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

Comment author: ChristianKl 14 April 2015 02:23:01PM *  3 points [-]

I think the "The Twelve Virtues of Rationality" actually makes an argument that those things are virtues.

It's start is also quite fitting: "The first virtue is curiosity. A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth."

It argues against the frame of vows.

Withdrawing into mysticism where everything goes is bad. Obfuscating is bad. It's quite easy to say something that gives rationalist applause lights. Critical thinking and actually thinking through the implications of using the frame of a vow is harder. Getting less wrong about what it happens to think rational is hard.

Mystic writing that's too vague to be questioned doesn't really have a place here.

Comment author: Cyan 14 April 2015 02:48:16PM 1 point [-]

Sure, I agree with all of that. I was just trying to get at the root of why "nobody asked [you] to take either vow".

Comment author: ChristianKl 13 April 2015 06:38:48PM -1 points [-]

I believe that's why So8res referred to it as a vow to yourself, not anyone else.

Before I also haven't heard anybody speak about taking those kinds of vows to oneself.

This seems like a willful misreading of the essay's point. It seems obvious from context that So8res is referring here to motivated cognition, which does indeed have something wrong with it.

I consider basics to be important. If we allow vague statements about basic principles of rationality to stand we don't improve our understanding of rationality.

Willing is not the problem of motivated cognition. Having desires for reality to be different is not the problem. You don't need to be a straw vulcan without any desire or will to be rational.

Furthermore "Shut up and do the impossible" from the sequences is about "trying to will reality into being a certain way".

Comment author: Cyan 14 April 2015 01:46:54PM 2 points [-]

Before I also haven't heard anybody speak about taking those kinds of vows to oneself.

It's not literal. It's an attempt at poetic language, like The Twelve Virtues of Rationality.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 14 February 2015 06:46:24PM *  3 points [-]

Look at his latest post: "hey wait a second, there is bias by censoring!" The "hard/conceptual part" is structuring the problem in the right way to notice something is wrong, the "bookkeeping" part is e.g. Kaplan-Meier / censoring-adjustment-via-truncation.

Comment author: Cyan 19 February 2015 01:06:24AM *  1 point [-]

I don't disagree with this. A lot of the kind of math Scott lacks is just rather complicated bookkeeping.

(Apropos of nothing, the work "bookkeeping" has the unusual property of containing three consecutive sets of doubled letters: oo,kk,ee.)

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 13 February 2015 12:26:38PM *  5 points [-]

Causal stories in particular.

I actually disagree that having a good intuitive grasp of "stories" of this type is not a math thing, or a part of the descriptive statistics magisterium (unless you think graphical models are descriptive statistics). "Oh but maybe there is confounder X" quickly becomes a maze of twisty passages where it is easy to get lost.


"Math things" is thinking carefully.


I think equating lots of derivation mistakes or whatever with poor math ability is: (a) toxic and (b) wrong. I think the innate ability/genius model of successful mathematicians is (a) toxic and (b) wrong. I further think that a better model for a successful mathematician is someone who is past a certain innate ability threshold who has the drive to keep going and the morale to not give up. To reiterate, I believe for most folks who post here the dominating term is drive and morale, not ability (of course drive and morale are also partly hereditary).

Comment author: Cyan 13 February 2015 04:25:56PM 2 points [-]

I have the sort of math skills that Scott claims to lack. I lack his skill at writing, and I stand in awe (and envy) at how far Scott's variety of intelligence takes him down the path of rationality. I currently believe that the sort of reasoning he does (which does require careful thinking) does not cluster with mathy things in intelligence-space.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 12 February 2015 09:16:39AM *  9 points [-]

Thanks for writing this post, and specifically for trying to change Scott's mind. Scott's complaints about his math abilities often go like this:

"Man, I wish I wasn't so terrible at math. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to tear the statistical methodology in this paper to pieces."


Put me in as yet another "clearly not in the genius category" person in a somewhat mathy area awaiting the rest of this series. I think a lot about what "mathematical sophistication" is, I am curious what your conclusions are.


I think mathematical sophistication gets you a lot of what is called "rationality skills" here for free, basically.

Comment author: Cyan 12 February 2015 08:29:20PM *  6 points [-]

Scott's technique for shredding papers' conclusions seem to me to consist mostly of finding alternative stories that account for the data and that the authors have overlooked or downplayed. That's not really a math thing, and it plays right to his strengths.

Comment author: AndHisHorse 23 January 2015 07:30:24PM 2 points [-]

Why is this a rationality quote?

Comment author: Cyan 23 January 2015 07:47:51PM *  1 point [-]

Maybe for the bit about signalling in the last paragraph...? Just guessing here; perhaps Kawoomba will fill us in.

Comment author: XFrequentist 08 January 2015 05:18:25AM 4 points [-]

I call forth the mighty Cyan!

Comment author: Cyan 08 January 2015 06:05:09PM *  8 points [-]

I like it when I can just point folks to something I've already written.

The upshot is that there are two things going on here that interact to produce the shattering phenomenon. First, the notion of closeness permits some very pathological models to be considered close to sensible models. Second, the optimization to find the worst-case model close to the assumed model is done in a post-data way, not in prior expectation. So what you get is this: for any possible observed data and any model, there is a model "close" to the assumed one that predicts absolute disaster (or any result) just for that specific data set, and is otherwise well-behaved.

As the authors themselves put it:

The mechanism causing this “brittleness” has its origin in the fact that, in classical Bayesian Sensitivity Analysis, optimal bounds on posterior values are computed after the observation of the specific value of the data, and that the probability of observing the data under some feasible prior may be arbitrarily small... This data dependence of worst priors is inherent to this classical framework and the resulting brittleness under finite-information can be seen as an extreme occurrence of the dilation phenomenon (the fact that optimal bounds on prior values may become less precise after conditioning) observed in classical robust Bayesian inference.

Comment author: bogus 31 December 2014 03:05:51PM *  5 points [-]

"Privilege" is not really a well-defined concept, but in its most cogent and consistent version, it doesn't really have much to do with suffering at all. It's a rather confusing way of referring to a "biased point of view". Saying that "Person A has privilege" wrt. some issue is a claim that A's overall observations and experiences are unrepresentative, and so she should rely on others' experiences as much as on her own.

It's similar to the argument that truthful Bayesian debaters "can't agree to disagree", except that in the real world, humans don't generally have a clean separation between "different priors" and "different experiences". So, if your priors seem to be somehow different from others', this should make you suspect that something is amiss, because we don't really know of a good reason to reject common priors, if only as an abstract goal.

From this point of view, Scott Aaronson's claim that "privilege" doesn't apply to him is not very meaningful. If anything, a better argument would be that the SJWish folks who have pattern-matched his comment to "Self-proclaimed nice guy(TM) complains about 'feminists', reveals his boorish, entitled attitudes" are showing privilege wrt. nerdy, socially awkward straight males who are expected to navigate the not-altogether-trivial problem of how to interact with women both socially and romantically in a way that's respectful of everyone's autonomy.

Comment author: Cyan 31 December 2014 09:44:00PM *  2 points [-]

It's a rather confusing way of referring to a "biased point of view". Saying that "Person A has privilege" wrt. some issue is a claim that A's overall observations and experiences are unrepresentative, and so she should rely on others' experiences as much as on her own.

That's not quite correct; I think it's best to start with the concept of systematic oppression. Suppose for the sake of argument that some group of people is systematically oppressed, that is, on account of their group identity, the system in which they find themselves denies them access to markets, or subjects them to market power or physical violence, or vilifies them in the public sphere -- you can provide your own examples. The privileged group is just the set complement of the oppressed group. An analogy: systematic oppression is the subject and privilege (in the SJ jargon sense) is the negative space.

The "biased point-of-view" thing follows as a near-corollary because it's human nature to notice one's oppression and to take one's absence-of-oppression for granted as a kind of natural status quo, a background assumption.

Next question: in what way did Aaronson's so-called wealthy white male privilege actually benefit him? To answer this, all we need to do is imagine, say, a similarly terrified poor black trans nerd learning to come out of their shell. Because I've chosen an extreme contrast, it's pretty clear who would have the easier time of it and why. Once you can see it in high contrast, it's pretty easy to relax the contrast and keep track of the relative benefits that privilege conveys.

Comment author: passive_fist 16 December 2014 10:17:55AM 2 points [-]

I tried the pomodoro system for a bit (which I understand is somewhat popular here) but I found it to be largely useless, for myself at least. Instead just removing various distractions was far more powerful. This is corroborated by the literature; Gloria Mark's research is worth a look: http://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/Home_page/Welcome.html

Comment author: Cyan 18 December 2014 09:08:46PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: Yvain 21 November 2014 07:09:01AM *  39 points [-]

I've been advised to come here and defend myself.

If you haven't been watching closely, David Gerard has been spreading these same smears about me on RationalWiki, on Twitter, and now here. His tweets accuse me of treating the Left in general and the social justice movement in particular with "frothing" and as "ordure". And now he comes here and adds Tumblr to the list of victims, and "actual disgust" to the list of adjectives.

I resent this because it is a complete fabrication.

I resent it because, far from a frothing hatred of Tumblr, I myself have a Tumblr account which I use almost every day and which I've made three hundred posts on. Sure, I've gently mocked Tumblr (as has every Tumblr user) but I've also very publicly praised it for hosting some very interesting and enlightening conversations.

I resent it because I've posted a bunch of long defenses and steelmannings of social justice ideas like Social Justice For The Highly Demanding Of Rigor and The Wonderful Thing About Triggers, some of which have gone mildly viral in the social justice blogosphere, and some of which have led to people emailing me or commenting saying they've changed their minds and become less hostile to social justice as a result.

I resent it because, far from failing to intellectually engage with the Left, in the past couple of months I've read, reviewed, and enjoyed left-leaning books on Marx, the Soviet economy, and market socialism

I resent it because the time I most remember someone trying to engage me about social justice, Apophemi, I wrote a seven thousand word response which I consider excruciatingly polite, which started with a careful justification for why writing it would be more productive and respectful than not writing it, and which ended with a heartfelt apology for the couple of things I had gotten wrong on my last post on the subject.

(Disgust! Frothing! Ordure!)

I resent it because I happily hosted Ozy's social justice blogging for several months, giving them an audience for posts like their takedown of Heartiste, which was also very well-received and got social justice ideas to people who otherwise wouldn't have seen them.

I resent it because about a fifth of my blogroll is social justice or social justice-aligned blogs, each of which get a couple dozen hits from me a day.

I resent it because even in my most impassioned posts about social justice, I try to make it very clear that there are parts of the movement which make excellent points, and figures in the movement I highly respect. Even in what I think everyone here will agree is my meanest post on the subject, Radicalizing the Romanceless, I stop to say the following about the social justice blogger I am arguing against:

[He] is a neat guy. He draws amazing comics and he runs one of the most popular, most intellectual, and longest-standing feminist blogs on the Internet. I have debated him several times, and although he can be enragingly persistent he has always been reasonable...He cares deeply about a lot of things, works hard for those things, and has supported my friends when they have most needed support.

(DISGUST! FROTHING! ORDURE!)

I resent it because it trivializes all of my sick burns against neoreactionaries, like the time I accused them of worshipping Kim Jong-un as a god, and the time I said they were obsessed with "precious, precious, white people", and the time I mocked Jim for thinking Eugene V. Debs was a Supreme Court case.

I resent this because anyone who looks at my posts tagged with social justice can see that almost as many are in favor as against.

And I resent this because I'm being taken to task about charity by somebody whose own concept of a balanced and reasonable debate is retweeting stuff like this -- and again and again calling the people he disagrees with "shitlords"

(which puts his faux-horror that I treat people I disagree with 'like ordure' in a pretty interesting new light)

No matter how many pro-social-justice posts I write, how fair and nice I am, or what I do, David Gerard is going to keep spreading these smears about me until I refuse to ever engage with anyone who disagrees with him about anything at all. As long as I'm saying anything other than "every view held by David Gerard is perfect and flawless and everyone who disagrees with David Gerard is a shitlord who deserve to die", he is going to keep concern-trolling you guys that I am "biased" or "unfair".

Please give his continued campaigning along these lines the total lack of attention it richly deserves.

Comment author: Cyan 25 November 2014 01:24:06AM *  4 points [-]

I'm a SSC fan and highly sympathetic to SJ goals and ideals. One of the core LW meetup members in my city can't stand to read SSC on account of what he perceives to be constant bashing of SJ. (I've already checked and verified that his perception of the proportion of SJ bashing in SSC posts is a massive overestimate, probably caused by selection bias.) As a specific example of verbiage that he considers typical of SSC he cited:

And the people who talk about “Nice Guys” – and the people who enable them, praise them, and link to them – are blurring the already rather thin line between “feminism” and “literally Voldemort”.

When I read that line, I didn't take it literally -- in spite of the use of the word "literally". I just kind of skipped over it. But after it was pointed out to me that I ought to take it literally, well... "frothing" is a pretty good description.

I remain a SSC fan, but I'm less likely to just blank out the meaning of these kinds of things now.

View more: Next