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Misperceptions On Moloch

“Human values (‘Elua’) mean hedonism and free love and namby-pamby happiness, and I’m not on board with that.” (example)

Are you a human? If so, congratulations. Your values are human values. As I wrote loooong ago in the Consequentialist FAQ:

Preference utilitarianism is completely on board with the idea that people want things other than raw animal pleasure. If what satisfies a certain monk is to deny himself worldly pleasures and pray to God, then the best state of the world is one in which that monk can keep on denying himself worldly pleasures and praying to God in the way most satisfying to himself.

A person or society following preference utilitarianism will try to satisfy the wants and values of as many people as possible as completely as possible; thus the phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number”.

I grok the value of martial glory. My heart stirs as much as anyone else’s when Achilles goes forth in his god-forged armor, shouting boasts and daring the bravest champion of the Trojans to take him on.

But if some modern Achilles tried that today, he would be shot dead with a machine gun in about three seconds. Or bombed by a drone operated remotely from ten thousand miles away. Moloch has been far less kind to the older and grittier values than it has even to hedonism. The proponents of mysticism, art, martial glory, et cetera are on even weaker grounds than the hedonists. And the ground is only getting weaker.

Whatever your values are, the world being eaten by gray goo, paperclip maximizers, or Hansonian ems is unlikely to satisfy them. I think there’s room for a broad alliance among people of all value systems against this possibility.

And it is not just an alliance of convenience. I predict that human values, lifted to heaven by a human-friendly superintelligence, would end up looking something like the Archipelago – many places for people to pursue their own visions of the Good, watched over by a benevolent god who acts only to ensure universal freedom of movement. Indeed, given a superintelligence to magic away the problems – no inter-community invasion, no competition for (presumably unlimited) resources – it seems to that a plurality of humankind would endorse this scenario over whatever other plans someone could dream up.

It is a minor sin to speculate on what could happen after the Singularity. I’m not saying it will be a world like this. This is something I thought up in ten minutes. It is a lower bound. Something thought up by a real superintelligence would be much, much better.

“Gnon represents the laws of physics and causality. You can’t conquer the laws of physics and causality.” (example)

Horace says: “He is either mad, or writing poetry”. If you encounter that dichotomy with me, please assume at least a 66% or so chance that I am writing poetry.

On a base level you can’t beat the laws of physics. On a metaphorical level, you can.

The laws of physics include gravity. For someone in 1500, the idea that you might be able to travel really far straight up seems like defying – even conquering – the laws of physics. But with sufficient knowledge, you can build rockets. We poetically speak about rockets “defying gravity”.

Rockets don’t literally defy gravity, but “defying gravity” is a pretty good shorthand for what they do. And of course they work on physics, but it does seem like once rockets are good enough in some sense a patch of physical law has been “conquered”.

We can never conquer Gnon in a literal sense. But we might be able to do something that looks very very much like conquering Gnon, in the same sense that making a very large metal object fall straight up until it reaches the moon looks very very much like conquering gravity.

Anyhow, the wrong thing to do would be to worship gravity as a god and venerate staying earthbound as a moral principle.

“If you really believed what you’re saying, you would realize [current progressive value] is just a result of Cthulhu, the blind marketplace of memes.” (example)

This gets into the old philosophical question of “why should we expect our beliefs to correspond to reality at all?”. It tends to be asked a lot by religious people, who mean it in a way like “I think the human mind was created by God to perceive reality, but if you think it was just the result of blind evolution, how do you know it has any truth-discerning value?”

To which the answer is that evolution selected for brains that were at least marginally competent. Brains that could distinguish “lion” from “non-lion” survived; those that couldn’t, didn’t.

There’s no such thing as a “fit animal”, only an animal that is fit for its environment. Likewise, there’s no such thing as a “virulent meme”, only a meme that is virulent to specific hosts.

We say “the human brain is designed to distinguish true and false ideas”, but another way to approach the same idea is “the human brain is designed to be an environment such that true memes survive and false memes die out.”

The overwhelming majority of our beliefs are true, and this should be obvious with a second’s thought. The sky is blue. I am sitting in Michigan right now. 2 + 2 is four. I have ten fingers. And so on.

Morality is really complicated, but if we are to believe moral discussion can be productive even in principle, we have to believe that our brains are less than maximally perverse – that they have some ability to distinguish the moral from the immoral.

If our brains are built to accept true ideas about facts and morality, the default should be that many people believing something is positive evidence for its truth, or at least not negative evidence.

“This meme is virulent”, in the context of “this idea is widely believed” is not proof that the idea is false or destructive. Some memes can be both virulent and false/destructive – and indeed I think this is true of many of them, religion being only the most obvious case – but the burden of proof is on the person making that claim.

“All your human values are just the results of blind evolution and memetic drift – a Molochian process if ever there was one. Enshrining human values against the blind will of the universe would just be the triumph of one part of the universe’s blind idiocy over another.” (Spandrell here)

Yes, this is the The Gift We Give To Tomorrow

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428 Responses to Misperceptions On Moloch

  1. switchnode says:

    To distill what might be a very long and pointless argument to an observation:

    I find it curious that your concept of “martial glory” encompasses Achilles but apparently not machine guns.

    (There are ways in which grey goo is more beautiful than love.)

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    • CaptainBooshi says:

      I would argue that machine guns are more an example of engineering glory (for a certain definition of glory) than martial glory. The person behind the gun is fairly interchangeable, it is the gun itself that is important.

      Edit: I just realized that this is probably all part of that long and pointless arguemnt you mentioned, so I apologize for that. Please feel free to ignore my comment if you wish. I merely wanted to note that some people, such as myself, would agree with Scott’s definition of martial glory not including machine guns.

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    • cryptael says:

      It is the difference between watching the best basketball player in the world hit a half-court shot, and watching a perfect basketball-throwing machine hit 100 of them in a row. Our values are anthropocentric.

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    • anon says:

      Not sure if evil or troll or mad genius artist.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Sure, you might think grey goo or Hansonian ems or paperclip-maximizers are more beautiful than love. But you’d better be damn sure about it, because you only get one chance.

      So even if it does come out that grey goo is beautiful, it’s a really bad idea to just try and create grey goo – you might be wrong, after all. Much safer to first create friendly AI, to first lift Elua to heaven. And if you’re right, Elua will turn back to us and say, “Well, seems that humanity really really likes grey goo…”

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      • anon says:

        If Elua told me I liked Gray Goo, I’d assume that he’d been build with a badly designed value system. If Elua told the OP they didn’t like Gray Goo, OP (if not trolling) would assume Elua had been built with a badly designed value system. We have to resolve the disagreements before we ever build Elua, you can’t just appeal to Elua as though he’ll somehow arrive at an objective morality on his own.

        I think you’re saying something like “Elua will take the base human values and decide whether or not they support Gray Goo”. But I think there are many different ways Elua could go about making that evaluation, and that without specifying them we’ll only end up in trouble.

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        • Jeff Alexander says:

          If you are able to pre-specify all of the results of Elua’s future decision-making, in a way that is better than you expect Elua to do so Herself, then…

          Congratulations! You are Elua! This is convenient, because it means we don’t have to build Her.

          But if in truth you are not currently a benevolent superintelligent being capable of pre-specifying all of the results of Elua’s future decision-making, then perhaps let us accept something like the claim that concerned you, that “Elua will take the base human values and decide whether or not they support P, for all propositions P,” and that that’s okay. More than okay, even.

          And if what you really meant to express is that Building Elua is Hard, well… Yes. Yes, it is. And that is why MIRI and FHI thank you for your support in this most difficult of endeavors.

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    • AR+ says:

      Even the Greeks, I’m sure, reserved their serious appreciation of martial glory to the courageous hoplites who actually got all the fighting done. Martial epics are just the Greek equivalent of modern action movies.

      In the real world, martial glory enthusiasts are just as appreciative of their machine-gun toting citizen-soldiers as the Greeks would have been of their hoplites.

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  2. Buck says:

    > Whatever your values are, the world being eaten by gray goo, paperclip maximizers, or Hansonian ems is unlikely to satisfy them.

    Not completely obvious to me. There’s a reasonable chance to me that paperclip maximisers would be marginally sentient: sentience seems to have *some* adaptive advantages, as we can observe from the fact that we have it, and the paperclipping AI needs to have intelligent subroutines. Perhaps its scientist and engineer subroutines will be conscious in a way I find valuable. (It’s not obvious that those subroutines would have more pleasure than they have pain, though.)

    Also, you have a way rosier perception of how good the world currently is than I do. I’d much rather everything in the Solar system was dead and replaced by a paperclipping agent than have the enormous amount of suffering we have in the world now, if you take into account nonhuman animals in factory farms and the wild.

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    • Drake. says:

      > Whatever your values are, the world being eaten by gray goo, paperclip maximizers, or Hansonian ems is unlikely to satisfy them.
      Not completely obvious to me… Perhaps its scientist and engineer subroutines will be conscious in a way I find valuable.

      nobody’s arguing that the ufai/em dystopia must satisfy <=0 of your values, only that the total worth of such a outcome be vanishingly tiny compared to anything human-value-oriented (eg, universe tiled with hedonium, prosperous galactic empires, w/e).

      I’d much rather everything in the Solar system was dead and replaced by a paperclipping agent than have the enormous amount of suffering we have in the world now, if you take into account nonhuman animals in factory farms and the wild.

      what is expected utility

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    • m says:

      The human suffering is not enough? :-)

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    • Abolition says:

      You’re not alone. Honestly, I think attempting to bring about a glorious utopian future is just throwing good money after bad.

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    • cryptael says:

      What’s so bad about suffering? Suffering is the universe resisting your will. Suffering marks the path to triumph. But when I look back, I remember not my suffering, except to appreciate more sharply the triumphs I have had.

      The suffering-minimizers are the most inhuman. I distrust philosophy of people whose thinking does not smell… organic.

      The destruction of all sentient things as the ultimate fulfillment of human values is the outcome of the worse side of rationalism – naive arithmetic utilitarianism. I have only one thing to say to people that hold such values: you first.

      I wonder if our differences are not mainly biological. Perhaps you feel pain more strongly than I do so suffering repulses you more than it does me. Perhaps you and your kind are sensitive. Perhaps had you played high school sports and become accustomed to suffering, your entire worldview would be different now. You puke your guts out after sprint practice, but six months later you have a good season, and you learn not to get so hung up on suffering.

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      • Matthew O says:

        You, cryptael, are a suffering-minimizer. Except, in your case, the lack of “suffering^1″ is what causes you an even stronger, more meta “suffering^2″. Very well, then. We will help minimize your suffering^2 by giving you as much suffering^1 as you deem proper. Problem solved.

        This is something that bothers me about common objections to utilitarianism that say something along the lines of, “I don’t want everything to be good. Some bad in the world is necessary.” Those people are not using the words “good” and “bad” in the same way that a utilitarian uses them. If a “bad” thing is “necessary” or “preferred” to a certain degree, then that makes that thing a “good” thing to that degree. It could be suffering, it could be striving, it could be dust specks in the eyes.

        If someone says, “Good could not exist without evil,” then I say, “Okay then. So a small amount of evil is actually good, you are saying. Now we just have to fine-tune that amount of evil to obtain the greatest good. That doesn’t change the fact that the optimal strategy is to maximize the meta-good and minimize the meta-evil.”

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        • cryptael says:

          A heuristic of mine is that any simple attempt to describe human values leaves out most of what we actually value. If there is a function to describe human values, it is the most complicated function in the world. It is the departed father that you sorta hated but appreciate in hindsight, whom you resent but also look back on with nostalgia when you come upon his old things. Whom one year you hate and the next year you love again, as you see his qualities being manifest in yourself. You would boil that down to a single number? Good luck.

          I have a few hypothesis about utilitarians. One is that they crave the certainty that math gives them. They want to feel like the physicists of the moral world, even if their physics rest on rotten foundations. I do not trust a morality with the hard, clean edges of physics. Instead, it should look like biology – incredibly complex and varied from person to person, and from place to place. To understand how to “maximize goodness” is as hard as “maximize life” – what does that even mean? Can it be understood? Do the lives of a trillion bacteria outweigh a single trillion-cell organism, or vice-versa?

          Second is that they have emotional deficits – they have lived too much in their heads and not enough in their bodies. They do not have the nuanced relationship to suffering that more rounded people have (suggestions to fix this: power lifting or full contact martial arts like Jiu Jitsu).

          This may sound like ad hominem but it is not. I suspect that our inferential distance is short, but our emotional and aesthetic sense is miles apart, and much of this comes from living in my body and not just in my head. It comes from loving humanity in the particular – in its histories and literature and religions, in the beauty of hinduism in practice, in blue states and red states, in my goofy but kind hearted autistic nephew who warms our hearts one minute and breaks them the next, in country music and back porches on cool summer nights – not just as an abstract thing to be maximally pleased. The abstract sense of humanity is characteristic of one who views it from a distance.

          In its weakest form, utilitarianism is tautological enough to cover any conception of the good. I grant you that. This is the conception that utilitarians fall back on in defense. The problem is that on offense, utilitarians revert back to simplistic, inhuman value systems (like the GP). They “shut up and calculate” and come out with monstrous actions. They are slippery and janus-faced, motte-and-bailey moralists.

          Sometimes I feel the whole Less Wrong project exists to troll me. I say “values are complex” and they say “yes! We agree!”. And then they go on to talk about the virtues of hedonium.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I find the notion that I am utilitarian because I don’t love humanity in particular (or, for that matter, because I don’t like autistics, country music, religion, weightlifting, or cool summer nights, in contrast to my revealed preferences about all five) to be quite personally offensive.

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        • Vulture says:

          @Ozy: assuming you meant to order that sentence differently (i.e. not meaning that you secretly hate humanity and that this makes people think you are a utilitarian): I think some of the confusion might be arisig from the terminological clusterfuck of Millian(?) hedonic utilitarianism vs measuring things in utils vs “consequentialism” vs aknowledging that human values is complex vs building ugly concrete buildings vs etc etc etc

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      • anon says:

        I agree that triumph over suffering is good. But in order to triumph over suffering, one must oppose suffering. To accept suffering is to abandon motivation for struggling against it.

        Additionally, while some people who suffer struggle against it and grow stronger and greater, others, in my opinion most others, grow weaker through suffering their suffering. At the very least, it’s worth theoretically distinguishing between useful and useless suffering, valuable and valueless suffering.

        I don’t want to completely eliminate suffering. But also, I don’t want suffering to remain contained within a tiny little box. But also, I don’t want to stop struggling against suffering. My values are in a bit of a pickle, here. But I like the contradiction better than any of the extremes.

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  3. Carinthium says:

    I’ll drop my previous argument (since I’d lost there). But a few points:

    1- What about C.E.V? The idea isn’t perfect, but one thing it does get right is that a preference based around false premises isn’t a ‘true’ preference at all. This is an important part of human values.

    Say I want to open the door to my house because I don’t know there’s a bomb behind it. It isn’t my ‘true’ preference to open the door. Similiarly with the monk, who would not pray to God if he realised God didn’t exist.

    2- Even after factoring for that, and even though it is clear there are some things no humans would want (except for a few possible insane cases postulated only because I can’t rule them out), irreconcillable differences between some human ideals do exist and it is foolish to pretend they don’t.

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  4. Abolition says:

    Whatever your values are, the world being eaten by gray goo, paperclip maximizers, or Hansonian ems is unlikely to satisfy them.

    Not as unlikely as you think, at least if those Hansonian ems have pruned away their sentience. The eradication of sentient beings may not be ideal, but it’s a good precautionary measure against the creation of lives so joyless that they aren’t worth living. I fail to see any moral imperative to bring beings into existence, even if we know that they will have uniformly good experiences, so if any possible lives are not worth living then this makes the creation of any further sentient beings an unjustifiable gamble.

    I understand that most people value the creation of sentient beings, but they represent a small sliver of all of the potential lives that will exist should humanity be permitted to survive and expand. How much should their desires be weighed against the suffering of countless future generations? How many flawed, suffering-filled potential futures are you willing to accept for the slightest chance of your Elutopia?

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    • Drake. says:

      this argument seems a bit silly to me. why on earth shouldn’t people-who-don’t-exist-now-but-might-in-the-future matter exactly as much as people-who-exist-now-but-might-not-in-the-future? i mean, the only thing that’s changing is their current existence-value — since their future existence-value is always uncertain — and obviously if we’re maximizing future utility then the current state of things ought hardly factor in. otherwise you end up in weird contradictory situations – eg, obligated to resurrect someone upon death, up until the point where they’re actually dead. a more pertinent example: if every possible em existed in some infinitely-dense harddrive somewhere, and any time a being was to be brought into existence it would be copied over rather than written from scratch, your ideology would obligate you to “activate” beings with net-positive utility… except this is obviously entirely orthagonal to writing the bits without the drive, the only difference being the fact that they were previously present.

      on the second point, that dying out is a better option than the overwhelming likelyhood of suffering: you literally just said yourself that suffering was unlikely. the most probable outcome is something like gray goo, or a paperclip maximizer; net zero (or close) utility. not, as you seem to be assuming, “people being tortured for all eternity”. most ufais that are proposed as an issue are along the lines of “satisfies human values… almost”, and so we end up with wireheading and such. that is, things that are vastly inferior to the ideal. there’s an important distinction, though, to be made between things that are imperfect, and things that are negative — i am sure that most people would prefer a universe tiled with raw animal pleasure as opposed to a vacuum.

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      • kappa says:

        Am I the only person to whom a universe tiled with raw animal pleasure and a vacuum are the next thing to functionally equivalent?

        Single-state minds aren’t minds. Universal hedonium, insofar as I understand the term, is like a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it, only the tree is an eternal orgasm. The observer element is still lacking.

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        • How do you know the observer element is lacking? Is it lacking when you have ordinary orgasms? If not, why can’t we copy-paste a few seconds of your brain having an orgasm, run it on a loop, and call that ‘hedonium’?

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        • kappa says:

          A few seconds of my brain having an orgasm, running on a loop forever, is not me. If someone replaced me with a version of me locked in a continuous state of maximum pleasure and happiness, unable to have any thoughts or do any things other than that single experience, I would consider that equivalent to killing me, and would consider the replacement version effectively not an observer of its own brain-state.

          [edited to add] This definition is strongly contingent on available opportunities, by the way. I’m only dead as long as I remain unable to act, think, or vary my experience. If the hedonium hell-god lets go of me after a thousand years and sends me on my way, I will freely admit to having been resurrected. And if someone else wants to die and go to hedonium hell forever, that’s their business and I certainly won’t argue for destroying what’s left of them once they do, potentially unless the universe becomes so clogged with wireheaders that it threatens the survival of the rest of us – in which case resurrecting them still seems like the better plan.

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        • Matthew O says:

          Why would you think that pure hedonium would be uninteresting or would deny you volition? If feelings and subjective assumptions that we have volition are pleasurable, and if novelty is pleasurable, then why couldn’t a sufficiently-cleverly-constructed hedonium consist of that?

          Any time you say, “I don’t want hedonium…I want THIS instead,” then the FAI making your hedonium says, “OK, I will change the hedonium to include that.”

          You could even say, “I want the subjective perception that everything is NOT handed to me on a silver platter by a FAI. I want to think that I am responsible for the hedonium that I obtain.” In which case the FAI says, “Done.” and manages your memories so as to make you forget that your hedonium is due to the FAI and fool you into thinking that it is all your own achievement, thus hightening your hedonium even more.

          “What about Truth?!” You say. What about it? Truth has instrumental value as long as proves to be a useful tool for getting what we want. If we have a FAI giving us what we want, we don’t need truth anymore.

          Sometimes in my more fantastical frames of mind, I like to think that I am in a simulation right now being run by a post-singularity civilization, and that I have uploaded into this particular (non-optimal) experience of mine as a sort of game full of (artificial) challenges that I forgot I was even playing (because otherwise, it would defeat the purpose of the simulation if the knowledge that we were not in a simulation were to fail to be erased).

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        • kappa says:

          Matthew O, I think you are discussing something different from what I have been discussing until now. Note the phrase a universe tiled with raw animal pleasure. To me, this does not imply the kind of hedonium you are talking about. If the term can mean both a universe tiled with raw animal pleasure and a universe of carefully constructed simulations designed to satisfy the complex preferences of individual minds, I think somebody needs to come up with some less ambiguous terms.

          I also have quibbles about the desirability of living in a simulation carefully constructed to satisfy my complex preferences – namely, if the creator of the simulation is lying to me without my prior informed consent, it is not desirable – but that’s a different subject from whether or not… let’s call it ‘wirehead hell’ instead of ‘hedonium hell’… is a functionally living mind-state.

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        • Drake. says:

          wasn’t aware this was an issue, sorry. i had always assumed that if you’re going to fill a universe with pleasure, then there has to be something around to experience it? i don’t understand why “fixed brain-state” is a necessary prerequisite for maximal pleasure; i can easily imagine a conscious being that thinks and w/e but also experiences a nigh-constant level of pleasure at all times.

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        • kappa says:

          To me, “tiled with raw animal pleasure” implies a constant unvarying state of maximized pleasure, across either numerous distributed minds or one very large mind. If the observer(s) can think about things that aren’t pleasure, then there are things other than pleasure in the universe, which means it isn’t quite fully tiled. But if they can’t, then to me, they don’t really qualify as a mind at all.

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        • Drake. says:

          If the observer(s) can think about things that aren’t pleasure, then there are things other than pleasure in the universe, which means it isn’t quite fully tiled.

          wasn’t aware that you needed to think about pleasure to experience it. it’s my understanding that thought and experience are orthagonal; it’s not really a tradeoff between “thought” and “pleasure”. since “constant pleasure” is just an attribute you can apply to a mind, without any extra volume requirement, in hedonium they’re one and the same.

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      • Aris Katsaris says:

        “why on earth shouldn’t people-who-don’t-exist-now-but-might-in-the-future matter exactly as much as people-who-exist-now-but-might-not-in-the-future? ”

        Because your preferences won’t be coherent or sane if you don’t assign to possible futures a weight of importance proportional to their probability.

        If you care about the consequences of an event that has 0.0001% likelihood of happening as much as you care about the consequences of an event that has 99.9999% likelihood of happening, then you’ll be acting in an insane manner.

        The preferences of future people do matter to me. But they only matter proportionally to the likelihood they have of existing. When we reduce the likelihood these future people have of existing, we reduce also how much their preferences matter. And when the likelihood of their existence becomes zero, the importance of their preferences also becomes zero.

        The moral responsibility lies in the other direction — when we *ensure* that these future people exist, then we must also care about their being able to live in a world where their preferences will be satisfied. Because *then* the preferences of those future people (of probability of existence ~1) are just as morally important as ours.

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        • Drake. says:

          jesus christ, i’m worse at communicating than i thought. i had assumed that weighting based on probability of existance was implicit. sorry that you got the wrong idea.

          (i agree with everything here)

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      • Eli says:

        why on earth shouldn’t people-who-don’t-exist-now-but-might-in-the-future matter exactly as much as people-who-exist-now-but-might-not-in-the-future?

        Because there is always far more potential future people than actual current people. You can only instantiate one actual timeline. Thus: make tomorrow the best successor to today, without trying to pretend it can or should be the successor to the sideways-today-that-never-happened.

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        • Drake. says:

          then weight based on their probability of existing at a given point in time? i don’t understand the objection. “there are always more future people” seems a) obviously false (imagine the seconds before an inescapable extinction scenario) and b) incredibly irrelevant (there are more people in india, therefore they are morally worthless?).

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    • Fnord says:

      There seems to be a weird asymmetry to your philosophy. You assume a zero-point of utility exists, and there’s a moral imperative to avoid creating entities with negative utility (presumably, proportional to that negative utility). But no moral imperative to create beings with positive utility? That seems equally implicit in the existence of a zero-point for utility.

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      • Creutzer says:

        Well, yes, there is an asymmetry, that’s what it’s sometimes called Benatar’s Asymmetry. So what? It just means that you don’t assign utilities to world-states by anything as simple as aggregating over the utilities of the individuals in it.

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    • anon says:

      I agree with you, except I am very selfish and ambitious and hubristic, so I am willing to cause the flawed futures just for a small risk of a utopia. I am kind of a terrible human being, from a more objective perspective. But if I adopted that more objective perspective, I would be sacrificing my current value system. Without selfish ambition, I think I would be less happy and less powerful, so I don’t want to replace that system.

      That said, as discussed somewhere or other in these two threads, a truce where competition and development and sacrifice is stopped is also reasonably palatable to me. I might grow more desperate though, towards the end of my life.

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  5. Thom Wilkinson says:

    “the wrong thing to do would be to worship gravity as a god and venerate staying earthbound as a moral principle.”

    Earlier this evening, I just so happened to be reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. And there was a passage in it (albeit one written by Hegel’s student, Hotho) that demolished the naturalistic fallacy in exactly the way you’re trying to do here.

    This is probably not the type of forum where posting a long quote from Hegel will win me many friends. But my preference right now is to deny myself ten minutes of dicking around elsewhere on the Internet, and type some beautiful words into this comment box.

    There are two kinds of laws, laws of nature and laws of right: the laws of nature are simply there and are valid as they stand… The measure of these laws is external to us… Knowledge of right is in one respect similar to this and in another respect different. We get to know the laws of right in just the same way, simply as they are; the citizen knows them more or less in this way, and the positive jurist also stops short at what is given. But the difference is that, with the laws of right, the spirit of reflection comes into play and their very diversity draws attention to the fact that they are not absolute. The laws of right are laid down, something derived from human beings. It necessarily follows that our inner voice may either come into collision with them or concur with them. The human being does not stop short at the existent, but claims to have within himself the measure of what is right; he may be subjected to the necessity and power of external authority, but never in the same way as to normal necessity, for his inner self always tells him how things ought to be… In nature, the highest truth is that a law exists at all; in laws of right, however, the thing is not valid because it exists; on the contrary, everyone demands that it should match his own criterion. (p. 13)

    (Hegel trans. Nisbet, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Cambridge University Press 1991)

    Will property rights and free movement of capital march us straight into Hanson’s libertarian dystopia? Maybe, maybe not. But if so, we should remember that these realities are as changeable as the laws that created them. And those laws are valid, ultimately, through our consent.

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  6. crnigjuro says:

    Your idea of benevolent singularity like AI presiding over a scattered humanity has been an old trope of SciFi…the best written examples of it would be Ian M. Banks Culture novels, and Charlie Stross’es Eschaton universe. This is all fun, however, it seems to me not to be too relevant – it is very much like wishing that Santa Claus gives us presents, or Jesus solves all our problems. We seem to be caught in the belly of the beast (ie, culture of civilization) and I don’t think that there is a possibility of a technological breakthrough solving the problems that are in their essence non-technological. We do currently have the technology for stopping population growth, feeding everyone, clothing everyone, giving shelter to everyone, and giving some sort of basical health service to everyone – the reasons why we don’t do that are not technological. We don’t need a friendly godlike AI to tell us what to do to escape from Moloch. I would argue that the current problem is that enough people are still convinced that life in Molochian civilization is better then any alternative, and until this changes, the rat race shall continue.

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    • von Kalifornen says:

      AI isn’t too show us the way our something like that. It’s a hero to lead us and a magic sword with which to fight Moloch and all other enemies. It isn’t a normal technological advance.

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      • crnigjuro says:

        It is a Santa Claus.
        The essence of the argument as far as I could understand it is that without outside actor, agents can’t get themselves out of the rat race. This presumes many things, amongst others, that agents can’t and won’t drop out of the race, and that memetic competition favors efficiency in propagation (ie, bigger mind share, or in rat analogy, more rat children). This does not seem to be at all like our knowledge of the history of civilization suggests. For the last 10k years of culture of civilization, a number of those failed due to people opting out. To be fair, a far bigger number failed because of resource depletion.
        Magic AI godlike beings are also very very far from technological reality, and as such really shouldn’t be relied upon to solve our bacon.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      I don’t think that there is a possibility of a technological breakthrough solving the problems that are in their essence non-technological

      The point is to make new problems that will destroy the context in which the old problems could exist.

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      • crnigjuro says:

        Somehow this doesn’t seem to be much better then the current Molochian rat race. I believe that the premises of the anti-Moloch argument (presented in main text) are flawed (incomplete) and therefore the conclusion is also flawed.

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    • Eli says:

      We don’t need a friendly godlike AI to tell us what to do to escape from Moloch. I would argue that the current problem is that enough people are still convinced that life in Molochian civilization is better then any alternative, and until this changes, the rat race shall continue.

      As long as we are going with this metaphor…

      The problem is that too many people still worship Moloch. Elua (ugh) does not need worship. This is one of the reasons Elua is better: all we have to do to sanctify It… is exactly what we already really wanted to do anyway, but believed Great God Moloch would not allow us.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your idea of benevolent singularity like AI presiding over a scattered humanity has been an old trope of SciFi…the best written examples of it would be Ian M. Banks Culture novels

      Not sure how relevant this is, but …

      I’m pretty sure Culture Minds are not superintelligent in the sense Scott and LW-ish philosophy in general is advocating. The Culture novels (deliberately!) dismiss the possibility of hard-takeoff AI rapidly optimizing large volumes on various handwavey grounds – because it’s space opera, not hard sci-fi, and superintelligent AI would have ruined the stories he wanted to tell.

      Furthermore, they “preside over” humanity only in the literal sense that they are enormous fucking spaceships. They do not officially run the Culture, and the only implication that they secretly run the Culture is one character’s conspiracy theory in Excession – which he immediately dismisses as either false, or so inconceivably well-hidden as to be untestable.

      And finally, the Culture are in any case a bunch of enormous twats.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      Firstly, the question of whether SAI is possible or likely – a topic on which you offer no evidence but your personal sense of the ridiculous – is beside the point. Moloch is real. If you have suggestions on how to fight it, we’re all listening.

      Secondly, you do realize that this is not the same at all as “the technology for stopping population growth, feeding everyone, clothing everyone, giving shelter to everyone, and giving some sort of basical health service to everyone”? Are you trying to imply that, were we to have AI right now, we would not have built one?

      ***

      On the other hand, one could extend the analogy to point out that “killing” Moloch with a Friendly Superintelligence would require us to overcome an enormous co-ordination problem, in which case I think you have an excellent point.

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    • Bugmaster says:

      There are many problems with this concept of a benevolent godlike AI, but one of the salient ones here is a variant of the Euthyphro Dilemma.

      Let’s say that you wake up tomorrow, and hear the AI’s voice in your mind, instructing you to always wear green dresses on Saturday. You protest that you hate the color green, and besides, you prefer pants; but the AI says that you must do so for the greater good. You ask the AI to show its math, but it responds that, unfortunately, your tiny human brain cannot possibly encompass it. But hey, you’ve got a choice: you can either wear green dresses on Saturday, or you can go out and live in one of the wilderness preserves which the AI does not control, and where you are free to wear whatever you want, whenever you want, assuming you can survive at all.

      So, let’s say you grit your teeth and wear the green dress. But the next week, the AI tells you to start shunning gay people…

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  7. Regarding #3, the question we should ask of any meme isn’t “Is this virulent?”, but rather “Is this virulent for reasons independent of its truth value?”

    Humans are truth-seekers, so the truth-value of a meme contributes to its virulence. But that’s not the only factor; memes can also prey on cognitive bias. If a meme is virulent for reasons that are causally independent of whether or not it is true, then that’s evidence that it is false.

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    • crnigjuro says:

      This would immediately invalidate most of the art and music. No fun.
      Humans most definitely don’t seem to be truth seekers. From my point of view, if anything, they seem to be dopamine burst seekers.

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      • blacktrance says:

        Art and music are neither true nor false, so I think they’re safe. The problem is when something that is false is claimed to be true, or vice versa.

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        • This is more in line with what I meant. I’d also add that by “evidence” I meant Bayesian evidence; it’s certainly possible for a meme which is true to be virulent both because it is true and also for other, causally independent reasons.

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      • sebmathguy says:

        I don’t think that my actions are consistent with being a dopamine burst maximizer. If I were so inclined,I could easily obtain dopamine bursts far more intense than my current baseline through, for instance, cocaine. And yet I have no desire to start snorting coke.

        To be fair, my verbal association between “cocaine” and “dopamine” is different from that of somebody who has actually experienced the reinforcing effects of using cocaine. But if I were really a dopamine-burst-seeker, then my failure to use cocaine would fit neatly into the standard usage of the word “akrasia,” which seems… perverse.

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        • crnigjuro says:

          well, there is a difference between “dopamine burst seeker” (which is what I said) and “dopamine burst maximizer” which is what you said. The other point i tried to make is that we seem to be *closer* to dopamine burst seekers then truth seekers, so all together, we are talking about continuous spectrum of behaviors, and not about extreme positions on that spectrum. Obviously enough, “dopamine burst seeker” is not *all* that we are, which is why Moloch is so bad.

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  8. Darcey Riley says:

    Regarding this:

    “Human values (‘Elua’) mean hedonism and free love and namby-pamby happiness, and I’m not on board with that.”

    Your response to this objection reminds me of the following. I keep having conversations with utilitarians (probably including you) that go like this:
    Utilitarian: In utilitarianism we try to make choices that maximize people’s happiness.
    Me: But I don’t actually want to maximize happiness. I want life to contain some suffering. And even if we were trying to maximize positive emotions, happiness is just one of those positive emotions.
    Utilitarian: Oh, we’re not really trying to maximize happiness in the narrow way you’re defining it. The word “happiness” is really just a stand-in for “utility”.
    Me: So then why not just call it “utility” in the first place?

    And in practice, it seems like most utilitarians are trying to maximize a simple sort of happiness, or minimize a simple sort of suffering, and are utterly failing to take into account the complexity of human values. This seems exactly like that post you wrote on feminism, where people say “feminism is about equality, how could you be opposed to that?”, and you’re not, but “working towards equality” is not an empirical description of what feminists actually do.

    Analogously, “maximizing human values” (or at least ones that resemble mine) seems like an equally poor description of what self-described utilitarians are actually trying to do. Like, people in this very thread have argued that human and non-human suffering are so great that it would actually be better to tile the world over in paperclips or grey goo. And the other day on Google+, Kaj Sotala linked this article on eliminating all of earth’s predators. This is so far from my values I can’t even arggghhhhhhhh.

    Like, I have the exact same amount of visceral horror and revulsion towards these attempts to “improve” the world as I felt towards Moloch while reading your last post. These things and Moloch-devours-everything are equally bad outcomes according to my emotions. This is why I am not a transhumanist: because every time I read things that transhumanists write, my reaction is “oh god no don’t do that”.

    So in my mind, at the very best, when people say “utilitarianism is about maximizing happiness”, they are using a very misleading description that perpetuates false ideas about utilitarianism. And at the very worst, they are actually optimizing the world for an outcome I despise. Same thing for when you say Elua is a god of happiness and niceness and flowers: either it’s a very misleading description (which I can partly forgive because it’s poetry), or it’s describing a god that I really want nothing to do with.

    …..

    On another topic, I wanted to clarify the comment I left on your last post: that post did not turn me into a transhumanist. It didn’t actually change my goals or plans. It just made me realize that “nature” vs. “technology” is a really stupid false dichotomy, and that what we actually need is a contrast between “forces of nature that agree with human values” and “forces of nature that will destroy everything we hold dear”. And if I have to take a side, I’ll pick those first forces of nature.

    But I’m resigned to the latter forces winning in the end. Humanity and its values are probably not going to last forever in the cosmos, even if we did manage to create an FAI. Actually, I’m more than resigned to this; I embrace it as part of the beauty of the natural order. But despite this, within my lifetime, I still plan to fight for the things I value, because that’s what values are. I have enough perspective to laugh at the futility of my actions as I do them, but I do them anyway, because I mean, I have to do something. And so I’m doing two things: trying not to fuck up the environment too badly, and working on NLP, with particular interests in metaphor, narrative, and the emotional content of sentences and ideas, since I think that studying these things will probably lead to AIs that are less evil.

    (David Chapman, if you’re reading this, could you please tell me the extent to which my previous paragraph is in line with your philosophy? I saw your twitter-reaction to Scott’s previous post.)

    (I edited this comment a lot, btw.)

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    • Utilitarianism is about maximizing aggregate utility, which means that you have to define what “utility” means. In general, there seem to have been two distinct approaches to this: either you treat it as synonymous with “happiness”/”pleasure” (hedonism)/something similarly simple, or you don’t.

      I consider the latter approach to be the correct one, because human values are complex. But the idea that value is complex is surprisingly unintuitive. I know that after I first began to identify as a utilitarian, I had some doubts because I saw no difference between utilitarianism and hedonism, and hedonism didn’t seem right because of things like its implications about wireheading. It was only after I encountered the Sequences and had it all spelled out for me that I was able to grasp the idea that utilitarianism was right but hedonism was wrong.

      Why is this? Because if “utility” has a simple definition, then utilitarianism provides a simple, elegant, universal, all-encompassing law of morality, which humans are motivated to pursue for the same reason we pursue simple, elegant, universal, all-encompassing laws of physics. If not, and if you have to admit that you actually don’t have a good explanation of what “utility” is (which I think is the right thing to admit), then utilitarianism suddenly becomes a lot less attractive.

      (A contributing factor, I think, is that Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, thought that utility was happiness. He lived in a less sophisticated time and I don’t blame him for not realizing the full complexity of human value; like I said, it’s surprisingly unintuitive until you see it. But philosophy tends to not be so good at correcting mistakes of the past, so this idea has stuck around more than it should have.)

      So we should acknowledge that we don’t know exactly what constitutes utility. At the moment, it seems like we have to rely on our intuitions regarding whether or not any given thing should be counted as positive or negative utility. Your problem seems to be that other people’s intuitions about what constitutes positive utility differ from yours. But this is no discredit to utilitarianism; it’s simply a disagreement over the right answer to a problem within utilitarianism that we already know to be unsolved.

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      • nydwracu says:

        I haven’t seen Mill vs. Bentham come up even once in the LW-sphere. Is there a decisive refutation of both floating around, or?

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        • The posts that convinced me that I could reject hedonism without rejecting utilitarianism were this and this. The part about simple utility functions being seductive was based on ideas I got from this. See also everything linked here.

          Is this what you were asking, or did you have something else in mind? Mill vs. Bentham doesn’t seem terribly relevant since Mill’s utilitarianism was only a very small step towards a full understanding of the complexity of value, and still mostly wrong compared to what I think we now believe.

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      • Darcey Riley says:

        Hmm, this is interesting. In case it wasn’t clear, I don’t actually object to utilitarianism as a moral philosophy. I agree with you that a non-naive utilitarianism (one which admits that value is complex and we have no idea what our utility functions look like) would be quite reasonable.

        You probably have a really good point; if I see someone talking about naive utilitarianism, I shouldn’t assume they have horrible values that completely differ from mine; there’s a much higher probability that their values are reasonable, and they just haven’t really considered the implications of their philosophical claims.

        But it’s really interesting that you consider naive utilitarianism more intuitive than the more realistic version. This is part of why I’m opposed to talking about utility as “maximizing happiness” or anything like that. To a large extent, our intuitions come from language, and the way people typically talk about things. So the usual framing of utilitarianism in these terms probably shapes people’s initial, intuitive understanding of what utilitarianism should be.

        There’s also cultural factors at work. Like, our culture places a huge emphasis on happiness as a value. Maybe another culture that didn’t emphasize happiness so much would fall into some other trap (utilitarianism = “maximizing honor and only honor” or something).

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        • cryptael says:

          I remain unconvinced that doing math with human values is a reasonable thing to do. It seems to me that a non-trivial portion of utilitarians adopt it precisely because it promises you the ability to do math to find the best course of action/best world. That’s an aesthetic preference, one that I do not share.

          In fact, I fear it, as it reminds me too much of other terrible “rational” social systems, like communism and the French Enlightenment. I am unconvinced that this attempt at rational tinkering with human nature will not turn into a mechanistic hell-scape.

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        • Darcey Riley says:

          cryptael, I completely agree with you. I guess I was thinking of utilitarianism more as an abstract description of how morality could work, not a guidebook for how people should actually make decisions.

          I think that sometimes utilitarianism helps people make good decisions, because it encourages consequentialism. (I don’t think consequentialism is always the right decision-making strategy, but I can think of multiple specific times in my life where I was only able to solve a problem once I started thinking about it in consequentialist terms.)

          But yeah, in other cases, utilitarianism leads to people dramatically simplifying their preferences into math, then trying to actually make decisions with that math. My usual argument against doing that comes from machine learning: if you use utilitarianism, you are doing exact inference in a very approximate model of what you actually want. If you use ordinary decision-making methods, then you are doing approximate inference in the exact model of what you really want. They’re both approximate, and empirically, the latter tends to give much better approximations.

          (Of course, this doesn’t leave out the complexities of using writing/conscious reasoning as an aid to intuition for decision-making. Like, writing out a pros/cons list can be very helpful. Maybe utilitarian calculations serve sort of that same purpose for some people?)

          But really, “shut up and multiply” is a terrible idea.

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      • blacktrance says:

        Why not just bite the bullet and embrace wireheading?

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        • Funny you should ask, I actually just answered this on my Tumblr as part of an exchange with Ozy.

          The short answer is that I don’t think I really want to become a wirehead, and I really, really don’t want to turn anyone else into a wirehead if they don’t want to be a wirehead. My intuition says that there are things which are relevant to morality other than each person’s individual emotional state. One of these things is allowing other people to decide what matters to them.

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        • blacktrance says:

          What would you do if you weren’t a wirehead that wouldn’t have the end goal of something that would be better provided by wireheading?

          Also, you say in your Tumblr post that you wouldn’t like it if everyone plugged into their own experience machine and never interacted with each other, but that seems like misplaced intuition. Normally, it would indeed be bad if people stopped interacting with each other, and we’re so used to that being a bad thing that we shortcut from “people totally stop interacting with each other” to “that’s bad” without going through “people would be less happy”, because in the majority of situations in human history, “people totally stop interacting with each other” would have led to “people would be less happy”. But wireheading is an atypical case, and the intuition that served us well most of the time doesn’t apply here, because for it “people totally stop interacting with each other” doesn’t lead to “people would be less happy”.

          Similarly, not having other people decide for you is a good heuristic because other people are often worse at making choices for you that would make you happy than if you’d have made those choices for yourself. There’s a variety of reasons for this: they lack your local knowledge of your circumstances and preferences, they take it upon themselves to decide for you for reasons unrelated to your benefit despite claiming otherwise, etc, so a heuristic of “I shouldn’t let other people decide for me” is one that normally serves you well, because letting other people decide for you would make you less happy. But as above, wireheading is an unusual case, and so this heuristic gives the wrong answer.

          In general, seems to me that a major part of opposition to wireheading is due to the failure of otherwise useful heuristics.

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        • kappa says:

          An incomplete list of things I directly value that are impossible to provide in the context of eternal/irreversible solitary wireheading:

          – Interacting with other people
          – Consuming art/media produced by other people
          – Producing art/media to be consumed by other people
          – Producing art/media in collaboration with other people, to be consumed by yet more people
          – Having experiences not orchestrated by any optimization process
          – Free will
          – Not wireheading

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “- Consuming art/media produced by other people”

          Really? Do you not enjoy art produced by natural process or animals? I find the tunnel networks produced by social insects have their own sort of beauty. And if you do enjoy that art, why must you also need to also enjoy human art?

          “- Producing art/media to be consumed by other people
          – Producing art/media in collaboration with other people, to be consumed by yet more people”

          Then you are going to be disappointed. As the number of people in the world with access to the internet and other communication systems increase and translation systems improve more people will be making art/media and there will be more people who are good at it. It will be perfectly possible to do your own thing, but people will want to look for the best and the process will drive out people of less talent, just like the radio and records benefited the best musicians at the expense of local ones.

          “- Having experiences not orchestrated by any optimization process”

          Why? Do you enjoy boredom?

          “- Free will”

          Wire heading doesn’t eliminate freewill anymore than sex does.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Wire heading doesn’t eliminate freewill anymore than sex does.

          Whenever I have sex, I can feel a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness. A loss of essence.

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        • Eli says:

          Because there is a large space of things I find strictly preferable to wireheading.

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        • Darcey Riley says:

          Wireheading probably does remove free will, according to this excellent definition of free will that I recently encountered.

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        • kappa says:

          Really? Do you not enjoy art produced by natural process or animals? I find the tunnel networks produced by social insects have their own sort of beauty. And if you do enjoy that art, why must you also need to also enjoy human art?

          Social insects don’t write books or produce video games, which are two of my favourite forms of media, without which I would lead a substantially less happy life. I like nature too, but I don’t like nature to the exclusion of all else, which you seem to be arguing I must do if I like nature at all. I’m confused.

          Then you are going to be disappointed. As the number of people in the world with access to the internet and other communication systems increase and translation systems improve more people will be making art/media and there will be more people who are good at it. It will be perfectly possible to do your own thing, but people will want to look for the best and the process will drive out people of less talent, just like the radio and records benefited the best musicians at the expense of local ones.

          I disagree that your conclusion follows from your premise. Observably, the effect of the internet on what I do is to facilitate me finding people to do it with and people who want to read the result. Sometimes they’re even the same people. I don’t need a vast audience – in fact, I like the audience I have better, because I get to interact with them more casually.

          Why? Do you enjoy boredom?

          Not especially, but then, I don’t get bored easily. And I don’t think the kind of spontaneity I’m talking about equates to boredom.

          Another angle on that list of bullet points might be this: I want to live in a common environment with a group of other people whose degree of control over that environment is similar to mine, and have unscripted interactions with them. (And I want some of those interactions to be creator-creator and some to be creator-audience, in all applicable directions.) I don’t think that’s especially difficult to arrange in a hypothetical future that contains the possibility of immersing everyone in solitary total-simulation wireheading, and I don’t think it would be especially hard to find a group of people who all want roughly the same thing and would enjoy becoming a community in that way. So why force us to become solitary wireheads instead?

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Whenever I have sex, I can feel a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness. A loss of essence.”

          Thank you commander Ripper.

          “Wireheading probably does remove free will, according to this excellent definition of free will that I recently encountered.”

          That says that free will is the ability to make choices. You can still choose under wireheading- it is just that the stimulus is so much of a better choice you choose it.

          “Social insects don’t write books or produce video games, which are two of my favourite forms of media, without which I would lead a substantially less happy life. I like nature too, but I don’t like nature to the exclusion of all else, which you seem to be arguing I must do if I like nature at all. I’m confused.”

          Than it isn’t art as an abstract that you object to wire heading. It is art with a social context.

          “So why force us to become solitary wireheads instead?”

          Why force children to eat new foods? Why have them interact with people who have cooties?

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        • kappa says:

          You can still choose under wireheading- it is just that the stimulus is so much of a better choice you choose it.

          People tend to keep taking heroin after they start taking heroin. That doesn’t make heroin a good choice. In fact, you could say it’s not a choice at all – it’s an addiction.

          Why force children to eat new foods? Why have them interact with people who have cooties?

          What an excellent comparison!

          When I was a kid, my parents made me hang out with my next-door neighbour’s kid who was about my age, because she was there and they wanted me to have friends. She was awful to me and made my life hell.

          They also used to make me try new foods, but luckily they were right there when I ate them, so when I reacted badly they could see that the food had disagreed with me and not try to make me eat it again.

          Forcing people to have new experiences is a generally bad idea that can backfire horribly, and you shouldn’t do it at all if you can avoid it, particularly if the potential consequences are as bad as the potential consequences of forcing someone to become a wirehead.

          Than it isn’t art as an abstract that you object to wire heading. It is art with a social context.

          I genuinely have no idea what you are talking about in this paragraph.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “”People tend to keep taking heroin after they start taking heroin. That doesn’t make heroin a good choice. In fact, you could say it’s not a choice at all – it’s an addiction.”

          I’m referring to the specific definition the person I was responding to was using. They claimed that wire heading eliminated free will under that definition, I was pointing out it doesn’t under that definition.

          “”Forcing people to have new experiences is a generally bad idea that can backfire horribly, and you shouldn’t do it at all if you can avoid it, particularly if the potential consequences are as bad as the potential consequences of forcing someone to become a wirehead.”

          The potential consequence of wireheading is that you wirehead. There is no bad to it; you do not approve of it now, but you will approve of it once you wirehead, unlike in your examples where you did not approve before and after the experience.

          “I genuinely have no idea what you are talking about in this paragraph.

          You listed a bunch of different reasons for not wireheading, but they all technically boil down to just one- you gain enjoyment from interacting with other human beings (either directly or by proxy through art and media).

          If “interacting with other people” is a terminal value than nothing anyone says can change your mind. If however it is a value because it allows you to check your ideas against others, get access to new ideas and experiences and other useful effect, than it isn’t a terminal value and is not a real objection. Have you checked to see which of these is correct?

          Edit- the best way to do that is probably to get a pet and see if you need as much human interaction or see if you can replace face to face interaction with internet interaction with individuals you don’t know. If the need for interaction remains constant, than it is more likely to be terminal, but if those can replace the time you’d normally need, it is only instrumental.

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        • Creutzer says:

          For what it’s worth, I would expect that interaction with other people is usually a terminal value in humans. I’m not sure your tests are really very informative here.

          The pet won’t distinguish anything if the goal is really “interaction with other sensing and feeling creatures”, which one’s mind might conceptualise the cat as being included in. There seems to be personal variation in the ability to get utility from interaction with a cat, but I doubt it has to do with whether interaction with others is terminal or instrumental.

          And the internet communication… Well, it could be that the fact that one gets utility from it is based on the belief that there are, indeed, other humans at the end. Plus, what makes the difference here is largely what your mind registers as personal interaction and to what extent it values that.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “For what it’s worth, I would expect that interaction with other people is usually a terminal value in humans. I’m not sure your tests are really very informative here.”

          There is a difference between “terminal value is other people” and “terminal value is interaction”; the latter can be spoofed even if you know it is being spoofed. Porn continued popularity is proof that the latter category is really common for important human instincts.

          “The pet won’t distinguish anything if the goal is really “interaction with other sensing and feeling creatures”, which one’s mind might conceptualise the cat as being included in. There seems to be personal variation in the ability to get utility from interaction with a cat, but I doubt it has to do with whether interaction with others is terminal or instrumental.”

          That try a Tamagotchi or one of the newer robot pets.

          “And the internet communication… Well, it could be that the fact that one gets utility from it is based on the belief that there are, indeed, other humans at the end. Plus, what makes the difference here is largely what your mind registers as personal interaction and to what extent it values that.”

          That leads to the odd position that if you find out Scott was an AI tomorrow your utility from reading his posts drop (lets work on the assumption the posts were as accurate as they were when Scott was a human). I’m not sure how coherent such a position is; it leads to the idea utility could totally evaporate if you find out your audience was entirely AIs or massive increase if you find out your audience was Emulated Personalities or do a weird sin response if you find your audience was AIs that produced EMs in order to increase your utility.

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        • Creutzer says:

          There is a difference between “terminal value is other people” and “terminal value is interaction”; the latter can be spoofed even if you know it is being spoofed. Porn continued popularity is proof that the latter category is really common for important human instincts.

          I’m not sure I’m following. What does “terminal value is other people” even mean? Besides, sex is not the same as interaction in general: I can see how somebody could not have sex as a terminal value.

          Than try a Tamagotchi or one of the newer robot pets.

          Whatever for? What do you think would happen? I’m not seeing what the point you want to make is.

          That leads to the odd position that if you find out Scott was an AI tomorrow your utility from reading his posts drop.

          Reading Scott’s posts isn’t something that appeals to my desire for human interaction anyway. But I don’t find the idea that odd some someone’s perceived utility could be lowered by them finding out that someone one has been talking to is an AI.

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        • ozymandias says:

          IDK if it turned out one of my friends were an AI I would probably decide that that AI was a person. I’m not sure why AI and person are opposites.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “I’m not sure I’m following. What does “terminal value is other people” even mean? Besides, sex is not the same as interaction in general: I can see how somebody could not have sex as a terminal value.”

          Okay, I’ll be clearer- it is the difference between valuing interacting with other people and valuing interactions that have the same quality as interacting with other people (bonding, feedback, etc). If you value the first, you value the second, but the reverse isn’t necesarily true.

          “Whatever for? What do you think would happen? I’m not seeing what the point you want to make is.”

          I pointed out you could check if you need people by refering pets. You thought that people might care because pets still have minds. If you use something that doesn’t have a mind behind it to get the same stimuli, than you don’t care if there is a mind behind what you are interacting with.

          It is a way to tease out the difference between the first and second values.

          “Reading Scott’s posts isn’t something that appeals to my desire for human interaction anyway. But I don’t find the idea that odd some someone’s perceived utility could be lowered by them finding out that someone one has been talking to is an AI.”

          Assuming they thought the individual isn’t someone they would ever meet or be able to use for any social advantage, why?

          “IDK if it turned out one of my friends were an AI I would probably decide that that AI was a person. I’m not sure why AI and person are opposites.”

          Because we’ve been reading less wrong and unless the AI is based upon an uploaded personality the odds of the AI interacting in good faith is poor.

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        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          IDK if it turned out one of my friends were an AI I would probably decide that that AI was a person. I’m not sure why AI and person are opposites.

          They aren’t opposites, but neither is ability to pass for a human equivalent to being a person. Unsophisticated users can be fooled by currently existing chatbots. It seems pretty plausible that a sufficiently advanced chatbot-equivalent could fool you or me for extended periods of time without their underlying structure behaving in such a way that we would consider them people.

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    • Aaron Brown says:

      And at the very worst, they are actually optimizing the world for an outcome I despise.

      Darcey, you’ve read “Three Worlds Collide”, right? Eliezer describes the version of the ending where unhappiness is eliminated as an “awful” outcome.

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    • Anonymous says:

      And the other utilitarian fallback is VNM, but that only says that if your set of preferences between pairs of actions obeys certain nice properties, it’s equivalent to maximizing the expectation value of a function of outcomes. I’ll just go ahead and say this isn’t a very useful statement for prescriptive purposes, and our intuitions about “functions” (real numbers as inputs; smooth, low-dimensional curves) easily make it worse than useless.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      Yeah, your friends are very confused hedonic utilitarians. (As if there’s any other kind.)

      I know there’s a great LW post that helps explain to people that no, human values are complex, we can’t just latch onto “happiness” – can anyone remember what it was called? Might come in handy in these discussions.

      And the other day on Google+, Kaj Sotala linked this article on eliminating all of earth’s predators. This is so far from my values I can’t even arggghhhhhhhh.

      Wait, would that … actually work? Could we do that? I am Interested with a capital “I” by this suggestion.

      I’m an ethical vegetarian, and I’m pretty sure the reason you react with horror is because you don’t care about the subjective experiences of animals, so all that’s left is the side-effects. Just like a slaveowner would be horrified at the idea of freeing all the slaves.

      It’s just a facts thing, that’s all – you disagree regarding the details of some of the minds in your vicinity, not values or even heuristics, really.

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      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        It’s just a facts thing, that’s all – you disagree regarding the details of some of the minds in your vicinity, not values or even heuristics, really.

        How is this not a values thing? Are you saying that the only reason you and Darcey disagree is because one of you is mistaken about how much sentience/sapience/suffering/whatever animals actually experience, and that if Omega showed up to answer all the relevant factual questions you would both converge to the same opinion?

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      • Darcey Riley says:

        I care about the subjective experiences of animals. I also care about the subjective experiences of humans, and yet I’m firmly opposed to ending death.

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  9. spandrell says:

    If our brains are built to accept true ideas about facts and morality, the default should be that many people believing something is positive evidence for its truth, or at least not negative evidence.

    Wtf? Our brains aren’t built to accept true ideas. Humans during all of history have overwhelmingly believed in the most outlandish kind of bullshit. People historically have sacrificed children, eaten them, taken Chinese medicine, bound women’s feet, hunted witches, cut clitorises, make adolescent children drink the semen of their seniors; lately we burn corpses and aborted fetuses to warm hospitals, and spend tens of thousands to chop off the genitals of grown up men. All of these beliefs were promoted because of political expediency without much regard for their utility or truth values.

    The fact that we have been getting better (in some areas) at detecting truth is the result of massive evolutionary pressure of the kind you don’t like. Stop having 20% of the population starve every generation if they don’t get their shit together, and they will stop getting their shit together. Tropical areas with low population pressure and quite random mortality also have the most outlandish belief systems. Go spend a year in Papua New Guinea and tell me how human brains are designed to detect truth.

    And going back to this bizarre religious awakening of yours, how the hell does the verbal part of “enshrining human values” actually work? You gotta build a shrine, choose some values, put them in the shrine. In practice you are calling for “Coordination”, i.e. one particular set of human values, to grab universal power and stop the economic side of Moloch from making ems of all of us.

    But have you ever thought what sort of human values would your Coordinator have? Surely it isn’t random; the Coordinator will have the particular sort of human values which are more likely to help you become the Coordinator. And those human values are also the result of a Molochian, massive brutal race-to-the-bottom where all the good, the true and the beautiful have to go in order to allow the Coordinator to grab power.

    We tried it once, it was called Communism; it wasn’t pretty.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      The fact that we have been getting better (in some areas) at detecting truth is the result of massive evolutionary pressure of the kind you don’t like. Stop having 20% of the population starve every generation if they don’t get their shit together, and they will stop getting their shit together. Tropical areas with low population pressure and quite random mortality also have the most outlandish belief systems. Go spend a year in Papua New Guinea and tell me how human brains are designed to detect truth.

      Cf. the slowly festering and rotting late Confucianism that eventually left China miserable and agonized on the brink of the abyss; Chiang wasn’t doing nearly enough to save it but was just good enough at clinging to power himself, a political Malthusianism. Only 1949 reversed doom.

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    • Andy says:

      lately we burn corpses and aborted fetuses to warm hospitals, and spend tens of thousands to chop off the genitals of grown up men. All of these beliefs were promoted because of political expediency without much regard for their utility or truth values.

      Do you have a citation for either of these? I ask because human brains seem to love urban legends even when they’re completely outlandish, and an aborted fetus doesn’t seem to have enough energy to be worth burning for any decent amount of heat.

      We tried it once, it was called Communism; it wasn’t pretty.

      A bunch of people tried heavier-than-air flight in a bunch of interesting ways – it didn’t work and wasn’t pretty in soooooo many ways before the Wright Brothers hit the jackpot.

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      • Multiheaded says:
        We tried it once, it was called Communism; it wasn’t pretty.

        A bunch of people tried heavier-than-air flight in a bunch of interesting ways – it didn’t work and wasn’t pretty in soooooo many ways before the Wright Brothers hit the jackpot.

        See below.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Do you have a citation for either of these?

        By the last one he implies that every single neurobiologist in the world is corrupted or coerced by the Jewluminati into the monstrous assertion that trans people might, in fact, be trans. (And people.)

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        • ozymandias says:

          For the life of me I will never understand why traditionalists object to binary trans people. The existence of gender dysphoria is perfectly justifiable within their theory: if men and women are inherently different, what happens when a female fetus gets a bath of testosterone at the wrong time? If anything, I’d expect them to pressure gender-non-conforming and homosexual people to enter the category, as Iran does. Do they really want us hanging around destabilizing their nice gender system?

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        • Multiheaded says:

          If anything, I’d expect them to pressure gender-non-conforming and homosexual people to enter the category, as Iran does.

          Easy; these decadent bourgeois dreamers and Bolshevik-enablers just cannot match the rationality and steely resolve of the true Aryan race. Check your heritage, Volksgenosse!

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        • Andy says:

          For the life of me I will never understand why traditionalists object to binary trans people. If anything, I’d expect them to pressure gender-non-conforming and homosexual people to enter the category, as Iran does. Do they really want us hanging around destabilizing their nice gender system?

          Depends which tradition we’re talking about. I know a professor at my school who’s argued that Biblical society had one (or possibly several, I last heard him speak years ago) different kinds of eunuch as non-binary genders. Then again, traditionalists don’t bother to look at anyone’s traditions but their own.
          (Sorry if I am not charitable but traditionalist evo-psych makes me aaaaaaangry.)
          But I think it’s because binary trans people (and all trans people, for that matter) don’t quite fit in the narrow “men dominate, women procreate!” evo-psych model, so they have to throw y’all under the bus (or into therapy to make you binary) so they don’t have to change their precious theory.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Then again, traditionalists don’t bother to look at anyone’s traditions but their own.

          Why would they want to look at their own tradition anyway? What if they accidentally catch themselves in the process of retconning it?

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        • Andy says:

          Why would they want to look at their own tradition anyway? What if they accidentally catch themselves in the process of retconning it?

          Or the amount of change in traditions over time reveals the “timeless Platonic Tradition” so beloved by Evola-followers to be an utter crock.

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        • ozymandias says:

          binary trans people (and all trans people, for that matter) don’t quite fit in the narrow “men dominate, women procreate!”

          See, that’s my concern. A fair number of people would fit in the “men dominate, women procreate raise children, which may be adopted!” model much better if they were put in the other category. It seems like a sensible system ought to have an out for people who don’t fit in their assigned role at all and otherwise might cause trouble. Historically, this was sometimes done with alternate genders, sometimes by being tolerant of say the 18th century passing women, and sometimes by having alternate roles such as nun or prostitute. But it seems like expanded transness is the easiest option to implement in our current society.

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        • I was going to respond, but the comments above mine make this easily the worst comment thread I’ve ever read here on SSC. Sheesh.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Multiheaded, do you really think that aping Arthur Chu in the SSC comments section is at all tactically useful? Cut the shit.

          ozymandias: As far as I can tell, the Official Reactionary Position™ is that it’s harmful when the Cathedral creates new interest groups (surely you would agree that homosexuality is not a universal ironclad biotruth — and from this it follows that its creation and maintenance are political acts), Christians shouldn’t be forced to bake cakes for gay weddings, and if a set of norms starts creating Chen Shengs, it’s probably going to die.

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        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          Or the amount of change in traditions over time reveals the “timeless Platonic Tradition” so beloved by Evola-followers to be an utter crock.

          Exactly, the same way the amount of change in the angle between parallel lines over distance reveals the “timeless Platonic geometry” so beloved by Euclid-followers to be an utter crock.

          Just as objects made from irregular materials do not conform perfectly to geometric laws, societies made from fallible human beings do not conform perfectly to natural law. This is something only modernists and fanatics fail to grasp; it’s that all-or-nothing attitude that if something cannot be done perfectly it is not worth attempting which leads to nihilism in the first place

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        • ozymandias says:

          Nydwracu: I suppose my objection is that I feel like acceptance of (binary) transness would probably be a really excellent way to avoid creating a whole host of Chen Shengs, and the neoreactionary arguments against transness often seem to boil down to “ew.” (See Spandrell, this thread.) Also I would prefer to frame it as heterosexuality not being a universal ironclad biotruth.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Multiheaded, do you really think that aping Arthur Chu in the SSC comments section is at all tactically useful? Cut the shit.

          I’m only friends with you because I’m the kind of person who allows herself to like Arthur Chu. Ponder that for a while, huh?

          “Christians shouldn’t be forced to bake cakes for gay weddings”

          Of course not! It’s just plain unfair, isn’t it? Well, they’d better kneel and supplicate faster, then. When in England, do as the Hobbes do.

          P.S.: I saw you write Chen Sheng and initially thought you mean Ching Shih; it did sort of make sense in an argument about reactionary patriarchy.

          @Mai: straw, beam, etc.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          I love how “Arthur Chu” has become a nighttime demon to the SSC commentariat. Clearly I need to up my game.

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        • ozymandias says:

          But Oligsopony, what is the point of being committed to reasoned discourse and respecting one’s opponents if you don’t get to have a Hated Enemy you strawman at every opportunity?

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        • nydwracu says:

          Of course not! It’s just plain unfair, isn’t it? Well, they’d better kneel and supplicate faster, then. When in England, do as the Hobbes do.

          If the cops show up at your door with very big guns and tell you to bake a cake, you bake a cake.

          If the cops start showing up at doors with very big guns and telling people to bake cakes, you start worrying.

          If there is a country where the population is divided between two religions that have been locked in a state of limited holy war for centuries, and an arm of the government controlled by Religion A sends cops out to show up at the doors of adherents of Religion B and telling them to violate one of the tenets of their religion for no discernible reason other than shits and giggles, anyone who’s not a put-the-heathens-to-the-sword Religion A crusader ought to start worrying.

          When Ne Win demonetized the old bills, he lost the Mandate of Heaven.

          Regimes that indulge in pointless petty sadism are, from an engineering perspective, broken.

          Regimes that indulge in pointful petty sadism, however, may not be: nowhere is it guaranteed that the optimal amount of petty sadism is zero. But what’s the point here?

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        • nydwracu says:

          I suppose my objection is that I feel like acceptance of (binary) transness would probably be a really excellent way to avoid creating a whole host of Chen Shengs.

          Well, yeah.

          Also I would prefer to frame it as heterosexuality not being a universal ironclad biotruth.

          That too, but the one implies the other, and the risk of heterosexuality-as-political-interest-group is the creation of Chen Shengs, not the formation of a coalition to unchain the Devil.

          (I originally had “formation of a coalition to burn through Burkean institutional knowledge” but hahaha nope of course it does that.)

          [Then again, things that look like coalition-formation can also occur across a set of completely-unknown-to-each-other people through calculations based on shared [but, of course, not known to be shared] lived experiences, as I well know, for more than one reason.]

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        • Andy says:

          If the cops start showing up at doors with very big guns and telling people to bake cakes, you start worrying.

          To be honest, laws requiring people providing wedding services squick me out, and I’m a vehement gay-rights supporter. On the other hand, to simply allow business discrimination straight-out would potentially allow restaurants to publicly throw out two people of the same sex who hold hands, and that’s also bad.
          My proposed solution would make a distinction between businesses that provide space ( a restaraunt or coffee house) and businesses that provide a service on contract (a country club, a wedding photographer) and allow the latter to discriminate, so long as they refer the customer to a competitor that can satisfy them. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but I think you can get a majority on both sides to go along with it, which is probably good enough.

          Regimes that indulge in pointless petty sadism are, from an engineering perspective, broken.

          I agree.

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        • Okay, I’ll bite, since nydwracu is doing a decent job of beating back the idiocy.

          As a traditionalist, I used to find transgenderism more plausible than homosexuality for precisely the reasons that ozy alludes to. However, my direction over the past several years has been to backpedal away from all forms of dualism, which renders this much less plausible.

          Basically: this is your body. It has a vagina. There is no metaphysical essence of femininity which you can claim that you lack despite the evident femininity of your body. The mind/body dualism implied by the standard trans apologetic is simply false. You are your body, and your body is you, and a female body that believes herself to be male is mentally ill just like a man who believes himself to be a toaster.

          There is a version of trans identity which survives this critique, namely, “I have a female body but I am happier if I can behave as and be perceived as a male.” This version avoids making any bullshit metaphysical claims, but is much less compelling because it surfaces the fact that this is a raw claim about preference without any moral force. For this reason, I’ve pretty much never heard those agitating for trans rights to admit to this view. And in response to that view I’d associate myself with nyan_sandwich’s views (which I can’t now find in order to link, but you probably remember them).

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Mai:

          mentally ill

          But surely it wouldn’t be controversial that sanity is a social construct! Okay, we’re mentally ill (I do happen to be not OK in a neurobiological way, but that’s practically orthogonal), you’ve kicked the problem a bit further upstairs. Now how do you proceed?

          This version avoids making any bullshit metaphysical claims, but is much less compelling because it surfaces the fact that this is a raw claim about preference without any moral force.

          Der Wille zur Macht.

          For this reason, I’ve pretty much never heard those agitating for trans rights to admit to this view.

          What? This feels essential to most descriptions of the tumblr user stereotype.

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        • Andy says:

          Basically: this is your body. It has a vagina. There is no metaphysical essence of femininity which you can claim that you lack despite the evident femininity of your body. The mind/body dualism implied by the standard trans apologetic is simply false. You are your body, and your body is you, and a female body that believes herself to be male is mentally ill just like a man who believes himself to be a toaster.

          Except it’s not the vagina that does the thinking and the feeling and a lot of other bits that have to do with gender – it’s the brain. And possibly other parts are involved.
          Second, people are chimeras with a very interesting frequency. Many of us know people with different colored eyes – they merged with a twin sibling in the womb. Some forms of chimerism can result in both male and female organs. It’s certainly possible that the organs are female but the brain is male, which may account for trans people being seen in various societies for a very very very VERY long time.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Nyd:

          Regimes that indulge in pointless petty sadism are, from an engineering perspective, broken.

          Regimes that indulge in pointful petty sadism, however, may not be: nowhere is it guaranteed that the optimal amount of petty sadism is zero. But what’s the point here?

          Something about the very real oppression of reactionaries only highlighting the fact that philosophically they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

          (I originally had “formation of a coalition to burn through Burkean institutional knowledge” but hahaha nope of course it does that.)

          Something something, institutional!Ways-Of-Knowing, everything quietly gets gendered, deconstruct the binary, etc.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Gender dysphoria is obviously a mental illness. It’s in the DSM and everything. The question is how to treat this mental illness. From the perspective of the happiness of the individual gender dysphoric, it’s pretty obvious: medical gender transition has been shown to relieve symptoms and other forms of treatment have not.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Ozy:

          Ah, but by now we’re talking trans-without-dysphoria, “truscum”, etc.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Andy:

          My proposed solution would make a distinction between businesses that provide space ( a restaraunt or coffee house) and businesses that provide a service on contract (a country club, a wedding photographer) and allow the latter to discriminate, so long as they refer the customer to a competitor that can satisfy them. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but I think you can get a majority on both sides to go along with it, which is probably good enough.

          See, Nydwracu, this is why I think that vulgar moldbuggery is insightful and very applicable wrt the problem of getting liberals to be as nice and responsible as rulers as they wish they could claim to be.

          An optimistic (for you and for them, not necessarily for me) but not exactly outlandish view: in times of peace, liberals ARE advancing towards security (the dominant lgbt issue-space between “queer lib” and “civil rights”); in times of security, liberals ARE advancing towards law (slowly easing the grip on academic freedom and the biodeterminism controversies since the 70s); in times of law, liberals ARE advancing towards freedom (d/s kink?).

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        • ozymandias says:

          Oh, hush, Multi, I discussed why I thought neoreactos ought to support trans-without-dysphoria people upthread. They will probably run around causing trouble otherwise. If anything, they want to expand the trans-without-dysphoria category to include every badass butch chick and shy skirt-wearing dude who cries at Titanic.

          TBH I find the TERF position that transness is ‘naturally’ supportive of patriarchy to be pretty compelling. By a series of historical accidents we’ve wound up on the feminist side, but tbh “we have a natural metaphysical Essence of Female, let us be ladies” is a really tempting argument for trans people to use and very supportive of a binary gender system.

          (Also I’m like half a truscum, except that I am missing the fundamental “caring about what other people do with their bodies and/or presentations as long as they aren’t hurting anybody else” button.)

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        • nydwracu says:

          Something about the very real oppression of reactionaries only highlighting the fact that philosophically they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

          Neoreactionaries are generally Yankees, government employees, or West Coasters.

          There’s a major difference — which hasn’t yet shown itself anywhere near as loudly as it will — between neoreactionaries of that sort and people from Southern Vaisya/cracker backgrounds who have read Moldbug.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          TBH I find the TERF position that transness is ‘naturally’ supportive of patriarchy to be pretty compelling. By a series of historical accidents we’ve wound up on the feminist side, but tbh “we have a natural metaphysical Essence of Female, let us be ladies” is a really tempting argument for trans people to use and very supportive of a binary gender system.

          I used to think roughly the same, then I started feeling that we might simply not be striking deep enough, as opposed to all the surface disruption. What if the optimum is a somehow much less kyriarchal binary system, with very generous exceptions. It would be technically restrictive to a certain extent, but simultaneously supportive, sure, just like so many actually existing leftist things.

          But how do we get rid of the all horrifying misogyny and heteronormativity that are seemingly so inextricable from the actually existing binary regime? There are Molochean processes to research, robustly suppress and shut down. If we don’t focus on those, what if we somehow annihilate the binary only to end up some kind of “diffused” misogyny/exploitative-oppression?

          Too sleepless, I’m rambling. But yeah, you see my point. It might not be necessary to use the breaching charges if only we had the lockpick.

          @Nydwracu:

          Moldbug might not be very good at reading Moldbug.

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        • MugaSofer says:

          “By the last one he implies that every single neurobiologist in the world is corrupted or coerced by the Jewluminati into the monstrous assertion that trans people might, in fact, be trans. (And people.)”

          … oh, damn. You’re right. I thought they meant circumcision.

          Ozy, I honestly think this one is down to them not believing trans people exist, and having developed alternate explanation for why anyone would claim to be trans.

          It irks me, because it seems insufficiently steelmanned, but so far it’s the best explanation I’ve seen on purely empirical grounds.

          I knew a guy who went from “pretty liberal” to “pretty conservative”, and this was the bit of his worldview that seemed to change. It would never even have occurred to me – it isn’t as if you can easily argue someone into believing it – but there you are. Neoreactionaries always seem to have trouble explaining away this bit of the ideology they’re nicking, as well, which would fit.

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      • spandrell says:

        Google is your friend: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10717566/Aborted-babies-incinerated-to-heat-UK-hospitals.html

        But hey, let’s keep on trying communism and killing tenths of the population every time; we might pull it off some time! All for human values!

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        • Andy says:

          I was asking for your cite because all the aborted-baby legends won’t tell me which article/incident you were looking at. Interesting, that one’s true – a bit of a surprise after how many “FETUS!” legends I’ve trawled through in the last few years.
          And we’re going to die anyway, what, precisely, do we have to lose?

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        • ozymandias says:

          Once again, I’m not sure how this reflects any inability to find truth. I’m also puzzled about why it’s unacceptable to turn cremated bodies into energy; I guess I’d sort of assumed they were doing that already?

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        • Andrew G. says:

          Fetal tissue is medical waste. Medical waste is, for obvious safety reasons, disposed of by incineration. If you have both an incinerator and a heating furnace, it seems sensible to combine them.

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        • Andy says:

          Now I’ve figured out what’s wrong with this argument – Span, honey, you’re mixing up apples and oranges.
          Let’s take a look at your original:

          Humans during all of history have overwhelmingly believed in the most outlandish kind of bullshit. People historically have sacrificed children, eaten them, taken Chinese medicine, bound women’s feet, hunted witches, cut clitorises, make adolescent children drink the semen of their seniors; lately we burn corpses and aborted fetuses to warm hospitals, and spend tens of thousands to chop off the genitals of grown up men. All of these beliefs were promoted because of political expediency without much regard for their utility or truth values.

          On the one hand we have fetuses being burned to warm hospitals without the parents’ permission, which is kinda icky. I’d at least want to be asked before my wisdom teeth or tonsils or other excised tissues were added to the biomass pile, even if my answer would likely be “sure!” But the doing triggered an investiagtion, lots of apologies and rules to go NO DO NOT DO THAT AGAIN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.
          On the other hand we have your first examples, which are a whole raft of different things without specific context, so it’s hard to tell whether when you’re talking about children being forced to drink semen, you’re talking about a lone whacko who gets arrested and sent to prison, or a culture-wide ritual.
          But I think there’s an important difference between a witch hunt with the whole of the society going “HANG THE WITCH HIGH!” and a relatively small number of people disposing of tissue in a bad way and the whole of society going “EW GROSS DON’T DO THAT!”

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      • Gender dysphoria is obviously a mental illness. It’s in the DSM and everything. The question is how to treat this mental illness.

        If we agree on this, then we’re actually not that far apart. I’m not without pity; if gender reassignment is really the best option we have for treating gender dysphoria, then that’s what we should do, even though I hope for better options in the future that are less socially disruptive.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I suspect we may mean different things by “mental illness.” I support neurodiversity.

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        • MugaSofer says:

          “I support neurodiversity.”

          To the point where you would rather transsexuality continued?

          Actually, hang on a second. Are you seriously saying you’re in favour of mental illnesses? Opposed to treating them, assuming it’s ethical in every other way?

          I would look askance on a magic pill that would make me normal. In fact, I wouldn’t take it – unless I knew it was reversible, or I had some very hard data suggesting it was a really good idea.

          But, y’know, it isn’t actually that hard to get hard data on whether treating something is a good idea. We already have it for many mental illnesses. In the case of transsexuality, we already know that it’s really beneficial to remove the discrepancy.

          If this treatment worked better – and it would almost have to, considering the side-effects of the current method – would you seriously oppose it to increase “diversity”?

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    • ozymandias says:

      People historically have sacrificed children, eaten them, taken Chinese medicine, bound women’s feet, hunted witches, cut clitorises, make adolescent children drink the semen of their seniors

      Footbinding and clitoris removal don’t reflect any beliefs except maybe “men find these things very attractive” and “they will make women more subservient and less likely to cheat,” both of which are completely accurate. Traditional medicines often actually work. Child sacrifice, drinking semen of adult men, and witch hunting are all results of religion, which Scott has already pointed out is a major failure mode.

      Go spend a year in Papua New Guinea and tell me how human brains are designed to detect truth.

      Actually, it seems to me that Papua New Guineans have an extraordinarily accurate belief system. I couldn’t reliably determine which animals or plants in my area are edible and delicious.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Footbinding and clitoris removal don’t reflect any beliefs except maybe “men find these things very attractive” and “they will make women more subservient and less likely to cheat,” both of which are completely accurate.

        Also this. (As noted with great enthusiasm by some reactionary sympathizers.)

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        • Patrick says:

          But this is almost certainly not true. The way religion works is by binding unrelated values and beliefs together so that the carrier of religiosity cannot imagine sacrificing one without the others.

          Example- I have a friend who regularly posts things on social media like pictures of beautiful astronomical phenomena with captions like, “The ultimate proof that atheism is wrong.” Her sense of aesthetic enjoyment and wonder has been tied by religion to her belief that there used to be wizards who spoke to a creator spirit, which is tied to her belief that there is a Natural Order to the world, which is tied to her shitty treatment of trans people. You can’t convince her to give up her shitty attitude towards trans people because, by the commutative property, she’s afraid that giving it up would mean giving up all experiences of human joy, forever.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Um. I think this comment might be in the wrong place.

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      • spandrell says:

        You really don’t know why reactionaries have a hard time believing that a father of 2, football player at Harvard who chops off his dick at age 53 (!) is simply correcting a natural hormone problem that happened in his mother’s womb?

        I have nothing else to say to you.

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        • Andy says:

          Gender is a function of the human brain, and often it’s easier to change the body than change the brain. Perhaps, because transphobia is a real thing,he never felt secure enough to come out and get the round of surgery and hormones that come with transition.

          I have nothing else to say to you.

          That’s too bad, you’ve left us with some great target practice here. Thanks for that.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          I have a hard time believing you’re not freezing to death in this very moment; what, all those quintillions of quintillions of molecules in the air around you are just randomly going to bounce towards you and bump into your body to transfer tiny amounts of energy to it, SIMULTANEOUSLY?

          Okay, sorry for the sarcasm. Now to answer the direct question sincerely.

          why reactionaries have a hard time believing that a father of 2, football player at Harvard who chops off his dick at age 53 (!) is simply correcting a natural hormone problem that happened in his mother’s womb?

          Because logic, open-mindedness, inquisitiveness and an eye for nuance seem to be anti-correlated with the reactionaries’ characteristic xenophobia, ambiguity intolerance, rigidity and ressentiment. QED. STEM’d, good sir!

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        • Oligopsony says:

          Gender is a function of the human brain, and often it’s easier to change the body than change the brain.

          To nitpick, I’d say “*other parts of the body,” but yeah, this is just an extension of the general practice of solving mismatched between your desires and world by changing the latter, which if you’re not a certain kind of Buddhist is at least sometimes the right course of action. (The metaphysics of gender, if that’s even a domain we can meaningfully answers questions about, seems irrelevant to the pragmatics.)

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        • Oligopsony says:

          The metaphysics of gender, if that’s even a domain we can meaningfully answers questions about, seems irrelevant to the pragmatics.

          Actually, let me strengthen this: basing politics around (biologistic) metaphysics is an effective affirmation of a world where people are told “well, we scanned your brain, and it turns out you’re not really trans; please update your subjective identity accordingly” or “sorry, you don’t have the gay gene, looks like your marriage has to be annulled.” No thanks!

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        • ozymandias says:

          Well, sometimes people don’t get their bipolar or their autism diagnosed until their fifties either.

          I also find it unlikely that gender dysphoria is only caused by a single thing, and suspect that it’s rather a symptom of a variety of hormonal (and perhaps psychological/sociological) issues. (Did you know that FtMs* are way more likely to have PCOS?) If we accept that gender dysphoria has many causes, then it seems plausible that some of the things that cause gender dysphoria may only occur late in life. Unfortunately, the study of the causes of transness is only in its infancy.

          *I know the terminology is not preferred, but I am hoping to prevent Spandrell having a parallel version of my “why would a man have his dick cut off… oh, he means a woman” confusion.

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        • Andy says:

          Actually, let me strengthen this: basing politics around (biologistic) metaphysics is an effective affirmation of a world where people are told “well, we scanned your brain, and it turns out you’re not really trans; please update your subjective identity accordingly” or “sorry, you don’t have the gay gene, looks like your marriage has to be annulled.” No thanks!

          I picture a system like this (designed by queer theorists and queer-friendly neurologists/biologists/psychiatrists) would look more like “Well, we checked your hormones and your brain, and it turns out you’re not trans, you’re genderfluid! This accounts for the confusion and angst you’ve been feeling! Here’s our staff counselor, to tell you what this means and help you figure out how to move forward.”
          And an empirical way to tell a trans person from a genderqueer person from a pangender person from a genderfluid person, and tailor help to each individual case, sounds like it’d be an absolute blessing, much better than the howl of “you’re just confused, stop being such a special snowflake and be the man/woman your genitalia says you are.” Elua’s blessing all over.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Andy: I believe Oligsopony’s claim is that there are some people who want to be another gender and would be happier living as another gender, but do not have biomarkers associated with sex dysphoria. Our current system allows them to get treatment, but a biology-based system would not.

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        • cryptael says:

          For my part, reading “The Man who would be queen” made me a lot more sympathetic to gay/trans people. If abnormal gender behaviors start at a very young age, then there is probably something biological going on.

          But the backlash from trans activists from the publishing of the book makes me doubt the ability of current academia to study sex/gender in a non-politicized way. There are not many scientists lined up to martyr their careers if their findings offend political correctness.

          I also believe there are people with gender dysphoric personalities that are better off not transitioning – I count myself as one of them. I’m a modestly happy man with a reasonable good life, but dear god, where would I be now if I grew up in a more “accepting” environment?

          Also, the book’s description of autogynephilia matched up very well with my internal world in my late teens/early twenties (the feelings have faded since not being indulged). When I first read a definition, it was a revelation to me. I was so happy that other people understood what I lived through. It’s a pity that the man suffered so much persecution for discovering truth.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @cryptael

          I think I might have some rather small measure of autoandrophilia. (Not trolling.) What do you make of this? Is it possible to be AMAB and still have transness/genderqueerness-related autoandrophilia under your worldview? Am I fine but just using the words in a dangerously uncoordinated way?

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        • paramecia says:

          Completely off topic and none of my business, but multi, you’re a girl? I’ve been reading your stuff forever and totally using the wrong voice to sound it out in my head

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        • Hainish says:

          “You really don’t know why reactionaries have a hard time believing that a father of 2, football player at Harvard who chops off his dick at age 53 (!) is simply correcting a natural hormone problem that happened in his mother’s womb?”

          I’ll leave it to others to cover the “why” question for reactionaries, but have you seriously considered why non-reactionaries have little trouble believing [the non-strawman version of] it?

          Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that it’s the result of reading many, many, many personal accounts of trans people. If so many people are all independently having the same experiences, it’s likely there is something there.

          (A smaller part of it is reading about what happens when you chop off a kid’s penis in infancy. The kid doesn’t simply become male, as would be expected if subjective gender were simply about what parts one has.)

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        • MugaSofer says:

          @cryptael:
          For my part, reading “The Man who would be queen” made me a lot more sympathetic to gay/trans people. If abnormal gender behaviors start at a very young age, then there is probably something biological going on.

          Honestly, I’ve always been deeply suspicious of this.

          It shows up with homosexuality as well, but … I have several younger brothers, and I’m pretty sure “abnormal gender behaviors start at a very young age” for everyone.

          @Hainish: I think you mean they don’t become female? I think I know the case study you mean, and they *did* become male in the end. (No idea if that always happens, though.)

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @paramecia

          Genderqueer, assigned male at birth. I have moderately strong but very complicated gender feels, that’s what I’m saying!

          A girl? Sure.

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        • Drake. says:

          seconding paramecia. this revelation made me very confused and slightly off-balance. i am now going to have to drastically recalibrate my determining-gender-through-text instruments.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        Child sacrifice, drinking semen of adult men, and witch hunting are all results of religion, which Scott has already pointed out is a major failure mode.

        I’m not sure the separation of beliefs into religious and secular spheres makes sense for all societies (not trying to contest your main point here though!)

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      • MugaSofer says:

        “Child sacrifice, drinking semen of adult men, and witch hunting are all results of religion”

        Witch hunts are a part of superstition, and is considered a human universal – it is definitely not a religious doctrine.

        Child sacrifice, yeah. I have no idea where the semen thing comes from.

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        • Andy says:

          even when it’s the state hunting the witches/Jews/Muslims/Catholics/Protestants/etc? As in the Spanish Inquisition, the Italian Inquisition…

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        • MugaSofer says:

          I think McCarthyism is, in fact, not the same thing at all as actual witch hunts. However, yes, I still don’t think it’s a subset of religion – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s a human universal, although I can’t prove it.

          (Also, point of order – Inquisitions are for heretics, not witches.)

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    • Oligopsony says:

      We tried it once, it was called Communism; it wasn’t pretty.

      Communism was actually quite pretty by (admittedly somewhat shabby) human standards. In the aggregate there were rapid increases in human development, economies grew at the global average, ascribed statuses were weakened, elite recruitment was relatively wide, &c. There were some neat accomplishments like defeating your last hurrah and getting into space and stuff.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        There were some neat accomplishments like defeating your last hurrah

        Some make the weirdly specific argument/speculation that the SPD would’ve ridden out the constitutional crisis and eventually handled shit if Thalmann’s fifth column wasn’t quite so active on Stalin’s personal orders. A complete crock, obviously; at the very least, how about a potential early-nuclear-age outbreak then, with policymakers like MacArthur, LeMay or von Neumann around?

        But yes, there are so very few ways to argue with this (Moldbug did; it’s fucking sickening; not going to link). Hell, there was that Star Trek episode about the mysterious bad guys of the Temporal Cold War betting on the Nazis and going back to kill Lenin.

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      • Matthew O says:

        The biggest mistake that people make when evaluating “communism” is, they compare the Soviet Union in 1930 with the U.S. in 1930, or the Soviet Union in 1980 with the U.S. in 1980, whereas the more accurate comparison would be between the Soviet Union in 1930 and the U.S. in 1830, or the Soviet Union in 1980 with the U.S. in 1880. People do not realize how undeveloped the Soviet Union was in 1917.

        Another fair comparison would be between Cuba and some shitty narco-death squad banana republic like Honduras. By all rights, Cuba was either destined to be an American tourist colony (like Mexico) where the nice beaches and Havana are kept really posh while the rest of the country rots, or some hellhole like Haiti or Honduras. Cuba is certainly not a paradise, but look at what they have to work with. So that’s the economic development angle.

        This is all despite the fact that “communism” was not supposed to be a great developmental economic system. The assumption was that there would be a world revolution…not that there would still be hostile powers, such that leaders would have to dictatorially whip their peoples at a cruel, frenzied pace to stay in the game of international geopolitics and keep Moloch at bay. Communism (wrongly) assumed that there would be coordination between all of the most advanced countries, such that if people felt like working at a slower or faster pace in exchange for a slower or faster development of the productive forces, that would be their call. It would not be a life-or-death thing, “Industrialize, or else Nazi Germany invades you and enslaves your people.”

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        • Multiheaded says:

          100% this.

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        • Anonymous says:

          How about we compare West Germany with East Germany or North Korea with South Korea.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          The US in the 1830s did not commit anywhere near the level of atrocities the USSR in the 1930s did. The US in 1880 was immeasurably freer than the USSR in 1980.

          I’m not sure why you assume Cuba would have turned out terrible- the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica was poorer and they are respectable countries. Cuba started out much better (it was even pretty decent under Batista in comparison to central America)

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        • Doug S. says:

          The U.S. in 1830 still had slavery. :(

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        • Andy says:

          The U.S. in 1830 still had slavery.

          Many NRx don’t count slavery as an atrocity so much as the Peculiar Insititution, and favor southerner’s whitewashed accounts over the slaves’ accounts.
          Samuel, what historical sources are you using to say that Batista’s Cuba was “pretty decent?” Matthew, do you have sources? Let’s drag this out with some evidence, rather than ideologically informed mirages.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Saying slavery makes the 1830s worse than the USSR in the 1930s seems a bit facile; the proportion of slaves executed for rebellion doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the proportion of Soviet citizens Stalin went through.

          “Samuel, what historical sources are you using to say that Batista’s Cuba was “pretty decent?” ”

          Wiki
          ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Cuba

          By the 1950s, the island had some of the most positive health indices in the Americas, not far behind the United States and Canada. Cuba was one of the leaders in terms of life expectancy, and the number of doctors per thousand of the population ranked above Britain, France and Holland. In Latin America it ranked in third place after Uruguay and Argentina.[10] There remained marked inequalities however. Most of Cuba’s doctors were based in the relatively prosperous cities and regional towns, and conditions in rural areas, notably Oriente, were significantly worse.[11] The mortality rate was the third lowest in the world.[12] According to the World Health Organization, the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America.[12]

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        • Multiheaded says:

          The US in 1880 was immeasurably freer than the USSR in 1980.

          By an internet libertarian’s definition of “freedom”, maybe. But workers’ rights… reproductive rights… segregation… you know, everything that happens to matter if you don’t absolutely win the privilege lottery.

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        • nydwracu says:

          How about we compare West Germany with East Germany or North Korea with South Korea.

          Obligatory note that East Germany did not have the significant negative correlation between academic achievement and fertility that West Germany did and that reunified Germany now does.

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “By an internet libertarian’s definition of “freedom”, maybe. But workers’ rights… reproductive rights… segregation… you know, everything that happens to matter if you don’t absolutely t win the privilege lottery.”

          No, I’m using the classical liberal definition of freedom which is also the one in common usage. If you want to expand freedom to mean “all good things ever” that is your prerogative, but don’t pretend that is what I am saying. If you want to claim that freedom isn’t everything, feel free, but we already have a term for that- quality of life.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Samuel

          There is a little subroutine inside you that’s sitting there, almost in the open, cutting apart complicated social stuff into “freedom” and “quality of life”. Please question: why is this subroutine there? Who put it there? What purpose does it serve?

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        • Samuel Skinner says:

          I’m not seeing why you find it an odd distinction. Quality of life generally includes things that makes life better and lets you live longer. Political freedom are items that enable you to make your will felt on the political process without the usage of violence.

          It is relevant in this case because the first category is heavily influenced by technology, while the second one has a weaker relationship to technology.

          They have different definitions, they have traits they make comparisons across time affect them differently so they shouldn’t both be used when comparing two societies from different time periods.

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      • Doug S. says:

        There have certainly been worse places to live than Soviet Russia. (One of which was Russia one hundred years before Communism.) I have no idea how to compare the actual progress made in Soviet Russia to the progress made in a hypothetical non-Communist Russia that I would need to make in order to decide exactly how big of a disaster Communism was or wasn’t. As far as I can tell, the general verdict of history is that the Soviet Communism version of central planning turned out to be a fairly poor way to run an economy, although it did turn out to be better than not having an industrial economy at all. Communist China and present-day North Korea are clearer cases of things gone horribly wrong, though.

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        • Andy says:

          And I still stick with the horseshoe model that says that authoritarian governments end up converging on a common center, whatever their ideological trappings. North Korea is pretty good evidence for this – in a lot of ways, it’s a very Reactionary country with some communist parts grafted in – what a Reactionary country would turn into without the strong flavor of libertarianism common to modern Western types. Though even that’s not always true – Moldbug once had a bit where the roads of Royal California were paved with brick to increase labor demand.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Politics and religion are a weird class of idea notable for being one of the only ones we are often wrong about. Simpler ideas like “that is a lion” or “the sky is blue” are almost always correct, because the brain is evolved to access true information. If the brain couldn’t distinguish true from false information at a rate better than chance, we could replace our sensory and cognitive systems with random number generators and do just as well.

      When someone says “a meme is virulent” they mean that for some reason the brain (which is adapted to prefer true ideas) likes it.

      If you believe the brain prefers leftist ideas, that can’t be because they satisfy some kind of leftism-detector in the brain, because it would be bizarre for the brain to evolve a leftism-detector or for humans to evolve a leftism-detecting organ. What has to be happening is that leftist ideas satisfy some other criterion the brain is looking for.

      Saying that leftist ideas are “attractive” just pushes the regress back further. Why would leftist ideas be attractive? Why wouldn’t rightist ideas be attractive? “Conformity” just pushes the regress back further still – why did the society we try to conform to originally adopt that idea? “Holiness” is another pushback – why did we start thinking that idea was holier than its alternative?

      (consider an analogy to attractive women. Some woman might be very attractive because she has wide hips. Evolution instilled a desire to be attracted to that woman because it was useful – maybe because she is more likely to bear children. Why does evolution instill a desire to be attracted to certain ideas?)

      If an idea is attractive, it’s either triggering our truth-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering or morality-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering something else powerful and fundamental enough to get it past those two detectors. I feel like you don’t have a good explanation for which one leftist ideas do and why the detectors are failing (if they are).

      Instead, you just argue really hard “It is bad to believe false things” without explaining why you think these ideas are false. I think you might have some kind of intuition that a lot of other people lack. If you’ve explained it somewhere, would appreciate a link.

      The part about the Coordinator seems like an extremely obvious corollary of my post and I’m not sure why you think it’s a knockdown argument against it. It seems like a good reason to avoid dictatorship, which I of course do not endorse.

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      • Andy says:

        (consider an analogy to attractive women. Some woman might be very attractive because she has wide hips. Evolution instilled a desire to be attracted to that woman because it was useful – maybe because she is more likely to bear children. Why does evolution instill a desire to be attracted to certain ideas?)

        To extend the analogy, some men like women with wide hips, some like women with large breasts, and some men like men with tight butts and broad shoulders. Different people find different political ideas attractive. I wonder whether this is genetic or environmental or both – my brother and I have sharply different tastes in both women and politics.
        It may be that diversity of neurological responses to the same stimuli may be a feature of evolution, not a bug. If a tribe of apes has a number of different reactions to loud noise – run/fight/bluff/submit/etc – it lessens the likelihood that the entire tribe will be wiped out by the same threat.
        This argues that we need a diversity of opinions. Liberal, conservative, libertarian, even – twitch – NeoReactionary.

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      • spandrell says:

        A weird class of idea! Doesn’t stop politics and religion from being half your brain. You’re more likely to die by not conforming to the authority of your tribe or not following the rituals than from misidentifying the color of the sky. Color blindness is quite common; more so than irreligiousness (I mean the real stuff, no “I’m an atheist but celebrate MLK day).

        Leftism obviously appeals wrongly to morality instincts. Communism appeals to forager morality: equality is important to avoid the Big Man from hoarding all the band’s women. Feminism seems to appeal to the men instinct that says women are cutesy feebly little things; and denying them privilege sounds wimpy and unmanly, why are you afraid of a woman? Next thing you know the law forces your company to have a quota of women in the board.

        But it doesn’t have to appeal to “society”. It just needs to get popular among the elite, what we call the Cathedral. The Cathedral has the meme propagation devices and they will use them to enforce conformity. You pretty much have to believe that sexual deviancy is totally unlike any other mental deviancy and great and amazing these days; or you’ll lose your job.

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      • nydwracu says:

        If an idea is attractive, it’s either triggering our truth-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering or morality-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering something else powerful and fundamental enough to get it past those two detectors.

        Status or instrumental usefulness, to name two. (Epistemic rationality is frequently opposed to instrumental rationality, for reasons beyond “optimizing for the former risks sacrificing the latter”.)

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      • Jaskologist says:

        Politics and religion are a weird class of idea notable for being one of the only ones we are often wrong about.

        A “weird class” which contains and under girds the majority of our behavior. I don’t see how you can toss out the most foundational parts of human thought as “usually wrong” and then hold onto human thought itself as “usually right.”

        Holding to evolution as a source of truth really seems like it should land you at “the majority is right” most of the time, and “the vast majority is right” 99% of the time. After all evolution boils down to “more fit things get to outnumber less fit things.” If you declare “truth” to be a “fit thing,” you land with “more true things get to outnumber less true things.”

        You can’t turn around and say “except for religion.” Believers have outnumbered atheists for all of known history, and still do, and that’s even with atheists slanting the numbers in the recent past by ruthlessly killing the religious. If you want to embrace evolution as a truth-giver, don’t blink once it gets to a conclusion you don’t like.

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      • MugaSofer says:

        If an idea is attractive, it’s either triggering our truth-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering or morality-detector (rightly or wrongly) or triggering something else powerful and fundamental enough to get it past those two detectors.

        The obvious third candidate being political blocks, tribes, and other groups that need to work together more than they need to be right about absolutely everything. (Which needs to balance with the truthseeking parts – I’m just surprised you didn’t mention it, so soon after discussing mindkilling.)

        This is what seems to be lumped into one category with (mis?)firings of the others by the people actually making the point you’re responding to, as “politics”.

        consider an analogy to attractive women. Some woman might be very attractive because she has wide hips. Evolution instilled a desire to be attracted to that woman because it was useful – maybe because she is more likely to bear children.

        Hang on, though. Aren’t standard of beauty socially constructed, in large part?

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        • Nornagest says:

          It’s been a while since I looked into this, but from what I remember, beauty standards are about half socially constructed and half essentially static. The socially constructed part is often but not always correlated with wealth: consider the historical perception of tanned vs. pale skin.

          On the other hand, essentially every culture likes facial symmetry and smooth skin, and most favor, for example, tall men.

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  10. Michael R says:

    So, uh, what is this Singularity I keep hearing about anyway?

    Can anybody point me towards some evidence that would convince a skeptic like myself?

    It just seems to me such an absurd nerdgasm, a wish fulfillment dream, and the only thing it has going for it is Moore’s Law.

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    • At this point it’s customary to point out that the term “Singularity” seems to be used by different people to mean different things. Yudkowsky wrote this as a short explanation of how the word is used, although I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the part about how all the strong claims contradict one another.

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      an absurd nerdgasm, a wish fulfillment dream, and the only thing it has going for it is Moore’s Law.

      Oh, wow.

      Okay, if you are this far away in inferential distance, you basically need to read Eliezer Yudkowsky’s entire bibliography.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      It’s honestly not a great wish-fulfillment dream, if you’re into those. A negative singularity seems more likely than a positive one, at this point.

      That’s not to say it is more likely, but still, the danger seems like an important point.

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  11. Multiheaded says:

    “Gnon represents the laws of physics and causality. You can’t conquer the laws of physics and causality.”

    Said the Tailor to the Bishop:
    Believe me, I can fly.
    Watch me while I try.
    And he stood with things
    That looked like wings
    On the great church roof-
    That is quite absurd
    A wicked, foolish lie,
    For man will never fly,
    A man is not a bird,
    Said the Bishop to the Tailor.

    Said the People to the Bishop:
    The Tailor is quite dead,
    He was a stupid head.
    His wings are rumpled
    And he lies all crumpled
    On the hard church square.

    The bells ring out in praise
    That man is not a bird
    It was a wicked, foolish lie,
    Mankind will never fly,
    Said the Bishop to the People.

    – Bertold Brecht, 1957

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  12. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » War in Heaven

  13. Deiseach says:

    “a benevolent god who acts only to ensure universal freedom of movement”

    Scott, I wish right this second that your Super AI was in existence, so it could take over my job. If it didn’t explode in frazzled frustration within ten minutes, it would indeed be god-like (how benevolent it would remain is still a question to be decided).

    In order to work, your system would need to be able to absolutely and reliably track all the people who turn up on the doorstep of the local Consulate looking to leave their unsatisfactory home island and be rehoused elsewhere. Now, if everyone complies immaculately with the box-ticking for the forms required, then that is fine, but human nature (unless it’s changed in your utopia) being what it is, whatever unfortunate bureaucratic minion has to deal with the visa-seekers will have to deal with people who may be:
    (1)
    (a) lying about their age (if you establish a minimum age at which you are judged legally able to decide to live on your own) (b) genuinely fuzzy as to age, because hey, we don’t perpetuate bureaucratic tyranny in this island on a chronological basis that irrationally picks the arbitrary decision of a ‘date’ of birth based on how many times the planet has gone around the sun! If you’re big enough, you’re old enough!
    (2) what eduation, training, skills etc they have
    (3) all kinds of background such as where did you live before this (if you’re claiming your parents/line marriage/communal education and childraising centre is abusive to you) and unless your machine can tolerate a lot of ambiguity (“Um – well, I lived in Da Citee sometime in 19856 I think” “But your application says you were actually living somewhere else in 19856″ “Oh yeah, but that’s different”)
    (4) People turning up multiple times changing their minds as to where they want to go
    (5) People turning up multiple times changing their minds about living in the new island after demanding a transfer there
    (6) People not giving current details of where you may contact them so then they turn up complaining you never got back to them on their application after they’ve neglected to tell you they’ve changed addresses three times since the address they gave you
    (7) People demanding to know why they can’t live where they want (“Sorry, Island Blue Skies has a strict immigration quota and they turned down your application” “But I want to live there!” “Well, I can’t make them let you in” “Why can’t you? You said everyone has the right to leave and go anywhere they want, and the Machine would back us up on that, and I want to go there!” “Um – because we can’t force people to change?” “But you can force them if you really want because the Machine is God and tell God to give me what I want!”)

    I mean, sure, a lot of this can be overcome by the notion of a benevolent god-machine that Sees All, Knows All (so it can track your age, address, etc. etc. etc. down to the very tiniest detail) but then, having given up that degree of control, you really need to believe very strongly that it is benevolent towards you personally and isn’t working to A Higher Plan where your unhappiness is a small element that contributes to The Greater Good.

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  14. Eli says:

    “Human values (‘Elua’) mean hedonism and free love and namby-pamby happiness, and I’m not on board with that.”

    Excuse me, but what’s wrong with free love, namby-pamby happiness, and all that stuff? I mean, I’m not much of a drug-taking hedonist, nor do I feel the slightest inclination to wirehead, and in fact I think that Art is an excellent value-set with perfectly good grounding in actual reality… but for God’s sakes, given the actual alternatives, calling free love and universal happiness namby-pamby is just signalling that you are a stronger, more devoted servant of Moloch than the other guy.

    To which I say, ok servant of Moloch, you want war, we’re at war.

    Anyhow, the wrong thing to do would be to worship gravity as a god and venerate staying earthbound as a moral principle.

    Sure, and there’s also the fact that other than thermodynamic entropy, the universe isn’t actually optimizing for anything at all, so “Gnon” simply doesn’t exist. The blind-idiot “god” is SO blind and SO stupid that you can grab a few of his tentacles and make him punch himself out.

    Morality is really complicated, but if we are to believe moral discussion can be productive even in principle, we have to believe that our brains are less than maximally perverse – that they have some ability to distinguish the moral from the immoral.

    This displays two misconceptions:

    1) That “moral” and “immoral” mean something completely independent of us. Stop searching for divine laws or “natural law” (a blatant invocation of the Naturalistic Fallacy if I ever saw it) in a naturalistic universe. You cannot and will not find them. Nor is your motivated cognition to rationalize them actually evidence in favor of additional ontological levels of reality containing God or Natural Law. You are made of atoms, which work according to physics; cease your useless sputtering and accept that your morality must build on this fact rather than trying to undermine it.
    2) The whole point of talking about “our values” or “preserving our values”, from the reactionary point of view, is that moral discussion is in principal neither productive nor convergent under consideration of facts or conscious reflection, and that therefore the best we can do is to preserve exactly what we believe we believe (and believe we ought to believe) in the moral realm right now, regardless of “truth”, since any truth claim regarding morality is ultimately void.

    They can call themselves neoconservatives or neoreactionaries, but ultimately they’re pulling the same Straussian move: they explored the rational worldview, found the deep dark pit where they expected Torah and mitzvot (or some other Morality On Holy Tablets of Stone) to be, and then ran away to go be irrational rather than confront the emotional blow of having their misconceived beliefs falsified.

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    • nydwracu says:

      Sure, and there’s also the fact that other than thermodynamic entropy, the universe isn’t actually optimizing for anything at all, so “Gnon” simply doesn’t exist.

      When you step in front of a moving train, Gnon splatters your guts on the tracks.

      When you build a rocket and fuck up an O-ring, Gnon blows it up.

      When you act like a dweeb, Gnon makes your girlfriend dump you.

      When you buy a ticket and get on a train that carries the blessings of Gnon, Gnon carries you to your destination.

      When you build a rocket that carries the blessings of Gnon, Gnon sends the rocket to the moon.

      When you act in accordance with Gnon, Gnon lets you reach your goals.

      When the cult of Elua goes looking for Gnon, it expects an Old Testament God, with a small set of clear, strict, inviolable rules. It expects Gnon to hand down a tablet, on which is written in stone, “nothing can escape the gravitational pull toward the earth.” Then it points to a rocket, or maybe a bird, and declares Gnon nonexistent.

      In reality, Gnon is an Old Testament God with a very, very large set of mostly unknown rules — but those rules are still strict and inviolable. A rocket doesn’t demonstrate that Gnon doesn’t exist, or that Gnon is an idiot who any child or any large team of elite scientists backed by a highly motivated superpower can defeat; it just proves that Gnon didn’t ban rockets.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        When you act like a dweeb, Gnon makes your girlfriend dump you.

        Excuse me, but I can just… plainly see with, my own eyes, in an unobstructed fashion, that there are four lights. (Cough, look at Ialdabaoth, cough.) And this certainly compromises your overall credibility, does it not?

        In reality, Gnon is an Old Testament God with a very, very large set of mostly unknown rules — but those rules are still strict and inviolable. A rocket doesn’t demonstrate that Gnon doesn’t exist, or that Gnon is an idiot who any child or any large team of elite scientists backed by a highly motivated superpower can defeat; it just proves that Gnon didn’t ban rockets.

        This is the exact inverse of some kind of liberal Judaism, where the proscriptions are terrible, blanket, and horribly punished, but the loopholes and procedural exploits are myriad and good Talmudic scholars can and ought to work together to bind YHWH in red tape, until after the final judgment even.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          “On that day, Rabbi Eliezer put forward all the arguments in the world, but the Sages did not accept them.

          “Finally, he said to them, ‘If the halakha is according to me, let that carob­tree prove it.’

          “He pointed to a nearby carob-tree, which then moved from its place a hundred cubits, and some say, four hundred cubits. They said to him ‘One cannot bring a proof from the moving of a carob-tree.’

          “Said Rabbi Eliezer, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may that stream of water prove it.’

          “The stream of water then turned and flowed in the opposite direction.

          “They said to him, ‘One cannot bring a proof from the behavior of a stream of water.’

          “Said Rabbi Eliezer, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may the walls of the House of Study prove it.’

          “The walls of the House of Study began to bend inward. Rabbi Joshua then rose up and rebuked the walls of the House of Study, ‘If the students of the Wise argue with one another in halakha,” he said, “what right have you to interfere?’

          “In honor of Rabbi Joshua, the walls ceased to bend inward; but in honor of Rabbi Eliezer, they did not straighten up, and they remain bent to this day.

          “Then, said Rabbi Eliezer to the Sages, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may a proof come from Heaven.’

          “Then a heavenly voice went forth and said, ‘What have you to do with Rabbi Eliezer? The halakha is according to him in every place.’

          “Then Rabbi Joshua rose up on his feet, and said, ‘It is not in the heavens’ (Deuteronomy 30:12).

          “What did he mean by quoting this? Said Rabbi Jeremiah, ‘He meant that since the Torah has been given already on Mount Sinai, we do not pay attention to a heavenly voice, for You have written in Your Torah, ‘Decide according to the majority’ (Exodus 23:2).

          “Rabbi Nathan met the prophet Elijah. He asked him, ‘What was the Holy One, Blessed be He, doing in that hour?’

          “Said Elijah, ‘He was laughing and saying, “My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me.””‘

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        • nydwracu says:

          Excuse me, but I can just… plainly see with, my own eyes, in an unobstructed fashion, that there are four lights. (Cough, look at Ialdabaoth, cough.) And this certainly compromises your overall credibility, does it not?

          When you step in front of a train that’s moving at half a mile an hour, your guts don’t splatter.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Scumbag nrxs:

          Accuse me of shitting up an already toxic debate. Respond to an actual citation of fact with nonsensical reference class tennis.

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        • nydwracu says:

          We phrase things as general rules, intuitively grasping that exceptions are possible.

          Make the exceptions explicit, people are more likely to see them where they aren’t.

          Fail to intuitively grasp that exceptions are possible, people act on the assumption that there are no exceptions, and then you get Chen Sheng.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Nydwracu:

          le popper face

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Observations on rockets and communism:

        It takes a certain kind of crazy to look at the smoldering remains of your buddy and not say “welp, looks like playing with explosives is a terrible idea after all, back to farming for me!”

        But the fact is, there *ARE* a narrow range of ways in which actual humans can ‘play with explosives’ and actually accomplish great things. The trick is, when everything blows up in your face, you need t –

        Er, rephrase. When everything blows up in your face, those who come after you need to, after sweeping up your remains, ask themselves “what went wrong and how do we control or prevent it?”

        Enough iterations of that and you get the Apollo mission, which – regardless of what you think of the “why”, certainly grabbed “how”, bent it over the table, and made sweet rough manly love to it.

        If your argument is, “we can’t afford to experiment with Communism like that because the explosions are too big and there isn’t enough Humanity to risk on iterating those experiments”, I actually have sympathy for that.

        But if you argument is, “Communism / rocketry will never work because everytime someone tries it, it blows up and it’s horrible; Gnon has spoken!”, well:

        http://www.wwu.edu/depts/skywise/moon/footprint_thumb.jpg

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        • Andy says:

          Enough iterations of that and you get the Apollo mission, which – regardless of what you think of the “why”, certainly grabbed “how”, bent it over the table, and made sweet rough manly love to it.

          Not a bad analogy – making sweet rough love takes a lot more practice than it looks if you care about your partner being satisfied.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I *can* occasionally turn a phrase.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          The Leninist argument is, of course, that we can’t afford not to experiment with communism.

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      • Eli says:

        Causality is no god. Causality does not optimize for anything at all. You really need to understand things better before speaking of them.

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    • Deiseach says:

      I think part of my distrust of Elua is that okay, Elua is the god of flowers (amongst other things).

      But flowers will happily (that is, in a thriving manner) grow out of our corpses. Maybe if Elua really, really likes flowers, once we’ve “lifted him up”, then ‘he’ will turn around and convert us all into fertiliser and why would we complain? We like pretty flowers! We wanted a world of pretty flowers! This will create that world!

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Namby-pamby happiness” was an attempt for me to describe a (kind of straw-manned) version of what an opponent might say, not my own (endorsed) words.

      Morality is complicated, but as you said probably means something human-centered. That’s a pretty good sign that our brains are able to “detect” it. See first section of Consequentialist FAQ linked above for more on my meta-ethics.

      Also, you are close to my banning threshold, even given my extra affirmative action boost for leftists.

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      • Eli says:

        “Namby-pamby happiness” was an attempt for me to describe a (kind of straw-manned) version of what an opponent might say, not my own (endorsed) words.

        What I don’t understand is why you even put up with such trivial so-called objections.

        And, frankly, excuse me if I take offense at people choosing to insult a fair portion of all that’s good and right in the world.

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        • Andy says:

          If I may speculate as to why Scott puts up with them, it’s because they’re interesting and they say something relevant about the worldview of the people he’s arguing against, just like the people who say “we should isolate ourselves, live within tiny bounds, and let Gnon pass us over as long as possible.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      >This displays two misconceptions:

      It doesn’t, actually.

      At least, it doesn’t display the first one. The second is, in fact, not a misconception at all.

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  15. Armstrong For President 2020 says:

    The discussion of Achilles-versus-Predator Drone brought up a thought that always occurs to me whenever people wax on about the inevitability of automation or the singularity;

    Why can’t we just stop?

    I know it’s probably impossible to hold out forever, but there are numerous historical examples where cooperative equilibria have been stable for centuries;

    In feudal Japan, warring daimyos engaged in a literally life-and-death conflict mutually agreed to stop using their highly-advanced muskets because it offended their warrior aesthetic. Until Commodore Perry came along, warfare had been returned to the single-combat-with-swords style the Samurai prefered for centuries.

    In Europe during the Ancien Regime, warring monarchs constantly vying to expand at one another’s expense engaged in a form of warfare in which (as Clausewitz describes it) small armies mostly marched around one another until one side went home with both taking special care not to involve one another’s civilians or even impede commerce between their nations. Until Napoleon came along, those centuries-old customs of war were so entrenched that Europeans couldn’t imagine another way of doing things.

    Sure, there’s the obvious flaw; when the equilibrium does eventually fail, it’s a mad scramble catch up to the new defector. But compared to the alternative of living under the eternal rule of some maniac’s idea of human values (the Culture novels are easily the most horrifying dystopia I’ve ever seen described) it seems foolish not to even attempt to stop the descent.

    Am I just nuts or does this make sense to anyone else here?

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    • ozymandias says:

      the Culture novels are easily the most horrifying dystopia I’ve ever seen described

      Could you elaborate on this, please? I am confused. I personally consider the Culture novels to be a utopia, but even if I valued, say, human ability to not be pets of the Minds more, it strikes me that being a pet of a powerful, benevolent being is way superior to, say, 1984.

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      • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

        When Winston becomes dissatisfied with his life in Oceania, Miniluv notices and launches a complex plot to ensnare and manipulate him, ending with the annihilation of his self and (implicitly) eventual execution as an enemy of the Party.

        When Gurgeh becomes dissatisfied with his life in the Culture, Contact notices and launches a complex plot to ensnare and manipulate him, ending with the revelation that he has was never in fact a player at all but simply a piece in a larger game played by the Minds.

        See the difference?

        Winston is an enemy of Oceania, even if an utterly inconsequential one, and he is treated as such; the Inner Party makes every effort to effect his complete destruction.

        Gurgeh is a defective component within the Culture, even if an interesting one, and he is treated as such; the Minds make every effort to exploit his defect to maximum effect before he is discarded.

        Ultimately, neither had any control over the outcome of their rebellions but I would say Winston had the better of them. His jailors saw his resistance and responded to it with overwhelming force; Gurgeh’s resistance was taken into account as part of an engineering problem like using a highly resistant metal as the filament in a light bulb.

        1984 is a boot stomping on a human face forever… the Culture novels have done away with human faces entirely.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I think the difference between us is that you value human agency more than I do. The Party responds to Winston as an enemy, implicitly respecting his ability to do things in the world; the Minds respond to Gurgeh as a tool, showing that he has no ultimate ability to affect anything. Is that right?

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        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          Pretty much.

          They’re both extraordinarily ugly and meaningless societies, but at least one of them has room for you to oppose it however futilely. Honestly I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a future as completely hopeless in fiction as Banks’ and it’s always alarming to see how many people look at it as a guidebook for the ideal society

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        • ozymandias says:

          It is hopeless because people cannot make meaningful changes to their world, or hopeless for some other reason?

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        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          Both, but mostly the other reasons.

          There’s a bit of an inferential brick wall here as regards spiritual development, but luckily I am interested both in transcendance spiritually and transhumanism materially so hopefully this will parse;

          Culture pan-humans are distinguishable from modern humans only by relatively superficial modifications, to the point that they experience death despite being perfectly capable of indefinite life extension. There are no explicit technological obstacles which would prevent one of them from attaining the mental or physical characteristics of a Drone, arguably even a Mind. And yet despite having this capability they do not take advantage of it; like Peter Pan they simply don’t have any desire to grow up, and with the Neverland provided for them have stayed stagnant for millennia.

          That situation is mirrored in metaphysical terms but much worse. While their bodies are at least appreciably above modern human standards, even their souls’ heights are actually far below all but the most degenerate modern humans. Their pursuit of appetite above all else and utter deliberate lack of transcendent purpose mean that they are much more like herd animals than men; Nietzsche’s Last Man, stretched out over the whole galaxy for thousands of years. And for the same reason that they will never choose to utilize their technological capacity for improvement, so to will their ability to better themselves sit untouched so long as The Culture itself remains.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Presumably the ones who wanted to become drones or Minds did, and thus do not get books written about them? IDK I have diversity of kinds of minds as something approaching a terminal value, so I cannot really find the continued existence of human-standard minds to be bad.

          I am also not clear what a transcendent purpose is. The obvious definitions for one… don’t seem to exist in the world?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Armstrongetc.: Do you think there is an ideal endgame in human development, or that people should attempt (personal, not necessarily tech) progress/betterment forever? I feel like you’ve already answered this question implicitly, but I can’t quite puzzle out which way your answer went.

          The distinction between “appetites” and more spiritually rich (?) motivations is indeed a brick wall for me, *except* to the extent some motivations/purposes do lead to self-betterment. But, there’s your “Why can’t we just stop?” root comment, and that seems fairly applicable to personal development too even if that’s not what you intended.

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        • Fnord says:

          I’m not sure that’s a reasonable characterization of what Special Circumstances does with Gurgeh in Player of Games. If nothing else, if they were actually discarding him, they could simply have yrg gur rzcrebe xvyy uvz ng gur raq.

          Nor is he “defective” or dissident, the way Winston is. Sure, he’s not satisfied where he is at the beginning (a trait he shares with many protagonists).

          Gurgeh isn’t foisted off to the Empire of Azad because there’s no place for him in the Culture. He’s taken (and, yes, ensnared and manipulated) because the Culture needs him in Azad. He’s still very much part of the Culture and indeed a vital part thereof. Gur ragver cbvag bs gur ynfg tnzr jvgu gur rzcrebe vf gung ur’f vzcyvpvgyl npprcgvat gur inyhrf bs gur Phygher; vaqrrq, gung ur vf gur Phygher, va zvpebpbfz. If you assume he’s supposed to be rejecting or rejected from the Culture, the finale makes no sense!

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        • Fnord says:

          While their bodies are at least appreciably above modern human standards, even their souls’ heights are actually far below all but the most degenerate modern humans. Their pursuit of appetite above all else

          Most of the main character are in Contact, which means that they contact other sentients, either to seek knowledge about them or improve their lives.

          Indeed, it’s sometimes implied that’s a large part of why the Culture as a whole does not sublime (there’s that transcendence; and it’s worth noting that many people who “die” actually have themselves stored, presumably to emerge for sublimation if nothing else): it’s not willing to leave the galaxy behind when there’s still good it can do.

          Sure, they take plenty of time to indulge their appetites along the way. But that’s not the only thing they do.

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        • yrg gur rzcrebe xvyy uvz ng gur raq.

          Gur ragver cbvag bs gur ynfg tnzr jvgu gur rzcrebe vf gung ur’f vzcyvpvgyl npprcgvat gur inyhrf bs gur Phygher; vaqrrq, gung ur vf gur Phygher, va zvpebpbfz.

          Total thread derailment: I wonder how much effort it would take to learn to read ROT13 as easily as I read normal text? My instinct says “Difficult, but not impossible.” You wouldn’t attempt to get good actually rotating characters, of course, but rather would simply learn another mapping of characters -> sounds and get used to reading “bs” as “of”. It’d be sort of like learning to type on Dvorak, which I have done, and so am perversely attracted to this goal.

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        • Andy says:

          Their pursuit of appetite above all else and utter deliberate lack of transcendent purpose mean that they are much more like herd animals than men; Nietzsche’s Last Man, stretched out over the whole galaxy for thousands of years.

          Their proper telos disagrees with yours? Boo hoo.

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      • nydwracu says:

        I wonder how much effort it would take to learn to read ROT13 as easily as I read normal text?

        I asked myself the same question once, and decided I wouldn’t want to learn. ROT13 exists for a reason.

        (Also, you should learn something like Deseret or Shavian. I like Deseret, and it seems to have better font support, but from a design perspective Shavian is obviously superior, and I could be convinced to make equivalent tools for it if people displayed interest in using it.)

        [ah dammit, I can't post that in Deseret, that PHP astral planes bug is here too]

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      • MugaSofer says:

        I’m not Armstrong, but I couldn’t care less about the Minds if they did anything constructive. I love the books, but the sheer wasted opportunity aggravates me immensely.

        In the Culture, literally every citizen has the right to become a Mind, negate the aging process, or experience a much better virtual life in a virtual world more complex and fulfilling than this one. But instead, they die of old age – because of social stigma, presumably (?) Mind-engineered. They don’t even upload themselves! It regularly becomes fashionable to ask not to be saved, if you should die accidentally!

        Human Culture citizens almost universally seem to agree that the Culture is, in fact, rather dull. Indeed, they seem to risk death mostly in the vague hope it will add some spice to their lives again. They know their lives are unfulfilling.

        The problem with pets is not necessarily that they happen to be near to, and overshadowed by, humans – the problem is that they’re cooped up in gilded cages.

        Culture Minds, when they aren’t engaged in elaborate pointless plots to gain status amongst one another, seem to resemble Reddit commenters rather than transhuman gods. In Excession, this is implied to be because they waste all their processing power simulating alternate, often life-bearing universes – not to act as a benevolent god and help the inhabitants, or even to better predict the world around them, but simply because it amuses them.

        (Understandably, they don’t tell the humans, because the Culture is a democracy and The Hydrogen Sonata pretty clearly establishes that they would decidedly disapprove of “Infinite Fun Space”, as the Minds call it among themselves.)

        In fairness, to be rather dubiously charitable, all psychology in the Culture universe seems to be arranged along a very strict liberal-conservative spectrum. The Culture are being as moral as you can be without becoming completely pacifist. In fact, they have to engineer their warships to be more obnoxiously conservative so they can kill people effectively.

        It’s implied any attempt to build a mind that doesn’t conform to this spectrum – which, thankfully, includes Clippy – is thwarted by the Sublimed Elder races.

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        • Nornagest says:

          In fairness, to be rather dubiously charitable, all psychology in the Culture universe seems to be arranged along a very strict liberal-conservative spectrum.

          I’ve got a rosier view of the Culture than I think you do, but I’d agree that this is a pretty serious failing of the Culture novels’ moral universe. One of those books’ more irritating stylistic tics is that their villains inevitably resemble Earth conservatives — not as Earth conservatives would depict themselves, but as an Earth leftist would caricature them. And the viewpoint characters rarely come from the mainline Culture, so the obvious narrative subjectivity defense doesn’t apply.

          Surface Detail might be the worst offender here. Veppers resembles nothing so much as the technocapitalist boogeyman regularly conjured up by the comments section of the SF Chronicle‘s online edition, and the pro-Hell forces are no better, if somewhat less personally salient to me.

          To Banks’ credit, though, he can occasionally squeeze out surprisingly sympathetic depictions of otherwise rather nasty cultures, at least if their inhabitants aren’t human-shaped. The Affront of Excession are painted in a neutral enough light to make our gracious host happy, their name and certain practices aside: a Culture citizen even gets himself converted into one at some point, without any apparent condemnation.

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    • Anonymous says:

      the Culture novels are easily the most horrifying dystopia I’ve ever seen described

      Okay, you got me. Why?

      Edit: Scooped; that’s what I get for not refreshing the page before commenting after reading all the other comments. Is there a way to delete my comment?

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    • anon says:

      Personally, I agree. I think stopping AI research is a good idea, except FAI. Though defining “AI” is fuzzy, and the coordination problems are difficult, the idea is still a good one.

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    • AR+ says:

      It’s called inevitable in part, I think, because change has itself become part of our current equilibrium. Saying we should stop is not meaningful, we are already “stopped,” in one of the long periods of stability between brief moments of total upheaval, except that the institutions and cultures in place during this stability are such that working to precipitate radical changes is a very large number of people’s day jobs.

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    • The Lack of a Name says:

      I think that this makes some sense. However, it might be possible to shield ourselves from Moloch without necessarily stopping entirely. Instead of killing Moloch, what if the world could contain Moloch? Society would agree to stop, but would establish an area in which competition and progress exist. The benefits of that progress would be obtained by the entire world, while the problems would be contained. This wouldn’t be perfect, of course, but would be possibly better than full stop and would be definitely better than full Moloch.

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    • Fnord says:

      I’m not sure that’s an accurate categorization of history.

      The life and death conflict of the warring daimyos of Japan ended because Tokugawa Ieyasu won his wars. Ending with the Siege of Osaka, which included plenty of handguns and even imported European artillery. Japan was taken into isolation not by mutual agreement, but by the command of the central authority of the Tokugawa shoguns (nor did isolation mean a complete end to the domestic firearm industry, but that’s another story).

      It does seem that there may have been a period when limited warfare was the norm, between the Peace of Westphalia and the French Revolutionary Wars. But the Thirty Years War immediately before that was characterized by plenty of violence and hardship for civilians. And part of the post-Westphalia norms was a norm against the use of warfare to blatantly “expand at one another’s expense”; I don’t think that’s unrelated to the willingness to avoid total war.

      This is not to say that coordination is impossible, even between enemies. Heck, even during World War II(!) the combatants managed to maintain a norm against the use of chemical weapons. But it’s not so easy as all that.

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    • Eli says:

      Why can’t we just stop?

      Because the present-day world is fucking miserable. Only a thin veneer of privilege enables you to block it all out and deny the truth.

      Glance at the front page of a newspaper, and then tell me those people deserved it.

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      • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

        I’m assuming you’re talking about social/economic ‘progress’ here, since very few of the sorts of problems that make newspaper headlines are actually the result of inadequate technology. While I disagree with you on those points (see the scare quotes above) that isn’t what I’m talking about right here and not looking for another derail after the one about The Culture novels.

        I think we ought to at least agree that automating away the bottom >90% of humanity is probably not a good thing, and that most possible outcomes of a singularity are fairly horrifying as well. Since you seem like an old-school commie we should also agree that we ought to be able to create a healthy civilization with present technology, even if we disagree about what the word ‘healthy’ means. And since I’m an Evola-style Traditionalist I’d even agree with you that modern capitalism is a brutal and insane system, even if we both think each other’s alternatives are worse than the status quo. So where is the actual disagreement on this issue?

        We’re still pretty far off from grey goo eating the world, I know enough people in nanotech to say that with certainty, but a few advancements in software and robotics combined with our present system could easily leave hundreds of millions permanently unemployed and starving. That might be good if you’re trying to rabble-rouse but seems like an awful outcome to me anyway. Putting the brakes on certain avenues of tech development isn’t going to fix the underlying problems but might well buy us some more time for it.

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        • Anonymous says:

          We can’t stop because there is an incentive to continue. If someone doesn’t continue, the rest will.

          Your military examples involve relatively few players who already have a stake in the status quo. Coordinating non-proliferation between them should be relatively easy. Despite that your examples seem to be atypical.

          Automation and other new technologies can be achieved by more people, most of whom have little stake in the status quo.

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  16. Joe says:

    I think you misunderstood my comments. When I said eudimonia was impossible without Natural Law I didn’t mean just for me. I don’t think Natural law is a human value, I think it is fundemental to human moral reasoning regardless of any other value system you subscribe to. As fundemental as the wetness of water or hardness of rocks. An AI that cared about humans would take into account human nature and the nature of reality in general.

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  17. spandrell says:

    So your human-values maximizer Elua (actually the left-swimming part of Moloch) has thrown under the bus the values of truth-seeking, common sense and patience here represented by cryptael and Mai la Dreapta, and gives higher status to nonsense spouting sanctimony-junkies such as Multiheaded, who has 30 posts here, or roughly 25% at this point, showing memetic competition works in this environment.

    Whose human values do you think a better coordinated polity would prioritize? Hell, whose values are more prominent today?

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    • ozymandias says:

      …how much a person posts is entirely unrelated to how much other people like or agree with their viewpoints. If you like, you could make forty posts in this thread.

      Neither cryptael nor Mai has been banned, whereas Multi has been banned on at least one occasion and Scott has said that the only reason he’s kept around is because the comment section has too few leftists. In addition, in this very thread people have compared Multi to low-status people such as Arthur Chu, which suggests that zie is zirself low-status. I do not think the evidence suggests that Multi is high-status.

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      • drethelin says:

        number of posts contributes a lot to the environment. Multiheaded talking a lot annoys me and makes me less likely to want to read and comment. If one person is making 25 percent of all comments, they’re contributing disproportionately to the tone and information of the conversation.

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      • Matthew says:

        Do other people really think of fellow commenters here as “high-status” or “low-status”? I mean, I guess I attribute special status to Scott for obvious reasons, but other than that, I don’t see much of a hierarchy here. (There are a couple of already-banned and hopefully-soon-to-be-banned nrx that I view as trolls, which I suppose is low status, but that’s about it.)

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    • g says:

      If I have to choose between “look how compassionate I am” sanctimony and “look how hard-headedly rude and obnoxious I am” anti-sanctimony (which actually I think is just another variety of sanctimony), I choose the former every time.

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      • Eli says:

        That really depends. Compassion for what? I’ve seen too much time and life wasted having compassion for the uncompassionate and trying to extend “understanding” to people whose final message ends up being, “You should all lie down under the wheels of my truck.”

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  18. Anonymous says:

    To which the answer is that evolution selected for brains that were at least marginally competent. Brains that could distinguish “lion” from “non-lion” survived; those that couldn’t, didn’t.

    There’s no such thing as a “fit animal”, only an animal that is fit for its environment. Likewise, there’s no such thing as a “virulent meme”, only a meme that is virulent to specific hosts.

    We say “the human brain is designed to distinguish true and false ideas”, but another way to approach the same idea is “the human brain is designed to be an environment such that true memes survive and false memes die out.”

    This argument made a strong showing on r/badphilosophy about a week ago. The main thread is here, and the comments that were most likely to end up on badphilosophy were the ones that appealed to the truth of a particular belief (the lion belief) and didn’t comprehend the OP:

    What’s more, we can’t invoke beliefs that we already hold and think are true in order to tip the scales because such a defense would just be circular. If the probability that a given belief (say that gravity keeps things from flying out into space) is true is .5, then I can’t use that very same belief as an example of a true belief produced by my selected belief-forming mechanisms. And Plantinga’s argument suggests that this is the case for all of our beliefs formed by belief-forming mechanisms selected by evolution; there is no counterexample belief that one could produce.

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  19. Piano says:

    I hypothesize that if you publicly terminated your relationship with Ozy, you’d become a self-described neoreactionary a lot quicker, and we’d all be able to avoid a lot of interesting but ultimately unnecessary conversation.

    If you think that documenting a sophisticated and naturally slow pace towards being a neoreactionary will be immensely helpful in the future for converting others to neoreaction, then disregard this, but note that via any sane decision theory this means you should already be a neoreactionary.

    If you’d never do such a just for an ideological programme, then acknowledge the effect of the relationship on your intellectual honesty.

    If you don’t get why it would matter, then you probably don’t understand NRx.

    If you’ve got other reasons to disregard this, I’d like to know, as this is a huge elephant in the room, and is growing larger as the Tunney saga continues over in NRx.

    Note: As there hasn’t been a conversation yet, and as I don’t know you in real life, I don’t actually support such a termination right now.

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    • Ialdabaoth says:

      I dunno. Scott lacks a certain… innate brutality that I’ve noticed in all the NRxers. At most I could see him turning into a sort of Moldbug-lite, but even that would lack the abyssal horror that I expect from the still-compassionate-liberal-inside.

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      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        …innate brutality that I’ve noticed in all the NRxers.

        Elaborate?

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        • ozymandias says:

          Aesthetically, the thing that seems to draw a lot of nrxers to nrxn is some sort of 3edgy5me sentiment, a delight in saying and believing crimethink, in things that the masses consider evil. (See: Nick Land.) Scott is a contrarian, which often looks similar, but he doesn’t have a similar delight in believing crimethink for its own sake. If anything, he tends to take his contrarianism in a direction that signals more morality rather than less.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          That’s better than I could have put it. (At least, better than I could have put it today.)

          Report comment

        • Just for the record, all my views/statements are based on genuine conviction, and not crimethink for its own sake.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m not sure if that’s better, but it does at least make it more likely that we can have a civilized conversation while there is civilization to be had, and that we can respect each other as honorable enemies once the time comes to hoist flags and slit throats.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Anissimov

          Just for the record, all my views/statements are based on genuine conviction, and not crimethink for its own sake.

          (Bob Page voice:) Mathematically unlikely.

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    • ozymandias says:

      This is a public commitment to still being interested in a relationship with Scott if he becomes a reactionary.

      I actually suspect that polyamory is a harder fix than transness in the case of a relationship with Hypothetical Traditionalist Scott. I am really, really unhappy in monogamous relationships and traditionalists tend to be really firm about the monogamy thing. OTOH, as in my discussion with Mai and Nydwracu upthread, it is possible to incorporate gender dysphorics within a traditionalist framework, and even without that I would be no more than mildly unhappy as a woman as long as I got to have a double masectomy.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        How do you feel about pumping out future soldiersH^H^H^H^H^high-IQ Thought Leaders for the herrenvolk?

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      • Piano says:

        “Incorporation” via monasticism implies relinquishing relationships outside of God and fellow nuns.

        Re poly: Knowing nothing else, I’d say that you’ll grow out of it and you haven’t found the right man.

        And, for the sake of neoreaction, your unusual well-being doesn’t matter, only how it affects Scott’s PR.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Re poly: Knowing nothing else, I’d say that you’ll grow out of it and you haven’t found the right man.

          And, for the sake of neoreaction, your unusual well-being doesn’t matter, only how it affects Scott’s PR.

          This is an example of the brutality I was mentioning. I’m not quite sure how to properly disassemble it and show off the pieces right now; tonight is a Low IQ Night.

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdobaoth

          It’s not really brutality. Having a public conversation about the deviance of one of the participants is itself deviant and, if the participants are respected, dangerous. So, I’m being curt and impersonal as a matter of course. (Add to this the nature of text-only conversation.) I’d never be like this in a private conversation. Join a private nrx conversation one time, preferably in real life; it’s far from “brutal”.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          It’s not really brutality. Having a public conversation about the deviance of one of the participants is itself deviant and, if the participants are respected, dangerous.

          I assert that it is, and so is this.

          This is what I meant by “innate brutality”. I have seen Scott consciously choose to be brutal. I can myself be brutal. But for most of the people that espouse neoreactionary views, the brutality seems so matter-of-course that you don’t even recognize it as brutality. (Note I’m specifically using the word “brutality” for its connotative texture as well as its denotative meaning; I’m not asserting that you’re being transgressive or evil or even wrong, just brutal. When I have more brainpower I’ll try to explain what I think I mean by this word.)

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        • ozymandias says:

          The right man? But I’m already dating Scott! I am not sure where you intend to find a person better than Scott. Is there someone writing hundred-thousand-word FAQs about obscure Internet political movements?

          (You think I am joking but I am so fucking dead serious rn the anti-reactionary faq is the sexiest thing ever and my boyfriend is amazing)

          I am unclear about how I affect Scott’s PR one way or the other? Literally the only people who care that I’m trans are you guys, who seem to have some kind of bizarre single-issue SCOTT’S GIRLFRIEND IS A TRANS WOMAN Tourette’s. I suspect that every problem re: neoreaction and my gender could be solved by not doing that.

          Also, Ialdabaoth, I would suspect that some of the brutality you’re noticing here is “somehow doesn’t think it’s rude to opine that someone ought to break up with their girlfriend for The Movement and that said girlfriend doesn’t really love him because if zie did zie wouldn’t be poly”

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          That *is* some of the brutality I’m noticing, but there’s more… umm… damnit, there’s a concept here that keeps slipping away from me! I need more brainspace. I need to find someone to hash this out in realtime.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          ial, if you ever want to drop me a line, hmu at oligopsony at wddp dot org (I don’t check that address every day, so it may take some time to respond – i’m not going to drop my real address here even though it’s extremely easy to fine; trivial inconveniences and all that)

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy

          Some guy who you wouldn’t be “really really unhappy” in a monogamous relationship with. Marrying rather.

          I am implying an opposite of “said girlfriend doesn’t really love him because if zie did zie wouldn’t be poly”, as “marriage is the place for love” and is it not the case that “love is the place for marriage”. Love outside of marriage is obviously fun, but doesn’t matter in the long run.

          If you get why Anissimov has an issue with Bryce and Land and others talking to Tunney on twitter, you can see how nrx people would have a huge issue with scott being both a self-described neoreactionary and in a relationship with you.

          I’m not advocating for such a break up, just pointing out that being in a relationship with a transsexual is incongruent with living a reactionary lifestyle and “deserving” to be a “neoreactionary”.

          Another thing is that I could totally identify as poly/trans/abnormal myself but I am/wouldn’t be public about it.

          If deviant people close to the NRx movement would (have) kept their deviance private, others wouldn’t have to care about it and have awkward conversations, because they wouldn’t know about it.

          Like, I don’t care what people actually do in the privacy of their own homes. Obviously I hope it’s not “deviant” or “sinful”, but I don’t have to think about it, and they don’t have to think about me thinking about it.

          But if it’s public, things change. Cat’s out of the bag.

          @andy

          Hence “knowing nothing else”. Most people in their twenties or earlier who identify as poly grow out of it and settle into monogamous relationships.

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        • Andy says:

          (You think I am joking but I am so fucking dead serious rn the anti-reactionary faq is the sexiest thing ever and my boyfriend is amazing)

          You are a lucky lucky person and if I were both into bald guys and Michigan I’d want to share. But showers of rose petals upon you both.

          (Note I’m specifically using the word “brutality” for its connotative texture as well as its denotative meaning; I’m not asserting that you’re being transgressive or evil or even wrong, just brutal. When I have more brainpower I’ll try to explain what I think I mean by this word.)

          Perhaps “blunt” is closer to the right word? I think I’ve seen what you’re referring to – dismissing human feelings and suffering as irrelevant or irrational. “Slavery was for their own good” kinda thing. Dismissing leftist arguments and evidence and morality as just a mental illness to be ground under the mighty tread of What Is Right. A prizing of the Right so powerful that it won’t even notice the broken people scattered in its wake, or accept them as necessary casualties of righteousness.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          No, it’s absolutely not merely “blunt”. “Blunt” is telling someone “man, you’re fat. You should lose weight if you don’t want to die young.” On the other hand, “Brutal” is telling them, “Gee, it sure is a shame you’re going to die young and your kids are going to die young for being morbidly obese. I guess some people just aren’t as lucky as me to get the ‘don’t cry into your ice cream every night’ gene. Also, it sure is nice not having to carry around all this social stigma, that must be a really tough burden on top of all the fat.”

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        • Andy says:

          Like, I don’t care what people actually do in the privacy of their own homes. Obviously I hope it’s not “deviant” or “sinful”, but I don’t have to think about it, and they don’t have to think about me thinking about it.

          And you don’t have to change your theories to account for differences in people. Very convenient for you.

          I am implying an opposite of “said girlfriend doesn’t really love him because if zie did zie wouldn’t be poly”, as “marriage is the place for love” and is it not the case that “love is the place for marriage”. Love outside of marriage is obviously fun, but doesn’t matter in the long run.

          If you get why Anissimov has an issue with Bryce and Land and others talking to Tunney on twitter, you can see how nrx people would have a huge issue with scott being both a self-described neoreactionary and in a relationship with you.

          This is why I call NRx a fermentation tank – carefully filtering who you let in and out rather than grabbing whatever idea works well from whoever you can. The former is how you stay small around the fringes and little bits of drama turn into big storms that fracture the movement into infinitesimal little factions.
          Grabbing any idea, from anyone, is how Progressivism beat you back when you Reactionaries had actual armies and cannons and castles and shit on your side. If you had any sense as a movement, you’d grab Scott, tie him to a banner pole, and put him up at the front, poly or not, queer girlfriend or not. Because you have this fine man, fine mind – much better than mine – that’s willing to take your ideas and turn them into legible positions and find evidence to back them up? And you’re not willing to accept him because of who he’s dating?
          With a strategy like that, you deserve to lose.

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        • Piano says:

          @andy
          I don’t follow your first part.

          Yes, nrx has standards, and standards are not optimized for growth. Public personal relationships are important.

          No one is ready to single-handedly lead nrx.

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        • Andy says:

          I don’t follow your first part.

          Yes, nrx has standards, and standards are not optimized for growth. Public personal relationships are important.

          No one is ready to single-handedly lead nrx.

          I’m not talking about having Scott lead nrx, but claiming “HE’S ONE OF US” because he can actually write engagingly, unlike Moldbug, who every time I try to read him somehow makes me more progressive, or Evola, who has the same effect and broke my Kindle to boot. (Got Revolt Against the Modern World off Gutenberg and suddenly it wouldn’t read anything else, and then the screen broke. NRX’ fault! Kidding.)
          What I was talking about in the first section is this thing I’ve seen really really fanatic SJs and radical feminists do on occasion – they completely deny the notion that they can cause harm, and cover it with blanket statements like “men can’t be oppressed” or “privileged groups can’t be bullied,” which can become a cover for full-up sadism. They don’t admit that the theory needs altering, and so keep go on causing much more pain than they heal.
          What I see with the “deviants should pretend to be normal so I don’t have to think about them” is ignoring a whole bunch of reasons for people to have their deviancies out in the open:
          1) Deviancies practiced in secret can be abused.
          Once you’ve got something you have to keep secret, you are vulnerable to blackmail.
          2) Once deviancy is something you have to keep secret, abuse is much easier to conceal.
          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many pedophiles found safety in the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church. Both organizations thought it better that abusers keep abusing children in secret rather than admit that it had happened, and cooperate with law enforcement in a swift and fair investigation. Both were more concerned with PR than keeping kids out of the hands of pedophiles, creating the situation where known pedophiles were considered more suitable to be around children than openly gay men who had sex exclusively with adults. Look what happened to both of their PR images over the long term.
          Maybe I should encourage y’all to keep the deviancies secret, it’s the surest way to destroy NRx over the long term. *thinks* Naaaah, you’re too interesting.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Piano: So… celibacy then?

          I also note that pretty much all the other reactionaries (at least, that I read in Tunneygate) responded to Anissimov saying that with “fuck off Anissimov, I’ll talk to whom I want,” which very much impressed me with the meta-level morality of neoreactos in general. “My ideology does not actually get input in who my friends are” is the exactly correct answer.

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        • Piano says:

          @andy
          If scott was “one of us”, he’d end up being the thought leader in short order.

          I enjoy moldbug and evola and scott equally. They’re certainly different styles, though.

          Obviously I can do harm, that’s why I’m being explicitly curt and impersonal and not delving into details.

          If you risk blackmail by being deviant, then don’t be deviant, move societies, or take the risk.

          Today’s society allows the media of “report everything and every hypothesis before anyone is convicted”. Any sane society wouldn’t, solving “2”. In the mean time, I’ll say that pedophole scandals are way overblown.

          @ozy
          If poly is the only alternative, then yeah, but I don’t think it is.

          If your ideology doesn’t affect your personal relationships, then it’s all just a boring thought exercise. (Obviously grandfather in family and close friends.) In the case Tunney, because of conversations with him, he’s been publicly associated with nrx in major publications, possibly turning off a lot of good people from investigating nrx.

          It’s like if Eliezer had a “personal hobby of optimizing bayesian neural nets on Google servers”. Even though it’s probably definitely harmless, it would call into question some basic principles about MIRI and his relationship with it.

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        • Andy says:

          Today’s society allows the media of “report everything and every hypothesis before anyone is convicted”. Any sane society wouldn’t, solving “2″. In the mean time, I’ll say that pedophole scandals are way overblown.

          The Los Angeles Archdiocese let priests keep abusing boys for decades. One of the files – Monsignor Peter Garcia – abused boys from 1966 until he left the priesthood in 1989, and reassured diocese leaders that this victims were illegal immigrants and could be threatened into silence.
          Jimmy Savile’s behavior was kept hidden for decades.
          Jerry Sandusky. Boy Scouts. And yet Dan Savage is a worse problem? Something is wrong with your ethics, either at the object-level or the meta-level.

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        • Piano says:

          @andy

          Collectively, the movement(s) that people like Dan Savage represent are far more damaging to society as a whole, in the long run, than the collection of Catholic an Boy Scout pedophiles. That’s the meta level. I’m not comparing one pedophile vs one sexually deviant person, which would be the object level.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Piano: Here’s the thesis I’m reading between the lines, please tell me if I’m wrong.

          The Catholic Church does less damage molesting boys than Dan Savage does having gay sex, because at least the Catholic Church has the decency to cover up its deviant behavior, while Dan Savage evangelizes his. All sorts of things can go on in the dark, where they’ll only do damage to individuals, but the moment you start trying to bring them out into the open you risk damaging the delicate fabric of society itself.

          Is that about the shape of it?

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        • AJD says:

          “My ideology does not actually get input in who my friends are” is the exactly correct answer.

          Not sure I can go along with that. Remember the irregular predicate:

          I am guided by my values
          You act in accordance with your beliefs
          They are blinded by ideology

          In other words, I don’t see how “My ideology does not actually get input in who my friends are” is substantively different from saying “My morals don’t get input into who my friends are.” And I think I do want to be guided my morals into choosing not to be friends with sufficiently evil or amoral people.

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          Kinda. The Catholic Church in general is a major force for order in the world. Sodomy and extramarital sex and encouraging others to be people they’re not are major forces of disorder. Order leads towards good things, like happiness in the long run. Disorder leads towards bad things like the collapse of civilization. You can have stable happiness without civilization, but that implies, at least for humans, to be hunter gatherers, and unless we all instantly revert to hunter gathererism, it would just be another big destabilizing force.

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        • Andy says:

          Sodomy and extramarital sex and encouraging others to be people they’re not are major forces of disorder.

          By “Encouraging others to be people they’re not,” what the hell do you mean? AFAICT, the problem is that Dan Savage encourages people to be who they are, not who you think them to be. And who died and made you God to dictate who people are and aren’t, better than they themselves?

          You seem to be seeing people operating under a different set of rules than you and interpreting it as a lack of rules. This is a fault in your perceptions and biases, not in liberal progressivism.

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        • ozymandias says:

          AJD: I don’t think so. I am guided by my morals in choosing friends, insofar as I am friends with people who are kind and treat people well and are generally Good People. But people who are kind and treat people well and are generally Good People can be found anywhere from communism to neoreactionarydom. It’s okay for a communist to decide he only wants to be friends with other communists; it’s your life and your friendships. But I don’t think it’s okay for that communist to go around telling other communists “if you are friends with The Enemy or– gasp– talk politics with them, then you are a bad communist and betraying the revolution.” For a host of reasons! Friendships can humanize The Enemy, encouraging fruitful and charitable discussion and discouraging antisocial acts towards Enemies. And you may be mistaken about your beliefs, and having friends who disagree with you deeply can help both of you realize where you’re mistaken. In this way, I think that discouraging people from being friends with Enemies functions to make what you believe less correlated with the truth, which is the work of Cthulhu.

          Piano: I have no idea what the comment about Eliezer means.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Right, there’s an important difference between ‘morals’ and ‘ideology': morals are intuitive, and ideology isn’t. Morals can’t turn into thedes anywhere near as easily as ideologies can, and overloading on one type of thede-identification is the Communist mistake. “X must be a good person, because X is a Communist! X says people who aren’t Communists are disgusting, gross, and repulsive, and they all hate us and want us dead, and you shouldn’t associate with them… okay, sure, I’ll only associate with Communists! Oh, shit, X turns out to be a sadist, abuser, serial rapist, whatever.” And the people who don’t undergo this thede-loading — replacing intuitive moral judgment with semi-explicit group-membership judgments — pick up on the fact that X is evil (if it weren’t intuitively obvious that X is evil, X wouldn’t have to do so much work to get others to override intuitive judgments) but can’t act on it because they’ll lose all their friends who’ve fallen prey to X’s dark arts.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          Morals can’t turn into thedes anywhere near as easily as ideologies can, and overloading on one type of thede-identification is the Communist mistake. “X must be a good person, because X is a Communist!”

          My thede can be fairly accused of many things, but this particular mistake is not one of them. (Assuming, at least, that one does not count the contrapositive form, which while logically identical does not function the same way in social practice.)

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        • Piano says:

          @andy

          By “Encouraging others to be people they’re not,” what the hell do you mean?

          Reducing a large part of yourself to an animalistic pleasure seeker is “not being you”. You’re human, not just an animal, so act like it. Examples: 1) Of course prostate stimulation makes orgasms tenfold better and can destract you from actually making and raising children; it’s one of the first things Western society formally banned, with the effect that we could better focus on our humanity and our posterity and not our immediate pleasure. 2) Mutilating or amputating limbs or sexual organs because of a perceived mind-body mismatch, rather than just living with it and acting like a normal person, is incredibly selfish.

          Everyone operates under personal rules/values/morals/ideology. Some are beneficial for civilization; some are not.

          @ozy

          There’s nothing wrong with talking politics with the enemy. There’s something wrong with publicly, casually hanging out with an Enemy who publicly says he’s One Of Us.

          If Eliezer publicly and knowingly engaged in efforts to create a probably-unfriendly, that would be un-MIRI-ful, analogous to scott having a relationship with you being un-neoreactionary.

          @nydwracu

          You might be helping me understand Varg’s stance against ideology and even the rule of law, that rules are signs of degeneracy and that personal relationships and implicit understanding make for better human living. Unfortunately, explicit ideology and explicit membership will be necessary for now if nrx is to grow.

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        • Hainish says:

          @Ialdabaoth: I think the word you’re looking for is “callous.”

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Nope; “callous” indicates a blatant disregard, by “brutal” I’m trying to convey an actual… refined joy gained from believing awful things about the world and other people.

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        • nydwracu says:

          My thede can be fairly accused of many things, but this particular mistake is not one of them.

          How far removed is your faction of LF Communism from the LF Communism that harbors scum like moewytchdog and MM?

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        • Andy says:

          Reducing a large part of yourself to an animalistic pleasure seeker is “not being you”. You’re human, not just an animal, so act like it. Examples: 1) Of course prostate stimulation makes orgasms tenfold better and can destract you from actually making and raising children; it’s one of the first things Western society formally banned, with the effect that we could better focus on our humanity and our posterity and not our immediate pleasure.

          I think by “humanity” you mean “propriety as defined by my culture.” And it’s an interesting hypothesis, but there are some counterpoints:
          1) Prostate stimulation is not at all exclusive with making and raising children. it can even be done manually during copulation (with a little flexibility and ingenuity) to increase the intensity of the orgasm.
          2) Men who get their prostates stimulated regularly (this probably includes a lot of straight men, but I’m going to focus on gay men for the purposes of this argument, because it’s hard to tell prostate-stimulating straight men from non-prostate-stimulating straight men. Also, not all gay men like having their prostates stimulated. I’m bi and I don’t – there’s such a thing as too intense, though I don’t mind the men who do like it.) still probably raise children just fine, do you have any evidence to support your position that prostate stimulation distracts from everyday business?

          I think you’re taking a subset of people who can’t control their sexual urges and conflating them with all people who have sex in ways that don’t match your tradition, and then making up a just-so-story for why nontraditional sex is bad. It’s an absolutely lousy argument and your side deserves better than these just-so-stories.

          2) Mutilating or amputating limbs or sexual organs because of a perceived mind-body mismatch, rather than just living with it and acting like a normal person, is incredibly selfish.

          Because you’ve got no evidence for this, and a fair amount of evidence against it:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunuch#Eunuchs_in_the_Bible
          Eunuchs in the Bible. I’ve listened to talks by a professor at my school who studies the Bible from the original Hebrew, and tries to figure out how the society that produced it worked. Among other things, he’s raised the possibility that there were several kinds of eunuch among the Hebrews, though the text doesn’t give a clear distinction, but sometimes different words are used for the position and it’s implied that these men are eunuchs. I’m looking for an accessible paper by him to back this up, and will comment in this thread if I find it.
          Also the Greeks, the other wellspring of Western Civilization, were into all kinds of things and your argument falls flat there too.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          How far removed is your faction of LF Communism from the LF Communism that harbors scum like moewytchdog and MM?

          Far enough that I don’t recognize the former. (The last interaction I had with the latter was their making some pretty sick burns on you via tumblr, lol.)

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        • Piano says:

          @andy
          As for distraction:
          http://www.reddit.com/r/sex/comments/17c8oa/i_23m_just_discovered_prostate_stimulation_and_i/

          An argument for Christian traditionalism is that if most if not all of your orgasms take place during (and happens because of, i.e. without any other nonsense) unprotected PIV sex with the intention of having a child, or at least unprotected PIV sex with your marriage partner, then your orgasm has meaning, and your desire for sex and orgasm is inseperable for your desire for a large and stable family and there is no possiblity for “distraction”.

          Your citation on eunichs says that it can’t distinguish between “servant” and “eunichs”. I didn’t really need to add “unless it’s a one-time, early-life event, decreed by the king, to give you a special and separate role in society”. We’re talking about trans people, not castrati.

          I wouldn’t take a professor at a current university at face value when they talk about the sexual mores of the past, especially if it was a public talk.

          I don’t think that modern western society would be able survive if we all acted like ancient greeks. It would be impossible to formalize social mores for modern society that included sodomy without society quickly degenerating.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Piano: Oh! You’re not saying that being associated with me, a non-nrxn-y person, is non-nrxn, you’re saying the act of dating a trans person is itself inherently un-nrxn? I was confused.

          I believe that lovely gentleman is Prostate Georg, who is an outlier adn should not be counted. In my experience, prostate stimulation doesn’t actually make the vast majority of men less interested in PIV.

          The problem is that, with current infant mortality rates, not contracepting means that the population will explode and then there won’t be enough food. The occasional Prostate Georg seems a lot less worrisome than mass starvation or deliberately allowing babies to die.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          pretty much

          I’d say we need stats to move forward, but I’ll stand by saying that allowing assplay certainly decreases interest in pure PIV-for-children sex.

          Why bring up overpopulation out of left field? Anyways, it’s not an issue, as we can easily sustain close to 100 billion people on earth with current or near-future technology.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m in despair! Neoreaction has left me in despair!

          Piano: Why is it that neoreaction always takes all the most horrific parts of religion, and embraces them as the fun parts? I mean, I have no interest in assplay (and comparatively little interest in sexual stimulation of any kind, to be honest), but it feels like as a matter of principle you guys take the Chesterton Fence idea and use it whenever it promotes brutality, while throwing it right out whenever it promotes any kind of universal compassion.

          It’s like all the most horrific memetics of my childhood, without any of the redeeming reward-narrative. How did you get to here?

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        • Andy says:

          I don’t think that modern western society would be able survive if we all acted like ancient greeks. It would be impossible to formalize social mores for modern society that included sodomy without society quickly degenerating.

          Watch us.

          I’d say we need stats to move forward, but I’ll stand by saying that allowing assplay certainly decreases interest in pure PIV-for-children sex.

          You’ve mentioned your own flirting with deviancy before:

          Another thing is that I could totally identify as poly/trans/abnormal myself but I am/wouldn’t be public about it.

          I feel like an analogy is appropriate here, but it’s a bit lengthy, forgive me. Back in the late 19th-early 20th century, when many Americans were being introduced to Mexican food for the first time as the West grew in population and importance, there were concerns about the spicy Mexican street food served in Western cities (tamales in LA, chili con carne in San Antonio) inflaming sexual desire and contaminating pure white people, but at the same time that the “chili queens” of San Antonio and the tamale pushcart vendors of LA were tourist attractions. Despite legends about people getting addicted to the food, it was just food, that eventually made its way into the mainstream of American culture. Now American food deals with spiciness just fine, and people with all levels of spice-tolerance, from my brother and father who can’t get hot enough, to my lady and I who can barely tolerate a little heat, all can find our favorite foods in the marketplace.
          (Source: Planet Taco, by Jeffrey Pilcher.
          By contrast, you make me think of someone who got one taste of spicy food, feared getting addicted like he’d heard in some urban legend, and so joined the Grahamites who completely dropped spices for causing “impure thoughts.”
          Bully for you, if you fear spice’s effects on you, but I suspect you’re advocating for banning all spicy foods from the public square, on the assumption that everyone will have the same reaction you’ll have, rather than starting a “Spiceaholics Anonymous” for the portion of people who have your bad reaction – something that progressivism would have no problem with, by the way.
          And given the number of predictions and theories of societal decay that have been proven wrong, you’ll understand if I have a high bar for any future predictions of societal decay. I’m not about to quit all the lovely non-procreative sex acts I love just because you couldn’t handle your own sexuality. Bring some actual evidence, not just Typical Mind Fallacy.

          Why bring up overpopulation out of left field? Anyways, it’s not an issue, as we can easily sustain close to 100 billion people on earth with current technology.

          Got a cite for this either? Because I’m curious how this assumption is reached. Generally, the more people you add, the less resources you have for each, and I’d argue that 100 billion might be possible, if nothing goes wrong, and we reduce standard of living to the bare absolute minimum. Which isn’t a positive outcome unless you’re simply trying to maximize the number of humans, with no regard to quality of life.

          Ialdabaoth:

          Piano: Why is it that neoreaction always takes all the most horrific parts of religion, and embraces them as the fun parts? I mean, I have no interest in assplay (and comparatively little interest in sexual stimulation of any kind, to be honest), but it feels like as a matter of principle you guys take the Chesterton Fence idea and use it whenever it promotes brutality, while throwing it right out whenever it promotes any kind of universal compassion.

          I suspect the authoritarian aesthetic of This Is For Your Own Good has some influence. And compassion is the chink in the armor that lets progressivism and leftism in.
          (Progressives sure aren’t immune to the This Is For Your Own Good authoritarian aesthetic – I’d say many of the oppressions caused by radical feminism fall into this category.)

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        • Hainish says:

          “An argument for Christian traditionalism is that if most if not all of your orgasms take place during (and happens because of, i.e. without any other nonsense) unprotected PIV sex with the intention of having a child, or at least unprotected PIV sex with your marriage partner, then your orgasm has meaning, and your desire for sex and orgasm is inseperable for your desire for a large and stable family and there is no possiblity for “distraction”.”

          Wow, Christian traditionalism sounds just awful. If you think unintended pregnancy is a good thing, and that, all evidence aside, people couldn’t manage to reproduce without it, then I’ll give what you’re selling a skip.

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdabaoth
          I don’t see contrained sexuality as horrible and brutal. I see uncontrained sexuality as horrible and brutal. Obviously you think differently. We’re disgusted by different things. My disgust promotes order, and yours disorder, however.

          To be frank, I think that my position is much more compassionate than yours is, too. Compassion doesn’t mean letting people do whatever they want right now.

          Note that if we’re not talking about mostly-white western societies, then a lot of the things I’m saying don’t apply. I just bring say the things I say because I’m white and a member of western society, as I assume most everyone else here is. ‘Tis the nature of acknowledging personality differences between populations.

          You were probably “indoctrinated” in progressive memes as a child, so of course nrx is horrible for you.

          If you’ve actually read the whole nrx canon, then the reason you’re not where I am is probably because we have different friends and associates, that let us get away with not-feeling-horrible for different thoughts.

          I think I said this elsewhere, but I “got here” via Internet Atheism -> libertarianism -> stephan molyneux style ancapism -> apathy -> MoreRight from LW -> nrx.

          How did you “get to” where you are?

          @Andy

          The slippery slope is slippery, we went, in rough order, from emancipation of women, to women’s suffrage, to no fault divorce, to gay “marriage”, to mainstream acceptance of sex and gender role deviants, to now saying that it’s “okay” if you’re a pedophile, as long as you don’t actually touch any kids, in an evolutionary blip. (I recall reading an article about child-like robots in japan being used to “treat” pedophiles, as an example.) That’s what I mean be degenerating.

          If I must say it publicly, I’m not “deviant”. I’m “normal” “nonpoly” and “cishet” with a sexuality that’s just as boring.

          I’d compare sodomy more to meth than spicy food, with all the conotations.

          For population, see https://web.archive.org/web/20130608152607/http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2006/09/overpopulation-no-problem/

          If it is for your own good, where “your own good” means your happiness and your humanity in the medium and long terms, then whence brutality? Progressives are just extremely short sighted, with their time preferences allowing for no “authoritarianism”, no matter how beneficial and reliable.

          @Hainish

          If you have unprotected PIV sex and you don’t “intend” to have pregnancy, then you’re Doing It Wrong. Unintended pregnancy is obviously terrible. To avoid it, have sex within marriage. Please also note that I’m neither a Christian nor a Traditionalist (some traditions are bad and survive as parasitic memes; traditional Christian sexual mores are not one them).

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        • Andy says:

          Wow, Christian traditionalism sounds just awful. If you think unintended pregnancy is a good thing, and that, all evidence aside, people couldn’t manage to reproduce without it, then I’ll give what you’re selling a skip.

          Pretty sure this isn’t just Christian traditionalism – there’s a deal of evolutionary psychology in arguments upthread, and similar arguments I’ve had with other reactionaries, like Jim and Steve Johnson. The problem seems to be a conflation of what the blind idiot god of evolution “should” want human nature to be, according to their theories and patriarchal biases, and what human nature actually is – messy, complicated, and not focused on reproduction as the be-all and end-all.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I think I said this elsewhere, but I “got here” via Internet Atheism -> libertarianism -> stephan molyneux style ancapism -> apathy -> MoreRight from LW -> nrx.

          How did you “get to” where you are?

          Hrm. I think my path looks something like this:

          {Fundamentalist Protestantism + White Nationalism} -> {Pre-Internet Atheism} -> {Right-Wing Libertarianism} -> {LaVeyan Satanism} -> {Robert Anton Wilsonian skepticism} -> {Chaos Theory} -> {Radical Materialism} -> {Futurism} -> {Techno-progressivism}

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        • ozymandias says:

          Piano: One can be married and not intend to get pregnant. For instance, my parents have been married for twenty-three years; for twenty of them (since my sister was born), a pregnancy would have been unintended, meaning that for 87% of my parents’ marriage a pregnancy would have been unintended.

          That post involves technology that, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn’t exist yet. Also, using 50% of the land to house people and 21% for farms leaves only 29% for everything else; I Am Not An Ecologist, but that seems like that would end up causing some serious environmental damage. In addition, population in the absence of birth control grows geometrically. You may delay the problem, but at a certain point all those hundred billion people are also going to have their ten children, and then we have vastly more than the earth can support. You can delay the problem, but at some point Malthus takes over.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          Right. The point of a marriage is to create a family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have 20 kids. Hence practices like “Natural Family Planning”, i.e. the Catholic-approved “non-artificial” contraceptives, e.g. abstinence and sex during natural infertility.

          Given technology in the next fifty years, and things like NFP, I’m not worried about a Traditional Christian society hitting malthusian barriers.

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        • Andy says:

          To be frank, I think that my position is much more compassionate than yours is, too. Compassion doesn’t mean letting people do whatever they want right now.

          I agree, I just promote a different a broader set of rules, allowing for more discussion of deviancies that have been around from the beginning of time, and trying to minimize suffering for all. The only way to do that, in my view, is talking about deviancies in the open and making sure kinks that can cause suffering (rape/noncon or children) are either practiced in a safe way (BDSM/kinkplay with safewords, or those childbots you mentioned) or treated if they can’t be practiced in a safe way. The only way we’re going to be able to research these kinks is if we acknowledge that they exist.

          @Andy
          The slippery slope is slippery, we went, in rough order, from emancipation of women, to women’s suffrage, to no fault divorce, to gay “marriage”, to mainstream acceptance of sex and gender role deviants, to now saying that it’s “okay” if you’re a pedophile, as long as you don’t actually touch any kids, in an evolutionary blip. (I recall reading an article about child-like robots in japan being used to “treat” pedophiles, as an example.) That’s what I mean be degenerating.

          And I’d still say we’re progressing. Quality of life hasn’t gone down, unless you count a very narrow philosophy as the “only proper way to be,” which is what you seem to have done, with absolutely no evidence.
          And treating pedophiles, giving them a way to let out their urges without actually harming a real child, is funging against them doing so. Remember that you defended covering up pedophilia by Catholic priests above.

          I’d compare sodomy more to meth than spicy food, with all the conotations.

          We have ample experimental evidence that meth is bad for you over the long term. Not so much for the sodomy, especially when you argue from the beliefs of Dan Savage, who advocates safe sex and consent as much as humanly possible.
          I’ll concede you have a point on the population, though much of that seems like futurist wishful thinking, with a great big IF NOTHING GOES WRONG appended to the end of every single sentence.

          If it is for your own good, where “your own good” means your happiness and your humanity in the medium and long terms, then whence brutality? Progressives are just extremely short sighted, with their time preferences allowing for no “authoritarianism”, no matter how beneficial and reliable.

          My progressivism does allow for authoritarianism. For example, I think that scum who threaten people with rape over the Internet should be punished as harshly as if they had made the threat of rape in person. For symmetry, this should apply to anyone who threatens someone with harm over the Internet, regardless of ideology or anything the victim had done. Would you agree? There have to be rules, I just think it’s better for everyone to live under the same rules openly and honestly rather than pretending that some people (Catholic priests, for example) be considered exempt or above the rules for the sake of maintaining order in the short term.

          If you have unprotected PIV sex and you don’t “intend” to have pregnancy, then you’re Doing It Wrong. Unintended pregnancy is obviously terrible.

          We agree on this. I suspect where we disagree is whether people are competent enough to handle their own contraception when adequately educated.

          To avoid it, have sex within marriage. Please also note that I’m neither a Christian nor a Traditionalist (some traditions are bad and survive as parasitic memes; traditional Christian sexual mores are not one them).

          And I’d argue that traditional Christian sexual mores (men are animals who can’t be restrained, women are either angels or sluts, rape is always the victim’s fault, never talk about sex outside of marriage while having lots and lots of it behind closed doors, and we’ll pretend sex is only for making babies while letting priests rape children behind closed doors, it’s all for the greater good) create much more suffering than they prevent, and you’re attaching an irrational amount of status to them because you can’t picture living in any other system and it working out. Possibly because of some of the assumptions contained in those mores, especially the “men are animals who cannot be restrained” part.
          Someday, we really really really need an FAQ against this crap, which at the bottom has no evidence for it and keeps doing harm after harm after harm to people over time.
          With that, I’m done with this conversation. I’ve laid out my side the best I can, I suspect you’ve done the same, and we’re just yelling at each other.

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        • Piano says:

          @andy
          Public discussion of deviancies lead to more people practicing deviancies.

          As I’ve argued elsewhere on SSC, early Catholic marriage minimizes rape.

          Sure, but your treatment is between you and your doctors, not between you and the public. (Also, I predict that said pedophile “treatment” won’t work, and will probably backfire.)

          Everyone acknowledges that such kinks exist, we did that at the beginning of civilization, and we said “Don’t”.

          Quality of life has gone down, a lot, by any sane metric.

          I never defended covering up pedophilia, just said that the alternative was worse for society, as it supported disordering movements. Pedophilia is bad.

          Meth, when used properly and by the right people, can be the best thing that happens to individuals and society. See erdos. Likewise, smart and already-highly-civilized people can probably properly not let sodomy get in the way of their lives. Others can’t. And beacuse low status people look up to high status people, high status people playing with deviancy is dangerous for society, even if it’s not dangerous for them personally.

          Yes, please append “barring existential disaster” to what I said.

          If it’s over facebook or some network where the threatener and threatenee know each other, then yeah, but not, say, over 4chan or reddit, unless people know who the tripfag/account is.

          No one is exempt from anything.

          Trad christian mores: both sexes are animals that can be restrained, via said mores. If you choose not to constrain yourself, you deserve what you get.

          Yeah, a structured FAQ would be nice.

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        • Mercy says:

          “I suspect the authoritarian aesthetic of This Is For Your Own Good has some influence. And compassion is the chink in the armor that lets progressivism and leftism in.”

          Yes, and I think this is mostly what Ialdaboath is identifying as brutality/sadism, the image of oneself as the tough minded voice of reason explaining the unpleasant truth, the former being evidence of the latter. The desired reaction is frustration or discomfort, I think, not fear*. If you are the representative of an inexorable force, you must be pitiless, right?

          As LF/WDDP have already been brought up, you saw similar posturing among some of the edgier maoists there, and with the same intended message, one part ‘you can tell it’s all scientifically determined by the way I refrain from sugar coating it’, two parts ‘I have history on my side and so don’t have to care about how I come across’.

          To make a slightly mean analogy, it’s reminiscent of D&D players who insist on scrupulously lethal application of an idiosyncratic sense of realism, because if they drop the pretence of reproducing an impersonal set of rules, they’ll remember that they are making it all up.

          Negotiate, and you have to take a clear look at what you have to negotiate with. Which when you aren’t looking is the whole of human history and the material forces guiding it, but when you are is six wordpress blogs, a youtube channel and a militia in nepal that stopped replying to your emails when they realised you weren’t going to send them any money.

          *tempting as it is to link the whole thing to teenage metal heads who think people find them sinister.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Nydwracu:

          I’m not up to date on your tumblr drama (although I have the rough idea), but:

          http://bogmoth.tumblr.com/post/93801431478/it-is-in-fact-entirely-possible-for-men-to-pretend-to

          Um, what?

          Trad christian mores: both sexes are animals

          but, etc.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Piano: I’m confused. Why is it licit to use NFP when you don’t want children but not use the pill when you don’t want children? It is theoretically possible to have kids with NFP, but it’s also theoretically possible to have kids when you take the pill.

          And if people are going through periods of sexual abstinence anyway, why can’t they have orgasms that aren’t the product of heterosexual PIV as long as they reserve them for the periods of abstinence?

          Do you have actual evidence that non-heterosexual-PIV sex is addictive? Because so far you mostly just seem to be saying that a lot without a logical argument about why this is so.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          The pill directly affects your biochemistry in complex ways, such as lowering sensitivity to certain male hormones that are essential for attraction. NFP is not nearly as invasive, hence “natural” and “non-artificial”.

          You shouldn’t (if your white and Western, as specified above) because that would be crossing the schelling fense of “no sodomy”. “No” is a lot easier for stupid people to understand than “in these specific situations, if specific criteria are passed, and you can do even more deviant stuff, but only if you have a certain psychological profile and pass even more criteria”. Continuing from above, it would make the orgasm “mean” less and your orgasm/desire mental state would not be 100% focused on family-building.

          Obviously all of this is absurd and shouldn’t be necessary (especially for smart people like ourselves that could probably handle a little sodomy here and there), but if we are going to have consistent rules for billions of westerners, then trad christian mores should be in place. I would not like to be part of a community where they are the rules, as I’d like to be part of a community on the order of tens or hundreds (which had (unwritten) mores specific to the people there) rather than billions, but if we are planning out a plausible future for western society, then i’ll bite the bullet. Trad christian sexual mores might not be the best for optimal sub-dunbar communities, but they are the kind of rules that scale to billions if you’re looking for an ordered western society.

          Gay man are much more promiscuous than straight men. Is there any other argument you’re looking for?

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Likewise, smart and already-highly-civilized people can probably properly not let sodomy get in the way of their lives. Others can’t.

          Isn’t a memeplex that prevents everyone except smart and already-highly-civilized people from reproducing, like, a neoreactionary dream come true?

          (I apologize if I’m lumping all NRx together and you aren’t into eugenics).

          EDIT: Also, OkCupid’s study (not perfect data, but I’m curious to see what you have) found that gay men and straight men are equally promiscuous except for a long tail of ultra-promiscuous gay men.
          EDIT EDIT:
          But let me put the goalposts in the right place now, lest I have to move them later: greater promiscuity of gay men would not prove that sodomy is addictive; it could be explained by e.g. men having higher desired frequency of sex than women, to name one possibility. It’s hard to say what evidence would prove your thesis, since homosexuals as a population come with a built-in sampling bias, but really the burden of proof is on you.

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        • Piano says:

          @ADifferentAnonymous

          Sodomy would be a bit too drastic. Stupid poor people don’t deserve to be addicted to things. They deserve to be virtuous and have descendants, just like the rest of us. Hopefully they’ll have fewer than non-stupid and non-poor people, though. If you want to use degeneracy as a weapon against degenerates, then join that jewish conspiracy /pol/ keeps talking about. I think that NRx is anti-“jewish conspiracy” as it’s a force of disorder, the wrong way to do paternalism.

          Edit: I wrote the above before your edits.

          Edit2: Hm. Looking above, I realize I wasn’t actually arguing for “addictiveness”, just “distraction” (ozy first mentioned “addictive”). Addictiveness, e.g. modern extra-marital sex, would imply a fast decline. Distraction would imply a slow and subtle one. If we get to the point where virtually everyone marries early in something similar to a Catholic marriage, but a small minority of people occasionally engage in sodomy because they temporarily forget how not to be bored, then we’ll worry about subtle eugenic practices to filter out those personality types.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Stupid poor people don’t deserve to be addicted to things. They deserve to be virtuous

          Addiction seems like a welcome release from the hell of virtue. Please, I’m more or less OK with reactionaries talking about just gunning down the dregs, violence is violence… but why impose virtue upon someone? Who in the nine hells could be so cruel?

          Please rest assured that no true communist would demand virtue of anyone. Hard work and sacrifice, occasionally, and… what was that phrase that Moldbug stole from some French fascist… “All together in living together!”, yeah. But at least we aspire to be reasonably free of virtue.

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        • Piano says:

          @Multiheaded
          If you’re not being sarcastic, you’re being obtuse.

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        • Xycho says:

          @Piano (Or, I suppose, any other nrx who cares to clarify): Your arguments and morals are consistent, but they very often seem to come down to something approximating ‘Order is good. Far better than freedom. Order requires rules. These are the rules we like, therefore this is the Order we like, everyone else is degenerate.’ (If this is a substantial misunderstanding, my apologies, but it seems pretty close)

          I happen to be a big fan of chaos, uncertainty and confusion, but even starting from a point where order is less than tedious, I always find myself wondering why you only seem to ever push one means of satisfying that preference.

          In particular, it seems likely that another form of orderly, stable, and productive (but by your values otherwise morally bankrupt) society is possible, in which each inhabitant (other than those afflicted by moral outrage) is happy. If this is the case,on what grounds do you reject its validity? What is it about the Traditional Christian Values model, other than its orderliness, which promotes it above all possible stable presingularity societies?

          It’s not the only scaleable model (though why in the name of anything anyone holds sacred you would want to have more people in existence than we do now I cannot fathom. At all. I can’t even model a mind which thinks that is a good thing, unless they were literally all its own children).

          It’s certainly not the only stable model imaginable.

          It’s not satisfying, unless you’re the sort of person who wants today to be like tomorrow and like yesterday, which is effectively the same as being dead. (To put that more strongly. If you want tomorrow to be about the same as today for yourself, you’d be better off dead. If you want that for everyone, we’d be better off with you dead.)

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        • Nornagest says:

          @Piano — I don’t think the biochemistry argument for NFP really holds water. There’s plenty of non-hormonal birth control: condoms, other barrier methods, non-hormonal IUDs, surgical methods, some of the candidate pathways for a “male Pill” if those pan out. You could level certain criticisms against most of these — surgery for example is something we might reasonably want to discourage as a first resort, although most surgical contraception isn’t that invasive — but there’s enough variety that I can’t think of an argument that applies to all of them, except for the appeal to nature, which is bullshit.

          Also, encouraging NFP as a widespread family planning method implies selecting against people that can do simple math and are conscientious enough to want to. This seems suboptimal given the population-level assumptions you’ve voiced elsewhere in this thread.

          @Scott — It would be really nice if there were a way to respond to threads like this without scrolling up to the last post at level N-1.

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        • Piano says:

          @Xycho
          Freedom requires order as a prerequisite. Degeneracy = increased disorder.

          Order is a prerequisite for long-lasting “chaos”. If chaos quickly destroys everything including itself, then what’s the point?

          You need a framework to do chaos “right”.

          I think people here are naturally focusing on what they can’t/wouldn’t be able to do in a trad christian society, rather than imagining the relative utopia of being able to take stable loving families granted, and then working from there.

          I’m talking of a framework that would work well for the white western world, because that’s the one I (and most of us here) will probably continue to live in. If you want to expouse other frameworks for other (or more specific) populations, then please go ahead, it’ll be a lot more interesting than the rather-general stuff I’m saying. Patchwork implies different mores in different societies; if I promoted traditional christian mores as a “universal” solution, that would be profoundly missing the point of nrx.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Freedom requires peace, which is a kind of order, but not the same kind of order as is produced by pushing homosexuals into the closet, enforcing traditional gender norms, etc. There is nothing anti-peace and anti-freedom about being open about gay sex, for example.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          @Xycho All it takes to want more humans is total utilitarian values plus positive estimated current (or future) average utility. I count myself in the group, albeit subject to persuasion on the second point; I also toy with the idea, which I don’t think I’ve seen anyone advance, of eugenics for happiness set-point.

          @Nornagest Maybe making it less convenient to reply to a thread the longer it goes on is a feature, not a bug?

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        • Nornagest says:

          Maybe making it less convenient to reply to a thread the longer it goes on is a feature, not a bug?

          I’m not a big fan of inconvenience-based features. Particularly when the implementation makes it easier to screw up threading or otherwise misbehave.

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        • Piano says:

          @Nornagest
          Yeah, I’d discourage such surgery, almost the same reason I’d discourage gender-reassignment surgery and circumcision.

          Said alterations are intensely psychologically affective. Does your wife still see you as “real man” if you semen doesn’t have any sperm in it? I don’t know if she subconsciously would, as that’s kind of the whole point. Likewise for tied tubes or implanted IUDs. Are you a real women/man if you don’t have fully functioning versions of the basic things than define manhood/womanhood? (Note that post-menopausal women still obviously count as “real” women to their husbands, but men who are impotent via lifestyle choices might not count as “real” men to their wives.)

          As for temporary barriers like condoms, the psychological effect is essentially the feeling of “why are you putting a literal barrier between you and the person you love and are building a family with?” It’s an immediate visceral representation of your desire for separation and for not growing a family. Normalization of them also suggests that it is at all appropriate to be physically intimate with someone whom you do not completely trust.

          @blacktrace
          See Moldbug’s hierarchy: http://postlibertarian.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/moldbugs-hierarchy-of-politics/
          Peace requires that someone win the culture wars. Neither side can win, because non-progressives always lose, and progressives never “finally” win as there is always another issue to tackle yada yada left singularity. The best solution (i.e. not waiting for the left singularity) is a “patchwork”, where each patch is homogeneous enough that one side in each patch wins its own culture war, and each patch can move up the hierarchy individually.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Far enough that I don’t recognize the former. (The last interaction I had with the latter was their making some pretty sick burns on you via tumblr, lol.)

          Then you’re aware of the existence of people who believe that it’s always open season on outgroup members, and that anything from doxxing attempts to “kill yourself” to outright libel is acceptable in order to purge the world of the heathens.

          The Whitecloak is an identifiable personality type. Just as there are people in the world who manipulate ingroups in order to bind their victims to them, there are people in the world who manipulate ingroups into believing that they themselves should be given power to attempt to destroy outgroup members by any means necessary — and it’s always clear in the case of the Whitecloak that the desire for jackboot LARPing precedes everything else.

          Where there’s one, there’s likely to be the other. Especially in political contexts. Easy targets are easy targets. If you haven’t seen the other failure mode, you probably just missed it.

          (In addition to all the other arguments in favor of meta-level norms against Whitecloak behavior, there’s also the argument that strong norms against it drive off Whitecloaks.)

          Multiheaded: The reason I could never be a leftist is that the majority of leftists I’ve run across remind me of Goebbels.

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        • Nornagest says:

          Does your wife still see you as “real man” if you semen doesn’t have any sperm in it?

          I don’t know, does she?

          I’ve never actually seen any data on this or anything similar (though I am, obviously, skeptical). It seems excessively convenient, though, to be living in a world where our reproductive instincts can be made an utter mockery by something as simple as prostate stimulation, but where they’re simultaneously subtle and accurate enough to be depressed by trace copper in your wife’s uterus or (say) flagella that don’t work in your spermatozoa.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          I’d say we need at least a soupcon of virtue and a dash of terror, and probably more if we want to be able to get to a lower-virtue and -terror equilibrium. (This seems relevant to multiple discussions going on here.)

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        • Matthew says:

          Does your wife still see you as “real man” if you semen doesn’t have any sperm in it? I don’t know if she subconsciously would, as that’s kind of the whole point. Likewise for tied tubes or implanted IUDs. Are you a real women/man if you don’t have fully functioning versions of the basic things than define manhood/womanhood? (Note that post-menopausal women still obviously count as “real” women to their husbands, but men who are impotent via lifestyle choices might not count as “real” men to their wives.)

          You moved the goalpost from “sterile” to “impotent”, which totally undermines your point. It’s the sex, not the procreative ability, that has the psychological impact.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Oligopsony:

          In serious mode, yes, I agree. Hell, another side of me obviously likes some kinds of virtue (although, frankly, Shevek’s and Takver’s still made me recoil instinctively! I get it, The Dispossessed is about how Shevek invents TDT, and he does frame his commitment in those terms… but unnervingly it’s dressed up in some conservative overtones that are always squicky for me.)

          I’m once again disappointed at how little nrxs seem to appreciate the best parts of Moldbug, though. I generally approve of his meta-level advocacy of terror in the virtue-terror balance, mainly because terror is so undervalued in the mainstream currently, and virtue is all too often left to blossom unchecked.

          @Nydwracu:

          I’m conflicted about your particular situation. There are two obvious magnets: getting my inquisitorial gloves on and indulging sadism, vs. Never Victim Blaming and protecting suffering friends beyond all reason and especially against “rightful authority”. Both are too strong for particular factual evidence on your character, degree and kind of oppression, etc to outweigh random fluctuations. Have some sort of abstract sympathy; please. (Unlike most people, I really do mean it.)

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        • Andy says:

          Said alterations are intensely psychologically affective. Does your wife still see you as “real man” if you semen doesn’t have any sperm in it? I don’t know if she subconsciously would, as that’s kind of the whole point. Likewise for tied tubes or implanted IUDs. Are you a real women/man if you don’t have fully functioning versions of the basic things than define manhood/womanhood? (Note that post-menopausal women still obviously count as “real” women to their husbands, but men who are impotent via lifestyle choices might not count as “real” men to their wives.)

          I said I’d stay out of this, but this hurt to read. I’ll yell from the sidelines:
          *deep breath*
          DO YOU HAVE ANY EVIDENCE FOR THESE? OR ARE THEY INTERESTING HYPOTHESES?
          Examples of evidence might include: IUDs being a contributing factor in divorces, NFP couples being less likely to experience infidelity or divorce than other Catholic couples that use contraception. Preferable something peer-reviewed.
          With that, I’m going back to writing lesbian fanfiction, have a nice day.

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        • nydwracu says:

          As for moewytchdog, apparently she posted on WDDP. (and, yes, major content warning)

          (I did not know this when I posted that last comment. Updating further toward the theory there being accurate.)

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        • blacktrance says:

          Piano:
          “Peace requires that someone win the culture wars.”

          The culture wars themselves are mostly peaceful, at least in contemporary times. Yes, people argue with each other and sometimes use harsh words, but that is still well within the realm of peace – no one gets their head bashed in.

          And even if the whole chain of (freedom requires peace requires victory in the culture war) is true, freedom doesn’t only require peace, it requires the right kind of peace and the right kind of victory in the culture war. For example, if the Nazis won the culture war and were successful at suppressing their enemies in a reasonably permanent fashion, we would have a kind of order but certainly not freedom. Freedom requires the order of peace, but other kinds of order are orthogonal or opposed to it.

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        • Piano says:

          @Matthew
          It’s sex, your knowledge and conception of procreative ability, and other things.

          @Multiheaded
          Scaring people into being virtuous doesn’t necessarily have to be a last resort, but it should be weilded with appropriate respect.

          @Andy
          They’re hypotheses/predictions.

          I have an extremely low opinion of current psychology research (see stuff like http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/knl/link_why_psychologists_food_fight_matters/), so I’m not really willing to put forth the effort to look for such evidence, which is probably what you’re looking for. My “evidence”, if you could call it that, would be things like the Catechism. Or, a gwern write-up (The closest thing, I think, is his essay on masturbation, which really has nothing to do with this.)

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @nydwracu:

          Wait, shit, I’m literally so stupid that I never made the connection… those people on twitter who all push this particular aesthetic in this particular way… are the LF diaspora? This explains a few things.

          @piano:

          Scaring people into being virtuous doesn’t necessarily have to be a last resort, but it should be weilded with appropriate respect.

          That’s the thing: just straight up scaring people into whatever specific thing you need them to do (or, more likely, not do) each time… still feels like it’s in general more respectful, less creepy, less intrusive, etc than scaring them into an active state of “virtue”. Particularly for a specific understanding of “virtue”. E.g. in some respects Diamond Age “virtue” is probably far creepier than actual historical Victorian “virtue”.

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        • Xycho says:

          @ADifferentAnonymous: Thanks. That actually helped – I hadn’t considered that the fictional utility of future people was being counted as a positive prior to their creation.

          Freedom as a thinking entity requires some sort of order, I agree, but no specific sort of order. I’m not strictly opposed to chaotic systems which self-destruct; most do, in fact. My confusion stems not from the desire for order (I’d be most upset if the universal constants were given to changing at random, for example), but from the apparent preference for one particular, very restrictive sort of order which does not allow for even moderate amounts of societal chaos.

          To give a (perhaps poor) analogy, it feels like in the process of not having people’s homes burn down you’re advocating preventing all forest fires. (This may make more sense to a pyromaniac amateur ecologist than to the average person)

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        • Piano says:

          @Multiheaded
          How does that work in a society that has reached spontaneous order, though? On the level of personal relationships, that seems overly harsh (threatening ostracism for minor social infractions could strain personal relationships more than necessary), unless you think it’d be worth it a few generations down the like where personal terror is needed less and less.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Piano

          Completely recontextualize certain sanctioned kinds of first-order social violence and explicitly legitimize this by the demand of emancipation from more indirect and systemic violence (the imposition of virtue).

          Please note that this is exactly what some SJWs are demanding of people in this moment with all the posting about how callout culture might be an overall positive compared to zero callout culture, and needs to be taken in stride despite excesses. I am reluctant to give SJWs a lot of credit on this point, as they are only loudly announcing the demand, and don’t (yet) have much institution-building praxis to show for it – but I think that the (slightly steelmanned) goal can be called novel, intelligent and worthy of examination.

          unless you think it’d be worth it a few generations down the like where personal terror is needed less and less.

          I think it makes sense to plan for the worst; unusually, thanks to Machiavelli and Marx, I believe that the “worst” possible Molochean equilibriums for leftism are still quite survivable by leftists with a hard-nosed and adaptable programme.

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        • Drake. says:

          sorry, nothing meaningful here

          @piano: fⱼᵢₘₘᵢₑₛ > 20000 Hz

          hot damn. i was under the impression that nr was a helluvalot more tame than it evidently is. thank you for disabusing me of that notion before i defended it somewhere. (i won’t elaborate for fear of making a terrible hash of everything; others here have already explained with far more clarity than i’d ever manage)

          @ozy: kudos for being civil and humorous in the face of someone who apparently hates your guts. honestly, i can’t imagine being in anything but a frothing rage after this:

          Having a public conversation about the deviance of one of the participants is itself deviant and, if the participants are respected, dangerous.

          @scott: congratulations for reaching that strange twilight zone of political writing where every movement wants to claim you for their own.

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        • Piano says:

          @Drake
          If you described nrx as striving for a teleos of “fundamental tameness, allowing blossoming of humanity”, that wouldn’t be much off the mark. This is a long term thing but doesn’t excuse being uncouth in the short term.

          This whole thing was about a hypothetical future scott, not ozy. Obviously it probably wouldn’t be reciprocated in this case, but I wouldn’t mind having ozy or a similar hyper-intelligent trans person as a friend (just haven’t been lucky enough so far, I guess). Ozy doesn’t claim to be nrx (so there’s would be no issue as with Tunney), plans on being essentially a traditional mother with a few kids (see way above), and is “just” a really interesting person, in addition to somehow maintaining a long term relationship with the most all-around awesome person I know of. Though, given everything I’ve said here, and the understandable way it’s been taken, I’d feel really awkward ever meeting ozy or scott in real life now.

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        • nydwracu says:

          those people on twitter who all push this particular aesthetic in this particular way… are the LF diaspora?

          That they are.

          What’s really fun is that there’s some other, vaguely connected SA diaspora that has connections to Gawker and Buzzfeed and so on.

          …oh wait, it’s not just ‘connections’, Mobute was a politics blogger at Gawker in addition to people like Max Read very obviously adopting the SA style.

          (There really ought to be a tool to map connections.)

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        • ozymandias says:

          Piano: Your approval fills me with shame.

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    • CaptainBooshi says:

      It seems to me that if Scott was truly on the way to being a neoreactionary, his posts on it would be of a different tone. Most often, it feels to me that he describing their beliefs as very wrong, but in a very interesting way. I think you’re conflating intellectual respect (I don’t even know if respect is the right word for what I mean here, maybe courtesy?) with agreement, which may be because so many of the people who disagree with reactionaries do so in a desultory, very disrespectful way.

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      • Piano says:

        Scott is always intellectually respectful. But, if you go read this blog from the beginning, the trajectory is clear.

        A thought, borrowing from ozy’s response to jaime: Until there is an interesting branch of post-neoreactionary thought that conflicts with neoreaction on key points, there will be nothing for Scott to be “contrarian” of. Scott might have been a crypto-reactionary for a long time already, and is just pretending not to be one for the good of some intellectual parts of the nrx movement. So I guess my prediction is that once a decently-formed, interesting non-nrx post-nrx school of thought pops up, then scott will self-identify as a “neoreactionary”.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Are there any cognitive biases that could explain this perception?

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        • Oligopsony says:

          This is my intuitive perception as well.

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        • CaptainBooshi says:

          Piano, I’ve been reading this blog since well before he started talking about neoreaction, so I can honestly say that I do not see the trajectory you talk about. As far as I can tell, his stance has not really changed since he first brought the subject up.

          I have to be honest, it seems really disrespectful to assume that Scott does not actually believe what he says, but is faking it for the intellectual good of the movement. You should take him at his word. Moreover, if you look overall at the high value Scott puts on honesty and straight-dealing, I think you have to put a very low probability on the idea that he is misrepresenting his own views on such a regular basis.

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        • CaptainBooshi says:

          Ialdaboth, I think there is at least one. If you honestly believe someone is intelligent and respect them, wouldn’t it be much more comfortable to believe that they totally agree with you, they just can’t say it out loud for some reason, rather than they have thought the matter out and come to a completely different conclusion? I’m not sure what this would be called, though. It’s the same thing that causes people to assume that those who disagree with them must be evil, just in the opposite direction.

          To clarify, I am not saying that is what is happening here. There really could be a trajectory to Scott’s posts that I am missing due to cognitive biases of my own. However, when Ialdabaoth asked their question, this was the first thing that came to my mind, so I figured I’d throw it out there.

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        • Piano says:

          @CaptainBooshi

          I have too.

          And, Scott could be totally honest with everything he says. He could still be nrxy, but just choose to critique its weak but not-fatal-for-him points. If I were him, that’s what I’d do, for maximum productivity and for minimizing the yet-useless arguments of whether or not he’s “actually” “nrx” or not. It would be sophisticated and entirely straight-dealing.

          @CaptainBooshi 2

          I’d personally prefer if scott would never actually turn neoreactionary, but just leapfrog it and lead that “intersting non-nrx post-nrx” movement himself. I don’t really care, as long as the NRx/LW/SSC people all find the truth in the end, because I think we all deserve it.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Scott tends to agree with and be interested in meta-level neoreactionary ideas (e.g. Patchwork, importance of coordination) while finding its object-level socially conservative ideas uninterestingly wrong. Take care not to treat the former as a motte and the latter as a bailey; it may seem apparent to you that one follows naturally from the other, but for a non-NRx audience that’s a point that requires support.

          So while it’s true that (amount of NRx Scott agrees with) is increasing over time, if you break it down into meta- and object-, the growth is all in the former.

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        • Andy says:

          Scott tends to agree with and be interested in meta-level neoreactionary ideas (e.g. Patchwork, importance of coordination) while finding its object-level socially conservative ideas uninterestingly wrong. Take care not to treat the former as a motte and the latter as a bailey; it may seem apparent to you that one follows naturally from the other, but for a non-NRx audience that’s a point that requires support.

          This fits with my observation, though I’ve olny been reading from “We Wrestle Not With Powers and Principalities.” I’d say that my observation is that Scott mixes NRx meta-level thinking with progressive/transhumanist goals – the ascension of Elua as the triumph as niceness, community, and his-definition-of-civilization.

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        • Piano says:

          @Andy/@ADifferentAnonymous

          If human civilization could survive without sexual restraint, or at least Sexual Restraint in Most Countries, I think that neoreactionaries would have found a way by now…

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    • I have to say, publicly speculating on and implicitly encouraging the demise of our host’s relationships is pretty low. I am NRx, and I do not approve.

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      • Andy says:

        Finally we agree on something.

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      • Piano says:

        Yeah, I felt icky writing that, and it took a while.

        Do you feel the same way about Anissimov and Tunney?

        Edit: I hope I don’t come across as encouraging it. Especially as I don’t know either scott or ozy personally, there could be, and probably is, a perfectly good reason for scott to both be with ozy and be “properly NRx” in the sense that Anissimov would “approve”.

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    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      My first googling doesn’t link to any satisfyingly concise explanations; can someone summarize the Tunney saga or link to a concise summary? I have no idea what this is about.

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      • Piano says:

        - Tunney is a man pretending to be a women, which is un-nrxy.
        – He is a googler and the former supposed leader of OWS, so the media are interested in what he has to say.
        – He recently (last year or so) discovered moldbug and has been saying nrxy things in publications and on twitter.
        – Because of his blatant disregard of actually practicing what you preach, he’s unfit to be seen as a “true” neoreactionary, much less a leader.
        – a few times in the past few months, popular publications have profiled nrx, citing tunney as a leader.
        – anissimov politely goes apeshit and understandable requests that other high-profile neoreactionaries, like bryce and land, to stop having casual, non-politics-related conversations with tunney, in public on twitter, lest it lends legitimacy to tunney being a leader of nrx, which is both untrue and could drive away good and normal and valuable people from nrx because of tunney’s past and trans status
        – nrx is profiled again, with tunney cited as a leader
        – anissimov, and others who agree with him, grumble a bit.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Tunney is a man pretending to be a women, which is un-nrxy.

          Point of clarification:

          If you are a man,
          – Being submissive (or even merely incapable of casual effective dominance) is non-NRxey
          – Wanting to be a woman (and thus legitimize your submission) is non-NRxey
          – Being a slave means trusting your well-being to a dominant NRx man.

          What is the correct choice?

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdobaoth
          Un-nrxy within the context of white western society.

          On your first point, being a follower is non non-nrxy. Most men are not at the top of every hierarchy they are part of.

          The correct choice is to “be the best man you can be”, taking into account tradition and social context…

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          What happened to Exit?

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          Then there would be a different social context.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Making this personal about my relationships crosses a line, and in the future I’d ask you not to do that.

      But since you asked: I’m not interested in becoming a neoreactionary.

      But if I were interested in becoming a neoreactionary, I hope it would take me at most six months to get people – or at least a critical mass of them – saying that reactionaries had always believed cisnormativity was a tool of the Cathedral.

      I wouldn’t even be short of material to work with. Take today’s Xenosystems: “In provisional conclusion, disapproval of some alternative mode of life is entirely irrelevant to high-level NRx goals, unless said mode of life also insists upon living with you. ”

      If I want to date Ozy, you’re doing a hell of a lot more encroaching upon / attempting to universalize my particularism than I (or Ozy) am on yours.

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      • Andy says:

        But if I were interested in becoming a neoreactionary, I hope it would take me at most six months to get people – or at least a critical mass of them – saying that reactionaries had always believed cisnormativity was a tool of the Cathedral.

        I would weep tears of joy to see this.

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      • Piano says:

        Regarding your plan, I’d already agree. Similarly, they had to popularize the concept of heterosexuality before they could popularize its opposite. That’s not very controversial in nrx. At the object-level, western nrxers argue that both concepts are incorrect and distract from understanding the sexual mores/virtues/sins that have been traditional in the West.

        Likewise, “cisnormativity” is only useful as a concept if you are pushing public acceptance of trans people.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I believe what Scott meant is the social force of cisnormativity rather than the concept of cisnormativity.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy.

          Then I don’t see how it’s an interesting thesis. Most if not all Western societies have always been cisnormative. The Cathedral is an occidental being, and it takes advantage of some Western traditions for its own benefit.

          We’re still at the “object level”. Transtopia or openly mixed societies are allowed by patchwork, which is what we discussed a while back, and is part of what Land is alluding to.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Given the force of your other rhetoric, how are those of us who would be Really Damaged by the system you’ve been espousing up until now supposed to trust that?

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        • Piano says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          I’ve been consistent: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapons/#comment-77107

          (And, if I thought you’d be Really Damaged, I wouldn’t endorse such a society.)

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        • ozymandias says:

          It’s interesting because he is dating a trans person and if he were a neoreactionary then it would probably be convenient to have other neoreactionaries not going on about how disgusting trans people are all the time.

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        • Piano says:

          If the Cathedral uses a social norm for its own benefit, that doesn’t mean that the social norm is bad or non-traditional. If you are saying that cisnormativity as a social force disproportionately benefits progs over non-progs, and the Cathedral knows this, and the Cathedral coordinates to use this knowledge against non-progs, then that’s interesting.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Yeah, that’s what he’s saying: that he’d have people saying it’s “a tool of the Cathedral [in their ongoing quest to undermine traditional values]“. It wasn’t meant to be a statement you’d agree with; I believe they were in fact meant as fightin’ words, or at least some kind of burn.

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        • Piano says:

          Well, if the fighting words are meant to be untrue and absurd, then that’s lame. But, if there was any sincerity in that thesis, and if it’s true somehow, I’d rather not wait until scott (doesn’t) become nrx to know such truth.

          And like I said above, none of this is against ozy or any trans person, just saying that being trans is un-nrx-as-probably-best-practiced-in-most-places-in-the-Western-word.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          It’s Scott, so they aren’t completely empty. I would cash it out as (first person refers to Scott in following) “Any brand of neoreaction I subscribe to would not be cisnormative; this is not dumb, and in fact the alternative is dumb (essentially via Ozy’s idea here); and I would persuade the movement of how dumb it is, so strongly that they attribute cisnormativity to their enemies and pretend they’ve always done so.”

          It’s a boast about his ability to persuade, but I think also about the correctness of his beliefs.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy/@adifferentanonymous

          Okay. I’ll argue the point then.

          “Do they really want us hanging around destabilizing their nice gender system?”

          If you can’t hand around without destabilizing the system, then monasticism and/or exit (depending on the ruling system) are your choices.

          This does not imply non-cisnormativity.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Exit is already an option for LGBT people in LGBT-negative situations today. In fact, it is far more an option now than it would be in your hypothetical utopia (didn’t you mention that Pianotopia would not allow mention that Transtopia even exists?). And people often don’t Exit. They keep going to homophobic churches, they maintain contact with parents who misgender them, they live in small towns in the South. For a lot of people, not being hurt is trumped by loyalty and love.

          So unless Pianotopia would involve a reduction in the amount of loyalty and love people have, you are still going to have LGBT and GNC people hanging around destabilizing shit.

          Monasticism is a good choice, as is a certain amount of acceptance of Boston marriages, confirmed bachelors, and affairs. But I really think you guys should be taking a page from Iran. “Some people are men in women’s bodies” is extremely compatible with gender essentialism. And you can pressure all the gnc and lgb people into transitioning too, and therefore develop a more stable patriarchy.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy

          Traditional Christian countries would discourage families from telling children about radically different societies, yes.

          The point in this sub-thread is that nrx is not non-cisnormative, I’m not sure you’re arguing against that.

          For a lot of people, not being hurt is trumped by loyalty and love.

          Loyalty and love are stabilizing. People keep the weird parts of themselves away from others’ eyes, and things are peachy. Weird people owe it to their friends and families not to let themselves be seen as weird. It’s basic courtesy. This is a good arrangement.

          Weird people who refuse to stop being weird in public and around children, should be discouraged from doing so, in increasingly threatening manners.

          The Christian West should not take pages from Iran.

          If you’re a man in a woman’s body, then tough luck, you might have to make your femininity more of a conscious thing in your life. You do not get a get-out-of-jail-free card, either through mutilation or suicide.

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        • Nick T says:

          Weird people owe it to their friends and families not to let themselves be seen as weird. It’s basic courtesy.

          I think you hold this as an emotional terminal value, and most others here don’t.

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        • ozymandias says:

          OK I think you are missing my point!

          It may be necessary for weird people to hide who they are because Stability. But that is sad, because it makes people sad to hide, and it is dangerous, because sad people are discontented with the current social order and that makes it less Stable. So therefore if you can have stability still and not hiding weird people, that is better. Therefore, you might want to be like “some people have Inherently Male Brains in lady bodies, this is further proof that Inherently Male Brains are a real thing and the system we have based on the idea of Inherently X Brains is good.” Then there are fewer sad people and the same amount of stability (or maybe even more, because fewer sad potential troublemakers!).

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    • moridinamael says:

      I’m lodging a public prediction that Scott will not at any point in the next ten years profess to “being a neorectionary” or any similar statement. (Time limit in place because it’s possible that after enough time, “neoreactionary” might mean something different, etc. etc.)

      Confidence >95%.

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    • Leonard says:

      ??

      I don’t see opposition between advocating neoreaction and one’s private life. Of course we reject the progressive celebration of deviancy. But we propound privacy and tolerance. The “neo” is there for a reason; we take key reactionary insights such as “sovereignty is conserved”, but we do our own thing with them. We cannot resurrect traditional Christianity. This means that the ruling formula of the reactionary past is lost to us. We must have a new ruling formula. (Personally, I see it coopting most of progressivism except for its rotten heart, radical egalitarianism.)

      My general impression is that “NRx” (I kind of hate that label) is far from unified in terms of what we think a modern ruling formula could be. Your NRx seems to be a rather harsher imaginary place than my imaginary neocameralism. I don’t think it is proven that any possible neoreactionary regime must contain non-negotiable chromosome-based binary sexual classification.

      Also, even if we assume for the sake of argument that NRx must contain such memes, I still don’t see how Mr. Alexander’s private life really relates to that. We are against “the personal is political”; that is refined leftism; it’s evil and awful. If he wants to propound a society that teaches X in general, and even though he is non-X, so what? The personal is personal.

      And also: speculating in this manner strikes me as rude and rather nasty.

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      • drethelin says:

        Currently NRX seems to contain both Jim style “Society is collapsing and the only way to stop it is to violently enforce my morality” and Moldbug style “Law and Order are important but you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t mess with the bottom line”. I believe the grandparent comment was made more in the spirit of the first.

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        • Piano says:

          Well, when the bottom consists of strictly maintaining certain social structures, “Do whatever you want, given this.” apparently isn’t satisfying.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Jim style “Society is collapsing and the only way to stop it is to violently enforce my morality” and Moldbug style “Law and Order are important but you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t mess with the bottom line”

          An uncharitable progressive could say that bailey, motte, etc. I’m not going to, but I want to point out that for this kind of epistemic suspicion to be applied to progressive things is a common demand around these parts.

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      • Piano says:

        It’s not private if people know what’s up.

        We can resurrect traditional Christianity regionally.

        I’ve invited alternate arguments of what the Western nations would look like under nrx, but everyone’s asking questions on my specific interpretation, so that’s what I’m talking about.

        I never mentioned chromosomes, and that would certainly not be a sane criteria of separating genders in a future western trad christian state under neocam.

        NRx doesn’t disagree with “the personal is political”. The “ultimate state” according to moldbug is “spontaneous order”, where where they are one and the same. And, monarchism intended to give non-aristocratic individuals some virtue to strive for; ancapism is usually based around the NAP, a very personal rule; etc..

        If you spend time proposing societies which you personally would not be welcome in, something is terribly wrong; you’re wasting your time and/or lying to yourself.

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        • spandrell says:

          +100

          You’ve pretty much nailed this thread. Although I disagree with the 100 billion population thing; the bottom line is that you don’t mess with nature.

          Sexual deviancy is corrosive for society, however private it might be. A neoreactionary regime may not make a point of breaking into people’s bedrooms; but it would very much make a point of making sexual deviancy against the law/

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        • ozymandias says:

          If you spend time proposing societies which you personally would not be welcome in, something is terribly wrong; you’re wasting your time and/or lying to yourself.

          The Operative: I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there… any more than there is for you. Malcolm… I’m a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

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        • Andy says:

          Sexual deviancy is corrosive for society, however private it might be. A neoreactionary regime may not make a point of breaking into people’s bedrooms; but it would very much make a point of making sexual deviancy against the law/

          All your proofs for this are essentially circular arguments and just-so stories.
          I would argue that the goal of many progressives is to create not total sexual anarchy with rape and perversion everywhere, but to substitute a different, more fair and more realistic set of rules, with better justification, than the Christian Traditionalist mores and their just-so stories.
          These are still evolving, but here’s my bets on where some of the meta-level rules we’ve been discussing in this thread will eventually stabilize.
          1) Consent is penultimate. This extends beyond simply consent to sexual activity – if someone is in a relationship, partners should be consulted and reach amicable agreement on subjects like playing around outside, contraception, and the like.
          1a) Relationships should be Exit-able, and are better exited before there are children than after.
          1b) Entities who cannot consent to a legal relationship (children, people who are completely out-of-touch with reality, animals) cannot meaningfully consent to sexual activity. There’s a bit of a grey area with children, where certain bits of childish experimentation (playing doctor etc) is alright, but the overall rule is “children should be protected from sexual abuse by adults, by force if necessary.”
          2) Lasting physical harm should be avoided, and risky activities (BDSM, fisting, etc) should only be undertaken with understanding of physical safety aspects and STI awareness in mind.
          3) While males generally like more masculine objects and activities and females generally like more traditionally feminine objects and activities, exceptions exist, and they are okay, so long as they aren’t causing provable harm. For example, men may choose to dress in drag for expressive, erotic, performance, or other purposes, and this is okay.
          4) Gender is more complicated than mere body essentialism or a simple binary, and individuals may want to physically transition for a number of reasons. This is okay, and transition should be overseen by qualified physicians.
          5) Abusive control patterns (denial of food/ transportation/medical care/identity documents, emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse, etc), should be disincentivized as strongly as possible, up to and including state force in enforcing restraining orders and the like.

          I will point out that none of this precludes traditional Christian morality as an option for individuals and families, with the caveat in 1b about Exit. If someone feels that morality is no longer something they can live with, they have to be able to leave. But if you want to go with patriarchy and natural family planning, bully for you. But don’t you dare try to prevent me and my lover from having all the safe and consensual sex we both want, unless you want to commit to kicking down my bedroom door.
          Saying that a Reactionary regime would make a point of making sexual deviancy against the law without making a point of kicking down doors would just move all the deviancy behind closed doors, and would be asking for more Stonewall Rebellions in its future. Don’t lie to me or yourself.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          The part of “No Place for Me There” that’s relevant to what I said falls under both of the undesirable situations. And you’ve never even slightly implied that you yourself wouldn’t want to live in transtopia or another society publicly accepting of trans people.

          @andy
          “…just-so stories.”
          Awesome, that’s what I’d like to hear, a non CT way of structuring the white West that doesn’t quickly devolve into sexual and actual anarchy.

          “[Some rules]”
          Please just read through the Catechism once, but some comments specifically:
          1) Not denying that one at all.
          1a) Relationships are better exited before a serious lifelong commitment has been made, which should happen before children happen. Exiting a serious contract cannot be made on a whim. You should not choose to have kids with someone with whom you are not also comfortable entering into a lifelong contract with.
          1b) Yeah, common sense.
          2) Better yet, find other outlets for your Chi. If sex becomes a game of rules, you are doing something terribly wrong, and fisting and dildos is how you get witches lusting for the Devil, so to speak.
          3) I disagree, because such public deviancy naturally causes others to call into question deeper things about the crossdresser’s character. Do in private, if your life depends on it.
          4) Gender is for words, not humans. One puberty only. No mutilation.
          5) Unintended consequences of directly involving the state in things almost definitely would be worse than any benefit.
          Stuff) Depending on the neighborhood, if it becomes obvious you’re sexually deviant, then you might want to move to a different neighborhood. Also, riots would probably be severely discouraged. A last point: love does not justify fucking with social order.

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        • Nornagest says:

          Lot of bare assertion in the air tonight.

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        • ozymandias says:

          …I am confused about what sex being a game of rules means. I mean, your game seems to have lots rules. It has rules against basically everything.

          Mm. In my specific case I am not advocating for any worlds where I wouldn’t exist, but I support the act of advocating for worlds where you don’t exist on the meta-level. It is possible to believe you are a broken product of a broken world and in an ideal world you would not exist and take actions that would lead to such an ideal world. (Indeed, in the Operative’s case, actions that he wouldn’t be able to do without being a broken product of a broken world.)

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  20. Mary says:

    I grok the value of martial glory. My heart stirs as much as anyone else’s when Achilles goes forth in his god-forged armor, shouting boasts and daring the bravest champion of the Trojans to take him on.

    But if some modern Achilles tried that today, he would be shot dead with a machine gun in about three seconds. Or bombed by a drone operated remotely from ten thousand miles away. Moloch has been far less kind to the older and grittier values than it has even to hedonism.

    I notice you seem to think death a refutation. Of all virtues, military glory is the least prone to that.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      And yet you don’t see many cavalry charges nowadays, though one assumes they would be glorious.

      The willingness to die for one’s country is installed by states (or whatever) precisely insofar as it enables the poor rubes to kill the other bastard for his – just as evolution installs the desire to fuck insofar as it enables the creation of new fuckers. Culture adjusts to shocks on vastly faster timescales than biology, of course. And so martial glory passes away, or (at least) takes new forms appropriate to new contexts.

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      • Samuel Skinner says:

        “And yet you don’t see many cavalry charges nowadays, though one assumes they would be glorious. ”

        ://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/571498/posts

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  21. If you complain that Gnon doesn’t make you free, you’ve missed the point. Obeying Gnon’s laws doesn’t make you free, it makes you sustainable. Gnon is a stand-in for reality – cold, hard, unromantic reality – and the idea that, while you may be able to avoid it for a little while, in the end, you will obey its rules or it will eat you.

    It’s not a matter of freedom. It’s a matter of not ending up a pile of half-digested Gnon dung.

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    • peterdjones says:

      Can I have sustainable plus nice?

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      • Xycho says:

        Not unless everyone else has nice. The advantage of sustainable plus mean is that it works even if other people don’t want to play the same way.

        Since people are, broadly speaking, untrustworthy vermin it pays to have a plan that doesn’t fall apart when they act that way.

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    • Mark Z. says:

      As Scott observed in the previous post, Gnon eats us all anyway.

      When anyone talks about the need to “obey the rules” of reality, I get suspicious. If it’s reality–physical law–then I don’t have a choice. I will obey because there’s no alternative, not because someone exhorted me to obey. So exactly what laws do I need to be told to obey?

      What the Gnon-worshippers believe in is a set of rules for survival–not individual survival, since in the long run we’re all dead, but the survival of “society”, by which they mean our tribe or nation-state. Gnon says “Do this, or your nation will become weak and vulnerable and eventually cease to be a nation.”

      Well, what’s that to me? The fall of Rome, the Gnonists’ second favorite cautionary tale, didn’t cause every single Roman to instantly evaporate. The human race as a whole certainly survived. Most of the apparatus of Roman society survived, including the Latin language and the Catholic Church. Hell, half of the Empire remained under a central government with its own emperor and everything. Nations and tribes, as organisms, generally want to live forever, but there’s no self-evident reason we should support their ambitions.

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      • nydwracu says:

        Nations and tribes, as organisms, generally want to live forever, but there’s no self-evident reason we should support their ambitions.

        As a member of a tribe, I want my tribe not to die out. As someone who will probably live another sixty years or so unless the shit hits the fan big time, I don’t want the shit to hit the fan big time, and I also don’t want my life to get noticeably worse over time as a result of avoidable collapse. And as someone who will have children, and whose children will have children, I want my children and their children to not get totally screwed by avoidable collapse.

        Also blah blah blah collapse would lead to severe lowering of whatever utilitarian standard you prefer, immensely worse than the Great Depression, &c., &c.

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  22. MugaSofer says:

    One misperception I saw a few times, Scott:

    People were interpreting “Malthusian” as meaning “population grows exponentially, food production grows linearly” – neither of which are true – and then arguing with that.

    Which, well, that IS what Malthus actually SAID, and it IS a common myth. But I’m pretty sure that isn’t what you meant at any point during this.

    “Human values (‘Elua’) mean hedonism and free love and namby-pamby happiness, and I’m not on board with that.”

    See, this is why I think “Elua” isn’t a great name for this. All it evokes is the Goddess of Free Love in this one oddball fantasy series.

    Elua is a stand-in for the author’s political values, designed to put conservative strawmen in their place. Not a personification of Our Side that we can all get behind.

    (Although I think some people are seriously saying they don’t hold human values … somehow. I’ll leave the explanations to them.)

    Alternate names competition! I’ll start us off:

    God. (Duh.)

    The Principle.

    Prometheus.

    Adam.

    Lucifer/Satan. *sigh*

    Baldur.

    Here’s an outside one I quite like: Anansi.

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    • Nornagest says:

      Seems to me that Gnosticism would be a good place to look. It shares a lot of basic structure with the Moloch myth: a flawed and self-defeating god of this world, who demands worship above all else and can be escaped only with the help of wisdom.

      There are some important differences, of course, but with this in mind I suggest Sophia. Jesus Christ would actually be closer to Elua’s role in most Gnostic thought, but using that name would of course be confusing.

      (Elua, incidentally, is a dude in the Kushiel books. And while you could describe him as being about free love — his commandment after all is Love as thou wilt — I don’t think that should be understood as purely sexual love. It includes it, of course, but love of knowledge, love of the land, love of country, etc. also come up. Scott’s not too far off in describing him as the god of the human utility function, insofar as humans have a utility function.)

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      • Multiheaded says:

        There are some important differences, of course, but with this in mind I suggest Sophia. Jesus Christ would actually be closer to Elua’s role in most Gnostic thought, but using that name would of course be confusing.

        Add some inspire-acausal-coordination + local-level-future-magic bits, and you get exactly VALIS. (Read the Exegesis, dude.)

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    • The Lack of a Name says:

      Another one that I think would be good: Nodens. In “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, Nodens is a god whose primary feature is “opposition to Nyarlathotep”. Nyarlathotep is the Soul and Messenger of Azathoth and of the Other Gods, both of which, conveniently, were used as analogies for Moloch. Using “Nodens” instead of Elua leaves room as to what values should be enforced, but still signifies “opposition to Moloch”.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Damn, that’s a good idea. Me, a while ago on IRC I suggested “Kor’rok” (a biotech UFAI that foomed in an alternative history 1920s and became a Lovecraftian thing, in John Dies at the End) as an “Actually Existing Leftist Singularity” we might want to launch and direct, hoping that via hobbesian reasoning it would leave tranquility and space for nuanced reasoning in its wake. This is far removed from anything like “real life”, of course, just speculations on what a communist would want to do if the universe really worked like the more hardline neoreactionaries often say it does.

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        • Blockquote says:

          Hmm, didn’t Korrok have it’s minions greet them in the form of topless women, too?

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        • The Lack of a Name says:

          Korrok’s minions were just people (male and female), and IIRC the reason that they were naked when they greeted the protagonists is because fashions in the alternate world would have been even more shocking.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      ” All it evokes is the Goddess of Free Love in this one oddball fantasy series.”

      Now, when the One God left off his grieving and turned His thoughts to them He was wroth, for He saw that their offspring would overrun the earth, and He sent the leader of his host to summon blessed Elua before His throne. But blessed Elua smiled upon the leader of the One God’s host and gave him the kiss of peace, laying wreathes of flowers about his neck, and the One God’s commander returned ashamed and empty-handed.

      Thus the One God pondered long, and sent his arch-herald with an offer of forgiveness, if blessed Elua would summon his Companions and leave the soil of mortal earth and go in peace to take his place at the right hand of Heaven.

      Blessed Elua smiled upon the arch-herald, and turned to his boon companion Cassiel, asking the loan of his dagger. Taking it, he scored the palm of his hand. Bright blood welled in his palm and fell in fat drops to the earth, and anemones bloomed. “My grandfather’s Heaven is bloodless,” Elua told the arch-herald, “And I am not. Let him offer a better place, where we may love and sing and grow as we are wont, where our children and our children’s children may join us, and I will go.” The arch-herald paused, awaiting the One God’s response. “There is no such place,” he replied.

      And for the first time in many thousands of years did Earth speak to God and say, “It may be done. Let us create it together, You and I.” This was done, and such a thing has not happened since.

      Thus was the creation of the true Terre d’Ange that lies beyond mortal perception, and blessed Elua and his Companions went willingly into it, passing not through the dark gate of death, but straightway through the bright gate.

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      • Matthew says:

        I didn’t get an answer to this when I put it in the open thread, so I’m going to ask here. After the last time Scott mentioned the Kushiel series, I went and read Kushiel’s Dart. I thought that, while it was basically excellent pornography, it was pretty trite, derivative, and formulaic as far as fantasy goes. Does the series improve as it goes, or is someone who wasn’t impressed with the first book likely to remain unimpressed with the rest of them?

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Kushiel’s Dart is boring and I have recommended that any of my friends looking on getting into the series start with Kushiel’s Avatar, which makes up in non-badness what it lacks in not-starting-in-the-middle-of-things-ness

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      • MugaSofer says:

        *looks blank*

        Yes, that’s what I said, Scott.

        Elua is a stand-in for the author’s political values – notably, but not limited to, free love – designed to put conservative Christians with the serial numbers filed off in their place.

        He is not a personification of Our Side that humanity can all get behind. It would be like using, say, a Culture Mind (I’m assuming you’ve read those.) It only works if you intend to have the audience think that by “human values” you mean “liberal values”, and I assume you don’t.

        (Uh, that’s what I said – except for the “Goddess” bit, which is of course me being an idiot. Realized my mistake *just* after my editing timer expired on that comment. Where can I put my face.)

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        • Matthew says:

          I really don’t understand why the Culture is so controversial. I mean, the overarching culture is obviously liberal, but my recollection is that if you want to go off and voluntarily create an illiberal or otherwise strange (from a Culture perspective) colony somewhere, the Minds won’t stop you (though they might insist on exit working both ways). It’s Archipelago, in other words.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          To be less gnomic:

          I feel like the metaphor is deeper than just a personification of values.

          Elua is the god who rejected Heaven (read: a universe of hedonium or some similar technically impressive but unsatisfying postsingularity outcome) in favor of demanding an afterlife where humans could still be humans. When he was told it was impossible, he joined his own power to that of Heaven (read: mathematics, philosophy) and Earth (read: science, technology) to create such a place and grant it to all humans as their birthright.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          If it helps, I keep assuming Elua is female too. I had to reread the second paragraph like five times, wondering why Elua would summon the One God’s companions.

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    • Anonymous` says:

      Adam

      Eve would be pretty fitting.

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  23. Shenpen says:

    Dear Alex,

    The biggest problem with this and the whole liberal worldview is the whole axiom that satisfaction of desire = good for you. So basically you completely ignore what a Buddhist would call the ego-illusion, the Christian would call the vanity stemming from original sin etc. that says nope, satisfying all your desires is an excellent way to suffer (from burnout and boredom, for example, or just from generally becoming spoiled and easily irritated).

    The problem is morality and politics cannot really deal with it a simple way. We cannot aim at satisfying our desires but at the same time we cannot really suppress them all the time either. Best thing is to trick the ego – to channel desires into directions that actually lead to going beyond desire and sacrificing the self.

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    • Ialdabaoth says:

      This actually helps clarify one of the problems I have with NRx’s assumptions on cultural technology.

      At least as presented by most of the posts on this blog, and by most of the NRx bloggers that I read, there seems to be an underlying assumption that pre-Enlightenment Protestant Christianity (as envisioned by 21st century upper-middle-class bloggers) got it, if not exactly right, then as right as human beings can hope to get.

      I.e., there is no system that could be converged on that could hope to perform as well as Mythic Protestant Christianity, excepting exit and upper classes get exceptions because of innate superiority and blah blah blah.

      I find this dubious for several reasons:

      1. The actual practices that inspired Mythic Protestant Christianity were not engineered; they evolved under particular constraints, using particular exaptations and spawning off particular spandrels.

      2. Many of the features of the environment that those practices evolved under are no longer available to us – resources have already been pulled out of the ground, land has already been claimed, farming practices are no longer competitive, etc.

      3. Those practices have evolved long enough that many “cheats” / “parasites” have evolved to exploit them, and restarting these practices as we believe they were a few hundred years ago in no way guarantees that they will have effective ‘immune’ responses to attacks that are 300 years ahead of them.

      4. For all its supposed faults, modern behavioral psychology and sociology are amazingly good at identifying how to get people to do things. With all this new tech in play, we should at least give our new practices a few hundred years to mature before condemning them to “worse than the 100 years’ war”.

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      • The Lack of a Name says:

        The other problem with saying “Gnon optimized for these values, therefore they are good” is that there is a very simple test of whether or not Gnon still optimizes for them: Look at which ideologies are powerful in the world.Apparently, Gnon prefers democracy to monarchy, given the number and power of democracies compared to monarchies (especially ones in which the monarch has real power). So if you want to really pick a society that will survive, you should probably not support monarchy (at least, monarchy in which the monarch is more than a figurehead).

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        • nydwracu says:

          That the USSR was able to conquer a significant part of the world doesn’t say anything about Leninism other than that a Leninist state was able to conquer a significant part of the world.

          That the USA was able to conquer a significant part of the world…

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  24. Hey! I’m the mod of /r/sorceryofthespectacle. Someone posted your article there. I’m in Michigan too! Let’s meet up. andersaamodt.com

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  25. Pingback: The science of sexual deviancy | Bloody shovel