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Comment author: Kenny 23 January 2015 01:14:57AM 8 points [-]

Open source projects, especially (or maybe just most saliently for me) software projects, desperately need sidekicks. I write 'desperately' because most such projects die from 'over-forking', i.e. everyone wanting to be the leader (hero) of their own project (adventure).

What I've learned most recently is that being even a moderately competent sidekick is really hard. It takes a lot of work to even be able to contribute without creating lots of extra work for the heroes and their more-devoted sidekicks.

Comment author: Swimmer963 23 January 2015 02:14:42AM 4 points [-]

That's really interesting! Are you able to break down the relevant skills at all?

In response to You Only Live Twice
Comment author: James_D._Miller 12 December 2008 08:53:16PM 16 points [-]

I have signed up with Alcor. When I suggest to other people that they should sign up the common response has been that they wouldn't want to be brought back to life after they died.

I don't understand this response. I'm almost certain that if most of these people found out they had cancer and would die unless they got a treatment and (1) with the treatment they would have only a 20% chance of survival, (2) the treatment would be very painful, (3) the treatment would be very expensive, and (4) if the treatment worked they would be unhealthy for the rest of their lives; then almost all of these cryonics rejectors would take the treatment.

One of the primary cost of cryonics is the "you seem insane tax" one has to pay if people find out you have signed up. Posts like this will hopefully reduce the cryonics insanity tax.

Comment author: Swimmer963 15 January 2015 07:38:52PM 0 points [-]

I actually had a nightmare recently where I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and would have preferred not to go through treatment, but felt pressured by other, more aggressively anti-death members of the rationality community. Was afraid people would think I didn't care about them if I didn't try to stay alive longer to be with them, etc. (I'm an ICU nurse; I have a pretty good S1 handle on how horrific a lot of life saving treatments are, and how much quality of life it's possible to lose.)

I've thought about cryonics, but haven't made a decision either way; right now, my feeling is that I don't have anything against the principle, but that it doesn't seem likely enough to work for the cost-benefit analysis to come out positive.

Comment author: Jiro 13 January 2015 07:43:42PM 0 points [-]

You might want to look at the recent thread on being a hero, http://lesswrong.com/lw/l6d/a_discussion_of_heroic_responsibility/ , in particular the comments which question the idea. A lot of the reasons why thinking of yourself as a hero are questionable apply to thinking another person is a hero as well.

Comment author: Swimmer963 13 January 2015 10:13:56PM 12 points [-]

...I wrote that post, so yes, I've already read most of the comments.

Comment author: coffeespoons 11 January 2015 02:26:26AM *  1 point [-]

It worries me a bit that several young LWers appear to be leaving paid employment to do (presumably?) unpaid work for their partners. What happens if these relationships break down? Are they going to be able to find paid work after a long break from the job market?

Comment author: Swimmer963 11 January 2015 02:39:27AM 0 points [-]

Clarification: I'm not actually planning to do unpaid work for Ruby, at least not immediately. I'm going to be retraining as an executive assistant, because they're useful, and keeping my nursing license valid (possibly finding a part time nursing job if that turns out to be at all feasible, because I really love working as a nurse.)

Comment author: tog 09 January 2015 10:30:05AM 3 points [-]

What are rationalist heroes supposed to do? And what can “sidekicks” do to help them?

(I ask these questions as someone who’s not that familiar with the rationalist community. I asked them on the Effective Altruism Forum and there was some discussion of them there.)

I'm looking for specific examples, particular ones which aren't already being done and so are available for new heroes to take on.

Ryan Carey said "A hero means roughly what you'd expect - someone who takes personal responsibility for solving world problems. Kind of like an effective altruist." He quoted this passage from HPMOR:

You could call it heroic responsibility, maybe,” Harry Potter said. “Not like the usual sort. It means that whatever happens, no matter what, it’s always your fault. Even if you tell Professor McGonagall, she’s not responsible for what happens, you are. Following the school rules isn’t an excuse, someone else being in charge isn’t an excuse, even trying your best isn’t an excuse. There just aren’t any excuses, you’ve got to get the job done no matter what.” Harry’s face tightened. “That’s why I say you’re not thinking responsibly, Hermione. Thinking that your job is done when you tell Professor McGonagall—that isn’t heroine thinking. Like Hannah being beat up is okay then, because it isn’t your fault anymore. Being a heroine means your job isn’t finished until you’ve done whatever it takes to protect the other girls, permanently.” In Harry’s voice was a touch of the steel he had acquired since the day Fawkes had been on his shoulder. “You can’t think as if just following the rules means you’ve done your duty. –HPMOR, chapter 75.

But in that case doesn't the sort of "sidekick" that Miranda describes count as a hero, because being a sidekick is plausibly one of the best ways that they can contribute to solving the world's problems?

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 04:55:41PM 0 points [-]

What are rationalist heroes supposed to do? And what can “sidekicks” do to help them?

I think founding CFAR was an example; there are both leader and sidekick roles there.

But in that case doesn't the sort of "sidekick" that Miranda describes count as a hero, because being a sidekick is plausibly one of the best ways that they can contribute to solving the world's problems?

Maybe.

Comment author: DanielWessel 09 January 2015 12:40:59PM 6 points [-]

Hmmm, thank you for the posting, it sheds a light on something that I had not seen before. I like a lot of things about the posting, including the standing up part if the hero fucks up. And Samwise is an interesting "sidekick". I think he differs in at least two other aspects from the typical "sidekick" that deserve special emphasis:

First, Samwise is self-sufficient ("competent"). It's not the typical Robin character that needs to get rescued by Batman as a stupid plot ploy. He has his own skills and carries his own weight. The hero/ine might save/rescue the world, but s/he does not save/rescue this sidekick.

Second, Samwise is not a little green wo/man working in the background where no-one can see him/her so that it appears as if the hero/ine did everything on his/her own. Same with the other characters that were mentioned (Witch-king, Black, Vader). They are noticed and they do play a visible role. Not only are they a noticeable character, they have a distinct character.

I think both aspects are underdeveloped in the public perception and unfortunately, there are some "heroes/heroines" who prefer to make their sidekicks appear in need of support, or put them in the background altogether. Hmm, and I also wonder whether you could regard the hero/ine as a sidekick to the overall goal. I mean, it's one thing to see the hero/ine as this great person, but this person is not exactly free either. They have found a cause they devote their life to. So perhaps it's less a different category but more different levels.

One other thing ... I disagree with the comments about the "strong gender overtones" though and was surprised they were mentioned. I get the impression that gender perspectives are way overused and are actually hampering free expression and discussions. It's this pervasive confusion of "what do I think" and "what does it say about gender if I say it". I don't think that "If a man wrote this post, the message would be different.". I mean, it might be for whose who see everything gender related (ideology has this effect), but not for those who think it shouldn't matter. The arguments count, not the (gender of the) person who wrote a text.

Perhaps there are differences where the majority of men vs. the majority of women want to go, but that's only a problem if it's generalized to all men and/or all women. It's the person and his/her character, attributes and skills that count, not the gender. And don't get me started on "patriarchy". There might be many men in leadership positions, but many other men fail at achieving them. And a lot of men are at the bottom (homeless, suicides, etc.). And personally, I think it's a tragedy if ideologies/world views try to pressure anyone into anything they do not want -- whether it's men or women, and whether it's leadership or support.

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 04:54:27PM 4 points [-]

First, Samwise is self-sufficient ("competent"). It's not the typical Robin character that needs to get rescued by Batman as a stupid plot ploy. He has his own skills and carries his own weight. The hero/ine might save/rescue the world, but s/he does not save/rescue this sidekick.

I certainly hope to be at least that competent. I'm an adult; I've lived on my own and been financially independent of my parents since I was 17. If anything, it feels like "okay, I've got this taking care of myself thing down, can I have a harder challenge?" I'm a freaking ICU nurse, responsible for other people's lives 12 hours a day.

Second, Samwise is not a little green wo/man working in the background where no-one can see him/her so that it appears as if the hero/ine did everything on his/her own... They are noticed and they do play a visible role.

It doesn't feel like I would strongly prefer being visible to being in the background. Both have an appeal. There's skill and satisfaction in knowing that you're making it look like the hero did everything on their own, too.

I mean, it might be for whose who see everything gender related (ideology has this effect), but not for those who think it shouldn't matter. The arguments count, not the (gender of the) person who wrote a text.

I think people engage with things they read on multiple levels, not just the explicit arguments, and that includes picking up implicit social norms from context/subtext like "all the pro-hero writers are male, all the pro-sidekick writers are female." And that's not even taking into account the fact that my article is apparently fairly in line with Christian writing on the topic of service, and so might end up shared among Christian bloggers–and the various Christian's sects' attitudes to gender roles are often not ones I endorse.

Comment author: 27chaos 10 January 2015 07:50:33AM 1 point [-]

When did this sense of despair start? (Was it after exposure to the LW idea of heroism, or before that?)

After.

When you ask yourself "what's the bad thing that happens if I am for Goal X, which doesn't include being a hero", do you get an answer?

As I mentioned, I am incapable of being a "hero" in the sense I use the word. I do not, intellectually, believe that striving for this sort of heroism will be likely to have negative consequences, because I don't believe making the effort will significantly affect my actions. But I have difficulty relaxing my emotional standards despite this understanding.

I think the root problem is that there are no Schelling points within my motivational neighborhood. I can't help but feel as though I face the choice of either striving for heroism continually throughout every area in my life, or giving up on my ambitions entirely and becoming a selfish couch potato.

Have you tried tabooing the word "hero" and describing the actual plans and actions that your brain think would be acceptable, versus the ones that it thinks would be unacceptable?

My brain says that I need to work for a couple hours a day learning until I get my degree, then get a good job and make money while studying politics and economics, and then eventually start some kind of charity to help in the 3rd world. Anything less than this makes me feel guilty and ashamed for not being a competent enough person, even a bit disgusted with myself.

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 04:42:35PM 1 point [-]

I can't help but feel as though I face the choice of either striving for heroism continually throughout every area in my life, or giving up on my ambitions entirely and becoming a selfish couch potato.

Hmm. Before you were exposed to the LW idea of heroism, how did you feel, motivation-wise? What did you spend your time doing?

I can't help but feel as though I face the choice of either striving for heroism continually throughout every area in my life, or giving up on my ambitions entirely and becoming a selfish couch potato.

This seems incompatible with "I do not, intellectually, believe that striving for this sort of heroism will be likely to have negative consequences, because I don't believe making the effort will significantly affect my actions." If aiming to be a hero doesn't effect your actions, it also shouldn't make the difference between being a "selfish couch potato" and not? But I feel like there's a lot of vagueness here, too. Can you taboo "selfish couch potato" and describe what you fear you would actually do? And compare it to what you're actually doing now? Versus what ideal you would do? Like, actual actions–"I get up in the morning, I go walk to the store..." Etc.

My brain says that I need to work for a couple hours a day learning until I get my degree, then get a good job and make money while studying politics and economics, and then eventually start some kind of charity to help in the 3rd world.

This sounds fine? Like, definitely underspecified as an actual plan, and maybe focusing too much on one path and neglecting all the equally valuable alternatives (I think that happens a lot with long term plans). But it doesn't reek too badly of "I must make desperate efforts to be heroic constantly!"

Comment author: cousin_it 10 January 2015 10:21:18AM *  13 points [-]

I also had a weird reaction to your post, like emr and someonewrongonthenet. Personally, I feel that it's healthy to work as an assistant to someone (and stop thinking about work when you leave the office at 6pm), but it's unhealthy to be the assistant of someone (and treat them as a fantasy hero 24/7 and possibly sleep with them). Yay professionalism and work/life balance, boo medieval loyalties and imagined life narratives!

That's also the advice I often give to programmers, to think of themselves as working for a company (in exchange for money) rather than at a company (as part of a common cause). That advice makes some stressful situations and conflicts just magically disappear.

You could say that a world of inherently equal professionals exchanging services, without PCs or NPCs, is too barren to many people. Some people actually want to feel like heroes, and others want to feel like sidekicks. Who am I to deny them that roleplay? Well, some people also want to fit in the "warrior" role, being fiercely loyal to their group and attacking outsiders. We have all kinds of ancient tribal instincts, which are amplified by reading fantasy and bad (hero-based) sci-fi. I feel that such instincts are usually harmful in the long run, although they seem to make sense in the moment.

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 04:34:19PM 16 points [-]

Personally, I feel that it's healthy to work as an assistant to someone (and stop thinking about work when you leave the office at 6pm), but it's unhealthy to be the assistant of someone (and treat them as a fantasy hero 24/7 and possibly sleep with them).

I think this is exactly what Brienne is talking about when she points out that society doesn't look kindly on people who want to serve others. And... I think maybe you're pointing at something real. It does seem possible that when "being" an assistant breaks, it breaks harder than when "working as" an assistant breaks. So it's a higher-stakes situation to put yourself in. (Both for the leader and for their assistant).

I don't think that negates any of what I said in the post though. Half of my point is basically just "some people are the kind of people who want to be nurses, no, really." Like, it seems to be really hard for people who aren't those kind of people to understand that for me, roles that aren't especially high-status but involve being really useful to other people hit all of my happiness buttons. That people are actually different and that their dream job might be one I'd hate, and vice versa.

The other part probably only makes sense when aimed at people who have taken the concept of "heroes" on board...which large portions of this community have. And that point is mainly: if you're going to accept that heroes and people who want to be heroes are a thing, you've got to have the concept of sidekicks too, otherwise you have a broken unhealthy community. It sounds like you're arguing that it's best not to take either concept on board. Maybe. You can argue that point.

That's also the advice I often give to programmers, to think of themselves as working for a company (in exchange for money) rather than at a company (as part of a common cause).

I'm not sure I have that switch? I've developed strong feelings of loyalty towards every job I've had. As a nurse, this loyalty is felt only a little bit towards the hospital where I work; I feel more of it for my immediate colleagues, and the rest of it towards some abstract "Profession of Nursing." I'm not sure how to stop feeling that way, or honestly why I'd want to stop.

We have all kinds of ancient tribal instincts, which are amplified by reading fantasy and bad (hero-based) sci-fi. I feel that such instincts are usually harmful in the long run, although they seem to make sense in the moment.

This comes across a little bit as saying "hey, don't have emotions!" Which...yeah, maybe emotions cause a lot of problems, but not having them isn't an option. And I'm not sure that not having narratives is an option either. It seems to me that I'm going to think of my life as a narrative in any case; I might as well try to understand and analyze and shape it. (Just as I shape my emotions, trying to lean away from the emotions that seem net-negative...but the way to do that is to guide yourself towards different emotions.)

Comment author: 27chaos 10 January 2015 06:54:28AM 1 point [-]

I self-identify with the role of the hero. But I do so not because I think it's wonderful to struggle for righteousness, but rather because I feel a deep sense of despair when I consider pursuing other options. I'm crushing myself with the weight of heroic responsibility. This is extremely unpleasant, and naturally, makes me a much less effective person.

How can I rewrite my motivations and self-concept to be less distressing for me? How can I convince myself, emotionally and psychologically, to stop trying to be a hero? At this point, it's rather obvious that I'm not actually capable of being one. I would prefer to change my goals than to continue suffering like this.

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 06:59:08AM 1 point [-]

When did this sense of despair start? (Was it after exposure to the LW idea of heroism, or before that?) When you ask yourself "what's the bad thing that happens if I am for Goal X, which doesn't include being a hero", do you get an answer? Have you tried tabooing the word "hero" and describing the actual plans and actions that your brain think would be acceptable, versus the ones that it thinks would be unacceptable?

Comment author: emr 09 January 2015 09:35:23PM *  17 points [-]

I'm trying to understand why I have a strong aversive reaction to this sort of discussion. If I'm honest, I feel worried that people who identity as "sidekicks" risk being exploited by those who identity as "heroes". A healthy community will tend to discourage this sort of taxonomy in various ways in order to avoid the risk of abuse, but the core members of the rationality movement seem to not recognize the social necessity of doing this.

I've dedicated my life to bringing about The Singularity and moved to California's bay area in '05 to volunteer full-time. I'm the consort of Eliezer Yudkowsky...

For about 2 years now I've been taking care of time consuming activities for Eliezer so all he needs to do is AI research, hence why I call myself his consort because I'm more than just a girlfriend. With 1.8 people dying per second and 150,000 per day any extra time I can contribute is extremely valuable...

Creating a Friendly AI is the most difficult problem humanity could ever solve. I do not have the qualifications to be an FAI programmer which would be not just a genius, but a super genius who is a math and programming talent who also wants to save the world, along with other qualifications for the job. Eliezer is the only person I see who has a chance to create an AI and get it right...

The link is http://www.longecity.org/forum/topic/14459-greetings/. Am I wrong, as someone with no connection to those involved, to find this concerning? And variations on this pattern have turned up elsewhere.

And yet the response is not "maybe invoking the hero archetype at every possible opportunity is a bad idea", but rather doubling down on the idea that the leading figures of our movements should be modeled as genuine Lord-of-the-rings heroes. And since not everyone can bring themselves to believe that they are Frodo, we decide that invoking another high-fantasy archetype is the right solution?!

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 January 2015 06:47:59AM 10 points [-]

I'm curious as to why you so strongly think that sidekicks risk being abused, and that "healthy" communities will discourage this dynamic hard. I– I don't want to say that I want to be exploited, but I crave being useful, and being used to my full usefulness. I don't think this desire is unhealthy. Yes, this means that it's always tempting to throw too much of myself at a project, but that's the same problem as learning not to say yes to all the overtime shifts at the hospital and end up working 70 hours a week. I guess you could say that someone I was working for could "abuse" me by forcing me, or coercing or sweet-talking me, into the equivalent of "taking all the overtime shifts." But (in my limited experience of this) the leader's more common motivation seems to be in the opposite direction–of being afraid of pushing their sidekick too far.

I'm wondering whether you have some different experience of this, and would be interested in your elaboration if you have one.

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