(Or, let’s be honest, my biggest self-indulgence in writing: gratuitous medical emergencies)
(Or, let’s be honest, my biggest self-indulgence in writing: gratuitous medical emergencies)
There’s something really funny about the phrase “gratuitous medical emergencies” :)
This sounds like a really fun thing I can do at weekends / in the mornings. I’ll try it out and report back sometime.
I think you’re missing me with this. I’m not very distractable and I don’t need to learn to be okay with leisure time. I’m trying to actually have hobbies, and realising that is going to take work.
I could take up meditation as a hobby, but at the minute I want things that are more social and physical.
Either way I’ll still only check it in a 2 hour window on Saturdays, so I feel safe trying it out.
Huh, 95% is quite extreme. But I realise this probably also solves the problem whereby if the people I’m interested in comment on *someone else’s* wall, I still get to see it. I’ll try this out next week, thx.
(I don’t get to be confident I’ve seen 100% of all the interesting people’s good content though, the news feed is fickle and not exhaustive.)
I’ve finally moved into a period of my life where I can set guardrails around my slack without sacrificing the things I care about most. I currently am pushing it to the limit, doing work during work hours, and not doing work outside work hours. I’m eating very regularly, 9am, 2pm, 7pm. I’m going to sleep around 9-10, and getting up early. I have time to pick up my hobby of classical music.
At the same time, I’m also restricting the ability of my phone to steal my attention. All social media is blocked except for 2 hours on Saturday, which is going quite well. I’ve found Tristan Harris’s advice immensely useful—my phone is increasingly not something that I give all of my free attention to, but instead something I give deliberate attention and then stop using. Tasks, not scrolling.
Now I have weekends and mornings though, and I’m not sure what to do with myself. I am looking to get excited about something, instead of sitting, passively listening to a comedy podcast while playing a game on my phone. But I realise I don’t have easy alternative options—Netflix is really accessible. I suppose one of the things that a Sabbath is supposed to be is an alarm, showing that something is up, and at the minute I’ve not got enough things I want to do for leisure that don’t also feel a bit like work.
So I’m making lists of things I might like (cooking, reading, improv, etc) and I’ll try those.
Yeah, it’s what I do with Twitter, and I’ll probably start this with FB. Won’t show me all their interesting convo on other people’s walls though. On a Twitter I can see all their replies, not on FB.
I block all the big social networks from my phone and laptop, except for 2 hours on Saturday, and I noticed that when I check Facebook on Saturday, the notifications are always boring and not something I care about. Then I scroll through the newsfeed for a bit and it quickly becomes all boring too.
And I was surprised. Could it be that, all the hype and narrative aside, I actually just wasn’t interested in what was happening on Facebook? That I could remove it from my life and just not really be missing anything?
On my walk home from work today I realised that this wasn’t the case. Facebook has interesting posts I want to follow, but they’re not in my notifications. They’re sparsely distributed in my newsfeed, such that they appear a few times per week, randomly. I can get a lot of value from Facebook, but not by checking once per week—only by checking it all the time. That’s how the game is played.
Anyway, I am not trading all of my attention away for such small amounts of value. So it remains blocked.
Thank you, this comment helped me understand your position quite a bit. You’re right, discussing conflict theories are not inherently costly, it’s that they’re often costly because powerful optimization pressures are punishing discussion of them.
I strongly agree with you here:
I am advocating a conflict theory, rather than a mistake theory, for why discussions of conflict can be bad. I think, if you consider conflict vs mistake theories, you will find that a conflict theory makes better predictions for what sorts of errors people make in the course of discussing conflict, than a mistake theory does.
This is also a large part of my model of why discussions of conflict often go bad—power struggles are being enacted out through (and systematically distorting the use of) language and reasoning.
(I am quite tempted to add that even in a room with mostly scribes, given the incentive on actors to pretend to be scribes, can make it very hard for a scribe to figure out whether someone is a scribe or an actor, and this information asymmetry can lead to scribes distrusting all attempts to discuss conflict theories and reading such discussions as political coordination.
Yet I notice that I pretty reflexively looked for a mistake theory there, and my model of you suggested to me the hypothesis that I am much less comfortable with conflict theories than mistake theories. I guess I’ll look out for this further in my thinking, and consider whether it’s false. Perhaps, in this case, it is way easier than I’m suggesting for scribes to recognise each other, and the truth is we just have very few scribes.)
The next question is under what norms, incentives and cultures can one have discussions of conflict theories where people are playing the role of Scribe, and where that is common knowledge. I’m not sure we agree on the answer to that question, or what the current norms in this area should be. I’m working on a longer answer, maybe post-length, to Zach’s comment below, so I’ll see if I can present my thoughts on that.
The opening Feyeraband quote is sounds very similar to (Scott’s review of) Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Related: Jacob’s post on the copernican revolution from the inside.
Here’s his wikipedia page.
I’m hearing you say “Politics is not the mind-killer, talking inaccurately and carelessly about politics is the mind-killer! If we all just say true things and don’t try to grab attention with misleading headlines then we’ll definitely just have a great and net positive conversation and nobody will feel needlessly threatened or attacked”. I feel like you are aware of how toxic things like bravery debates are, and I expect you agree they’d be toxic even if everyone tried very hard to only say true things. I’m confused.
I’m saying it always bears a cost, and a high one, but not a cost that cannot be overcome. I think that the cost is different in different communities, and this depends on the incentives, norms and culture in those communities, and you can build spaces where a lot of good discussion can happen with low cost.
You’re right that Hanson feels to me pretty different than my other examples, in that I don’t feel like marginal overcoming bias blogposts are paying a cost. I suspect this might have to do with the fact that Hanson has sent a lot of very costly signals that he is not fighting a side but is just trying to be an interested scientist. But I’m not sure why I feel differently in this case.
Sorry for the delay, a lot has happened in the last week.
Let me point to where I disagree with you.
Holding a conflict theory about any particular situation is still a mind-killer, at least to the extent that we’re talking about conflict theory in the form of “bad thing happens because of this bad person” as opposed to “this person’s incentives are misaligned”.
My sense is you are underestimating the cost of not being able to use conflict theories. Here are some examples, where I feel like prohibiting me from even considering that a bad thing happened because a person was bad will severely limit my ability to think and talk freely about what is actually happening.
A Harvard professor of social science arguing that replications are disrespectful and should be assumed false.
Physics academia writing an attack-piece on a non-academic after he presented a novel theory of fundamental physics in a lecture series at Oxford.
Many of Robin Hanson’s great hypotheses, like politics isn’t about policy,inequality talk is about grabbing andtoo much consulting?.
Things that went down with SlateStarCodex and discussion of the culture war.
Sam Harris and his aggressive clashes with people like Ezra Klein and Glenn Greenwald.
There’s something very valuable that you’re pointing at, and I agree with a lot of it. There shouldn’t be conflict theories in a math journal. It’s plausible to me there shouldn’t be conflict theories in an economics journal. And it’s plausible to me that the goal should be for the frontpage of LessWrong to be safe from them too, because they do bring major costs in terms of mindkilling nature, and furthermore because several of the above are bullet points are simply off-topic for LessWrong. We’re not here to discuss current-day tribal politics in various institutions, industries and communities.
And if I were writing publicly about any of the above topics, I would heavily avoid bringing conflict theories—and have in the past re-written whole essays to be making only object-level points about a topic rather than attacking a particular person’s position, because I felt the way I had written it would come across as a bias-argument / conflict theory and destroy my ability to really dialogue with people who disagreed with me. Rather than calling them biased or self-interested, I prefer to use the most powerful of rebuttals in the pursuit of truth, which is showing that they’re wrong.
But ruling it out wholly in one’s discourse and life seems way too much. I think there are cases where wholly censoring conflict theories will be far more cost than it’s worth, and that removing them entirely from your discourse will cripple you and allow you to be taken over by outside forces that want your resources.
For example, I can imagine a relatively straightforward implementation of “no conflict theories” in a nearby world meaning that I am not able to say that study after study is suspect, or that a position is being pushed by political actors, unless I first reinvent mechanism theory and a bunch of microeconomics and a large amount of technical language to discuss bias. If I assume the worst about all of the above bullet points, not being able to talk about bad people causing bad things could mean we are forced to believe lots of false study results and ignore a new theory of fundamental physics, plus silence economists, bloggers, and public intellectuals.
The Hanson examples above feel the strongest to me because it’s the one that’s a central example of something that’s able to lead to a universal, deep insight about reality and be a central part of LessWrong’s mission in understanding human rationality, whereas the others are mostly about current tribal politics. But I think they all substantially affect how much to trust our info sources.
My current sense is that I should think of posing conflict theories as a highly constrained, limited communal resource, and that while spending it will often cause conflict and people to be mind-killed, a rule that says one can never use that resource will mean that when that resource is truly necessary, it won’t be available.
I re-read the OP, and realise I actually identify a lot with your initial comment, and that I gave Elizabeth similar feedback when I read an earlier draft of hers a month ago. The wording of the OP crosses a few of my personal lines such that I would not publish it. And it’s actually surprisingly accurate to say that the key thing I’d be doing if I were editing the OP would be turning it from things that had a hint of being like a conflict theory (aren’t people with power bad!) to things that felt like a mistake theory (here’s an interesting mechanism where you might mistakenly allocate responsibility). Conflict theories tends to explode and eat up communal resources in communities and on the internet generally, and are a limited (though necessary) resource that I want to use with great caution.
And if I were writing publicly about any topics where I had conflict theories, I would heavily avoid bringing conflict theories—and have in the past re-written whole essays to be making only object-level points about a topic rather than attacking a particular person’s position, because I felt the way I had written it would come across as a bias-argument / conflict theory and destroy my ability to really dialogue with people who disagreed with me. When I get really irritated with someone’s position and have a conflict theory about the source of the disagreement, I still write mistake-theory posts like this, a post with no mention of the original source of motivation.
I think that one of the things that’s most prominent to me on the current margin is that I feel like there are massive blockers on public discourse, stopping people from saying or writing anything, and I have a model whereby telling people who write things like the OP to do more work to make it all definitely mistake theory (which is indeed a standard I hold myself to) will not improve the current public discourse, but on the current margin simply stop public discourse. I feel similarly about Jessicata’s post on AI timelines, where it is likely to me that the main outcome has been quite positive—even though I think I disagree with each of the three arguments in the post and its conclusion—because the current alternative is almost literally zero public conversation about plans for long AI timelines. I already am noticing personal benefits from the discourse on the subject.
In the first half of this comment I kept arguing against the position “We should ban all conflict theories” rather than “Conflict theories are the mind-killer” which are two very different claims and only one of which you’ve been making. Right now I want to defend people’s ability to write down their thoughts in public, and I think the OP is strongly worth publishing in the situation we’re in. I could imagine a world where there was loads of great discussion of topics like what the OP is about, where the OP stands out as not having met a higher standard of effort to avoid mind-killing anyone that the other posts have, where I’d go “this is unnecessarily likely to make people feel defensive and like there’s subtle tribal politics underpinning its conclusions, consider these changes?” but right now I’m very pro “Cool idea, let me share my thoughts on the subject too.”
(Some background: The OP was discussed about 2 weeks ago on Elizabeth’s FB wall, and in it someone else was proposing a different reason why this post needed re-writing for PR reasons, and there I argued already that they shouldn’t put such high bars to writing things on people. I think that person’s specific suggestion, if taken seriously, would be incredibly harmful to public discourse regardless of its current health, whereas in this case I think your literal claims are just right. Regardless, I am strongly pro the post and others like it being published.)
The idea I took away here is that verification and transparency are complementary, in that increasing transparency makes verification easier, and that stronger verification power removes the need for more transparency.
Note that if people do only give upvotes, then you can hover over a comment’s score to see the total number of votes on it, which is what you’re looking for here.
I have a t-shirt that says “World domination is such an ugly phrase, I prefer world Optimization” with a really cool design, and a separate t-shirt that says “Optimise everything” with a picture of a galaxy, and use to have a third t-shirt that says “Probably a member of the Bayesian Conspiracy”. I think Ray also has a t-shirt that just says “Belief As Attire” which I think is excellent.
I got my t-shirts from the people who made PrettyRational.com, but I think it’s shut down now.
We’re planning to make LW t-shirts at LW (have tried some already that I don’t like).
Strong agree with Jacob.
Related hypothesis: people feel like they’ve wasted some period of time e.g. months, years, ‘their youth’, when they feel they cannot see an exciting path forward for the future. Often this is caused by people they respect (/who have more status than them) telling them they’re only allowed a small few types of futures.