stucchio and Mason
stucchio retweeted Mason writing:
"Everything can be free if we fire the people who stop you from stealing stuff" is apparently considered an NPR-worthy political innovation now, rather than the kind of brain fart an undergrad might mumble as they come to from major dental work https://twitter.com/_natalieescobar/status/1299018604327907328
There’s no substantial objective-world content here. Basically “I disagree with whatever is the actual thing behind my straw man characterization”. There’s no topical argument. It’s ~all social posturing. It’s making assertions about who is dumb and who should be associated with what group (and, by implication, with the social status of that group). NPR-worthy, brain fart, undergrad, mumble and being groggy from strong drugs are all social-meaning-charged things to bring up. The overall point is to attack the social status of NPR by associating it with low status stuff. Generally smart people like stuchhio (who remains on the small list of people whose tweets I read – I actually have a pretty high opinion of of him) approve of that tribalist social-political messaging enough to retweet it.
Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote on Less Wrong (no link because, contrary to what he says, someone did make the page inaccessible. I have documentation though.):
Post removed from main and discussion on grounds that I've never seen anything voted down that far before. Page will still be accessible to those who know the address.
The context is my 2011 LW post “The Conjunction Fallacy Does Not Exist”.
In RAZ, Yudkowsky repeatedly brings up subculture affiliations he has. He read lots of sci fi. He read 1984. He read Feynman. He also refers to “traditional rationality” which Feynman is a leader of. (Yudkowsky presents several of his ideas as improvements on traditional rationality. I think some of them are good points.) Feynman gets particular emphasis. I think he got some of his fans via this sort of subculture membership signaling and by referencing stuff they like.
I bring this up because Feynman has a book title "What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character. This is the sequel to the better known "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character.
Yudkowsky evidently does care what people think and has provided no indication that he’s aware that he’s contradicting one of his heroes, Feynman. He certainly doesn’t provide counter arguments to Feynman.
Downvotes are communications about what people think. Downvotes indicate dislike. They are not arguments. They aren’t reasons it’s bad. They’re just opinions. They’re like conclusions or assertions. Yudkowsky openly presents himself as taking action because of what people think. It’s also basically just openly saying “I use power to suppress unpopular ideas”. Yudkowsky also gave no argument himself, nor did he endorse/cite/link any argument he agreed with about the topic.
Yudkowsky is actually reasonably insightful about social hierarchies elsewhere, btw. But this quote shows that, in some major way, he doesn’t understand rationality and social dynamics.
Replies to my “Chains, Bottlenecks and Optimization”
I think I've given away over 20 copies of _The Goal_ by Goldratt, and recommended it to coworkers hundreds of times.
Objective meaning: I took the specified actions.
Social meaning: I like Goldratt. I’m aligned with him and his tribe. I have known about him for a long time and might merit early adopter credit. Your post didn’t teach me anything. Also, I’m a leader who takes initiative to influence my more sheep-like coworkers. I’m also rich enough to give away 20+ books.
Thanks for the chance to recommend it again - it's much more approachable than _Theory of Constraints_, and is more entertaining, while still conveying enough about his worldview to let you decide if you want the further precision and examples in his other books.
Objective meaning: I recommend The Goal.
Social meaning: I’m an expert judge of which Goldratt books to recommend to people, in what order, for what reasons. Although I’m so clever that I find The Goal a bit shallow, I think it’s good for other people who need to be kept entertained and it has enough serious content for them to get an introduction from. Then they can consider if they are up to the challenge of becoming wise like me, via further study, or not.
This is actually ridiculous. The Goal is the best known Goldratt book, it’s his best seller, it’s meant to be read first, and this is well known. Dagon is pretending to be providing expert judgment, but isn’t providing insight. And The Goal has tons of depth and content, and Dagon is slandering the book by condescending to it in this way. By bringing up Theory of Constraints, Dagon is signaling he reads and values less popular, less entertaining, less approachable non-novel Goldratt books.
It's important to recognize the limits of the chain metaphor - there is variance/uncertainty in the strength of a link (or capacity of a production step), and variance/uncertainty in alternate support for ideas (or alternate production paths).
Objective meaning (up to the dash): Goldratt’s chain idea, which is a major part of your post, is limited.
Social meaning (up to the dash): I’ve surpassed Goldratt and can look down on his stuff as limited. You’re a naive Goldratt newbie who is accepting whatever he says instead of going beyond Goldratt. Also calling chains a “metaphor” instead of “model” is a subtle attack to lower status. Metaphors aren’t heavyweight rationality (while models are, and it actually is a model). Also Dagon is implying that I failed to recognize limits that I should have recognized.
Objective meaning continued: There’s some sort of attempt at an argument here but it doesn’t actually make sense. Saying there is variance in two places is not a limitation of the chain model.
Social meaning continued: saying a bunch of overly wordy stuff that looks technical is bluffing and pretending he’s arguing seriously. Most people won’t know the difference.
Most real-world situations are more of a mesh or a circuit than a linear chain, and the analysis of bottlenecks and risks is a fun multidimensional calculation of forces applies and propagated through multiple links.
Objective meaning: Chains are wrong in most real world situations because those situations are meshes or circuits [both terms undefined]. No details are given about how he knows what’s common in real world situations. And he’s contradicting Goldratt who actually did argue his case and know math. (I also know more than enough math so far and Dagon never continued with enough substance to potentially strain either of our math skills sets).
Social meaning: I have fun doing multidimensional calculations. I’m better than you. If you knew math so well that it’s a fun game to you, maybe you could keep up with me. But if you could do that, you wouldn’t have written the post you wrote.
It’s screwy how Dagon presents himself as a Goldratt superfan expert and then immediately attacks Goldratt’s ideas.
Note: Dagon stopped replying without explanation shortly after this, even though he’d said how super interested in Goldratt stuff he is.
I think that ideas can have a bottleneck effect, but that isn't the only effect. Some ideas have disjunctive justifications.
Objective meaning: bottlenecks come up sometimes but not always. [No arguments about how often they come up, how important they are, etc.]
Social meaning: You neglected disjunctions and didn’t see the whole picture. I often run into people who don’t know fancy concepts like “disjunction”.
Note: Disjunction just means “or” and isn’t something that Goldratt or I had failed to consider.
Hobson then follows up with some math, socially implying that the problem is I’m not technical enough and if only I knew some math I’d have reached different conclusions. He postures about how clever he is and brings up resistors and science as brags.
I responded, including with math, and then Hobson did not respond.
What does that even mean?
Objective meaning: I don’t understand what you wrote.
Social meaning: You’re not making sense.
He did give more info about what his question was after this. But he led with this, on purpose. The “even” is a social attack – that word isn’t there to help with any objective meaning. It’s there to socially communicate that I’m surprisingly incoherent. It’d be a subtle social attack even without the “even”. He didn’t respond when I answered his question.
There is another case which your argument neglects, which can make weakest-link reasoning highly inaccurate, and which is less of a special case than a tie in link-strength.
Objective meaning: The argument in the OP is incomplete.
Social meaning: You missed something huge, which is not a special case, so your reasoning is highly inaccurate.
The way you are reasoning about systems of interconnected ideas is conjunctive: every individual thing needs to be true.
Objective meaning: Chain links have an “and” relationship.
Social meaning: You lack a basic understanding of the stuff you just said, so I’ll have to start really basic to try to educate you.
But some things are disjunctive: some one thing needs to be true.
Objective meaning: “or” exists. [no statement yet about how this is relevant]
Social meaning: You’re wrong because you’re an ignorant novice.
(Of course there are even more exotic logical connectives, such as implication or XOR, which are also used in everyday reasoning. But for now it will do to consider only conjunction and disjunction.)
Objective meaning: Other logic operators exist [no statement yet about how this is relevant].
Social meaning: I know about this like XOR, but you’re a beginner who doesn’t. I’ll let you save face a little by calling it “exotic”, but actually, in the eyes of everyone knowledgeable here, I’m insulting you by suggesting that for you XOR is exotic.
Note: He’s wrong, I know what XOR is (let alone OR). So did Goldratt. XOR is actually easy for me, and I’ve used it a lot and done much more advanced things too. He assumed I didn’t in order to socially attack me. He didn’t have adequate evidence to reach the conclusion that he reached; but by reaching it and speaking condescendingly, he implied that there was adequate evidence to judge me as an ignorant fool.
Perhaps the excess accuracy in probability theory makes it more powerful than necessary to do its job? Perhaps this helps it deal with variance? Perhaps it helps the idea apply for other jobs than the one it was meant for?
Objective meaning: Bringing up possibilities he thinks are worth considering.
Social meaning: Flaming me with some rather thin plausible deniability.
I skipped the middle of his post btw, which had other bad stuff.
I really like what this post is trying to do. The idea is a valuable one. But this explanation could use some work - not just because inferential distances are large, but because the presentation itself is too abstract to clearly communicate the intended point. In particular, I'd strongly recommend walking through at least 2-3 concrete examples of bottlenecks in ideas.
This is an apparently friendly reply but he was lying. I wrote examples but he wouldn’t speak again.
There are hints in this text that he actually dislikes me and is being condescending, and that the praise in the first two sentences is fake. You can see some condescension in the post, e.g. in how he sets himself up like a mentor telling me what to do (and note the unnecessary “strongly” before “recommend”. And how does he know the idea is valuable when it’s not clearly communicated? And his denial re inferential distance is actually both unreasonable and aggressive. The “too abstract” and “could use some work” are also social attacks, and the “at least 2-3” is a social attack (it means do a lot) with a confused objective meaning (if you’re saying do >= X, why specify X as a range? you only need one number.)
The objective world meaning is roughly that he’s helping with some presentation and communication issues and wants a discussion of the great ideas. But it turns out, as we see from his following behavior, that wasn’t true. (Probably. Maybe he didn’t follow up for some other reason like he died of COVID. Well not that because you can check his posting history and see he’s still posting in other topics. But maybe he has Alzheimer’s and he forgot, and he knows that’s a risk so he keeps notes about stuff he wants to follow up on, but he had an iCloud syncing error and the note got deleted without him realizing it. There are other stories that I don’t have enough information to rule out, but I do have broad societal information about them being uncommon, and there are patterns across the behavior of many people.)
I posted in comments on different Less Wrong thread:
Are you interested in extended discussion about this, with a goal of reaching some conclusions about CR/LW differences, or do you know anyone who is?
I am evidently interested in discussing it, but I am probably not the best person for it.
Objective meaning: I am interested. My answer to your question is “yes”. I have agreed to try to have a discussion, if you want to. However, be warned that I’m not very good at this.
Social meaning: The answer to your question is “no”. I won’t discuss with you. However, I’m not OK with being declared uninterested in this topic. I love this topic. How dare you even question my interest when you have evidence (“evidently”) that I am interested, which consists of me having posted about it. I’d have been dumb to post about something I’m not interested in, and you were an asshole to suggest I might be dumb like that.
Actual result: I replied in a friendly, accessible way attempting to begin a conversation, but he did not respond.
Conversations don’t go well when a substantial portion of what people say has a hostile (or even just significantly different) social (double) meaning.
It’s much worse when the social meaning is the primary thing people are talking about, as in all the LW replies I got above. It’s hard to get discussions where the objective meanings are more emphasized than the social ones. And all the replies I quoted re my Chains and Bottlenecks post were top level replies to my impersonal article. I hadn’t said anything to personally offend any of those people, but they all responded with social nastiness. (Those were all the top level replies. There were no decent ones.) Also it was my first post back after 3 years, so this wasn’t carrying over from prior discussion (afaik – possibly some of them were around years ago and remembered me. I know some people do remember me but they mentioned it. Actually TAG said later, elsewhere, to someone else, that he knew about me from being on unspecified Critical Rationalist forums in the past).
Even if you’re aware of social meanings, there are important objective meanings which are quite hard to say without getting offensive social meaning. This comes up with talking about errors people make, especially ones that reveal significant weaknesses in their knowledge. Talking objectively about methodology errors and what to do about them can also be highly offensive socially. Also objective, argued judgments of how good things are can be socially offensive, even if correct (actually it’s often worse if it’s correct and high quality – the harder to plausibly argue back, the worse it can be for the guy who’s wrong).
The main point was to give examples of how the same sentence can be read with an objective and a social meaning. This is what most discussions on rationalist forums where explicit knowledge of social status hierarchies is common look like to me. It comes up a fair amount on my own forums too (less often than at LW, but it’s a pretty big problem IMO).
Note: The examples in this post are not representative of the full spectrum of social behaviors. One of the many things missing is needy/chasing/reactive behavior where people signal their own low social status (low relative to the person they’re trying to please). Also, I could go into more detail on any particular example people want to discuss (this post isn’t meant as giving all the info/analysis, it’s a hybrid between some summary and some detail).
Update: Adding (on same day as original) a few things I forgot to say.
Audiences pick up on some of the social meanings (which ones, and how they see them, varies by person). They see you answer and not answer things. They think some should be answered and some are ignorable. They take some things as social answers that aren’t intended to be. They sometimes ignore literal/objective meanings of things. They judge. It affects audience reactions. And the perception of audience reactions affects what the actual participants do and say (including when they stop talking without explanation).
The people quoted could do less social meaning. They’re all amplifying the social. There’s some design there; it’s not an accident. It’s not that hard to be less social. But even if you try, it’s very hard to avoid any problematic social meanings, especially when you consider that different audience members will read stuff differently, according to different background knowledge, different assumptions about context, different misreadings and skipped words, etc.