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Comment author: Zvi 13 April 2017 12:52:17PM 2 points [-]

My impression of these ideas is that they carry a high complexity cost, in terms of everyone involved having to track a lot of signals and a lot of things, and the barriers to entry being higher. Automoderation already is on the high end of reasonable complexity costs. A similar analogy could be made with bandwidth costs, as explicit communication is attention taxing.

I do agree that these are important contrasts, and important things to communicate; in a one-on-one conversation, it is good to say explicitly which mode you are in.

Another note is that it is not obvious that people agreeing for different reasons should be presumed to be stronger evidence than agreeing for the same reason. It means there is another reason out there, but also means that the person did not agree with your reason, which may or may not be because they did not know about your reason.

Comment author: Zvi 09 April 2017 01:48:57AM 6 points [-]

[To avoid our traditional failure mode of appearing too overly critical of mostly good ideas/projects, I will state up front that I think Project Hufflepuff is a good idea worth trying, other than the part where it means Raemon moves to The Bay]

I am getting quite the Ultima principles/virtues vibe (I generally put Rationality in the center instead of Spirituality) from that chart to the extent that my brain tells me the colors are wrong: You've got Truth (Truthseeking, previously blue), Love (Human, previously red), and Courage (Impact, previously yellow).

Thing is, whether or not we should do so, I don't think we tend consider these principles equals. I know I don't.

I also don't think it is a coincidence that all three 'local community' circles are within Truth. If there was a Rationalist Community that was working primarily on Impact and Human Focus, and was big on Valor, Compassion and Sacrifice, but did not care about truth all that much and did not seem to value Honesty (and perhaps Humility, Justice or Honor), I am not saying such a thing is inherently bad, but it would no longer feel to me like 'our people'. I also wonder what the Humility-space would look like that isn't focused on any of the three things, but is still in the Community circle. What are they up to?

In that graph, I find my instinctive drawing of the "Rationalist Community" circle to be around most/all of the Truthseeking Focus circle, rather than around most of all combinations of the three circles! How much of the ab-reaction we have to certain adjacent groups (some of which are mentioned above), and our concerns about them, is due to this difference? Is this concern good? Are a lot of the worries people have about this project, that they worry too many resources/norms may shift into a relatively non-critical principal, and if we are not careful we will lose our unique focus?

Comment author: grumphrey 02 April 2017 11:25:50PM 9 points [-]

I can trace an arc, over the past ten years, of my attitude towards communities:

  • "Yay communities! Let's all share event invites and do everything together and everything will be great!"
  • "Hm, I'm organizing events for people but I'm not really enjoying them, and it doesn't really make me feel fulfilled"
  • "Inviting people to events doesn't seem to cause them to reciprocate by sending me invites back"
  • "I think the people in my community actually are having a lot of events, they're just not inviting me to most of them"
  • "I seem to have more fun interacting with people who aren't in my community. What's up with that?"
  • "Communities are okay but friends are better."

I never found a solution for how to get people to invite me to things. I think the problem is that I personally am really picky about the sorts of events I enjoy (ie, I don't like drinking or sports), so if I want to have an event that I will enjoy I have to make it myself.

But I did find a solution for how to have good events: make sure that all the people that I invite to my event are people who specifically want to do that event. Don't invite people because "they're part of the community" or "I want to make sure they're not lonely"; the risk is that they might show up because it's their only social outlet, and then they might not participate in the way that I wanted.

Nowadays I think of communities as places to meet people who could be my friends.

Comment author: Zvi 05 April 2017 01:10:32PM 6 points [-]

I think that almost everyone vastly underestimates the importance of friends, and especially the importance of a few close friends. In terms of not being lonely, of having good times and good events, or even of having a good time at the events that the community organizes, a few close friends are the key. I started enjoying group events far more when I realized that there is no need to try and 'make the rounds' of the 20-100 people there - find the handful that interest you tonight, and spend the night with them.

Raemon's response is key too, though. Communities are still super important because they provide anchors around which things can be organized, friends can coordinate and new friends can be found. What you do not want is for smaller groups to be only friendships and withdraw from their communities, or for some outside community to steal the best community members, because then the original community stops drawing in new people (or stop drawing in good new people) and slowly dies.

A great question, and one I hope is asked at the conference, is "how do we encourage more formation of close friendships?"

Comment author: Elo 31 March 2017 01:57:16AM 0 points [-]

opportunity to improve things.

What kind of work is this statement doing. It assumes that things are broken automatically and can be improved. Things are not already broken, the ground state just "IS", but they can be improved from the current state by deliberate actions if you so choose.

If I disappoint someone, I want to know!

Definitely. In reverse this time - someone has an expectation, "they expect an <awesome> action which didn't amount". It's a disconnect between their expectations and reality.

(and I repeat-)

There is no wishful magical thinking that things will happen just by wanting really hard at reality. There is only the reality of the things that happen and our ability to plan around them. There is also no angry (in the territory), and no guilt. Only in the maps.

The world literally does not go dark, there are no literal clouds hanging over one's shoulders if they are mad. Reality does not get angry. Only the maps in your head do.

If, instead of disappointment you view the world in terms of desired states and preferred states, you can bring about the same change if behaviour change and actions with no disappointment. "I would prefer it if <awesome action> happened.". There is no need to be disappointed. (repeating myself but) disappointment is a reflection on the person who is disappointed and their inability to see reality for what it is, not the person who (might have) caused the disappointment.

Am I making sense? I feel like I might be not making sense.

Comment author: Zvi 31 March 2017 12:12:22PM 4 points [-]

I do think you are making sense - but assuming I am correctly understanding you, I also mostly disagree. This feels like pernicious Deep Wisdom to me.

Disappointment means you notice a disconnect between your observations and your expectations for those observations. Observing that disconnect is useful. It is good data, and useful (negative) reinforcement of related actions. Yes, it is partly data about yourself and your expectations, and you should update those too, which is also useful to help you update your map, but in addition it is information about this particular result and source of feedback.

It also is good information for other people's maps, and we all agree that when we disappoint someone else, we want them to tell us. Or at least we want that now, while we are in far mode!

Getting angry, as opposed to disappointed, is more likely to be counterproductive, especially once it has already been observed, although telling someone 'there is no need to be angry' or even simply 'do not be angry' has a long history of not having the requested effect.

Comment author: Dagon 30 March 2017 05:02:40PM 2 points [-]

I think you're making a huge mistake if you frame the interaction entirely as a social dominance transaction. In some cases it may be, and the object-level disagreement is just a casus belli for the emotional reaction. But in many cases, a mistake was actually made and there's a very real disagreement about why it happened or the severity of result, so no agreement on what will change in order to make similar errors less likely in the future.

That disagreement over priority is not resolved by any acceptance of emotion, only by acceptance of the facts. Some hurts are caused by different priorities or capabilities of the "perpetrator", and regardless of apology, punishment, or submission, will probably reoccur in the future.

Comment author: Zvi 31 March 2017 12:00:22PM 1 point [-]

I agree that this is a failure mode - that's why the title talks about avoiding these scenarios. You want to avoid things getting to this point, but also recognize that if things did get to this point, trying to solve the casus belli here and now is not a viable path forward. The spiral must be diffused first.

After that, yes, you should step back and consider whether the original problem still exists and is worth addressing, and if so do so when everyone is calm and proceed super carefully.

Avoiding Emotional Dominance Spirals

5 Zvi 30 March 2017 12:44AM

Follow Up to: Dominance, care, and social touch

One thing Ben said in his latest post especially resonated with me, and I wanted to offer some expanded thoughts on it:

Sometimes, when I feel let down because someone close to me dropped the ball on something important, they try to make amends by submitting to me. This would be a good appeasement strategy if I mainly felt bad because I wanted them to assign me a higher social rank. But, the thing I want is actually the existence of another agent in the world who is independently looking out for my interests. So when they respond by submitting, trying to look small and incompetent, I perceive them as shirking. My natural response to this kind of shirking is anger - but people who are already trying to appease me by submitting tend to double down on submission if they notice I'm upset at them - which just compounds the problem!

My main strategy for fixing this has been to avoid leaning on this sort of person for anything important. I've been experimenting with instead explicitly telling them I don't want submission and asking them to take more responsibility, and this occasionally works a bit, but it's slow and frustrating and I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

This resonated on multiple levels.

There is the basic problem of someone dropping the ball, and offering submission rather than fixing the problem on some level. As someone who tried to run a company, this is especially maddening. I do not want you to show your submission, I want you to tell me how  you are going to fix what went wrong, and avoid making the same mistake again! I want you to tell me how you have learned from this experience. That makes everyone perform better. I also want to see you take responsibility. These are all highly useful, whereas submission usually is not. However, you have to hammer this, over and over again, for not only some but most people - too many people to never rely on such folks.

Different people have different reactions they want to see when someone lets them down or makes a mistake. I have one set of reactions I use at work, one set I use at home, another I use with other rationalists, and so on, and for people I know well, I customize further. 

The bigger problem, also described here, is the anger feedback loop, which the main thing I want to talk about. Ben gives an example of it:

A: Sorry I let you down, I suck. And other submissive things.

Ben (gets angry): Why are you doing that? I don't want that reaction!

A (seeing Ben is mad): Oh, I made you mad! So sorry I let you down, I suck. And other even more submissive things than before.

Ben (get angrier): Aaaarrgggh!

 ...and so on, usually until A also gets angry at Ben (in my experience), and a real fight ensues that often eclipses by far the original problem. This is Ben's particular form of this, but more common to my experience is this, the most basic case:

A: You screwed up! 

B: You're angry at me! How dare you get angry at me? I'm angry!

A: How dare you get angry at me for being angry? I'm even angrier!

B: How dare you get angry at me for being angry at your being angry? Oh boy am I angry!

When things go down this path, something very minor can turn into a huge fight. Whether or not you signed up for it, you're in a dominance contest. One or both participants has to make a choice to not be angry, or at least to act as if they are not angry. Sometimes this will be after a large number of iterations, which will make this task very difficult, and it plays like a game of chicken: One person credibly commits to being completely incapable of diffusing the situation before it results in destruction of property, so the other now has no choice but to appear to put themselves in the required emotional state, at a time when they feel themselves beyond justified, which usually involves saying things like "I'm not angry" a lot when that claim is not exactly credible. Having to do all this really sucks.

The only real alternative I know about is to physically leave, and wait for things to calm down. 

Then there are the even worse variations, where the original sin that you are fighting over is failure to be in the proper emotional state. In these cases, not only is submission demanded, but voluntary, happy, you-are-right style submission. You can end up with this a lot:

A: I demand X!

B: OK, fine, X.

A: How dare you not be happy about this? 

B: I'm happy about it. 

A: No you're not! You're pretending to be happy about it! How dare you!

B: No, really, I am! I am blameworthy for many things, but for this I am not blameworthy, I have the emotional response you demand oh mighty demander!

A: I don't believe you.

And so on - and it can go on quite a while. With begging and pleading. B was my father. A lot. It is painful even to listen to. It was painful to even write this.

So essentially, and I have been in situations like this including at various jobs, you end up on constant emotional notice. You must, at all times, represent the right response to everything that is happening. So you try hard to do this at all times, and perhaps often this is helpful, because people acting cheerful can make things better. But what happens the moment this facade starts to break down? Too many things push your buttons in a row? This happens at exactly the moment when it has become too expensive to keep this up. Then they detect it.

They tell you this is bad. You must be happy about this; you have no right to be upset! And of course, now you're also mad about them telling you what you have no right to be mad about... and the cycle begins. Cause your job just got a lot harder, and if you slip again, it's going to get really ugly.

Even when reasonably big things are at stake and there is actual disagreement, this is where most of the real ugliness seems to come from - one party decides the emotional response of the other party is illegitimate and their reaction to this reinforces the reaction. 

This is something we need to be super vigilant about not doing.

Within reason, and somewhat beyond it, people who want to be upset need to be allowed to be upset. As long as they can do it quietly they need to be allowed to be angry. If the person is being disruptive and actively wrecking things, that is something else, but if someone decides to let the wookie win, and you are the wookie, you need to let them let the wookie win. The argument really is over. If you've got what you want on the substance, that has to be good enough.

They also need to be allowed to be submissive. People instinctively are going into this mode in order to avoid these fights and dominance contests. Yes, it's not the most productive thing they could be doing right now. You can explain to them later in a different conversation that this isn't necessary with you. Eventually they might even believe it. For now, let them have this. If you do not, what is likely to happen is, as Ben observes, they interpret your being upset with them as them not being submissive enough. That is a reasonable guess, and more often then not they will be right. 

Rising above this is, of course, even better. Here's something along those lines that happened to me recently.

For a while I had been busy, and therefore mostly out of rationalist circles. I had been spending a lot of time in other good (if not quite as good) epistemic circles, and I'd learned the habit, when someone calls you out on having screwed up, of acknowledging I had screwed up, apologizing, fixing it to the extent that was still relevant, and assuring that I knew how to not have it happen again. If everyone in the world started doing that, I would take that reaction in a second, and life would be a lot better.

It's not as good as understanding on a deep level exactly why you made the mistake in the first place. So the other person got frustrated, expecting better and holding me to a higher standard, and I was then called out on my reaction to being called outbecause the other person respected me enough to do that: I don't want your apology, I want you to figure out why you did that and I think you can do it. I then caught myself doing the same submission thing a second time, which resulted in me realizing what was wrong in a much more important sense than the original error. As a result, instead of simply putting a band-aid over the local issue, I got a moment that stuck with me. 

We should all strive for such a standard - from both sides.

[Cross-posted at my personal blog]




[Link] [Humor] In honor of our new overlord decision theory acronym FDT...

7 Zvi 24 March 2017 09:17PM
Comment author: lifelonglearner 04 March 2017 02:33:35PM 0 points [-]

I'm unsure about Twitter. I would probably prefer it less if it was just an automated / curated bot, as that seems to lose the "compilation" feel. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like I'd have to do a lot of scrolling to get a quick overview of what's been brewing in people's heads.

Comment author: Zvi 04 March 2017 05:51:30PM 0 points [-]

I agree that it would need to be someone who thought about what to include and what not to include.

Comment author: ChristianKl 04 March 2017 11:03:20AM 1 point [-]

I’d be willing to start up either a webcomic or a video series, conditional on funding. Anyone interested in sponsoring?

I would expect that you would need to demonstrate skill at either to convince someone to fund you to do it. Do you have published webcomics?

Comment author: Zvi 04 March 2017 12:13:53PM 0 points [-]

The best way to convince people (I include myself here) to fund something like this would be to start doing it first. Does not seem like an undue burden.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 04 March 2017 06:17:37AM 0 points [-]

To be honest, I'm not too sure myself. I was thinking about times where, say, TIME writes a favorable piece on AI, then we can coordinate to get lots of people to upvote it on HN/reddit, or things like that, where having lots of people do a thing could be useful. Maybe it'll be more relevant for people in the same geographical areas?

Comment author: Zvi 04 March 2017 11:55:17AM 0 points [-]

If we wanted to coordinate on such a matter, right now we would use email, email groups (NYC uses one of these), Facebook and Less Wrong in some combination. I would expect this to reach most of the people we would reach with an app?

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