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Comment author: skeptical_lurker 10 March 2017 12:46:51PM 1 point [-]

I generally agree, but...

George is a Perfect Bayesian Rationalist, and has recently come to the conclusion that everything Albert Camus says is correct with a probability of greater than 0.99999. Since his realization, George has called himself an absurdist.

One problem here could be that it might not the case that all beliefs and positions can be determined by Bayesian Rationalism. Does absurdism have an objective truth value? Perhaps not. Political positions, to give an example, seem to correlate more with personality traits than with intelligence: Einstein and Von Neumann are widely regarded as two of the smartest people in the 20th century, and yet Einstein campaigned for nuclear disarmament, while Von Neumann campaigned to preemptivly nuke the USSR.

“I’m a republican.” might not mean "I have rationally decided that republicanism is the best philosophy" it might mean "I have high enough 'aversion to danger' to want boarder controls and high military spending, low enough 'openess to experience' to be uncomfortable with unconventional lifestyles, and am rational enough to realise that free markets are more efficient"

Or it might mean something else. Either way, saying “I’m a republican.” gives object-level information quickly without going into the meta-level underpinnings to your beliefs.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 09 March 2017 09:50:20PM 1 point [-]

I said a few weeks back that I would publically precommit to going a week without politics. Well, I partially succeeded, in that I did start reading for example an SSC article on politics because it popped up in my RSS feed, but I stopped when I remembered that I was ignoring politics. The main thing is I managed to avoid any long timewasting sessions of reading about politics on the net. And I think this has partially broken some bad habits of compulsive web browsing I was developing.

So next I think I shall avoid all stupid politics for a month. No facebook or reddit, but perhaps one reasonably short and high-quality article on politics per day. Speaking of which, can anyone recommend any short, intelligent, rational writings on feminism for instance? My average exposure to anti-feminist thought is fairly intelligent, while my average exposure to pro-feminist thought is "How can anyone disagree with me? Don't they realise that their opinions are just wrong? Women can be firefighters and viking warriors! BTW, could you open this jar for me, I'm not strong enough." And this imbalance is not good from a rationalist POV. I am especially interested whether feminists have tackled the argument that if feminists have fewer children, then all the genes that predispose one to being feminist (and to anything else that corrlates) will be selected against. I mean, this isn't a concern for people who think that the singularity is near(tm) or who don't care what happens a few generations in the future, but I doubt either of these apply to many feminists, or people in general.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 10:47:33PM 0 points [-]

My political beliefs have become increasingly right-wing, in a classically liberal sense as opposed to fascist, and it alienates me when friends advocate burning someone's house down because they hold beliefs which are actually similar, perhaps even left of, mine.

The impression I have -- though of course I don't know what your friends have been saying -- is that the burn-their-houses-down brigade are much more upset about the kinda-fascist sort of right than the kinda-libertarian sort of right. Of course even if I'm right about that that doesn't necessarily reduce the sense of alienation; your aliefs needn't match your beliefs.

We do not have the level of political sanity necessary to deal with disruptive technologies and it's getting worse.

Agree about first half; not fully convinced about second half. As you pointed out yourself, it's not that long ago that we had actual Nazis and Stalinists in power in Europe, and bad though early-21st-century politics is it doesn't seem like it's got there just yet. People have said horrible things about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but ten years ago they were saying similarly horrible things about George W Bush and, er, Hillary Clinton. But yeah, I can't see our existing political institutions coping very well with immortality or super-effective genetic engineering or superintelligent AI, should those happen to come along.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 23 February 2017 12:25:25AM 2 points [-]

The impression I have -- though of course I don't know what your friends have been saying -- is that the burn-their-houses-down brigade are much more upset about the kinda-fascist sort of right than the kinda-libertarian sort of right. Of course even if I'm right about that that doesn't necessarily reduce the sense of alienation; your aliefs needn't match your beliefs.

Except that I don't think libertarian is incompatible with boarder controls - indeed, libertarians are generally enthusiastic about property rights, and controlling immigration is no different to locking your front door and vetting potential housemates.

I'm not saying that the boarder controls should be based around skin colour, but the definition of 'Nazi' seems to have expanded to anyone who believes in any form of boarder control.

Agree about first half; not fully convinced about second half. As you pointed out yourself, it's not that long ago that we had actual Nazis and Stalinists in power in Europe, and bad though early-21st-century politics is it doesn't seem like it's got there just yet.

I certainly agree that globally its not as bad as 1930-1990. Nevertheless, things seem to have got dramatically worse in the last decade - in my personal experience it used to be that people could agree to disagree, now most political opinions seem to be in lockstep, almost like a cult. More generally, I remember people criticising Bush, but now there are very intelligent people, even the head of CFAR, saying that Trump could be the end of democracy. Either they are correct, in which case that is obviously a cause for concern, or they are wrong and a lot of very smart people, inc rationalists, are utterly mindkilled.

Comment author: satt 22 February 2017 07:29:03PM 0 points [-]

!

That clarifies things somewhat.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 08:53:48PM 0 points [-]

You see, its one thing to advocate violence against a literal Neo-Nazi, but advocating violence against anyone who advocates reducing immigration, well, that shows a lot more liberal tribe loyalty. So much holier than thou.

Additionally, this comment was made IRL, possibly within earshot a person they were advocating violence against.

Comment author: Viliam 22 February 2017 05:14:36PM *  1 point [-]

Does it make a difference if instead of talking about "left" and "right" we focus on specific agendas?

For example, if "left" includes both "gay rights" and "killing the kulaks", then it may sound scary for a left-leaning person to say "we had 50 years of the left progress, but now we will have 50 years of the right progress", but less scary if you translate it to e.g. "we have 50 years of gay rights, but kulaks are not going to be killed at least during the next 50 years".

Yeah, this is too optimistic; I am just saying that perhaps focusing on the details may change the perspective. Maybe the historically most important outcome of the "50 years of right progress" will be e.g. banning the child genital mutilation, honor killings, and similar issues which the current left is not going to touch with a ten-foot pole (because they would involve criticizing cultural habits of other cultures, which is a taboo for the left, but the right would enjoy doing this).

I guess my point is that imagining the "right" only clicking the Undo button during the following 50 years is unnecessarily narrowing their scope of possible action. (Just like the "left" also had other things to do, besides killing the kulaks.)

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 06:07:18PM 0 points [-]

I think people cluster into left and right because those are the tribes. However, it can be oversimplistic and I agree that there are many potential directions left and right progress can take - indeed, if a few more Islamic terrorists shoot up gay bars there could be a lot of LBGTs defecting to right-nationalism.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 03:26:41PM *  1 point [-]

Well, if this person is joining an explicitly and specifically violent communist group, then I guess that indicates that this particular person is sympathetic with violent communism. That's too bad, but it's also pretty unusual and I'd classify it as "this person is broken" rather than "politics is broken" unless what you're seeing is lots of otherwise sensible people joining explicitly violent explicitly communist groups. In that case, either we've got a general resurgence of violent communism (which would be alarming) or there's something unusual about your friends (which would be interesting but not necessarily alarming).

I think you're right that the last several decades have been pretty good for progressive social causes, and that this seems like it might be changing, and that this might lead to more violence from leftists. My guess is that serious politically-motivated violence will remain rare enough that you don't actually need to worry about it unless for some reason you're a specific target, and ineffectual enough that you don't need to worry that it will have much impact beyond the violence itself.

What's there been historically? Occasional riots (usually left) and demonstrations-turned-violent (usually left, though arguably when there's been violence it's been as much due to provocation from the police as to actual violent intent by the protestors). Occasional acts of terrorism (usually right, but occasionally kinda-left as with Kaczynski). All these things are really rare, which is why they make the news, which is why it's easy to get worried about them :-). And they very rarely have any actual influence on what anyone else does.

The single most worrying political-violence-related outcome (to me) is that someone commits some act of violence and the administration uses that as a pretext for major gutting of civil liberties or something of the kind. The historical precedent I'd rather not be using explicitly is of course the Reichstag fire. [EDITED to add:] I mean specifically in the US; elsewhere in the allegedly civilized world I don't think that sort of thing is so likely.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 05:47:41PM *  0 points [-]

I think communist beliefs, violent or not, are on the rise largely due to young angry people being too young to remember the cold war. Some friends and acquaintances from multiple disconnected freindship groups are communists, and too many of these advocate violence, although I think that they are still a tiny minority overall. I think the situation is, as you put it, "this person is broken".

I'm not at all worried about actually being the victim of politically-motivated physical violence or of riots/revolutions etc in the near future. What worries me is general political polarisation leading to a situation where blue and red tribes hate each other and cannot interact, where politics is reduced to seeing who can shout 'racist' or 'cuck' loudest. My political beliefs have become increasingly right-wing, in a classically liberal sense as opposed to fascist, and it alienates me when friends advocate burning someone's house down because they hold beliefs which are actually similar, perhaps even left of, mine. I'm not worried about them actually burning my house down, it's just alienating on principle, and for fear of social exclusion.

WRT historical periods of political instability, I agree that such periods are infrequent, and given that we have seen the results of both Nazism and communism, I think it unlikely that those ideologies will gain power. But OTOH we are going to see certain events that are totally unprecedented in history, largely because of technology. We are already seeing levels of migration that I think exceeds anything in the past (due to better transport), which is leading to a rise in nationalism, and soon it is possible that we will see far more disruptive technologies such as human genetic engineering, large numbers of jobs being automated away, mass automated surveillance, and finally FAI. If safely navigating the problems these technologies pose requires a partially political solution, then we need sane politics. And yet political discourse has sunk to the point where political candidates are debating the size of their 'hands' and whether frogs are racist. Obama's advisor seemed to think that the danger of AGI is that it might be programmed by white male autists.

We do not have the level of political sanity necessary to deal with disruptive technologies and its getting worse. Nick Bostrom thinks that genetically engineered IQ boosts of 100 points+ in a single generation might be possible, and soon. Nazism and communism are unlikely now, but how would society react to human genetically engineering? Many would try to ban it. Some would try to tax it. Countries where it was illegal might suffer massively reduced economic growth compared to those where it was allowed. Inequality might skyrocket. I'm not trying to suggest that we will specifically end up with 'Gattaca' or 'Deux Ex: Mankind divided' or any of the other specific science fiction explorations of these possibilities, I'm saying that I don't know what will happen and political extremism/violence is certainly a possibility and it doesn't help if extremism is increasing anyway!

Comment author: username2 21 February 2017 07:20:55AM 1 point [-]

Well, you got me. I thought perhaps you were seeing things like "Islam is a violent religion" and inferring too much into it. But most if not all of those examples seem inexcusable if genuinely held. Although the original point stand that the person subscribing to the group might be doing so in response to more mundane writings, and they are not endorsing the more extreme writing, which may even have been done for shock value. I don't know.

Regarding the other point, it's not quite that Occam's razor is wrong, but rather having to do with ignorance of a complex system. "The simplest explanation is probably correct" is true when we have a sufficient number of facts in front of us to make inference. In most things in life this is the case, but human behaviour is complex enough to make that not generally true. I can make Occam's razor predictions about the underlying reason for my wife doing something, and maybe my closest friends or siblings. But not others -- their mental states are too complex, too dependent on things I don't have information on.

Anyway sorry to distract from your original question. I just wish there was a name and some literature regarding this bias because it seems relevant and important.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 01:31:35PM 0 points [-]

"The simplest explanation is probably correct" is true when we have a sufficient number of facts in front of us to make inference. In most things in life this is the case, but human behaviour is complex enough to make that not generally true.

However, I would say that even when dealing with high complexity and uncertainty, the simplest explanation is still usually the most probable hypothosis, even if it has <50% probability.

Comment author: gjm 21 February 2017 01:56:01PM 0 points [-]

I don't know exactly what you've seen and therefore it's possible that the following fails to address it. But on the face of it username2's diagnosis seems very plausible. Not the bit about choosing to see violence-mongering stuff to keep one's awareness and opposition keen; that's taking steelmanning too far.

But: put yourself in the shoes of someone who is, as you put it, intelligent, educated and friendly, whose political opinions are generally leftish, and who is horrified by the rise of right-wing populism as exemplified by Donald Trump and Brexit and Marine Le Pen and so forth. These things alarm them and they want to surround themselves with ideas that point the other way, to reassure themselves that the world isn't entirely against them, etc. So they find a Down With Donald Trump And Brexit group on Facebook and join it. Some of the things it posts are extreme and violent; our hypothetical intelligent leftie deplores that, and would be happier affiliating with a large anti-rightist community that doesn't do that sort of thing -- but all the large anti-rightist communities have people in them who do that sort of thing, so they don't have much choice. Joining the group doesn't mean endorsing everything its members post.

(It's not as if the rhetoric of the less-pleasant parts of the political right is any nicer or more sensible than that of the less-pleasant parts of the political left. Intelligent educated friendly right-leaning folk can find themselves with some regrettable -- dare I say deplorable? -- bedfellows too.)

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 01:28:26PM *  0 points [-]

The things I previously mentioned such as "Or that there is >50% probability that Brexit will literally lead to a neo nazi state in the UK within 10 years?" are mostly positions expressed by freinds. The group this person joined was advocating violent communist revolution and the murder of enemies of the people (as in it was an explicitly communist group, not a anti-Trump group that had been hijacked by communists), and so cannot be seen as a reaction to Trump or Brexit.

But, in the more general case, there are a lot of people, a lot of centeralists, who are opposed to Trump/Brexit. So people do not need to join forces with extremists to fight them.

(It's not as if the rhetoric of the less-pleasant parts of the political right is any nicer or more sensible than that of the less-pleasant parts of the political left. Intelligent educated friendly right-leaning folk can find themselves with some regrettable -- dare I say deplorable? -- bedfellows too.)

I agree with that, but I think that there is a difference in behaviour due to the fact that the left has been winning in all areas with the possible exception of economics for the last 50 years or more, but suddenly there have been some unexpected rightist victories. Firstly, this means that the left expects to be pushing back the right, and there is a general assumption that, for instance, rightists must disavow and sever all ties with white nationalists but the left can freely associate with extremists.

Secondly, given that the right has suddenly managed to win some victories, might the previous constant leftward march of history change, at least in some areas? In the same way that feminism and gay rights has made constant progress for the last 50 years, might nationalism make constant progress for the next 50 years?

I don't know how much of the left are considering that as a possibility, but I can understand that they might be terrified and lashing out while they still have the ability to.

So yes, the right are not more sensible or nicer in general, its just that right now the left have a greater ability to justify violence. If that changes, then we might live in interesting times.

Comment author: satt 22 February 2017 12:14:44AM 0 points [-]

It makes me paranoid and alienated if people I know join facebook groups that advocate political violence/murder/killing all the kulaks, although to be fair its possible that those people have only read one or two posts and missed the violent ones.

Does it help to disaggregate "political violence", political "murder", and "killing all the kulaks"? I'm happy with some instances of political violence, and even some political murders are defensible. The assassination of Jonas Savimbi pretty much ended Angola's 26-year civil war, for example. To quote Madeleine Albright: worth it.

If the people you know are thumbs-upping literally "kill all the kulaks" (and maybe they are! I'm sure I've seen that kind of stuff in YouTube comments and Stalinist tweets, so it is out there), I can understand your reaction. But if people are merely affirming that some political violence is worthy of support...well, I'd have to say that I agree!

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 01:00:28PM *  1 point [-]

Well, in one comment a friend was advocating violence against perhaps the most right wing 10-15% of the population.

Comment author: math 22 February 2017 06:16:42AM 2 points [-]

I think about politics far too much.

Relative to what?

I know join facebook groups that advocate political violence/murder/killing all the kulaks, although to be fair its possible that those people have only read one or two posts and missed the violent ones. But most of all its fundamentally pretty pointless because I have no desire to get involved in politics

As the saying goes: you may not be interested in politics but politics is interested in you. You refusing to engage in politics won't stop you from getting killed with all the other kulaks if the people in those groups get their way.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 12:58:33PM 3 points [-]

No, but I'm not under the illusion that I can currently make any significant contribution to changing politics - its certainly not my area of comparative advantage, but I could at least leave the country if things did start to get that bad. There would be fairly obvious warning signs that would not require a close watch on current events.

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