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In response to comment by tim on Why people want to die
Comment author: asd 25 August 2015 10:29:03AM *  7 points [-]

doubled life expectancy of 2015.

Life expectancy (at age 0) has increased mainly because infant mortality and child mortality has decreased dramatically, not because people used to collectively live to 30's and now live to 70's. Most adults in our ancestral past lived to be about as old as people do in western industrialized nations today.

In response to comment by asd on Why people want to die
Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:59:25PM 1 point [-]

However, our expected healthspan (the amount of time for which a person is capable of substantial physical activity and not beset by ailments) has gone up considerably in the last few centuries. Perhaps the relatively few people who made it to old age in hunter-gatherer societies might have had similar healthspans, but they constituted a dramatically smaller fraction of the total populace. The average 35 year old today has decades longer of healthy, productive living to look forward to than the average 35 year old 300 years ago (sources available in this book) and while people occasionally remark on, say, 50 being the new 30, it doesn't seem to leave most people dazzled or mentally unequipped for their new environment.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:48:34PM 1 point [-]

I'm highly skeptical that most people actually run out of stuff they take pleasure in over the course of a natural lifespan, or anticipate themselves doing so. Most people may have interests less "open ended" than are the norm here, but I haven't found that people interested in, say, football, tend to find that by their latter years they've had enough of football.

If immortality was available on asking, and some people chose to live forever to pursue their interests indefinitely, I think people who refused to follow their lead because they had simply had enough would be very much in the minority.

Comment author: lionhearted 27 August 2015 12:35:20PM *  0 points [-]

... is an attempt to pretend that that fundamentally important quality is not of fundamental importance ...

Incorrect. You missed the point.

It's a way to communicate with less analytical people without acting like a clueless sledgehammer that alienates people.

We might both disagree with "Serbia is the greatest country in the world" but that's not a very good argument to communicate to a Serbian who holds that view as deeply true.

Alternatively, do the Spock thing and try to instruct the average Balkan-country citizen on their "language accuracy" and see how far it gets you.

If you can get someone who asserts their opinion is "true" to grant it's true to them but not empirically true you've already won half the battle in helping them think and communicate better.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:32:45PM 0 points [-]

I think most people here are aware that there's a gap between how we tend to communicate on Less Wrong or in other rationalist circles, and how people tend to communicate in various other circles. I think that's a component of the concept of inferential distance.

But separating out various types of beliefs into categories such as "empirical truth" and "affective truth" also has a gap of inferential distance from most of the people we'd be using such concepts to communicate with, and I think it's questionable whether it's a step along the direction that brings them closest to the position we're trying to get to.

Comment author: VAuroch 05 August 2015 09:37:42PM 1 point [-]

Read the Tiffany Aching ones. They're not just for children, but especially read them if you have or ever expect to have children. These are the stories on which baby rationalists ought to be raised.

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 August 2015 12:53:12AM 0 points [-]

I have read the first three since I left that comment (so all but I Shall Wear Midnight,) and I thought they were, at least pretty good, as all the Discworld books were, but as far as younger-readers' Discworld books go, I rate The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents more highly.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 30 June 2015 03:07:27PM 4 points [-]

The Olympics should be a good test. Do countries which select Olympic candidates damn-near from birth (China, as one example), and train (groom) them through their young lives to compete, do better than countries which do not?

Comment author: Desrtopa 02 July 2015 03:27:53PM 2 points [-]

This seems a bit hard to isolate from confounding variables though.For example, China might breed and groom basketball players for elite competition (my understanding is they do have some kind of athlete breeding system going on,) but not have access to as high level of basketball coaches and trainers as a country like the United States where basketball is more entrenched in the culture, and it would be hard to measure the impact of these influences separately.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 June 2015 11:28:01AM 5 points [-]

The common word for "grooming" is education. You find plenty of material on LW about education and thought about human learning.

If you look at the UK quite a lot of political figures do get groomed in Eton and go on to get a degree in Oxford or Cambridge.

In the US you have the ivy league universities. In Yale the Skull and Bones grooms further politicians to the extend that in 2004 the bonesman John Kerry lost to the bonesman George W. Bush.

In France you have Sciences Po.

Those institutions all have power but they the information about how their power works isn't as public as the information about the voting system.

Comment author: Desrtopa 02 July 2015 03:23:04PM 1 point [-]

I think there's an important distinction here this doesn't address though.

Both selection and grooming feature education, but in cases of grooming, a person is being educated for a specific role which they're intended to fill. In cases of selection, the person is acquiring qualifications which will promote them as a candidate for a variety of different positions. Within a system of selection, some people may receive significantly better or more prestigious educations, and this gives them preferential candidacy for higher level positions, but it's not the same as grooming, where a person is selected for the position they're meant to fill before they're educated for it.

Comment author: gwern 02 June 2015 09:14:45PM *  7 points [-]

Unfortunately, that falls to the same critique. If you accept that we may have read into Plato and other Western pre-Christian our own conception of morality despite how profoundly those thinkers have shaped Western ethics and culture (not just in translation - how many people have learned Greek just to read the philosophy in the original?), then a fortiori, you should have no trouble in believing that, in lumping together the complex beliefs of thousands of poorly-understood aboriginal and tribal and semi-civilized foreign peoples across the world in a single short formula 'distinguishing right and wrong' for a list of universals, the compilers of the list (or their sources) have twisted various concepts of social norms and appropriateness and magical thinking and superstition into a Christian 'right and wrong'.

Comment author: Desrtopa 04 June 2015 03:10:38PM 4 points [-]

Most people haven't read the original untranslated versions in order to understand them better, but a lot of academics, such as classics professors, have. I've learned about Greek culture from a few professors who would discuss at length how the Greek conceptions of, say, honor or cunning differed from our modern conceptions. But if they were also of the impression that the ancient and classical Greeks did not have a concept of morality, then that would have been a very conspicuous and relevant omission from their instruction. So I'm inclined to suspect that this is a minority interpretation.

Comment author: Desrtopa 04 June 2015 07:02:33AM 3 points [-]

I've been teaching part time at a community center for a while now, and it's been interesting for me to see how the first impressions I had of the various students stacked up against the experiences I had knowing them over an extended period.

I can put numbers to it- out of a bit over 50 students, there were three for whom I found my first impressions to be substantial misjudgments of their habitual character, and one who I came to suspect I had misjudged, but for whom it turned out that the evidence that let me to suspect my initial judgment was wrong was actually uncharacteristic of him, whereas the behavior that formed my first impression was not. Of course, there's a likelihood of confirmation bias here, but since I discuss the students' personalities and behavior extensively with the other teachers, our assessments of them tend towards agreement over time.

Of course, error rates are going to depend strongly on context, but it's nice to have some idea of my expected error rate in this particular context.

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 May 2015 12:33:37AM 0 points [-]

Some well-designed studies even prove that ghosts exist.

I"m not aware of ghosts, Scott talks about telepathy and precognition studies.

Comment author: Desrtopa 28 May 2015 03:46:27AM 0 points [-]

Ghosts specifically seem like too complicated a hypothesis to extract from any experimental results I'm aware of. If we didn't already have a concept of ghosts, I doubt any parapsychology experiments that have taken place would have caused us to develop one.

Comment author: JonahSinick 04 May 2015 03:01:47PM *  7 points [-]

There's an enormous skill component: it matters roughly as much as the aesthetic component. Even if I were as aesthetically discerning as Beethovn, I still wouldn't be able to invent the fast Fourier transform in the early 1800's like Gauss did. You need both for achievement at the highest levels.

I'm counterbalancing the standard attitude of the type "huh? Aesthetic component? What's that?"

Comment author: Desrtopa 18 May 2015 07:54:24AM 1 point [-]

I think that pretty much everyone who knows any number of mathematicians and has talked to them at any length about their work has received exactly this sort of counterbalancing. As someone in a similar position to Scott, I've heard it more times than I can count, and I've honestly come to resent it somewhat. I've been told no end of times about how the beauty and elegance of "real" math, and how unrepresentative the sort of calculating work done at lower levels is of that sort of mathematics, but this is pretty much always being expressed by people who didn't have certain difficulties with the work at lower levels that the people they're expressing it to did.

I've been on the other end of this a lot, trying to teach stuff to people which seems to me to be so intuitively, even beautifully obvious once you look at it from the right perspective, that it seems impossible for a person of any intellectual capacity not to grasp it, only to find that it takes a herculean effort on both our parts for them to make any sense of it at all. It's forced me to accept that there's a lot more human variability than I once thought in the capacity to be really bad at things.

Like Scott, there are some kinds of "real math" which I have a reasonable amount of familiarity with and fluency in. And I have a fair amount of curiosity about and enthusiasm for mathematical curiosities of a certain sort. But I've never been able to muster the slightest bit of enthusiasm for doing math except to the extent that it lets me work out non-math things I'm interested in the answers to. I would love to like math more for its own sake, because there are times when figuring things out which I'm interested in the answers to requires learning more math which is a lot easier if I can appreciate it for its own sake throughout the steps I have to make it through. But lacking that immediate motive, I find much of the necessary learning incredibly dull and frustrating.

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