous and evil than any of those he railed against.

Comment author: Konkvistador 13 February 2012 07:34:15PM *  12 points [-]

I was interpreting the poem sub specie aeternitatis rather than in the specific context it was made. To borrow from Robin Hanson, looking at history farmers embracing forager values tend to die out. The Gods of the Copybook Headings do seem to come back.

Now obviously modern technologically progressing industrial civilization seems a sui generis transition, and there are all sorts of good reasons why this time it will be different, but the outside view is Kipling's view in this case.

And don't think we can in principle rule out a farmer future. The often discussed Malthusian em scenario is a future where the Gods of the Market-Place finally abandon their folly and tightly embrace the teachings of the Gods of the Copybook Heading.

But this is a rather over-specific interpretation of the emotional and I would argue even rationalist core of the poem. Namely that being bored with "water will wet us" and "fire will burn" causes major problems since wishful thinking quickly works to disconnects us from viable strategies in reality.

Comment author: asr 13 February 2012 06:57:25PM *  4 points [-]

Kipling's son died in the war. And he wrote a multi-volume history "The Irish Guards in The Great War". I think he had ample opportunity to reflect on Haig as a human being. My impression, from Kipling's postwar writing, is that he thought that the war was necessary to restrain the Germans.

And I wouldn't be quite so quick to talk about "Kipling's world...being torn to pieces." It's easy, in retrospect, to see the War as a sharp cataclysm. But it might not have looked quite so drastic at the time. The empire didn't start shedding territory for another twenty or thirty years -- and not until after another world war.

I think it's a mistake to cast Kipling as a stuffy Colonel Blimp. He was quite interested in technology and progress. He was aware that there were other societies, that disagreed with Victorian England about many things. He wasn't particularly a believer in the Church. He had enough detachment from his surroundings to make his perspective distinctive and interesting.

Comment author: Multiheaded 13 February 2012 07:11:27PM *  3 points [-]

It was an enormous, game-changing shock to European mentality; the events of the 30s and 40s would've hardly been possible without it - in any form, Fascism or no Fascism. See e.g. The First World War by Martin Gilbert, a popular history I, personally speaking, liked a huge lot.

As for Britain, it partly wrecked and partly transformed a generation of young men, and dealt a massive psychological blow, from which stemmed the motive for Appearsement twenty years later, and the general slow acceptance that maybe the days of the globe painted red were over. It was time to hunker down, step off the stage, and with good reason; over the next few years, all of Europe began to realize that God would not stop anything man does, or anything that could be done to man.

That latter fact is exactly what Orwell writes about in the essay too, at the point where he quotes "Recessional" to illustrate how Kipling was behind the times in not learning the new age's awful lessons.

Comment author: WrongBot 25 January 2012 06:20:22PM *  18 points [-]

American blacks consistently underperform whites on IQ tests, not because of cultural differences, but rather due to (statistically significant) genetic inferiority. This doesn't make them (much) less morally significant than whites, but it should have public policy implications.

For example.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 28 January 2012 05:48:14PM *  14 points [-]

Let's do the impossible and think the unthinkable! I must know what those secrets are, no matter how much sleep and comfort I might lose.

Anarcho-capitalists are right.

Most upper class and wealthy jobs are actually rent seeking activities as argued in this video by fellow LessWrong user Aurini.

Comment author: Konkvistador 28 January 2012 06:26:42PM *  12 points [-]

I may not necessarily agree with that particular video but Aurini's channel is pure contrarian & rationalist goodness. Its very depressing he only has a few hundred views per video. These two videos seems somewhat relevant:

Edit: Added a few more sort of relevant videos.

Comment author: J_Taylor 29 January 2012 12:22:11AM 5 points [-]

Does he, by any chance, write? I hate learning from videos.

Comment author: Konkvistador 29 January 2012 01:08:23PM *  8 points [-]

Yes he does. I think most of it is available on his website.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 January 2012 05:46:27PM 12 points [-]

He's interesting, but awfully repetitious-- a trait which is worse for videos than writing.

Also, in his argument against regulation (built around a homeless man who had to save for months to be able to afford a business license), he doesn't address the most common argument for regulation which is that sometimes businesses are extremely dangerous to customers and employees.

Comment author: Konkvistador 29 January 2012 05:58:22PM *  8 points [-]

he doesn't address the most common argument for regulation which is that sometimes businesses are extremely dangerous to customers and employees.

I think the implicit argument is that the risk is worth it, because the costs of regulations are so high elsewhere.

Humans supposedly love regulation because we are generally irrationally risk averse and can signal good stuff about ourselves by proposing legislation that sounds good to our brains which interpret it as guidelines for a small stone age tribe of a few dozen people rather than setting guidelines and rules that will live a life of their own in institutions that govern millions of people.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 26 January 2012 01:48:48PM 9 points [-]

There is no way to coherently hold utilitarianism without it leading to "the repugnant conclusion" that we should maximise reproduction.

Everyone who thinks they're utilitarian is engaging in signalling behaviour by claiming to value the happiness of other agents, but always rationalizes a utility argument for the self serving position they had anyway.

Comment author: orthonormal 27 January 2012 12:00:52AM 13 points [-]

There's an unfortunate trick of naming here: some LWers use "utilitarian" to describe "valuing different outcomes by real numbers and acting to maximize expected value according to some decision theory", and would thus describe a paperclip maximizer as utilitarian. I can easily accept that traditional Benthamite utilitarianism has no answer to the repugnant conclusion, though.

Comment author: Jack 27 January 2012 04:21:32PM 10 points [-]

People realize "the repugnant conclusion" is just the other side of the Torture/Dust-specs coin, right?

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 May 2012 01:30:13AM 6 points [-]

We are never actually convinced by the logic of an argument, its pure presentation and rhetoric. We only think we respond to well reasoned arguments because the features we associate with 'well reasoned' are ones that we have been trained to consider authoritative and persuasive.

In short, we're just signalling rationality not being rational.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 15 May 2013 07:44:33PM 3 points [-]

Empiricism is a bias, by the same token. But it's a bias that works.

The "authoritative and persuasive" kinds of arguments are the arguments that work, that show something about the universe with slightly better accuracy than other kinds of arguments that have been posed. That's why we've adopted them.

Rationality will never be deep. All beliefs and idea procured from rationality are at best transitive.

Comment author: Multiheaded 28 January 2012 01:27:43PM 5 points [-]

Concerning what everyone on the right around here says the voluntary doublethink of the Left:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Sontag

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or [t]he New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

This is really quite complicated, though. Especially if one also asks which reader would've been better informed about the realities of capitalist democracy (neither would be well off in that regard, but still).

Comment author: jeremysalwen 04 April 2012 07:24:05AM 7 points [-]

Isn't this an invalid comparison? If The Nation were writing for an audience of reader which only read The Nation, wouldn't it change what it prints? The point is these publications are fundamentally part of a discussion.

Imagine if I thought there were fewer insects on earth then you did, and we had a discussion. If you compare the naive person who reads only my lines vs the naive person who reads only your lines, your person ends up better off, because on the whole, there are indeed a very large number of insects on earth This will be the case regardless of who actually has the accurate estimate of number of insect species. The point is that my lines will all present evidence that insects are less numerous, in an attempt to get you to adjust your estimate downward, and your lines will be the exact opposite. However, that says nothing about who has a better model of the situation.

Comment author: Konkvistador 11 April 2012 06:28:27AM 10 points [-]

The Self-Righteous Hive Mind

...

What Haidt never quite gets across is that conservatives typically define their groups concentrically, moving from their families outward to their communities, classes, religions, nations, and so forth. If Mars attacked, conservatives would be reflexively Earthist. As Ronald Reagan pointed out to the UN in 1987, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” (Libertarians would wait to see if the Martian invaders were free marketeers.)

In contrast, modern liberals’ defining trait is making a public spectacle of how their loyalties leapfrog over some unworthy folks relatively close to them in favor of other people they barely know (or in the case of profoundly liberal sci-fi movies such as Avatar, other 10-foot-tall blue space creatures they barely know).

As a down-to-Earth example, to root for Manchester United’s soccer team is conservative…if you are a Mancunian. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s liberal.

This urge toward leapfrogging loyalties has less to do with sympathy for the poor underdog (white liberals’ traditional favorites, such as soccer and the federal government, are hardly underdogs) as it is a desire to get one up in status on people they know and don’t like.