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LessWrong and Miri mentioned in major German newspaper's article on Neoreactionaries

3 Post author: -necate- 14 April 2017 08:20AM

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of germanies largest newspapers has mentioned LessWrong and Miri today in an article on the neoreactionary movement. I thought this might be interesting for  some of you, so I translated the passages related to LessWrong.

After introducing the neoreactionary movement the article contains the following pararaph:

It did not happen by chance that the seed of this ideology, that now presents itself on various websites were blogs such as Overcomming Bias and Less Wrong, which deal with artificial intelligence and the Idea to reach immortality with the help of technology("Transhumanism"). The "Martial Art of Rationality" which is practised there, tries not mainly to make machines smarter by using the human intellect, but to change human rationality by using the anticipated machine intelligence, according to computer-researcher Eliezer Yudkoswsky. "We need to apply science to our intuitions, we need to use abstract knowledge to correct our mental movements"  

Yudkoswsky has personally distanced himself from the neoreactionary movement, but the approach to see the logic of computers as standard of measurement for the human thinking was key for this movement in its try to distance itself from the current intellectual history that lead to the liberal mainstream. 

It then goes on to talk more about key figures from the neoreactionary movement and then contains a paragraph on Miri.

Yudkowsky founded the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, with the money of venture capitalist Peter Thiel, which focusses on the development of a benevolent AI. It should be benevolent, because it will have power over people, when it gets smarter than them. For the neoreactionaries, Intelligence is necessarily related to politics. based on the concept of human biodiversity, they believe that social and economical differences are caused and justified by a genetic difference in intelligence among ethnic groups. They reject the idea of a common human nature.

The article then goes on to talk more about the neoreactionary movement and ends by relating it to the trump administration, by mentioning that steve banon has contacted a prominent advocate of the movement.

For those of you who can read german here is the link to the full article: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/die-digital-debatte/neoreaktionaere-im-silicon-valley-14953248.html

What do you think of the article? In my opinion it misrepresents what LessWrong is about and even though they mention that Eliezer distanced himself from the neoreactionaries creates the impression that LessWrong is still an important place for the neoreactionary movement. Also, I do not understand how the part about Miri is related to the rest of the article.  

 

 

Comments (13)

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 14 April 2017 09:04:39AM 11 points [-]

"X has personally distanced himself from Y" is the sneaky way to say "X has nothing to do with Y, but we'll imply that he might be connected somehow".

Comment author: tukabel 15 April 2017 12:40:59PM 5 points [-]

MDM strikes again (Mainstream Dinosaur Media)

Can be used as a case study for all sorts of fallacies, biases, misinformations, misinterpretations, perhaps also ideologically tainted.

Comment author: tristanm 14 April 2017 01:59:31PM 2 points [-]

Keep in mind most newspapers are not trailblazers and will often report the same story reported by other newspapers. The LessWrong-Neoreactionary link seems to have first been claimed by media outlets in mid 2016, after Peter Thiel gave his endorsement to Trump. I know that some other "dark enlightenment" people have been commenters on lesswrong and overcoming bias for a while, but it never seemed like they were core people or authors of much content at all. The fact that the mainstream media did not comment on this until 2016 likely means that they were looking at Peter Thiel as a funder of MIRI as the primary piece of evidence. Which is a weak form of evidence, because I don't think he is even associated with the rationality community aside from that. In addition, we can't even say he's "neoreactionary" other than he apparently voted for Trump. We know only vague generalities and few details about his personal views.

Comment author: Viliam 20 April 2017 09:16:13AM 0 points [-]

The LessWrong-Neoreactionary link seems to have first been claimed by media outlets in mid 2016

Seems to me it was on RationalWiki long before that. When journalists use google to find something interesting about LW, this is one of the first things they find.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 14 April 2017 08:35:20AM 2 points [-]

I've read this somewhere recently in the English media, I suspect the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung probably copied it from there.

Comment author: James_Miller 14 April 2017 09:31:10PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: dhoe 16 April 2017 12:32:06PM 1 point [-]

I think the article is mostly correct in seeing a connection. This community does not have a particularly good immune system against modes of thought that appear like contrarian cold realism, and is easily tempted to reach for a repugnant conclusion if it feels like you earn rationality brownie points for doing so.

Comment author: jwoodward48 18 April 2017 02:58:32PM 0 points [-]

"Yudkowsky founded the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, with the money of venture capitalist Peter Thiel, which focusses on the development of a benevolent AI. It should be benevolent, because it will have power over people, when it gets smarter than them. For the neoreactionaries, Intelligence is necessarily related to politics. based on the concept of human biodiversity, they believe that social and economical differences are caused and justified by a genetic difference in intelligence among ethnic groups. They reject the idea of a common human nature."

Oh, come on, that's a poorly-thought-out attack. "Yudkowsky thinks that AI will be super-powerful. Neo-reactionists think that powerful people are powerful and smart for genetic reasons. Therefore, Yudkowsky has something to do with neo-reactionism." Really?

Comment author: WalterL 14 April 2017 04:45:23PM 0 points [-]

"creates the impression that LessWrong is still an important place-"

Well, that's not right. We are just a web site.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 14 April 2017 09:09:40AM 0 points [-]

Fake news ;)

It could be interesting to try and see if whatever English-language language paper I recall reading similar things in and this paper share some direct connections.

Comment author: Viliam 20 April 2017 09:17:37AM 2 points [-]

Fake news ;)

It's called "reliable sources" by Wikipedia.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 20 April 2017 09:41:51PM *  0 points [-]

by Wikipedia

Well, by people who edit there and may be hostile to either rationlists, NRXers or both. Luckily most people I've talked to online will react with bafflement or besument if Wikipedia is cited as a source for anything - so people are in my experience pretty well innoculised against the appeal to authority trap that Wikipedia creates.

Comment author: Viliam 21 April 2017 09:13:35AM *  3 points [-]

people are in my experience pretty well innoculised against the appeal to authority trap that Wikipedia creates

I am afraid that many people, for example journalists, are not. In my experience, they quote Wikipedia and each other without hesitation.

This is how citogenesis happens: First David Gerard writes something on RationalWiki. Then a random journalist finds it and writes about it in an article. Then another journalist finds it in RationalWiki and the article, and writes about it in another article. Then more journalists join. Then David Gerard makes sure all these articles are linked from the Wikipedia page as "reliable sources", and that all other non-essential information about LessWrong is removed. Then more journalists find it in Wikipedia and other articles, etc.

And then, I am afraid that even people who generally take Wikipedia with a grain of salt will go: "Come on, Wikipedia says X, RationalWiki says X, Newspaper1 says X, Newspaper2 says X, Newspaper3 says X-... Newspaper99 says X -- now either this is a huge world-wide conspiracy against Less Wrong, or Less Wrong really is an evil cult of neoreactionary basilisk worshippers... and I don't really believe in worldwide conspiracies against a website no one really cares about".

Unfortunately, PR works, and we have some dedicated anti-PR volunteers. Maybe just two of them, but at least one of them knows how to start an avalanche, and is working on this for years. (Yeah, some people should get a life. Unfortunately, this is not my decision to make.)