Externally Oriented, Love, Sensational. Which Rationality will LW be about?
Short Version: Less Wrong has been trying to address rationality in all domains. This may prove too wide a scope. As it has been suggested, effectiveness changes should come soon. Those who just read the sequences need more a focused walkthrough. A proposed path is tightening the scope within rationality to Externally Oriented, Tech-friendly, H+(Transhuman) posts. Once the sanity waterline within is raised only the highest peaks remain above water, thus what remains must be more focused. How to do this is discussed.
I’m testing this quote from Less Wrong’s Best Of to introduce my post:
A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought. -- Dorothy L. Sayers
Garrett Lisi has advanced, in the last minutes of this video, the suggestion that life should equally divided between Physics, Love, and Surfing.
Eliezer Yudkowsky, here, advanced that we buy fuzzies and utilons separately.
Patrissimo, in a very controversial post said that: As Merlin Mann says: “Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging”. Well, reading a blog to overcome akrasia IS joining a Facebook group about creative productivity. ” [...] ” I believe that most people, particularly smart ones, do way too much thinking & talking and way too little action (me included), because that is what’s easy for them.”[...] “To aid growth at rationality, Less Wrong would have to become a skill practice community, more like martial arts, PUA, and physical fitness, with an explicit focus of helping people grow in their ability to set and achieve goals, combining local chapters with global coordination, infrastructure, and knowledge accumulation. Most discussion should be among people working on a specific skill at a similar level about what is or isn’t working for them as they attempt to progress, rather than obscure theories about the inner workings of the human mind.”
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”—George Bernard Shaw
So I decided to invest my few karma points in advancing an unreasonable suggestion, as a followup to Patrissimo’s post.
First let me abstract from Garrett Lisi’s triadic division of life its sweet juice: it is not Physics, Love and Surf that matter for almost everyone, but Externally Oriented , Love and Sensational activities.
Externally oriented activities include from musing about fluid mechanics and the Pirahã language, uptill charity and just plain regular paid work. For most people (not necessarily most Less Wrong people) this will be Other Oriented activities, because most people care more about people than about other beautiful objects that also populate our universe. Both interest in the world-except us and interest in people are wothwhile defensable activities, and we are prone to praising them hardly.
Love activities include grooming, socializing, chatting, facebooking, bonding, hugging, watching Sheldon say “Coitus” in Big Bang Theory, coitus itself, vibing, being in love, and most things that those of a not-so-loving nature will enjoy reading about in The Endocrinology of Social Relashionships. Those a little more social who happen to be male will also learn from the PUA community.
Sensational activities. I’ll quote Susan Greenfield, who directs FHI’s cousin Future of the Mind institute, on this one: “When people go to the club, or take drugs, they are blowing the mind. They are having, you know, a sensational time. And it amazes me that people pay to do this. … you never say, do you, ‘Oh I’m having a cognitive time tonight.’ …. People who never let themselves go, like the British, we feel sorry for them, just like we feel sorry for people who never get out of the beach or the bar.”
I haven’t had the complete Less Wrong experience. I just read the Sequences and some 30 other posts. This post requests help from those who did have it. I’ll try to speak as a representative of the general class of those who just read the sequences and few other posts:
“There is no doubt that the last 20 posts I’ve read were way less useful than, say, the 30th to 50th. From what I learned here, using techniques of rationality, it follows it is now time for me to move forward, because reading LOGI, Jaynes, and more technical stuff will drive me faster than remaining here. My beliefs about how less likely the next Less Wrong post is to make me stronger than the Less Wrong suggestion makes me anticipate that I should read the suggested readings, not the newest posts.”
(For easier traceability, important suggestions/question paragraphs will be numbered)
(1) My first suggestion then is that there ought to be an edited sequence of posts from the 2009-2010 era not written by Yudkowsky but designed to be read right after the sequences. The Karma system does not suffice to determine this, an effective rationalist does not want to read the most “Voted up posts” but a cohesive collection of material drawn by one or two individuals as the collectivelly most important material posted, editors assuming that after reading it, people will just leave and be the rationalists they became, hopefully donating units of caring to the causes they learned important.
(2) An important question while this is not done then becomes: Which posts should we read now that are not among the topvoted ones? Any help is appreciated.
Now let me get back to Externally Oriented, Love and Sensational activities. Less wrong has been, so far, advancing rational knowledge concerning all three of those. I’m not a fan of compartmentalisation, because it lets evolutionists be religious and not feel their heads itching. But here I will defend compartmentalisation within Less Wrong. If there is a war going on and people are in the UN discussing it, it is counterproductive to also discuss rationality and basketball. If you want to coach a tennis player well, you’d better cut him off every time he starts talking about his girlfriend. If you set out to do the impossible, you’d better turn off the telephone, because interruption is as confusing as flutzpah.
(3) Most of Less Wrong is Externally Oriented and my first radical suggestion is that this becomes compulsory. Let me tell you why.
I have read 5 books from the Pick Up Artist community. Not just read. I used them. That thing is really addictive. Enough so to drive people away. Recently the PUA meme has invaded Less Wrong a few times. I have been very worried reading about that here, because, seriously, pretending that PUA belongs here is like discussing basketball in the UN. If we want to create FAI, prevent catastrophic risk, donate as many utilons as possible, and figure out a binary negative personhood determinator, we must stay away from drugs like this and MMOs, Diplomacy, Magic, and some other stuff that has popped up here. These may not be affective death spirals, but they are temporary utilitarian suicides anyway (don’t execrate me before knowing that I have spent, securely, 10% of my autonomous life playing Magic). There is stuff out there that is just too attractive, we come to Less Wrong exactly because it pre-selects away from it. Less Wrong is not internet porn, it is the best rationality driving force on the web, and to remain this way, some kinds of Love-related and Sensational-related things, that are almost internet porn, should be kept away
Even if the Less Wrong individuals would, on a personal individual level, be more leveraged within social rationality, table-game rationality, partner-seducing rationality, the community level would lose. The time you spend playing Diplomacy and Magic, MMO and reading PUA material is a time which you could be spending doing what has to be done, obtaining all the valuable utilons hanging around. For an emotionally triggering image, immortalists can think that millennia will be lost, and singularitarians can think that galaxies will be lost, this is undesirable. Less wrong must have an internal defense mechanism against this, and these are Patrissimo’s and my post which hopefully might drive back a tougher sniper policy on future posts.
If Less Wrong allows for too wide a rationality scope, it will probably dissolve into a personal social problem solver, and will not be able to dig as deep as necessary for the awesome world Eliezer set out to create. The same risk happens wherever ideas are allowed to evolve, as Bostrom pointed out in “The Future of Human Evolution”. Dangerous viral memes are going through the Less Wrong filters, if they evolve into Less Wrong’s main topics, this will be disastrous as a loss of opportunity cost. And worry not, for there are plenty of other places for Love-related and Sensational-related rationality. Let us instead focus within rationality on Externally Oriented, Tech-friendly, H+(Transhuman) posts.
(4) My second radical suggestion is that inferential distance between long-timers and post-sequence newcomers is becoming too big. One should climb one step at a time. If one is unable, distraction drives attention away. So the suggestion, maybe too radical is: That Less Wrong becomes nomadic. By nomadic I mean that people who have been commenting and posting here for very long should create a new twin website, in which advanced posts will be uploaded, and advanced comments will be traded. If those who have learned most of what is here remain here, they will just be drawn back from their potential. There should be an organised system divided by levels, like in the martial arts, so that people are always interacting with those of similar rational grounds and can build up on common ground without checking for so many biases, fallacies and mistakes.
If it is true that our kind can cooperate, hierarchy is needed, and Karma is not enough (though Karma could be a criterion for posting in each website, eg: 20 here, 400 to the next one 2000 to the next one). A piramid of websites where someone in his layer’s top can help those in his layer’s bottom just before upgrading is more effective than a place where those who dominate the dojo have to constantly draw attention to stuff that only newcomers miss.
(5) Another suggestion, this one of design, is that we avoid scope insensitivity to upvoting by displaying something more emotional than points for pots and comments. A smile symbol with an ever growing smile would be a very easy way to do it, and to copy Nintendo’s design, when the number grew too big the smile could blow up into a symbol of a ballon exploding with colorfull carnaval paper. Or something to that effect.
Remember to avoid the unit fallacy, and reject or accept these suggestions separately, not as a single thing.
And yes, I do notice this takes away great part of the fun you would be feeling while writing your future posts on funny social loving topic X, which you’ve been meaning for a while to distort just enough to make fit for Less Wrong. But if you are like us, you come here to buy utilons, not fuzzies, and it would be irrational to insist in decreasing the group-level rationality that has been achieved here.