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Comment author: Raemon 24 June 2017 09:40:29PM 2 points [-]


The article that was new to me here was the "Introducing EA" one, which has some handy tidbits (I didn't know about the EA conversations thing)

Comment author: Deku-shrub 13 June 2017 11:32:01PM 0 points [-]

How's my write up?

What are your thoughts on the most agreeable umbrella term?

Comment author: Raemon 19 June 2017 12:28:17AM *  0 points [-]

I don't think there's a biggest of deals, and I'm not sure how others have been using the word, but since the point of the umbrella term is specifically to encompass people who wouldn't identify as a rationalist, using "rationalistphere" seems odd. (rationalsphere, rationalitysphere and rational-o-sphere all seem fine)

(I also wouldn't use it as something analogous to the rationality movement, since it's specifically a superset of the rationality movement)

Comment author: Raemon 13 June 2017 10:51:40PM 1 point [-]

Not precisely related but not precisely unrelated either: I coined the term "rationalsphere" to refer specifically to people who don't necessarily identify as a rationalist, or in the rationality community, but are nonetheless connected to the blogosphere somehow. (i.e. people like Tyler Cohen).

Comment author: Elo 06 June 2017 08:52:16AM 7 points [-]

Join the slack, the discords, the irc, the meetups, the big events like solstice, the tumblr, the facebook...

Lots of unguarded conversation going on.

Comment author: Raemon 07 June 2017 02:45:05PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, I think the issue I mostly see here is that it's not very clear how to get to those things if you've just stumbled upon the site. (In particular, I don't know much at all how to find online hangouts. I think the site does a decent job of displaying meetups - if you live near a city and want to do any hanging out, I highly recommend going to a meetup. If you don't live near a city, then yeah doing the slack/discord/irc is the best bet, but we could do a better job of making that obvious)

On Less Wrong itself, the Open Threads and Media Threads function as this sort of thing.

I also think "rationalist facebook" and "rationalist tumblr" are places where more informal discussion ends up happening.

Comment author: Raemon 04 June 2017 08:56:07PM 0 points [-]

(And for those worried about a bunch of Seder Spam in the middle of June, I promise this is the last one)

Rationalist Seder: Dayenu, Lo Dayenu

0 Raemon 04 June 2017 08:55PM

There's one more piece of the NYC Rationalist Seder Haggadah that I wanted to pull out, to refer to in isolation. I think is quite relevant to some current concerns in the evolving Rationality Community, and which is interesting in particular because of how it's evolved over the past 6 years.

"Dayenu" is a traditional Jewish song, roughly a thousand years old. It describes a number of gifts that God gave the Jewish people. For each gift/verse, lyrics culminate with "Dayenu", or "it would have been enough." 

At the first rationalist Seder, Zvi made two, ahem, rather significant changes to the song. 

The first dealt with the fact that, well, we're basically a bunch of atheists, and even if we weren't, God slaying a bunch of firstborn children just isn't the sort of thing we're super in favor of these days.

The second change dealt with that that... obviously each individual miracle *wouldn't* have been enough to free the Jewish people. Freeing them from Egypt but not parting the Red Sea to let escape when Pharoah has second thoughts would very much *not* have been sufficient.

And beyond that, Less Wrong culture is emphatically based around the status quo not being satisfactory. To constantly aspire to something better.

Zvi's new version of the song told the story of human history, and it did so from the framing of "Lo Dayenu" - not enough. If we had discovered fire, but not developed agriculture, our journey would not have been finished.

But, in the spirit of cultural pendulums that swim back and forth to overcompensate for previous failures, a years later Daniel Speyer took a second pass at revising the song:

Traditionally, we sing “Dayenu”: it would have been enough.

Our sages asked: what do we mean by this?  In some of the traditional pairings, one step without the next would have left us all dead!  How can that be enough?  And it was answered: celebrate each step toward freedom as if it were enough, then start out on the next step. If we reject each step because it is not the whole liberation, we will never achieve the whole liberation.

And yet, if we celebrate our past victories and become complacent, so too will we never achieve the whole liberation.  And so we have come to sing “Lo Dayenu”: it would not have been enough.

And it has almost been said, “Keep two truths in your pocket, and take them out according to the need of the moment.  Let one be, ‘we have achieved great things’ and the other be ‘we have a terribly long way yet to go’.”

Determining which moment needs which truth is left as an exercise for the reader.

Lately I've been thinking about the tension between trying to hold the community to a higher standard, without making people feel judged, or not good enough. And relatedly, how to set standards for a given space that is communicated and enforced fairly, but acknowledges that different people are at different points on their own journey. Holding both truths in your head at the same time feels pertinent.

I'll delve more into that in a future blogpost. Meanwhile, here's the current text of the song as sung by the NYC community, which alternates between the two concepts.

[Notes: A) This is the sort of song designed to be sung by people who've had 3 glasses of wine. B) "Dayenu" and "Lo Dayenu" end up getting stressed fairly differently to make them scan. The former is "Daaa-yeee-nuu", the latter is "Looo Daaa yenu."]

Dayenu / Lo Dayenu

Had we crawled forth from the ocean,
but not learned to speak with language,
but not learned to speak with language, Lo Dayenu!

Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu, dayenu,  dayenu
  Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu,  Da-ye-nu

Had we learned to speak with language,
but not mastered wheat and olives,
but not mastered wheat and olives, Dayenu!

Had we mastered wheat and olives,
but not raised ourselves stone cities,
but not raised ourselves stone cities, Lo Dayenu!

Had we raised ourselves stone cities,
but not written tomes of wisdom,
but not written tomes of wisdom, Dayenu!

Had we written tomes of wisdom,
but not severed law from vengeance,
but not severed law from vengeance, Lo Dayenu!

Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu, dayenu,  dayenu
Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu,  Da-ye-nu

Had we severed law from vengeance,
but not learned to bake and slice bread,
but not learned to bake and slice bread, Dayenu!

Had we learned to bake and slice bread,
but not mapped out all Earth's surface,
but not mapped out all Earth's surface, Lo Dayenu!

Had we mapped out all Earth's surface,
but not crafted printing presses,
but not crafted printing presses, Dayenu!

Had we crafted printing presses,
but not named the rights of humans,
but not named the rights of humans, Lo Dayenu!

Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu, dayenu,  dayenu
Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu,  Da-ye-nu

Had we named the rights of humans,
but not thought of mass production,
but not thought of mass production, Dayenu!

Had we thought of mass production,
but not tamed and harnessed lightning,
but not tamed and harnessed lightning, Lo Dayenu!

Had we tamed and harnessed lightning,
but not taught it math and logic,
but not taught it math and logic, Dayenu!

Had we taught light math and logic,
but not banished death forever,
but not banished death forever, Lo Dayenu!

Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu
  Lo dayenu. Lo dayenu. Lo da-ye-nu. da-ye-nuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Comment author: Jiro 03 June 2017 09:13:43PM 2 points [-]

There's a reason we have a "beware fictional evidence" article. Perhaps the two tribes who think they are ruled by a powerful empire don't go bankrupt buying weapons, but the belief that they are ruled by a powerful empire causes them to do things that are so bad for them that going bankrupt buying weapons is a better deal.

Comment author: Raemon 04 June 2017 04:54:15PM *  1 point [-]

Certainly there can (and have) been tribes/nations that did bad things because of false beliefs (and sometimes true beliefs!).

The point here is more about various relationships between stories and freedom, than it is about tribes. It's not meant to dictate a concrete moral, so much as to illustrate a few different things that can happen, that are worth being cognizant of.

In the Seder context, this is the first of many stories, some true, some fictional, that illustrate different concepts, some with clearcut morals and some deliberately openended, but A Story of War is there to set the general metaframe of "we're here to talk about stories and freedom and how they relate".

Rationalist Seder: A Story of War

5 Raemon 03 June 2017 08:17PM

For whatever reason, the rationality community is inordinately Jewish. Among other things, this resulted in 2011 in people in New York putting together "Rationalist Seder", a reframing of the story of Jewish Liberation From Egypt to reflect upon liberation in general. What does it mean to be free? What are the many things we might want to be free from?

As a non-Jewish person, it took me a few years to really wrap my head around the holiday, but it's evolved into one of the more poignant moments throughout my year.

The holiday was begun by Zvi Mowshowitz, and has been modified by various people in different geographic corners. In NYC, for the past few years it's been refined and tweaked by Daniel Speyer, who's aimed to invoke a strong sense of history that feels purposeful, connected to the original story, uniquely "rationalist", and feels very much like a holiday in the ancient, venerable and valuable sense.

The complete text of Dan's most recent iteration is here. It contains a mix of retellings of traditional Jewish stories, abridged essays from around the rationalsphere, and a few original pieces. It has a lot of nice gems that I'd like to be able to refer to more easily, but they make the most sense in context with each other. 

But one particular new story stands alone, and establishes the frame around which the Rationalist Seder is told:

(Image from the wikimedia foundation, credit to Thomas Forester)

A Story of War

Two tribes live next to each other. Each fears the other will attack, and so builds weapons to hold in readiness.  And then, seeing that the other has built weapons, builds more weapons.  Their clothes are threadbare.  Their children are hungry.  But still they spend their time making weapons, lest the other tribe build more.  They would prefer to live in peace, and make no weapons, but whichever tribe adopted that policy first would surely be killed.

Are these tribes free?  There is no pharoah putting the whip to their backs, but still they do not live as they choose.

In the next valley, there are two more tribes.  They distrust each other as much as the first two, but they are ruled by a powerful empire. The empire forbids tribes to fight each other, and enforces that rule with unstoppable legions.  And so these two tribes have the peace and prosperity that the first two tribes wanted.

And in the valley beyond that, there are two more tribes, who only think they are ruled by a powerful empire. The empire has long since collapsed, but they still believe that if they fight, the empire will come and punish them.  And so they don’t fight. And by the most naive interpretation of counterfactuals, their belief is true.  And they too, live in peace and prosperity.

That is the power of a story.

They also pay taxes to the empire, by floating valuable timber down a river from which no one will collect it. That too, is the power of a story.

And in a farther, more distant valley are two tribes who really understand timeless decision theory. They should publish a paper or something.

Link to 2017 Haggadah



Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 01 June 2017 03:03:02AM *  6 points [-]

An excellent post from Slatestarscratchpad that sums up (I think) something like 85% of the fundamental disagreement that's fueling the more heated clashes:

One thing that’s seemed striking to me in this Dragon Army discussion is the priors on different people’s threat assessments.

I remember when I was younger, I used to want to meet my friends from the Internet, and my parents were horrified, and had all of these objections like “What if they’re pedophiles who befriended you so they could molest you?” or “What if they’re kidnappers who befriended you so they could kidnap you?”, or less lurid possibilities like “What if they’re creepy drug people and they insist on bringing you along to their creepy drug abuse sessions and won’t let you say no?”

And I never developed a good plan that countered their concerns, like “I will bring pepper spray so I can defend myself”. It was more about rolling my eyes and telling them that never happened in real life. I’ve now met hundreds of Internet friends, and I was absolutely right - it’s never happened, and any effort I put into developing a plan would have been effort wasted.

I’m not claiming there are no Internet pedophiles or kidnappers. I’m saying that based on my own Internet communities, and my threat-detection abilities, and the base rate, I was pretty sure it was more in the realm of terrorism (the kind of stuff you hear about on the news) than the realm of car accidents (the stuff that happens to real people and that you must be guarding yourself against at every moment).

This is also how I think of people turning out to be abusers. It’s possible that anyone I date could turn out to be an abuser, just like it’s possible I could be killed by a terrorist, but it’s not something likely enough that I’m going to take strong precautions against it. This is obviously a function of my personal situations, but it’s a real function of my personal situation, which like my Internet-friend-meeting has consistently been confirmed over a bunch of different situations.

(Please don’t give me the “that’s just male privilege!” speech; men and women get abused at roughly similar rates. I do think that probably women are socialized to fear abuse much more, and that’s a big part of this, and probably other axes of marginalization contribute more)

One interesting thing about Tumblr and the SJ-sphere in particular is that because it comes disproportionately from marginalized communities, it has this sort of natural prior of “people often turn out to be abusers, every situation has to be made abuser-proof or else it will be a catastrophe”. I once dated someone I knew on Tumblr who did a weird test on me where (sorry, won’t give more details) they deliberately put me in a situation where I could have abused them to see what I would do. When they told me about this months later, I was pretty offended - did I really seem so potentially-abusive that I had to be specifically cleared by some procedure? And people explained to me that there’s this whole other culture where somebody being an abuser is, if not the norm, at least high enough to worry about with everyone.

I’m not sure what percent of the population is more like me vs. more like my date. But I think there’s a failure mode where someone from a high-trust culture starts what they think is a perfectly reasonable institution, and someone from a low-trust culture says “that’s awful, you didn’t make any effort to guard against abusers!”. And then the person from the high-trust culture gets angry, because they’re being accused of being a potential abuser, which to them sounds as silly as being accused of being a potential terrorist. If you told your Muslim friend you wouldn’t hang out with him without some safeguards in case he turned out to be a terrorist, my guess is he’d get pretty upset. At the very least it would engender the “stop wasting my time” reaction I had when my parents made me develop anti-pedophile plans before meeting my Internet friends.

And then the person from the low-trust culture gets angry, because the person has just dismissed out of hand (or even gotten angry about) a common-sense attempt to avoid abuse, and who but an abuser would do something like that?

I think it’s interesting that the Dragon Army idea received more positive feedback or constructive criticism on LW (where it was pitched to, and which is probably culturally more similar to me) and more strongly negative feedback on Tumblr (which is more full of marginalized people and SJ-aligned people, and also maybe more full of abusers as judged by the number who get called out all the time).

Comment author: Raemon 02 June 2017 07:05:01PM 1 point [-]

I like this, and am curious if it caused anyone who was embroiled in the more intense discussions to change their mind or actions?

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 28 May 2017 05:22:40AM 4 points [-]

Get your house together and start a norm of "ironclad try-things experiments" lasting no less than two weeks and no more than four (with overlap or not being up to you). So, you have a regular house meeting where you all say, "What thing to we want to try, and top-down make ourselves keep trying past the first possible warning signs, because we suspect there's value on the far side of the valley?"

And then you run something like eight full experiments before you abandon the meta-norm.

Comment author: Raemon 28 May 2017 06:22:21AM 0 points [-]

Cool. Makes sense.

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