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gwern comments on Skill: The Map is Not the Territory - Less Wrong

49 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 October 2012 09:59AM

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Comment author: gwern 07 October 2012 11:33:47PM 4 points [-]

Hell, I like writing. I like a lot of things that you see no value in and wish to slay. Please step back with the pointy objects.

Calm down, it's just an essay...

I like fanfiction, and active living fandoms where people will write each other presents according to specific prompts because someone really wanted something really specific that didn't exist a minute ago and riff on and respond to and parody each other in prose around a shared touchstone. That couldn't exist if there were some ban on new material and all these people spent their time quilting instead.

I dunno, people used to get a lot out of quilting and knitting - the phrase 'knitting circle' comes to mind. But your contempt for various subcultures aside:

So, 'writing is not about writing'; which is pretty much one of the major themes - whatever is justifying all this new fiction, it's not nebulous claims about sliderules in space or new books being 'better' than old ones or reading like Shakespeare (most of those 300m books are, uh, not from Elizebethan times -_-).

Community is as good an explanation as any I've seen.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 October 2012 11:48:33PM *  4 points [-]

Calm down, it's just an essay...

I intensely resent this as a debate tactic. Your ability to ask me to calm down is unrelated to what emotions I'm having, whether I'm expressing them appropriately, or whether they are justified; it's a fully general silencing tactic. If I resorted to abuse or similar it might be warranted, but I haven't (unless you count "bullshit", but that's not what you quoted). I do in fact feel attacked by the suggestion that huge swaths of things valuable to me are worthless and ought to be done away with! You did in fact suggest that! I'm a human, and you cannot necessarily poke me without getting growled at.

Do you finish every book you pick up? I don't. I put them down if they don't reach a certain threshold of engagingness &c. The bigger the pile of books next to me, the pickier I can be: I can hold out for perfect 10s instead of sitting through lots of 8's because I can only get so many things out of the library at once. This includes pickiness for things other than "quality". If I want to go on a binge of mediocre YA paranormal romance (I did, a few months ago), I am fully equipped to find only the half-dozen most-Alicorn's-aesthetics-pleasing series about teenage vampires/werewolves/angels/banshees/half-devils/faeries/Greek deities/witches attending high school and musing about their respective love triangles. Having the freedom to go on this highly specific romp through bookspace is valuable. Having the selection available to do it as long as I want without having to suffer through especially execrable examples in the bookspace is valuable.

Comment author: Athrelon 08 October 2012 12:14:11AM *  8 points [-]

I do in fact feel attacked by the suggestion that huge swaths of things valuable to me are worthless and ought to be done away with!

Unless you enjoy being outraged at a low threshold by something outside your control, this is a trait that you should be dissatisfied with and attempt to modify, not something to be stated as immovable fact. I, note however, that acting like that trait is an immovable fact makes for more favorable status dynamics and a better emotion-bargaining position...

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2012 12:18:11AM 3 points [-]

Unless you enjoy being outraged at a low threshold by something outside your control, this is a trait that you should be dissatisfied with and attempt to modify

Does not follow. I prefer to feel in ways that reflect the world around me. As long as I also think this sort of thing is an attack, feeling that way is in accord with that preference whether it makes me happier or not. As long as I don't care to occupy a pushover role where I make myself okay with whatever happens to be going on so that people don't have to account for my values, drawing a line beyond which I will not self-modify makes perfect sense; and in fact I do not want to occupy that pushover role.

I note however, that acting like that trait is an immovable fact makes for more favorable status dynamics and a better emotion-bargaining position...

I derive some of my status from cultivating the ability to modify myself as I please; I'd actually sacrifice some of that if I declared this unchangeable. And I do not declare it unchangeable! I just have other values than happiness.

Comment author: Athrelon 08 October 2012 11:36:19AM 2 points [-]

I prefer to feel in ways that reflect the world around me. As long as I also think this sort of thing is an attack, feeling that way is in accord with that preference whether it makes me happier or not. As long as I don't care to occupy a pushover role where I make myself okay with whatever happens to be going on

In any normal social context it would be reasonable to assume that this an overconfident statement deliberately made without caveats in order to enhance bargaining power. Which is fine - humans are selfish.

This being LW where there's a good chance that this was intended literally - this sort of rigidity was exactly why "learning how to lose" is a skill.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 12:36:18PM 2 points [-]

In any normal social context it would be reasonable to assume that this an overconfident statement deliberately made without caveats in order to enhance bargaining power. Which is fine - humans are selfish.

That isn't true. There are times where overconfidence is used to enhance bargaining power. But people just really not liking people doing things that hurt them is just considered normal and healthy human behavior.

This being LW where there's a good chance that this was intended literally - this sort of rigidity was exactly why "learning how to lose" is a skill.

No, it isn't. Learning to lose is an independent skill to knowing what 'lose' means and not liking to lose.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 02:30:37AM *  2 points [-]

I derive some of my status from cultivating the ability to modify myself as I please; I'd actually sacrifice some of that if I declared this unchangeable. And I do not declare it unchangeable! I just have other values than happiness.

Have 7.34 status points for not wireheading (more than you reflectively desire to wirehead). Some things you can counter-signal.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 08 October 2012 12:57:32AM 2 points [-]

To the extent that people can go on a subgenre binge and be right to do so perhaps we can afford a few writers for relatively virgin genres. Otherwise I find gwern's argument that we'd be nearly as happy reading 20+ year old books pretty compelling (oddly, I don't buy a similar argument for movies, due only in part to movie-making tech advances).

Comment author: gwern 08 October 2012 12:45:14AM 5 points [-]

I'm a human, and you cannot necessarily poke me without getting growled at.

I don't like arguing with angry or growling people, so I'm going to stop here.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2012 12:50:06AM 1 point [-]

You've just gained an immense amount of my respect, which an upvote alone could not properly convey.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 01:57:52AM *  5 points [-]

You've just gained an immense amount of my respect, which an upvote alone could not properly convey.

Gwern would have gained more respect from me if he withdrew with tact rather than making an exit in a way that also scores a point and reinforces the frame that Alicorn is behaving irrationally*. This doesn't mean I am saying gwern's approach was somehow inappropriate (I'm actively saying nothing either way). Instead I'm saying that being able to withdraw without losing face or causing the other to lose face demonstrates strong social competence as well as the willingness to cooperate with others. Exiting with a pointed tap-out does demonstrate wisdom and a certain amount of restraint but it is still crude and neutral at best when it comes to respect for the other and their emotions.

* Standard caveat for all my comments: Unless explicitly stated I am not making any claim about sincerity or intent when I talk about what effect or social role a given action has.

Comment deleted 08 October 2012 02:24:23AM *  [-]
Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 02:56:00AM 0 points [-]

Then he'd probably ignore alicorn's scornful comment

Yes. It would probably also involve expressing agreement with part of what Alicorn said (ideally part that he could sincerely agree with) and perhaps paraphrasing another part back with an elaboration. That seems to work sometimes.

I don't think gwern's required to turn the other cheek, and you obviously don't think you are so required, either.

No, I don't (where all the negatives add up to agreement with this quote). That is just what would gain the immense respect for social grace (and plain grace).

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2012 12:51:25AM 2 points [-]

Tapping out is all well and good, sure. Doing it because people have emotions is worthy of immense respect? Why?

Comment author: katydee 08 October 2012 01:04:52AM *  8 points [-]

This might be a good place to point out that LessWrong's use of "tapping out" strikes me as bizarre. On LessWrong, this term is used to represent withdrawing from a discussion because you think further participation might be unproductive-- in the martial arts, from whence it was purportedly adopted, this term typically signifies "I am about to be seriously injured/incapacitated and I concede."

I suppose an uncharitable eye might view the two in the same way, but I think the LessWrong term isn't meant to carry the attitude of surrender that the phrase "tapping out" generally does, and thus that a different term should be selected.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 08 October 2012 01:12:59AM 0 points [-]

Yes, that's exactly what "tapping out" means. Even dropping win/lose from the metaphor, the connotation is that the discussion is being abandoned because it's too painful. I'd rather describe it as "bowing out" if someone decides that it's wisest not to waste time or needlessly inflame another.

Comment author: katydee 08 October 2012 01:16:52AM *  4 points [-]

Well, the LessWrong wiki specifically says that "tapping out doesn't mean accepting defeat," which I think would generally be considered false in other contexts. If you're agreeing with this, sorry for belaboring the point, but I'm not entirely sure how to parse your post.

"Bowing out" definitely seems like an appropriate replacement.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 01:43:37AM 1 point [-]

Well, the LessWrong wiki specifically says that "tapping out doesn't mean accepting defeat," which I think would generally be considered false in other contexts.

That's a good point. I hadn't paid much attention to the origin of the phrase (and haven't used it), but that is exactly what we do to concede when doing Jiu-Jitsu.

"Bowing out" definitely seems like an appropriate replacement.

I didn't think the connotations to that one were any less.

Comment author: katydee 08 October 2012 02:02:17AM 1 point [-]

Perhaps "stepping out," then?

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 08 October 2012 01:47:49AM 0 points [-]

Yeah. I agree with you. Wiki needs correction (although sometimes technically imprecise language can adjust attitudes better than precision).

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2012 11:20:23AM 0 points [-]

(As for me, the main reason I do that is when I suspect I am being mind-killed and as a result a large fraction of what I would be going to say if I continued the discussion would be bullshit.)

Comment author: common_law 08 October 2012 01:18:40AM 3 points [-]

Doing it because people have emotions is worthy of immense respect? Why?

Emotions are part of rational process, but you aren't rational in discussion when you're in the grip of a strong, immediate emotion. Since you have the advantage in an argument when you remain calm, it is worthy of respect to forgo that advantage and disengage.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2012 12:53:19AM 1 point [-]

I hardly see this line of inquiry ending well for anyone, so I decline to participate.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2012 02:28:56AM 2 points [-]

I intensely resent this as a debate tactic. Your ability to ask me to calm down is unrelated to what emotions I'm having, whether I'm expressing them appropriately, or whether they are justified; it's a fully general silencing tactic.

I'd add that it is also a general discrediting tactic. It seems to have been rather effective in this case. According to my analysis of the conversation your comments don't seem any more intemperate, mind-killed or confrontational---in some ways they seem less so. You expressed disagreement with reasoning on something that is significantly subjective. Yet there are indications that perception has been swayed such that you are considered to have been emotional and irrational while gwern is noble and to be honored for what seems to be just claiming the moral high ground and exploiting that advantage.