Criticisms of LessWrong

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I'll cut straight to the chase: I'm interested in hearing more of your criticisms of LessWrong. I want to determine the truth-value of LessWrong's claims, and drop the parts that are wrong. I'd like to take your arguments, improve them, then publish them on LW to see the response. If you are right, people will update their beliefs. (At a minimum, I will update mine.) Or, if you'd prefer to do this yourself, go right ahead. (Dissenting posts are very well received as long as the arguments in them haven't been addressed many times already.)

As far as I can tell, your criticisms are:

  • The idea of "cached thoughts" is wrong and is not grounded in any cognitive science research
  • The "taboo your words" technique is less valuable than LessWrong posters claim it is
  • Yudkowsky's writings on words and categorization (this collection of posts) are wrong
  • In general, LessWrong is doing bad cognitive science by coming up with folk theories without sufficient supporting evidence

Can you expand these arguments for me, and do you have more?

Tetronian you're clueless22:14, 5 December 2011

I would love to talk about this, one at a time. I've not been around LW much (having only found it via this site, and only recently) so I don't have much depth with you all.

But when I read some of the posts, I start out feeling like I'm back in my Philo 101 class, where the ideas are so new, and so novel to the students (myself included back then), that we run around going "what if nothing is real" and think we are making some giant profound statements about the world. Then a year later, when we start taking it seriously we realize we weren't all the shit.

And two things you need to know, or take with a grain of salt, I'm over 40, and not been in any graduate level classes in nearly 20 years. And I strongly subscribe to the idea that there is something about what was termed "feminist philosophy" (for want of a better term) which says too much emphasis has been placed on what is called "rationality" especially in decision making, and has largely ignored the fact that the human mind works well beyond just that, including what we call "gut reaction" which is often the choice we make, and which is then PROVEN post decision (but extremely fast such that we can convince ourselves that our decisions were made rationally).

The two I'm most taken with are "cached thoughts", and the idea that you can truly create a more precise language that is somehow more useful in real world discussions. Those I'd love to talk about my view, and see where it stacks up. Could be me who changes my mind, after all. Like i said, it's possible my reaction has as much to do with the self righteous "I'm so special in my rational thinking" attitude of posts/posters, than the content. Though I suspect it's the content that most makes me shudder.

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka22:22, 5 December 2011

I'll stick cached thoughts into an essay for now, just to keep it from gumming up our conversation page? if that's ok.

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka22:23, 5 December 2011

Certainly, an essay would be great - I look forward to reading it.

I can definitely understand your reaction to LW's style and attitudes - the community can be pretty abrasive to outsiders. (I've been there for ~2 years, so I don't notice it anymore.)

I feel as though I should add some disclaimers of my own: I'm just under 20 with little experience in philosophy and cognitive science other than reading it in my free time. I largely agree with you and Nebby about the sorry state of human irrationality and about rationalization, but I subscribe to the LessWrong position that some of these biases can be avoided.

Tetronian you're clueless23:08, 5 December 2011

Cached thoughts would just be a matter of priming. Unless you have some other problem with the idea.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)17:04, 6 December 2011

That's what I figured, too, but if Godot has some evidence to suggest otherwise, I'd like to hear it.

Tetronian you're clueless21:21, 6 December 2011

Yeah, yeah yeah... ;-)

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka21:23, 6 December 2011

I tried to write this, but crashed (again). When you look at what Cached thought are, in the guy's descriptions, it's quite different from priming, unless you bend over really far with your definitions.

What I talk about in the essay I've lost (2ce) is that the statistical side of our brains, or the sense of "what that is likely to mean" or priming is a way the mind tosses out ideas. Cached thoughts, at least in the LW essay is an idea that there is one path which is associated linearly with one choice and one solution. Look at the example - remove bricks first, and the chimney falls. No one does that. No one thinks like that. No one ever hears one path and says like an automaton, "i shall inact X, cause it's what I was told to do". Brains simply don't function that way. We may be far more likely to do a particular path, especially when fed by our brains connections it's formed after living for as long as anyone's lived.

Priming is similar to the example I use often about pyramids. when you hear a word in isolation, you will respond with the most likely image that word relates to, along with flashes of other possibilities. But that's not a cashed thought - especially when you think of caching the way this guy does, as a computer person. "I have a prior copy that I will use to fill in the blank", not "I have some ideas, a host of possibilities, and a shit load of experiences that I will bring to the table when thinking about anything". Making connections "If you say pyramid, I also think of deserts, of the bible, of the sphinx, of heiroglyphs, etc. But those thoughts do not also prevent me from thinking about Woo, or South America, or failed math classes. That's to me, the central difference.

Again, maybe it's more about how he's writing, but I find his entire premise to be pushing to a solution that isn't set up by the argument. I know, quite talking about what I'm writing, and just fucking write it.  ;-)

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka21:31, 6 December 2011

Fair enough. The law of "It's more complicated than that" always applies, but I think it's a useful simplification of the idea and thought experiment without having to give people a dissertation on neural networks.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)22:09, 6 December 2011

everything is always that: "more complicated". Again, much of my reaction is likely the tenor of the article. "so stop reacting and start really thinking". HUH????

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka22:23, 6 December 2011

I think it's a good article. If you make a simplified map of memories, a "cached thought" would essentially be a chunk with either just one connective association, or with many associations but where one (or a few) associations have a huge amount of weight comparatively, i.e. stereotyped associations. It's consistent with Mednick's ideas on creativity -- if you want to read something good on that, there's Margaret Boden's The Creative Mind.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)22:36, 6 December 2011

I don't see why it would be a "feminist philosophy." Sentimentalists have been around for centuries. Fodor called Hume's Treatise of Human Nature "the founding document of cognitive science."

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)16:42, 6 December 2011

While they have been, there is an entire field of philo from the 80s and 90s when i was in school, called "feminist ethics" that was NOT about feminism, but about bringing the stereotypical "female" view to philo. As that was the last time i've really read any modern philo, its' the term I'm stuck with.

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka16:49, 6 December 2011

Ah, so it was multiculturalist guff.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)17:01, 6 December 2011

It was, and is, it's own thing. It was an is an attempt to balance the mind with the body. Which is important, I think. [1]

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka17:03, 6 December 2011

To me, what they are writing about cached thoughts is NOT priming. They are making an entire motif of something different. I've written it twice, adn lost it twice. But someday, some where, sometime... (ah, west side story).

No, i'll have my criticism up probably today or at latest, tomorrow. I honest to god took a picture of my frozen screen so i could just retype it, intead of rethink it.

5 more days till new computer arrives!!!!!!!!!!!

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka17:07, 6 December 2011

It seems fine to me -- not written like a technical psych paper of course but good enough. I guess I'll wait to see what you have to say. And now I've crossed two totally different threads of the conversation.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)17:32, 6 December 2011

There's a difference between inclusion of women and just inverting sexist tropes, and this seems to smack of the latter to some degree to me considering that a number of the figures listed were also known to peddle myths about the Lost Eden of Feminism. And that's little more than Afrocentrism for women.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)17:23, 6 December 2011

No, it's really quite different from that. I spent 3 or 4 year fighting the Golden Age for Women myth, with profs teaching Challace and the Blade.

This is really talking from very academic philo points of view, about the fact that for most of philo's history, the only way to look at ethics, the only *valued way* anyhow, was to use the mind. rationality. Kant and his great moral imperative.

Feminist ethics talks about starting with emotion, heart as a philo concept; looking at relationships and communication before title and talent. And as we were talking about in another thread, recognizing that what seems rational is often just a gut level instinct that is then "propped up" as rational. Because our minds far more often than not, leap to conclusions and then justify.

Most of the work that wasn't about specific women's issues, wound up in articles about health care, medical ethics in general, client based legal ethics (vs., law based legal ethics), as well as standard issues like abortion. The most famous abortion essay, that I can't now remember who wrote it, though i should know that like my own name, about the "man who wakes up with another human attached to him for life support" came directly out of this school of thought.

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka17:33, 6 December 2011

Ah, this chestnut.

Gimbutas has been more fashionable to cite these days than Chalice and the Blade, in my experience. I don't know how widespread such pseudo-scholarship is, but this sort of thing makes me skeptical of stuff coming out of women's studies departments when it crosses onto my "turf," i.e. cognitive science/psych and history (and OTOH, I am skeptical of sexist pseudo-psychology as you know). The pseudo-feminist Courage to Heal was probably one of the most dangerous books published "for" women in the past few decades.

I still don't see why this is specifically "feminist" ethics. Ethical philosophers going under the catch-all terms of "sentimentalists" and "moral skeptics" are nothing new. It sounds like your philosophy dep't was stuck in a positivist time warp. Even in the intro course, we did way more than Kant.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)18:03, 6 December 2011

Remember, Neb, you are going to school in teh 2000's. I was going to school in the 1980s. The idea that there was any value to women, to their contributions in scholarship made me write as TS Lastname for my entire career. Why was this "feminist ethics?" cause it wasn't being address by anyone else. Cause it was a stance women were taking to make contributions. Cause the style of thought that women felt they were contributing was largely unnoticed. So you make a movement, and hope other people jump on board. I can assume the movement has grown up far beyond "feminist ethics", but that's what I was schooled in. Where I "run to mamma" as it were.

The funny thing I see, as an "old" lady, is watching the views from teh 80s be so radically different from today's writers, women or men. When Challace and Blade came out, you were not allowed to critize it, or you were "attacking women" or some such. I thought the whole "there was once this golden age where women ruled in peace and harmony" was bunk. It didn't match what we knew about the myths; it didn't match anthropology; it didn't match human nature (women are just as bitchy and controlling and war like as men in companies where they are on top). I wrote several undergraduate papers that attacked such things, only to get blasted by the grad students grading me. bleah.

But it's changing, fast. actually listening to your subject, and not objectifying him or her or "it" in the case of religion has changed everything. But all that took your academic ancestors lots of battles against idiots to get to.  :-)

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka18:54, 6 December 2011

Sometimes young whippersnappers need things to be womynsplained to them, as it were. I don't know anyone who takes stuff like Chalice and the Blade seriously these days, outside of the sooper seekrit feminazi indoctrination camps of course.

Oh, and if you think trashing Chalice and the Blade is bad, try Courage to Heal. You're obviously just a shill for NAMBLA.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)19:05, 6 December 2011

I don't think anyone does take it seriously now, no. Once someone actually had the balls to say "just cause we are pro women, doesn't mean we have to be STUPID about it", the gloves got taken off, and that whole movement was shown for what it was.

Courage to heal was one of the single most offensive books i have ever read skimmed. She's back with the "let's all be victims, it's easier that way" mentality. I mean, at least Dwarkin explained why everything in society was rape and how that changes, and makes it a challenge to change the world, not a right to say "I must have been raped, which explains why I am the way I am". And she has no real distinction between "I might be depressed" and I have real mental illness including clinical depression.

I take it back, it wasn't the most offensive. That right belongs to the chick from teh 80's who said that you thought yourself sick, and that if you accepted and loved various parts of yourself, you would get well. Gay men had AIDS, according to her, because they hated their sexual organs or some such. sighs......

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka19:13, 6 December 2011

It was also based on zero actual research, and recycled forgeries. Now that's scholarship.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)19:22, 6 December 2011

Speaking of which, do we have an article on the goddess/ancient matriarchy nonsense? Neopaganism kind of touches on that, but it could be its own article.

Nebuchadnezzar (talk)19:38, 6 December 2011

oh, yes. we do indeed need that.  :-) Cause it is quite different from neopaganism in its own way, especially with all the "research" nonsense.

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka19:44, 6 December 2011

As fascinating as this is, I really have to point out that I read that as "Dawkins" and did the absolute mother of all double takes.

Scarlet A.pngpostate19:50, 6 December 2011

I do that all the time. Dawkins wrote about rape???

Pink mowse.pngGodot Malaka20:08, 6 December 2011

Not that I'm aware of directly, but elevatorgate and all that.

Scarlet A.pngnarchist20:42, 6 December 2011