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gjm comments on Lesswrong Potential Changes - Less Wrong Discussion

17 Post author: Elo 19 March 2016 12:24PM

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Comment author: gjm 21 March 2016 05:59:43PM 1 point [-]

I am arguing not that PJE is in fact empty-headed but that his writing style may have felt like that of someone empty-headed and that, if in fact he was ignored and neglected, this may be why.

But I'm a bit confused now, because if his articles and comments were highly upvoted on LW I don't think I understand in what sense you can say that "ignoring him was one of the largest mistakes of the LW community". (Of course it could still be a mistake made by, say, CFAR.)

Comment author: Viliam 21 March 2016 09:59:58PM *  -1 points [-]

After noticing that procrastination is a serious problems for many aspiring rationalists, and that we have a domain expert on LW, the reasonable approach would be to invite him to make a lecture for CFAR seminars. (And then of course use the standard CFAR methods to measure the impact of the lecture.) Motivation is a multiplier; if the lessons actually work, CFAR would get a huge bonus not only by having these lessons for their students, but also by using them for themselves; and maybe even for the folks at MIRI to build the mechanical god faster.

If the negotiation fails, there are still backup options, such as having someone infiltrate his lessons, steal the material, and modify it to avoid copyright issues. (Shouldn't be difficult. LW is accused all the time of inventing new names for the existing concepts, which is exactly what needs to be done here, because only names can be copyrighted and trademarked, not the concepts themselves.) But I would expect the negotiation to be successful, because PJE is already okay with publishing articles on LW, so whatever he is trying to achieve by that, he would achieve even more of it by cooperating with CFAR.

Maybe some kind of cooperation actually happened, I just haven't heard about it, in which case I apologize to everyone concerned.

I sincerely believe that in his area of work, PJE is doing the same kind of high-quality work as Eliezer did in writing the Sequences. Joining high motivation with avoiding biases seems like a super powerful combo, like the royal road to winning at life. I am quite sensitive about reading bullshit, and the field of motivation is 99% bullshit. Yet PJE somehow manages to read all those books, extract the 1% that makes sense, and explain it separately from the rest. I have listened to a few of his lectures, and read his unfinished book, and I don't remember finding anything that I would be ashamed to tell at a LW meetup. There are people who swallow the bullshit completely; there are also people who believe that there is a dilemma between lying to yourself and being more productive or refusing to lie to yourself at a cost of losing productivity (and then explain why they choose one side over the other, or vice versa), but PJE always takes apart the stuff that experimentally works from the incorrect explanation that surrounds it, in a way that makes sense to me.

Most wannabe rationalists avoid the emotional topics and pretend they don't exist. The Vulcan stereotype exists for a reason, and many explanations why this is not how we do rationality feel like "the lady doth protest too much". Our culture rewards trying to explain away emotions by using pseudomathematical bullshit such as "hyperbolic discounting" (oh, you used two scientifically sounding words, that's neat; but you also completely failed to explain why some people procrastinate while others don't, or why a short exercise can switch a person from avoiding work to doing the work). This is our collective blind spot; our motivated stopping before stepping on an unfamiliar territory. Back to the safety of abstractions and equations; even if we are forced to use equations as metaphors, so the actual benefits of doing maths are not there, it still feels safer at home.

Unfortunately, this is one of the situations where I don't believe I could actually convince anyone. I mean, not just admit verbally that I may have a point, but to actually change their "aliefs" (which is by the way yet another safe word for emotions).