nhaliday + rationality   312

Manifold – man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.
https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-grand-experiment.html
Silicon Valley (Big Tech and startups and VC)
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The Billionaire Life
MMA / UFC
What Millennials think us old folks don't understand
True things that you are not allowed to say
Bubbles that are ready to pop?
Under-appreciated Genius?
Overrated Crap and Frauds?
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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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:

...

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.

...

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.

...

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
"Really six people present": origin of phrase commonly attributed to William James - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange
Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.

...

Here's a graph of the number of references of the phrase "really six people present" Click on the first range (1800-1017) and you'll see this, which attributes this statement to Oliver Wendell Holmes. What's perhaps relevant is the reference to "John and James"--I'm guessing two placeholder names.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Diving into Chinese philosophy – Gene Expression
Back when I was in college one of my roommates was taking a Chinese philosophy class for a general education requirement. A double major in mathematics and economics (he went on to get an economics Ph.D.) he found the lack of formal rigor in the field rather maddening. I thought this was fair, but I suggested to him that the this-worldy and often non-metaphysical orientation of much of Chinese philosophy made it less amenable to formal and logical analysis.

...

IMO the much more problematic thing about premodern Chinese political philosophy from the point of view of the West is its lack of interest in constitutionalism and the rule of law, stemming from a generally less rationalist approach than the Classical Westerns, than any sort of inherent anti-individualism or collectivism or whatever. For someone like Aristotle the constitutional rule of law was the highest moral good in itself and the definition of justice, very much not so for Confucius or for Zhu Xi. They still believed in Justice in the sense of people getting what they deserve, but they didn’t really consider the written rule of law an appropriate way to conceptualize it. OG Confucius leaned more towards the unwritten traditions and rituals passed down from the ancestors, and Neoconfucianism leaned more towards a sort of Universal Reason that could be accessed by the individual’s subjective understanding but which again need not be written down necessarily (although unlike Kant/the Enlightenment it basically implies that such subjective reasoning will naturally lead one to reaffirming the ancient traditions). In left-right political spectrum terms IMO this leads to a well-defined right and left and a big old hole in the center where classical republicanism would be in the West. This resonates pretty well with modern East Asian political history IMO
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Self-Serving Bias | Slate Star Codex
Since reading Tabarrok’s post, I’ve been trying to think of more examples of this sort of thing, especially in medicine. There are way too many discrepancies in approved medications between countries to discuss every one of them, but did you know melatonin is banned in most of Europe? (Europeans: did you know melatonin is sold like candy in the United States?) Did you know most European countries have no such thing as “medical school”, but just have college students major in medicine, and then become doctors once they graduate from college? (Europeans: did you know Americans have to major in some random subject in college, and then go to a separate place called “medical school” for four years to even start learning medicine?) Did you know that in Puerto Rico, you can just walk into a pharmacy and get any non-scheduled drug you want without a doctor’s prescription? (source: my father; I have never heard anyone else talk about this, and nobody else even seems to think it is interesting enough to be worth noting).

...

And then there’s the discussion from the recent discussion of Madness and Civilization about how 18th century doctors thought hot drinks will destroy masculinity and ruin society. Nothing that’s happened since has really disproved this – indeed, a graph of hot drink consumption, decline of masculinity, and ruinedness of society would probably show a pretty high correlation – it’s just somehow gotten tossed in the bin marked “ridiculous” instead of the bin marked “things we have to worry about”.
🤔🤔
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Are Sunk Costs Fallacies? - Gwern.net
But to what extent is the sunk cost fallacy a real fallacy?
Below, I argue the following:
1. sunk costs are probably issues in big organizations
- but maybe not ones that can be helped
2. sunk costs are not issues in animals
3. sunk costs appear to exist in children & adults
- but many apparent instances of the fallacy are better explained as part of a learning strategy
- and there’s little evidence sunk cost-like behavior leads to actual problems in individuals
4. much of what we call sunk cost looks like simple carelessness & thoughtlessness
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Lynn Margulis | West Hunter
Margulis went on to theorize that symbiotic relationships between organisms are the dominant driving force of evolution. There certainly are important examples of this: as far as I know, every complex organism that digests cellulose manages it thru a symbiosis with various prokaryotes. Many organisms with a restricted diet have symbiotic bacteria that provide essential nutrients – aphids, for example. Tall fescue, a popular turf grass on golf courses, carries an endosymbiotic fungus. And so on, and on on.

She went on to oppose neodarwinism, particularly rejecting inter-organismal competition (and population genetics itself). From Wiki: [ She also believed that proponents of the standard theory “wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin – having mistaken him… Neo-Darwinism, which insists on [the slow accrual of mutations by gene-level natural selection], is in a complete funk.”[8] ‘

...

You might think that Lynn Margulis is an example of someone that could think outside the box because she’d never even been able to find it in the first place – but that’s more true of autistic types [like Dirac or Turing], which I doubt she was in any way. I’d say that some traditional prejudices [dislike of capitalism and individual competition], combined with the sort of general looniness that leaves one open to unconventional ideas, drove her in a direction that bore fruit, more or less by coincidence. A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98174
“A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.” Yes – it’s like old bands. As long as they have just one song in heavy rotation on the classic rock stations, they can tour endlessly – it doesn’t matter that they have only one or even no original members performing. A scientific example of this phenomena is Kary Mullins. He’ll always have PCR, even if a glowing raccoon did greet him with the words, “Good evening, Doctor.”

Nobel Savage: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n13/steven-shapin/nobel-savage
Dancing Naked in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

jet fuel can't melt steel beams: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98201
You have to understand a subject extremely well to make arguments why something couldn’t have happened. The easiest cases involve some purported explanation violating a conservation law of physics: that wasn’t the case here.

Do I think you’re a hotshot, deeply knowledgeable about structural engineering, properties of materials, using computer models, etc? A priori, pretty unlikely. What are the odds that you know as much simple mechanics as I do? a priori, still pretty unlikely. Most likely, you’re talking through your hat.

Next, the conspiracy itself is unlikely: quite a few people would be involved – unlikely that none of them would talk. It’s not that easy to find people that would go along with such a thing, believe it or not. The Communists were pretty good at conspiracy, but people defected, people talked: not just Whittaker Chambers, not just Igor Gouzenko.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Illusion of Moral Superiority - Social Psychological and Personality Science - Ben M. Tappin, Ryan T. McKay, 2017
Participants (N = 270) judged themselves and the average person on traits reflecting the core dimensions of social perception: morality, agency, and sociability. Adapting new methods, we reveal that virtually all individuals irrationally inflated their moral qualities, and the absolute and relative magnitude of this irrationality was greater than that in the other domains of positive self-evaluation. Inconsistent with prevailing theories of overly positive self-belief, irrational moral superiority was not associated with self-esteem. Taken together, these findings suggest that moral superiority is a uniquely strong and prevalent form of “positive illusion,” but the underlying function remains unknown.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
How many laypeople holding a popular opinion are needed to counter an expert opinion?: Thinking & Reasoning: Vol 0, No 0
Although lay opinions and expert opinions have been studied extensively in isolation, the present study examined the relationship between the two by asking how many laypeople are needed to counter an expert opinion. A Bayesian formalisation allowed the prescription of this quantity. Participants were subsequently asked to assess how many laypeople are needed in different situations. The results demonstrate that people are sensitive to the relevant factors identified for determining how many lay opinions are required to counteract a single expert opinion. People's assessments were fairly good in line with Bayesian predictions.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Living with Ignorance in a World of Experts
Another kind of track record that we might care about is not about the expert’s performance, qua expert, but about her record of epistemic integrity. This will be important for helping provide reasonably well supported answers to (Q3) and (Q4) in particular. Anderson (2011) offers some related ideas in her discussion of “criteria for judging honesty” and “criteria for judging epistemic responsibility.” Things we might be interested include the following:
• evidence of previous expert-related dishonesty (e.g. plagiarism, faking data)
• evidence of a record of misleading statements (e.g. cherry-picking data, quotations out of context)
• evidence of a record of misrepresenting views of expert opponents
• evidence of evasion of peer-review or refusal to allow other experts to assess work
• evidence of refusal to disclose data, methodology, or detailed results
• evidence of refusal to disclose results contrary to the expert’s own views
• evidence of “dialogic irrationality”: repeating claims after they have been publicly refuted, without responding to the refutations
• evidence of a record of “over-claiming” of expertise: claiming expertise beyond the expert’s domain of expertise
• evidence of a record of “lending” one’s expertise to support other individuals or institutions that themselves lack epistemic integrity in some of the above ways
• evidence of being an “opinion for hire”—offering expert testimony for pay, perhaps particularly if that testimony conflicts with other things the expert has said
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Kenneth Minogue’s “Christophobia” and the West – Old School Contemporary
from the New Criterion

The failure of Communism was consecrated in the fall of the Soviet Union. The remarkable thing is that, as in most cases when prophecy fails, the faith never faltered. Indeed, an alternative version had long been maturing, though cast into the shadows for a time by enthusiasm for the quick fix of revolution. It had, however, been maturing for at least a century and already had a notable repertoire of institutions available. We may call it Olympianism, because it is the project of an intellectual elite that believes that it enjoys superior enlightenment and that its business is to spread this benefit to those living on the lower slopes of human achievement. And just as Communism had been a political project passing itself off as the ultimate in scientific understanding, so Olympianism burrowed like a parasite into the most powerful institution of the emerging knowledge economy—the universities.

We may define Olympianism as a vision of human betterment to be achieved on a global scale by forging the peoples of the world into a single community based on the universal enjoyment of appropriate human rights. Olympianism is the cast of mind dedicated to this end, which is believed to correspond to the triumph of reason and community over superstition and hatred. It is a politico-moral package in which the modern distinction between morals and politics disappears into the aspiration for a shared mode of life in which the communal transcends individual life. To be a moral agent is in these terms to affirm a faith in a multicultural humanity whose social and economic conditions will be free from the causes of current misery. Olympianism is thus a complex long-term vision, and contemporary Western Olympians partake of different fragments of it.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.

...

One of the central problems of Olympianism has always been with the nation state and its derivative, nationalism. A world of nation states is one of constant potential antipathy. It makes something of a mockery of the term “world community.” Hence it is a basic tenet of Olympianism that the day of the nation state has gone. It is an anachronism. And on this point, events have played into the hands of this project. The homogeneity of these nation states is a condition of democracy, but it also facilitates the wars in which they have engaged. If, however, homogeneity were to be lost as states became multicultural, then they would turn into empires, and their freedom of action would be seriously constrained. Empires can only be ruled, to the extent that they are ruled, from the top. They are ideal soil for oligarchy. Olympianism is very enthusiastic about this new development, which generates multiculturalism. Those who rule a rainbow society will have little trouble with an unruly national will, because no such thing remains possible. The Olympian lawyer and administrator will adjudicate the interests of a heterogeneous population according to some higher set of principles. Indeed, quite a lot of this work can be contracted out to independent agencies of the state, agencies whose judgments lead on to judicial tribunals in cases of conflict. This is part of a process in which the autonomy of civil institutions (of firms to employ whom they want, of schools to teach curricula they choose, and so on) is steadily eroded by centralized standards. Multiculturalism in the name of abstract moral standards has the effect of restricting freedom across the board.
news  org:mag  letters  right-wing  essay  rhetoric  politics  polisci  ideology  philosophy  egalitarianism-hierarchy  civilization  rot  the-great-west-whale  occident  zeitgeist  homo-hetero  diversity  democracy  antidemos  conquest-empire  migration  nationalism-globalism  longform  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  madisonian  nascent-state  counter-revolution  leviathan  power  civic  attaq  putnam-like  religion  christianity  theos  modernity  tradition  europe  prejudice  n-factor  history  mostly-modern  douthatish  westminster  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  gnon  polanyi-marx  communism  elite  vampire-squid  higher-ed  academia  civil-liberty  exit-voice  truth  values  rationality  morality  ethics  world  developing-world  managerial-state  anarcho-tyranny  censorship  unintended-consequences  whiggish-hegelian  hypocrisy  track-record  reason  interests  orwellian  noble-lie 
august 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.
books  summary  psychology  social-psych  cog-psych  anthropology  rationality  biases  epistemic  thinking  neurons  realness  truth  info-dynamics  language  speaking  persuasion  dark-arts  impro  roots  ideas  speculation  hypocrisy  intelligence  eden  philosophy  multi  review  critique  ratty  hanson  org:edge  video  interview  communication  insight  impetus  hidden-motives  X-not-about-Y  signaling  🤖  metameta  metabuch  dennett  meta:rhetoric  gnxp  scitariat  open-things  giants  fisher  old-anglo  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  reason  religion  theos  noble-lie  intuition  instinct  farmers-and-foragers  egalitarianism-hierarchy  early-modern  britain  europe  gallic  hari-seldon  theory-of-mind  parallax  darwinian  evolution  telos-atelos  intricacy  evopsych  chart  traces 
august 2017 by nhaliday
trees are harlequins, words are harlequins — bayes: a kinda-sorta masterpost
lol, gwern: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6ghsxf/biweekly_rational_feed/diqr0rq/
> What sort of person thinks “oh yeah, my beliefs about these coefficients correspond to a Gaussian with variance 2.5″? And what if I do cross-validation, like I always do, and find that variance 200 works better for the problem? Was the other person wrong? But how could they have known?
> ...Even ignoring the mode vs. mean issue, I have never met anyone who could tell whether their beliefs were normally distributed vs. Laplace distributed. Have you?
I must have spent too much time in Bayesland because both those strike me as very easy and I often think them! My beliefs usually are Laplace distributed when it comes to things like genetics (it makes me very sad to see GWASes with flat priors), and my Gaussian coefficients are actually a variance of 0.70 (assuming standardized variables w.l.o.g.) as is consistent with field-wide meta-analyses indicating that d>1 is pretty rare.
ratty  ssc  core-rats  tumblr  social  explanation  init  philosophy  bayesian  thinking  probability  stats  frequentist  big-yud  lesswrong  synchrony  similarity  critique  intricacy  shalizi  scitariat  selection  mutation  evolution  priors-posteriors  regularization  bias-variance  gwern  reddit  commentary  GWAS  genetics  regression  spock  nitty-gritty  generalization  epistemic  🤖  rationality  poast  multi  best-practices  methodology  data-science 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Human Self as Information Agent: Functioning in a Social Environment Based on Shared Meanings — Experts@Minnesota
https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/874624254951776256
A neglected aspect of human selfhood is that people are information agents .... We initially assumed that accuracy would be the paramount concern for the information agent... But there are other considerations. Groups benefit from collective action, and so consensual agreement may be a high priority. Consensus may be needed in many situations when the means to verify information’s accuracy are beyond reach... Even if dissenters tum out to have more accurate information, disobedience is punished... Why might evolution have made people willing to sacrifice accuracy in favor of consensus, at least sometimes? Here we speculate that desire for consensus may derive from an innate social motive, whereas accuracy is an epistemic motive that would need to be acquired, and is therefore less deeply rooted and perhaps weaker. There may not be an innate motive to evaluate the truth value of assertions or to appreciate the meaningful difference between truth and falsehood. Hence it may be necessary to leam from experience that accuracy is an informational virtue that confers benefits, whereas consensus may be more closely tied to innate motivations .... The human mind discovers early in life that other minds have different information, which is something most other animals never discover. The desire to share attention and thoughts with others could thus be innate (or innately prepared) whereas the desire to sort truth from fiction may only come along later...The group first builds consensus and only after that is done seeks novel, idiosyncratic input that might increase accuracy. In an important sense, information shared by the group is valued more and perceived as more accurate than unshared information

When shared information coalesces into a collective worldview that includes values, it often has sociopolitical implications. Many groups are committed to particular ideologies or agenda, and information that impugns shared beliefs could be especially unwelcome. Political and religious ideologies have often sustained their power by asserting and enforcing views of questionable truthfulness. Hence individuals and groups may seek to exert control over the shared reality so as to benefit themselves. Thus many individuals will find it more important to get the group to agree with their favored view than to help it reach an objectively correct view. One fascinating question about official falsehoods is whether the ruling elites who propagate such views believe them or not... As an example close to home, psychology today is dominated by a political viewpoint that is progressively liberal, but it seems unlikely that many researchers knowingly assert falsehoods as scientific facts. They do however make publication of some findings much easier than others. The selective critique enables them to believe that the field’s body of knowledge supports their political views more than it does, because contrary facts and findings are suppressed.

Assessing relationships between conformity and meta-traits in an Asch-like paradigm: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15534510.2017.1371639
https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/902511106823999490
Replication of unflattering psychology classic: People bow to conformity pressure, mostly independent of personality

Smart Conformists: Children and Adolescents Associate Conformity With Intelligence Across Cultures: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12935/abstract
https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/902398709228609536
Across cultures, children and adolescents viewed high conformity as a sign of intelligence and good behavior.
study  psychology  social-psych  cog-psych  network-structure  social-norms  preference-falsification  is-ought  truth  info-dynamics  pdf  piracy  westminster  multi  twitter  social  commentary  scitariat  quotes  metabuch  stylized-facts  realness  hidden-motives  impetus  neurons  rationality  epistemic  biases  anthropology  local-global  social-science  error  evopsych  EEA  🌞  tribalism  decision-making  spreading  replication  homo-hetero  flux-stasis  reason  noble-lie  reinforcement  memetics 
august 2017 by nhaliday
The Rise and Fall of Cognitive Control - Behavioral Scientist
The results highlight the downsides of controlled processing. Within a population, controlled processing may—rather than ensuring undeterred progress—usher in short-sighted, irrational, and detrimental behavior, ultimately leading to population collapse. This is because the innovations produced by controlled processing benefit everyone, even those who do not act with control. Thus, by making non-controlled agents better off, these innovations erode the initial advantage of controlled behavior. This results in the demise of control and the rise of lack-of-control. In turn, this eventually leads to a return to poor decision making and the breakdown of the welfare-enhancing innovations, possibly accelerated and exacerbated by the presence of the enabling technologies themselves. Our models therefore help to explain societal cycles whereby periods of rationality and forethought are followed by plunges back into irrationality and short-sightedness.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51ed234ae4b0867e2385d879/t/595fac998419c208a6d99796/1499442499093/Cyclical-Population-Dynamics.pdf
Psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists often conceptualize decisions as arising from processes that lie along a continuum from automatic (i.e., “hardwired” or overlearned, but relatively inflexible) to controlled (less efficient and effortful, but more flexible). Control is central to human cognition, and plays a key role in our ability to modify the world to suit our needs. Given its advantages, reliance on controlled processing may seem predestined to increase within the population over time. Here, we examine whether this is so by introducing an evolutionary game theoretic model of agents that vary in their use of automatic versus controlled processes, and in which cognitive processing modifies the environment in which the agents interact. We find that, under a wide range of parameters and model assumptions, cycles emerge in which the prevalence of each type of processing in the population oscillates between 2 extremes. Rather than inexorably increasing, the emergence of control often creates conditions that lead to its own demise by allowing automaticity to also flourish, thereby undermining the progress made by the initial emergence of controlled processing. We speculate that this observation may have relevance for understanding similar cycles across human history, and may lend insight into some of the circumstances and challenges currently faced by our species.
econotariat  economics  political-econ  policy  decision-making  behavioral-econ  psychology  cog-psych  cycles  oscillation  unintended-consequences  anthropology  broad-econ  cultural-dynamics  tradeoffs  cost-benefit  rot  dysgenics  study  summary  multi  EGT  dynamical  volo-avolo  self-control  discipline  the-monster  pdf  error  rationality  info-dynamics  bounded-cognition  hive-mind  iq  intelligence  order-disorder  risk  microfoundations  science-anxiety  big-picture  hari-seldon  cybernetics 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Individual Perceptions of Self-Actualization: What Functional Motives Are Linked to Fulfilling One’s Full Potential?Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin - Jaimie Arona Krems, Douglas T. Kenrick, Rebecca Neel, 2017
We examine which functional outcomes (e.g., gaining status, making friends, finding mates, caring for kin) people perceive as central to their individual self-actualizing. Three studies suggest that people most frequently link self-actualization to seeking status, and, concordant with life history theory, what people regard as self-actualizing varies in predictable ways across the life span and across individuals. Contrasting with self-actualization, people do not view other types of well-being—eudaimonic, hedonic, subjective—as furthering status-linked functional outcomes.
study  psychology  cog-psych  social-psych  values  thinking  rationality  neurons  stylized-facts  poll  status  meaningness 
july 2017 by nhaliday
In Defense of Individualist Culture | Otium
The salient feature of an individualist environment is that nobody directly tries to make you do anything.

...

I see a lot of writers these days raising problems with modern individualist culture, and it may be an especially timely topic. The Internet is a novel superstimulus, and it changes more rapidly, and affords people more options, than ever before. We need to think about the actual consequences of a world where many people are in practice being left alone to do what they want, and clearly not all the consequences are positive.

But I do want to suggest some considerations in favor of individualist culture — that often-derided “atomized modern world” that most of us live in.

We Aren’t Clay

interesting: https://slatestarscratchpad.tumblr.com/post/162329749236/httpssrconstantinwordpresscom20170627in-de

bleck:
Patriarchy is the Problem: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/patriarchy-is-the-problem/
ratty  core-rats  rhetoric  values  social-norms  society  anthropology  individualism-collectivism  higher-ed  labor  incentives  habit  internet  regularizer  behavioral-gen  biodet  ego-depletion  psychology  social-psych  thinking  rationality  tradition  egalitarianism-hierarchy  murray  putnam-like  coming-apart  cohesion  modernity  migration  essay  n-factor  multi  tumblr  social  yvain  ssc  critique  commentary  debate  moloch  community  civil-liberty  truth  cooperate-defect  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  markets  open-closed  gender  farmers-and-foragers  religion  christianity  judaism  theos  social-structure  authoritarianism 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Conformity Excuses
I picked my likes first, my group second.
I just couldn’t be happy elsewhere.
I actually like small differences.
In future, this will be more popular.
Second tier folks aren’t remotely as good. [isn't this kind of true because of power laws?]
Unpopular things are objectively defective.
ratty  hanson  rationality  neurons  biases  individualism-collectivism  info-dynamics  epistemic  mood-affiliation  preference-falsification  thinking  metabuch  embedded-cognition  water  social-norms  impetus  hidden-motives  homo-hetero  flux-stasis  power-law  heterodox  happy-sad 
june 2017 by nhaliday
The Toxoplasma Of Rage | Slate Star Codex
The idea of liberal strategists sitting down and choosing “a flagship case for the campaign against police brutality” is poppycock. Moloch – the abstracted spirit of discoordination and flailing response to incentives – will publicize whatever he feels like publicizing. And if they want viewers and ad money, the media will go along with him.

Which means that it’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship case for fighting police brutality and racism is the flagship case that we in fact got. It’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship cases for believing rape victims are the ones that end up going viral. It’s not a coincidence that the only time we ever hear about factory farming is when somebody’s doing something that makes us almost sympathetic to it. It’s not coincidence, it’s not even happenstance, it’s enemy action. Under Moloch, activists are irresistably incentivized to dig their own graves. And the media is irresistably incentivized to help them.
ratty  yvain  ssc  culture-war  toxoplasmosis  tribalism  politics  rationality  info-dynamics  toxo-gondii  identity-politics  essay  metabuch  emotion  2014  🤖  moloch  polarization  internet 
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
Edge.org: 2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?
highlights:
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

soft:
- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The heart trumps the head - Research - Royal Holloway, University of London
We observed a robust desirability bias—individuals updated their beliefs more if the evidence was consistent (versus inconsistent) with their desired outcome. This bias was independent of whether the evidence was consistent or inconsistent with their prior beliefs
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why China Cannot Rise Peacefully - YouTube
- unexpected accent/tone lol
- principles: states as unit of action/global anarchy, uncertainty (fog-of-war), states as rational, selfish actors
- consequences: need to become as powerful as possible, regional hegemon, prevent peer competitors (no other regional hegemon in world, eg, China)
- future: China as giant Hong Kong
- future coalition: India, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, and the USA
- does he actually think Brazil coulda gotten as powerful as the US? lol.
- his summary of American grand strategy (lol):
1. Europe (great powers)
2. NE Asia (great powers)
3. Persian Gulf (oil)
- "Europe will become distant 3rd, Europe is a museum, lotta old people." lol
- "not gonna help us with Asia, got their own problems, bankrupting themselves"
- counterarguments: "not gonna grow, China's a Confucian culture (don't pay attention to those), economic interdependence." doesn't buy the last either.
- best counterarguments: nuclear deterrence, economic interdependence, "age of nationalism"
- mass-murder usually strategic (eg, maintaining power) not ideological

debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd-1LymXXX0

interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXSkY4QKDlA
- Clinton's a realist
- plenty of economic independence prior to world wars
- nukes makes WW3 unlikely, but do not rule out limited war (eg, over East/South China Sea)
- Confucian pacifism argument is ahistorical
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Reason is but a slave of passions as it always has been – Gene Expression
http://www.unz.com/gnxp/winning-isnt-everything-winning-your-team-is/
In my short jaunt through Theory writ large I have finally come that conclusion as well. I am a naive realist and a positivist. I work under the assumption that there is a world out there, that that world out there manifests itself in the order we see when we decompose it with analysis and empirical methods. As long as I kept my eyes on prize, the “score,” I felt at peace.

This was dangerously naive. Whereas before I had worked under the hypothesis that my interlocutors were falling prey to cognitive biases when they engaged in ad hominem or logical fallacy, I am now coming to suspect that one some level they are aware that they are engaging in the dialectics of ultimate victory. Every battle they lose is simply another opportunity to shore up their forces in future battles. Just like Rome against Hannibal, their contention that the structure of human society, rather than the world “out there,” is determinative, may very well be true in relation to all that matters.

hmm, women?: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f155b33f986c

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/03/26/open-thread-03262017/
Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West. Most people are cowards and liars when push comes to shove. I don’t want to speak of this at length, as it’s a bit like a God-is-dead moment for me, but I thought I’d come clean and be frank. The Critical Theorists are right, power trumps truth. I’m not sure they’ll enjoy what’s to come in the future when objectivity is dethroned, but I think I will probably laugh as the liars scramble to lie different lies, because that is almost certain to happen.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/12/open-thread-06112017/
Ultimately I think our society is going the way of Dutch Pillarisation (though I think the Dutch have abandoned this). Basically our professional and personal lives are going to be mediated by our socio-political tribes (and it won’t just be Left vs. Right). Too many people are getting fired or pressured over their politics or viewpoints. At some point large corporations and institutions need to just give up on the idea that they serve the whole public, and intellectuals need to concede that public reason is probably not possible.

...

I see referrals to this website now and people make comments about me elsewhere (on reddit, in the comments of Unz, on blogs). Some are wondering about my recent pessimism and darkness of spirit. Because people are stupid or socially unintelligent or something they think they can infer something about my personal or professional circumstances from what I put on this website, no matter how many times I caution them not to do that. I’m pretty clear about separating aspects of my life (I’m not a lifestyle blogger…hot sauce blogging excepted).

What I will say is that I’m very happy at my job and have plenty of friends. My third child and second son is a delight.

The darkness you perceive in my soul is that I suspect that the liberal order, which encompasses politics as well as the intellectual world we’ve cherished since the 19th century, is collapsing around us. Just as the Chinese in 1790 or the Romans in 460 were not aware that their world was coming to an end, we continue to carry on as if all is as it was. I’m sort of at the phase between the death of Optimus Prime in the 1980s cartoon and the emergence of Rodimus. I’m not going to turn into a bald-faced liar or ignoramus like so many of the people in the media around us just yet though (you know who I’m talking about I’m sure). Old ways are hard to give up! God has died but his shadow haunts me.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Tales of the Chinese future past – Gene Expression
older: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/09/the-past-and-the-future/
That being said, the past is likely a guide that the Chinese imperialism of the 21st century will not take the form of massed invasions and conquests, but rather client-patron relationships which reinforce the rise of a new hegemon.

Why Confucianism Matters: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/
Why look to China? After all, there were ethical systems in the West. First, I’m not sure that the supernaturalistic religions work to bind elites together anymore due to lack of credibility. Christianity is getting weaker. My own personal hunch is that the current wave of Islamic assertiveness and violence is the paroxysm of a civilization confronting its irrelevance.

Second, Classical Antiquity had plenty of ethical systems, especially during the Hellenistic and Roman period. But Rome collapsed. There was a great rupture between antiquity and the medieval period. In contrast, the Confucian and Neo-Confucian system persisted down to the early 20th century in classical form and casts a strong shadow over East Asia even today. While Stoicism had personal relevance, Confucianism was designed to scale from the individual all the way to the imperial state.

The 1960s saw a radical transition to notional social egalitarianism in the West. This is the world I grew up and matured in. Arguably, I believed in its rightness, inevitability, and eternal dominance, until very recently. But I think that today that model is fraying and people are looking to find some mooring. In particular, I think we are in need of a rectification of names. From Wikipedia:

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would “rectify the names” to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and “undertakings would not be completed.”

How are we supposed to behave with each given person? A lot of this is free-form and improvisational today, and it turns out that many people are not comfortable with this. Humans need scripts.

Finally, the world that Confucianism developed was highly stratified, though there was some chance of advancement. It was not a calcified caste system, but it was a hierarchical one. I believe that is the system that we are moving toward in the West, and it seems that a system that takes for granted non-egalitarianism, such as Confucianism, may benefit us.

Spandrell: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/#comment-6358
I’d say that arguably Confucianism only really flourished after the Song dynasty broke the Chinese aristocracy and instituted a fully civilian ruling class. Confucianism was a force for egalitarianism if anything. It was the religion of the mandarins, not of the people.

If we were to make an analogy to Chinese history I’d say we are more like in the Eastern Han, with private patronage networks taking over the state from within. The result of that wasn’t a strong confucianism. The result was the spread of Buddhism. A very different beast.

https://twitter.com/thespandrell/status/951469782053871616
https://archive.is/m0XAq
Read and check the comments. I wish it were true; I could sell a couple of books if anything. But Confucianism is an ideology of absolutism, not of oligarchy.

The Western Rectification Of Names: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2015/03/09/the-western-rectification-of-names/
The important insight we can gain from the longevity of a Confucian political philosophy is that its core theses do have some utility for complex societies. Unlike that of Rome the Chinese order of two thousand years ago actually persisted down to living memory, with the fall of the Ching in the early 20th century. Confucius believed he was a traditionalist, rediscovering ancient insights as to the proper relations between human beings. I suspect this is correct, insofar as the Golden Mean he and his humanistic followers recommended between the cold and cruel utilitarianism of the Legalists and the unrealistic one of the followers of Mozi is probably the best fit to human psychological dispositions (both the Legalists and Mohists were suspicious of the family).** In the disordered world of the late Zhou, on the precipice of the Warring States period, Confucius and his followers elucidated what was really common sense, but repackaged in a fashion which would appeal more systematically to elites, and scaffold their own more egotistical impulses (in contrast to the Legalists, who seem to have enshrined the ego of the ruler as the summum bonum).

And that is the reality which we face today. Our world is not on the precipice of war, but social and technological changes are such that we are in a period where a new rectification of names is warranted. Old categories of sex, gender, religion and race, are falling or reordering. Western society is fracturing, as the intelligentsia promote their own parochial categories, and traditionalists dissent and retreat into their own subcultures. To give two examples, there are those who might find offense if addressed by the pronoun he or she, even though this is an old convention in Western society. In contrast, traditionalist Christian subcultures no longer have unified control of the public domain which would allow for them to promulgate the basis of their values. There are those who might accede to traditional Christian claims who can not agree with their metaphysics, which the traditional Christians hold to be necessary to be in full agreement.*** In contrast, the progressive faction which declaims the morally restrictive manners of the traditionalist Right in fact belies its own assertions by the proliferation of terms which serve to define the elect from those who do not uphold proper morals and manners.

Why I Am Not A New Atheist: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/11/why-i-am-not-a-new-atheist/
Fundamentally I do not think this is correct. Nor do I think that religious beliefs have much to do with logic or reason. Religion is a complex phenomenon which is rooted in supernatural intuitions and then evolves further in a cultural context, with some possible functional utility as a group-marker.

Second, I do not think religion is the “root of all evil”, and so see no need to convert the world to atheism. Obviously, the horror of Communism illustrates that removing supernatural religion does not remove the human impulse to atrocity.

More recently, I have been convinced that truth and knowledge is a minor value to most humans, including elites. Lying is pretty ubiquitous, and most people are rather satisfied with big lies girding social norms and conventions. One may try to avoid “living by lies” in private, but actually promoting this viewpoint in public is ridiculously self-destructive. Most people could care less about the truth,* while elites simply manipulate facts to buttress their social positions and engage in control.

In other words, the New Atheists seem to think that it’s a worthy to aim to enlighten humanity toward views which they believe align with reality.

At this point, I care about converting the common man to a true understanding of reality as much as I care about a cow grokking trigonometry. I don’t.

https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/954392158198525953
https://archive.is/TXjN0
i have long believed many 'traditional' institutions and folkways which we in the post-materialist world look askance at are not traditional, but ad hoc cultural kludges and patches for ppl to manage to survive in villages where our cognitive toolkit wasn't sufficient
in an affluent liberal democratic context they may indeed be outmoded and easy to slough off. but if a different form of life, characterized by malthusian immiseration, comes to dominate then the kludges will come back
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Solution Aversion: On the Relation Between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief
https://www.thenation.com/article/capitalism-vs-climate/

Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494418301488
We conducted a one-year longitudinal study in which 600 American adults regularly reported their climate change beliefs, pro-environmental behavior, and other climate-change related measures. Using latent class analyses, we uncovered three clusters of Americans with distinct climate belief trajectories: (1) the “Skeptical,” who believed least in climate change; (2) the “Cautiously Worried,” who had moderate beliefs in climate change; and (3) the “Highly Concerned,” who had the strongest beliefs and concern about climate change. Cluster membership predicted different outcomes: the “Highly Concerned” were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions, whereas the “Skeptical” opposed policy solutions but were most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Societal collapse - Wikipedia
https://twitter.com/Billare/status/900903803364536321
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_d… Despite ever increasing rigor & use of sources, this is why academic historians are useless.
Just like the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire never declined. That common-sense notion is too "simplistic." Instead, if was "transformed."
Nevertheless. There was a period when surrounding European powers "trembled at the name" of the vizier or the sultan or the janissary corps.
Some time later, they were eagerly carving up its territory & using it as a diplomatic plaything.
Something happened in that meantime. Something important. I would like to be able to read straightforwardly what those things were.
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/900910830090412032
https://archive.is/eROiG
Hah! I am right now about halfway through Bryan Ward-Perkins book The Fall of Rome and the end of civilization.
One of the best books I have ever read
One of the most important as well for shaping my worldview, my applied epistemology in particular.
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april 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
Annotating Greg Cochran’s interview with James Miller
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/
opinion of Scott and Hanson: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90238
Greg's methodist: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90256
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90299
You have to consider the relative strengths of Japan and the USA. USA was ~10x stronger, industrially, which is what mattered. Technically superior (radar, Manhattan project). Almost entirely self-sufficient in natural resources. Japan was sure to lose, and too crazy to quit, which meant that they would lose after being smashed flat.
--
There’s a fairly common way of looking at things in which the bad guys are not at fault because they’re bad guys, born that way, and thus can’t help it. Well, we can’t help it either, so the hell with them. I don’t think we had to respect Japan’s innate need to fuck everybody in China to death.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/ramble-on/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/topics/
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-1
2nd part: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9ab84243b967

some additional things:
- political correctness, the Cathedral and the left (personnel continuity but not ideology/value) at start
- joke: KT impact = asteroid mining, every mass extinction = intelligent life destroying itself
- Alawites: not really Muslim, women liberated because "they don't have souls", ended up running shit in Syria because they were only ones that wanted to help the British during colonial era
- solution to Syria: "put the Alawites in NYC"
- Zimbabwe was OK for a while, if South Africa goes sour, just "put the Boers in NYC" (Miller: left would probably say they are "culturally incompatible", lol)
- story about Lincoln and his great-great-great-grandfather
- skepticism of free speech
- free speech, authoritarianism, and defending against the Mongols
- Scott crazy (not in a terrible way), LW crazy (genetics), ex.: polyamory
- TFP or microbio are better investments than stereotypical EA stuff
- just ban AI worldwide (bully other countries to enforce)
- bit of a back-and-forth about macroeconomics
- not sure climate change will be huge issue. world's been much warmer before and still had a lot of mammals, etc.
- he quite likes Pseudoerasmus
- shits on modern conservatism/Bret Stephens a bit

- mentions Japan having industrial base a tenth the size of the US's and no chance of winning WW2 around 11m mark
- describes himself as "fairly religious" around 20m mark
- 27m30s: Eisenhower was smart, read Carlyle, classical history, etc.

but was Nixon smarter?: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2019/03/18/open-thread-03-18-2019/
The Scandals of Meritocracy. Virtue vs. competence. Would you rather have a boss who is evil but competent, or good but incompetent? The reality is you have to balance the two. Richard Nixon was probably smarter that Dwight Eisenhower in raw g, but Eisenhower was probably a better person.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Justified by more than logos alone - The Unz Review
The scientific study of religion is another topic where I once had a lot of interest, but where I concluded that the basic insights have stabilized. Since I stopped reading much in this area I stopped writing much about it too. To get a sense of where I’m coming from, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best place to start. It’s about 15 years old, but I don’t see that much has changed since then in the basics of the field.

And what are those basics? At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions. All religion operates on top of this basic kernel of our mental OS. Religion may have functional utility as a social system of control, or channeling collective energies, as argued by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral. Or, one might be able to fruitfully model “religious marketplaces” as argued in Marketplace of the Gods. But these are all basically simply applications installed into on top of the operating system.

...

Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.

...

There are a subset of believers who are not well captured by the generalizations in books such as Slone’s, or in ethnographic descriptions which trace the assimilation of Catholicism into the American scene. They are usually highly intellectual and analytical in their orientation. Often, they seem to be converts. Rod Dreher was a convert to Catholicism from Methodism, before he became Orthodox. Leah Libresco and Eve Tushnet also seem to fall into this category. Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think. As a metaphor, imagine mountainous islands scattering amidst a featureless ocean. The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative. Similarly, the vast number of believers who move along a nexus of inscrutable social forces, and driven by powerful universal psychologies, may be hidden from our view.

And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken. I have no need, no wish, no impulse, and no intuition as to what they are talking about in that dimension (Libresco seems a somewhat different case, but I haven’t read much of what she’s written; I suspect I’ve been in the same room with her since she worked for an organization which I have many personal connections with, but I’m not sure).

It isn’t a surprise that I think Hume was onto something when he asserted that “reason is a slave to the passions.” In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

Addendum: Leah Libresco seems to have been associated with the broad umbrella group of Bay Area rationalists. I’ve been associated in some fashion with these people as friends and acquaintances for nearly 10 years. I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

The nature of religion and Breaking the Spell: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-nature-of-religion-and-breaking-the-spell/

Buddhism, a religion or not?: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/02/buddhism-a-religion-or-not/

Against the seriousness of theology: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/04/against-the-seriousness-of-theology/
This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity. This has important consequences, because intellectuals write, and writing is permanent. It echoes down through the ages. Therefore our understanding of the broad scope of religious history is naturally shaped by how intellectuals view religion. In a superficial sense the history of religion is the history of theology, because theology is so amenable to preservation.

http://www.unz.com/gnxp/justified-by-more-than-logos-alone/

What Religion Is: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/12/what-religion-is/
It’s been about 10 years since I addressed this topic. Largely because I have no new thoughts. But probably after 10 years, it’s useful to revisit/clarify on this topic to clarify confusions, since people have a lot of opinions on this topic.

People mean different things when they mean “religion,” and the different meanings are not contradictory, nor in conflict.

At the lowest level in terms of individual cognition religion emerges from deep intuitions about the nature of the universe. Colloquially one might say that religion bubbles out of our unconscious.

In relation to social units, say the clan or tribe, religion consists of these intuitions about the nature of the universe and the world around us, bound together with rituals and verbal descriptions and narratives. These rituals and communal narratives help forge some sort of group Weltanschauung that has a functional utility in terms of inter-group competition and relations. Here religion steps out of the individual and becomes an expression of collective consensus.

As human societies became more complex the role of religious professionals became more elaborated. The common role of a shaman can be thought of as a magician, one who manipulates and operates in the domain of the supernatural. Shamans are common and ubiquitous in pre-state societies (even if a tribe does not have a “professional” shaman, someone takes on the role when needed). The priest adds on top of this institutional authority, often supra-clan or tribal. No king, no priest. Eventually, though the shaman-priest took on the role of the metaphysician. The metaphysician generates abstract principles and rationales, which can transcend the tribe or ethnicity, and allows religion to generate meta-ethnic civilizational identities in the service of priestly functions.

So in the post-Axial Age, the religious professional is often shaman, priest, and philosopher.

...

What about the priest? Though I am wary of the term “political religion,” due to semantic confusion, it seems clear that the function of the priest can be stripped of its supernatural valence. Many of the most objectionable characteristics of religion for people of liberal orientations derives from the institutionalized priestly functions. Unfortunately, the persistence of the priest in the absence of gods, shamanic powers and metaphysical justification opens the doors to secular totalitarianism.

...

These different aspects of religiosity exist and persist simultaneously in most contexts, but sometimes in tension. Philosophers and priests often take a dim view of shamanic religiosity. In organized religion of the modern sort shamanism is marginalized, or highly constrained and regulated in sacraments. But the recession of state-sponsored Christianity across much of the West has arguably resulted in a resurgence of shamanism, and the proliferation of diverse supernatural beliefs which had previously been suppressed (much of East Asia is characterized by relative weakness of philosophical religion but the strength of shamanism).

The relevance of all this in relation to New Atheism is that New Atheism seems to posit a religious “Blank Slate.” That is, children are indoctrinated in religion at a small age, previous to which they had been atheists. Part of this is due to the fact that the philosophical-metaphysical aspect of religion is quite clearly indoctrination, and often of a superficial sort at that (judging by how weak most believer’s grasp of theology is). But the communal and psychological aspects are not indoctrination, as much as specific instantiations of general human sentiments, dispositions, and intuitions. The erasure of a Christian, Buddhist or Islamic religious orientation will not necessarily leave in its wake a mind primed for scientific naturalism. Rather, it will simply be one shorn of Axial-Age accretions, reverted back to the shamanic age…

Atheism As Mental Deviance: http://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2011/09/18/atheism-as-mental-deviance/
Tyler Cowen points me to a PDF, Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, which has some fascinating results on the religiosity (or lack thereof) of people with high functioning autism. I’ve seen speculation about the peculiar psychological profile of atheists before in the cognitive science literature, and there’s a fair amount of social psychological data on the different personality profile of atheists (e.g., more disagreeable). But there hasn’t been a lot of systematic investigation of the possibility that autistic individuals are more likely to be atheist because they lack a fully fleshed “theory of mind,” which … [more]
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february 2017 by nhaliday
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