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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on The elephant in the room, AMA - Less Wrong

22 Post author: calcsam 12 May 2011 02:59PM

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Comment author: JGWeissman 13 May 2011 08:13:37PM 9 points [-]

But I'm still mystified as to why our gracious patron Eliezer Y. saw fit to anoint this particular religious believer (out of all the many, many, educated and articulate religious believers who speak English in this world) with the special dispensation of karma points out of thin air.

That isn't exactly what happened. As an editor, Eliezer could see calcsam's posts before they were published and upvoted them thus giving calcsam the requisite karma to publish them. I wouldn't characterize that as "out of thin air". As to why Eliezer did this for calcsam in particular, I am going to go out on a limb here and speculate that it is because calcsam asked him to, and Eliezer, on reading the then not published posts in question, decided it would be a good idea.

Beyond that, I'm further surprised that the LessWrong community at large was so enthusiastic in upvoting these insights into how to seduce impressionable people into a false, irrational, and personally costly religious cult.

I am not so convinced about "personally costly". It seems that Mormonism teaches its followers a lot of good habits. That it attributes the specification of these good habits to silly theistic beliefs doesn't seem to hurt them beyond limiting them to a level most people don't reach anyways. And the social network it provides (though it involves rallying around a theistic flag) also is highly beneficial, and I value input on how to build that sort of community (though I aim to use more rationality-friendly rallying points). Insights into seducing people into an irrational social group may generalize to insights to seducing them into a rational social group.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 14 May 2011 04:51:19AM 13 points [-]

I'm further surprised that the LessWrong community at large was so enthusiastic in upvoting these insights into how to seduce impressionable people into a false, irrational, and personally costly religious cult.

Because "Telling people to greet first-time attendees and be nice to them vastly improves the rate at which new attendees come back" is useful for seducing people into attending Less Wrong meetups as well as costly religious cults. I wouldn't exactly call it Dark Arts, either.

We've been considering learning from Toastmasters too. If we ever want to be more effective than an online discussion, we need to go learn from (not imitate) real-world groups that are more effective than that.

Comment author: Alexandros 14 May 2011 04:01:48PM *  0 points [-]

Having been on both sides of it, I am quite certain it is a dark art. It is called love bombing. For a community dedicated to overcoming biases, using one of them (they like me so they must be right) to recruit is a bit rich.

I am afraid that if LessWrong recruits, it has to do it the hard way, through directly addressing the logical mind, not by pushing weird psychological switches. But this is another great differentiator we have from cult-like organizations, easy to point out to interested interlocutors, and one I am quite proud of.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 14 May 2011 05:56:54PM *  14 points [-]

From the Wikipedia article:

Love-bombing is characteristic of most cults, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses. New recruits are drowned in a sea of fake "love" and "caring." Cults will pretend to love you to death as long as you are a prospective convert to their group. As a member of a tight-knit community, love will surround you as you faithfully follow all of the strict rules of the cult. However, if you ever decide that you want to leave the group, if you ever disobey any of the rules of the cult, or if you express doubt about any of the cult's doctrine, then all "love" suddenly ceases. The member is then shunned and excommunicated (which Jehovah's Witnesses call "disfellowshipping"), and all remaining members are instructed to never have any contact with them in the future, not even to greet them. Then all effort is directed towards finding new recruits to replace the shunned members who have "gone astray."

That certainly is a bad thing. But dude, simply having some basic decency and being nice to people is not the thing that's being described in there.

I am afraid that if LessWrong recruits, it has to do it the hard way, through directly addressing the logical mind, not by pushing weird psychological switches.

Rationalists seem to have this weird bias that everything else than strictly logical reasoning and persuasion is dishonest and wrong somehow, and you should never appeal to emotions. This seems to me nonsensical and counterproductive. Like it or not, even rationalists are still very strongly driven by pure emotional affect. We're driven to visit those groups where we feel comfortable and welcome, and reluctant to visit groups where this isn't the case. The rider may exert some guiding pull, but ultimately the elephant is the one in charge.

If LessWrong ever wants to build a real community, by which I mean a group that really motivates its members to act rational, motivates them to stay in touch with each other, makes them feel safe enough that they can openly discuss their problems and failings, helps promote their mental health, to provide each other concrete help, etc., then "pushing weirding psychological switches" is what you must do. And personally I'd much rather have a real community that makes people in the world better off and helps spread rationality, than just a loose gathering of people who are only united by the fact that they write things on the same Internet message board. And that they attended the occasional meet-up, but eventually drifted away because they saw little benefit in attending those.

Comment author: jasonmcdowell 14 May 2011 09:07:25PM *  2 points [-]

Yes, consciously being friendly is a feature not a bug. There are different types of communities. Read and writing here is high self-selvective and only appeals to certain types of people. There are many other types of people who are compatible with a rational worldview, who are not compatible with Less Wrong. Maybe they need more (literal) hand holding.

I think a big fraction of 'normal people' are compatible with a rational, or 'not obviously insane' culture. But that hypothetical mainstreamed rational culture (not existing now) is not Less Wrong culture. There are pieces missing.

Doing something to spread a more-compatible, more virulent, rational culture doesn't have to water down what has been established here at Less Wrong. This is about eventually Raising The Sanity Waterline, sustainably.

Comment author: Alexandros 14 May 2011 07:43:59PM -1 points [-]

Why not just use the definition at the top?

Love bombing is the deliberate show of affection or friendship by an individual or a group of people toward another individual. Critics have asserted that this action may be motivated in part by the desire to recruit, convert or otherwise influence.

I don't see the difference from what is proposed above.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 14 May 2011 08:32:44PM 5 points [-]

Well, if we just use that definition, then there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with doing that.

Actually, it would seem like deliberately learning to act friendly towards people in one situation would also make it easier to act friendly towards people in general. So we're not just making newcomers feel welcome, we're also improving our social skills at the same time. Sounds like a win-win to me.