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Comment author: Lumifer 30 October 2014 03:31:59PM 1 point [-]

Well, I suspect Eugine Nier may have been one, to show the most obvious example.

Why do you suspect so? Gaming ill-defined social rules of an internet forum doesn't look like a symptom of sociopathy to me.

You seem to be stretching the definition too far.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 05:07:03PM 1 point [-]

Abusing rules to hurt people is at least a weak evidence. Doing it persistently for years, even more so.

Comment author: Ritalin 30 October 2014 04:10:49PM 0 points [-]

I suppose that's what they call "being more emotional"?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 05:03:17PM 0 points [-]

Probably one of those words that could mean many things:

a) a higher dose of hormones;
b) greater awareness of your internal state; or
c) an exaggerated reaction to the same dose of hormones.

Comment author: Vaniver 30 October 2014 03:11:11PM 1 point [-]

I once had a boss like this for a short time, and... well, it's like an experience from a different planet. If I tried to describe it using words, you would probably just round it to the nearest neurotypical behavior, which would completely miss the point.

Steve Sailer's description of Michael Milken:

I had a five-minute conversation with him once at a Milken Global Conference. It was a little like talking to a hyper-intelligent space reptile who is trying hard to act friendly toward the Earthlings upon whose planet he is stranded.

Is that the sort of description you have in mind?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 04:55:08PM *  3 points [-]

I really doubt the possibility to convey this in mere words. I had previous experience with abusive people, I studied psychology, I heard stories from other people... and yet all this left me completely unprepared, and I was confused and helpless like a small child. My only luck was the ability to run away.

If I tried to estimate a sociopathy scale from 0 to 10, in my life I have personally met one person who scores 10, two people somewhere around 2, and most nasty people were somewhere between 0 and 1, usually closer to 0. If I wouldn't have met than one specific person, I would believe today that the scale only goes from 0 to 2; and if someone tried to describe me how the 10 looks like, I would say "yeah, yeah, I know exactly what you mean" while having a model of 2 in my mind. (And who knows; maybe the real scale goes up to 20, or 100. I have no idea.)

Imagine a person who does gaslighting as easily as you do breathing; probably after decades of everyday practice. A person able to look into your eyes and say "2 + 2 = 5" so convincingly they will make you doubt your previous experience and believe you just misunderstood or misremembered something. Then you go away, and after a few days you realize it doesn't make sense. Then you meet them again, and a minute later you feel so ashamed for having suspected them of being wrong, when in fact it was obviously you who were wrong.

If you try to confront them in front of another person and say: "You said yesterday that 2 + 2 = 5", they will either look the other person in the eyes and say "but really, 2 + 2 = 5" and make them believe so, or will look at you and say: "You must be wrong, I have never said that 2 + 2 = 5, you are probably imagining things"; whichever is more convenient for them at the moment. Either way, you will look like a total idiot in front of the third party. A few experiences like this, and it will become obvious to you that after speaking with them, no one would ever believe you contradicting them. (When things get serious, these people seem ready to sue you for libel and deny everything in the most believable way. And they have a lot of money to spend on lawyers.)

This person can play the same game with dozens of people at the same time and not get tired, because for them it's as easy as breathing, there are no emotional blocks to overcome (okay, I cannot prove this last part, but it seems so). They can ruin lives of some of them without hesitation, just because it gives them some small benefit as a side effect. If you only meet them casually, your impression will probably be "this is an awesome person". If you get closer to them, you will start noticing the pattern, and it will scare you like hell.

And unless you have met such person, it is probably difficult to believe that what I wrote is true without exaggeration. Which is yet another reason why you would rather believe them than their victim, if the victim would try to get your help. The true description of what really happened just seems fucking unlikely. On the other hand their story would be exactly what you want to hear.

It was a little like talking to a hyper-intelligent space reptile who is trying hard to act friendly toward the Earthlings upon whose planet he is stranded.

No, that is completely unlike. That sounds like some super-nerd.

Your first impression from the person I am trying to describe would be "this is the best person ever". You would have no doubt that anyone who said anything negative about such person must be a horrible liar, probably insane. (But you probably wouldn't hear many negative things, because their victims would easily predict your reaction, and just give up.)

Comment author: eli_sennesh 29 October 2014 04:42:31PM 17 points [-]

I kind of predict that the results of installing heroic responsibility as a virtue, among average humans under average conditions, would be a) everyone stepping on everyone else’s toes, and b) 99% of them quitting a year later.

There's a reason it's called heroic responsibility: it's for a fictional hero, who can do Fictional Hero Things like upset the world order on a regular basis and get away with it. He has Plot Armor, and an innately limited world. In fact, the story background even guarantees this: there are only a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of wizards in Britain, and thus the Law of Large Numbers does not apply, and thus Harry is a one-of-a-kind individual rather than a one-among-several-hundred-thousand as he would be in real life. Further, he goes on adventures as an individual, and never has to engage in the kinds of large-scale real-life efforts that take the massive cooperation of large numbers of not-so-phoenix-quality individuals.

Which you very much do. You don't need heroic rationality, you need superrationality, which anyone here who's read up on decision-theory should recognize. The super-rational thing to do is systemic effectiveness, at the level of habits and teams, so that patients' health does not ever depend on one person choosing to be heroic. An optimal health system does not sound melodramatically heroic: it works quietly and can absolutely, always be relied upon.

Last bit of emphasis: you are both realer and better than Harry. He's a fictional hero, and has to fight a few battles as an individual. You are a real nurse, and have to do your part to save hundreds of lives for decades of time. The fucked-up thing about children's literature is that we never manage to get across just how small children's heroes are, how little they do, and just how large the real world inhabited by adults is, and just how very difficult it is to live here, and just how fucking heroic each and every person who does the slightest bit of good here actually is.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 02:36:47PM 0 points [-]

the Law of Large Numbers does not apply, and thus Harry is a one-of-a-kind individual rather than a one-among-several-hundred-thousand as he would be in real life

I think we need a lot of local heroism. We have a few billions people on this planet, but we also have a few billion problems -- even if we perhaps have only a few thousand repeating patterns of problems.

Maybe it would be good to distinguish between "heroism within a generally functional pattern which happened to have an exception" and a "pattern-changing heroism". Sometimes we need a smart person to invent a solution to the problem. Sometimes we need thousands of people to implement that solution, and also to solve the unexpected problems with the solution, because in real life the solution is never perfect.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 October 2014 10:04:57AM 2 points [-]

Just because I cannot give you a bulletproof definition in a LW comment, it does not mean the topic is completely meaningless.

I'm not saying that the topic is meaningless. I'm saying that if you call for discrimination of people with a certain psychological illness you should know what you are talking about.

Base rates for clinical psychopathy is sometimes cited as 5%. In this community there are plenty of people who don't have a properly working empathy module. Probably more than average in society.

When Eliezer says that he thinks based on typical mind issues that he feels that everyone who says: "I feel your pain" has to be lying that suggests a lack of a working empathy module. If you read back the first April article you find wording about "finding willing victims for BDSM". The desire for causing other people pain is there. Eliezer also checks other things such as a high belief in his own importance for the fate of the world that are typical for clinical psychopathy. Promiscuous sexual behavior is on the checklist for psychopathy and Eliezer is poly.

I'm not saying that Eliezer clearly falls under the label of clinical psychopathy, I have never interacted with him face to face and I'm no psychologist. But part of being rational is that you don't ignore patterns that are there. I don't think that this community would overall benefit from kicking out people who fill multiple marks on that checklist.

Yvain is smart enough to not gather the data for amount of LW members diagnosed with psychopathy when he asks for mental illnesses. I think it's good that way.

If you actually want to do more than just signaling that you like people to be friendly and get applause, than it makes a lot of sense to specify which kind of people you want to remove from the community.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 02:02:27PM *  1 point [-]

I am not an expert on this, but I think the kind of person I have in mind would not bother to look for willing BDSM victims. From their point of view, there are humans all around, and their consent is absolutely irrelevant, so they would optimize for some other criteria instead.

This feels to me like worrying about a vegetarian who eats "soy meat" because it exposes their unconscious meat-eating desire, while there are real carnivores out there.

specify which kind of people you want to remove from the community

I am not even sure if "removing a kind of people" is the correct approach. (Fictional evidence says no.) My best guess at this moment would be to create a community where people are more open to each other, so when some person harms another person, they are easily detected, especially if they have a pattern. Which also has a possible problem with false reporting; which maybe also could be solved by noticing patterns.

Speaking about society in general, we have an experience that sociopaths are likely to gain power in different kinds of organizations. It would be naive to expect that rationalist communities would be somehow immune to this; especially if we start "winning" in the real world. Sociopaths have an additional natural advantage that they have more experience dealing with neurotypicals, than neurotypicals have with dealing with sociopaths.

I think someone should at least try to solve this problem, instead of pretending it doesn't exist or couldn't happen to us. Because it's just a question of time.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 30 October 2014 09:59:43AM *  1 point [-]

A "sociopath" is not an alternative label for [someone I don't like.] I am not sure what a concise explanation for the sociopath symptom cluster is, but it might be someone who has trouble modeling other agents as "player characters", for whatever reason. A monster, basically. I think it's a bad habit to go around calling people monsters.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 01:46:19PM *  1 point [-]

I know; I know; I know. This is exactly what makes this topic so frustratingly difficult to explain, and so convenient to ignore.

The thing I am trying to say is that if a real monster would come to this community, sufficiently intelligent and saying the right keywords, we would spend all our energy inventing alternative explanations. That although in far mode we admit that the prior probability of a monster is nonzero (I think the base rate is somewhere around 1-4%), in near mode we would always treat it like zero, and any evidence would be explained away. We would congratulate ourselves for being nice, but in reality we are just scared to risk being wrong when we don't have convincingly sounding verbal arguments on our side. (See Geek Social Fallacy #1, but instead of "unpleasant" imagine "hurting people, but only as much as is safe in given situation".) The only way to notice the existence of the monster is probably if the monster decides to bite you personally in the foot. Then you will realize with horror that now all other people are going to invent alternative explanations why that probably didn't happen, because they don't want to risk being wrong in a way that would feel morally wrong to them.

I don't have a good solution here. I am not saying that vigilantism is a good solution, because the only thing the monster needs to draw attention away is to accuse someone else of being a monster, and it is quite likely that the monster will sound more convincing. (Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.) Actually, I believe this happens rather frequently. Whenever there is some kind of a "league against monsters", it is probably a safe bet that there is a monster somewhere at the top. (I am sure there is a TV Tropes page or two about this.)

So, we have a real danger here, but we have no good solution for it. Humans typically cope with such situations by pretending that the danger doesn't exist. I wish we had a better solution.

Comment author: pianoforte611 29 October 2014 07:43:46PM 1 point [-]

Are you directing this at LW? Ie. is there a sociopath that you think is bad for our community?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 09:03:12AM *  0 points [-]

Well, I suspect Eugine Nier may have been one, to show the most obvious example. (Of course there is no way to prove it, there are always alternative explanations, et cetera, et cetera, I know.)

Now that was an online behavior. Imagine the same kind of person in real life. I believe it's just a question of time. Using the limited experience to make predictions, such person would be rather popular, at least at the beginning, because they would keep using the right words that are tested to evoke a positive response from many lesswrongers.

Comment author: ChristianKl 29 October 2014 08:19:58PM *  2 points [-]

It is extremely important to find out how to have a successful community without sociopaths.

What do you mean with the phrase "sociopath"?

A person who's very low on empathy and follows intellectual utility calculations might very well donate money to effective charities and do things that are good for this community even when the same person fits the profile of what get's clinically diagnosed as sociopathy.

I think this community should be open for non-neurotypical people with low empathy scores provided those people are willing to act decently.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 08:57:06AM *  1 point [-]

I'd rather avoid going too deeply into definitions here. Sometimes I feel that if a group of rationalists were in a house that is on fire, they would refuse to leave the house until someone gives them a very precise definition of what exactly does "fire" mean, and how does it differ on quantum level from the usual everyday interaction of molecules. Just because I cannot give you a bulletproof definition in a LW comment, it does not mean the topic is completely meaningless.

Specifically I am concerned about the type of people who are very low on empathy and their utility function does not include other people. (So I am not speaking about e.g. people with alexithymia or similar.) Think: professor Quirrell, in real life. Such people do exist.

(I once had a boss like this for a short time, and... well, it's like an experience from a different planet. If I tried to describe it using words, you would probably just round it to the nearest neurotypical behavior, which would completely miss the point. Imagine a superintelligent paperclip maximizer in a human body, and you will probably have a better approximation. Yeah, I can imagine how untrustworthy this sounds. Unfortunately, that also is a part of a typical experience with a sociopath: first, you start doubting even your own senses, because nothing seems to make sense anymore, and you usually need a lot of time afterwards to sort it out, and then it is already too late to do something about it; second, you realize that if you try to describe it to someone else, there is no chance they would believe you unless they already had this type of experience.)

I think this community should be open for non-neurotypical people with low empathy scores provided those people are willing to act decently.

I'd like to agree with the spirit of this. But there is the problem that the sociopath would optimize their "indecent" behavior to make it difficult to prove.

Comment author: lmm 29 October 2014 11:11:17PM 1 point [-]

I'm not being utopian, I'm giving pragmatic advice based on empirical experience. I think online communities like this one fail more often by allowing bad people to continue being bad (because they feel the need to be scrupulously fair and transparent) than they do by being too authoritarian.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 October 2014 08:14:01AM 1 point [-]

I think I know what you mean. The situations like: "there is 90% probability that something bad happened, but 10% probability that I am just imagining things; should I act now and possibly abuse the power given to me, or should I spend a few more months (how many? I have absolutely no idea) collecting data?"

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 October 2014 05:57:59PM 1 point [-]

One possible thing you could do while being a nurse is starting a blog about problems nurses face. A blog where other nurses could also post anyonymously (but you would moderate it to remove the crazy stuff).

There is a chance that the new Minister of Health would read it. Technically, you could just send them a hyperlink, when the articles will already be there.

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