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Bound_up comments on Social Insight: When a Lie Is Not a Lie; When a Truth Is Not a Truth - Less Wrong Discussion

7 Post author: Bound_up 11 August 2017 06:28PM

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Comment author: Bound_up 13 August 2017 01:14:54AM 0 points [-]

We're mostly on the same page, really.

Much of what I've said applies to politics with large electorates, where the default case is that you can't effectively teach new concepts and people don't want to learn them, anyway.

In small groups, by all means, there are times when it's a very powerful move to try and teach people. There are even times, in all arenas, where saying "I'm better than you" is a useful move, you just don't want to be limited to that one move.

I also strongly value being honest and known to be honest. I find "you're the best" statements to be acceptable insofar as the other person KNOWS what I mean and is not deceived in any way. The key insight here is that the explicit meaning of the words is not the real meaning of a statement in many contexts. Don't ask what the words of a sentence mean, ask what it means for someone to say those words in this situation, in other words. "You're the best" doesn't actually mean "I would bet money on you against Muhammad Ali," and nobody thinks it does, which is why it doesn't communicate any false information. It doesn't communicate ANY information about how the world works, nor does it try to; it's more like the verbal equivalent of a shot of caffeine

Comment author: jimmy 15 August 2017 06:26:31PM *  0 points [-]

Ah, I didn't realize you were focused on large scale politics and figured you were using it as merely one example.

I'm not so sure I agree on that completely. Certainly it's more in that direction, and you aren't going to be able to explain complex models to large electorates, and I don't have time to coherently express my reasoning here, but it certainly appears to me that teaching is possible on the margin and that this strategy still works on larger scales with more of those inherent limitations.

I agree that "you're the best" isn't dishonest so long as the person knows what you mean. My point wasn't about honesty so much as whether you want to dilute your message. I should be clear that it doesn't always apply here and I don't claim to have the full answer about exactly how to do it, but I have found value in avoiding certain types of these "honest literal-untruths" or whatever you'd like to call them. In cases where one might want to say "you got this!" as normal encouragement, abstaining from normal encouragement makes it easier to convey real confidence in the person when you know for a fact that they can do it. Both have value, but I do feel like the latter is often undervalued while the former is overvalued.

Comment author: Bound_up 16 August 2017 10:09:49AM 0 points [-]

I've classically been a literalist super-honest guy, and now intend to be super-honest about what I make the other person hear.

I think them knowing I'm being honest about what they hear is sufficient to grant me all the benefits I've enjoyed in the past, while avoiding some of the disadvantages