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Comment author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 01:46:56AM 19 points [-]

If you like this idea but have nothing much to say please comment under this comment so there can be a record of interested parties.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 17 March 2017 01:29:19PM 0 points [-]

This is neat.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 09 March 2017 05:28:26PM 0 points [-]

I find the metaphor plausible. Let's see if I understand where you're coming from.

I've been looking into predecision processes as a means of figuring out where human decisionmaking systematically goes wrong. One such process is hypothesis generation. I found an interesting result in this paper; the researchers compared the hypothesis sets generated by individuals, natural groups and synthetic groups. In this study, a synthetic group's hypothesis set is agglomerated from the hypothesis sets of individuals who never interact socially. They found that natural groups generate more hypotheses than individuals, and that synthetic groups generate more hypotheses than either. It appears that social interaction somehow reduces the number of alternatives that a group considers relative to what the sum of their considerations would be if they were not a group.

Now, this could just be biased information search. One person poses a hypothesis aloud, and then the alternatives become less available to the entire group. But information search itself could be mediated by motivational factors, like if I write "one high-status person poses a hypothesis aloud...", and this is now a hypothesis about biased information search and a zero-sum social-control component. It does seem worth noting that biased search is currently a sufficient explanation by itself, so we might prefer it by parsimony, but at this level of the world model, it seems like things are often multiply determined.

Importantly, creating synthetic groups doesn't look like punishing memetic-warfare/social-control at all. It looks like preventing it altogether. This seems like an intervention that would be difficult to generate if you thought about the problem in the usual way.

In response to Am I Really an X?
Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 06 March 2017 03:18:36PM 13 points [-]

I don't think it's too controversial to propose that at least some of the transgender self-reports might result from the same mechanism as cisgender self-reports. Again, the idea is that there is some 'self-reporting algorithm', that takes some input that we don't yet know about, and outputs a gender category, and that both cisgender people and transgender people have this

I claim that this is knowably false. Rather than there are being any sort of gender-identity switch or self-reporting mechanism in the brain, there are two distinct classes of psychological conditions that motivate the development of a "gender identity" inconsistent with anatomic sex.

One of these etiologies is indeed a brain intersex condition (sufficiently behaviorally-masculine girls or behaviorally-feminine boys, who are a better fit for the gender role of the other anatomical sex).

The other etiology, far more common in natal males than females, is actually more like a sexual orientation (termed autogynephilia, "love of oneself as a woman") than a gender identity: we used to call these people "transvestites", men who derived emotional comfort and sexual pleasure from pretending to be women (and who sometimes availed themselves of feminizing hormones), but who typically didn't insist that they were literally an instance of the same natural category as biologically-female people.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 07 March 2017 12:58:50AM 0 points [-]

I was familiar with this.

I find the first etiology similar to my model. Did you mean to imply this similarity by use of the word 'indeed'? I can see how one might interpret my model as an algorithm that outputs a little 'gender token' black box that directly causes the self-reports, but I really didn't mean to propose anything besides "Once gendered behavior has been determined, however that occurs, cisgender males don't say "I'm a boy!" for cognitive reasons that are substantially different from the reasons that transgender males say "I'm a boy!" " Writing things like "behaviorally-masculine girls" just sounds like paraphrase to me. Should it not? On the other hand, as I understand it, the second etiology substantially departs from this. In that case it is proposed that transgender people that transition later in life perform similar behaviors for entirely different cognitive reasons.

I'll reiterate that I admit to the plausibility of other causes of self-report. I do find your confidence surprising, however. I realize the visible controversy is not much evidence that you're wrong, because we would expect controversy either way. Do you have thoughts on Thoughts on The Blanchard/Bailey Distinction? I'd just like to read them if they exist.

In response to Am I Really an X?
Comment author: bogus 05 March 2017 04:13:26AM *  6 points [-]

"Am I really an [insert self-reported gender category here]?"

What work is the word "really" actually doing here? ISTM that it refers to an implied assessment of typicality, in which case the actual question these folks are trying to ask is "Am I a typical [insert gender category here]?" And of course, it's quite sensible to answer "no" to this question, no matter what gender we're even talking about in the first place! The person is most likely not a typical male or female, for what it's worth - and any other question about their gender is probably highly confused. But this point of view has at least the undeniable benefit of quickly dissolving the potential feedback/resonance between "typicality judgments" and "gender judgments", simply by acknowledging the "typicality judgment" as such.

In response to comment by bogus on Am I Really an X?
Comment author: Gram_Stone 05 March 2017 04:42:25PM 0 points [-]

This is an excellent summary of my argument! Thank you so much for compressing this into a soundbite!

In response to comment by Dagon on Am I Really an X?
Comment author: Articulator 05 March 2017 08:04:18AM 4 points [-]

I think this topic is really only as political as you make it. Enough of the top voices in the LessWrong/Rationality community are in (apparent) concurrence on transgender identity as a whole that this seems to be reasonably uncontroversial premise to take.

In my opinion, it's nice to see rationality applied to more real-world understanding problems.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 05 March 2017 04:41:10PM 1 point [-]

I think this topic is really only as political as you make it.

I did in fact decide not to reply to the grandparent because I estimated that it would cause less harm in this respect than replying. This article is intended to be a contribution to the philosophy of gender identity in the style of EY's executable philosophy, and it is more directly a reply to lucidfox's Gender Identity and Rationality. This topic was perfectly acceptable in 2010.

Am I Really an X?

9 Gram_Stone 05 March 2017 12:11AM

As I understand it, there is a phenomenon among transgender people where no matter what they do they can't help but ask themselves the question, "Am I really an [insert self-reported gender category here]?" In the past, a few people have called for a LessWrong-style dissolution of this question. This is how I approach the problem.

There are two caveats which I must address in the beginning.

The first caveat has to do with hypotheses about the etiology of the transgender condition. There are many possible causes of gender identity self-reports, but I don't think it's too controversial to propose that at least some of the transgender self-reports might result from the same mechanism as cisgender self-reports. Again, the idea is that there is some 'self-reporting algorithm', that takes some input that we don't yet know about, and outputs a gender category, and that both cisgender people and transgender people have this. It's not hard to come up with just-so stories about why having such an algorithm and caring about its output might have been adaptive. This is, however, an assumption. In theory, the self-reports from transgender people could have a cause separate from the self-reports of cisgender people, but it's not what I expect.

The second caveat has to do with essentialism. In the past calls for an article like this one, I saw people point out that we reason about gender as if it is an essence, and that any dissolution would have to avoid this mistake. But there's a difference between describing an algorithm that produces a category which feels like an essence, and providing an essentialist explanation. My dissolution will talk about essences because the human mind reasons with them, but my dissolution itself will not be essentialist in nature.

Humans universally make inferences about their typicality with respect to their self-reported gender. Check Google Scholar for 'self-perceived gender typicality' for further reading. So when I refer to a transman, by my model, I mean, "A human whose self-reporting algorithm returns the gender category 'male', but whose self-perceived gender typicality checker returns 'Highly atypical!'"

And the word 'human' at the beginning of that sentence is important. I do not mean "A human that is secretly, essentially a girl," or "A human that is secretly, essentially a boy,"; I just mean a human. I postulate that there are not boy typicality checkers and girl typicality checkers; there are typicality checkers that take an arbitrary gender category as input and return a measure of that human's self-perceived typicality with regard to the category.

So when a transwoman looks in the mirror and feels atypical because of a typicality inference from the width of her hips, I believe that this is not a fundamentally transgender experience, not different in kind, but only in degree, from a ciswoman who listens to herself speak and feels atypical because of a typicality inference from the pitch of her voice.

Fortunately, society's treatment of transgender people has come around to something like this in recent decades; our therapy proceeds by helping transgender people become more typical instances of their self-report algorithm's output.

Many of the typical traits are quite tangible: behavior, personality, appearance. It is easier to make tangible things more typical, because they're right there for you to hold; you aren't confused about them. But I often hear reports of transgender people left with a nagging doubt, a lingering question of "Am I really an X?, which feels far more slippery and about which they confess themselves quite confused.

To get at this question, I sometimes see transgender people try to simulate the subjective experience of a typical instance of the self-report algorithm's output. They ask questions like, "Does it feel the same to be me as it does to be a 'real X'?" And I think this is the heart of the confusion.

For when they simulate the subjective experience of a 'real X', there is a striking dissimilarity between themselves and the simulation, because a 'real X' lacks a pervasive sense of distress originating from self-perceived atypicality.

But what I just described in the previous sentence is itself a typicality inference, which means that this simulation itself causes distress from atypicality, which is used to justify future inferences of self-perceived atypicality!

I expected this to take more than one go-around.

Let's review something Eliezer wrote in Fake Causality:

One of the primary inspirations for Bayesian networks was noticing the problem of double-counting evidence if inference resonates between an effect and a cause.  For example, let's say that I get a bit of unreliable information that the sidewalk is wet.  This should make me think it's more likely to be raining.  But, if it's more likely to be raining, doesn't that make it more likely that the sidewalk is wet?  And wouldn't that make it more likely that the sidewalk is slippery?  But if the sidewalk is slippery, it's probably wet; and then I should again raise my probability that it's raining...

If you didn't have an explicit awareness that you have a general human algorithm that checks the arbitrary self-report against the perceived typicality, but rather you believed that this was some kind of special, transgender-specific self-doubt, then your typicality checker would never be able to mark its own distress signal as 'Typical!', and it would oscillate between judging the subjective experience as atypical, outputting a distress signal in response, judging its own distress signal as atypical, sending a distress signal about that, etc.

And this double-counting is not anything like hair length or voice pitch, or even more slippery stuff like 'being empathetic'; it's very slippery, and no matter how many other ways you would have made yourself more typical, even though those changes would have soothed you, there would have been this separate and additional lingering doubt, a doubt that can only be annihilated by understanding the deep reasons that the tangible interventions worked, and how your mind runs skew to reality.

And that's it. For me at least, this adds up to normality. There is no unbridgeable gap between the point at which you are a non-X and the point at which you become an X. Now you can just go back to making yourself as typical as you want to be, or anything else that you want to be.

Comment author: tristanm 01 March 2017 03:29:36AM 0 points [-]

There are also the many bizarre conclusions you can draw from the assumption that the mind you find yourself as was drawn from a probability distribution, such as the doomsday argument.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 01 March 2017 05:02:14AM 0 points [-]

Can you break that down to the extent that I broke down my confusion above? I'm having a hard time seeing deep similarities between these problems.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 01 March 2017 04:46:45AM *  6 points [-]

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this World was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Comment author: Gram_Stone 28 February 2017 06:00:55PM *  0 points [-]

"Why was I born as myself rather than someone else?" versus "Why do I think I was born as myself rather than someone else?"

This never got solved in the comments.

I was sitting in microeconomics class in twelfth grade when I asked myself, "Why am I me? Why am I not Kelsey or David or who-have-you?" Then I remembered that there are no souls, that 'I' was a product of my brain, and thus that the existence of my mind necessitates the existence of my body (or something that serves a similar function). Seeing the contradiction, I concluded that I had reasoned, incoherently, as if 'I' were an ontologically fundamental mental entity with some probability of finding itself living some particular lives. That's unsurprising, because as a great deal of cognitive science and Eliezer's free will solution has demonstrated, humans often intuitively evaluate 'possibility' and plausibility by evaluating how easy it is to conceive of something, as a proxy. "I can conceive of 'being someone else,' thus there must be some probability that I 'could have been someone else', so what is the distribution, what is its origin, and what probability does it assign to me being me?"

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 24 February 2017 10:06:34AM 3 points [-]

Thanks! Do you have a link to the original article?

Comment author: Gram_Stone 24 February 2017 12:40:48PM *  3 points [-]

The quote is from this article, section 4.1. There might be other descriptions elsewhere, Lenat himself cites some documents released by the organization hosting the wargame. You might want to check out the other articles in the 'Nature of Heuristics' series too. I think there are free pdfs for all of them on Google Scholar.

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