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Comment author: PhilGoetz 16 February 2017 06:43:03PM *  1 point [-]

I have the feeling you still don't agree with Thorin. Why not?

Increasing GDP is not growth

13 PhilGoetz 16 February 2017 06:04PM

I just saw another comment implying that immigration was good because it increased GDP.  Over the years, I've seen many similar comments in the LW / transhumanist / etc bubble claiming that increasing a country's population is good because it increases its GDP.  These are generally used in support of increasing either immigration or population growth.

It doesn't, however, make sense.  People have attached a positive valence to certain words, then moved those words into new contexts.  They did not figure out what they want to optimize and do the math.

I presume they want to optimize wealth or productivity per person.  You wouldn't try to make Finland richer by absorbing China.  Its GDP would go up, but its GDP per person would go way down.

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Comment author: Pimgd 10 February 2017 10:37:21AM *  7 points [-]

Disclaimer: I have autism. I sometimes worry that despite functioning pretty well in society, some day, people will say "hey, these people have problems integrating with society sometimes! We should cure all the autisms!" and I'll be forcibly "cured" and have my personality (autism is a way of thinking, sometimes, so I think that this counts as part of someone's personality) altered against my will.

Compare with the deaf people, which is BOTH a culture and a disability. Same thing goes on here. I believe that a way should be found to prevent people from being born deaf/with autism (preferrably via curing in the womb, not via abortion, but if people want to abort because their unborn child is deaf/has autism I think they should be allowed to do that because it places a higher burden on the parents). I don't believe you should forcibly (or via social pressure) intervene in people who, for their entire lives, have been deaf/have autism in order to cure them. You should make the means available to them, but it's their decision.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 11:08:50PM *  2 points [-]

From what I've read, most of the protest in the deaf community currently is deaf parents insisting they have the right to deny treatment and audible education to their children--which they want to do because it will be too late for the children to get the treatment themselves when they're adults. If it were possible for their children to get the treatment and learn spoken language once they grew up, and potentially leave the deaf community, parents would have less motivation to deny treatment to them as children.

Comment author: Pimgd 10 February 2017 10:16:09AM *  8 points [-]

So, on one hand, I agree that it would be better if people were smarter on average.

On the other hand, you're using a lot of scary labels. ... Actually, after reflecting a bit, "Stupidity is a mental illness" is the only scary label. But it is a REALLY SCARY label. As in, my overton window is probably shifted, I dunno, 2 or 3 or 4 standard deviations in your direction, compared to the average person. I know about nootropics (at the very least, that they exist). And I'm sort of familiar with this community. And I still got scared reading this.

One of the issues is is that it takes something which has previously enjoyed somewhat protected status (intelligence), and puts it on a same level of importance as ... ... I don't have an example. Weird.

I know a lot of people who are stupid in one way or another. I would hate to see "treatment" forced onto them because they're not as smart as we'd like. I get the feeling that not speaking up now means being next on the list - "when they came for X I didn't speak up because I wasn't X, when they came for Y I didn't speak up because I wasn't Y, and when they came for me there was no-one else to speak up for me".

I don't know what constitutes "stupid" for you. Is it people with, say, an IQ of 70, where their intelligence impairs them on a daily basis? Or is it people who are capable of holding down a job, but live paycheck to paycheck and vote in elections based on very questionable grounds (I don't have proper examples for you)?

I think that because there is no definition of "stupid people" provided, this becomes scary. You're targeting a population group, which was previously okay, but now they're no longer okay, and this feels like you're trying to invoke "look at these people, they need to be fixed", and maybe I'm shaping some of that feeling myself, but I don't see the underlying tone of doing good. This isn't helping others, this is helping yourself. Maybe everyone benefits. But this essay reads as something that helps just you.

In short.

Promoting research into intelligence boosting drugs: Yay

Destigmatizing stupidity into favoring intelligence: Yay

Classifying stupidity as a mental illness, forcing things like the American health system onto people who are already missing one of the success factors in life: Nay.


And I don't think mental illness is seen as something positive either. People with mental illnesses are dangerous, not fit for society, scary, should be kept someplace safe... I think that's the sentiment you'll get if you ask the average person (maybe they're stupid too? I don't know). Now, I don't mean to say these traits apply to people who are stupid, I mean to say that people on average think these traits apply to people with a mental illness, and that as a result, you don't want to be mentally ill, and reclassifying people who are stupid as mentally ill won't go over well. Even only because people won't actually say they can't see the emperor's clothes, lest they lose their job.

Honestly, I think if you want to go this way, you'd be better off trying to develop things that people can use for their kids. They'll buy organic foods "because it's more healthy", so they might also buy intelligence boosters for their kids so they can go to a prestige university and do great in life.

And you don't want to classify stupidity as a mental illness. You want it to be seen as a physical injury. You go to the hospital, they fix you, you're better. No shrink visits, no endless talks, no getting locked up in an internment facility.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 11:04:38PM 2 points [-]

I know a lot of people who are stupid in one way or another. I would hate to see "treatment" forced onto them because they're not as smart as we'd like.

Do we force people to be treated for diabetes, cancer, or gout? No; we at most work to make it possible for them to get treatment.

Comment author: dglukhov 10 February 2017 07:46:29PM 2 points [-]

Please name examples to the affirmative. I'm actually quite curious to see such statistics.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 10:57:16PM *  4 points [-]

This is not a thing that we need to check statistics for. Americans now talk openly about seeing a psychologist or having depression. Americans two generations prior did not. Depression was not recognized as a legitimate disease; it was considered a weakness, and psychotherapy was an act of desperation.

Comment author: Lumifer 10 February 2017 09:22:16PM 4 points [-]

There is no stable equilibrium in the long run.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 10:42:02PM *  0 points [-]

This is technically correct, but misleading in context. James' point is, I think, directed towards the idea that for a culture to embrace values that decrease its fitness has a cost, and increases the odds of your culture going extinct. More relevant to us in practice is that such values have an economic cost that inevitably reduces our individual happiness. This is correct regardless of whether you are at equilibrium.

Comment author: Lumifer 10 February 2017 05:56:02PM 7 points [-]

Let's define "stupidity" as "low IQ" where IQ is measured by some standard tests.

IQ is largely hereditary (~70%, IIRC) and polygenic. This mean that attempting to "cure" it by anything short of major genetic engineering will have quite limited upside.

There are cases where IQ is depressed from its "natural" level (e.g. by exposure to lead) and these are fixable or preventable. However if you're genetically stupid, drugs or behavioral changes won't help.

we could, for instance, sequence a lot of peoples' DNA, give them all IQ tests, and do a genome-wide association study, as a start.

We could and people do that. If you're interested in IQ research, look at Greg Cochran or James Thompson or Razib Khan, etc. etc.

We could see affirmative action for stupid people. Harvard would boast about how many stupid people it admitted.

That, ahem, is exactly what's happening already :-/

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 10:30:40PM *  1 point [-]

IQ is largely hereditary (~70%, IIRC) and polygenic. This mean that attempting to "cure" it by anything short of major genetic engineering will have quite limited upside.

Depression is, according to Google and web pages I haven't studied, polygenic and 40-50% heritable, yet medicine often works for it.

It isn't especially hard to develop drugs for genetic diseases. Genetic diseases have single points of attack--receptors to block, proteins to disrupt. "Polygenic" may not matter at all; that may just mean there is one pathway with 30 genes in it, and 300 genes impinging on it, and you need to supplement the pathway's end product.

That, ahem, is exactly what's happening already :-/

I wasn't going to mention it, but I thought of that example because Harvard's current admissions website boasts that it provides no merit-based financial aid. I thought that was odd when I read it, but it fits in with the idea that a meritocracy is morally objectionable.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 February 2017 08:26:19PM 4 points [-]

Our way to measure IQ is build on the core assumption that IQ doesn't really change. Our way to measure depression is on the other hand build on the assumption that depression changes over our lifetime.

We likely need a new way to measure intelligence or stupidity to say well that a treatment increases it within a span of a year.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 10:21:47PM 1 point [-]

That's a good point--if a type of question on an IQ test shows variability from year to year, do psychologists say it's a bad type of question and remove it from the test?

Comment author: WalterL 09 February 2017 05:08:07PM 5 points [-]

We don't have an open quotes thread on the main page, but this made me chuckle:

"mathematician thinks in numbers, a lawyer in laws, and an idiot thinks in words." from Nassim Taleb in


Comment author: PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 05:11:53AM *  2 points [-]

I came here looking for a Rationality Quotes thread to quote that in. :)

I'm especially sensitive to it because I spent a lot of time last year reading postmodernist literary theory, which rejects logic in favor of rhetoric. They support theories that have impressive-sounding words because postmodernist theory says the point of theory is to have fun rather than to understand things.

Stupidity as a mental illness

14 PhilGoetz 10 February 2017 03:57AM

It's great to make people more aware of bad mental habits and encourage better ones, as many people have done on LessWrong.  The way we deal with weak thinking is, however, like how people dealt with depression before the development of effective anti-depressants:

  • Clinical depression was only marginally treatable.
  • It was seen as a crippling character flaw, weakness, or sin.
  • Admitting you had it could result in losing your job and/or friends.
  • Treatment was not covered by insurance.
  • Therapy was usually analytic or behavioral and not very effective.
  • People thus went to great mental effort not to admit, even to themselves, having depression or any other mental illness.
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