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Comment author: olibain 04 April 2013 07:34:24PM 1 point [-]

There is this story that I thought of when I originally read this. it can be found here. Like me, most of you who go through the link and read the speech will find obviously sub-optimal thinking. You will think "If it were an option of following this principle or not, I could not follow it. Even if I have no other principle to replace it with, I could not, in good conscience, accept this idea." This is were your rationality will destroy any group you try to create. If you cannot allow any sub-optimal parts in the organizations you participate in, then you will never participate in an organization of humans. The example I picked comes from a religious and irrational organization like Eliezer described, but it actually works, unlike co-ops of large groups of rationalists who refuse to accept sub-optimal planning in any form. So in this instance, Religion has a better policy than rationalists and, until you find an empirically proven policy that does better, you would do better to adopt it.

Comment author: Epiphany 23 February 2013 05:41:53AM 0 points [-]

I do not believe that some of the problems Gatto wants to fix -- f.ex. the existence of television and restaurants -- are even problems at all.

The existence of television technology isn't, in my opinion, a problem. Nor is the fact that some shows are low quality. Even if all of them were low quality, I wouldn't necessarily see that as a problem - it would still be a way of relaxing. The problem I see with television is that the average person spends 4 hours a day watching it. (Can't remember where I got that study, sorry.) My problem with that is not that they aren't exercising (they'd still have an hour a day which is plenty of exercise, if they want it) or that they aren't being productive (you can only be so productive before you run out of mental stamina anyway, and the 40 hour work week was designed to use the entirety of the average person's stamina) but that they aren't living.

It could be argued that people need to spend hours every day imagining a fantasy. I was told by an elderly person once that before television, people would sit on a hill and daydream. I've also read that imagining doing a task correctly is more effective at making you better at it than practice. If that's true, daydreaming might be a necessity for maximum effectiveness and television might provide some kind of similar benefit. So it's possible that putting one's brain into fantasy mode for a few hours of day really is that beneficial.

Spending four hours a day in fantasy mode is not possible for me (I'm too motivated to DO something) and I don't seem to need anywhere near that much daydreaming. I would find it very hard to deal with if I had spent that much of my free time in fantasy. I imagine that if asked whether they would have preferred to watch x number of shows, or spent all of that free time on getting out there and living, most people would probably choose the latter - and that's sad.

he believes that if only schools could compete against each other with little to no government regulation, their quality would soar. In practice, such scenarios tend to work out... poorly.

I think that people would also have to have read the seven lessons speech for the problems he sees to be solved. Maybe eventually things would evolve to the point where schools would not behave this way anymore without them reading it, because it's probably not the most effective way of teaching, but I don't see that change happening quickly without people pressuring schools to make those specific changes.

However, I'm surprised that you say "In practice, such scenarios tend to work out... poorly." Do you mean that the free market doesn't do much to improve quality, or do you just mean that when people want specific changes and expect the free market to implement them, the free market doesn't tend to implement those specific changes?

I'm also very interested in where you got the information to support the idea, either way.

a vehicle for transmitting their ideas

After reading Ayn Rand's the Fountainhead, my feeling was that even though much of the writing was brilliant and enjoyable, I could have gotten the key ideas much faster if she had only published a few lines from one of the last chapters. I'm having the same reaction to the sequences and HPMOR. I enjoy them and recognize the brilliance in the writing abilities, but I find myself doing things like reading lists of biases over and over in order to improve my familiarity and eventually memorize them. I still want to finish the sequences because they're so important to this culture, but what I have prioritized appears to be getting the most important information in as quickly as possible. So, although entertainment is a way of transmitting ideas, I question how efficient it is, and whether it provides enough other learning benefits to outweigh the cost of wrapping all those ideas in so much text. I could walk all the way to Florida, but flying would be faster. People realize this so if they want to take vacations, they fly. Why, then, do they use entertainment to learn instead of seeking out the most efficient method?

It makes sense from the writer's point of view. I have said before that I was very glad that Eliezer decided to popularize rationality as much as possible, as I had been thinking that somebody needed to do that for a very long time. His writing is interesting and his style is brilliant and his method has worked to attract almost twelve million hits to his site. I think that's great. But the fact that people probably would not have flocked to the site if he had posted an efficient dissemination of cognitive biases and whatnot is curious. Maybe the way I learn is different.

I am fairly convinced that any person who says "entertainment is a waste of time" is committing a fallacy of false generalization.

I think it depends on whether you use "waste of time" to mean "absolutely no benefit whatsoever" or "nowhere near the most efficient way of getting the benefit".

The statement "entertainment is an inefficient way to get ideas compared with other methods" seems true to me.

Comment author: olibain 25 March 2013 03:46:48AM 0 points [-]

Whoo! my post got the most recursion. Do I get a reward? If I get a few more layers it will be more siding than post.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 24 March 2013 05:18:09AM 2 points [-]

There are goals, such as fascinating an audience, for which the trappings of mysticism are useful.
There are goals, such as breaking out of fixed mental sets and opening oneself to creative insights, for which the actual practice of mysticism is useful.

I agree that Eliezer uses the former a fair bit. He may also use the latter; I wouldn't know.

The impression I'm getting is that you are not considering the two to be distinct things.
I would say that's an error.

Comment author: olibain 25 March 2013 02:44:31AM 0 points [-]

The idea that mysticism is sometimes useful seems to be counter to popular rational thought. When I began reading Eliezer, his tendency towards the use of zen phrasing and rhetoric that was purely aesthetic put me off. I felt that it was not rational for some reason. I came to see that these trappings of mysticism did not detract from his point, but rather added to its persuasiveness.

The problem that exists in this is not that it detracts from rationality, but that the methods used to increase its allure could be used for any teaching, no matter how wrong or destructive. Good rhetoric is kind of like the whore of persuasion, it makes Bayesian rationality more appealing, but also makes any other argument better. Basically, there is zero correlation between being able to use zen phrasing and aesthetic rhetoric and being right.

I could write a post or two about this, but I will tell you my conclusion; Rationalists should not forsake mysticism, rhetoric, zen etc. unless they can get every irrationalist to agree to do the same. Until then, there is no way for rationality to be convincing without these methods if its opponents are using them.

Comment author: olibain 20 February 2013 08:34:42PM 8 points [-]

I'm Robby Oliphant. I started a few months ago reading HP:MoR, which led me to the Sequences, which led me here about two weeks ago. So far I have read comments and discussions solely as a spectator. But finally, after developing my understanding and beginning on the path set forth by the sequences, I remain silent no more.

I am fresh out of high school, excited about life and plan to become a teacher, eventually. My short-term plans involve going out and doing missionary work for my church for the next two years. When I came head on against the problem of being a rationalist and a missionary for a theology, I took a step back and had a crisis of belief, not the first time, but this time I followed the prescribed method and came to a modified conclusion, though I still find it rational and advantageous to serve my 2 year mission.

I find some of this difficult, some of this intuitive and some of this neither difficult or intuitive, which is extremely frustrating, how something can appears simple but defy my efforts to intuitively work it. I will continue to work at it because rationality seems to be praiseworthy and useful. I hope to find the best evidence about theology here. I don't mean evidence for or against, just the evidence about the subject.

Comment author: olibain 21 February 2013 04:17:23AM *  3 points [-]

Hahaha! I find it heartening that that is your response to me wanting to be a teacher. I am quite aware that the system is broken. My personal way of explaining it: The school system works for what it was made to work for; avoiding responsibility for a failed product.

  • The parents are not responsible; the school taught their kids.

  • The students are not socially responsible; everything was compulsory, they had no choice to make.

  • Teachers are not to blame; they teach what they are told to teach and have the autonomy of a pre-AI computer intelligence.

  • The administrators are not to blame; They are not the students' parents or teachers.

  • The faceless, nameless committees that set the curriculum are not responsible, they formed then separated after setting forth the unavoidably terrible standards for all students of an arbitrary age everywhere.

So the product fails but everyone did they're best. No nails stick out, no one gets hammered.

I have high dreams of being the educator that takes down public education. If a teacher comes up with a new way of teaching or an important thing to teach, he can go to class the next day and test it. I have a hope of professional teachers; either trusted with the autonomy of being professionals, or actual professionals in their subject, teaching only those that want to learn.

Also the literature on Mormons fromDesrtopa, Ford and Nisan I am thankful for. I enjoyed the Mormonism organizational post because I have also noticed how well the church runs. It is one reason I stay a Latter-Day Saint in this time of Atheism mainstreaming. The church is winning, it is well organized, service and family-oriented, and supports me as I study rationality and education. I can give examples, but I will leave my deeper insights for my future posts; I feel I am well introduced for now.

Comment author: Mestroyer 06 February 2013 05:52:02AM *  72 points [-]

"If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"

"Oh jeez. Probably."

"What!? Why!?"

"Because all my friends did. Think about it -- which scenario is more likely: every single person I know, many of them levelheaded and afraid of heights, abruptly went crazy at exactly the same time... ...or the bridge is on fire?"

Randall Munroe, on updating on other people's beliefs.

Comment author: olibain 20 February 2013 08:58:23PM 2 points [-]

The " every single person I know, many of them levelheaded and afraid of heights, abruptly went crazy at exactly the same time" scenario should be given some credence in human society; there is such a thing as puberty. The definition of puberty being " every single person I know abruptly went crazy at exactly the same time, including me".

Comment author: olibain 20 February 2013 08:34:42PM 8 points [-]

I'm Robby Oliphant. I started a few months ago reading HP:MoR, which led me to the Sequences, which led me here about two weeks ago. So far I have read comments and discussions solely as a spectator. But finally, after developing my understanding and beginning on the path set forth by the sequences, I remain silent no more.

I am fresh out of high school, excited about life and plan to become a teacher, eventually. My short-term plans involve going out and doing missionary work for my church for the next two years. When I came head on against the problem of being a rationalist and a missionary for a theology, I took a step back and had a crisis of belief, not the first time, but this time I followed the prescribed method and came to a modified conclusion, though I still find it rational and advantageous to serve my 2 year mission.

I find some of this difficult, some of this intuitive and some of this neither difficult or intuitive, which is extremely frustrating, how something can appears simple but defy my efforts to intuitively work it. I will continue to work at it because rationality seems to be praiseworthy and useful. I hope to find the best evidence about theology here. I don't mean evidence for or against, just the evidence about the subject.