Humans are built to be hypocritical, i.e., to give lip service and soft thought to high ideals, while mostly acting to achieve low practical personal ends. We manage this disconnect both by being stupid, and so not noticing our hypocrisy, and by being insincere, and so caring less when we notice.
There was a similar LessWrong post titled Reason as memetic immune disorder.
It might be worth observing that "expedient" in the sense it is being used here, entails a transparent assumption of a point of view from outside the system such that one can assess the trade-off between the two approaches and choose whether to be expedient or not and how much.
This transparent assumption of objectivity is endemic to "rationalist" discussion, even those that profess a belief in Bayes.
Also, we're talking about scenarios of sufficient complexity, both under-defined and subject to combinatorial explosion (just like in the real world) sufficient to interest and challenge our notions of effective heuristics.
For the *embedded* agent aiming for "success" as presently understood, but within a complex environment of uncertainty, I think the relative weighting between near-term pragmatic (less principled) actions and far-term highly principled actions, each with its associated uncertainty, combined to represent a single strategy, takes the form of a hierarchical Bayesian optimization problem.
Consider the Socratic dialogs. Socrates (the lowly) is the reasoner, the logician. The other Athenians (aristocrats) are the idealists. The clash between the two modes of thought is jarring. It is evident that Socrates represents a novelty, an unwelcome one, one for which the others are unprepared, in the realm to which he chooses to apply his mode of thinking.
are you making fun of us cryonics supporters robin?
I'd understood them as orthogonal, mainly coming into conflict because a competitive grasp of one can impoverish one's knowledge and understanding of the other. I hadn't thought of them so much in terms of long- or short-term, more as engineering-oriented vs. customer-facing. There are right and wrong ways of being expedient, and there are right and wrong ways of working for long-term goals. Expediency is in conflict with "doing things right" only to the extent that working out what's right, in some timeless sense, is taking precious time -- i.e., the perfect being the enemy of the good.
You might add Al Qaeda to the list. And those Lojban wankers. Unless I completely misunderstood Robin.
You could be Obama, and say it like this (I find it really helps if you imagine doing a stately swivel from one teleprompTer panel to another and back again, mimicking his signature gestures):
"There are those who say that humans are built to be hypocritical, that they give lip service and soft thought to high ideals, while mostly acting to achieve low practical personal ends. They say we manage this disconnect both by being stupid, and so not noticing our hypocrisy, and by being insincere, and so caring less when we notice. To them I say: have the audacity to hope for better, but also the practicality to seek to be effective in this world, imperfect as it is."
Then you could also be like Obama, and seriously consider hiring one of Robin's former grad students, on the condition he publicly repudiate all that Terror Futures nonsense, his former mentor and all his work, while joining up to implement the same idea under another name, with more clueful marketing, or maybe with no public profile at all.
From my (limited) experience with academic ethics, I have to disgree. I found the ethics department at my university to be quite at ease with the competing and contradictory ethical theories. Nor did they seem to try and unify the theories or find obscure mechanisms of consistency.
Rather, I found the effort directed at taking our knowledge of happiness (or other ends) and our moral instincts, deconstructing them, and creating tools to analyze moral questions that aren't obvious.
rob,great comment. for that alone you should start blogging.
I'm not sure this is an example of unusual conscientiousness. It could be an example of a high risk taker trying to prove his sincerity by playing the hero.
"Libertarian axiomatics"? It sounds like a minority cause.
You can't see if you don't look. Follow the first link at that post and look at tables 1 and 2.
For some reason, the people who join the 'Zero Population Growth' movement spring to mind when I read this.
Michael,I'm not sure I follow, maybe go a little less abstract and bring in an example or two?
To be conventionally seen as smart is a relatively scarce good (particularly at the microsocial level) that is competed for, not always transparently. Same with being conventionally seen as idealistic. I'm not sure that was captured in Prof. Hanson's post.
I don't see any evidence at that link indicating that far mode thinking makes people worse at math/logic. The idea of an opposition between analysis and verbal creativity doesn't ring true to me.