Statements I Support or Oppose
Michael Anissimov :: Jan. 2004
Statements I support:
1. Humanity is moving towards consensus on the most fundamental aspects of
morality; there is likelihood that altruistic morality will rise to become a
human-universal philosophy, or nearly so. This may require the direct (but consensual)
physical modification of human minds in order to cancel out our genetic predispositions
towards selfishness and rationalization. The "principles of free choice"
may rise to become the primary architectual principles of this universe.
2. Much of what is stereotypically referred to as "wisdom" is not a genuinely improved standard of decisionmaking, but unfortunate Machiavellian conditioning stretching over the course of decades.
3. Much of the energy of organizations, businesses, and governments is squandered on office politics and water cooler gossip. Most stated goals are pursued to impress others and gather prospective mates, rather than for the goal itself.
4. The tradition of "political correctness" often sweeps human differences under the rug, resulting in a denial of any shared human nature. This illusion divides us rather than serving to unify.
5. Nothing is black and white - everything is shades of grey - but that doesn't mean that all greys are the same shade.
6. Morality is an (presently) enduring feature of the world, like the laws of biology, electromagnetic interactions, and the average height of human dwellings. Although it's less concrete than something like physics, this is to be expected, and the fact that morality isn't exactly quantifiable doesn't mean "it's all relative".
7. Even though pleasing everyone all the time may not be possible, pleasing as many people as possible is desirable.
8. Always take care to distinguish between the map (model) and the territory (the model's external referents.) We shouldn't create maps for social/political reasons, but to gain a better knowledge of the territory. A worthwhile mailing list post on this topic exists.
9. Humans preferentially delegate attention to passion-arousing, "fun" political arguments. Political arguments are okay, but they are often stated on the basis of underlying factual, nonpolitical premises that require cut-and-dried analysis to uncover the truth or falsity of. The analysis of the premises, which can be "boring" and apolitical, is sometimes known as "science", and it's pretty darn relevant to every sector of human activity.
10. For every correct answer to any given problem, there will be thousands of answers that are blatantly wrong, hundreds that sound right but are incorrect, and dozens of better ways of deriving the answer that an expert would see immediately. (I believe Eliezer Yudkowsky originally came up with this one.)
11. It's usually far easier to discredit a preexisting idea than to create a credible idea from scratch. Instead of throwing your emotion into tearing down ideas (which is too easy), point out potential avenues that would allow incremental progress.
12. One of the greatest lessons history has taught us is that lessons from history transplanted to the present can only help us so much.
13. Humanity is moving towards unification as a species; we will continue to develop and enjoy our uniqueness while avoiding the creation of differences that tend to polarize human groups. Eventually, humanity will either destroy itself or end up as a single, benevolent nation. Those are the two main attractors. We won't remain in the intermediary space for long.
14. Television is the opiate of the masses. (This one isn't necessarily too relevant, but definitely worth considering.)
Statements I oppose:
1. People getting hurt is funny.
2. "It's a dog eat dog world", or "every man for himself."
3. Death and taxes will always be inevitable.
4. The gap between the haves and the have nots is increasing.
5. As long as there are intelligent beings, there will always be fighting and war.
6. As long as there are intelligent beings, there will always be stress, anger, and sadness.
7. The thoughts I'm thinking right now are part of my mind, which is non-physical; no one will ever be able to look at the shape of my brain and find out which thoughts I'm thinking.
8. If the world is deterministic, then free will in the sense important to me is impossible.
9. Philosophy has not progressed since Plato; all modern-day philosophical discussions are simply rehashings of the same old issues that have been around for centuries. (Thanks to my friend Daniel Radetsky for reminding me about this one.)
10. There is a 100% chance that factory farmed animals cannot feel pain, and even if they do, removing that pain will not become a priority until a) all human problems are solved or b) never.
11. The most fundamental level of analysis is necessarily the most relevant one. (The lowest level of analysis of any given problem, which is always bits and atoms, is very computationally costly if you're trying to model a macro-level object or system.)
12. Upbringing has a greater influence on the formation of a child than the influence of innate genetics or interaction with peer groups.
Be wary of these human tendencies - without just using them as ammo to get your way in arguments:
1. Tendency towards overconfidence. (Overconfidence was initially evolved as
a technique to intimidate opponents, but it leads to thinking contradictory
to the truth.)
2. Tendency towards defeatism. (Initially evolved as a bail-out technique, or a signal to invoke pity.)
3. Tendency towards competition. (Humans are always trying to prove some sort of point by competing with each other. This evolved as a way of ascending up a pecking order, or to attract mates. It has become more and more obsolete through the ages.)
4. Tendency to overestimate conjunctive probabilities. (If event X, Y, and Z all need to happen in conjunction for a prediction to be proved true, then humans will tend to irrationally overestimate the probabilities of X, Y, and Z all happening at once. Cognitive scientists Daniel Kahneman and Amon Tversky have analyzed this human tendency in detail.)
5. Tendency to honor sunk costs. (If you're investing energy/time/money into something without cost-effectiveness, the quantity of energy/time/money you put into it in the first place should not be a consideration when you are trying to decide whether to delegate your energy/time/money into another something. Sunk costs are gone, don't make matters worse by pouring resources into strategies that don't work. Also analyzed by psychologists Kahneman and Tversky.)
6. Need to add more of the "heuristics and biases" in here, but there are a lot, and not all of them are easy to explain.