My inferential distance from yours is also high.
I view ‘thoughts’ as not having very much to do with action in general. They’re just like… incidental post-hoc things.
I spend the whole of every working day thinking, and all this thought drives the things that I do at work. For example, the task currently (or before I took a break to read LW) in front of me is to make the API to a piece of functionality in the software I’m developing as simple as it can possibly be, while not making the implementation go through contortions to make it that simple. The actions this has given rise to so far have been to write a page of notes on possible APIs and a mockup of a procedure implementing one of them.
A lot of what I do when I’m not “at work” is the same sort of thing. What I have just written was produced by thinking. So thoughts as “incidental post-hoc things” does not describe anything that I call thoughts.
They are made of atoms I want to use for something else.
Perhaps also related: gratitude journalling, as a way of avoiding habituating to your general circumstances and seeing yourself within a larger perspective. Cf. the traditional advice to “count your blessings”.
Both of these have positivity bias built in, though, so maybe just journalling would make for a more accurate awareness of the state and progress of one’s soul.
Clearly, it makes no sense to say that someone is mistaken about how happy they feel.
Presumably it does make sense to anyone who has ever said that someone is “out of touch with their feelings”. I can’t see myself ever using that expression, but it is a thing that people say. It is a claim that the person spoken of is mistaken about what they are feeling.
Because (it seems to me) “happiness” already refers to a subjective phenomenon. “How happy you are” just means “how happy you feel”. There is no underlying objective phenomenon—or, to be more precise, the subjective phenomenon is the objective phenomenon. How happy people feel, is actually what we are trying to measure.
I disagree with this. That the word “happy” refers only to a subjective phenomenon, and there does not seem to be a word ready to hand for an objective counterpart, are just accidents of English lexicalisation. But there is such a word, borrowed from the ancients: “eudaimonia”. Opinions differ on what constitutes the eudaimonic life, but given a view on that, one could measure it, and by means less superficial than asking “how happy do you feel?”
Indeed, other things that people measure go some way to doing this. Surveys of political freedom, oppression, prosperity, access to education, high culture, fulfilling work, poverty, etc. address various aspects of human flourishing.
In contrast, asking people “how happy do you feel?” seems frivolous. Why do we want to know this? Why do people want to measure it?
I have seen a good friend in tears one day and cheerful the next. How “happy” were they at either point? What could one do with the answer to such a question?
and they like them funding art galleries for the rich least of all.
What are these art galleries “for the rich”? Your link mentions the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Smithsonian, the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Sackler Museum at Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History as recipients of Sackler money. All of them are open to everyone. The first three are free and the others charge in the region of $15-$25 (as do the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery for special exhibitions, but not the bulk of their displays). The hostility to Sackler money has nothing to do with “how dare they be billionaires”, but is because of the (allegedly) unethical practices of the pharmaceutical company that the Sacklers own and owe their fortune to. No-one had any problem with their donations before.
Which is basically what you’d expect if people were well-calibrated and correctly criticising those who need to be taken down a peg.
I see nothing correct in the ethics of the crab bucket.
If you take up weight training, two things will happen: you will get stronger, and you will feel stronger.
The second of these wears off. (Source: personal experience.) Eventually, you do not notice all the time, how easy it is to carry this rucksack! how easy it is to jog up the stairs! But, assuming you keep up the training, the strength does not wear off. You continue to be stronger than you were, you continue to lift heavy things more easily.
Strength can be objectively measured. Go to the gym and see how much weight you can lift in the various exercises. That is how strong you are. How would you measure the feeling of strength? Ask “how strong do you feel today?”, on a Likert scale of 1 to 5?
For the person who takes up weight training, that might go from a 3 to a 5 in the first few weeks, then fade back to a 3 as they become accustomed to their strength and do not especially notice it whenever they address a physical task. Without the objective measure, one might think that there was a “strength set point” that no amount of exercise can shift, a “strength treadmill” that defeats any attempt to become stronger. But there is no such thing.
Is this phenomenon a sufficient explanation of the supposed hedonic treadmill? Is the supposed treadmill a delusion based on the use of a false measure?
There is no objective measure of happiness, as there is of strength, only a subjective report on a Likert scale. The World Database of Happiness lists 2692 measures of happiness. Virtually all of them (2551 by my count) are self-reports on Likert scales, and almost all of the exceptions are reports on Likert scales by people examining the people whose happiness is being assessed.
Noticing is the fundamental skill and habit without which everything else is in vain. Noticing when you’re going wrong is the only chance you have to put things right. Noticing when you’re going right is the only chance to appreciate that you’re going right.
I haven’t been there, but I was reading about Dynamic Land just yesterday (via Dominic Cummings’ blog), and I’ve read some of Bret Victor’s writings. I approve of the ideas tremendously, but it’s not clear to me that in practice the work has provided any more of an advance in “visual programming” than other efforts in this area. Beyond the decades-old WIMP (ETA: and spreadsheets) interface, none of these, it seems to me, ever make more than toy demos. I have never seen them scale up to real power tools that someone would use to accomplish something. Ideas like these have been around long enough that toys and dreams will no longer do.
There are lathes that can make all of their own parts. Could Dynamic Land create Dynamic Land? What would such a system look like if it could?
The main thing I want to see when a link is given is enough information to decide whether I want to click on it, without clicking on it.
Recently out: “The Transhumanism Handbook” ed. Newton Lee (Springer, 2019). Costs money, of course, but you can see the table of contents, the abstracts, and the references for each paper for free. It contains:
5 chapters on yay, transhumanism!
10 on AI
12 on longevity
5 on biohacking
3 on cryptocurrency
5 on art
16 on society and ethics
10 on philosophy and religion
It’s screaming at the cactus person, demanding an answer.
The cactus person is unable to assist the enquirer because it is stuck in its own car, a narrative that says that all you can do to help someone get out of the car is tell them to get out of the car. The cactus person insists that it must work, despite the observation that it doesn’t work, and the more that it doesn’t work, the more they insist that it must, the louder they scream “GET OUT OF THE CAR!”, and the more they blame the other for not getting out of the car.
But there is, in fact, an answer that can be given. There is something that can be taught and learned, techniques of dismembering these narratives, finding their origins, verifying their truth or falsity (spoiler: they’re usually made of lies), and responding to situations as they are, instead of being driven by internal stories about “I must—”, “I have to—”, “I shouldn’t—”, “I must be—” and so on. None of these techniques involve telling anyone to get out of the car. They acknowledge that there is a car, that they are in it, and teach how to notice the car and how to get out of it, without mystification or woo. My experience is that it works.
However, while I may have learned a little of this sort of thing, I am not going to attempt to teach it, because I am absolutely unqualified to do so, and anyway it’s an experience to be had, not a book to read. I prefer to do no more than link to an old comment of mine where I mention the organisation whose courses I have taken. I hope that dropping its name twice in eight years will not be seen as proselytising. Possibly it is not the only one that does something along these lines, but it is one I have experience of and have found valuable, and I think there cannot be many others.
The alternative is just this: there is work to be done — do it. When the work can be done better — do it better. When you can help others work better — help them to work better.
Forget about a hypothetical absolute pinnacle of good, and berating yourself and everyone else for any failure to reach it. It is like complaining, after the first step of a journey of 10,000 miles, that you aren’t there yet.
I quoted Spurgeon as a striking example of pure, stark Calvinism. But to me his writings are lunatic ravings. In fairness, some of the quotes on the spurgeon quotes site are more humane. But Calvinism, secular or religious, is an obvious failure mode. DO NOT DO OBVIOUS FAILURE MODES.
Considering this more widely, here’s a diagram I came up with. (Thanks to Raemon for advice on embedding images.)
(Please let me know if you do not see an image above. There might be a setting on my web site that blocks embedding.)
(ETA: minor changes to image.)
I’ve heard of a similar superstition in Christendom, that if for a single day, no-one sinned, that would bring about the Second Coming. The difference between either of these and a total lack of hope is rounding error.
Perhaps evidential non-decision theorists. Fallen man is unable to choose between good and evil, for in his fallen state he will always and inevitably choose evil.
There is no greater mockery than to call a sinner a free man. Show me a convict toiling in the chain gang, and call him a free man if you will; point out to me the galley slave chained to the oar, and smarting under the taskmaster’s lash whenever he pauses to draw breath, and call him a free man if you will; but never call a sinner a free man, even in his will, so long as he is the slave of his own corruptions.
Man is totally depraved:
The fact is, that man is a reeking mass of corruption. His whole soul is by nature so debased and so depraved, that no description which can be given of him even by inspired tongues can fully tell how base and vile a thing he is.
Man is incapable of the slightest urge to do good, unless the Lord extend his divine grace; and then, such good as he may do is done not by him but by the Lord working in him. And then, such outer works may be seen as evidence of inward grace.
Quotes are from the 19th century Calvinist C.M. Spurgeon, here and here. He wrote thousands of sermons, and they’re all like this.
Does Eliezer post anywhere public these days? His postings to Facebook are infrequent, and I don’t know of him posting anywhere else.
The problem with Calvinism is that it does not allow for improvement. We are (Calvin and Calvinists say) utterly depraved, and powerless to do anything to raise ourselves up from the abyss of sin by so much as the thickness of a hair. We can never be less wrong. Only by the external bestowal of divine grace can we be saved, grace which we are utterly undeserving of and are powerless to earn by any effort of our own. And this divine grace is not bestowed on all, only upon some, the elect, predetermined from the very beginning of Creation.
Calvinism resembles abusive parenting more than any sort of ethical principle.
Eliezer has written of a similar concept in Judaism:
Each year on Yom Kippur, an Orthodox Jew recites a litany which begins Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, dibarnu dofi, and goes on through the entire Hebrew alphabet: We have acted shamefully, we have betrayed, we have stolen, we have slandered . . .
As you pronounce each word, you strike yourself over the heart in penitence. There’s no exemption whereby, if you manage to go without stealing all year long, you can skip the word gazalnu and strike yourself one less time. That would violate the community spirit of Yom Kippur, which is about confessing sins—not avoiding sins so that you have less to confess.
By the same token, the Ashamnu does not end, “But that was this year, and next year I will do better.”
The Ashamnu bears a remarkable resemblance to the notion that the way of rationality is to beat your fist against your heart and say, “We are all biased, we are all irrational, we are not fully informed, we are overconfident, we are poorly calibrated . . .”
Fine. Now tell me how you plan to become less biased, less irrational, more informed, lessoverconfident, better calibrated.
When all are damned from the very beginning, when “everything is problematic”, then who in fact gets condemned, what gets problematised, and who are the elect, are determined by political struggle for the seat of judgement. At least in Calvinism, that seat was reserved to God, who does not exist (or as Calvinists would say, whose divine will is unknowable), leaving people to deal with each others’ flaws on a level standing.
What conditions must obtain for an interaction between people to constitute “coming together to work on a common goal”?
That people have a common goal, and that they come together to work on it. Ok, I’m being deliberately tautologous there, but these are ordinary English words that we all know the meanings of, put together in plain sentences. I am not seeing what is being asked by your question, or by Zack’s. Examples of the phenomenon are everywhere (as are examples of its failure).As for how to do real work as a group (an expression meaning the same as “coming together to work on a common goal”), and how much of it is going on at any particular place and time, these are non-trivial questions. They have received non-trivial quantities of answers. To consider just LW and the rationalsphere, see for example various criticisms of LessWrong as being no more than a place to idly hang out (a common purpose but a rather trifling one compared with some people’s desires for the place); MIRI; CFAR, FHI; rationalist houses; meetups; and so on. In another sphere, the book “Moral Mazes” (recently discussed here) illustrates some failures of collaboration.I do not see how the OP gives any entry into these questions, but I look forward to seeing other people’s responses to it.
People coming together to work on a common goal can typically accomplish more than if they worked separately. This is such a familiar thing that I am unclear where your perplexity lies.