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Comment author: eli_sennesh 31 August 2014 03:03:32PM -1 points [-]

Maybe the reason why the West hasn't been conquered by Muslim fundamentalists yet is that Muslims don't have an equivalent of Genghis Khan. Someone who would have the courage to conquer the nearest territory, kill horribly everyone who opposed them, let live those who didn't (and make this fact publicly known), take some men and weapons from the conquered territory and use them to attack the next territory immediately, et cetera, spreading like a wildfire.

"Caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his group ISIS have been behaving exactly like this. They are quite young, but don't appear quite able to take on a Western military yet.

This feels to me like a just world fallacy, or perhaps choosing the most convenient world.

And yet, by definition, a group who are better at rationality win more often. We ought to expect that rational civilizations can beat irrational ones, because rationality is systematized cross-domain winning.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 31 August 2014 04:07:30PM 1 point [-]

by definition, a group who are better at rationality win more often

Well, there is this "valley of bad rationality" where being more rational about part of the problem but not yet more rational about other part can make people less winning.

Sometimes I feel are we are there at a society level. We have smart individuals, we have science, we fly to the moon, etc. However, superstition and blind hate can be an efficient tool for coordinating a group to fight against another group. We don't use this tool much (because it doesn't fit well with rationality and science), but we don't have an equally strong replacement. Also, only a few people in our civilization do the rationality and science. So even if there is a rationality-based defense, most of our society is too stupid to use it efficiently. On the scale from "barbarians" to "bayesians", most of our society is somewhere in the middle: not barbaric enough, but still far from rational.

Comment author: Morendil 31 August 2014 10:04:00AM 2 points [-]

Suggestion: start a new discussion thread titled something like "European Rationality Solstice Ritual". That will be a start. I'm based in France, experienced at the logistics of running unconferences and community meetings, willing to help.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 31 August 2014 12:23:10PM *  6 points [-]

It seems to me that every successfully organized event has at least one specific person who is the "soul" of the event. No matter how many additional people promise to help, this one is the one who will do most of the work, because they will take the heroic responsibility to fix all things that can go wrong. Other people will usually do the limited part they agreed to help with, and perhaps something more if they are nagged enough. But there has to be someone who continuously inspects everything, and does the nagging. In other words, a manager who cares.

Raemon is such a person for this event. If we want to have something like this in Europe, we need this kind of a person here. We need a volunteer for this role. Mere group of people willing to help may not be enough.

EDIT: I realise the inconsistency between not wanting to start a new thread about "hey, someone else should do something", and yet posting a comment here with exactly the same message. Uhm. I just feel like if there is anyone to take the role of the main organizer, they would go ahead and create the thread. (Compared with all other things they will have to do, this one is trivial.) Could be wrong, though.

Comment author: AnnaLeptikon 30 August 2014 10:15:02PM 1 point [-]

Since I will not be able to attend "the rational ritual retreat" I will just post my thoughts on this topic here :) I already talked about this with some of the people from LessWrong Vienna, but I will write it down for the whole community, too:

What do you think about "rational alternatives" to important conventional events (but of course not exactly on the official dates - because people probably meet their families then) or creating "rational annual events"? I personally don't experience big meaning in official celebrations, but I actually enjoy celebrations, even more with smart people who in general share my interests :) Also all the official celebrations probably had an important purpose in the wheel of the year - for me they all lost their purpose over time (because not believing in it or not taking part in it) so at least the rational alternatives should deliver it.

Some vague ideas I had:

  • rational alternative to christmas: We could have a talk or invite someone to speak about effective altruism (I personally associate christmas with "giving") and then reflect about which projects we would love to support monetarily and collect money or something like that (maybe someone of you has better ideas?)

  • rational alternative to New Year's Eve/Day (doesn't have to be exactly on this day) : coming together, celebrating the old/new year with good food (maybe cooking together or something like that) or whatever you like - but instead of just mention some new year's resolutions making it a huge part of the evening/day -> exercises for reflection about the last year and wishes/plans for the next (+ use Alex Vermeer's guide), defining new goals, sharing background knowledge about goal setting and motivation, publicly announcing goals for social control/pressure (I would offer to have some talks about the topics)

  • rational alternative to the fasting period: I think fasting is not a stupid idea - there is also research that shows that reducing the daily intake correlates with a longer life in general (yeah, I know, correlation...) and I experienced that eating far less can really help to "free your mind". However: Also to just reflect about our diet, have some healthy cooking events together, trying soylent collectively or something like that would be an option. Or to do a lot of sport!

  • rational alternative to Easter: since it's officially about "Jesus who overcame death" we could make a event about longevity and immortality and share scientific research on the topics

  • summer/winter solstice: someone who is into this topics could teach the rest more about astronomy/astro physics

Of course I'm aware that there is no need to have any connection/correlation to official christian celebrations (and that some even might think it's contraindicated) - we can of course invent our own things independently (designed for a special purpose)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 31 August 2014 11:04:28AM 2 points [-]

I think that connecting the ritual to some specific day - an astronomical event or someone's birthday - is not really necessary. That's how it was done historically, because if you want to coordinate masses of people and avoid quarrels among the organizer, you need some rationalization. But these days, we celebrate Xmas on December 25th simply because we have always celebrates Xmas on December 25th. -- Telling people that winter solstice is actually December 21st will not change anyone's mind. And educated people, religious or not, don't believe we have good evidence for Jesus being born on December 25th. Still, December 25th is Xmas, because that's how it has always been. (Unless you are Orthodox, in which case it is January 7th, because it has always been January 7th.)

We are not going to organize the whole country to do something at their homes at the same time. There will be a few dozen people at most, and they will come to the same place. Therefore "It will be on day XYZ, because XYZ is the day we organize it" is good enough. If we announce it soon enough, people will be able to make time.

I started thinking about my vague ideas, but then I realized that what I actually want on the meta level is to expand the range of interaction modes among rationalists. In other words, my reasoning is not "celebrations are inherently better than talking at cafe", but rather "we already do talk at cafe, but we didn't have a celebration yet". Because, you know, if it were the other way round - regular celebrations once in a month, but no talking at cafe - I would probably try to organize some talk at cafe instead. Of course we have more talking at cafe because that is easier to organize. And that's the thing: unless we are strategic, we will always converge to "what is easier to do" instead of "what would be good".

Here is a list of interaction modes that quickly come to my mind:

  • informal talk
  • moderated debate
  • lecture / sermon
  • workshop
  • games
  • sport
  • hiking
  • dance
  • singing together

When people are not strategic about this, they usually follow "easier to do" or "what we did recently" algorithm. Informal talk seems like the default choice in most cases. (However, I also had a group of friends I would like to have an informal talk with, but they always decided to play Bang instead.) Some of these modes require strategic preparation: someone must prepare the lecture or the sermon, bring the guitar, find a good place for sport or dancing, plan the hike, etc.

Sometimes it is possible to have two or more of these modes at the same event. Anything can be followed by an informal debate. There are sermons and singing (and dancing) in the church. At a convention, there can be place for many different activities. -- So, we can choose which of these activities will be done at our regular meetups, which will be done at "rationalist rituals", and we can still create opportunities for the remaining ones.

By the way, if you want to do something emotional together with other rationalists to increase our social bonds, it is not always necessary to organize the whole thing. For a lecture or a sermon, you will need specifically rationalist content. But if you think about e.g. rationalists dancing together, it would be easier to join some already existing activity; just coordinate that all local rationalists interested in "rationalist dancing" will go to the same dancing room. Or ask someone who already does dancing lessons to make one specifically for you.

Comment author: Benito 30 August 2014 07:33:37PM 3 points [-]

Or even Britain. It's irritating that those rationalists in America consistently refuse to fly over to Britain just to include me in everything.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 08:54:55PM 1 point [-]

Well, someone needs to fly there and copy all their know-how. Are we rational enough to coordinate at this?

Comment author: Azathoth123 30 August 2014 05:06:52PM 3 points [-]

Things like the Nashi movement,

Looking at the article, I don't see what specifically you're considering "racist". It would help if you stated your definition. Ok, it would help even more if you didn't through around words commonly used by SJW's to mean "anyone I disagree with".

and laws against LGBT people.

You mean like the laws every country had until maybe a couple decades ago?

If you take a typical Nazi, reduce his hate of Jews by 80%, and convert him using the chronophone to a post-Soviet culture, this is what passes as "left" here.

So are the Russian creating an overarching recreational organization and bringing all private clubs under its control?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 08:33:34PM *  5 points [-]


To taboo the SJW-like words, here is what I mean: worship of physical power, enthusiasm about war, emphasis on reproduction of purebloods, agression against people different from the norm.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 12:32:44PM 3 points [-]


Anything not related to a specific meetup goes here.

Meetup Report Thread: September 2014

7 Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 12:32PM

If you had an interesting Less Wrong meetup recently, but don't have the time to write up a big report to post to Discussion, feel free to write a comment here.  Even if it's just a couple lines about what you did and how people felt about it, it might encourage some people to attend meetups or start meetups in their area.

If you have the time, you can also describe what types of exercises you did, what worked and what didn't.  This could help inspire meetups to try new things and improve themselves in various ways.

If you're inspired by what's posted below and want to organize a meetup, check out this page for some resources to get started!  You can also check FrankAdamek's weekly post on meetups for the week.

Previous Meetup Report Thread: February 2014


Guidelines:  Please post the meetup reports as top-level comments, and debate the specific meetup below its comment.  Anything else goes under the "Meta" top-level comment.  The title of this thread should be interpreted as "up to and including September 2014", which means feel free to post reports of meetups that happened in August, July, June, etc.

Comment author: Azathoth123 30 August 2014 03:05:15AM 3 points [-]

Putin's supporters are openly nationalist, racist, homophobic,

Would you mind tabooing what you mean by "racist" (and possibly also "nationalist" and "homophobic") and why your definition is bad, there is currently a long debate in another thread on this very subject.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 12:02:07PM *  3 points [-]

Things like the Nashi movement, and laws against LGBT people.

Yes, there is the irony that Nashi is officially an "anti-fascist" movement. To understand this, it is necessary to know the connotations these words have in the former communist countries, as propaganda shaped them for decades. Shortly: anything associated with former Soviet Union and her satellites is "socialist", and anything associated with West is "fascist". It's like yin and yang for everything; e.g. collectivism is "socialist" and entrepreneurship is "fascist", but also being ethinically Russian or at least Slavic is more central to the concept of "socialist", and the idea of human rights (other than the right to live happily and obediently under a socialist government) is kinda "fascist", because it goes against the power of the collective.

So a person who doesn't think about this too deeply (you know, most of the population) can identify themselves as "anti-fascist" and mean: "I hate entrepreneurs, homosexuals; and everyone who is not ethnically Russian/Slav should go away from this country". Having read a few articles about the Nashi, this is more or less the meaning they use.

(This is a point I would like to emphasise as often as possible -- though usually I don't, respecting the LW's attitude to politics -- that the ideas of "left" or "socialism" in former Soviet countries are so completely unlike their versions in the West. It is just a result of successful propaganda and suppressing the flow of information that makes most leftists in the West believe otherwise. If you take a typical Nazi, reduce his hate of Jews by 80%, and convert him using the chronophone to a post-Soviet culture, this is what passes as "left" here.)

Comment author: James_Miller 29 August 2014 11:15:08PM -2 points [-]

He has to, or else the US empire collapses worldwide:

Lots of leftwing intellectuals would love to see the U.S. empire collapse. We don't know Obama's opinion on the topic because he would be smart enough to hide any such anti-patriotic views.

But I doubt that letting Russia take a small NATO country would cause the collapse of U.S. power abroad. Paradoxically, it might increase our power as nations put more effort into pleasing us and begging us to station troops on their soil to act as tripwires.

You are right that Russia taking Estonia would cause lots of countries to acquire nuclear weapons. No doubt high tech countries like Japan, Germany, and South Korea have plans in place to very quickly get them.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 30 August 2014 11:29:59AM 3 points [-]

But I doubt that letting Russia take a small NATO country would cause the collapse of U.S. power abroad. Paradoxically, it might increase our power

In Eastern Europe, the pro-Russian people would be like: "See? The West is toothless; Russia will regain her former sphere of influence soon (which includes us)." And people have an instinct to side with the winner, so the people who don't have strong political opinions would be likely to join what seems like a winning side.

The map drawn at Yalta Conference was a Schelling point for decades. People still remember it.

Comment author: Lumifer 29 August 2014 02:36:33PM 3 points [-]

The Cold War ended with economical victory of the West, and memetic victory of the Soviets

Which memetic victory? Marxism/communism/Soviet ideology pretty much imploded after the fall of the USSR. Look at what China did. I think it was a total memetic loss for the Soviets.

It was a huge strategic mistake after the fall of communism not to use the opportunity to expose the crimes of the regime, and to remove the important people from power

First, whose mistake and who would have been doing the removing?

Second, it depends on the country. I think that in Russia the old Soviet "important people" were effectively removed. The new political elite is not the old political elite.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 29 August 2014 03:42:47PM *  5 points [-]

First, whose mistake and who would have been doing the removing?

In my country, our mistake, of course. People were too idealistic during the "Velvet Revolution". We thought that just publicly ending the evil regime is enough, that we can just forgive everyone and have a fresh start. And that the bad guys will be happy for being forgiven (instead of e.g. executed for their crimes) and they will live peacefully.

Yeah... they just waited for a year or two to make sure there is no will to punish them... and then they returned to the power. Since most of the judges or policemen or people in any position of influence except for parliament (because all our attention was focused there) were former communists, it wasn't even difficult. They just had to wait for hedonic adaptation, and blame all the problems on lack of socialism, and then win one election. Then they removed all their opponents from the public media and used the media for propaganda. And used the loyal secret service against political opponents.

I think that in Russia the old Soviet "important people" were effectively removed. The new political elite is not the old political elite.

I don't know about situation in Russia. Just saying that it's not enough to remove the visible people in parliament. It is also important to remove communists from the justice and secret service. Otherwise, you get new faces, connected to the old less visible people.

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