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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 January 2015 11:22:51PM 60 points [-]

For what it’s worth, I endorse this aesthetic and apologize for any role I played in causing people to focus too much on the hero thing. You need a lot of nonheroes per hero and I really want to validate the nonheroes but I guess I feel like I don’t know how, or like it’s not my place to say because I didn’t make the same sacrifices… or what feels to me like it ought to be a sacrifice, only maybe it’s not.

Comment author: Lumifer 05 December 2014 03:50:03PM *  58 points [-]

If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid.

This is what survivorship bias looks like from the inside.

Comment author: 27chaos 01 December 2014 08:30:07PM 54 points [-]

If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair.

Saul Alinsky, in his Rules for Radicals.

This one hit home for me. Got a haircut yesterday. :P

Comment author: iceman 21 July 2015 07:20:37PM 50 points [-]

Donated $25,000. My employer will also match $6,000 of that, for a grand total of $31,000.

Comment author: Rain 21 July 2015 01:22:45AM 50 points [-]

I donated $5000 today and continue my $1000 monthly donations.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 January 2015 01:54:40PM *  50 points [-]

I suspect this is a consequence of the situation that rationalists often feel alone. Not necessarily alone as people (although that also happens), but alone as rationalists. Before I found LW, I was in a situation where I had a few friends, but probably none of them would be interested in the kind of debates we have on LW.

If there is only one person in the whole Shire who cares about destroying the ring, would we want that person to be Frodo or Samwise? Frodo would probably try the mission alone, even if less efficiently. Samwise would probably settle for the second best mission, for a mission where he could find a hero to follow.

In different situations different traits are required. In a situation where the individuals are isolated, we would probably want every individual to be a hero, because heroes can act in isolation. On the other hand, in a functional community, having a few highly efficient heroes is probably better than having too many heroes with low efficiency.

So maybe we could use the presence of integrated sidekicks as a measure of health of the community.

This reminds me of some unhealthy behavior I have seen in Mensa: people who have spent so much time in their lives trying to prove their intelligence, that when they finally find a group of their peers, all they can do is continue signalling their intelligence by solving yet another meaningless puzzle, over and over again. Similarly, I guess many wannable rationalists have spent too much time in their lives trying to be the only sane person facing the crazy world, that we may have a problem updating to cooperation with other people who share similar values. It is difficult to cooperate optimally with other rationalists, if we never had an opportunity to learn this behavior in the past.

Comment author: James_Miller 04 March 2015 03:46:02PM 43 points [-]

It seemed rather short

Misao Okawa, the world's oldest person, when asked "how she felt about living for 117 years."

Comment author: WalterL 01 December 2014 08:30:37PM 42 points [-]

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.

-Damon Runyon

Comment author: Gondolinian 01 January 2015 02:26:21AM 38 points [-]

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone – they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

In real life, real-life kings had real-life problems to deal with. Just being a good guy was not the answer. You had to make hard, hard decisions. Sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turned around and bit you in the ass; it was the law of unintended consequences. I've tried to get at some of these in my books. My people who are trying to rule don't have an easy time of it. Just having good intentions doesn't make you a wise king.

— George R. R. Martin, Rolling Stone interview (emphasis mine)

Comment author: orthonormal 19 March 2015 04:58:54AM 38 points [-]

Why a separate forum, you ask? For one thing, a narrower focus is better for this purpose: sending academic researchers to Less Wrong led to them wondering why people were talking about polyamory, cryonics, and Harry Potter on the same site as the decision theory posts...

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 26 December 2014 06:12:13PM 37 points [-]

I donated $4,000 the other week (or I will have once the check clears).

Comment author: lukeprog 21 July 2015 01:56:19AM 37 points [-]

Donated $300.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2015 12:45:17AM 35 points [-]

Donated $100 and 5000 Stellar.

Comment author: grendelkhan 04 December 2014 09:48:07PM *  32 points [-]

If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid.

"Murphy's Laws of Combat"

Comment author: Jay_Schweikert 03 December 2014 04:40:11AM *  31 points [-]

All the logical work (if not all the rhetorical work) in “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” is being done by the decision about what aspects of liberty are essential, and how much safety is at stake. The slogan might work as a reminder not to make foolish tradeoffs, but the real difficulty is in deciding which tradeoffs are wise and which are foolish. Once we figure that out, we don’t need the slogan to remind us; before we figure it out, the slogan doesn’t really help us.

--Eugene Volokh, "Liberty, safety, and Benjamin Franklin"

A good example of the risk of reading too much into slogans that are basically just applause lights. Also reminds me of "The Choice between Good and Bad is not a matter of saying 'Good!' It is about deciding which is which."

Comment author: Sarunas 01 July 2015 12:26:26PM *  31 points [-]

Kissinger was not rushing to end our conversation that morning, and I had one more message to give him. “Henry, there’s something I would like to tell you, for what it’s worth, something I wish I had been told years ago. You’ve been a consultant for a long time, and you’ve dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you’re about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, that are higher than top secret.

“I’ve had a number of these myself, and I’ve known other people who have just acquired them, and I have a pretty good sense of what the effects of receiving these clearances are on a person who didn’t previously know they even existed. And the effects of reading the information that they will make available to you.

“First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all―so much! incredible!―suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had, and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.

“You will feel like a fool, and that will last for about two weeks. Then, after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it, and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t... and that all those other people are fools.

"Over a longer period of time―not too long, but a matter of two or three years―you’ll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information. There is a great deal that it doesn’t tell you, it’s often inaccurate, and it can lead you astray just as much as the New York Times can. But that takes. a while to learn.

“In the meantime it will have become very hard for you to learn from anybody who doesn’t have these clearances. Because you’ll be thinking as you listen to them: ‘What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations?’ And that mental exercise is so torturous that after a while you give it up and just stop listening. I’ve seen this with my superiors, my colleagues... and with myself.

“You will deal with a person who doesn’t have those clearances only from the point of view of what you want him to believe and what impression you want him to go away with, since you’ll have to lie carefully to him about what you know. In effect, you will have to manipulate him. You’ll give up trying to assess what he has to say. The danger is, you’ll become something like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours.”

It was a speech I had thought through before, one I’d wished someone had once given me, and I’d long hoped to be able to give it to someone who was just about to enter the world of “real” executive secrecy. I ended by saying that I’d long thought of this kind of secret information as something like the potion Circe gave to the wanderers and shipwrecked men who happened on her island, which turned them into swine. They became incapable of human speech and couldn’t help one another to find their way home.

  • Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
Comment author: Dustin 31 December 2014 01:59:21AM 32 points [-]

I realized I like this post because I identify with LessWrong, contrarianism, highlighting wrongness of high-status individuals, and a handful of other related concepts.

I find myself disliking Steiner, scoffing at institutions that give him position and those who give his book a good review.

All that despite barely being aware that Steiner exists and certainly never having read a thing he wrote.

Kinda scary.

I mean the criticisms might all be valid, but all I have to go on is the five minutes I spent reading this post.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 26 December 2014 10:18:46PM 32 points [-]

Thanks for the detailed update! Donated $1,500.

Comment author: bramflakes 03 December 2014 03:56:16PM *  31 points [-]

When you hear an economist on TV "explain" the decline in stock prices by citing a slump in the market (and I have heard this pseudo-explanation more than once) it is time to turn off the television.

Thomas J. McKay, Reasons, Explanations and Decisions

Comment author: Davis_Kingsley 21 July 2015 08:35:48PM 31 points [-]

I just donated $200.00. Last year's developments have been very promising and I look forward to seeing MIRI progress even further.

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