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NatashaRostova comments on Rationality Considered Harmful (In Politics) - Less Wrong Discussion

9 Post author: The_Jaded_One 08 January 2017 10:36AM

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Comment author: NatashaRostova 08 January 2017 10:56:10PM 3 points [-]

One problem I have with communicating this is that I was only able to pick up on it after lots of academic studying (degree doesn't matter so much as having read and understood the growth of Social Science knowledge and research), and reading blogs of academics who have run into trouble for years.

Whether it's InfoProc on genetic engineering, West Hunter on evolution, SSC on feminism, and so forth.

By time you read all this stuff and it starts coming together in your head, you realize you can't rationally discuss it with other people. If I'm at a party and someone mentions they are a feminist, I'm definitely not going to mention I'm an anti-feminist (or try to explain why I think the entire idea of flippant 'ism identification' is broken). Or even outside a party, it's a heavy discussion to bring up for no real gain.

There is no nice starting position, or clear argument on why rationality is often harmful in politics without contemporary and historical examples. It takes hours of conversations with close friends who are willing to have their mind changed, simply to explain that there is this entire world that no one is allowed to discuss. I have friends who get so frustrated by this, they decide to go full Alt-Right or Neoreaction, which I think is also a mistake.

One nice place to start though is in the past, where the institutions that many people view today as the most rational and truthful were completely wrong. That can at lease plant a seed of doubt. This interview with 20th century journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who traveled through the Soviet Union during the Holodomor, is one of my favorites: (http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1983/228321.shtml)

Shortly before Mr. Muggeridge's articles appeared in the Guardian, the Soviet authorities declared Ukraine out of bounds to reporters and set about concealing the destruction they had wreaked. Prominent statesmen, writers and journalists - among them French Prime Minister Edouard Herriot, George Bernard Shaw and Walter Duranty of The New York Times - were enlisted in the campaign of misinformation.

Or point to guys like Walter Duranty (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Duranty).

The problem though is unlike lots of EY-Rationality-Facts, you can't learn why rationality is often harmful in politics without loads of examples throughout time. And unlike cognitive biases, it's really hard to shortly explain.

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 08 January 2017 11:06:24PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, that's an interesting perspective!

You know it occurs to me that it would be nice to have some kind of guide to all the "forbidden knowledge" that's out there - West Hunter, HBDChick, Infoproc.

Comment author: NatashaRostova 08 January 2017 11:16:15PM *  4 points [-]

I think that's what most people who were or want to be part of the rationalist community want to work on now. That's what Scott Alexander does full time with SSC and his comments. Even on LW despite the weird and dated rules, everyone wants to discuss this stuff and work on slowly figuring it out. I don't think anyone really cares how a 22 year old has reinterpreted EY's post on cognitive biases or some new version of AI risk(and I say that having put all my faith in 22 year old engineering kids saving the world).

I'll probably just post on it more now here, and see what happens.

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 08 January 2017 11:31:41PM 0 points [-]

yeah, you should do. I feel like knowing the key posts and ideas is helpful. For example West Hunter has a wide range of types of posts: some are goofing off and some are really important. Same with gnxp.