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Comment author: Viliam 18 January 2017 03:36:46PM *  0 points [-]

There is a group (not CFAR) that allegedly uses the following tactics:

1) They teach their students (among other things) that consistency is good, and compartmentalization is bad and stupid.
2) They make the students admit explicitly that the seminar was useful for them.
3) They make the students admit explicitly that one of their important desires is to help their friends.
...and then...
4) They create strong pressure on the students to tell all their friends about the seminar, and to make them sign up for one.

The official reasoning is that if you want to be consistent, and if you want good things to happen to your friends, and if the seminar is a good thing... then logically you should want to make your friends attend the seminar. And if you want to make your friends attend the seminar, you should immediately take an action that increases the probability of that, especially if all it takes is to take your phone and make a few calls!

If there is anything stopping you, then you are inconsistent -- which means stupid! -- and you have failed at the essential lesson that was taught to you during the previous hours -- which means you will keep failing at life, because you are a comparmentalizing loser, and you can't stop being one even after the whole process was explained to you in a great detail, and you even paid a lot of money to learn this lesson! Come on, don't throw away everything, pick up the damned phone and start calling; it is not that difficult, and your first experience with overcoming compartmentalization will feel really great afterwards, trust me!

So, what exactly is wrong about this reasoning?

First, when someone says "A implies B", that doesn't mean you need to immediately jump and start doing B. There is still an option that A is false; and an option that "A implies B" is actually a lie. Or maybe "A implies B" only in some situation, or only with certain probability. Probabilistic thinking and paying attention to detail are not the opposite of consistency.

Second, just because something is good, it is not necessarily the best available option. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about even better options.

Third, there is a difference between trying to be consistent, and believing in your own infallibility. You are allowed to have probabilistic beliefs, and to admit openly that those beliefs are probabilistic. That you believe that with probability 80% A is true, but you also admit the possiblity that A is false. That is not an opposite of consistency. Furthermore, you are allowed to take an outside view, and admit that with certain probability you are wrong. That is especially important in calculating expected utility of actions that strongly depend on whether you are right or wrong.

Fourth, the most important consistency is internal. Just because you are internally consistent, it doesn't mean you have to explain all your beliefs truthfully and meaningfully to everyone, especially to people who are obviously trying to manipulate you.

...but if you learned about the concept of consistency just a few minutes ago, you probably don't realize all this.

Comment author: Vaniver 17 January 2017 06:47:38PM *  3 points [-]

Flinter has been banned after a private warning. I'm deleting the comment thread that led to the ban because it's an inordinate number of comments cluttering up a welcome thread.

Users are reminded that responding to extremely low-quality users creates more extremely low quality comments, and extended attempts to elicit positive communication almost never work. Give up after a third comment, and probably by your second.

Comment author: Viliam 18 January 2017 09:52:25AM *  4 points [-]

From Flinter's comment:

The mod insulted me, and Nash.

While I respect your decision as a moderator to ban Flinter, insulting Nash is a horrible thing to do and you should be ashamed of yourself!

/ just kidding

Also, someone needs to quickly make a screenshot of the deleted comment threads, and post them as new LW controversy on RationalWiki, so that people all around the world are properly warned that LW is pseudoscientific and disrespects Nash!

/ still kidding, but if someone really does it, I want to have a public record that I had this idea first

Comment author: TiffanyAching 18 January 2017 01:30:56AM 1 point [-]

Could you explain this a little more? I don't quite see your reasoning. Leaving aside the fact that "morally valuable" seems too vague to me to be meaningfully measured anyway, adults aren't immutably fixed at a "moral level" at any given age. Andrei "Rostov Ripper" Chikatilo didn't take up murdering people until he was in his forties. At twenty, he hadn't proven anything.

Bob at twenty years old hasn't murdered anybody, though Bob at forty might. Now you can say that we have more data about Bob at twenty than we do about Bob at ten, and therefore are able to make more accurate predictions based on his track record, but by that logic Bob is at his most morally valuable when he's gasping his last on a hospital bed at 83, because we can be almost certain at that point that he's not going to do anything apart from shuffle off the mortal coil.

And if "more or less likely to commit harmful acts in future" is our metric of moral value, then children who are abused, for example, are less morally valuable than children who aren't, because they're more likely to commit crimes. That's not intended to put any words in your mouth by the way, I'm just saying that when I try to follow your reasoning it leads me to weird places. I'd be interested to see you explain your position in more detail.

Comment author: Viliam 18 January 2017 09:47:13AM *  0 points [-]

children who are abused, for example, are less morally valuable than children who aren't, because they're more likely to commit crimes

That reminds me of a scene in Psycho-Pass where...

...va gur svefg rcvfbqr, n ivpgvz bs n ivbyrag pevzr vf nyzbfg rkrphgrq ol gur cbyvpr sbepr bs n qlfgbcvna fbpvrgl, onfrq ba fgngvfgvpny ernfbavat gung genhzngvmrq crbcyr ner zber yvxryl gb orpbzr cflpubybtvpnyyl hafgnoyr, naq cflpubybtvpnyyl hafgnoyr crbcyr ner zber yvxryl gb orpbzr pevzvanyf va gur shgher.

(rot 13)

Comment author: Grothor 16 January 2017 10:28:26PM *  1 point [-]

I made the thread here:


I just copied all the text, added the same tags, changed the date and thread number (it's 11, but someone forgot to add tags on 10), and posted to discussion. If I somehow managed to miss that someone already made the post, then I assume you'll delete it or let me know and I'll delete it.

Comment author: Viliam 17 January 2017 01:26:09PM 2 points [-]

New Less Wrong -- now twice as welcoming as the old one!


Comment author: gjm 17 January 2017 01:00:15PM 1 point [-]

(I don't have much I want to say in response to this, but want to note that I read it and found it interesting and insightful.)

Comment author: Viliam 17 January 2017 01:19:53PM 0 points [-]


Fun fact: Esperanto was used by US army as a language of a fictional enemy, to "enhance intelligence play and add realism to field exercises".

Comment author: TiffanyAching 11 January 2017 10:10:17PM 5 points [-]

Hello folks!

I think to accurately trace my development as a rationalist I'd have to ramble about my formative years for about fifteen paragraphs and it would bore the bejeezus out of anyone who isn't my mother, so I'll spare you, as Holden put it, the David Copperfield crap.

I value reason, logic and the search for truth - but also compassion, patience for human error and a sense of humour. (Hey, I'm Irish, flippancy is written in my genes just as humour with a "u" is written in my dictionary.)

I don't like irrationality or ignorance, but I detest "shrug" or "let's agree to disagree" or, worst of all, "who can really say what truth is anyway?". I believe that someone passionately wrong is closer to being right that someone who doesn't care. Believing that the truth matters is the sine qua non.

I promise I don't go around sprinkling Latin into all my arguments, by the way. "Sine qua non" and "semper ubi sub ubi" are about all I've got.

I've read a great many posts on this site and others like it, and I've often constructed chains of reasoning in response to them, in order to work out whether I agree, partially agree, agree with the conclusion but not the steps leading to it or disagree entirely. Thing is, all of that is taking place in an empty room, literally and figuratively.

Talking to the walls in my flat about religion and morality and logic is unsatisfying and may be causing my neighbours some concern. I tried talking to my pot plant but it died, probably of boredom although possibly because I forgot to water it. Either way I'm reluctant to repeat the experiment with a hamster.

My problem is that I often feel awkward and diffident about participating in group discussions. I want to respond to everyone and then I get caught up in etiquette anxiety about what constitutes spamming or whether it'll look like I'm trying to dominate the discussion, or I get embarrassed about replying to a five-year-old comment on a ten-year-old post, or I go into conflict-resolution mode and end up trying to moderate between two disputants instead of just participating on my own behalf. And I sometimes find being one voice among many competing for attention a bit dispiriting. I don't just want to (ugh) "express my opinion", and I certainly don't want the last word - I can get that by talking to my poor dead pot-plant. I want to convince someone or be convinced myself.

Group discussion is usually not my bag, is what I'm saying, even in such a generally sensible community as LW - but I'll try to give it a shot.

What I'd really like, though, (and please tell me if this is not an appropriate request or the appropriate place to make it - see etiquette anxiety, supra) is some good old-fashioned one-on-one conversation. So if you're reading this and you're at all like me, or you'd just like to do your kind deed for the day, PM me something - anything! - and let's have a discussion or a debate or an argument. Religion, morality, trolley problems, the Great Santa Question, whatever - I'm down. I could perhaps be of some use to Advanced Rationalist Types who want to assess their ability to explain something clearly to someone with no background in formal logic or probability theory without ruining a dinner party, or to fellow newbs who want to test-drive a line of reasoning before taking it out in public. Try it on the dog, so to speak.

Looking forward to participating one way or another. My username, by the way, is the name of a Terry Pratchett character, and if anyone just wants to talk Pratchett I am so there.

Comment author: Viliam 17 January 2017 01:03:48PM *  0 points [-]

If there is a local LW meetup in your area, you should also have plenty opportunity for one-on-one conversations there.

Comment author: gjm 16 January 2017 05:22:05PM 0 points [-]

Interesting -- thanks. Did you learn Esperanto before English or after? (I'd guess a second foreign language is easier to pick up than a first, unless the first is learned in childhood and the second not.) Is your native language more like English or more like Esperanto or roughly the same in each case?

It's certainly true that Esperanto is much more regular than English. (My impression is that English is unusually irregular even among natural languages, but I'm not sure how true that is.)

visible [...] see-able

Of course, if you say "see-able" in English then everyone will understand you. The only trouble is that you won't be speaking English like a native speaker. That's not really a question one can raise about Esperanto, since there are no native Esperanto speakers. (Well ... allegedly there are ~1000 "native speakers", which I think means "people brought up bilingually in Esperanto and some other language", but that doesn't constitute an actual linguistic community.)

This isn't just a quibble; my point is that if Esperanto became an actually widely used language, I bet it would start acquiring irregularities that one would have to know in order to speak it "like a native". You'd still be able to say "see-able" and everyone would know what you meant, just as you already can in English, but you'd need to know "visible" to sound truly fluent. (Of course I don't mean that this specific example would turn out to be an irregularity. But I bet there'd be some.)

Mind you, what I say about irregularities is sheer guesswork: it just seems like the sort of thing one should expect. I wonder whether there's any research on this sort of thing? (E.g., when pidgins turn into creoles, do they become more or less irregular?)

Comment author: Viliam 17 January 2017 11:24:22AM *  1 point [-]

Did you learn Esperanto before English or after?

Languages I speak, in chronological order of starting to learn, are: Slovak, Hungarian, English, Russian, Esperanto. (Of these, Hungarian and Russian remain on the level of "I am able to read a text slowly, but I need to use a dictionary, and my vocabulary is so limited I can't speak fluently, and my grammar is horrible, but if you give me time to find the right words in the dictionary, I will be able to communicate the meaning.") So you could argue that more languages make learning another language easier.

However, after Esperanto I also tried learning Spanish, Japanese, and German, but didn't get very far. Of course, it's not like I spent the same amount of time and attention on each, so it's not a fair comparison. But I believe that if German would be as easy as Esperanto, I would be already speaking it fluently.

With regard to similarities, Slovak is similar to Russian, and I learned Russian 4 years at school, and read a few books. I spent much less time learning Esperanto.

I don't know how to compare difficulty of languages, because different languages are complicated in different ways. For example in English there is the complicated pronounciation, and irregular verbs. On the other hand, German has gramatical genders, and declination. Not sure which one of those is more complicated. Slovak and Russian have probably the same kind of complexity as German, only worse. Hungarian seems mostly regular, but has the definite vs indefinite verbs (not sure I am calling that properly).So, it seems like natural languages evolve complexities in different places.

I suspect there might be a "law" that keeps complexity of languages within certain limits: too complicated languages become difficult to speak properly, so some parts get simplified, but beyond certain level the knowledge of the complexities of language becomes a matter of signalling (the smarter and more educated people are more likely to get those complexities right), which creates a social pressure against further simplification. For example, in Slovak langauge we have two letters that are pronounced exactly the same ("i" and "y"), the reason for having them is historical: thousand years ago they were pronounced differently. Children spend a lot of time at school learning proper rules which one of these letters should be written in which situations; the rules are complicated, require memorizing long lists of word roots, and you still have many exceptions afterwards. But proposals to simply use one of those letters and just forget the other one are met with horrified reaction "but that would seem stupid!"; i.e. today the ability to write "i" and "y" properly is perceived as a signal of intelligence and education, so writing "i" everywhere pattern-matches being stupid and uneducated. And of course we wouldn't reform our language towards a state that feels stupid for us today. Essentially, wanting to remove a useless complexity makes you seem like complaining that you are too stupid to memorize it properly.

Of course, if you say "see-able" in English then everyone will understand you.

Yes, but it wouldn't work in the opposite direction: I would not understand when someone else says "visible"... or "audible", or "comprehensive", etc. But in Esperanto I can often understand words I never heard before, such as "see-able", "hear-able", "understand-able", simply because I am already familiar with the root and the suffix.

This happens very frequently in Esperanto, because even words that would be considered "obviously independent" by an English speaker are considered "related" by an Esperanto speaker. An example that horrifies many people are opposites: instead of "dark" you say "un-light", instead of "short" you say "un-tall". With this simple hack you have removed a need to learn hundreds of words. There are more such hacks; instead of "knife" you say "cut-tool", instead of "hospital" you say "un-healthy-person-place". Nouns / verbs / adjectives / adverbs differ by the last letter, so you don't need to learn "fast", "speed", "quickly", and "hurry" as four independent word roots; and instead of "accelerate" you say "make-more-quick".

This is probably difficult to get across, because when I just use "see" and "visible" as an example, you probably feel like "yeah, so there is this one weird example, but there still remains 99.99% of the language to learn". But Esperanto is more like taking a language and throwing 75% of words away because they can be derived from other words, and making the remaining 25% regular. So with the same energy you would learn 100 English words you can learn 150 Esperanto words (because they are more regular), which you can start putting together like a Lego and create maybe 1000 Esperanto words. Realistically speaking, you are not going to do this systematically, so it will feel like you only know 150 Esperanto words, but there are the potential 850 other words that you don't know you know, but when you meet them for the first time, your brain goes "oh, I actually know what this means".

(By the way, the composed words are usually not too long, because the common prefixes and suffixes are typically monosyllabic. Or, as an Esperanto speaker would say, "one-syllable-y".)

allegedly there are ~1000 "native speakers", which I think means "people brought up bilingually in Esperanto and some other language", but that doesn't constitute an actual linguistic community.

Some of them are raised bilingually, with Esperanto as a second language; but some of them are actually trilingual, coming from mixed marriages where parents use Esperanto to talk to each other. They are very rare, and I have no idea which model is more frequent.

my point is that if Esperanto became an actually widely used language, I bet it would start acquiring irregularities

I agree that this is quite likely. Maybe it wouldn't happen under the "Esperanto as everyone's second language" scenario, but it certainly is a risk with the "native speakers". (And various signallers, who believe that Esperanto needs more word roots because it e.g. allows better poetry. Sigh. Priorities.)

EDIT: In another comment, you say how Esperanto is much easier to learn for a French speaker than for e.g. a Tamil speaker. That is certainly true. But if you give the Tamil speaker a choice between learning English and learning Esperanto, in both cases the language will be completely unfamiliar, but in one case there will be the advantage of greater regularity and "Lego system". So while the Tamil speaker would complain that speaking Esperanto gives an unfair advantage to the French, they would still prefer Esperanto to English (if the advantages of learning either language would be the same, which is obviously not the case.)

This is actually an objection frequently made against Esperanto. People are familiar with the concept of "some languages are similar to each other, some are completely different", but unfamiliar with the concept of "Lego languages are much easier to learn", so of course they are going to attribute everyone saying "Esperanto was easy for me" fully to the former. Yes, it plays a role, but the regularity also plays a role. Esperanto has also fans outside Europe/America.

Comment author: Thomas 16 January 2017 12:09:46PM 2 points [-]

Ensure world domination of rationalist

A.K.A. Soviet Union and dependent states.

Comment author: Viliam 16 January 2017 05:21:39PM 0 points [-]

Ensure world domination of rationalist

A.K.A. Soviet Union and dependent states.

What makes you believe that the ruling class of Soviet Union was rational? It was a country where Lysenkoism was the official science, and where Kolmogorov was allowed to do math despite being gay only because he made a contribution to military technology.

Comment author: gjm 16 January 2017 01:33:17PM 0 points [-]

I agree with all this (except that I happen not to be an Esperanto speaker myself) except for this:

Why not use a language you could learn 10x faster?

I am sure Esperanto is easier to learn than English. I do not believe it is 10x easier in any useful sense. Were you exaggerating for effect, or was that a serious claim, and in the latter case could you point me at some evidence?

Comment author: Viliam 16 January 2017 05:07:05PM *  0 points [-]

This is a wild estimate based on my personal experience. May be a different number for other people, of course, either depending on their personal characteristics, or how much their native language is already similar to English or Esperanto.

My Esperanto exposure:

  • reading two textbooks
  • spending a week in an Esperanto-speaking environment, maybe 10 times
  • spending an afternoon in an Esperanto-speaking environment, maybe 50 times

My English exposure:

  • 5 years at elementary school, 4 years at high school, 4 years at university
  • reading dozens of English books
  • translating three books from English
  • reading English web articles practically every day for two decades
  • spending a week in an English-speaking environent, once
  • spending an afternoon in an English-speaking environment, maybe 100 times

The resulting skills are not so different. Mostly, in Esperanto I don't have a sufficiently wide vocabulary, so e.g. when I want to make a lecture on some topic in Esperanto, I need to take a dictionary and prepare a list of domain-specific words, try to memorize them, and use a cheat sheet as a backup. And I need about an hour to "warm up"; but that's mostly because I recently use Esperanto about once in a year.

Esperanto is simply much more regular than English, so spending the same amount of time will allow you to learn more. You don't have to learn the pronounciation separately. You don't have to memorize a long list of irregular verbs. You don't have to separately learn how to say "to see" and "visible"; you just say "see-able" and that's the canonical form. (And there are many words where the similar principle applies.) It may sound like it's not a big deal, but when you put all these things together, it makes a huge difference in how quickly you learn something and how easily you will remember it.

In a 48-hour intense course people are able to learn Esperanto at a very basic conversational level (textbook, example lesson), which allows them to have very superficial conversations.

But it depends on what your native language is. For example, if it is German, then half of your words already are almost the same as in English, only with different pronounciation. I believe Esperanto would still be easier, but the difference would be smaller.

Comment author: Viliam 16 January 2017 11:38:22AM 5 points [-]

A link to hundreds of pages, and no short summary?

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