Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Sophronius comments on How I Became More Ambitious - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Swimmer963 04 July 2013 11:34PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (48)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Sophronius 15 July 2013 01:37:59PM *  7 points [-]

I hate to focus on the negative, but a couple of things in your post made me go "ugh". The first is talking about taking over the world: It's funny when Harry Potter says it, grating when people on Less Wrong do it. Don't talk about conquering the world unless you actually have realistic plans to conquer at least a small part of it, otherwise it just comes off to me as trying to look cool in an awkward way.

The second is your overuse and misuse of jargon. The concept of comparative advantage for instance describes how it may be efficient for you to do X even though you may be worse at X than others, yet you call "looking better than average" a comparative advantage, when it really is just an advantage. "I suppose I can leverage it into a comparative advantage for getting high-status men to pay attention to me long enough for me to explain the merits of an idea I have." This should be: "I can use this to my advantage".

Your post isn't bad but things like this make it harder for me to draw use from it.

Comment author: simplicio 15 July 2013 05:43:22PM 6 points [-]

I have run into this misunderstanding of comparative advantage many times. I think it happens a lot because the phrase seems to make sense on its own ("I have an advantage compared to you") and so people assume they have already grokked the relevant concepts.

Comment author: Swimmer963 16 July 2013 10:37:10AM 5 points [-]

Don't talk about conquering the world unless you actually have realistic plans to conquer at least a small part of it, otherwise it just comes off to me as trying to look cool in an awkward way.

I specifically said I don't want to, which is true. I'm not even sure "take over the world" is a clear concept. Yes, I was trying to be funny. At least one person thought it was funny. I think it's funny when anyone says it tongue-in-cheek.

I don't want to come across as wanting to take over the world because there's a certain kind of focus/drivenness (on other goals) that, in my experience, comes across as really intimidating to people who aren't in the Less Wrong circle, especially if you're a girl and they're a boy. It's mixed up with other impressions I want to avoid giving, too, like the impression that Less Wrong is a cult.

This should be: "I can use this to my advantage".

Thanks, fixed. I honestly think that I misuse it because an ex-boyfriend, who was studying economics as a degree, used to use it all the time and probably overuse it in the same way.

Comment author: thomblake 16 July 2013 07:33:56PM 0 points [-]

Surely advantages can also be comparative advantages. If you're trading beauty for attention, then presumably you have a comparative advantage in beauty.

Comment author: Vaniver 16 July 2013 08:36:59PM 2 points [-]

Surely advantages can also be comparative advantages.

The modifier "comparative" is used to highlight things that are, in isolation, disadvantages, but which are advantages when all things are taken into account. The classic example is a lawyer who can type much more quickly than her secretary, but who hires a secretary to type because of the relative price of lawyering and typing.

Comment author: thomblake 17 July 2013 12:28:29PM 3 points [-]

The modifier "comparative" is used to highlight things that are, in isolation, disadvantages,

That's just false. If A can make wool for $2 and coffee for $3, and B can make wool for $6 and coffee for $5, then B has a comparative advantage in coffee (which is in isolation a disadvantage) and A has a comparative advantage in wool (which in isolation is an advantage). Being a disadvantage just isn't necessary for a comparative advantage.

Comment author: Vaniver 17 July 2013 05:28:56PM 0 points [-]

Being a disadvantage just isn't necessary for a comparative advantage.

The critical piece necessary for trade to be profitable is that each party can produce a good at lower marginal and opportunity cost than the other party. I was thinking of just the absolute advantage case (like the example you gave and the example I gave) where one party's disadvantage becomes an advantage in the presence of trade, but I believe it's correct to refer to two parties which each have an absolute advantage as comparative advantage. I'm not sure about that, though.

Comment author: Sophronius 16 July 2013 08:43:15PM *  1 point [-]

Well, there are two things wrong with that. For one thing, you do not lose beauty when you use it to your advantage, so it is not an opportunity cost. The second and more important point is that you should write to communicate as effectively as possible: This means using jargon ONLY when it is actually appropriate, not whenever you feel like you can sort of fit it in.

I suspect that the tendency of people here to overuse jargon is a large part of what makes people consider Less Wrong cultish. Honestly, I feel someone should compile a list of Less Wrong "DOs and DON'Ts", which includes rules like "Don't use the word rationality as synonym for smart or good or other more specific words."

(The above should not be taken as further criticism of Swimmer specifically)

Comment author: Vaniver 16 July 2013 09:27:30PM 4 points [-]

Honestly, I feel someone should compile a list of Less Wrong "DOs and DON'Ts", which includes rules like "Don't use the word rationality as synonym for smart or good or other more specific words."

I made this a while back as a joke, and shortly thereafter lsparrish wrote a serious post about avoiding inflationary use of terms.

Comment author: oooo 16 July 2013 08:28:35PM *  0 points [-]

Trading would imply that Swimmer963 is giving up some of her attractiveness in exchange for attention, by treating 'beauty' as a resource that can be depleted. However, her attractiveness in your example of the trade (beauty attention) isn't depleted significantly.

Perhaps you meant something like trading her spatio-temporal presence (in which the subject gets to admire her visage in a non-awkward social situation for a prolonged period of time) in exchange for the subject's attention; or more succinctly, trading face time with attention?

I agree with you that some advantages can indeed be comparative advantages, but beauty (in this context) is simply an advantage.

Comment author: ChristianKl 29 July 2013 10:04:38PM -2 points [-]

I hate to focus on the negative, but a couple of things in your post made me go "ugh".

Then get rid of your "ugh"-fields. I don't think reading anything should make you go "ugh".