Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: hairyfigment 17 April 2014 06:00:46AM -1 points [-]

You know what vast plans he had. I knew of them too—I could not perhaps understand,—but others knew of them.

  • Kurtz' English girlfriend, in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, failing to notice confusion
Comment author: bramflakes 17 April 2014 03:39:32PM 0 points [-]

I don't get it.

Comment author: lmm 14 April 2014 07:10:32PM *  0 points [-]

Was the forceful kind ever an obviously correct/leftist position? To my mind non-violent eugenics is still obviously the correct thing where we just need to wait until the luddites die off - it's just the association with the Nazis has given ludditery a big (but ultimately temporary) boost.

Comment author: bramflakes 15 April 2014 09:05:28AM 2 points [-]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_sterilisation_in_Sweden

The authors theorized that the best solution for the Swedish welfare state ("folkhem") was to prevent at the outset the hereditary transfer of undesirable characteristics that caused the individual affected to become sooner or later a burden on society. The authors therefore proposed a "corrective social reform” under which sterilization was to prevent "nonviable individuals” from spreading their undesirable traits.[4]

Comment author: bramflakes 13 April 2014 08:16:11PM *  3 points [-]

I don't know whether this observation has been made before, (if it has, certainly more succintly), but I've noticed something about arguments with particularly irrational people (AGW deniers, Holocaust deniers, creationists, etc): The required length of each subsequent reply to explain why they're wrong grows exponentially with the length of the argument, while the irrational side can remain roughly constant. Entangled truths?

Comment author: William_Quixote 11 April 2014 10:09:19PM *  1 point [-]

Put another way, what it's saying is "if you look at people who don't come from the past and don't have large status quo bias you will notice a trend".

Is this falsifiable?

I suspect it is falsifiable. I might unpack it as the following sub claims

1 Degree of status quo bias is positively correlated to time spent in a particular status quo (my gut tells me there should be a causal link, but I bet correlation is all you could find in studies)

2 On issue X, belief that X[past] is the correct way to do X is correlated with time spent living in an X[past] regime.

2.5 Possibly a corollary to the above, but maybe a separate claim: among people who you would expect to have the least status quo bias position X[other] is favored at much higher rates than among the general population

For most issues 2 and 2.5 can probably be checked with good polling data. Point 1 is the kind of thing its possible to do studies on, so I think its in principle falsifiable, though I don’t know if such studies have actually been done.

Comment author: bramflakes 12 April 2014 11:57:02AM 4 points [-]

2) is also what you would expect to see if X[past] was indeed better than X[other].

2.5) Not having status quo bias isn't equivalent to being unbiased. A large number of the people that are least likely to have status quo bias are going to be at the other end of the spectrum - chronic contrarians.

Comment author: Nornagest 11 April 2014 08:22:02PM *  7 points [-]

I think you could make a case for totalitarianism, too. During the interwar years, not only old-school aristocracy but also market democracy were in some sense seen as being doomed by history; fascism got a lot of its punch from being thought of as a viable alternative to state communism when the dominant ideologies of the pre-WWI scene were temporarily discredited. Now, of course, we tend to see fascism as right-wing, but I get the sense that that mostly has to do with the mainstream left's adoption of civil rights causes in the postwar era; at the time, it would have been seen (at least by its adherents) as a more syncretic position.

I don't think you can call WWII an unambiguous win for market democracy, but I do think that it ended up looking a lot more viable in 1946 than it did in, say, 1933.

Comment author: bramflakes 11 April 2014 09:11:26PM 2 points [-]

Now, of course, we tend to see fascism as right-wing, but I get the sense that that mostly has to do with the mainstream left's adoption of civil rights causes in the postwar era; at the time, it would have been seen (at least by its adherents) as a more syncretic position.

Indeed, many of the most prominent supporters of fascism came from the traditional left. Mussoloni was originally a socialist, Mosley defected from the Labour party, and they didn't call it "national socialism" for nothing. In fact part of the reason why communists and fascists had such mutual loathing (aside from actual ideology) was that they were competing for the same set of recruits. Then again, Quisling and Franco especially were firmly in the right-wing camp.

With such concordance from all sides of the political spectrum it's easy to see how one could conclude that totalitarianism was the next natural stage in history.

Comment author: Lumifer 11 April 2014 06:43:22PM 6 points [-]

Is this falsifiable?

Sure, just step back in time.

A bit less than two millenia ago one could have said "Effectively there's a position -- that Jesus gifted eternal life to humanity -- that's obviously correct but there are also people who are just too hidebound and change averse to recognize it and progress can't be made until they die off. But progress will be made because the position is correct."

Comment author: bramflakes 11 April 2014 07:02:24PM 7 points [-]

I was actually thinking of eugenics, which was once a progressivist "obvious correct thing where we just need to wait until these luddites die off until everything will be great" thing, until it wasn't. Incidentally a counterexample to "Cthulhu always swims left" too.

It's a case where "correct", "right side of history" and "progress" dissociate from each other.

Comment author: William_Quixote 11 April 2014 12:39:14PM 1 point [-]

I think you may not be interpreting the phrase "the wrong side of history" as people who say it mean it.

There a classic saying that "

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Max Planck

Effectively there's a position that's obviously correct but there are also people who are just too hidebound and change averse to recognize it and progress can't be made until they die off. But progress will be made because the position is correct. When you tell someone they are on the wrong side of history you are reminding them they are behaving like one of the old men that Plank mentions.  Put another way, what it's saying is "if you look at people who don't come from the past and don't have large status quo bias you will notice a trend".

Comment author: bramflakes 11 April 2014 06:37:36PM 2 points [-]

Effectively there's a position that's obviously correct but there are also people who are just too hidebound and change averse to recognize it and progress can't be made until they die off. But progress will be made because the position is correct. When you tell someone they are on the wrong side of history you are reminding them they are behaving like one of the old men that Plank mentions. Put another way, what it's saying is "if you look at people who don't come from the past and don't have large status quo bias you will notice a trend".

Is this falsifiable?

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 11 April 2014 03:10:19PM -2 points [-]

"Slavery is wrong" isn't obviously correct?

Comment author: bramflakes 11 April 2014 06:33:18PM 5 points [-]

Considering it was the norm for several thousand years of history and many philosophers either came out in favor of it or were silent ... no, it's not obviously correct.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 07 April 2014 11:46:54PM -3 points [-]

The topic of the discussion seems to have shifted from "there are no arguments for AA" to "there are no good arguments for AA"

Comment author: bramflakes 10 April 2014 07:16:50PM 6 points [-]

In general speech, "there are no arguments for X" and "there are no good arguments for X" are synonymous.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 09 April 2014 09:06:16AM 2 points [-]

What do you class as "traditional methods"?

A big problem I've found with video lectures is the difficulty of looking things up afterwards. Text is much easier to refer back to, and it's after-the-fact repetition that helps things stick with me (and, by my understanding, with most people). I do find a lot of video lectures much "clickier" than text, though. Explaining something five ways is stylistically and editorially frowned upon in text, but is much more common in lecture format, so it increases the odds of having the subject explained in a way that suits me.

(I also think the on-demand style of online video lectures makes it harder to remember them than if they were in a spaced, episodic format. By way of comparison, if I watch a box-set TV series in one marathon sitting, all the episodes will blur, and that will make it harder to remember exact sequences of events, or what occurred in proximity to what; if all the episodes are separated, they'll feel more self-contained, and I'll also have other surrounding events in my life to pin the memories on.)

My MOOC successes have been ones that introduced me to subjects for which I subsequently got hold of several books, or ones that supplemented parallel study in a similar area.

Comment author: bramflakes 09 April 2014 11:30:43AM 0 points [-]

What do you class as "traditional methods"?

In the flesh teachers.

My MOOC successes have been ones that introduced me to subjects for which I subsequently got hold of several books, or ones that supplemented parallel study in a similar area.

Yep, this is what I end up doing. Works pretty well for me.

View more: Next