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Comment author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 05:53:33PM 0 points [-]

My impression: a major issue is that other people get the idea that LessWrong comes from a few people preaching their ideas, when in reality, it's people who mostly preach the ideas that have been discovered by and are widely agreed upon by academic experts. Just saying, "it comes from academics" seems to not directly address this major issue directly enough.

That said, I see what you mean about "actually, X" being a pattern that may lead people to instinctively argue the other way. So I see that there is a cost, but my impression is that the cost doesn't outweigh the benefit that comes with directly addressing a major concern that others have. For most audiences; there are certainly some less charitable audiences who need to be approached more gently.

I'd consider my confidence in this to be moderate. Getting your data point has lead to me shift downwards a bit.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 05:58:54PM 0 points [-]

Hate to have to say this but directly addressing a concern is social confirmation of a form that the concern deserves to be addressed, and thus that it's based in something real. Imagine a Scientologist offering to explain to you why Scientology isn't a cult.

Of the people I know of who are outright hostile to LW, it's mostly because of basilisks and polyamory and other things that make LW both an easy and a fun target for derision. And we can't exactly say that those things don't exist.

Comment author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 05:27:51PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for calling this out. I was imagining explaining it to a friend or family member who is at least somewhat charitable and trusting of my judgement. In that case, I expect them to not raise hackles, and I think it's useful to communicate that I think the authors are particularly smart.

However, if this were something that were posted on Less Wrong's About page, for example, I could definitely see how this would turn newcomers away, and I agree with you. Self-promoting as "really, really smart" definitely does seem like something that turns people off and makes them skeptical.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 05:36:29PM 1 point [-]

Thank you for being gracious about accepting the criticism.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 05:34:11PM *  1 point [-]

While I feel I technically speaking ought to be applauding any effort to boost the tollerance of heterodox opinions in universities, my heart would not be in it. I think the issue is that many of the most vicious "political types" are the ones with the weakest knowledge about the history and provenance of their own ideas. How many ultra-feminists have ever so much as opened "The Feminine Mystique"? The Feminine Mystique is not even talked about or refferenced in discussions on Feminism I've come across. How many "Marxists" ever struggled as far as the end of the 1st chapter of Das Kapital?

It's puzzling to think about how you could persuade someone to be more open-minded about the beliefs of others when they're hardly even serious about their own.

Comment author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 05:58:36AM *  0 points [-]

I get the impression that a lot of people start off with a feeling that it's weird and cult-y. For that reason, I feel it's important to address it and communicate that "actually, rationality is normal". If you didn't already find it to be weird (and wouldn't have come to find it weird after some initial investigation), my intuition is that such a forewarning wouldn't lead you to consider it weird, and thus has a minimal downside. I feel somewhat confident about that intuition, but not too confident.

This would be an interesting thing to test though. And I look forward to updating my beliefs based on what the experiences and intuitions of others are regarding this.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 10:33:28AM *  1 point [-]

"actually, X" is never a good way to sell anything. Scientists are quite prone to this kind of speech which from their perspective is fully justified ( because they've exhaustively studied a certain topic ) - but what the average person hears is the "you don't know what you're talking about" half of the implication which makes them deaf to the "I do know what I'm talking about" half. If you just place the fruits of rationality on display; anyone with a brain will be able to recognize them for what they are and they'll adjust their judgements accordingly.

Here's an interesting exercise - find anyone in the business of persuasion ( a lawyer, a salesman, a con artist ) and see how often you hear them say things like "no, actually..." ( or how often you hear them not saying these things ).

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 10:17:35AM *  5 points [-]

He's really, really smart.

This is the kind of phrasing that usually costs more to say than you can purchase with it. Anyone who is themselves really, really smart is going to raise hackles at this kind of talk; and is going to want strong evidence moreover ( and since a smart person would independently form the same judgement about Yudkowsky, if it is correct, you can safely just supply the evidence without the attached value judgment ).

Fiction authors have a fairly robust rule of thumb: show, don't tell. Especially don't tell me what judgement to form. I'd tack on this: don't negotiate. Haggling with a person over their impressions of a group of other people with suggestions like it's still possible that the techniques may be useful to you, right? immediately inspires suspicion in anyone with any sort of disposition to scepticism. Bartering mays simultaneously creates the impression of personal uncertainty and inability to demonstrate while coupling it to the obvious fact that this person wants me to form a certain judgement.

If I were to introduce a stranger to LessWrong I'd straightforwardly tell them what it is: it's where people attracted to STEM come go to debate and discuss mostly STEM-related ( and generally academic ) topics; with a heavy bias towards topics that are in a the twilight zone between sci-fi and feasible scientific reality, also with a marked tendency for employing a set of tools and techniques of thought derived from studying cognitive science and an associated tendency to frame discussions in the language associated with those tools.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 April 2017 07:37:15PM 0 points [-]

Not for the change of mind from "I completely don't care about humans" to "I'll make my only Son a human (to start with) and let other humans crucify him so that they could wash off the original sin".

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 28 April 2017 07:39:30PM *  0 points [-]

It's not smoking-gun obvious to me that this second formulation is what the pre-Pauline Christians believed in. Jesus's divinity certainly wasn't settled even after Paul. Consider for example the Arian "heresy".

Comment author: Lumifer 28 April 2017 03:52:55PM 0 points [-]

Got to be someone from the Holy Trinity -- Paul isn't going to cut it.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 28 April 2017 06:03:51PM *  0 points [-]

Paul isn't going to cut it

Paul might cut it if you're Thomas Jeffson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible "Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."

Comment author: Lumifer 28 April 2017 02:27:38PM 0 points [-]

god really needs nothing from us and is entirely indifferent to human beings choosing to damn themselves or not

And then God says "j/k, just kidding" and does the whole New Testament thing :-)

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 28 April 2017 03:39:55PM *  0 points [-]

God says "j/k, just kidding"

Either God, Jesus or St. Paul - that all depends entirely on which sect you ask.

Comment author: Viliam 28 April 2017 11:03:58AM 0 points [-]

My reading of Job is that Leviathan is more awesome than humans, and Job is forced to admit this, therefore God optimizes this world for Leviathan instead of humans. It's not that humans are completely irrelevant; but they are merely a rounding error compared with Leviathan, the utility monster.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 28 April 2017 11:08:28AM 0 points [-]

therefore God optimizes this world for Leviathan

?

Comment author: bogus 27 April 2017 05:21:17PM 1 point [-]

The notion that God might be evil is not a mere "strawman"; it is in fact a feature of some actual religions, notably Gnostic Christianity. Of course, the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible seems to aim at refuting this very argument, since it freely admits that God often appears to be evil from our point of view; but since he is infinitely wise and knows so many things which are entirely beyond our understanding, and has done plenty of nice things for us besides (such as laying the foundations of our very world), how can we argue against his goodness?

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 27 April 2017 10:28:08PM 0 points [-]

My own reading of Job was not that god's goodness is undeniable, it's that god really needs nothing from us and is entirely indifferent to human beings choosing to damn themselves or not, in contradiction to "your God is a jealous God".

If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man.

This seems to me like the most sane piece of theological reasoning I've found in any religious text whatever - casting God as an entirely amotivational agent ( which is strangely in contradiction to the premise of the story of Job ).

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