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Rationally Ending Intellectual Discussions

Discussions should end gracefully. There should be some clarity about why they’re ending and why that’s rationally acceptable. If someone wants to continue the discussion, they should have the opportunity to see why this ending is reasonable. (Or, failing that, they should have some evidence available to enable them to argue their case that it was unreasonable. They shouldn’t be left with little or no data about what happened.)

If you discuss poorly, it’s important that you can learn from that and do better next time. If you want it, you should have access to some critical feedback, some explanation of the other person’s perspective, or something to enable progress. If you’re running into problems interacting with people, but no one will tell you what the problem is, that’s bad for rational progress.

The more easily discussions can end, the more easily they can start. We don’t want discussing to be a big burden or commitment (it’s OK if a few discussions require high effort, when people have reason to voluntarily choose that, but that shouldn’t be the default).

Discussions can end by mutual agreement. If no one objects to the ending, that’s fine. That’s one way to end discussions. Pretty much everyone agrees on this. The difficulty is that sometimes people don’t agree. Someone wants to stop discussing but someone else wants to pursue the matter further.

I don’t think agreeing to disagree, by itself, is a good reason to end a discussion by mutual agreement. Disagreements can be resolved! There should be an extra factor like agreeing that it’s reasonable to prioritize other stuff (which we may leave implied without explicitly mentioning). There are many problems to work on, and time/energy/etc are scarce resources, so it’s fine to drop a disagreement (for now, indefinitely) if people think they can get more value working on other stuff.

Ending discussions when a single person wants to, for any reason, with no explanation, is problematic. For example, people will end discussions when they (the ideas they are biased in favor of) start losing the argument.

But we don’t want to trap people in discussions. Sometimes one guy has a lot of energy to discuss something forever but you want to stop. There are lots of legitimate reasons to end a discussion.

You can try to explain your reasons for ending a discussion, but no matter what you say, the other guy might disagree. This is a real concern because you don’t want to discuss extra with the most unreasonable people who give low quality counterarguments to all your reasons for stopping discussion. Meanwhile the most reasonable people tend voluntarily to let you out of discussions, so you discuss with them the least!?

There has to be a way to unilaterally end discussions. You end it without agreement. But it should have some protections against abuse. We don’t want it to be acceptable to arbitrarily end any discussion at any time for no reason or awful reasons. This is for your own sake, too, not just for the benefit of others. If I want to end a discussion and the other guy disagrees, I ought to consider that maybe I’m biased. I might be evading the issue, avoiding being corrected, etc. I shouldn’t just fully trust my own judgment. I should want some discussion policies that make it harder for me to be and stay irrational, biased, unreasonable, etc.

Note: Of course anyone can stop talking at any time for no reason. That’s a matter of freedom. No one should be held hostage. The issue is the consequences for your reputation. What is considered reasonable or rational? Some discussion ending behavior ought to be seen negatively by the community. Some good ways of ending discussions out to be encouraged, widespread and normal. Some bad ways of ending discussions should be disincentivized.

Note: Even if a discussion actively continues, you could participate in it on less than a daily basis. Discussions don’t have to be fast. Some norms are needed for what is stalling a discussion out (e.g. one reply per decade would be a way to pretend you didn’t end the discussion when basically you did). In my experience, people are usually pretty reasonable about discussion pacing, with a few notable exceptions. (The main problem I see is people who discuss a bunch initially and then never come back to it as soon as they go do something else or as soon as they sleep once.)

So we want a way to end a discussion, even if other people disagree with ending the discussion, but which has some protection against abuse (bad faith), error, bias, irrationality, etc. It should ideally provide some transparency: some evidence about why the discussion is ending that can be judged neutrally, positively or negatively by the audience. And it should provide some sort of feedback or learning opportunity for the guy who didn’t want to stop here.

So here’s the first draft of a policy: When you want to end a discussion, you are expected to write one final message which explains why you’re ending the discussion. You’re also expected to read one more message from the other guy, so he has one chance to point out that you’re making a mistake and he could potentially tell you why you should change your mind about ending the discussion.

What’s good about this policy? It helps limit abuse. It’s harder to end a discussion for a bad reason if you have to explain yourself. The other guy gets some info about what happened. The other guy has a chance at a rebuttal so you could potentially be corrected. And it’s not very time consuming. It puts a small, strict limit on how much more discussion happens after you decide you’d like to wrap it up.

This is a pretty minimal policy. I think it could be a good default expectation that LW could use for any discussion where people have each written 3+ messages (or maybe 5+ to reduce the burden? The number could be tuned if this was tried out for a while). That way it won’t add an extra burden to really small discussions. Tiny discussions would be discouraged by any overhead at all. Tiny discussions are also lower investment so ending them is a smaller deal. People haven’t formed a reasonable expectation of reaching a conclusion, getting their questions answered, or anything else. They’re just sharing some thoughts on an ad hoc, no-obligation basis. That’s fine. But for more substantive discussions, I think adding a little bit of an ending cost is reasonable.

The minimal policy has some downsides. If we had a policy that takes more effort, we could fix some problems and get some benefits. So I think for discussions that go longer (e.g. 10+ messages each) or when people mutually agree to make it a substantive discussion, then a longer but better approach could be used for unilaterally ending a discussion.

What are problems with the single parting message? It could be unclear. It could ignore a key issue. It could misrepresent the other guy’s positions or misrepresent what happened in the discussion. It could be poorly thought through and show major signs of bias.

What are the problems with a single rebuttal to the parting message that won’t be replied to? If it asks any clarifying questions, they won’t be answered. Any great points could be ignored without explanation.

So as a next step up, we could have a two-part discussion ending. Instead of one more back and forth (parting message + rebuttal), we could have two more back and forths. Initial parting message, rebuttal and questions, final parting message, and then final rebuttal.

BTW, the rebuttals are semi-optional. You can just decide to agree with the guy’s parting message if you want (maybe it makes sense to you once he explains his position). Or instead of a rebuttal or agreement, your other option is to write your own parting message. But you shouldn’t disagree with their parting message and then silently end the discussion with zero explanation of what’s going on.

Note: Parting messages don’t have to be very long. A few clearly written sentences can cover the key points (e.g. your opinion of the discussion, your final comments on some open issues, your reasons for ending). A bit longer is needed if you write fluff. And generally you should write a bit more if the discussion was longer.

With a two back-and-forth discussion ending, it’s still possible to dodge questions, avoid key issues, etc. It can take quite a few iterations to get some stuff cleared up, and that’s if people are being reasonable. Unreasonable people can sabotage discussions indefinitely.

So what about a three back-and-forth discussion ending? Or four or five? Nothing will be perfect or give a guarantee.

Let’s consider other approaches. What about a 5% ending? However many words you wrote in the discussion, you should write 5% of that number in the discussion ending phase. That seems kinda reasonable. That means for every 20 words of discussion you write, you’re potentially obligating yourself to one word later. This might need to be capped for very long discussions. This means your effort to end the discussion gracefully is proportional to the effort you put into the discussion.

This approach still suffers from being a fairly arbitrary cutoff. You just decide to end the discussion, say a few things that hopefully do a good job of exposing your reasoning to criticism and giving the other guy the chance to learn that he’s wrong, and say a few things to wrap up the open issues (like briefly answering a few key questions you hadn’t gotten to, so the discussion is left in a more complete form and your case is left adequately complete that someone could learn from you). I think that’s way better than nothing but still has significant potential to go wrong.

One useful technique is agreeing to escalate the commitment to the discussion. You can say “I will discuss X but only if you’ll agree to a 3 back and forth ending if you want to end the discussion when I don’t (which I’ll also agree to if I want to end it unilaterally).” It sometimes makes sense to not want to invest in a discussion then have it end abruptly in a way that’s unsatisfying and inconclusive from your perspective.

It makes sense to want a discussion to either be productive or else the other guy makes a clear claim – explained enough that you could learn from it – about what you’re doing wrong, so you have the opportunity to improve (or maybe to criticize his error and judge him, rather than being left with a lack of data). Someone could also explain why the discussion isn’t working in a no-fault way, e.g. you and he have some incompatible traits.

Saying “I’m busy” is broadly a bad excuse to end discussions. You were busy when you started, too, right? What changed? Sometimes people actually get significantly busier in an unforeseeable way in the middle of a discussion, but that shouldn’t be very common. Usually “I’m busy” is code for “I think your messages are low quality and inadequately valuable”. That claim isn’t very satisfying for the other guy without at least one example quote and some critical analysis of what is bad about the quote. Often people speak in general terms about low quality discussion without any quoted examples, which also tends to be unsatisfactory, because the person being criticized is like “Uhh, I don’t think I did that thing you’re accusing me of. I can’t learn from these vague claims. You aren’t showing me any examples. Maybe you misunderstood me or something.”

It can be reasonable to say “I thought I’d be interested in this topic but it turns out I’m not that interested.” You shouldn’t say this often but occasionally is OK. Shit happens. You can end a discussion due to your own mistake. When you do, you shouldn’t hide it. Let the other guy and the audience know that you aren’t blaming him. And maybe by sharing the problem you’ll be able to get some advice about how to do better next time. Or if you share the problem, maybe after a bunch of discussions you’ll be able to review why they ended and find some patterns and then realize you have a recurring problem you should work on.

Impasse Chains

Besides trying to end a discussion gracefully with a parting phase where a few things get explained, I have a different proposal: impasse chains.

An impasse is a statement about why the discussion isn’t working. We’re stuck because of this impasse. It’s explaining some problem in the discussion which is important enough to end the discussion (rather than being minor and ignorable). What if no one problem is ruinous but several are adding up to a major problem? Then the impasse is the conjunction of the smaller problems: group them together and explain why the group is an impasse.

Stating an impasse provides transparency and gives the other guy some opportunity to potentially address or learn from the discussion problem.

Impasses are meant to, hopefully, be solved. You should try to say what’s going wrong that, if it was changed to your satisfaction, you’d actually want to continue.

The other guy can then suggest a solution to the impasse or agree to stop. A solution can be a direct solution (fix the problem) or an indirect solution (a workaround or a better way to think about the issue, e.g. a reason the problem is misconceived and isn’t really a problem). You should also try to think about solutions to impasses yourself.

Sometimes the guy will recognize the impasse exists. Other times it’ll seem strange to him. He wasn’t seeing the discussion that way. So there’s some opportunity for clarification. Lots of times that someone wants to end a discussion, it follows some sort of fixable misunderstanding.

So far an impasse is just a way to think about a parting message, and you can hopefully see why continuing at least one more message past the initial impasse claim makes sense. So you may think this impasse approach just suggests having 2-5 messages (per person) to end discussions. And that’s decent – a lot of discussions do way worse – but I also have a different suggestion.

The suggestion is to chain impasses together.

So step 0, we discuss.

Step 1, I say an impasse and we try to solve it. This is an impasse regarding step 0.

Step 2, I decide the problem solving isn’t working in some way (otherwise I’d be happy to continue). So I state an impasse with the problem solving. This is an impasse regarding step 1.

Step 3, we try to solve the second impasse. Either this problem solving discussion satisfies me or I see something wrong with it. If it’s not working, I say an impasse with this discussion. This is the third impasse.

Each time an impasse is stated, the previous discussion is set aside and the impasse becomes the new topic of discussion. (Though a few closing comments on the previous discussion are fine and may be a good idea.) The impasse is either solved (and then you can return to the prior discussion) or leads to a new impasse. This can repeat indefinitely. You can have an impasse about the discussion of an impasse about the discussion of an impasse in the original discussion.

The impasses are chained together. Each one is linked to the previous one. This is different than multiple separate impasses with the original discussion. Here, we’re dealing with one impasse for the original discussion and then the other impasses in the chain are all at meta levels.

Note: If you see multiple impasses with the original discussion, often that means you tried to ignore one. Instead of bringing up the first one and trying to do problem solving, you let problems accumulate. It’s possible for multiple impasses to come up at the same time but it isn’t very common. In any case, you can deal with the impasses one at a time. Pick one to focus on. If it gets resolved, move on to the next one.

It doesn’t make sense to ask someone to discuss X further when he sees an impasse with discussion X (meaning a reason that discussion isn’t working). You’ll have to address that problem in some way or agree to stop. Discussing the problem itself is a different discussion than discussing X, so it should be possible to try it.

The more impasses chain, usually the clearer the situation gets. Each level tends to be simpler than the previous level. There are fewer issues in play. It becomes more obvious what to do. This helps but isn’t nearly enough to make impasse chains get addressed (either solve every impasse or agree to stop) in a reasonable amount of time.

Impasse chains often get repetitive. Problems reoccur. Suppose I think you keep saying non sequiturs. We can’t discuss the original topic because of that. So then we try to discuss that impasse. What happens? More non sequiturs (at least from my point of view)!

Some discussion problems won’t affect meta levels but some are more generic and will. You can try to say “OK given our disagreements about X, Y and Z, including methodology disagreements, what can we still do to continue problem solving which is neutral – which makes sense regardless of what’s correct about those open issues, and makes sense from both of our points of view?” Often what happens is you can’t think of anything. It’s hard. Oh well. Then you can mutually agree to end the discussion since neither of you knows a good way to continue.

When impasse chains get long, you tend to either have a lot of issues that are being set aside (given A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H are unresolved, what can we do?) or you have a lot of repetition (every meta level is the same problem, e.g. my belief that you’re replies are non sequiturs). Repetition is itself a reason to end the discussion. It’s just repeating and neither of us knows a way to fix it, so we can agree to stop.

This kind of ending is satisfying in a way. It gives transparency about why the discussion ended. It means (worst case scenario) I’ve gotten to make my case about what you’re doing wrong, and you’ve failed to answer it substantively, so now I’m reasonably content (not my favorite outcome, but what more would I hope to gain from continuing?).

So a policy can be e.g. to discuss until an impasse chain with the same problem 3 times in a row. Or to discuss until an impasse chain of at least length 5. Generally 5 is plenty. Reaching the 5th metal level can be quite fast and clarifying.

Impasses can be declared in bad faith. People can disagree about what is an impasse. Then what? Discussions have to proceed in ways that make sense to all parties. If someone thinks there is an impasse, then there is one, even if the impasse consists of his misconception. And yes bad faith is possible. What can be done about that? Transparency. Exposing it to daylight. Having systems like this that make bad faith more visible and easier to criticize. Having procedures that create more evidence of bad faith.

In general, by an impasse chain of length 5, if one person is being rational and the other isn’t, it gets really obvious who is who. This gives the rational guy reason to be satisfied with ending the discussion (he knows what happened and why, and he had some chances to try to solve it) and it gives evidence about both parties. If both people are fairly equal in skill or rationality, or both are pretty bad (even if unequally bad), then you can much more easily have muddy waters after an impasse chain of length 5. Oh well. Creating clearer impasse chains is a skill you can work on. You can learn from your attempts to create some clarity and what didn’t work and why, and try to do better next time. And you can try to learn from the other guy’s attempts to.

The impasse chain system is unnecessary for every discussion. It’s a bit heavyweight and high transaction cost to use all the time. But it’s pretty limited. If you agree to a 5 impasse chain, you’re always 5 messages away from getting out of the discussion. The only reason it’d take more is if the other guy said reasonable stuff. But if he says unreasonable stuff, you’re done in 5 messages, and some of those messages will often be just one paragraph or even one sentence long.

This approach is good when people want to claim they are open to debate and that their views have stood up to debate. That leads to disputes over what it means to be open to debate, etc. I propose being willing to enter into discussions terminated by a length 5 impasse chain (or mutual agreement) as a reasonable criterion for a (self-declared) serious intellectual to say he’s actually open to substantive debate about something and is actually addressing critics.

And the impasse chain approach can be requested when you want to have a discussion if and only if there will be a substantial ending to protect your effort investment. If you want to avoid a case of putting in a bunch of effort now and then the guy just leaves, you can ask for an impasse chain precommitment or 5 parting message precommitment or other way to help protect (and therefore enable) your energy investment into the discussion.

Concluding Thoughts

What’s the typical failure case look like? Joe is trying to have a rational discussion and Bob says “eh, your messages are lame; bye” and won’t answer questions or address arguments. Or, worse, Bob explains even less than that. If Bob would explain that much, at least people could see “OK Bob accused Joe of lame messages and gave zero arguments. Therefore Bob is lame.” Impasse chains or even just parting messages help enable problem solving as well as clarifying what happened in bad outcomes.

Often a discussion looks like this: Joe writes a blog post. Bob says some criticism. Joe sees many flaws in the criticism. Joe explains the flaws. Bob stops talking. This isn’t satisfying for Joe. He never got feedback on his post from post-misconception Bob. And Bob probably didn’t change his mind. And Bob didn’t even say what the outcome was. Or if Bob did change his mind about something, it’s often a partial change followed immediately by like a “you win; bye”. People routinely use conceding as a way to end discussions with no followups: no post mortem (learning about why the error happened and how to fix the underlying cause), no working out the consequences of the right ideas, etc. The correction doesn’t go anywhere.

That’s sad for Joe. He didn’t want to correct Bob just for fun. He wanted to correct Bob so it’d lead to something more directly beneficial to Joe. E.g. Joe’s correction could be criticized and that’d have value for Joe (he learns he was actually wrong in some way). Or Joe corrects Bob and then it leads to further discussion that’s valuable to Joe. If correcting people is pure charity – and you usually get ghosted without them admitting they were corrected – then people will even try to do it way less. There should be rewards like some sort of resolution to the issues and continuation. Discuss productively and keep going (and maybe Joe learns something later or, failing that, at least gets a good student who learns a bunch of things and may be able to suggest good ideas in the future), or say the impasse for why it’s not productive.

Often Bob thinks Joe is doing something wrong in the discussion but won’t explain it enough for Joe to have a reasonable opportunity to learn better. Note that cites are fine. If it’s already explained somewhere, link it. Just take responsibility for the material you refer people to: you’re using it as our proxy, to speak for you, so you ought to have similar willingness to address questions and criticisms as if you’d written it yourself (but if it’s popular stuff with lots of existing discussion, then you can address FAQs by referring the guy to the FAQ, can direct him to the forum for that community to get questions answered and only answer them yourself if the forum won’t answer, and you can link other blog posts, books, papers, etc. to address followup issues if those exist, etc.)

Impasse chains help address these problems and help make it harder to end discussions due to your own error and bias. And they provide opportunities to solve discussion problems instead of just giving up at the first problem, or in the alternative at least more transparency about the problems can be achieved.

See also

My prior article on Impasse Chains.

My articles on Paths Forward (about discussing in such a way that if you’re wrong and anyone knows it and is willing to tell you, you never block that off with no way for your error to be corrected), including the article Using Intellectual Processes to Combat Bias.

My debate policy.


View this post at Less Wrong.


Elliot Temple on August 12, 2020

Messages (49)

I asked someone in LW comments:

> Suppose hypothetically that the worldwide availability of this type of discussion [organized to try to reach a conclusion, e.g. by using impasse chains as a stopping procedure] was zero. Do you think that would be important or consequential?

Will anyone here answer?


curi at 6:56 PM on August 12, 2020 | #17378 | reply | quote

I think it'd be important and consequential. Even if it wasn't literally zero but only approximately zero.

One of the consequences is that people shouldn't expect discussions to reach conclusions where people change their mind [in the current situation].

Many years ago when I was active in politics it was well known by me and others that it took at least two discussions - often more, and with different people in different contexts - to change someone's mind. The theory was something like: the first discussion just introduced new ideas and doubt about current ideas to the person. Then over time the person would gradually change their own mind. By the last conversation (second, third, 50th...) they had already changed their mind and maybe had a few questions before joining.

Christianity also has the same idea for proselytizing, which they analogize with farming: One person plants the seed, another waters and/or God sends rain, the sun shines, time passes, the plant grows, and then eventually someone harvests. Christianity was big on people being seed planters and waterers, and acknowledging that if they harvested (converted someone to christianity) it was because of work that others and God had done beforehand.


Andy Dufresne at 6:58 AM on August 13, 2020 | #17383 | reply | quote

>When you want to end a discussion, you are expected to right one final message which explains why you’re ending the discussion.

Might mean "write" instead of "right."


Periergo at 9:09 AM on August 13, 2020 | #17384 | reply | quote

#17383 What would it mean for science or academic journals or controversial issues like the global warming debate?


curi at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2020 | #17387 | reply | quote

curi at 10:43 AM on August 13, 2020 | #17388 | reply | quote

One of the things I'd ask Dagon next, if he was actually willing to think, is:

What other types of discussion are effective at rationally resolving disagreements?

Discussion types without ending procedures allow for people to end discussions because whenever they're biased without transparency to reveal the bias. If our only defenses against bias are ad hoc, we should expect poor results (as Less Wrong / Overcoming Bias ought to know).


curi at 10:47 AM on August 13, 2020 | #17389 | reply | quote

#17387 I don't have a big picture view but I think it could help explain some things we see, like:

- People deferring to "consensus" rather than conclusion.

- Outstanding controversies where each side expresses supreme confidence their position is correct but it's hard to tell if any one actually is without detailed domain expertise.

- The popular treatment of science papers / studies similar to memes and sound-bites: a selection of cudgels from which one may freely select when convenient for the purposes of virtue signalling to friendlies or beating the opposition.


Andy Dufresne at 2:58 PM on August 13, 2020 | #17394 | reply | quote

FWIW, I agree with what he said here,

> The example you link to is interesting, but to me it seems like a fine example of how your approach doesn't work well! Not just because in that case the discussion ended up getting terminated as unconstructive -- of course that is inevitable given why you linked to it at all. But:

> The "impasse chain" concept didn't end up actually being useful. The other person did things you found unhelpful; you declared an "impasse"; and then every time he responded you just stonewalled him incremented your impasse count until it reached 5.

... Even though the responses you reacted to in this way were (so it seems to me) clearly responsive to the things you said constituted an impasse; e.g., asking for examples of what you were wanting with the arithmetic-expression tree.

> It's entirely possible that the discussion was never going to be productive and so ending it was a good idea -- but the particular complaints that provoked its ending seem strange to me. E.g., you asked him to "make a tree of 1-2+3" to see whether he understood the notion of tree you were using; while his first attempt was (1) wrong because he misread the formula and (2) garbled because he thought he could use indentation in a way that didn't actually work, what he subsequently did was perfectly reasonable, especially in the context of "idea trees". And while I don't think he explained what he was saying about externalities super-clearly, I think his placement of those two propositions in the tree was quite reasonable.


Periergo at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17399 | reply | quote

Can you point out one example where Gavin was responsive or I made a mistake? I think you're just making logical errors.

The basic issue is that, every time, Gavin was not responsive to my most recent message that I'd just said to him. Which is exactly what I said.


curi at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17400 | reply | quote

There are other errors in what gjm said too, e.g. I think Gavin *did arithmetic wrong*. He didn't just misread the formula. No one has provided any model of what happened where Gavin misread the formula and it resulted in the observed outcomes. No explanations of that nature have actually been proposed. I think gjm was making a careless, unargued excuse about that.


curi at 12:07 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17401 | reply | quote

No I mean, the stated impasse chains just seemed to stonewall and didn't help the discussion. I am not saying you made mistakes.


Periergo at 1:53 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17403 | reply | quote

#17403 Gavin stonewalled me by, 5+ times in a row, being non-responsive to what I just said. I don't know of any other actions I could have taken that would have been better for me. I don't know how to have beneficial-to-me a discussion with people who are unwilling and/or unable to respond to what I say, over and over. I know how to ignore tons of problems and say things Gavin would like better, but I wouldn't get value out of that.


curi at 2:27 PM on August 14, 2020 | #17405 | reply | quote

#17394 Another thing it'd mean.

> worldwide availability of this type of discussion [organized to try to reach a conclusion, e.g. by using impasse chains as a stopping procedure] was zero

This would mean something like: Discussion isn't very productive. So most good ideas come from one great man, perhaps aided by non-interactive resources like books. Collaborations don't work well. Howard Roarks work well. Conclusion-reaching mostly has to be done in a single great mind.


curi at 1:11 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17422 | reply | quote

I was curious to see if you would comment on this from the LW forum that gjm wrote,

> My tentative interpretation of this, and of other interactions of

> yours that I've observed -- and here comes the norm-breaking bit -- is

> that on some level you aren't really interested in discussion on an

> equal footing; you are looking for _disciples_ not peers, you find

> discussion satisfactory only when you get to control the terms on

> which it happens, and when that doesn't seem possible you generally

> choose to engage in status-attacks on the other parties instead of

> discussing on equal terms. I don't think you are here on LW in order

> to have a discussion in which you and we might refine our ideas by

> correcting each others' errors; I think you are here to demonstrate

> your superiority and hopefully pick up some new disciples.

And further, if you would be willing to provide the example requested (if they exist). I mean these requests,

> then things that might change my mind include (1) providing recent

> examples where you engaged in discussion with someone who disagreed

> with you _and decided that they were right and you were wrong_ and (2)

> providing recent examples where you conceded that someone else you

> were in discussion with was smarter than you, at least in some

> specific area relevant to the discussion. Or even, though of course it

> would be much less evidence, (3) providing recent examples where you

> had a discussion with someone you didn't already know to agree with

> you about most things and _didn't_ attempt to lay down strict

> conditions they had to follow in order to continue the discussion.

I don't particularly care too much about example 2 as I don't think it is normal for people to admit someone else is smarter than they are. Nor do I think it matters in the large scheme of things. You can think highly of yourself and be right or wrong. However, the other 2 examples seem to me fairly reasonable.


Periergo at 4:22 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17431 | reply | quote

Please evaluate my ideas directly instead of indirectly via (implied) psychoanalysis.

I'll be tolerant, try things your way, and answer you this time, but *this is the wrong way to judge philosophical ideas* or learn anything useful.

---

The word disciple is a big category. Some things in it are good and some bad. The main reason I actually went back to LW was because I wanted to talk with inductivists so that I could better engage with rival ideas in some writing I'm doing – not for recruitment. Plus I read more Yudkowsky, liked parts, and hoped to find some people with some of his merits – and in any case had some things to say about some of his ideas.

My discussions and debates are public. If you can point to one where you think I should have changed my mind (or acknowledge someone as smarter than me), but did not, let me know. I don't recall the last time anyone even *claimed* that they had presented an adequate case that I should change my mind, and a reasonable person would concede, but that I was unreasonably refusing to. I have often asked people to make such a claim before ending discussion but they never seem to want to. That's one of my other discussion ending procedure ideas. Make what *you* think is an adequate case that would persuade a reasonable audience member, and then say you're done talking because your case is already adequate.

3 is easy and routine, e.g. iirc i've talked with you without making demands. i talked with Oi at length with no strings attached. i did attempt early on to get him to change his approach a bit because it was so chaotic, but then i gave up and talked more anyway. you can look at the comments here and conditions are only asked for occasionally. if i think someone says something *good* i often just reply. if i think it's *bad* i often offer to continue given some conditions. this is a ridiculous issue for gjm to bring up. what he meant is something like: clearly you throw these demands at everyone because you threw them at me right away, and my comments were great. no. i brought up impasse chains promptly with gjm specifically because i thought his comments were low quality and i didn't want to invest in correcting a dozen dumb errors with the expectation that he'd just silently leave when he got close to being corrected. i did not do that when replying to several other ppl at LW. i don't predict that about everyone all the time. that's just an excuse by him to excuse me having a low opinion of him individually (really just of some specific things he said – he's quite variable with some stuff being better and some worse).

other examples are very easy to come by. e.g. here's someone trying to impose harsh conditions on me, not vice versa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOG2z-xpuQc

---

If you have further doubts about how rationally I approach discussion, please criticize something specific that I said or did. That way I could potentially actually learn something and be corrected. I get vague general comments questioning my rationality routinely but never seem to get provided with specifics of any errors.


curi at 4:42 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17432 | reply | quote

> Please evaluate my ideas directly instead of indirectly via (implied) psychoanalysis.

> I'll be tolerant, try things your way, and answer you this time, but *this is the wrong way to judge philosophical ideas* or learn anything useful.

Thank you for being tolerant. Many people think that being in sales makes you good with people. It is not the case, being in sales make you good at manipulating people based on their insecurities. It does no good in other realm such as this one where I am in exploratory mode. I often offend people without meaning to. So I appreciate you being tolerant.

> The word disciple is a big category. Some things in it are good and some bad. The main reason I actually went back to LW was because I wanted to talk with inductivists so that I could better engage with rival ideas in some writing I'm doing – not for recruitment. Plus I read more Yudkowsky, liked parts, and hoped to find some people with some of his merits – and in any case had some things to say about some of his ideas.

oic. FWIW, there are aspects of "disciple" that I am okay with. I don't mind learning from someone as long as that person is okay with me disagreeing sometimes etc...

> 3 is easy and routine, e.g. iirc i've talked with you without making demands

This is true. You did not make demands although you did request we changed our approach to a discussion. Which I was totally fine with doing. For example, in our discussion of Mental Illness you did not want to approach it in an evidence based manner. Which is probably a good thing or we'd be citing research studies at each other all day and make no real progress.

Don't get me wrong I do think that evidence based approaches are crucial but in some areas it may not be possible now, though I see no reason why I can't be possible in principle.

> other examples are very easy to come by. e.g. here's someone trying to impose harsh conditions on me, not vice versa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOG2z-xpuQc

Ok I shall check it out.

> If you have further doubts about how rationally I approach discussion, please criticize something specific that I said or did. That way I could potentially actually learn something and be corrected. I get vague general comments questioning my rationality routinely but never seem to get provided with specifics of any errors.

You got it. I'll try my best to be vocal and criticize something specific if I come across it.


Periergo at 5:40 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17434 | reply | quote

I forget exactly what I said re "mental illness" but trying to clarify: you are welcome to bring up a research study if you think it's good. I don't mind pointing out some problems with those if you don't see problems. I've done that kinda thing before and I think the topic of how to analyze flaws in studies is important and interesting. But my own case/position isn't built on those studies. I won't engage in citing research back and forth to see who has more/better research (the thing you mentioned as a bad way for a discussion to go – I agree). I just try to point out reasons opposing research is inadequate to reach the conclusion it claims to.

> Ok I shall check it out.

i'm not recommending it FYI. Ask Yourself is an asshole and the discussion was shitty – way below average. He has a history of berating other people too. Broadly I couldn't get any vegans or animal rights activists to debate or answer my questions (I tried other places too). I think that kinda result (can't get answers from a school of thought) is pretty typical and is an example of why I'm interesting in rational discussion policies and why I think the world is broadly lacking them and it matters.


curi at 5:51 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17435 | reply | quote

> i'm not recommending it FYI. Ask Yourself is an asshole and the discussion was shitty – way below average. He has a history of berating other people too. Broadly I couldn't get any vegans or animal rights activists to debate or answer my questions (I tried other places too). I think that kinda result (can't get answers from a school of thought) is pretty typical and is an example of why I'm interesting in rational discussion policies and why I think the world is broadly lacking them and it matters.

That was a rough listen. I could not really track what was going on in that conversation, why does it have to be 1 trait that makes the difference between eating an animal or not? It kind of kills the idea of necessary but insufficient traits. From the beginning they did not seem interested in understanding your views, even admitting that there was some private use of language that they themselves did not track. Essentially admitting they did not understand your argument but rejecting it nonetheless. There is a lot of background information here that I do not think should be glossed over, what does it mean for intelligence to be binary for example. That seems very counter-intuitive (e.g mental retardation, Von Neumann vs average Joe.) They chose to ignore it anyway. There is always danger in becoming an ideologue. Veganism, capitalism, communism, idealism... beware the "isms"!!!

I don't know what they expect that sort of back and forth would accomplish other than showmanship. It reminds me of that old tv show, "The Real World." "Watch what happens when vegans stop being nice and start being real." :P


Periergo at 6:13 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17436 | reply | quote

#17436 Yeah it is showmanship. At the time AY was up to like 20k youtube subscribers by attacking non-vegans like that. There are lots of YT channels that get an audience by being mean to some opposing tribe.

Yes the topic does merit more thought and detail. I wrote posts about it http://curi.us/archives/list_category/115


curi at 6:27 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17437 | reply | quote

#17437 I wanted a written discussion that used literature sources, but AY thinks those are "sophistry" IIRC.


curi at 6:27 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17438 | reply | quote

I made a reply to something gjm said. here's a screencap if any disambiguation is needed: https://i.imgur.com/ZINWruQ.png

-- gjm comment --

> Quoting is a copyright violation in every jurisdiction I know of, if it's done en masse. Evidence to the contrary, please?

-- my reply --

> Evidence to the contrary, please?

here

> Before October 2014, copyright law permitted use of a work for the purpose of criticism and review, but it did not allow quotation for other more general purposes. Now, however, the law allows the use of quotation more broadly. So, there are two exceptions to be aware of, one specifically for criticism and review and a more general exception for quotation. Both exceptions apply to all types of copyright material, such as books, music, films, etc.

https://www.copyrightuser.org/understand/exceptions/quotation/ - first link on google. there are more details about conditions there, and particularly what you'd have to show in order to prove infringement. Good luck ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

> Quoting is a copyright violation in every jurisdiction I know of, if it's done en masse.

"en masse" is vague.

Wow, you know about a lot of different legal frameworks. How does copyright violation work in Tuvalu and Mauritius?

I've always wondered.

-- general comments --

It's trivial to see that your idea of quoting is incomplete because most instances of quoting you see aren't copyright violations (like news, youtube commentary, academic papers, whatever).

However, you obviously care about copyright violations deeply, so I suggest you get in touch with google too; they are worse offenders.

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1fkfDXctehAJ:https://www.lesswrong.com/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

Since you care about *COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT* and not *BEING CRITICISED* surely this blatant infringement of your copyright is a much larger priority. The probability of someone seeing material which is infringing your copyright is orders of magnitude larger on google than on a small random website.


Max at 9:22 PM on August 15, 2020 | #17441 | reply | quote

I decided I wanted to update the above post on LW. The update is meant to serve as a mini-post-mortem, which was one reason for making it. Another reason is b/c I think it's important to be honest about one's mistakes particularly if there was potentially harm or miscommunication b/c of it.

---

Edit/update/mini-post-mortem: I made this post because of an emotional reaction to the post above it by @gjm, which I shouldn't have done. Some points were fine, but I was sarcastic ("Wow, you ...") and treated @gjm's ideas unfairly, e.g. by using language like "trivial" to make his ideas sound less reasonable than they might be (TBH IANAL so really it's dishonest of me to act with such certainty). Those statements were socially calibrated (to some degree) to try and either upset/annoy gjm or impact stuff around social status. Since I'd woken up recently (like less than 30min before posting) and was emotional I should have known better than to post those bits (maybe I should have avoided posting at all). There's also the last paragraph, "Since you care about ..." part, which at best is an uncharitable interpretation and at worst is putting words in gjm's mouth (which isn't okay).

For those reasons I'd like to apologies to gjm for those parts. I feel it'd be dishonest to remove them so I'm adding this update instead.


Max at 12:42 AM on August 16, 2020 | #17442 | reply | quote

reply to philh

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7LmJWNQFchmivhNrT/rationally-ending-discussions

> Noticing patterns. If someone seems to be doing that a lot, we can point it out.

>

> This relies on the population being able to sustain reputations, but that feels like a prerequisite for intellectual discussion anyway, I think.

>

> Do you think this is a problem in practice on LW, and/or other places you visit?

>

> To the main article: I only skimmed, but my previous tapping out in two is relevant. I wouldn't want to impose it as a requirement on people though.

Yes I've found it's a major problem in practice, everywhere. I think most discussion interactions at LW end either at key moments or earlier. Hardly any make significant progress. The reasons they end early are rarely explained. Would examples help? There are multiple examples in this topic, e.g. remizidae dropped the discussion, as did G Gordon Worley III and Dagon.

note: i don't want to particularly blame or criticize them compared to the people who didn't write anything at all and would have done similarly well or worse. but discussion interactions like these are problematic - not taken far enough to actually really get anywhere - and typical. discussions where people try to actually resolve disagreements are uncommon, and when those begin they are usually dropped at some point too without much in the way of transparency, post-mortem, conclusion, etc.

regarding your article: I think a 2 more reply warning would be a large improvement over what people typically do.


curi at 10:30 AM on August 16, 2020 | #17446 | reply | quote

reply to philh

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7LmJWNQFchmivhNrT/rationally-ending-discussions

> The problem in question was

>

> > people being biased then leaving discussions at crucial moments to evade arguments and dodge questions, and there being no transparency about what's going on and no way for the error to get corrected?

>

> This is a problem you plausibly have a solution for. I mean, I still haven't read this article and I probably won't, but I could believe that there are social engineering ways to avoid this problem, and I could believe you've identified one. "Tapping out in two" plausibly also suggests a way.

>

> But I'm not convinced we actually have this problem. No one in this thread has obviously done the problematic behaviour. We don't know why people stopped replying when they did, but there are surely explanations other than "trying to evade arguments and dodge questions".

>

> (To be precise, Gordon and remizidae haven't replied *yet*. I can't rule out that they intend to later, but it doesn't really matter.)

>

> ---

>

> It seems to me that you're answering as if I'd asked about a different problem, the problem of "most discussions end without making any progress".

>

> I agree LW has that problem. (Less than most comparable places.) But I don't think you or I or anyone else has a plausible solution to it, though I do think there are marginal improvements to be made. I don't think simply taking these discussions further is particularly likely to help, at least not enough to justify the cost.

>

> ---

>

> I note that in Dagon's thread, he currently has the last word - he announced that he intended to stop, but he also said other things in that comment, and you didn't reply to them. And I note that in this thread, remizidae asked "why is being busy not an adequate excuse?" and you haven't replied to that, either. (Or you replied with a question whichMy sense is that you're trying to hold people to standards you fall short of.

>

> ---

>

> Limiting myself to two more replies in this thread.

When there is no transparency about why people exit discussions, it allows for them to leave due to bias, dodging, bad reasons, etc., and it's not very provable. Your response is: they didn't explain that they left for bad reasons, so you (curi) can't really prove anything! Indeed. It's ambiguous. That's a large part of the problem.

I could go into detail about some of the specifics that I didn't reply to, explain why I think some of the things people wrote were low quality, argue my case, answer every question, etc. but I don't have a reasonable expectation that they would be responsive to the discussion. Different discussion norms or explicit request could change that.

> My sense is that you're trying to hold people to standards you fall short of.

I proposed that *if* both people want a serious discussion that tries to make progress and doesn't end arbitrarily, *then* here's some stuff you can do. I also proposed that the general norms here could be improved.

Me responding more energetically and thoroughly to people with different preferred discussion norms than me will not solve the problem. And yes I've already tried it (thousands of times).

I could also reply to people and say why I think their messages (as a whole or specific parts) are low quality so I don't want to reply, but please correct me if my analysis is wrong. I have tried this too but people mostly rather dislike it. I am open to doing it *by request*.

I could also reply to people asking if they want a substantive discussion. I have tried that too. Yes answers are rare and doing it a lot here would annoy people.

So I've put in my bio here a note that people can make a request if they want a substantive discussion with me, and I've talked some about the general issue. I also have more detailed policies posted on my websites, including public promises re how anyone can get my attention and get responses, and I have established different discussion norms at my own forums.


curi at 12:23 PM on August 16, 2020 | #17448 | reply | quote

#17422

> This would mean something like: Discussion isn't very productive.

I agree if the goal of discussion is reaching a clear conclusion within the context of a single discussion. And I agree that's a worthy goal. But I don't think it's the only worthy goal.

I think discussions can be productive if the goal(s) of discussion include some other things I can think of:

- Influencing or persuading others. People can be persuaded while refusing to admit it for social reasons.

- Getting knowledge someone else has & you don't. In the process of discussing whether Mac or Windows is better for SW dev, you can learn things the other guy knows about SW dev on Mac even if the discussion never reaches a conclusion about which is better.

- Reaching consensus within a group. A group of people can discuss ideas with each other. None of the individual discussions reach a clear conclusion. But over time people who are silently persuaded stop speaking up for their old ideas, some undecideds start speaking for the ideas they're persuaded of and thereby discussion within the group starts to converge on a consensus.

- Creating new ideas. People can come into a discussion truly believing they don't know the answer and just want to find out or create something totally new. Discussion with no clear conclusion can still help them figure out some things / create some things they didn't have before.

> So most good ideas come from one great man, perhaps aided by non-interactive resources like books. Collaborations don't work well. Howard Roarks work well. Conclusion-reaching mostly has to be done in a single great mind.

I do think most good ideas come from one person, and that conclusion-reaching has to be done individually.

But I think that'd be true even if there were lots of discussions with clear conclusions going on. A clear conclusion to a discussion just shows that all the participants in the discussion appear to have been persuaded of the conclusion.

In terms of idea creation, someone always has to think of the idea clearly enough to articulate it. Others can help provide input data, criticism or modification suggestions after the fact. But the help others give to the person who articulates the idea is not contingent on whether those others do or don't say something like "ya, I agree that's right" after the idea has been articulated.

Also each individual - participant or observer - still has to reach a conclusion in their own mind. They must decide what to do with the idea in the conclusive discussion: whether the conclusive discussion means *they* (the individual considering the conclusive discussion) are actually persuaded, or all sides were dumb and wrong, or the side(s) who appear to have been persuaded are just faking agreement, or the side(s) who appear to have been persuaded shouldn't have been, etc.

That decision could be a great deal easier to make with a conclusive discussion vs. just a bunch of inconclusive ones. But there's no escape from making it.


Andy Dufresne at 7:23 PM on August 16, 2020 | #17454 | reply | quote

#17454 You're saying roughly: sometimes conversations give people enough info to reach conclusions later, separately, while following hidden and likely-highly-biased methodology. This can occur even though the conversations aren't optimized for this process happening or for giving the right info to make it work well.

Does that work at all? Sure. Well? No.

> In terms of idea creation, someone always has to think of the idea clearly enough to articulate it.

If the conclusion is a complex idea (as is typical) then different people can contribute different parts of it. Think of an idea tree. Multiple people could add important nodes or make important contributions to brainstorming.


curi at 7:14 PM on August 21, 2020 | #17546 | reply | quote

#17546

> This can occur even though the conversations aren't optimized for this process happening or for giving the right info to make it work well.

>

> Does that work at all? Sure. Well? No.

Does that work well compared to what?

My guess is it does not work well compared to having conversations which are optimized for reaching clear conclusions. But I was considering the consequences of working under the premise:

> worldwide availability of this type of discussion [organized to try to reach a conclusion, e.g. by using impasse chains as a stopping procedure] was zero

I think it does work well compared to not having conversations at all. In other words, it works well compared to learning solely from non-interactive media.

Perhaps context matters. If I had more skill learning from non-interactive media or more existing knowledge, perhaps conversations would work less well (or not well at all) for me.


Andy Dufresne at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2020 | #17556 | reply | quote

#17546

> You're saying roughly: sometimes conversations give people enough info to reach conclusions later, separately, while following hidden and likely-highly-biased methodology.

That's one thing, among others.


Andy Dufresne at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2020 | #17557 | reply | quote

#17546

> If the conclusion is a complex idea (as is typical) then different people can contribute different parts of it. Think of an idea tree. Multiple people could add important nodes or make important contributions to brainstorming.

I may be overreaching. My understanding of "idea" vs. "complex idea" vs. a collection of related ideas is not well developed and partially inexplicit.

But I think I have some coherent thoughts in regard to the specific example of others adding an important node on an idea tree:

(1) Yes, they can. I think that can be a benefit of having conversations.

(2) You, individually, MUST decide whether or not the important node should be on the tree if you're going to use the tree in a way where the presence or absence of that node makes a difference.

(3) Item (2) is true, regardless of whether the conversation that added the important node reached a conclusion regarding whether that node should be on the tree. A conclusive conversation may make the individual decision (2) [significantly] easier, but can not absolve you of making it.


Andy Dufresne at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2020 | #17559 | reply | quote

#17559 I agree. re (2) yeah there needs to be a coherent, single vision about the tree, not a bunch of ppl putting their own contradicting ideas in it. (well a mixed tree is fine with labels, and with refuted nodes, etc., but like some identifiable set of nodes should correspond to a particular set of claims that work together, it shouldn't just be a mishmash.)

> I think it does work well compared to not having conversations at all. In other words, it works well compared to learning solely from non-interactive media.

yeah i agree. it's pretty shitty tho. so it would mean e.g. scientific progress is doing way worse than it could be. and i think social sciences, philosphy, econ, would be suffering even more than hard science. some fields rely on debate more. hard science is relatively friendly to working alone and, in a sense, debating with reality.


curi at 3:34 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17570 | reply | quote

#17570

> > I think it does work well compared to not having conversations at all. In other words, it works well compared to learning solely from non-interactive media.

>

> yeah i agree. it's pretty shitty tho. so it would mean e.g. scientific progress is doing way worse than it could be.

I have trouble analyzing "could be" in this type of context.

"could be" as in an alternate universe where everything is the same except more than ~zero people have both the skill and desire to have discussions organized to try to reach a conclusion?

Sure, but I don't see the relevance to the world we actually live in because I can't imagine any way we could have got there.

"could be" as in an alternate universe where, at some time in the past (when?) enough people redirected effort from something else (what? how much? how were they convinced?) into developing the skill and desire to have discussions organized to try to reach a conclusion?

I can imagine these sorts of scenarios, but without some specific ideas about when, what, and how much effort would have had to be diverted I can't reach an opinion about whether it'd be a better or worse world than the one we actually have.

"could be" as in this universe where, instead of putting effort into something we're currently doing (what? how much?) henceforward we put that effort into developing the skill and desire to have discussions organized to try to reach a conclusion?

This is easiest for me to imagine. But then I consider it against other alternatives (my current favorite is anti-aging). How much benefit would conclusive discussions be vs. people who know stuff not dying for a lot longer? How much effort would have to be diverted from anti-aging, for how long, until the benefits to anti-aging from conclusive discussions were "paid back" in increased productivity of anti-aging efforts? I don't know.

It's tempting to say we should divert effort from something less valuable than anti-aging to conclusive discussions. Like, say, leave anti-aging alone but then redirect effort spent to create pop songs. But I think that to approximately whatever extent we could be effective at redirecting pop song effort into conclusive discussion effort, we could also be effective at redirecting pop song effort into anti-aging effort. So I'm still thinking in terms of the trade-off between conclusive discussions and anti-aging, not between conclusive discussions and pop songs.


Andy Dufresne at 5:00 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17571 | reply | quote

> "could be" as in an alternate universe where everything is the same except more than ~zero people have both the skill and desire to have discussions organized to try to reach a conclusion?

yeah that's what i meant.

> Sure, but I don't see the relevance to the world we actually live in because I can't imagine any way we could have got there.

you can compare how effective one process is in some local situation/hypothetical to how effective another process is without simultaneously worrying about modeling the whole world.

> How much benefit would conclusive discussions be vs. people who know stuff not dying for a lot longer?

one of the main questions here is how much conclusive discussions would help the development of anti-aging tech. (a TON but making the change is hard.)

another question is accessibility of helping in various ways. yes it's hard to get attention to help ppl learn discussion methodology. but it's also hard to get attention to help with e.g. medical research. e.g. i could look through a ton of studies and point out that a bunch are crap using some philosophical skills not currently being used by people at SENS. i'd bring some insight they don't have. but it's a huge problem to get access/attention/respect/etc to be able to help them in that way (they'd have to either trust me a bunch or learn some things in order to better see for themselves why i was right).

> It's tempting to say we should divert effort from something less valuable than anti-aging to conclusive discussions. Like, say, leave anti-aging alone but then redirect effort spent to create pop songs. But I think that to approximately whatever extent we could be effective at redirecting pop song effort into conclusive discussion effort, we could also be effective at redirecting pop song effort into anti-aging effort.

i agree to a first approximation. there may be cases where some resource can more easily be redirected one way than another.


curi at 5:12 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17572 | reply | quote

#17572 Relevantly, previously, I failed to explain to AdG – so that he saw it for himself – why some current cryonics arguments are inadequate. It's hard to work within the constraint of limited effort (by him) to learn/understand stuff that seems to me like way too little for addressing the issues. And it's hard to bridge the gap of major differences in background knowledge. This sort of difficulty applies to a wide variety of things I could try to help with.

Which ones are easier to help people with successfully may be a more relevant issue than how much impact they'd have for how much resources used. It's hard to find any important way to help intellectually and make that work at all.


curi at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17573 | reply | quote

#17573

I agree the discussion with AdG failed to reach a conclusion.

I'm undecided about whether an approach that was less conclusion oriented would have worked.

For example, it's not hard to imagine something like:

You saying a few things about the problems of cryonics arguments.

AdG giving a few inadequate responses.

You perhaps mentioning (or not) that in your view AdG's responses are inadequate, but that AdG can view cryonics as an acceptable backup plan without stopping the anti-aging you and AdG agree on the importance of.

Refocus the discussion on advancing a point of mutual agreement (something in anti-aging).

You and AdG talk about some anti-aging topics. This goes on for a while. Maybe also without conclusions (or maybe some with conclusions...either way).

Over the intervening time AdG reconsiders some of the problems you brought up with cryonics. Maybe you mention them again, or mention them to someone else where AdG is a passive observer / reader. Maybe he reads some similar criticism from someone else.

Eventually AdG comes to agree with you about some or all of the problems with cryonics, and stops pushing cryonics as a backup plan.

I'm not convinced it would've gone down like that, but I'm not convinced it wouldn't have gone down like that either.


Andy Dufresne at 7:13 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17576 | reply | quote

#17576 It's hard to criticize cryonics unilaterally because one of my main points was the lack of argument/explanation/model/claim re how it would work. I said the cryonics companies ought to present some sort of explanation of how it works, how they judged that it will actually work, where they think the cutoff is for not damaging the brain too much, etc. And they don't. But I was unable to persuade AdG that they aren't already doing that, nor was I able to get him to link them doing it. IIRC he linked shallow stuff (or sometimes just said they had stuff without linking anything in particular) and seemed to think it addressed those issues when it blatantly didn't even try to address some of them.

It's hard to argue with [nothing] – no claims, reasons, explanations that actually try to adequately address the issues.

This difficulty doesn't apply to talking about all topics, just some.


curi at 7:19 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17577 | reply | quote

#17577 And it's hard to just make the meta point (re lack of argument) and let *that* sink in over time, because people dislike meta points like that. They want some meaty substance arguments or something.

Topics are hard to address in general when what initially seem like the good, available starting points deal with methodological or meta issues, so it's hard to just launch into positive explanations about interesting, good ideas.


curi at 7:22 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17578 | reply | quote

#17578 It's a bit like the issue of trying to prove a negative.


curi at 7:22 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17579 | reply | quote

#17572

> you can compare how effective one process is in some local situation/hypothetical to how effective another process is without simultaneously worrying about modeling the whole world.

What does such a comparison tell us other than that scientific progress would indeed be better if some people with skill and desire for conclusive discussions were available instantly and without giving up anything else related to scientific progress?


Andy Dufresne at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17580 | reply | quote

#17578

People initially don't like all kinds of things they eventually come to consider and later agree with. I don't understand why meta points would be an exception.

It seems to me people are more likely to eventually reconsider and agree when they're not pressured to choose between doubling down on their initial position or making statements contradicting prior things they've said.

It also seems to me they're more likely to eventually reconsider and agree if they simply keep talking to you, even if what they talk about is mostly or completely unrelated the the thing they initially didn't like.

Maybe (probably) some of this because of bad reasons. Perhaps people who keep talking with someone over time come to view them as a friend instead of a stranger. And they consider the source of ideas instead of just the merit of ideas, including especially ideas they initially really don't like. And to them, the idea source being a friend means they should tolerate, for example, more meta discussion than if the source is a stranger.

Maybe you don't want that kind of reconsideration and agreement. But that's a different argument than that it wouldn't / couldn't have happened.

Again I'm neutral on what would have happened with AdG specifically. I'm just generalizing about possibilities from things I've seen happen with myself and with other people in different contexts.


Andy Dufresne at 8:24 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17581 | reply | quote

#17578

Suppose AdG was never gonna be convinced about cryonics with the knowledge you had/have both about cryonics as well as communication methods. By pushing for a conclusion, you learned about his irrationality clearly / decisively.

But further suppose that by not pushing AdG for a conclusion about cryonics, you would have been able to have other discussions with AdG over the last few years. In some of those you could have learned something from AdG, or persuaded AdG to change his mind (with or without explicitly reaching a conclusion). Like, maybe you could have persuaded AdG that some study he thought was good was actually bullshit and a blind ally for anti-aging.

Would that be better than what actually happened? Worse? Impossible for some reason I'm not thinking of?


Andy Dufresne at 8:36 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17582 | reply | quote

> I don't understand why meta points would be an exception.

It's not exactly an exception. I think it's harder by degree. Our culture is somewhat against meta points (at least some types including the one in question). And it's harder to say something memorable, impressive, interesting and/or informative.

> By pushing for a conclusion, you learned about his irrationality clearly / decisively.

I haven't reread the conversation recently, but I don't think I did push for a conclusion about cryonics. I think we let it go and talked at length about other stuff. The cryonics part was in some of the earlier exchanges.

The reason our conversation ended happened later and IIRC it wasn't any clear single thing. I think an ongoing succession of unsolved disagreements and misunderstandings, without enough clear successes, eventually added up to the point that e.g. it mattered more than my interestingness. No doubt other stuff was involved too and maybe there was some major particular thing towards the end that I forgot. I think he kinda faded out after we debated/discussed a variety of issues for a while and things weren't conclusive and weren't going to be in the foreseeable future.

Also, from memory, FYI, there was a key reason that he talked me a bunch. I got a little attention due to DD association. But he was about to leave fairly early on, like around his 3rd email out of 23 (rough numbers). And then I said something that drew him in. Lots of other things mattered but I thought this was the most important single thing.

I said, from memory, roughly: It's totally fine if you don't want to explain X to me. If you're busy or whatever np. There's no need for you personally to answer my questions. But could you either refer me to something to read that will adequately explain it or refer me to a person who will explain it?

And then, because he couldn't refer me to a person or literature that'd be adequate, he kept talking. Because if he says "i won't explain it and also there are no other people and there's no literature" then he looks irrational and is basically saying there is no way to learn SENS stuff, no way to get questions and criticisms answered, etc. So he didn't want to do that.

I said it because I thought it was the rational thing to do. But I think it socially pressured him.

It can be hard to distinguish rational and social pressure sometimes. Rationality is a harsh mistress. It's demanding in various ways. Sometimes I try to talk about what's rational and people feel that I'm pressuring them. I've e.g. gotten a bunch of very negative reactions from the LW crowd regarding this.


curi at 9:04 PM on August 22, 2020 | #17583 | reply | quote

> It can be hard to distinguish rational and social pressure sometimes. Rationality is a harsh mistress. It's demanding in various ways. Sometimes I try to talk about what's rational and people feel that I'm pressuring them. I've e.g. gotten a bunch of very negative reactions from the LW crowd regarding this.

I think that you have standards for what you want from a discussion, what you think makes a good discussion, what good discussion methods are, and so on. You try to make those things clear in order to make sure *you* get value from a conversation. You think the types of conversations you want are more worthwhile, objectively, but if people don't want to do that sort of thing and would prefer to engage with each other in ways you see as flawed, you're happy to leave them alone. The only issue is that you want a certain sort of engagement when you are a party to the discussion, which seems fair and reasonable to me - you should get to set the terms of your own participation in a discussion and have people accept or reject them.

I am thinking of an analogy to a personal ad. If you posted a personal ad that was very specific and picky and detailed in what you wanted, that is not something other people should take as pressuring. You are not trying to pressure any particular person into interacting with you. In fact, it's kind of the opposite - you are trying to communicate clearly what you want so that people who don't fit that description don't waste your and their time. If anything you're discouraging replies with such an ad. You're happy to leave the people who don't fit what you want alone to find someone more suitable.

And in fact lots of people would appreciate someone who was super up front about what they wanted. And if it didn't fit what they wanted, they'd be like "oh well, best of luck to that guy!" and move on. But some people would not like a highly opinionated, detailed personal ad. I think they would not like it because they would feel like the ad was judging them and they weren't living up to it, and so they'd feel resentment at the person judging them.

And so maybe that is the nature of some of the dynamic at LW. Even though you write pretty impersonally about rationality, people take away from your writing a very strong, opinionated set of judgments which imply negative things about them, and so they react badly to that.


Anonymous at 2:01 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17584 | reply | quote

> Someone wants to stop discussing but someone else wants to pursue the matter it further.

Delete "it"


Anonymous at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17588 | reply | quote

> and time/energy/etc are scare resources,

Scarce


Anonymous at 7:56 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17589 | reply | quote

> The suggest is to chain impasses together.

Suggestion


Anonymous at 8:13 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17590 | reply | quote

> Discussion the problem itself is a different discussion than discussing X, so it should be possible to try it.

Discussion should be discussing


Anonymous at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17591 | reply | quote

> People can disagree about what is an impasse?

Change question mark to period imho


Anonymous at 8:19 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17592 | reply | quote

I fixed these typos and the ones reported around the same time in other topics.


curi at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17594 | reply | quote

#17584 Yes. It's pressuring because (among other reasons) I explain how what I want is rationality and they don't want to admit that they don't fit that. Lots of them claim to be interested in and skilled at rational discussion. They are frauds...

And people often get offended about being judged and rejected even over blatantly parochial stuff. It's more offensive when I explain why the issues I'm looking at are objectively important.

> opinionated set of judgments which imply negative things about them

Yes, epistemology has implications.


curi at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2020 | #17595 | reply | quote

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