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Theories of humor - Wikipedia
There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. Among the prevailing types of theories that attempt to account for the existence of humor, there are psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humor to be very healthy behavior; there are spiritual theories, which consider humor to be an inexplicable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[1] Although various classical theories of humor and laughter may be found, in contemporary academic literature, three theories of humor appear repeatedly: relief theory, superiority theory, and incongruity theory.[2] Among current humor researchers, there is no consensus about which of these three theories of humor is most viable.[2] Proponents of each one originally claimed their theory to be capable of explaining all cases of humor.[2][3] However, they now acknowledge that although each theory generally covers its own area of focus, many instances of humor can be explained by more than one theory.[2][3][4][5] Incongruity and superiority theories, for instance, seem to describe complementary mechanisms which together create humor.[6]

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Relief theory
Relief theory maintains that laughter is a homeostatic mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced.[2][3][7] Humor may thus for example serve to facilitate relief of the tension caused by one's fears.[8] Laughter and mirth, according to relief theory, result from this release of nervous energy.[2] Humor, according to relief theory, is used mainly to overcome sociocultural inhibitions and reveal suppressed desires. It is believed that this is the reason we laugh whilst being tickled, due to a buildup of tension as the tickler "strikes".[2][9] According to Herbert Spencer, laughter is an "economical phenomenon" whose function is to release "psychic energy" that had been wrongly mobilized by incorrect or false expectations. The latter point of view was supported also by Sigmund Freud.

Superiority theory
The superiority theory of humor traces back to Plato and Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. The general idea is that a person laughs about misfortunes of others (so called schadenfreude), because these misfortunes assert the person's superiority on the background of shortcomings of others.[10] Socrates was reported by Plato as saying that the ridiculous was characterized by a display of self-ignorance.[11] For Aristotle, we laugh at inferior or ugly individuals, because we feel a joy at feeling superior to them.[12]

Incongruous juxtaposition theory
The incongruity theory states that humor is perceived at the moment of realization of incongruity between a concept involved in a certain situation and the real objects thought to be in some relation to the concept.[10]

Since the main point of the theory is not the incongruity per se, but its realization and resolution (i.e., putting the objects in question into the real relation), it is often called the incongruity-resolution theory.[10]

...

Detection of mistaken reasoning
In 2011, three researchers, Hurley, Dennett and Adams, published a book that reviews previous theories of humor and many specific jokes. They propose the theory that humor evolved because it strengthens the ability of the brain to find mistakes in active belief structures, that is, to detect mistaken reasoning.[46] This is somewhat consistent with the sexual selection theory, because, as stated above, humor would be a reliable indicator of an important survival trait: the ability to detect mistaken reasoning. However, the three researchers argue that humor is fundamentally important because it is the very mechanism that allows the human brain to excel at practical problem solving. Thus, according to them, humor did have survival value even for early humans, because it enhanced the neural circuitry needed to survive.

Misattribution theory
Misattribution is one theory of humor that describes an audience's inability to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny. The formal theory is attributed to Zillmann & Bryant (1980) in their article, "Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor", published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They derived the critical concepts of the theory from Sigmund Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (note: from a Freudian perspective, wit is separate from humor), originally published in 1905.

Benign violation theory
The benign violation theory (BVT) is developed by researchers A. Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren.[47] The BVT integrates seemingly disparate theories of humor to predict that humor occurs when three conditions are satisfied: 1) something threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be", 2) the threatening situation seems benign, and 3) a person sees both interpretations at the same time.

From an evolutionary perspective, humorous violations likely originated as apparent physical threats, like those present in play fighting and tickling. As humans evolved, the situations that elicit humor likely expanded from physical threats to other violations, including violations of personal dignity (e.g., slapstick, teasing), linguistic norms (e.g., puns, malapropisms), social norms (e.g., strange behaviors, risqué jokes), and even moral norms (e.g., disrespectful behaviors). The BVT suggests that anything that threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be" will be humorous, so long as the threatening situation also seems benign.

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Sense of humor, sense of seriousness
One must have a sense of humor and a sense of seriousness to distinguish what is supposed to be taken literally or not. An even more keen sense is needed when humor is used to make a serious point.[48][49] Psychologists have studied how humor is intended to be taken as having seriousness, as when court jesters used humor to convey serious information. Conversely, when humor is not intended to be taken seriously, bad taste in humor may cross a line after which it is taken seriously, though not intended.[50]

Philosophy of humor bleg: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/philosophy-humor-bleg.html

Inside Jokes: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/inside-jokes
humor as reward for discovering inconsistency in inferential chain

https://twitter.com/search?q=comedy%20OR%20humor%20OR%20humour%20from%3Asarahdoingthing&src=typd
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/500000435529195520

https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/568346955811663872
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/600792582453465088
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/603215362033778688
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/605051508472713216
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/606197597699604481
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/753514548787683328

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humour
People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. Most people are able to experience humour—be amused, smile or laugh at something funny—and thus are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour inducing it to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational.

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Ancient Greece
Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.

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China
Confucianist Neo-Confucian orthodoxy, with its emphasis on ritual and propriety, has traditionally looked down upon humour as subversive or unseemly. The Confucian "Analects" itself, however, depicts the Master as fond of humorous self-deprecation, once comparing his wanderings to the existence of a homeless dog.[10] Early Daoist philosophical texts such as "Zhuangzi" pointedly make fun of Confucian seriousness and make Confucius himself a slow-witted figure of fun.[11] Joke books containing a mix of wordplay, puns, situational humor, and play with taboo subjects like sex and scatology, remained popular over the centuries. Local performing arts, storytelling, vernacular fiction, and poetry offer a wide variety of humorous styles and sensibilities.

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Physical attractiveness
90% of men and 81% of women, all college students, report having a sense of humour is a crucial characteristic looked for in a romantic partner.[21] Humour and honesty were ranked as the two most important attributes in a significant other.[22] It has since been recorded that humour becomes more evident and significantly more important as the level of commitment in a romantic relationship increases.[23] Recent research suggests expressions of humour in relation to physical attractiveness are two major factors in the desire for future interaction.[19] Women regard physical attractiveness less highly compared to men when it came to dating, a serious relationship, and sexual intercourse.[19] However, women rate humorous men more desirable than nonhumorous individuals for a serious relationship or marriage, but only when these men were physically attractive.[19]

Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships.[19] The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women.[24] No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humour as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humour as potential partners.[24] When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential … [more]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:

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In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.

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In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?

...

In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.

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Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Antinomia Imediata – experiments in a reaction from the left
https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/lrx/
So, what is the Left Reaction? First of all, it’s reaction: opposition to the modern rationalist establishment, the Cathedral. It opposes the universalist Jacobin program of global government, favoring a fractured geopolitics organized through long-evolved complex systems. It’s profoundly anti-socialist and anti-communist, favoring market economy and individualism. It abhors tribalism and seeks a realistic plan for dismantling it (primarily informed by HBD and HBE). It looks at modernity as a degenerative ratchet, whose only way out is intensification (hence clinging to crypto-marxist market-driven acceleration).

How come can any of this still be in the *Left*? It defends equality of power, i.e. freedom. This radical understanding of liberty is deeply rooted in leftist tradition and has been consistently abhored by the Right. LRx is not democrat, is not socialist, is not progressist and is not even liberal (in its current, American use). But it defends equality of power. It’s utopia is individual sovereignty. It’s method is paleo-agorism. The anti-hierarchy of hunter-gatherer nomads is its understanding of the only realistic objective of equality.

...

In more cosmic terms, it seeks only to fulfill the Revolution’s side in the left-right intelligence pump: mutation or creation of paths. Proudhon’s antinomy is essentially about this: the collective force of the socius, evinced in moral standards and social organization vs the creative force of the individuals, that constantly revolutionize and disrupt the social body. The interplay of these forces create reality (it’s a metaphysics indeed): the Absolute (socius) builds so that the (individualistic) Revolution can destroy so that the Absolute may adapt, and then repeat. The good old formula of ‘solve et coagula’.

Ultimately, if the Neoreaction promises eternal hell, the LRx sneers “but Satan is with us”.

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/a-statement-of-principles/
Liberty is to be understood as the ability and right of all sentient beings to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor, and nothing else, as they see fit. This stems from their self-awareness and their ability to control and choose the content of their actions.

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Equality is to be understood as the state of no imbalance of power, that is, of no subjection to another sentient being. This stems from their universal ability for empathy, and from their equal ability for reason.

...

It is important to notice that, contrary to usual statements of these two principles, my standpoint is that Liberty and Equality here are not merely compatible, meaning they could coexist in some possible universe, but rather they are two sides of the same coin, complementary and interdependent. There can be NO Liberty where there is no Equality, for the imbalance of power, the state of subjection, will render sentient beings unable to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor[1], and it will limit their ability to choose over their rightful jurisdiction. Likewise, there can be NO Equality without Liberty, for restraining sentient beings’ ability to choose and dispose of their persons and fruits of labor will render some more powerful than the rest, and establish a state of subjection.

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/flatness/
equality is the founding principle (and ultimately indistinguishable from) freedom. of course, it’s only in one specific sense of “equality” that this sentence is true.

to try and eliminate the bullshit, let’s turn to networks again:

any nodes’ degrees of freedom is the number of nodes they are connected to in a network. freedom is maximum when the network is symmetrically connected, i. e., when all nodes are connected to each other and thus there is no topographical hierarchy (middlemen) – in other words, flatness.

in this understanding, the maximization of freedom is the maximization of entropy production, that is, of intelligence. As Land puts it:

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/category/philosophy/mutualism/
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Prisoner's dilemma - Wikipedia
caveat to result below:
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can do) but must also perform well against other players of the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly, because they reduce each other's surplus).[14]

Theory and simulations confirm that beyond a critical population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary competition against more cooperative strategies, and as a result, the average payoff in the population increases when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-off between uniform defectors and win–stay, lose–switch agents.[8]

https://alfanl.com/2018/04/12/defection/
Nature boils down to a few simple concepts.

Haters will point out that I oversimplify. The haters are wrong. I am good at saying a lot with few words. Nature indeed boils down to a few simple concepts.

In life, you can either cooperate or defect.

Used to be that defection was the dominant strategy, say in the time when the Roman empire started to crumble. Everybody complained about everybody and in the end nothing got done. Then came Jesus, who told people to be loving and cooperative, and boom: 1800 years later we get the industrial revolution.

Because of Jesus we now find ourselves in a situation where cooperation is the dominant strategy. A normie engages in a ton of cooperation: with the tax collector who wants more and more of his money, with schools who want more and more of his kid’s time, with media who wants him to repeat more and more party lines, with the Zeitgeist of the Collective Spirit of the People’s Progress Towards a New Utopia. Essentially, our normie is cooperating himself into a crumbling Western empire.

Turns out that if everyone blindly cooperates, parasites sprout up like weeds until defection once again becomes the standard.

The point of a post-Christian religion is to once again create conditions for the kind of cooperation that led to the industrial revolution. This necessitates throwing out undead Christianity: you do not blindly cooperate. You cooperate with people that cooperate with you, you defect on people that defect on you. Christianity mixed with Darwinism. God and Gnon meet.

This also means we re-establish spiritual hierarchy, which, like regular hierarchy, is a prerequisite for cooperation. It is this hierarchical cooperation that turns a household into a force to be reckoned with, that allows a group of men to unite as a front against their enemies, that allows a tribe to conquer the world. Remember: Scientology bullied the Cathedral’s tax department into submission.

With a functioning hierarchy, men still gossip, lie and scheme, but they will do so in whispers behind closed doors. In your face they cooperate and contribute to the group’s wellbeing because incentives are thus that contributing to group wellbeing heightens status.

Without a functioning hierarchy, men gossip, lie and scheme, but they do so in your face, and they tell you that you are positively deluded for accusing them of gossiping, lying and scheming. Seeds will not sprout in such ground.

Spiritual dominance is established in the same way any sort of dominance is established: fought for, taken. But the fight is ritualistic. You can’t force spiritual dominance if no one listens, or if you are silenced the ritual is not allowed to happen.

If one of our priests is forbidden from establishing spiritual dominance, that is a sure sign an enemy priest is in better control and has vested interest in preventing you from establishing spiritual dominance..

They defect on you, you defect on them. Let them suffer the consequences of enemy priesthood, among others characterized by the annoying tendency that very little is said with very many words.

https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/04/14/rederiving-christianity/
To recap, we started with a secular definition of Logos and noted that its telos is existence. Given human nature, game theory and the power of cooperation, the highest expression of that telos is freely chosen universal love, tempered by constant vigilance against defection while maintaining compassion for the defectors and forgiving those who repent. In addition, we must know the telos in order to fulfill it.

In Christian terms, looks like we got over half of the Ten Commandments (know Logos for the First, don’t defect or tempt yourself to defect for the rest), the importance of free will, the indestructibility of evil (group cooperation vs individual defection), loving the sinner and hating the sin (with defection as the sin), forgiveness (with conditions), and love and compassion toward all, assuming only secular knowledge and that it’s good to exist.

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/07/iterated-prisoners-dilemma-is-ultimatum.html
The history of IPD shows that bounded cognition prevented the dominant strategies from being discovered for over over 60 years, despite significant attention from game theorists, computer scientists, economists, evolutionary biologists, etc. Press and Dyson have shown that IPD is effectively an ultimatum game, which is very different from the Tit for Tat stories told by generations of people who worked on IPD (Axelrod, Dawkins, etc., etc.).

...

For evolutionary biologists: Dyson clearly thinks this result has implications for multilevel (group vs individual selection):
... Cooperation loses and defection wins. The ZD strategies confirm this conclusion and make it sharper. ... The system evolved to give cooperative tribes an advantage over non-cooperative tribes, using punishment to give cooperation an evolutionary advantage within the tribe. This double selection of tribes and individuals goes way beyond the Prisoners' Dilemma model.

implications for fractionalized Europe vis-a-vis unified China?

and more broadly does this just imply we're doomed in the long run RE: cooperation, morality, the "good society", so on...? war and group-selection is the only way to get a non-crab bucket civilization?

Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent:
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full.pdf
https://www.edge.org/conversation/william_h_press-freeman_dyson-on-iterated-prisoners-dilemma-contains-strategies-that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimatum_game

analogy for ultimatum game: the state gives the demos a bargain take-it-or-leave-it, and...if the demos refuses...violence?

The nature of human altruism: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02043
- Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher

Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness. Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world. However, there is much individual heterogeneity and the interaction between altruists and selfish individuals is vital to human cooperation. Depending on the environment, a minority of altruists can force a majority of selfish individuals to cooperate or, conversely, a few egoists can induce a large number of altruists to defect. Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene–culture co-evolution.

...

Why are humans so unusual among animals in this respect? We propose that quantitatively, and probably even qualitatively, unique patterns of human altruism provide the answer to this question. Human altruism goes far beyond that which has been observed in the animal world. Among animals, fitness-reducing acts that confer fitness benefits on other individuals are largely restricted to kin groups; despite several decades of research, evidence for reciprocal altruism in pair-wise repeated encounters4,5 remains scarce6–8. Likewise, there is little evidence so far that individual reputation building affects cooperation in animals, which contrasts strongly with what we find in humans. If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously9,10.

However, human altruism extends far beyond reciprocal altruism and reputation-based cooperation, taking the form of strong reciprocity11,12. Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding, which is a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours, and altruistic punishment, which is a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations. Strong reciprocators bear the cost of rewarding or punishing even if they gain no individual economic benefit whatsoever from their acts. In contrast, reciprocal altruists, as they have been defined in the biological literature4,5, reward and punish only if this is in their long-term self-interest. Strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions and when reputation gains are absent, because strong reciprocators will reward those who cooperate and punish those who defect.

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We will show that the interaction between selfish and strongly reciprocal … [more]
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Anisogamy - Wikipedia
Anisogamy is a fundamental concept of sexual dimorphism that helps explain phenotypic differences between sexes.[3] In most species a male and female sex exist, both of which are optimized for reproductive potential. Due to their differently sized and shaped gametes, both males and females have developed physiological and behavioral differences that optimize the individual’s fecundity.[3] Since most egg laying females typically must bear the offspring and have a more limited reproductive cycle, this typically makes females a limiting factor in the reproductive success rate of males in a species. This process is also true for females selecting males, and assuming that males and females are selecting for different traits in partners, would result in phenotypic differences between the sexes over many generations. This hypothesis, known as the Bateman’s Principle, is used to understand the evolutionary pressures put on males and females due to anisogamy.[4] Although this assumption has criticism, it is a generally accepted model for sexual selection within anisogamous species. The selection for different traits depending on sex within the same species is known as sex-specific selection, and accounts for the differing phenotypes found between the sexes of the same species. This sex-specific selection between sexes over time also lead to the development of secondary sex characteristics, which assist males and females in reproductive success.

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Since this process is very energy-demanding and time consuming for the female, mate choice is often integrated into the female’s behavior.[3] Females will often be very selective of the males they choose to reproduce with, for the phenotype of the male can be indicative of the male’s physical health and heritable traits. Females employ mate choice to pressure males into displaying their desirable traits to females through courtship, and if successful, the male gets to reproduce. This encourages males and females of specific species to invest in courtship behaviors as well as traits that can display physical health to a potential mate. This process, known as sexual selection,[3] results in the development of traits to ease reproductive success rather than individual survival, such as the inflated size of a termite queen. It is also important for females to select against potential mates that may have a sexually transmitted infection, for the disease could not only hurt the female’s reproductive ability, but also damage the resulting offspring.[7]

Although not uncommon in males, females are more associated with parental care.[8] Since females are on a more limited reproductive schedule than males, a female often invests more in protecting the offspring to sexual maturity than the male. Like mate choice, the level of parental care varies greatly between species, and is often dependent on the number of offspring produced per sexual encounter.[8]

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Since females are often the limiting factor in a species reproductive success, males are often expected by the females to search and compete for the female, known as intraspecific competition.[4] This can be seen in organisms such as bean beetles, as the male that searches for females more frequently is often more successful at finding mates and reproducing. In species undergoing this form of selection, a fit male would be one that is fast, has more refined sensory organs, and spatial awareness.[4]

Darwinian sex roles confirmed across the animal kingdom: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/2/e1500983.full
Since Darwin’s conception of sexual selection theory, scientists have struggled to identify the evolutionary forces underlying the pervasive differences between male and female behavior, morphology, and physiology. The Darwin-Bateman paradigm predicts that anisogamy imposes stronger sexual selection on males, which, in turn, drives the evolution of conventional sex roles in terms of female-biased parental care and male-biased sexual dimorphism. Although this paradigm forms the cornerstone of modern sexual selection theory, it still remains untested across the animal tree of life. This lack of evidence has promoted the rise of alternative hypotheses arguing that sex differences are entirely driven by environmental factors or chance. We demonstrate that, across the animal kingdom, sexual selection, as captured by standard Bateman metrics, is indeed stronger in males than in females and that it is evolutionarily tied to sex biases in parental care and sexual dimorphism. Our findings provide the first comprehensive evidence that Darwin’s concept of conventional sex roles is accurate and refute recent criticism of sexual selection theory.

Coevolution of parental investment and sexually selected traits drives sex-role divergence: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12517
Sex-role evolution theory attempts to explain the origin and direction of male–female differences. A fundamental question is why anisogamy, the difference in gamete size that defines the sexes, has repeatedly led to large differences in subsequent parental care. Here we construct models to confirm predictions that individuals benefit less from caring when they face stronger sexual selection and/or lower certainty of parentage. However, we overturn the widely cited claim that a negative feedback between the operational sex ratio and the opportunity cost of care selects for egalitarian sex roles. We further argue that our model does not predict any effect of the adult sex ratio (ASR) that is independent of the source of ASR variation. Finally, to increase realism and unify earlier models, we allow for coevolution between parental investment and investment in sexually selected traits. Our model confirms that small initial differences in parental investment tend to increase due to positive evolutionary feedback, formally supporting long-standing, but unsubstantiated, verbal arguments.

Parental investment, sexual selection and sex ratios: http://www.kokkonuts.org/wp-content/uploads/Parental_investment_review.pdf
The second argument takes the reasonable premise that anisogamy produces a male-biased operational sex ratio (OSR) leading to males competing for mates. Male care is then predicted to be less likely to evolve as it consumes resources that could otherwise be used to increase competitiveness. However, given each offspring has precisely two genetic parents (the Fisher condition), a biased OSR generates frequency-dependent selection, analogous to Fisherian sex ratio selection, that favours increased parental investment by whichever sex faces more intense competition. Sex role divergence is therefore still an evolutionary conundrum. Here we review some possible solutions. Factors that promote conventional sex roles are sexual selection on males (but non-random variance in male mating success must be high to override the Fisher condition), loss of paternity because of female multiple mating or group spawning and patterns of mortality that generate female-biased adult sex ratios (ASR). We present an integrative model that shows how these factors interact to generate sex roles. We emphasize the need to distinguish between the ASR and the operational sex ratio (OSR). If mortality is higher when caring than competing this diminishes the likelihood of sex role divergence because this strongly limits the mating success of the earlier deserting sex. We illustrate this in a model where a change in relative mortality rates while caring and competing generates a shift from a mammalian type breeding system (female-only care, male-biased OSR and female-biased ASR) to an avian type system (biparental care and a male-biased OSR and ASR).

LATE FEMINISM: https://jacobitemag.com/2017/08/01/late-feminism/
Woman has had a good run. For 200,000 years humankind’s anisogamous better (and bigger) half has enjoyed a position of desirability and safety befitting a scarce commodity. She has also piloted the evolutionary destiny of our species, both as a sexual selector and an agitator during man’s Promethean journey. In terms of comfort and agency, the human female is uniquely privileged within the annals of terrestrial biology.

But the era of female privilege is ending, in a steady decline that began around 1572. Woman’s biological niche is being crowded out by capital.

...

Strictly speaking, the breadth of the coming changes extend beyond even civilizational dynamics. They will affect things that are prior. One of the oldest and most practical definitions for a biological species defines its boundary as the largest group of organisms where two individuals, via sexual reproduction, can produce fertile offspring together. The imminent arrival of new reproductive technologies will render the sexual reproduction criteria either irrelevant or massively expanded, depending upon one’s perspective. Fertility of the offspring is similarly of limited relevance, since the modification of gametes will be de rigueur in any case. What this looming technology heralds is less a social revolution than it is a full sympatric speciation event.

Accepting the inevitability of the coming bespoke reproductive revolution, consider a few questions & probable answers regarding our external-womb-grown ubermenschen:

Q: What traits will be selected for?

A: Ability to thrive in a global market economy (i.e. ability to generate value for capital.)

Q: What material substrate will generate the new genomes?

A: Capital equipment.

Q: Who will be making the selection?

A: People, at least initially, (and who coincidentally will be making decisions that map 1-to-1 to the interests of capital.)

_Replace any of the above instances of the word capital with women, and you would have accurate answers for most of our species’ history._

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In terms of pure informational content, the supernova seen from earth can be represented in a singularly compressed way: a flash of light on a black field where there previously was none. A single photon in the cone of the eye, at the limit. Whether … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Wikipedia
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations.

The original context deals with the problem of ensuring marital fidelity, though it is now commonly used more generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by Plato in the Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which it appears was interpolated into his works.

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This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment of the philosophical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts.[3] There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, _the solution to which is to properly train their souls_. Several 19th century examples of the association with Plato can be found, often dropping "ipsos".[4][5] John Stuart Mill quotes it thus in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), though without reference to Plato. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.[6] In the Republic, a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence, that _the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the "noble lie" in English_.[7] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard."[8] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he says that _the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."_[9]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.

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At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
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Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
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If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
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Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.

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If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.

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Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.

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Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.

...

First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.

...

Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Here Be Sermons | Melting Asphalt
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge: https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/9QxnfMYccz9QRgZ5z/the-costly-coordination-mechanism-of-common-knowledge
- Dictatorships all through history have attempted to suppress freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Why is this? Are they just very sensitive? On the other side, the leaders of the Enlightenment fought for freedom of speech, and would not budge an inch against this principle.
- When two people are on a date and want to sleep with each other, the conversation will often move towards but never explicitly discuss having sex. The two may discuss going back to the place of one of theirs, with a different explicit reason discussed (e.g. "to have a drink"), even if both want to have sex.
- Throughout history, communities have had religious rituals that look very similar. Everyone in the village has to join in. There are repetitive songs, repetitive lectures on the same holy books, chanting together. Why, of all the possible community events (e.g. dinner, parties, etc) is this the most common type?
What these three things have in common, is common knowledge - or at least, the attempt to create it.

...

Common knowledge is often much easier to build in small groups - in the example about getting off the bus, the two need only to look at each other, share a nod, and common knowledge is achieved. Building common knowledge between hundreds or thousands of people is significantly harder, and the fact that religion has such a significant ability to do so is why it has historically had so much connection to politics.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/hugo_mercier-the-argumentative-theory

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/02/open-thread-732017/
Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/23/open-thread-07232017/
Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/30/the-delusion-of-reasons-empire/
My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.

...

At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.

...

Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Conservation of Coercion - American Affairs Journal
The two faces of the Kapauku Papuans, and the way their anarchist-friendly political order rested on a deeply illiberal social order, neatly express how Technology and the End of Authority, by the Cato Institute scholar Jason Kuznicki, is both an interesting and a maddening book. Kuznicki states that he was inspired to write the book when he wondered why so many classical political philosophers, despite their disagreements over a vast number of topics, nevertheless all believed the nature and proper role of the state was the most important question concerning the proper organization of human affairs. Even libertarian and anarchist political theorists obsess about states, filling books with discussions of when and why we ought to reject them as illegitimate. The nature of their opposition implicitly concedes that the state, its value and purpose, is the central question for us to grapple with.

In contrast, Kuznicki invites us, if not to ignore the state, then at least to banish it from the forefront of our thinking. He asks us to consider states as just one tool among many that human societies have deployed to solve various sorts of problems. The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic—like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation. Statecraft, like sanitation engineering, is a dirty job that somebody has to do, but unlike sanitation engineering it should also be a mildly embarrassing one. The notion that political means are a locus of the good, or that the state is imbued with the highest purposes of society, is as ridiculous as the notion that a city exists for its sewers rather than vice versa. So, Kuznicki suggests, we should treat anybody attempting to derive the correct or legitimate purposes of the state with the same skepticism with which we would view somebody waxing philosophical about a trash compactor. The real center of society, the topics worth debating and pondering, are all the other institutions—like markets, churches, sports teams, scientific schools, and families—whose existence the correct operation of the state supports.

...

The second implication of Kuznicki’s statecraft-as-engineering is that any determination about the proper role and behavior of government must remain unsettled not only by historical and cultural context, but also by the ambient level of technology. Kuznicki explores this at some length. He does not mean to make the common argument that the particular set of technologies deployed within a society can be more or less conducive to particular forms of government—as mass democracy might be encouraged by technologies of communication and travel, or as centralized autocracy might tend to arise in societies relying on large-scale irrigation for intensive agriculture. Rather, if the state is a tool for solving an array of otherwise intractable social problems, Kuznicki surmises, a newly discovered technological solution to such a problem could remove it from the state’s set of concerns—perhaps permanently.

...

What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.” Some sources of social trust are mundane: for instance, it seems to make a big difference for a society to simply have a high enough median wealth that someone isn’t liable to be ruined if he or she takes a gamble on trusting a stranger and ends up getting cheated. Others are fuzzier: shared participation in churches, clubs, and social organizations can also significantly increase the degree of solidarity and trust in a community. Thinkers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet have pointed out the ways in which the ascendant state makes war upon and seeks to displace the “little platoons” of civil society. It is not well appreciated today that the reverse is also true: a “thick” culture rooted in shared norms and shared history can make the state less necessary by helping to raise the ambient level of social trust above whatever threshold makes it possible for citizens to organize and discipline themselves without state compulsion.

...

The story of the diamontaires ends with the whole system, private courts and all, falling apart following an influx of non-Hasidic actors into the New York diamond industry. But lack of trust and solidarity aren’t just problems if we want private courts. Yes, a very high degree of social trust can help to replace or displace state institutions, but any amount of trust tends to make governments more efficient and less corrupt. It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous. Conversely, history’s most successful multiethnic polities have tended to be empires or confederations with a very high degree of provincial or local autonomy. Government is not a problem that scales gracefully: certainly not with number of citizens, but perhaps also not with number of constituent cultures. Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

In the absence of trust, every private commercial or social interaction becomes just a little bit more expensive, a little bit less efficient, and a little bit less likely to happen at all. Individuals are more cautious in their dealings with strangers, businesses are less likely to extend credit, everybody is a little more uncertain about the future, and people adjust their investment decisions accordingly. Individuals and businesses spend more money on bike locks, security systems, and real estate they perceive to be “safe,” rather than on the consumption or investment they would otherwise prefer. Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Edward Feser: Conservatism, populism, and snobbery
https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/888972865063747587
https://archive.is/nuwnX
feser is good on this: chief task of conservative intellectuals is to defend epistemic credentials of mere prejudice

The Right vindicates common sense distinctions: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-right-vindicates-common-sense-distinctions/
In some ways, we’re already there. One of the core intellectual tasks of the Right has been, and will continue to be, the analysis and rehabilitation of categories found useful by pre-modern humanity but rejected by moderns in their fits of ideologically-driven oversimplification.
Consider these three:
1. Friend vs. Enemy. Carl Schmitt famously put this distinction at the core of his political theory in explicit defiance of the liberal humanitarianism of his day that wanted to reduce all questions to abstract morality and economic efficiency. The friend vs. enemy distinction, Schmitt insisted, is independent of these. To identify a threatening nation as the enemy does not necessarily make any statement about its moral, aesthetic, or economic qualities. Schmitt observed that the liberal nations (for him, the victors of WWI) in fact do mobilize against threats and competitors; forbidding themselves the vocabulary of “friend” and “enemy” means they recast their hostilities in terms of moral absolutes. The nation they attack cannot be called their own enemy, so it must be demonized as the enemy of all humanity. This will be a reoccurring conservative argument. Eliminating a needed category doesn’t eliminate hostility between peoples; it only forces them to be incorrectly conceptualized along moral lines, which actually diminishes our ability to empathize with our opponent.
2. Native vs. Foreigner. Much of what Schmitt said about the distinction between friend and enemy applies to the more basic categorization of people as belonging to “us” or as being alien. I argued recently in the Orthosphere, concerning the topic of Muslim immigration, that we can actually be more sympathetic to Muslims among us if we acknowledge that our concern is not that their ways are objectionable in some absolute (moral/philosophical) sense, but that they are alien to the culture we wish to preserve as dominant in our nation. Reflections about the “universal person” are also quite relevant to this.
3. Masculine vs. feminine. Conservatives have found little to recommend the liberals’ distinction between biological “sex” and socially constructed “gender”. However, pre-modern peoples had intriguing intuitions of masculinity and femininity as essences or principles that can be considered beyond the strict context of sexual reproduction. Largely defined by relation to each other (so that, for example, a woman relates in a feminine way to other people more than to wild animals or inanimate objects), even things other than sexually reproducing animals can participate in these principles to some extent. For example, the sun is masculine while Luna is feminine, at least in how they present themselves to us. Masculinity and femininity seem to represent poles in the structure of relationality itself, and so even the more mythical attributions of these essences were not necessarily intended metaphorically.

The liberal critique of these categories, and others not accommodated by their ideology, comes down to the following
1. Imperialism of the moral. The category in question is recognized as nonmoral, and the critic asserts that it is morally superior to use only moral categories. (“Wouldn’t it be better to judge someone based on whether he’s a good person than on where he was born?”) Alternatively, the critic presumes that other categories actually are reducible to moral categories, and other categories are condemned for being inaccurate in their presumed implicit moral evaluations. (“He’s a good person. How can you call him an ‘alien’ as if he were some kind of monster?!”)
2. Appeal to boundary cases. Sometimes the boundaries of the criticized category are fuzzy. Perhaps a particular person is like “us” in some ways but unlike “us” in others. From this, conclude that the category is arbitrary and meaningless.
3. Emotivism. Claim that the criticized category is actually a sub-rational emotional response. It must be because it has no place in liberal ideology, which the liberal presumes to be coextensive with reason itself. And in fact, when certain ways of thinking are made socially unacceptable, they will likely only pop out in emergencies and moments of distress. It would be no different with moral categories–if the concepts “evil” and “unfair” were socially disfavored, people would only resort to them when intolerably provoked and undoubtedly emotional.
4. Imputation of sinister social motives. The critic points out that the categorization promotes some established social structure; therefore, it must be an illusion.

Why the Republican Party Is Falling Apart: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-the-republican-party-falling-apart-22491?page=show
Moore and a great many of his voters subscribe to a simplistic and exaggerated view of the world and the conflicts it contains. Moore has voiced the belief that Christian communities in Illinois or Indiana, or somewhere “up north,” are under Sharia law. That’s absurd. But why does he believe it, and why do voters trust him despite such beliefs? Because on the other side is another falsehood, more sophisticated but patently false: the notion that unlimited Islamic immigration to Europe, for example, is utterly harmless, or the notion that Iran is an implacable fundamentalist threat while good Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia are our true and faithful friends. Each of the apocalyptic beliefs held by a Roy Moore or his supporters contains a fragment of truth—or at least amounts to a rejection of some falsehood that has become an article of faith among America’s elite. The liberal view of the world to which Democrats and elite Republicans alike subscribe is false, but the resources for showing its falsehood in a nuanced way are lacking. Even the more intellectual sort of right-winger who makes it through the cultural indoctrination of his college and peer class tends to be mutilated by the experience. He—most often a he—comes out of it embittered and reactionary or else addicted to opium dreams of neo-medievalism or platonic republics. Since there are few nonliberal institutions of political thought, the right that recognizes the falsehood of liberalism and rejects it tends to be a force of feeling rather than reflection. Moore, of course, has a legal education, and he assuredly reads the Bible. He’s not unintelligent, but he cannot lean upon a well-balanced and subtle right because such a thing hardly exists in our environment. Yet there is a need for a right nonetheless, and so a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump fills the gap. There is only one thing the Republican establishment can do if it doesn’t like that: reform itself from stem to stern.

Who Are ‘The People’ Anyway?: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/who-are-the-people-anyway/
Beware of those who claim to speak for today's populist audience.
- Paul Gottfried

Gottfried's got a real chip on his shoulder about the Straussians
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Without belief in a god, but never without belief in a devil. – sam[ ]zdat
The nature of mass movements. The beats and the John Birchers. The taxonomy of the frustrated. Horseshoe theory. The frustrated cannot derive satisfaction from action, something else has to fill the void Poverty, work and meaning. Mass movements need to sow resentment. Hatred is the strongest unifier. Modernity inevitably causes justified resentment. Tocqueville, Polyanai, Hoffer and Scott's theories. Helpful and unhelpful responses.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/discussion-of-defection/

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.

...

It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.

...

The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.

...

You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.

...

The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!

...

And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.

...

And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
history and progressive virtue: moral technology, moral fashion, and ancestor-memorial retro-trauma chic – ideologjammin'
https://twitter.com/avermeule/status/879695593261735936
https://archive.is/3LHAG
https://archive.is/to1Z2
A terrific point. The rapidity with which good liberals suddenly internalize and enforce novel norms is striking in itself, content apart.

The rapid shift in moral norms in our society should worry us. We are being conditioned to adapt rather than to hold to our principles.

https://twitter.com/avermeule/status/882649313762881537
https://archive.is/cpIKA
https://archive.is/B229W
A thread on the psychology of liberalism, which replaces historical memory by a stereotyped darkness of the past, to be eternally overcome

losing a battle to push something new forward is understandable. having something repealed? going BACK? this is quite incomprehensible to us

https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/897570742979633153
https://archive.is/9hJIv
i think it's instinctual, not conscious.

https://twitter.com/AsfMQ/status/857593530952413184
https://archive.is/hVKSp
Almost everybody today is a Whig: ie think in terms of 'moral progress', 'forwards' vs 'backwards' thinking, 'stuck in the past', and so on

https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/897880623536381952
https://archive.is/wPJ6t
the slope is "progress". we slide down every single one eventually. just read some history; recent history will do; it will become obvious.

https://www.unz.com/isteve/whats-happening-now/
https://ideologjammin.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/liberal-democracy-and-its-apparent-paradoxes/
The real problem is that America has already ceased to be a tolerant society. It has, instead, become a celebratory one.
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2015/07/bruce_jenner_brett_favre_and_the_cultural_totalitarians.html
In a truly surreal display, NFL great Brett Favre is being denounced by the left’s new cultural commissars for not clapping long and hard enough at ESPN’s ESPY awards, as Bruce/“Caitlyn” Jenner received a “Courage” award for his efforts to become a woman. Oddly, Favre did applaud – not doing so would have been a grave heresy to America’s new church of progressive inquisitors. His sin was not applauding enthusiastically enough.

...

In fact, it all smacks of the gulag – literally. On my shelf at my office is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic, The Gulag Archipelago. There, on page 69 of volume 1, is a chilling account of a Stalinist Soviet Union where men were actually penalized for not clapping ardently enough.

Transgenderism Is Propaganda Designed To Humiliate And Compel Submission: https://www.socialmatter.net/2017/09/26/transgenderism-is-propaganda-designed-to-humiliate-and-compel-submission/
- ARTHUR GORDIAN
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june 2017 by nhaliday
My Simplistic Theory of Left and Right, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
1. Leftists are anti-market. On an emotional level, they're critical of market outcomes. No matter how good market outcomes are, they can't bear to say, "Markets have done a great job, who could ask for more?"

2. Rightists are anti-leftist. On an emotional level, they're critical of leftists. No matter how much they agree with leftists on an issue, they can't bear to say, "The left is totally right, it would be churlish to criticize them."

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/06/yudkowsky_on_my.html
http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/the-left-the-market-and-economists/
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/06/reply_to_yudkow.html
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Double world GDP | Open Borders: The Case
Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.25.3.83
https://openborders.info/innovation-case/
https://www.economist.com/news/world-if/21724907-yes-it-would-be-disruptive-potential-gains-are-so-vast-objectors-could-be-bribed
The Openness-Equality Trade-Off in Global Redistribution: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2509305
https://www.wsj.com/articles/opening-our-borders-would-overwhelm-america-1492366053
Immigration, Justice, and Prosperity: http://quillette.com/2017/07/29/immigration-justice-prosperity/

Some Countries Are Much Richer Than Others. Is That Unjust?: http://quillette.com/2017/07/23/countries-much-richer-others-unjust/
But we shouldn’t automatically assume that wealth disparities across the world are unjust and that the developed world owes aid as a matter of justice. This is because the best way to make sense of the Great Divergence is that certain economic and political institutions, namely those that facilitated economic growth, arose in some countries and not others. Thus perhaps the benevolent among us should also try to encourage – by example rather than force – the development of such institutions in places where they do not exist.

An Argument Against Open Borders and Liberal Hubris: http://quillette.com/2017/08/27/argument-open-borders-liberal-hubris/
We do not have open borders but we are experiencing unprecedented demographic change. What progressives should remember is that civilisation is not a science laboratory. The consequences of failed experiments endure. That is the main virtue of gradual change; we can test new waters and not leap into their depths.

A Radical Solution to Global Income Inequality: Make the U.S. More Like Qatar: https://newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies

Why nation-states are good: https://aeon.co/essays/capitalists-need-the-nation-state-more-than-it-needs-them
The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it
- Dani Rodrik
Given the non-uniqueness of practices and institutions enabling capitalism, it’s not surprising that nation-states also resolve key social trade-offs differently. The world does not agree on how to balance equality against opportunity, economic security against innovation, health and environmental risks against technological innovation, stability against dynamism, economic outcomes against social and cultural values, and many other consequences of institutional choice. Developing nations have different institutional requirements than rich nations. There are, in short, strong arguments against global institutional harmonisation.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Logic | West Hunter
All the time I hear some public figure saying that if we ban or allow X, then logically we have to ban or allow Y, even though there are obvious practical reasons for X and obvious practical reasons against Y.

No, we don’t.

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005864.html
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/002053.html

compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:190b299cf04a

Small Change Good, Big Change Bad?: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/02/small-change-good-big-change-bad.html
And on reflection it occurs to me that this is actually THE standard debate about change: some see small changes and either like them or aren’t bothered enough to advocate what it would take to reverse them, while others imagine such trends continuing long enough to result in very large and disturbing changes, and then suggest stronger responses.

For example, on increased immigration some point to the many concrete benefits immigrants now provide. Others imagine that large cumulative immigration eventually results in big changes in culture and political equilibria. On fertility, some wonder if civilization can survive in the long run with declining population, while others point out that population should rise for many decades, and few endorse the policies needed to greatly increase fertility. On genetic modification of humans, some ask why not let doctors correct obvious defects, while others imagine parents eventually editing kid genes mainly to max kid career potential. On oil some say that we should start preparing for the fact that we will eventually run out, while others say that we keep finding new reserves to replace the ones we use.

...

If we consider any parameter, such as typical degree of mind wandering, we are unlikely to see the current value as exactly optimal. So if we give people the benefit of the doubt to make local changes in their interest, we may accept that this may result in a recent net total change we don’t like. We may figure this is the price we pay to get other things we value more, and we we know that it can be very expensive to limit choices severely.

But even though we don’t see the current value as optimal, we also usually see the optimal value as not terribly far from the current value. So if we can imagine current changes as part of a long term trend that eventually produces very large changes, we can become more alarmed and willing to restrict current changes. The key question is: when is that a reasonable response?

First, big concerns about big long term changes only make sense if one actually cares a lot about the long run. Given the usual high rates of return on investment, it is cheap to buy influence on the long term, compared to influence on the short term. Yet few actually devote much of their income to long term investments. This raises doubts about the sincerity of expressed long term concerns.

Second, in our simplest models of the world good local choices also produce good long term choices. So if we presume good local choices, bad long term outcomes require non-simple elements, such as coordination, commitment, or myopia problems. Of course many such problems do exist. Even so, someone who claims to see a long term problem should be expected to identify specifically which such complexities they see at play. It shouldn’t be sufficient to just point to the possibility of such problems.

...

Fourth, many more processes and factors limit big changes, compared to small changes. For example, in software small changes are often trivial, while larger changes are nearly impossible, at least without starting again from scratch. Similarly, modest changes in mind wandering can be accomplished with minor attitude and habit changes, while extreme changes may require big brain restructuring, which is much harder because brains are complex and opaque. Recent changes in market structure may reduce the number of firms in each industry, but that doesn’t make it remotely plausible that one firm will eventually take over the entire economy. Projections of small changes into large changes need to consider the possibility of many such factors limiting large changes.

Fifth, while it can be reasonably safe to identify short term changes empirically, the longer term a forecast the more one needs to rely on theory, and the more different areas of expertise one must consider when constructing a relevant model of the situation. Beware a mere empirical projection into the long run, or a theory-based projection that relies on theories in only one area.

We should very much be open to the possibility of big bad long term changes, even in areas where we are okay with short term changes, or at least reluctant to sufficiently resist them. But we should also try to hold those who argue for the existence of such problems to relatively high standards. Their analysis should be about future times that we actually care about, and can at least roughly foresee. It should be based on our best theories of relevant subjects, and it should consider the possibility of factors that limit larger changes.

And instead of suggesting big ways to counter short term changes that might lead to long term problems, it is often better to identify markers to warn of larger problems. Then instead of acting in big ways now, we can make sure to track these warning markers, and ready ourselves to act more strongly if they appear.

Growth Is Change. So Is Death.: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html
I see the same pattern when people consider long term futures. People can be quite philosophical about the extinction of humanity, as long as this is due to natural causes. Every species dies; why should humans be different? And few get bothered by humans making modest small-scale short-term modifications to their own lives or environment. We are mostly okay with people using umbrellas when it rains, moving to new towns to take new jobs, etc., digging a flood ditch after our yard floods, and so on. And the net social effect of many small changes is technological progress, economic growth, new fashions, and new social attitudes, all of which we tend to endorse in the short run.

Even regarding big human-caused changes, most don’t worry if changes happen far enough in the future. Few actually care much about the future past the lives of people they’ll meet in their own life. But for changes that happen within someone’s time horizon of caring, the bigger that changes get, and the longer they are expected to last, the more that people worry. And when we get to huge changes, such as taking apart the sun, a population of trillions, lifetimes of millennia, massive genetic modification of humans, robots replacing people, a complete loss of privacy, or revolutions in social attitudes, few are blasé, and most are quite wary.

This differing attitude regarding small local changes versus large global changes makes sense for parameters that tend to revert back to a mean. Extreme values then do justify extra caution, while changes within the usual range don’t merit much notice, and can be safely left to local choice. But many parameters of our world do not mostly revert back to a mean. They drift long distances over long times, in hard to predict ways that can be reasonably modeled as a basic trend plus a random walk.

This different attitude can also make sense for parameters that have two or more very different causes of change, one which creates frequent small changes, and another which creates rare huge changes. (Or perhaps a continuum between such extremes.) If larger sudden changes tend to cause more problems, it can make sense to be more wary of them. However, for most parameters most change results from many small changes, and even then many are quite wary of this accumulating into big change.

For people with a sharp time horizon of caring, they should be more wary of long-drifting parameters the larger the changes that would happen within their horizon time. This perspective predicts that the people who are most wary of big future changes are those with the longest time horizons, and who more expect lumpier change processes. This prediction doesn’t seem to fit well with my experience, however.

Those who most worry about big long term changes usually seem okay with small short term changes. Even when they accept that most change is small and that it accumulates into big change. This seems incoherent to me. It seems like many other near versus far incoherences, like expecting things to be simpler when you are far away from them, and more complex when you are closer. You should either become more wary of short term changes, knowing that this is how big longer term change happens, or you should be more okay with big long term change, seeing that as the legitimate result of the small short term changes you accept.

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html#comment-3794966996
The point here is the gradual shifts of in-group beliefs are both natural and no big deal. Humans are built to readily do this, and forget they do this. But ultimately it is not a worry or concern.

But radical shifts that are big, whether near or far, portend strife and conflict. Either between groups or within them. If the shift is big enough, our intuition tells us our in-group will be in a fight. Alarms go off.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.

http://aleph.se/andart2/space/the-aestivation-hypothesis-popular-outline-and-faq/

simpler explanation (just different math for Drake equation):
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox: http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/media/eps/jodrell-bank-centre-for-astrophysics/news-and-events/2017/uksrn-slides/Anders-Sandberg---Dissolving-Fermi-Paradox-UKSRN.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/07/fermi-paradox-resolved.html
Overall the argument is that point estimates should not be shoved into a Drake equation and then multiplied by each, as that requires excess certainty and masks much of the ambiguity of our knowledge about the distributions. Instead, a Bayesian approach should be used, after which the fate of humanity looks much better. Here is one part of the presentation:

Life Versus Dark Energy: How An Advanced Civilization Could Resist the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe: https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.05203
The presence of dark energy in our universe is causing space to expand at an accelerating rate. As a result, over the next approximately 100 billion years, all stars residing beyond the Local Group will fall beyond the cosmic horizon and become not only unobservable, but entirely inaccessible, thus limiting how much energy could one day be extracted from them. Here, we consider the likely response of a highly advanced civilization to this situation. In particular, we argue that in order to maximize its access to useable energy, a sufficiently advanced civilization would chose to expand rapidly outward, build Dyson Spheres or similar structures around encountered stars, and use the energy that is harnessed to accelerate those stars away from the approaching horizon and toward the center of the civilization. We find that such efforts will be most effective for stars with masses in the range of M∼(0.2−1)M⊙, and could lead to the harvesting of stars within a region extending out to several tens of Mpc in radius, potentially increasing the total amount of energy that is available to a future civilization by a factor of several thousand. We also discuss the observable signatures of a civilization elsewhere in the universe that is currently in this state of stellar harvesting.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Plato, Menexenus, section 238e
And the cause of this our polity lies in our equality of birth. For whereas all other States are composed of a heterogeneous collection of all sorts of people, so that their polities also are heterogeneous, tyrannies as well as oligarchies, some of them regarding one another as slaves, others as masters; we and our people, on the contrary, being all born of one mother, claim to be neither the slaves of one another nor the masters; rather does our natural birth-equality drive us to seek lawfully legal equality, and to yield to one another in no respect save in reputation for virtue and understanding.

- Socrates

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/901526154317836289
March 7, 1882
Speech by Sen George Edmunds of VT

All this, Mr. President, is fundamental in the long reaches of historic observation everywhere. My learned friends from Massachusetts may begin with Aristotle and come down to Webster, and they will find everywhere over that long reach of human experience, that the fundamental idea of a prosperous republic must be the homogeneity of its people.

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2011/2011-03-46.html
Susan Lape, Race and Citizen Identity in the Classical Athenian Democracy. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xii, 341. ISBN 9780521191043. $90.00.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/09/varying-rainfall-make-people-collectivists.html
This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?

(lol)

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/chinese-wheat-eaters-vs-rice-eaters-speculative.html
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1508726/why-chinas-wheat-growing-north-produces-individualists-and-its-rice
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2008/08/31/the-wealth-of-communities/

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/08/in-defense-of-the-wittvogel-thesis.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Placebo interventions for all clinical conditions. - PubMed - NCBI
We did not find that placebo interventions have important clinical effects in general. However, in certain settings placebo interventions can influence patient-reported outcomes, especially pain and nausea, though it is difficult to distinguish patient-reported effects of placebo from biased reporting. The effect on pain varied, even among trials with low risk of bias, from negligible to clinically important. Variations in the effect of placebo were partly explained by variations in how trials were conducted and how patients were informed.

How much of the placebo 'effect' is really statistical regression?: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6369471
Statistical regression to the mean predicts that patients selected for abnormalcy will, on the average, tend to improve. We argue that most improvements attributed to the placebo effect are actually instances of statistical regression. First, whereas older clinical trials susceptible to regression resulted in a marked improvement in placebo-treated patients, in a modern series of clinical trials whose design tended to protect against regression, we found no significant improvement (median change 0.3 per cent, p greater than 0.05) in placebo-treated patients.

Placebo effects are weak: regression to the mean is the main reason ineffective treatments appear to work: http://www.dcscience.net/2015/12/11/placebo-effects-are-weak-regression-to-the-mean-is-the-main-reason-ineffective-treatments-appear-to-work/

A radical new hypothesis in medicine: give patients drugs they know don’t work: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/6/1/15711814/open-label-placebo-kaptchuk
People on no treatment got about 30 percent better. And people who were given an open-label placebo got 60 percent improvement in the adequate relief of their irritable bowel syndrome.

Surgery Is One Hell Of A Placebo: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/surgery-is-one-hell-of-a-placebo/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
ho.history overview - Proofs that require fundamentally new ways of thinking - MathOverflow
my favorite:
Although this has already been said elsewhere on MathOverflow, I think it's worth repeating that Gromov is someone who has arguably introduced more radical thoughts into mathematics than anyone else. Examples involving groups with polynomial growth and holomorphic curves have already been cited in other answers to this question. I have two other obvious ones but there are many more.

I don't remember where I first learned about convergence of Riemannian manifolds, but I had to laugh because there's no way I would have ever conceived of a notion. To be fair, all of the groundwork for this was laid out in Cheeger's thesis, but it was Gromov who reformulated everything as a convergence theorem and recognized its power.

Another time Gromov made me laugh was when I was reading what little I could understand of his book Partial Differential Relations. This book is probably full of radical ideas that I don't understand. The one I did was his approach to solving the linearized isometric embedding equation. His radical, absurd, but elementary idea was that if the system is sufficiently underdetermined, then the linear partial differential operator could be inverted by another linear partial differential operator. Both the statement and proof are for me the funniest in mathematics. Most of us view solving PDE's as something that requires hard work, involving analysis and estimates, and Gromov manages to do it using only elementary linear algebra. This then allows him to establish the existence of isometric embedding of Riemannian manifolds in a wide variety of settings.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Thinking Outside One’s Paradigm | Academically Interesting
I think that as a scientist (or really, even as a citizen) it is important to be able to see outside one’s own paradigm. I currently think that I do a good job of this, but it seems to me that there’s a big danger of becoming more entrenched as I get older. Based on the above experiences, I plan to use the following test: When someone asks me a question about my field, how often have I not thought about it before? How tempted am I to say, “That question isn’t interesting”? If these start to become more common, then I’ll know something has gone wrong.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
soft question - Thinking and Explaining - MathOverflow
- good question from Bill Thurston
- great answers by Terry Tao, fedja, Minhyong Kim, gowers, etc.

Terry Tao:
- symmetry as blurring/vibrating/wobbling, scale invariance
- anthropomorphization, adversarial perspective for estimates/inequalities/quantifiers, spending/economy

fedja walks through his though-process from another answer

Minhyong Kim: anthropology of mathematical philosophizing

Per Vognsen: normality as isotropy
comment: conjugate subgroup gHg^-1 ~ "H but somewhere else in G"

gowers: hidden things in basic mathematics/arithmetic
comment by Ryan Budney: x sin(x) via x -> (x, sin(x)), (x, y) -> xy
I kinda get what he's talking about but needed to use Mathematica to get the initial visualization down.
To remind myself later:
- xy can be easily visualized by juxtaposing the two parabolae x^2 and -x^2 diagonally
- x sin(x) can be visualized along that surface by moving your finger along the line (x, 0) but adding some oscillations in y direction according to sin(x)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Adaptation executors - Lesswrongwiki
Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers
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december 2016 by nhaliday
soft question - Why does Fourier analysis of Boolean functions "work"? - Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange
Here is my point of view, which I learned from Guy Kindler, though someone more experienced can probably give a better answer: Consider the linear space of functions f: {0,1}^n -> R and consider a linear operator of the form σ_w (for w in {0,1}^n), that maps a function f(x) as above to the function f(x+w). In many of the questions of TCS, there is an underlying need to analyze the effects that such operators have on certain functions.

Now, the point is that the Fourier basis is the basis that diagonalizes all those operators at the same time, which makes the analysis of those operators much simpler. More generally, the Fourier basis diagonalizes the convolution operator, which also underlies many of those questions. Thus, Fourier analysis is likely to be effective whenever one needs to analyze those operators.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
gt.geometric topology - Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I can't help you much with high-dimensional topology - it's not my field, and I've not picked up the various tricks topologists use to get a grip on the subject - but when dealing with the geometry of high-dimensional (or infinite-dimensional) vector spaces such as R^n, there are plenty of ways to conceptualise these spaces that do not require visualising more than three dimensions directly.

For instance, one can view a high-dimensional vector space as a state space for a system with many degrees of freedom. A megapixel image, for instance, is a point in a million-dimensional vector space; by varying the image, one can explore the space, and various subsets of this space correspond to various classes of images.

One can similarly interpret sound waves, a box of gases, an ecosystem, a voting population, a stream of digital data, trials of random variables, the results of a statistical survey, a probabilistic strategy in a two-player game, and many other concrete objects as states in a high-dimensional vector space, and various basic concepts such as convexity, distance, linearity, change of variables, orthogonality, or inner product can have very natural meanings in some of these models (though not in all).

It can take a bit of both theory and practice to merge one's intuition for these things with one's spatial intuition for vectors and vector spaces, but it can be done eventually (much as after one has enough exposure to measure theory, one can start merging one's intuition regarding cardinality, mass, length, volume, probability, cost, charge, and any number of other "real-life" measures).

For instance, the fact that most of the mass of a unit ball in high dimensions lurks near the boundary of the ball can be interpreted as a manifestation of the law of large numbers, using the interpretation of a high-dimensional vector space as the state space for a large number of trials of a random variable.

More generally, many facts about low-dimensional projections or slices of high-dimensional objects can be viewed from a probabilistic, statistical, or signal processing perspective.

Scott Aaronson:
Here are some of the crutches I've relied on. (Admittedly, my crutches are probably much more useful for theoretical computer science, combinatorics, and probability than they are for geometry, topology, or physics. On a related note, I personally have a much easier time thinking about R^n than about, say, R^4 or R^5!)

1. If you're trying to visualize some 4D phenomenon P, first think of a related 3D phenomenon P', and then imagine yourself as a 2D being who's trying to visualize P'. The advantage is that, unlike with the 4D vs. 3D case, you yourself can easily switch between the 3D and 2D perspectives, and can therefore get a sense of exactly what information is being lost when you drop a dimension. (You could call this the "Flatland trick," after the most famous literary work to rely on it.)
2. As someone else mentioned, discretize! Instead of thinking about R^n, think about the Boolean hypercube {0,1}^n, which is finite and usually easier to get intuition about. (When working on problems, I often find myself drawing {0,1}^4 on a sheet of paper by drawing two copies of {0,1}^3 and then connecting the corresponding vertices.)
3. Instead of thinking about a subset S⊆R^n, think about its characteristic function f:R^n→{0,1}. I don't know why that trivial perspective switch makes such a big difference, but it does ... maybe because it shifts your attention to the process of computing f, and makes you forget about the hopeless task of visualizing S!
4. One of the central facts about R^n is that, while it has "room" for only n orthogonal vectors, it has room for exp⁡(n) almost-orthogonal vectors. Internalize that one fact, and so many other properties of R^n (for example, that the n-sphere resembles a "ball with spikes sticking out," as someone mentioned before) will suddenly seem non-mysterious. In turn, one way to internalize the fact that R^n has so many almost-orthogonal vectors is to internalize Shannon's theorem that there exist good error-correcting codes.
5. To get a feel for some high-dimensional object, ask questions about the behavior of a process that takes place on that object. For example: if I drop a ball here, which local minimum will it settle into? How long does this random walk on {0,1}^n take to mix?

Gil Kalai:
This is a slightly different point, but Vitali Milman, who works in high-dimensional convexity, likes to draw high-dimensional convex bodies in a non-convex way. This is to convey the point that if you take the convex hull of a few points on the unit sphere of R^n, then for large n very little of the measure of the convex body is anywhere near the corners, so in a certain sense the body is a bit like a small sphere with long thin "spikes".
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Contra Simler on Prestige | Slate Star Codex
su3su2u1 challenged status/signaling theories of human behavior: can they make any real-life predictions? His example was a recent medical conference that threw together three groups of people – high-status top professors, medium-status established doctors, and low-status new residents. The women in one group (female doctors + male doctors’ wives/girlfriends) were wearing conspicuous fancy jewelery. The women in the other groups weren’t. Which group had the jewelery?

His point was that status/signaling theories don’t answer this question for us with any degree of confidence. Maybe the high-status top professors wear the jewelery to signal wealth and dominance. Maybe the low-status new residents wear it aspirationally and because they need to impress. Maybe the medium-status established doctors wear it, because the residents can’t afford it and the professors countersignal that they don’t need it.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
SSC Journal Club: Expert Prediction Of Experiments | Slate Star Codex
- simple behavioral economics experiment (predicting which incentive would work best for MTurk)
- experts did better, but w/ caveats
1. prestige didn't matter, PhD students did just as well as full professors
2. field didn't matter (w/i a group of related fields)
3. advantage only present by one measure (absolute error rather than relative)
4. advantage was small
5. averaging got rid of it (wisdom of crowds)
6. doing well w/ a little empirical data for related problem predicted doing well on general problem. so expertise doesn't seem to be important as opposed just being good at forecasting?
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Hidden Games | West Hunter
Since we are arguably a lot smarter than ants or bees, you might think that most adaptive personality variation in humans would be learned (a response to exterior cues) rather than heritable. Maybe some is, but much variation looks heritable. People don’t seem to learn to be aggressive or meek – they just are, and in those tendencies resemble their biological parents. I wish I (or anyone else) understood better why this is so, but there are some notions floating around that may explain it. One is that jacks of all trades are masters of none: if you play the same role all the time, you’ll be better at it than someone who keep switching personalities. It could be the case that such switching is physiologically difficult and/or expensive. And in at least some cases, being predictable has social value. Someone who is known to be implacably aggressive will win at ‘chicken’. Being known as the sort of guy who would rush into a burning building to save ugly strangers may pay off, even though actually running into that blaze does not.

...

This kind of game-theoretic genetic variation, driving distinct behavioral strategies, can have some really odd properties. For one thing, there can be more than one possible stable mix of behavioral types even in identical ecological situations. It’s a bit like dropping a marble onto a hilly landscape with many unconnected valleys – it will roll to the bottom of some valley, but initial conditions determine which valley. Small perturbations will not knock the marble out of the valley it lands in. In the same way, two human populations could fall into different states, different stable mixes of behavioral traits, for no reason at all other than chance and then stay there indefinitely. Populations are even more likely to fall into qualitatively different stable states when the ecological situations are significantly different.

...

What this means, think, is that it is entirely possible that human societies fall into fundamentally different patterns because of genetic influences on behavior that are best understood via evolutionary game theory. Sometimes one population might have a psychological type that doesn’t exist at all in another society, or the distribution could be substantially different. Sometimes these different social patterns will be predictable results of different ecological situations, sometimes the purest kind of chance. Sometimes the internal dynamics of these genetic systems will produce oscillatory (or chaotic!) changes in gene frequencies over time, which means changes in behavior and personality over time. In some cases, these internal genetic dynamics may be the fundamental reason for the rise and fall of empires. Societies in one stable distribution, in a particular psychological/behavioral/life history ESS, may simply be unable to replicate some of the institutions found in peoples in a different ESS.

Evolutionary forces themselves vary according to what ESS you’re in. Which ESS you’re in may be the most fundamental ethnic fact, and explain the most profound ethnic behavioral differences

Look, everyone is always looking for the secret principles that underlie human society and history, some algebra that takes mounds of historical and archaeological data – the stuff that happens – and explains it in some compact way, lets us understand it, just as continental drift made a comprehensible story out of geology. On second thought, ‘everyone’ mean that smallish fraction of researchers that are slaves of curiosity…

This approach isn’t going to explain everything – nothing will. But it might explain a lot, which would make it a hell of a lot more valuable than modern sociology or cultural anthropology. I would hope that an analysis of this sort might help explain fundamental long-term flavor difference between different human societies, differences in life-history strategies especially (dads versus cads, etc). If we get particularly lucky, maybe we’ll have some notions of why the Mayans got bored with civilization, why Chinese kids are passive at birth while European and African kids are feisty. We’ll see.

Of course we could be wrong. It’s going to have be tested and checked: it’s not magic. It is based on the realization that the sort of morphs and game-theoretic balances we see in some nonhuman species are if anything more likely to occur in humans, because our societies are so complex, because the effectiveness of a course of action so often depends on the psychologies of other individuals – that and the obvious fact that people are not the same everywhere.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Trump, Political Innovator
Many have expressed great anxiety about Trump’s win, saying that he is is bad overall because he induces greater global and domestic uncertainly. In their mind, this includes a higher chances of wars, coups, riots, collapse of democracy, and so on. But overall these seem to be generic consequences of political innovation. Innovation in general is disruptive and costly in the short run, but can aide adaptation in the long run.

So you can dislike Trump for two very different reasons, First, you can dislike innovation on the other side of the political spectrum, as you see that coming at the expense of your side. Or, or you can dislike political innovation in general. But if innovation is the process of adapting to changing conditions, it must be mostly a question of when, not if. And less frequent innovations are probably bigger changes, which is probably more disruptive overall.

So what you should really be asking is: what were the obstacles to smaller past innovations in Trump’s new direction? And how can we reduce such obstacles?

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/11/dial-it-back.html
In a repeated game, where the same people play the same game over and over, cooperation can more easily arise than in a one-shot version of the game, where such people play only once and then never interact again. This sort of cooperation gets easier the more that players care about the many future iterations of the game, compared to the current iteration.

When a group repeats the same game, but some iterations count much more than others, then defection from cooperation is most likely at a big “endgame” iteration.

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/11/careful-who-you-call-racist.html
https://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/11/get-a-grip-theres-a-much-bigger-picture.html
past and future contextualize present
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Two Questions about Convergence | askblog
I've thought about this a bit too (whether maladapted parents will be willing to CRISPR their own genetic legacy away partially)
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november 2016 by nhaliday
A Bad Carver
decondensation and its malcontents
- condensation provided plausible deniability (so some people benefited from it)
- some recondensation happening, partially facilitated by technology

good take: https://twitter.com/lumenphosphor/status/794554089728249857
Personal image for the dangers of decondensation is "hidden micronutrients" - what if Soylent doesn't *really* contain everything you need?
postrat  carcinisation  essay  culture  society  trends  insight  things  aesthetics  vgr  meaningness  history  antiquity  🦀  water  unintended-consequences  2016  minimalism  multi  twitter  social  commentary 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Beauty is Fit | Carcinisation
Cage’s music is an example of the tendency for high-status human domains to ignore fit with human nervous systems in favor of fit with increasingly rarified abstract cultural systems. Human nervous systems are limited. Representation of existing forms, and generating pleasure and poignancy in human minds, are often disdained as solved problems. Domains unhinged from the desires and particularities of human nervous systems and bodies become inhuman; human flourishing, certainly, is not a solved problem. However, human nervous systems themselves create and seek out “fit” of the more abstract sort; the domain of abstract systems is part of the natural human environment, and the forms that exist there interact with humans as symbiotes. Theorems and novels and money and cathedrals rely on humans for reproduction, like parasites, but offer many benefits to humans in exchange. Humans require an environment that fits their nervous systems, but part of the definition of “fit” in this case is the need for humans to feel that they are involved in something greater (and perhaps more abstract) than this “animal” kind of fit.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Ra | Otium
Ra = smooth, blank, prestigeful (or maybe just statusful) authority

--

Vagueness, mental fog, “underconfidence”, avoidance, evasion, blanking out, etc. are hallmarks of Ra. If cornered, a person embodying Ra will abruptly switch from blurry vagueness to anger and nihilism.

Ra is involved in the sense of “everyone but me is in on the joke, there is a Thing that I don’t understand myself but is the most important Thing, and I must approximate or imitate or cargo-cult the Thing, and anybody who doesn’t is bad.”

Ra causes persistent brain fog or confusion, especially around economic thinking or cost-benefit analysis or quantitative estimates.

Ra causes a disinclination to express oneself. An impression that a person who is unknown or mysterious is more attractive or favorably received than a person who is an “open book.”

Ra is fake Horus.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : How To Vote
So, as a professor of economics who has studied politics, my advice is to not vote if you know an average amount or less, to copy a better informed close associate if you are willing to appear submissive, and otherwise to just reelect incumbents when your life goes better than you expected. And if you care a lot more about the outcome than most do, help create presidential decision markets, so other info-seekers will have a better place to turn.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Alcohol As Placebo
I don't believe this (at least the coffee comparison is implausible: coffee is a stimulant, alcohol isn't)
hanson  drugs  psychology  social-psych  X-not-about-Y  signaling  society  insight  ethanol  idk  eh  illusion  realness  ratty 
october 2016 by nhaliday
The Third Sex | West Hunter
- eusociality and humans
- chromosome morphs
- green-beards and asabiya
- MHC/HLA and mating
- white-throated sparrows

Strategies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/strategies/
There is a qualitative difference between being XY and X0 (Turner’s syndrome). Being XY, a guy, is the physical embodiment of an evolutionary strategy: a certain genetic pattern that has a way of making more copies of itself. It’s a complex strategy, but that’s what it is. X0 people are sterile: they don’t generate more X0 individuals. Not every XY individual succeeds in reproducing, any more than every maple seed starts a new maple tree – but on average, it works. An X0 individual is the result of noise, errors in meiosis: Turner’s syndrome isn’t a strategy. In the same way, someone with Down’s syndrome isn’t Nature’s way of producing more people with Down’s syndrome.

Parenthetically, being a guy that tries to reproduce is a strategy. Actually reproducing is a successful outcome of that strategy. Similarly, being an alpha dude in a polygynous species like elephant seals is not a strategy: trying to be an alpha dude is the strategy. I see people confuse those two things all the time.

...

Natural selection tends to make physical embodiments of a successful reproductive strategy common. So stuff like Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, androgen insensitivity, etc, are all rare. Successful evolutionary strategies usually involve actually getting things done: so there is a tendency for natural selection to develop and optimize various useful abilities, like walking and talking and thinking. All part of the strategy. Many non-strategies [like Downs or Fragile X] mess up those abilities

...

So, is sex a spectrum in humans? No: obviously not. Two basic strategies, plus errors.

Why would a geneticist be unable to make the distinction between an evolutionary strategy and an error of development (i.e. caused by replication errors of pathogens)? Well, the average geneticist doesn’t know much evolutionary biology. And being embedded in a university, the current replacement for old-fashioned booby hatches, he’s subject to pressures that reward him for saying stupid things. and of course some people are pre-adapted to saying stupid things.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/strategies/#comment-98964
My whole point was that you can explain the qualitative difference without being in any way teleological. You’d do better to think about positive igon-values than Aristotle.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
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