3. Epistemic Viciousness – 6. Tolerate Tolerance

3. Epistemic Viciousness

Many martial arts gurus would totally lose in real fights.

Some of the reasons why this can happen:

  • The art, the dojo, and the sensei are seen as sacred.  “Having red toe-nails in the dojo is like going to church in a mini-skirt and halter-top…  The students of other martial arts are talked about like they are practicing the wrong religion.”
  • If your teacher takes you aside and teaches you a special move and you practice it for 20 years, you have a large emotional investment in it, and you’ll want to discard any incoming evidence against the move.
  • Incoming students don’t have much choice: a martial art can’t be learned from a book, so they have to trust the teacher.
  • Deference to famous historical masters.  “Runners think that the contemporary staff of Runner’s World know more about running than than all the ancient Greeks put together.  And it’s not just running, or other physical activities, where history is kept in its place; the same is true in any well-developed area of study.  It is not considered disrespectful for a physicist to say that Isaac Newton’s theories are false…”  (Sound familiar?)
  • “We martial artists struggle with a kind of poverty—data-poverty—which makes our beliefs hard to test… Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be fighting a hand-to-hand war you cannot check to see how much force and exactly which angle a neck-break requires…”
  • “If you can’t test the effectiveness of a technique, then it is hard to test methods for improving the technique.  Should you practice your nukite in the air, or will that just encourage you to overextend? … Our inability to test our fighting methods restricts our ability to test our training methods.”
  • “But the real problem isn’t just that we live in data poverty—I think that’s true for some perfectly respectable disciplines, including theoretical physics—the problem is that we live in poverty but continue to act as though we live in luxury, as though we can safely afford to believe whatever we’re told…”

4. Schools Proliferating Without Evidence


Remember Rorschach ink-blot tests?  It’s such an appealing argument: the patient looks at the ink-blot and says what he sees, the psychotherapist interprets their psychological state based on this.  There’ve been hundreds of experiments looking for some evidence that it actually works.  Since you’re reading this, you can guess the answer is simply “No.”  Yet the Rorschach is still in use.  It’s just such a good story that psychotherapists just can’t bring themselves to believe the vast mounds of experimental evidence saying it doesn’t work—

—which tells you what sort of field we’re dealing with here.

And the experimental results on the field as a whole are commensurate.  Yes, patients who see psychotherapists have been known to get better faster than patients who simply do nothing.  But there is no statistically discernible difference between the many schools of psychotherapy.  There is no discernible gain from years of expertise.

And there’s also no discernible difference between seeing a psychotherapist and spending the same amount of time talking to a randomly selected college professor from another field.  It’s just talking to anyone that helps you get better, apparently.

In the entire absence of the slightest experimental evidence for their effectiveness, psychotherapists became licensed by states, their testimony accepted in court, their teaching schools accredited, and their bills paid by health insurance.

You just have to love psychologists. The question is of course: “Is Lesswrong any different?”

5. Why Our Kind Can’t Cooperate

Ah, great post. There is another reason why rationalists aren’t as effective as they should be. We are too contrarian, we can’t cooperate. I often enjoy disagreeing with the majority and sometimes I feel like a stupid brainwashed cultist when I endorse more idiosyncratic/bizarre ideas backed up by only little evidence like FAI, cryonics, etc. Furthermore most of us don’t enjoy social interactions and are introverted. I’m probably an exception that proves the rule. Of course, these days I don’t enjoy most social interactions but that’s because most people are stupid or boring. In my youth I was rather extraverted. Anyway, the takeaway:

Our culture puts all the emphasis on heroic disagreement and heroic defiance, and none on heroic agreement or heroic group consensus.  We signal our superior intelligence and our membership in the nonconformist community by inventing clever objections to others’ arguments.  Perhaps that is why the atheist/libertarian/technophile/sf-fan/Silicon-Valley/programmer/early-adopter crowd stays marginalized, losing battles with less nonconformist factions in larger society.  No, we’re not losing because we’re so superior, we’re losing because our exclusively individualist traditions sabotage our ability to cooperate.

6. Tolerate Tolerance

Yudkowsky admits that he is very intolerant of others tolerance:

The danger of punishing nonpunishers is something I remind myself of, say, every time Robin Hanson points out a flaw in some academic trope and yet modestly confesses he could be wrong (and he’s not wrong).  Or every time I see Michael Vassar still considering the potential of someone who I wrote off as hopeless within 30 seconds of being introduced to them.  I have to remind myself, “Tolerate tolerance!  Don’t demand that your allies be equally extreme in their negative judgments of everything you dislike!”

Personal Bla: I’m also very intolerant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very libertarian and believe that everyone can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn’t hurt anybody without the consent of the victim.

Yep, I mean it. I just read the new and great book “The Righteous Mind” by J. Haidt. As you probably already know he postulates that there are 5 moral (now 6 to be precise) dimensions. Liberals value harm and fairness whereas conservatives also value sacredness, authority and loyalty.

There was a funny passage in which Haidt tried to show that even liberals value things like sacredness. He described the “Rotenburg Cannibal” Armin Meiwes who basically ate another guys’ penis and skin but with the consent of the guy. And then Haidt wrote that of course also liberals think that this should be illegal and Meiwes should go into jail or at least in a psychiatric ward. Sorry folks, I beg to differ. Sure, it’s pretty disgusting (although quite hilarious) and I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable smoking a joint with this guy, but he did nothing wrong and you can’t punish him for that. Srsly.

Anyway, back to the topic: I’m pretty intolerant in a social sense. Other guys have to be  intelligent, funny and interested in most of the stuff I like (which pretty much excludes 99,99999% of humankind) or else I can’t build a friendship, even a superficial one, with them. If other people don’t understand me I feel more alone than when I’m really alone. One of the most depressing things is a conversation in which you find out that the other one just can’t understand you because the inferential distances are just to great, be they of an intellectual (in the IQ or knowledge sense) or moral nature. And the bar for romantic relationships is even higher cuz the girl has to be (in addition to the above mentioned qualities) beautiful and anorexic skinny or else she would disgust me sexually. But I’m still hoping for a drug that makes me gay or rewires my sexual preferences. Or somebody just eats my dick and I would lose my need for romantic relationships altogether. Just kidding.





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12 Responses to 3. Epistemic Viciousness – 6. Tolerate Tolerance

  1. muflax says:

    Yeah, I like the Meiwes case a lot too. It’s a great demonstration that our legal systems aren’t about the Rule of Law, but certain vaguely-defined moral ideas. I mean, part of the sentence was “Störung der Totenruhe” for fuck’s sake! That’s like the clearest case of Bottom Line reasoning ever – “He deserves jail, so there just *has* to be a law he violated!”.

    Totally agree that he did nothing wrong. Also, his original posts were hilarious. I can’t find them now, but they were basically “I want to eat someone, 18-30 years old males only please.” in broken English and he got *several* replies. Rule 34 indeed.

    (Personally, I’m not entirely sure if I really care that much about consent itself, or if I just learned to care because the various positions that follow from it are just so much fun to argue. Pro-slavery, pro-cannibalism, total drug decriminalization, etc.

    Maybe it’s a kind of self-handicapping to make debates more interesting. Back in school, if I just argued some “normal” position, I’d win easily, so I started to pick more and more deranged positions, just to see if I could still get away with it. “Nobody likes that character? Gotta write my essay how he’s the best person ever!”, “Strawman oppressors? More like the good guys!”, “WW2 discussion? Stauffenberg is scum!” and so on.

    I like to think that I know when I’m just trolling and that it doesn’t shift my values, but I have some doubts.)

    • wallowinmaya says:

      Yeah, this case is illuminating and “Störung der Totenruhe” is a hilarious principle.

      ( I also heard that several guys showed up at his house, but left as soon as they realized that he was really serious 😉 )

      Haha, being contrarian is definitely fun. But in this case I really seem to honestly believe that he did nothing wrong. Sure, I’m pretty uncertain about metaethics and morality but both parties agreed and even had fun doing this stuff, so what’s the problem. I would love to see how various moral philosophers deal with this case.

      But of course I should be wary of my conscious, verbal reasoning. There are probably lots of unconscious and more “sinister” motives (like the desire to troll) that led me to my current positions.

      Btw., do you know of actual folks who wish to become slaves? 😉

      • muflax says:

        PeerInfinity over on LW e.g., though that hasn’t worked out yet.

        The BDSM scene is full with would-be slaves (much more than slave-owners, interestingly), though many of them are kinda weak slaves, in the sense that they will rebel against fairly minor “bad” treatment even if they pretend they won’t. Not as disciplined as a Roman slave, generally.

        (I don’t know any potential slaves personally. Could certainly use some. ;))

      • muflax says:

        (Somewhat TMI:

        It bothers me that the BDSM scene is mostly about sex, and only to a lesser degree actual emotional and psychological submission. (You know, the kind of thing Twilight pretends but fails to be about, but that’s another rant.)

        I’d actually love to experiment with this kind of setup (in both dom/sub roles), but I’m mostly on the asexual side of the spectrum, so the scene isn’t all that useful to me. Not that many people around who want to see what happens when you intentionally break psychological barriers, try to construct a coherent “self” that spans multiple brains or enact more efficient commitment contracts through shared authority, for example.

        Maybe I should try Meiwes’ method one day. “Looking for someone to do unsafe psychological experiments with, attempt to perform mind meld included, 18-30 years IQ 120+ only, no sex, serious replies only please.”)

    • wallowinmaya says:

      Ah, I already knew PeerInfinity. Fascinating guy.
      And now I can confidently assert that I’m also pro-slavery. Neat. 🙂

      >they will rebel against fairly minor “bad” treatment even if they pretend they won’t. Not as disciplined as a Roman slave, generally.

      Damn, I thought so.

      Re BDSM:

      Hm, I know very little about the scene cause my sexual preferences are pretty boring. At least I think so, haven’t explored it in depth.

      ETA after 5 minutes of introspection: Probably leaning more towards dominance. Don’t know if I’m influenced by the PUA-literature, i.e. maybe I’m only internalized the admonition to be dominant and now my mind thinks that it genuinely prefers to be dominant.

      ETA 2 after 15 minutes of introspection (definitely TMI): It occured to me that I was into submission as a child (age 6-10 or so, don’t remember the years 10-14, and after that I somehow lost this preference.). Don’t know how unusual that is and whether sexual preferences of this kind just change over time; my criteria for attractiveness didn’t really change all that much since then. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m repressing something…. have to think about this some more.

      >…a lesser degree actual emotional and psychological submission. (You know, the kind of thing Twilight pretends but fails to be about, but that’s another rant.

      Sorry, pretty much the only thing I know about Twilight is that it’s about vampires and werewolves (and that Kristen Stewart plays the main character in the movies).
      So, I don’t know what you exactly mean by “emotional and psychological submission” but I guess I can vaguely imagine what you have in mind.

      >…Not that many people around who want to see what happens when you intentionally break psychological barriers, try to construct a coherent “self” that spans multiple brains or enact more efficient commitment contracts through shared authority…

      Now this sounds juicy, but also quite dangerous. OTOH, taking drugs is also a bit dangerous which only makes it more fun.
      Do you know of any methods that could actually accomplish something like that? Drugs or hypnosis come to mind.
      I guess it would probably help to experiment with folks that have the right psychological traits, i.e. with strong preferences for psychological submission or dominance.

      (BTW, I don’t know if we should continue this conversation in public 🙂 )

      >Maybe I should try Meiwes’ method one day. “Looking for someone to do unsafe psychological experiments with, attempt to perform mind meld included, 18-30 years IQ 120+ only, no sex, serious replies only please.”

      Haha. But seriously, where could you post a message like this? On BDSM-, drug- or maybe meditation-forums? Are there some forums out there that are focused on mindfuck-techniques ?

      (I have to think about it some more, but I have to say that I’m kinda attracted to experiments like this. I don’t think I’m ready yet since I have to do a lot of psychedelic trips first and we don’t know each other all that well, but I keep this in mind.. 🙂 )

      • muflax says:

        Maybe I’ve spent too much time on 4chan and similar sites, but my various sexual fetishes are incredibly malleable, and that seems to be fairly common among regulars there. Maybe that’s a typical mind fallacy on my part, but people who think “I couldn’t get aroused by that” probably just haven’t tried hard enough, or haven’t been bored enough. 😉

        To me, it’s more like ice cream flavors – I like some more than others, but there isn’t any I would reject. But anyway, not too important.

        “(BTW, I don’t know if we should continue this conversation in public :-)) ”

        You may be right. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t want to be quote-mined 5 years from now when I start my mind-control cult charity for cute puppies and world peace. Regardless, I don’t have much else to say anyway.

        This is all insanely dangerous territory, and I’m nowhere near emotionally stable enough to approach it, so this is all more of a long-term plan (or fantasy) anyway. I mean, I still haven’t returned to Ayahuasca and lots of similar stuff, and I won’t attempt breaking even more before that. (Though this is all making progress, slowly.)

    • wallowinmaya says:

      “but people who think “I couldn’t get aroused by that” probably just haven’t tried hard enough, or haven’t been bored enough. 😉

      To me, it’s more like ice cream flavors – I like some more than others, but there isn’t any I would reject. But anyway, not too important.”

      To me, it’s more like bourbon vanilla ice cream. I may tolerate normal vanilla when I’m really hungry but everything else is just disgusting. 😉

      But I really, really hope you’re right; changing my sexual preferences would be freakin’ awesome. Srsly.

      “This is all insanely dangerous territory,..”


      Apropos Ayahuasca. Do you think you can get comparable effects if you only take DMT? I thought about taking some MAOIs and just eat the DMT, so that the effects are more powerful and long-lasting. Or is there something inherently special about Ayahuasca?

      (I’m kinda suspicious of “natural” substances. I once took LSA-seeds (Hawaiian Baby Woodrose) and… well, it was bad. I didn’t experience anything worthwhile, just felt horrible sick and had to puke the whole day. LSD however is way more powerful and with no physiological side effects.)

      • muflax says:

        I don’t think there’s any magic Ayahuasca juice, nah. It’s just oral DMT + MAO-I + flavor. There are some other mildly psychedelic ingredients, and the various dosage variations matter (and there are two DMT versions), but all of that is fairly minor. So basically like alcohol and the difference between beer / wine / vodka. As far as I remember, there are two Ayahuasca plateaus, and if you want to do this, start fucking slow. I’m fairly sure I didn’t cross the threshold last time (because I had shroom trips that were far more “out there”), and it still kicked my ass.

        (This is totally hypocritical advice. I’ve gone totally overboard every single time and only scaled down after I got so scared of this shit that I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I’m currently only using low dosages in general until I’m comfortable with the territory again, and don’t freak out at the slightest “oh shit, reality’s gone again, there goes the sanity…”. Then it’s back to McKenna’s “heroic dose” because fuck boredom.)

        Getting clean Ayahuasca is a major advantage, additionally. The trip will be hard enough, you don’t also want to vomit everywhere and shit yourself. If I could get pure DMT, I would use it.

        (I already have… I mean… my goldfish in a different Everett branch has already obtained through entirely legal means some new Ayahuasca and has started work on the extraction process, which is mostly hindered by that goldfish not having a decent place to trip balls for 8 hours or more. This goldfish uses plant material plus a cold-water extraction in the hope of getting as pure as possible without earning a chemistry degree, and will do several trips at varying doses because that goldfish has a completely unhealthy revenge fantasy against the plant, even though it has not actually a soul and can’t be blamed for anything.)

        (Also, hah, good old Argyreia Nervosa. I blame that stupid plant for the Ayahuasca trip. “This hallucinogenic shit is seriously underwhelming, gotta try something harder!” and so on. Don’t do that.

        Also, don’t underestimate time requirements. The first time I took shrooms, I dosed somewhat low because I wanted to know how strong my my goldfish’s batch was, and so I had about an hour of great fun. I then repeated this with a major dose (i.e. everything I got), expecting maybe 1-2 hours again. I then had the pleasure of figuring out how go to the toilet without everyone in the house knowing I was high as fuck when I couldn’t even see the door, let alone “reality”. “Fuck, I knocked *something* over, can’t operate hands right now, hope no one notices, gotta deal with that time loop first!” and so on.)

      • wallowinmaya says:

        Thanks, good to know. Uh, I somehow forgot that you have to prepare and extract it. Boy, I’m way too lazy for stuff like that. And I didn’t even find genuine Ayahuasca on Silk Road, so DMT is the clear winner.

        Yeah, the long duration sucks if you have to interact with other people. Fortunately, I’m living alone. 🙂

        And don’t worry. I don’t take this DMT-stuff lightly. There are some other substances I have to check out first in order to prepare for this.

        Incidentally, does your goldfish also experience such nasty hangovers after taking DXM? My hamster took only 150mg (my hamster weighs around 70kg – it’s a big hamster – so this was probably the first plateau) and the next day was pretty bad. And to reach the third plateau he presumably has to take three to four times as much…

        He also told me that the trip wasn’t great. It felt like a mix of weed and alcohol, and he couldn’t concentrate at all. Although he *really* enjoyed listening to music.

        I guess he’s just a pussy; but you never know. Some folks just can’t tolerate specific substances.

  2. muflax says:

    Yeah, sounds more like a tolerance problem. The dose should be 1st, maybe low 2nd plateau, right. Maybe try a different dose, maybe it just doesn’t work, dunno. Though you could try Diphenhydramine to counter some of the side-effects, but that will change the trip and won’t help your concentration at all. (DPH at a very! low dose, or you might end up in spiders-and-dead-people land. Unless that’s your thing.)

    I did get some strong side-effects the first time around, but that was a high 2nd plateau dose, and I didn’t dislike it. (Shaking’s fun if you’re dissociated.) Nowadays, I just get some mild itching and stomach cramps right during onset, but not much, and no hangover. (Though certainly an afterglow.) Dunno why that is, maybe really a different metabolism, maybe some other interaction.

    You mentioned Wellbutrin once. Does your goldfish take any SSRI or MAO-I? Could be mild serotonin syndrome, especially the hangover. SSRIs completely fuck with my meditation, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they also negatively interact with DXM. I’ve never combined them, though.

    • wallowinmaya says:

      Hm, as I said, the side-effects *during* the trip were only very minor and didn’t bother him. The next day was the problem.

      Nah, my goldfish doesn’t take any SSRIs or MAOIs. However, a few folks on Erowid mentioned that they had bad experiences with Wellbutrin and DXM, but my goldfish is a bit addicted to Wellbutrin…

      But thanks, I’ll recommend him DPH and let’s hope it was just an unhappy coincidence or something.

      • muflax says:

        Oh, ok, then I misunderstood you.

        As for concentration, I checked my notes and I think that you are probably slightly *above* the amount (at your weight) I found most productive. Might try one less capsule, see if it improves. (Though there will be less dissociation, maybe less fun.)

        But I wouldn’t be surprised if this aspect is related to different meditation progress. I don’t remember any notable cognitive improvements (only weird shit) when I first took DXM >5 years ago, but I also didn’t do any serious meditation then either, and I wouldn’t have recognized jhana. Also, Ingram et al. speculate that jhana become massively easier once you’ve made it through 1 or 2 vipassana paths. Might also be a factor.

        Dunno about the hangover though. DPH won’t do much there, I think, but you may try it anyway. (Or just use Ibuprofen and man the fuck up. ;))

        Anyway, good luck with future experimentation. 🙂

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