Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

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  • 43 things has a list of the most popular goals its users want to achieve

    What do these goals signal? Why is ‘Get a tattoo’ more popular than ‘have lots of children’ or ‘marry someone rich’?

    • Maybe because get a tattoo is a less-gendered goal.
      To test this theory, are more male-gendered goals such as “get laid more often” and “become rich” also less popular than ‘get a tattoo’.

  • Paulral

    Advice Please:
    I feel I have learnt much from this blog, and other, related, sources.

    Much of my thinking is counter-intuitive, or at least away from the norm.

    Should I (try to) teach this to my 4-year-old child, so that he overcomes bias?
    Or should I teach him received wisdom first, and the ‘truth’ much later?

    • I have 10 and 12 year old girls. My own approach has been to be pretty honest with stuff they ask about. When they asked about god and religious related stuff, I would tell them “some people believe X and some do not.” Generally I would tell them I wasn’t sure but tended not to believe many of the details other people believe. I have been concerned to avoid making my cynical/rationalist approach into the main story. I guess you could say I didn’t want to replace a credulous set of biases with an incredulous bias!

      Personally, I would rather that they are sweet and nice and happy than that they are some sort of intellectual mirror of me. I have found they mirror you more than not anyway, so be careful what you wish for.

      Enjoy raising your kid. In real life, we live in a safe time of great wealth, much more so than 99% of humanity ever mattered. I have been happy to work on overcoming the bias of worrying like crazy about my kids even when it will with a virtual certainty work out OK. It may suit Darwin that I worry obsessively about my gene carriers, but it doesn’t suit me (whoever I am, that’s another post.)


  • Rob

    I would love to know more about Professor Hanson’s ideas for cynic textbooks. How should such a book be organized; which thinkers and ideas should be included in it?

  • dWj

    I met a Mormon a few days ago, and, like almost all Mormons I have met, she was exaggeratedly nice. Other religions in my experience always have adherents who are nice and friendly people and others who are jerks. Is this due to a difference in theology, or culture, or something else? Presumably it is relevant that this is, at this point, part of their public image; a small minority that is likely to feel isolated is going to feel a stronger desire to emphasize its identity than it would otherwise, and I wonder whether this is simply part of the identity on which they’ve happened. (I’m also not sure there’s a clean distinction between theology and culture. If two groups with the same stated theology have different cultures, one is likely to preach to its adherents and hoped-for converts with different emphases than the other, which might be considered cultural but at some point should maybe count as a difference of theology as well.)

    • josh

      Mormonism is a fossilized version of 19th century post-Great awakening Western NY (Burned over district) Yankeedom left to develop in isolation. I honestly believe pretty much everybody group used to be this civil and polite.

    • That has been my experience with Mormons as well.

  • Robert Koslover

    I’d like to see some discussion here about how the quite-possible collapse of the euro should be expected to affect the rest of the world. We are living in very interesting (i.e., dangerous) economic times right now. So it seems to me this topic is especially worthy of attention by those of (I hope) less bias, and (I hope) more knowledge than the usual talking heads in the media. Thank you.

  • Harold

    What would happen if interactions between those who had been arrested for a crime and their lawyers had to be public?

  • josh

    Am I crazy or is everyone else? Or both?

    • Doug S.


  • Joe

    I would like to see a post or two that re-evaluates the base assumptions that the author is using and focuses on their deficiencies and/or ways that they might be lacking. for example, recently there has been a focus on near and far as the defining qualities/attributes of the way that people think about concepts. I’d like to see a post exploring the idea that this is wrong, or lacking. sort of like a self-evaluation of where these concepts have a weak correlation to reality or where more thinking needs to be done. I’m a little worried that the posts have fallen into confirmation bias with the author only talking about concepts that work with his ideas.

    anyways. It seems to me like a lot of the concepts in these posts are trying to be simplified in order to better understand them. While this is fine, even an admirable way to do thought experiments, it is important to remember that human nature and the world are too complicated to simplify that far. I guess what i’m trying to say is that putting everything into two concepts, near and far, is way WAY to simple to be feasible. They touch on something important, but they don’t show the whole picture. actually, by simplifying to only two concepts the authors ignore or mistreat a large portion of how humans think.

    im sure that many will disagree with me, and thats fine. However I would still like to see a post or two that focuses on the weaknesses in ideas and what needs to be rethought and reevaluated.

    • Buck Farmer

      Perhaps a post on what sort of plausible tests/results would falsify the near/far distinction or show it to be insufficiently powerful?

  • Microbiologist

    > I honestly believe pretty much every group used to be this civil and polite.

    Old-school politeness was partly created and sustained by the fact that men often walked around armed with guns, so it wasn’t good to go around being surly.

    I don’t know if mormon men of not-so-remote times were often armed, or mixed with armed gentiles. But I suspect so. They were in Utah, which was pretty sparse, wild, and crazy for a long time (longer than California, which developed a large population long before the Great Basin did). If large numbers of men in their millieu were armed as late as the 1930s or 1950s, that might have helped preserve an extreme gentility. Obviously being an outgroup and a pious set would also contribute to preserving these mores.

    You can see sort of the same thing in the American south. A good deal more bloodshed stemming from personal quarrels than you’d find among Yankees, and therefore more gentility as well.

    • The way you declare this thesis as fact seems bullshitty (I don’t know if it’s bullshit or not).

      In the spectrum of homogeneity/concealed arms discussion white/east asian/b-1 visa immigrant homogeneity seems to be the controlling variable for politeness according to my intuition. I don’t see what firearms adds to it.

  • Dave

    Maybe if you are civil and polite people are that way everywhere.I have noted this in Boston,New York and Minnesota. I am from the South.
    People are least civil and polite when on a boat
    ( to other boaters) or answering an unsolicited telephone plea for contributions. They are most civil and polite on a shooting range or when dealing with minorities in public.

  • Nick Tarleton

    There’s a Bay Area Overcoming Bias/Less Wrong meetup tomorrow at 7:00 at the SIAI house in Santa Clara. (See also the thread on Less Wrong.) (Sorry for the very short notice.)

  • “Net neutrality” is an area where many observers argue against market freedom – and for regulation. Google, for example:
    It seems to be an area where Robin’s 2p would be welcomed.