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In response to comment by [deleted] on Climate change: existential risk?
Comment author: DanielLC 08 May 2011 06:32:07PM 7 points [-]

At $130/kg, there's enough for 80 years at current consumption (about 10 years if we use it for all our electricity), but if we're willing to use ore with a tenth as much uranium, there's 300 times as much. Also, there's ways of using uranium 238, which is about 140 times as abundant. It's still a temporary patch, in the sense that we can't just keep using it until the sun goes out, but it will last long enough for fusion power to become economically feasible.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 08 May 2011 11:15:36PM 5 points [-]

Also, there's ways of using uranium 238

And thorium.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 May 2011 07:37:15PM 5 points [-]

Not everything that is not purely consequentialist reasoning is moralizing. You can have consequentialist justifications of virtue ethics or even consequentialist justifications of deontological injunctions, and you are allowed to feel strongly about them, without moralizing. It's a 5-second-level emotional direction, not a philosophical style.

Sigh. This is why I said, "But trying to define exactly what constitutes 'moralizing' isn't going to get us any closer to having nice rationalist communities."

Comment author: BenAlbahari 08 May 2011 10:39:12AM 19 points [-]


A 5-second method (that I employ to varying levels of success) is whenever I feel the frustration of a failed interaction, I question how it might have been made more successful by me, regardless of whose "fault" it was. Your "sigh" reaction comes across as expressing the sentiment "It's your fault for not getting me. Didn't you read what I wrote? It's so obvious". But could you have expressed your ideas almost as easily without generating confusion in the first place? If so, maybe your reaction would be instead along the lines of "Oh that's interesting. I thought it was obvious but I guess I can see how that might have generated confusion. Perhaps I could...".

FWIW I actually really like the central idea in this post, and arguably too many of the comments have been side-tracked by digressions on moralizing. However, my hunch is that you probably could have easily gotten the message across AND avoided this confusion. My own specific suggestion here is that stipulative definitions are semantic booby traps, so if possible avoid them. Why introduce a stipulative definition for "moralize" when a less loaded phrase like "suspended judgement" could work? My head hurts reading these comments trying to figure out how each person is using the term "moralize" and I now have to think twice when reading the term on LW, including even your old posts. This is an unnecessary cognitive burden. In any case, my final note here would be to consider that you'd be lucky if your target audience for your upcoming book(s) was anywhere near as sharp as wedrifid. So if he's confused, that's a valuable signal.

In response to The 5-Second Level
Comment author: wedrifid 07 May 2011 07:54:50AM 12 points [-]

rationalists don't moralize

I like the theory but 'does not moralize' is definitely not a feature I would ascribe to Eliezer. We even have people quoting Eliezer's moralizing for the purpose of spreading the moralizing around!

"Bad argument gets counterargument. Does not get bullet. Never. Never ever never for ever."

In terms of general moralizing tendencies of people who identify as rationalists they seem to moralize slightly less than average but the most notable difference is what they choose to moralize about. When people happen to have similar morals to yourself it doesn't feel like they are moralizing as much.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 07 May 2011 12:57:04PM *  5 points [-]

people who identify as rationalists they seem to moralize slightly less than average

Really? The LW website attracts aspergers types and apparently morality is stuff aspergers people like.

In response to The 5-Second Level
Comment author: BenAlbahari 07 May 2011 08:13:29AM *  4 points [-]

don't go into the evolutionary psychology of politics or the game theory of punishing non-punishers

OK, so you're saying that to change someone's mind, identify mental behaviors that are "world view building blocks", and then to instill these behaviors in others:

...come up with exercises which, if people go through them, causes them to experience the 5-second events

Such as:

...to feel the temptation to moralize, and to make the choice not to moralize, and to associate alternative procedural patterns such as pausing, reflecting...


...to feel the temptation to doubt, and to make the choice not to doubt, and to associate alternative procedural patterns such as pausing, prayer...

The 5-second method is sufficiently general to coax someone into believing any world view, not just a rationalist one.

In response to comment by [deleted] on SIAI - An Examination
Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 May 2011 08:52:20AM 26 points [-]

Yep. The way it actually works is that I'm on the critical path for our organizational mission, and paying me less would require me to do things that take up time and energy in order to get by with a smaller income. Then, assuming all goes well, future intergalactic civilizations would look back and think this was incredibly stupid; in much the same way that letting billions of person-containing brains rot in graves, and humanity allocating less than a million dollars per year to the Singularity Institute, would predictably look pretty stupid in retrospect. At Singularity Institute board meetings we at least try not to do things which will predictably make future intergalactic civilizations think we were being willfully stupid. That's all there is to it, and no more.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 05 May 2011 10:41:04AM 35 points [-]

I have an image of Eliezer queued up in a coffee shop, guiltily eyeing up the assortment of immodestly priced sugary treats. The reptilian parts of his brain have commandeered the more recently evolved parts of his brain into fervently computing the hedonic calculus of an action that other, more foolish types, might misclassify as a sordid instance of discretionary spending. Caught staring into the glaze of a particularly sinful muffin, he now faces a crucial choice. A cognitive bias, thought to have been eradicated from his brain before the SIAI was founded, seizes its moment. "I'll take the triple chocolate muffin thank you" Eliezer blurts out. "Are you sure?" the barista asks. "Well I can't be 100% sure. But the future of intergalactic civilizations may very well depend on it!"

Comment author: BenAlbahari 02 May 2011 05:21:40PM *  6 points [-]

While I'm inclined to agree with the conclusion, this post is perhaps a little guilty of generalizing from one example - the paragraphs building up the case for the conclusion are all "I..." yet when we get to the conclusion it's suddenly "We humans...". Maybe some people can't handle the truth. Or maybe we can handle the truth under certain conditions that so far have applied to you.

P.S. I compiled a bunch of quotes from experts/influential people for the questions Can we handle the truth? and Is self-deception a fault?.

Comment author: Garren 02 May 2011 03:17:12PM 2 points [-]

Well, metaethics isn't supposed to be good for telling us which things are wrong and which things are right. Nor is it supposed to be about providing us with motivation to do good.

The chief role of metaethics is to answer questions about what it means for things to be morally right or wrong or what we're doing when we make moral judgments. In some ways, this is a relatively meek endeavor, which is why it's not completely outrageous for someone to claim it's 'solvable' now.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 02 May 2011 03:39:26PM -1 points [-]

The chief role of metaethics is to provide far-mode superstimulus for those inclined to rationalize social signals literally.

Comment author: Amanojack 02 May 2011 02:14:49AM 35 points [-]

There is some ineffable something in those who are distinctly uncooperative with requests to define morality or otherwise have a rational discussion on the matter, both here and on all forums where I've discussed morality, and I think you've hit on what that something is. It is the fear of nihilism, the fear that without their moral compass they might suddenly want to do evil, deplorable things because they'd be A-okay.

What they don't see, in my opinion, is that it is their very dread at such a possibility that is really what is keeping them from doing those things. "Morality" provides no additional protection; it merely serves as after-the-fact justification of the sentiments that were already there.

We don't cringe at the thought of stealing from old ladies because it's wrong, but rather we call it wrong to steal from old ladies because we cringe at the thought.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 02 May 2011 03:08:53PM *  4 points [-]

Ethics and aesthetics have strong parallels here. Consider this quote from Oscar Wilde:

For we who are working in art cannot accept any theory of beauty in exchange for beauty itself, and, so far from desiring to isolate it in a formula appealing to the intellect, we, on the contrary, seek to materialise it in a form that gives joy to the soul through the senses. We want to create it, not to define it. The definition should follow the work: the work should not adapt itself to the definition.

Whereby any theory of art...

merely serves as after-the-fact justification of the sentiments that were already there.

Comment author: BenAlbahari 02 May 2011 05:05:55AM 3 points [-]

I've gone through massive reversals in my metaethics twice now, and guess what? At no time did I spontaneously acquire the urge to rape people. At no time did I stop caring about the impoverished. At no time did I want to steal from the elderly. At no time did people stop having reasons to praise or condemn certain desires and actions of mine, and at no time did I stop having reasons to praise or condemn the desires and actions of others.

Metaethics: what's it good for...

Comment author: JoshuaZ 25 April 2011 01:22:03PM 2 points [-]

It surely seems improbable that most of people in the 1920s were dreaming black and white while today 80% dream in color.

If this study occurred in the US then it isn't so improbable. In the 1920s the primary form of entertainment were black and white movies. This might have had enough influence that many of the people who would have had dreams in color had substantial parts of those dreams in "color" but the only relevant colors were black and white. (This notion is partially inspired by my own dreams- I dream in color, but occasionally cartoon characters show up, and when they do, they look like they would in the cartoon even as they interact with normal people, or something sort of like that. So it isn't implausible to me that something similar could happen with black and white characters.)

Comment author: BenAlbahari 25 April 2011 01:55:18PM 0 points [-]

I believe the primary form of entertainment for the last million years has had plenty of color.

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