nhaliday + embedded-cognition   38

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
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/discussion-of-defection/

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Kling on the Three Languages of Politics | EconTalk | Library of Economics and Liberty
So what I claim is that Progressives organize the good and the bad in terms of oppression and the oppressed, and they think in terms of groups. So, certain groups of people are oppressed, and certain groups of people are oppressors. And so the good is to align yourself against oppression, and the historical figures that have improved the world have fought against oppression and overcome oppression. The second axis is one I think Conservatives use, which is civilization and barbarism. The good is civilized values that have accumulated over time and have stood the test of time; and the bad is barbarians who try to strike out against those values and destroy civilization. And the third axis is one I associate with Libertarians, which is freedom versus coercion, so that good is individuals making their own choices, contracting freely with each other; and the bad is coercion at gunpoint, particularly on the part of governments.

http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/russ-roberts-on-the-three-languages-of-politics/
http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/three-axes-individual-reasoning-and-social-justification/
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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.
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june 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 curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult | openDemocracy
baizuo
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/05/baizuo-libtard.html
https://twitter.com/menangahela/status/863840301785526273
this is the right wing intellectual equivalent of getting off to bbc porn
big asian iq/temperament shaped by thousands of years of malthusian capitalism & intensive agriculture DESTROYS white enlightenment morality
https://twitter.com/dkpseudo/status/864391296911163392
http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000477/white-left-the-internet-insult-the-west-has-gotten-wrong
One of the key texts of the anti-white left is an online essay by a Weibo user named “Fantasy Lover Mr. Liu,” titled “The Road to Spiritual Plague: The History of the Evolution of the White Left.” The abrasive text begins: “Trump’s victory is only a small stone flung from humanity’s sling against the giant we face: the spiritual plague.”

Liu’s essay is, essentially, a somewhat unhinged history of the white left. He identifies several waves of the white left, the third wave coming with thinkers like Michel Foucault and the Frankfurt School, whom, he writes, were so traumatized by the horrors of the Second World War that they sought to deconstruct Western culture without actually considering an alternative.

The fourth and final wave, Liu says, was led by the students of the professors who had staged protests against the Vietnam War and had succeeded in ousting established academics on both the left and the right. He argues that academic curiosity was lost as the New Left demanded ideological purity on the questions of identity politics. To Liu, intellectual shallowness, isolation, and violence constitute the main features of the modern white left. Its advocates created a hive-mind in academia, which allowed them to spread white left values through Western society. The riots and protests that followed the election of Trump are the best evidence of this.

Chinese Social Media Notices US Cultural Revolution: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/08/chinese-social-media-notices-us.html
http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/23/american-anarchy-parallels-chinas-cultural-revolution/

Air China magazine warns London visitors to avoid ethnic minority areas: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/07/air-chinas-safety-tips-for-london-visitors-may-raise-eyebrows.html

Sinic culture warring:
Singapore: https://medium.com/chinese-privilege/to-my-dear-fellow-singapore-chinese-shut-up-when-a-minority-is-talking-about-race-48e00d7c7073
https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/871821559215923200
https://archive.is/Uxco6
The virus has reached Hong Kong (April 2017).
http://www.soh.hku.hk/docs/SOH_Inclusive_Language.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singaporean_Chinese_privilege

https://twitter.com/menangahela/status/914915192873644032
https://archive.is/ECBS6
china will beat us because making money reliably gets you pussy there
this is what Nick Land was trying to get at with the whole 'libidinal materialism' idea
So you're saying James Damore is the harbinger of the failure of "capitalism with American characteristics" for this reason.

https://twitter.com/menangahela/status/914905587489607680
https://archive.is/KftzV
people dont really make money for explicitly instrumental reasons anymore

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/elon-musk-inventors-plans-for-outer-space-cars-finding-love-w511747
https://twitter.com/NoamJStein/status/930884963657957376
https://archive.is/yw0j8
Surreal to read several paragraphs of “tfw no gf” from a guy worth 10 figures

https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-white-left/

https://twitter.com/RoundSqrCupola/status/952378865606938624
https://archive.is/a3zAH
Saving the Baizuo from his own stupidity is a important task. But very difficult and thankless.

https://twitter.com/RoundSqrCupola/status/952685733847949313
https://archive.is/PKcOz
I feel like I can predict how the Baizuo will behave, and the arguments he will give. But for the life of me I can’t understand his perspective.

https://twitter.com/RoundSqrCupola/status/952755125969354752
https://archive.is/6Jv31
The best places to live are inhabited by the Baizuo. The Baizuo makes for a good friend. And yet... he is a Baizuo. 😓

https://twitter.com/RoundSqrCupola/status/952687872557092864
https://archive.is/0hznI
Can the Baizuo be saved from his own stupidity?

83% too far gone...:(

https://twitter.com/HappyHectares/status/954396128111247361
https://archive.is/aEi0B
Multicultural America
I'm privy to a Chinese family having a meltdown because father was assigned an Indian doctor - eldest son is flying in - they want "a white doctor", not an affirmative-action doctor - a matter of honor & duty
--
Do Chinese see whites as dumb or misguided or both? I've heard mixed comments on this?
--
They see us as "too nice" - a beautiful but short-lived flower
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may 2017 by nhaliday
dk on Twitter: "Fall of paternalistic environment/institutions 4 helping ppl stop procrastinate disproportionately hurt low SES ppl: https://t.co/8EW0R1AkMs https://t.co/9LKnU8kjeb"
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Can Asians Think? - Kishore Mahbubani - Google Books
Huntington fails to ask one obvious question: If other civilisations have been around for centuries, Why are they posing a challenge only now? A sincere attempt to answer this question reveals a fatal flaw that has recently developed in the Western mind: _an inability to conceive that the West may have developed structural weaknesses in its core value systems and institutions_. This flaw explains, in part, the recent rush to embrace the assumption that history has ended with the triumph of the Western ideal: individual freedom and democracy would always guarantee that Western civilization would stay ahead of the pack.

Only hubris can explain why so many Western societies are trying to defy the economic laws of gravity. Budgetary discipline is disappearing. Expensive social programmes and pork-barrel projects multiply with little heed to costs. The West’s low savings and investment rates lead to declining competitiveness vis-a-vis East Asia. The work ethic is eroding, while politicians delude workers into believing that they can retain high wages despite becoming internationally uncompetitive. Leadership is lacking. Any politician who states hard truths is immediately voted out. Americans freely admit that many of their economic problems arise from the inherent gridlock of American democracy. While the rest of the world is puzzled by these fiscal follies, American politicians and journalists travel around the world preaching the virtues of democracy. It makes for a curious sight.

The same hero-worship is given to the idea of individual freedom. Much good has come from this idea. Slavery ended. Universal franchise followed. But freedom does not only solve problems; it can also cause them. The United States has undertaken a massive social experiment, tearing down social institution after social institution that restrained the individual. The results have been disastrous. Since 1960 the US population has increased 41 per cent while violent crime has risen by 560 per cent, single-mother births by 419 per cent, divorce rates by 300 per cent, and the percentage of children living in single-parent homes by 300 per cent. This is massive social decay. Many a society shudders at the prospect of this happening on its shores. But instead of travelling overseas with humility, Americans confidently preach the virtues of unfettered individual freedom, blithely ignoring the visible social consequences.

The West is still the repository of the greatest assets and achievements of human civilisation. Many Western values explain the spectacular advance of mankind: the belief in scientific inquiry, the search for rational solutions, and the willingness to challenge assumptions. But a belief that a society is practising these values can lead to a unique blindness: the inability to realise that some of the values that come with this package may be harmful. Western values do not form a seamless Web. Some are good. Some are bad. But one has to stand outside the West to see this clearly and to see how the West is bringing about its relative decline by its own hand. Huntington, too, is blind to this.

http://ashbrook.org/publications/onprin-v1n1-bennett/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
How Universal Is the Big Five? Testing the Five-Factor Model of Personality Variation Among Forager–Farmers in the Bolivian Amazon
We failed to find robust support for the FFM, based on tests of (a) internal consistency of items expected to segregate into the Big Five factors, (b) response stability of the Big Five, (c) external validity of the Big Five with respect to observed behavior, (d) factor structure according to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and (e) similarity with a U.S. target structure based on Procrustes rotation analysis.

...

We argue that Tsimane personality variation displays 2 principal factors that may reflect socioecological characteristics common to small-scale societies. We offer evolutionary perspectives on why the structure of personality variation may not be invariant across human societies.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Thinking Outside One’s Paradigm | Academically Interesting
I think that as a scientist (or really, even as a citizen) it is important to be able to see outside one’s own paradigm. I currently think that I do a good job of this, but it seems to me that there’s a big danger of becoming more entrenched as I get older. Based on the above experiences, I plan to use the following test: When someone asks me a question about my field, how often have I not thought about it before? How tempted am I to say, “That question isn’t interesting”? If these start to become more common, then I’ll know something has gone wrong.
ratty  clever-rats  academia  science  interdisciplinary  lens  frontier  thinking  rationality  meta:science  curiosity  insight  scholar  innovation  reflection  acmtariat  water  biases  heterodox  🤖  🎓  aging  meta:math  low-hanging  big-picture  hi-order-bits  flexibility  org:bleg  nibble  the-trenches  wild-ideas  metameta  courage  s:**  discovery  context  embedded-cognition  endo-exo  near-far  🔬  info-dynamics  allodium  ideas  questions  within-without  meta:research 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Why Chinese Speakers Cut Their Hair Before New Year’s
Is the Chinese Language a Superstition Machine?: How ambiguity in language can create unique taboos.
news  org:mag  popsci  china  asia  language  culture  biases  cocktail  org:sci  foreign-lang  sinosphere  embedded-cognition  info-dynamics 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Cultural Value Shifting in Pronoun Use - Dec 03, 2015
By investigating the use of first-person pronouns in nine languages using the Google Ngram Database, we examined the degree to which different cultural values skewed toward individualism or collectivism over a span of 59 years. We found that in eight of nine languages (British English being the exception), first-person singular pronouns (vs. first-person plural pronouns) have become increasingly prevalent, which in turn points to a rising sense of individualism. British English showed a U-shaped curve trend in the use of first-person singular pronouns (vs. first-person plural pronouns). Although they initially decreased, British English’s first-person singular pronouns (vs. first-person plural pronouns) use was higher than most other languages throughout the whole period. Chinese displayed a fluctuating pattern wherein the use of first-person singular pronouns (vs. first-person plural pronouns) increased in recent periods. The dynamics of cultural change and culture diversity were discussed.
study  language  anglosphere  china  europe  embedded-cognition  water  values  anthropology  psychology  social-psych  culture  society  cliometrics  britain  things  trends  individualism-collectivism  foreign-lang  world  sinosphere  sociology  info-dynamics  social-norms  anglo  chart  zeitgeist  orient  phalanges  cultural-dynamics 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Tamarian language | Memory Alpha | Fandom powered by Wikia
For example, instead of asking for cooperation, they would use a phrase such as "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra", because their culture's stories include a tale of two Tamarians, Darmok and Jalad, who were brought together while fighting a common foe on an island called Tanagra.
trivia  vulgar  wiki  tv  culture  gedanken  language  embedded-cognition  water  analogy  fiction  scifi-fantasy 
december 2016 by nhaliday
What You Can't Say
E Pur Si Muove:
http://blog.samaltman.com/e-pur-si-muove
https://archive.is/yE75n

Sam Altman and the fear of political correctness: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/sam-altman-fear-political-correctness.html
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
--
And so it runs with shadow prices for speech, including rights to say things and to ask questions. Whatever you are free to say in America, you have said many times already, and the marginal value of exercising that freedom yet again doesn’t seem so high. But you show up in China, and wow, your pent-up urges are not forbidden topics any more. Just do be careful with your mentions of Uncle Xi, Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur terrorists, and disappearing generals. That said, in downtown Berkeley you can speculate rather freely on whether China will someday end up as a Christian nation, and hardly anybody will be offended.

For this reason, where we live typically seems especially unfree when it comes to speech. And when I am in China, I usually have so, so many new dishes I want to sample, including chestnuts and pumpkin.

replies: http://www.businessinsider.com/sam-altman-ignites-debate-on-whether-silicon-valley-culture-makes-it-tough-to-innovate-2017-12

https://medium.com/@jasoncrawford/what-people-think-you-cant-say-in-silicon-valley-a6d04f632a00

Baidu's Robin Li is Helping China Win the 21st Century: http://time.com/5107485/baidus-robin-li-helping-china-win-21st-century/
Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of China’s efforts to forge the future: the country has the world’s most severe restrictions on Internet freedom, according to advocacy group Freedom House. China employs a highly sophisticated censorship apparatus, dubbed the Great Firewall, to snuff out any content deemed critical or inappropriate. Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as news portals like the New York Times, Bloomberg and TIME, are banned. Manned by an army of 2 million online censors, the Great Firewall gives outsiders the impression of deathly silence within.

But in fact, business thrives inside the firewall’s confines–on its guardians’ terms, of course–and the restrictions have not appeared to stymie progress. “It turns out you don’t need to know the truth of what happened in Tiananmen Square to develop a great smartphone app,” says Kaiser Kuo, formerly Baidu’s head of international communications and a co-host of Sinica, an authoritative podcast on China. “There is a deep hubris in the West about this.” The central government in Beijing has a fearsome capacity to get things done and is willing to back its policy priorities with hard cash. The benefits for companies willing or able to go along with its whims are clear. The question for Baidu–and for Li–is how far it is willing to go.

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead: https://www.ft.com/content/42daca9e-facc-11e7-9bfc-052cbba03425
The work ethic in Chinese tech companies far outpaces their US rivals
- MICHAEL MORITZ

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief.

The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west.

In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.

...

While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

https://twitter.com/jasonlk/status/954036667777662982
What I learned from 5 weeks in Beijing + Shanghai:

- startup creation + velocity dwarfs anything in SF
- no one in China I met is remotely worried about U.S. or possibly even cares
- access to capital is crazy
- scale feels about 20x of SF
- endless energy
- not SV jaded

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy-tech-analysis/china-goes-on-tech-hiring-binge-and-wages-soar-closing-gap-with-silicon-valley-idUSKBN1FD37S

https://twitter.com/BDSixsmith/status/953554454967668738
https://archive.is/JpHik
Western values are freeriding on Western innovation.
--
Comparatively unimpeded pursuit of curiosity into innovation is a Western value that pays the carriage fare.
--
True. A lot of values are worthwhile in certain contexts but should never have been scaled.

Diversity, "social mobility", iconoclasm
--
--
but due to military and technological victory over its competitors
--
There's something to be said for Western social trust as well, though that's an institution more than an idea
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Book Review: Empire of the Summer Moon - Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz
On the other hand, the Comanches fit the classic pattern of hunter-gatherer civilizations of simultaneously being really mean to people outside the tribe while showing deep and heartfelt kindness to everyone within. We know this because sometimes if there were very young children, and the Comanches were feeling a bit low on headcount, they would capture the children and adopt them as full Comanches (after torture-killing the parents, of course) and some of these children would later grow up to write English-language books about their experience. But this practice definitely led to some awkward situations, and the book centers around one of them: the last great chief of the Comanches, Quanah, was half-white, the son of a Comanche chief and a Texan woman who had been captured when she was nine years old.

So there was a bit of traffic back and forth between America and Comancheria in the 19th century. White people being captured and raised by Comanches. The captives being recaptured years later and taken back into normal white society. Indians being defeated and settled on reservations and taught to adopt white lifestyles. And throughout the book's description of these events, there was one constant:

All of the white people who joined Indian tribes loved it and refused to go back to white civilization. All the Indians who joined white civilization hated it and did everything they could to go back to their previous tribal lives.

http://www.unz.com/isteve/geronimo/
Americans, at least those of old-settler stock, are not like Canadians or Latin Americans, either. They have an ornery character, especially those of Scotch-Irish ancestry who were our most legendary Indian fighters, a natural antagonism to the powers that be and a take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude. To them, Indians have a lot of admirable characteristics, real or mythical: stoicism, refusal to stay down or stay put, defiance, resistance… And many of those whose people were here from the beginning did fight Indians and some percent did marry into tribes.

It’s interesting that no white would proudly say (well, until very recently) that he was part black, certainly if he actually had no black blood. If he did have black ancestors it would be something to be ashamed of and hidden. No old-stock Californian would boast that he was part Chinese — again, especially if he actually had no Chinese ancestry. But lots of white Americans, as you say, claim Indian ancestry even when they don’t have it, and have done so since long before there was affirmative action or any official advantage to doing so, and long after the fierce warrior of forest and plain had been replaced by the rez drunk.

That is telling us something important about our country and our history. And I think it’s rather a good thing — that we don’t disparage those we displaced, but empathize with them, acknowledge their loss and try, in some way, to assuage it by claiming that we, too, are Indian, one with them, and one with our mutual land.

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/893933897523879937
https://archive.is/1rcjw
here's coolidge looking cool in a traditional amerindian headdress #happysaturday

Horsepower: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/horsepower/
The Comanche used to raid into Mexico. In the fall, small groups joined up and rode south on a network of trails, called the Comanche Trace. Some came from as far away as the Arkansas River. In places, there was a beaten path as much as a mile wide. They often rode at night, when the moon was full. Some allied tribes, like the Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache, accompanied them. Each warrior took three or four horses with him.

The Comanche raided as far as Jalisco. The Kiowa-Apache, who were the most daring, once came back with parrots. Mostly, though, they stole cattle and horses – tens of thousands of them – and kidnapped people.

Unless stopped by a real army, the Comanches could and did push back the frontier of settlement. “The Legislature of Chihuahua described the situation it faced in 1846. “We travel the roads…at their [i.e. the Comanches and Apaches] whim; we cultivate the land where they wish and in the amount they wish; we use sparingly things they have left to us until the moment that it strikes their appetite to take them for themselves.” “ Traveler Josiah Gregg said that “the whole country from New Mexico to the borders of Durango is almost entirely depopulated. ”

During the Civil War, when the US Cavalry and Texas Rangers were otherwise occupied, the Comanche pushed back the frontier in Texas by 100 kilometers or so.

The attractions of civilization: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-attractions-of-civilization/
Many have noted how difficult it is to persuade hunter-gatherers to adopt agriculture, or more generally, to get people to adopt a more intensive kind of agriculture.

Will the Indians Get Whitey?: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/vdare-live/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06132946/WillTheIndiansGetWhiteyJohnGreenawayNationalReviewMarch11-1969.pdf
The "Noble Savage" wasn't all that noble,
contends a distinguished anthropologist whose specialty is things Indian.
But the author saves his big guns for an even lesser breed:
The guilt-ridden, history-distorting paleface
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july 2016 by nhaliday
Goodreads | Gwern's review of Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
- book about the Pirahã and their language/culture
- reminds me of julian jaynes
- some interesting analysis in comment

They seem to need relatively little sleep, mature quickly, never plan ahead or make long-term investments (such as making wicker rather than palm leave baskets) or talk about the distant future/past (and will very rarely talk about anything they learned from someone now dead: "generally only the most experienced language teachers will do this, those who have developed an ability to abstract from the subjective use of their language and who are able to comment on it from an objective perspective"), and will casually throw away tools or things they will need soon. They know how to preserve meat, but never both unless intending to trade it; food is eaten whenever it's available, and since they fish at all hours, everyone might wake up at 3AM for fish.

...

They have difficulty understanding foreigners are like them, and can understand language, in a bizarre echo of the Chinese room:

Then I noticed another bemusing fact. The Pirahãs would converse with me and then turn to one another, in my presence, to talk about me, as though I was not even there.

...

Their language, in their view, emerges from their lives as Pirahãs and from their relationships to other Pirahãs. If I could utter appropriate responses to their questions, this was no more evidence that I spoke their language than a recorded message is to me evidence that my telephone is a native speaker of English. I was like one of the bright macaws or parrots so abundant along the Maici. My "speaking" was just some cute trick to some of them. It was not really speaking.

All of this is part of Everett's case that the Pirahã are, like Luria's peasant, ruled by an "immediacy of experience principle" and this yields an extraordinarily conservative culture on which new ideas and concepts roll off like so much water off a duck's back.

Their supernatural beliefs are particularly fascinating: dreams are simply interpreted literally and discussed as supernatural events that happened, and any random thing can be a 'spirit', with regular theatrical performances of 'spirits' who are obviously tribe men (but when asked, Pirahã deny that there is any connection between particular men and spirits, part of their weak grasp on personal identity (I was particularly amused by the Heraclitean tone of one anecdote: "Pirahãs occasionally talked about me, when I emerged from the river in the evenings after my bath. I heard them ask one another, 'Is this the same one who entered the river or is it kapioxiai [a dangerous spirit]?'"), where names change regularly and are considered new people). Some of the spirit appearances are group hallucinations or consensus, and Everett opens Don't Sleep with the anecdote of being part of a group of Pirahã staring at an empty sand bank where they see the spirit Xigagai saying he will kill anyone going into the forest that day. This example is a bit perplexing: what could possibly be the use of this and why would they either perceive it or go along with it? Similarly, it's hard to see how the spirit outside the village talking all night about how he wanted to have sex with specific women of the village is serving any role, and the tribesman reaction when Everett walks up and asks to record his ranting is hilariously deadpan: "'Sure, go ahead', he answered immediately in his normal voice". Other spirits make more sense:

Pirahãs listen carefully and often follow the exhortations of the kaoaib6gi. A spirit might say something like "Don't want Jesus. He is not Pirahã", or "Don't hunt downriver tomorrow", or things that are commonly shared values, such as "Don't eat snakes." Through spirits, ostracism, food-sharing regulation, and so on, Pirahã society disciplines itself.
culture  anthropology  woah  language  iq  genetics  postrat  cocktail  gwern  books  review  hmm  simler  🦀  mystic  population-genetics  sapiens  ratty  summary  🌞  eden  street-fighting  c:***  insight  2016  embedded-cognition  s:*  info-dynamics  pop-diff  quantitative-qualitative  farmers-and-foragers  dennett  theos  👽  stories  deep-materialism  kinship  alien-character  time-preference  patience  social-norms  roots  poast  linguistics 
april 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : coordinfopatternssoftthinking

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