Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

James_Miller comments on The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation - Less Wrong Discussion

15 Post author: Stabilizer 20 July 2017 11:42PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (73)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 01:52:25AM *  11 points [-]

(1a) Adams never claims that Trump is a good person, and consequently this wasn't a point of disagreement between him and Harris and thus not relevant to their conversation.

(1b) Yes, that's my opinion as well. What's relevant is what we should do about climate change, and as Adams pointed out even if all the climate change stuff is true, the economics doesn't necessarily support taking immediate action.

(2) This is more two conditions have to be true than Motte and Bailey. It's like a legal argument that my client didn't do X, but even if he did do X it wouldn't have been a crime.

(3) Yes, but Adams was honest about this. I think Adams takes a consequentialist view of morality and so, for example, thinks it would be OK for Trump to lie if it helped our economy or harm ISIS. Adams wants his audience to understand the worldview of a master persuader, and from this worldview facts are often not relevant. Also, it's too simple to say that Trump lies when Trump says something that Trump knows is false, but which Trump also knows that his audience knows is false. This is more emotional signaling.

(4) Disagree. I love Sam Harris's podcasts but I think Harris has a case of Trump derange syndrome, and it was fantastic of Adams to point this out. Getting Harris to make Hitler / exorcist comparisons was very telling. Rationalist should point out when they think others are suffering from confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.

(5a) Yes Adams makes an unfalseafiable claim, but a claim that seems theoretical reasonable.

(5b) Since Trump has made no apparent effort to lock Hillary up, this seems right. But I admit Trump's pre-election call to lock Hillary up greatly troubled me.

(5c) Trump has sacrificed a lot of time, and knowingly accepted a lot of insults to become president and at age in which he seems unlikely to be able to personally benefit much from having been president. Lots of Americans really do think that Trump is saving American civilization, and it seems reasonable that Trump is one of those people.

(6a) It's know known that the 17 agency figure was an error. I think even the NYT has admitted this.

(6b) Yes, and this seems relevant.

"He is an ethical and epistemological relativist: he does not seem to believe in truth or in morality."

Adams doesn't think that true and morality play much of a role in political persuasion. Adams thinks that most people greatly overestimate how much their own personal opinions are influenced by truth and morality. Adams is trying to correct this massive flaw in human nature by giving his readers/viewers/listeners some of the secrets of master persuaders.

This is an example of Adams using the dark arts.

It might have worked.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 21 July 2017 01:34:57PM *  3 points [-]

"Trump derangement syndrome," eh. What a lovely floating signifier.

You say a bunch of amazing things I don't have time to get into like "70 year olds can't personally benefit from things / are thus immune to corruption, because they are ?too old?" But let me ask you this:

Have you ever seen Scott Adams publically update on evidence, re: Trump, ever?

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 05:54:03PM 6 points [-]

Yes, after the Access Hollywood tape came out Adams lowered his estimate of the chance of Trump winning.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 22 July 2017 03:14:55AM 2 points [-]

On Trump himself, I meant. His character/competence/etc.

Estimating the probability of "Trump winning" is estimating the probability of a binary event.

Comment author: James_Miller 22 July 2017 04:40:18AM 1 point [-]

Adams deliberately avoids commenting on Trump's character. I'm unaware of Adams changing his estimate of Trump's persuasion competence. Adams often gives evidence of why Trump is a master persuader.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 22 July 2017 08:02:33PM *  2 points [-]

Ok -- so he neither makes falsifiable claims, nor updates publically.

That's certainly something, but why is this rationality? Certainly not epistemic rationality.

If you want to make an argument for instrumental rationality, presumably we should look to self-made billionaires who were not obviously lucky, not cartoonists who are opportunistically shilling for a jackass without an obvious payoff in sight.

Comment author: Lumifer 25 July 2017 03:25:21PM 2 points [-]

cartoonists who are opportunistically shilling for a jackass without an obvious payoff in sight

So, you came back to LW to argue politics?

Comment author: James_Miller 22 July 2017 08:34:27PM 2 points [-]

Adams makes lots of falsifiable claims, but not about Trump's character.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 22 July 2017 10:27:42PM *  2 points [-]

Right -- because he's a shill. What's the connection between shilling and rationality?

Rationality is supposed to bend in the winds of evidence. Shilling does not bend, shilling made its choice.

Comment author: James_Miller 23 July 2017 02:00:56AM 2 points [-]

What is your evidence that he is a shill? Millions of Americans support Trump, are they all shills?

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 23 July 2017 02:54:08AM *  2 points [-]

I just told you, he never remarks or updates publically on Trump's character.

This means one of two things: (a) he's on board with it, or (b) he's not, but runs interference for it anyways.

It is not enough to support Trump unconditionally (which a lot of Trump supporters do *) to be a shill, you also need a megaphone. Supporting Trump unconditionally, but without a megaphone, merely makes one an idiot.

(*) Incidentally, I think something like 70% of polled Trump supporters said they think Trump should continue to lead even if we find out Russia helped get him elected.

The issue here isn't that he's a Trump supporter, the issue is he does not update on some aspects of Trump. Not updating + megaphone = the essence of shilldom, and the antithesis of rationality.

edit: In case still not clear, here is another shill: http://thememoryhole2.org/blog/scaramucci-tweets

Safe to ignore the commentary, just look at stuff he actually said.

edit: re: "no obvious payoff in sight for shilling", he's now gone. Food for thought for other shills.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 26 July 2017 09:56:44PM 0 points [-]

Adams has stated why he doesn't make claims about Trump's character. Recent podcast.

He says his own moral views are such that if he went around shunning people for immorality, he'd be shunning everyone.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 26 July 2017 09:53:35PM 0 points [-]

The claim that Trump is a Master Persuader is falsifiable.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 03 August 2017 03:10:27PM *  0 points [-]

"You cannot say that to the press," Trump said on the phone call. "The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances."

-- Master Persuader in action, re: the wall with the President of Mexico.

Comment author: Viliam 21 July 2017 10:17:05AM *  3 points [-]

This seems to me like another instance of... not sure how to call it precisely, but switching between two different (actually contradictory) positions:

  • We should pay attention to Adams because he explains truthfully what Trump does.

  • We should pay attention to Adams because he uses the same kind of lies Trump does, thus illustrating what Trump does.

So, which one is it? Should we pay attention to what Adams says, or what Adams does? When Adams say "X" should we interpret it as "Adams believes that X is true" or "Adams believes that X is false, and that saying 'X is true' is a good example of what a master liar would say"?

Because it can't be both at the same time.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 05:59:32PM 3 points [-]

I don't think I ever claimed "We should pay attention to Adams because he uses the same kind of lies Trump does, thus illustrating what Trump does."

Comment author: Viliam 25 July 2017 10:05:51AM 1 point [-]

LawrenceC said it much better then me. Trump-style "master persuasion" is not the same as "model rationalist disagreement". Unless perhaps that is exactly the point you were trying to make, in which case it would help to make it explicit.

Comment author: jimmy 21 July 2017 07:49:39PM *  2 points [-]

Why do you use the term "master liar" over the term "master persuader" which is the one that Adams and Miller use and also the one that makes better sense the things Adams and Miller say? There is very obviously no contradiction unless you use the term and framing that you're trying to place on them.

Comment author: ChristianKl 21 July 2017 12:43:28PM 2 points [-]

(1b) Yes, that's my opinion as well. What's relevant is what we should do about climate change, and as Adams pointed out even if all the climate change stuff is true, the economics doesn't necessarily support taking immediate action.

As far as motte-and-bailey goes, Adams make it appear as if "immediate action" means paying for more solar panels. He argues that it's okay to wait for technology improvement. If your strategy happens to be to want technology improvement than your immediate action would be to increase R&D funding. Trump decreased clean tech R&D funding.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 05:57:26PM 0 points [-]

Not necessarily. It could be that the government is spending too much on clean tech R&D and that even without government help clean tech will improve enough so that it's worth waiting. If (as I think Harris said but I'm not sure) China is making a big push for clean tech then it would seem optimal for the U.S. to wait and to spend less on clean tech R&D.

Comment author: Bound_up 11 August 2017 05:55:30PM 1 point [-]

The dialogue about Trump on climate change is a perfect example of how most people think in opposition to how careful, abstract nerdy-types think.

To a nerd, it's a crucial distinction to say something like while we may not, based on economic models, want to do anything about it, it is an entirely separate question whether or not global warming is actually occurring.

A great many people will not make that "fine" distinction. All they can hear is "yay my tribe" and "boo my tribe." If that's all they can understand, then is it really a lie to say something that you know will be interpreted as "yay you guys?"

I would say it's a lie to say something you know the other person will misinterpret in a way that leads them to a wrong conclusion, even if the way you would interpret it is true. The counterpart is that it's not a lie to say something that you know will be interpreted an acceptably true way ("yay you guys" is not true or false per se) even if the way you would interpret it is false.

Scott Adams understands the folly of trying to make fine distinctions about political issues when talking to most people, so he, just like them, interprets Trump's statement as a partisan rallying cry, and excuses it on the basis of consequentialism (he seems to think it's okay not to do anything about global warming). As far as he and they are concerned, there's nothing about that statement that CAN be "true" or "false;" it has all the informational density of a hearty "yay!"

Comment author: James_Miller 12 August 2017 05:46:46AM 0 points [-]


Comment author: Stabilizer 21 July 2017 07:55:12PM 1 point [-]

A general point: I fear Adams attributes positions and beliefs and intentions to Trump which, from Trump's actions and public statements, are not justifiably attributable to Trump.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 08:04:29PM 2 points [-]

Adams predicting that Trump would win at a time when nearly everyone else thought Trump was a joke candidate is evidence that Adams has special insight into Trump. And this wasn't a mere prediction. Adams essentially bet his entire reputation on this claim. Adams often makes falsifiable predictions such as when he said that Obamacare would essentially never be repealed and that Snapchat had a dim future.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 26 July 2017 09:51:47PM 0 points [-]

The prediction of the win shows he has insights into Trump's capabilities, but not necessarily his intentions.

Comment author: James_Miller 26 July 2017 11:44:38PM *  0 points [-]

Yes, but Adams explains at length how Trump is a master persuader, as with, for example, this Tweet "The day President Trump made his critics compare The Boy Scouts of America to Hitler Youth." I lot of what Adams says is P vs NP stuff where it's hard to figure out yourself but once someone explains it to you it seems obvious.