If we had only known......

People do stupid things, even if they know that they are stupid things to do; it's a kind of predestination.

The more educated, might be less likely to make mistakes, but are also likely to get cocky overestimate their competency. If information gives us an increased ability to "predict" the future, then we use our more accurate knowledge (or decreased level of risk) to make riskier choices, like the Peltzmann effect. Maybe the stock market is a picture of real life....

I would tend to say that more knowledge is an improvement, but not when people start to think that their models (whether they be economic, cosmological or psychological) actually exist, rather than being useful approximations of reality. It becomes ludicrous, people start with nativism vs. behaviorism type wars and when things cool down you get the people in the middle of the two camps and the only thing that they have right is that they believe that the first two camps were wrong.

Maybe we make poor choices because we don't have enough information? Do people like doing stupid things or are we just wired that way?
Maybe it initially requires "too much" effort to anticipate your making mistakes and minimizing the damage caused by them.....

Most "Great Divides" are pretty average

Our fight, of [A] against [B] over [C], is but one battle in the ancient war over [F], along the great divide between [D] and [E]. Many do not realize how many of our apparently mundane conflicts are, in reality, battles in this ancient war. Today is a crucial day in this war, so we must not give up, and we must not lose hope, or someday [D] may lose [F] forever. Fight, fight!

.....as a painfully green blogger, I can't restrain myself:

First, if you have any opinions worth talking about, they will eventually develop into disagreements with others. Rhetorical belligerence may not be attractive, but at what point do you consider it a "conflict"?
People seem to derive self-worth from professing their beliefs; so if you disagree it's not simply an attack on their idea, they view it is an assault on 'their being.' Exaggerating the conflict makes it seem more important that it actually is and so gives an individual and corporate ego-boost (honestly, who cares whether you use Gentoo or Ubuntu?)
Also, people don't deal well with ambiguity; clearly defining who's "a good guy" makes you a more effective 'combatant.' Many divides are sub-issues, used as a supporting argument for a 'greater divide;' (i. e. it might be worth alienating a small number of people on your own larger-issue divide if it increases group cohesiveness in the remaining members.)

Secondly, a number of people hold beliefs (this might be too strong a term,) that they care very little about, so it's necessary to determine which divides they care about, not just what side of the divide they are on.

Thirdly, 'Intellectuals vs. Manualists' (or whatever you want to call it) isn't covered, which is strange since this is one of the oldest and most widespread "great divides."in recent history 'intellectuals' have won the propaganda war, primarily because 'Manualists' (when not allowed to eradicate intellectuals) have a very limited number of defenses, and have to confront intellectuals on their 'home-ground' to even argue with them. It's currently much cooler to be a nerd making a jock look stupid.......

1. "How is this division a key division underlying many others?"
People develop different strategies to maximize their effectiveness; it's natural that some people would think to save themselves work and that others would work to save themselves thinking........

2. "How do people acquire their sides in this conflict"?
.....you might be born a 'thinker,' or a 'worker;' your juvenile environment might reward one-type of strategy over the other, you might self-interestedly align yourself with a cause.

3. "How has this conflict lasted so long, without one side winning?"
If you take a nativist view, there is no way to change the fact that the divide exists, if you view it as cultural strategy, one could argue that diversity is (in the long run) more stable. Or you can say the the intellectuals are in fact winning, and probably will win (unless the Mayans are right, or zombies invade New York -- the center of the known universe.)

4. "How could one side finally win such an old conflict?"
Marginalizing your opponent to the point where people think that he/she/they is/are in the minority, is just about the only way to win one of these "epic struggles between good and evil." I hesitate to mention the Overton window, but cultural drift is the only way to win. (Rhetoric does not require factual accuracy; it's not actually necessary that they really be in the minority-----though it's really stupid to try this tactic against a majority-----if you are trying to bring back the worship of Bacchus, don't appeal to the idea that "everybody's doing it.")

5. Why is one side better than the other in an absolute sense?
Intelligence saves people work. Though this does not seem to be effective for people who are unable, unwilling or haven't been trained to think.

6. Why can’t those folks be persuaded that their side is bad?
Because the only people that will try to persuade them are on the other side, so in order to 'switch' beliefs, they must be convinced of 2 things, not merely that they are wrong.
Or people like to feel better than everyone else, they enjoy being entrenched jingoists, there are probably some hard-wired preferences.

7. Why can’t peaceful compromise replace conflict?
Maybe it can and has. We certainly don't burn heretics any more (in many parts of the world at least.)
Of course we could also be at the furthest reach of the pendulum's swing, and we wouldn't know.

Procrastination and Perfectionism/ flawed time valuation

Procrastination as a side effect of perfectionism on Meteuphoric, she has a good poing but
I don't know that it is perfectionism, so much as a failure to realize that your idealization of the future will not affect the "future present," and your effectiveness and the amount of effort required will not change by letting time pass.

"Driven" people probably have the opposite problem; they idealize how much they can do and plan a minimum amount of time and then put forth maximum effort, which often involves extra time ----- so they are always busy.
Or they are organized and work hard, but they attribute value to things that aren't necessarily more important to most people because of their own peculiarities i.e. they find that they are tired from sorting all of their canned goods alphabetically and then everything seems like really hard work......

this is all probably inaccurate, or at least a drastic oversimplification.....but I'm all for chunking.

Jobs vs. "being nice"

Meteuphoric's Are Meaningful Careers Cover Stories post, started me thinking......

Maybe it's as simple as the fact that jobs make more consistent demands on time, if it's just a useful hobby people might question your commitment.

But I think it ignores a tendency to underrate altruistic jobs. I would think that this is because altruistic jobs demand a lot of time, rather than flashes of brilliant insight. If you are an average intelligent and caring person, your intelligence might be used better in a "non-altruistic" job, and if your job isn't altruistic enough for your taste (or for appearances) you can spend the rest of your time 'doing good.' People will then admire you for your efficient prioritization and for your kindness.
If you make the conscious decision to enter into an altruistic job, there is the possibility that you will be classed with people who are in altruistic jobs precisely because the jobs don't require flashes of brilliant insight; then (even if your hobby involves splitting atoms) no one will care about your hobby, because you will be hanging out with people at work that can't split atoms and the folks at the Domestic Atomic Association are probably not as nice as you are.

If you are a successful software consultant and you read to disadvantaged students on the weekend, people think that you are a great guy; if you are a social worker that writes Java applets, chances are people think that you're some chick that couldn't get a private sector job (note the heavy-handed use of subliminal linguistic gender stereotypes.)

How can "poverty" invest in prosperity?

Merci Beaucoup (pronounced correctly thanks to Obama) to the French; the food is wonderful, but besides imparting fabulous technique and lots of butter to African cuisine, they didn't do much else for Louisiana. (Not that we have either, mind)

Driving through Louisiana, is kind of like driving through the beginning of Omega Man.
The dilapidated parking lots, lack of road signs and/or people able to give directions to "foreigners"
There's the charred sugar-cane stubble, with the petrochemical and fertilizer factories to add an slightly piquant industrial aroma, that successfully detracts from any natural beauty that the countryside might have. The wealth that flows (or used to flow) through New Orleans does not seem to affect it much; though the appearance of living in the 1860's does make it an attractive tourist destination. But why is it stuck? An enormous amount of wealth flows (or used to flow) through New Orleans, perhaps there is the difficulty of resource-rich entities being unable to create sustainable economic growth (in that large amounts of resources go through New Orleans because it is there not because there are necessarily buyers.

France did not have the infrastructure that Britain and later Germany (or Prussia etc.) had, they had a larger population and there was not as much incentive to create labor-saving devices. Is it contagious or something?

Does Louisiana suffer from being ignored? Or is it like Baltimore a place who's time has past, but can't adjust?

Besides the annual manic outburst the state seems to live in perpetual depression. Poverty seems to work like that, depressed people can't be bothered to make to try making themselves happy. It's probably just that it is more difficult to invest in prosperity if you are poor (somewhat obviously.)

The infrastructure can be solved, cultural changes take more time, and can't exactly be legislated (though they do try in California................)

in addition: recognize I must, that word order is often essential in english, "how poverty can invest in prosperity," implies that instead of being a pontificating fool, I actually have suggestions on how to improve the living standards of Louisianans. So I decided to rewrite history, as a result this post is dated wrong.
(by the way, I have no hard feelings after the HOURS spent driving along the left bank of the Mississippi, after not paying $20+ to enter a ramshackle plantation in the middle of NOWHERE, and getting lost because of an AWFUL map----I just feel a particular pity for the people that have to live there.)

Pseudonyms: Pros and cons

The worst part about a pseudonym is that you can't take credit for your work -- which is only a problem if you happen to be incredibly vain. Another downside is that using a pseudonym in contemporary American society appears eccentric, and possibly a little paranoid.

A resoundingly obvious pro is that you are relatively sheltered from the fallout of absurd and offensive remarks. Go anonymity!
People will immediately understand that you are this kind of person however, so remarks by: "twizzle.twinkle.twilight.girl" will pretty much always be ignored.

Another thing that I have considered: given the well-know bias towards subconsciously favoring "pretty people;" if you are of average or above average appearance you should have a picture of yourself. Unless of course, you are prone to making embarrassing, potentially career-destroying statements (see previous paragraph.)
So if you use a pseudonym, do people assume that you are ugly?

Though if you depend on your pseudonym to guarantee absolute anonymity and if you broadcast a lot of information about yourself, then anyone can find out who you are and you are just another idiot on the Internet (who has probably chosen a ridiculous name from science fiction, and then mangled it.)
The good thing about making up a name (especially if your given name is common;) by making it ridiculous enough, you are the only person that comes up on a google search (of course no one bothers to google it, but that's beside the point.)

If we really wanted to live forever...

Contrary to what my previous post might indicate, I don't take a particular stand on the ethics/practicability of cryogenics. It was just a slow day, and I had nothing better to do than badmouth transhumanists.

So, this being a similarly slow day: The Virtuosi had a post on cryopreservation, and the best bet for successful cryogenics still seems to me to be vitrification. But a 90% success rate is not very good if you are freezing a whole person; not many people would be happy with only 9/10 of their brain cells (though there are a few where I don't think it would matter...)
You need to try things on a smaller scale and then extend the concept, but with the speed that's required (the heat equation holds doesn't it? no idea, that's what I get for writing blog posts rather than taking freshman physics) how do you avoid damaging a small, but essential part of so large a whole?

Much better to try and hibernate through World War III. I think it is far more practical , there have been real successes with small mammals. I always thought chemically-induced suspended-animation was a better bet; and of course that's the definition of someone who's right: "someone who agrees with me."

Anyway this post was more about the logistics and practical limits of cryopreservation, than the social effects (not that I'm qualified, but I still feel that people don't cover as much of that as they should.)

Homo Hypocriticus (why lie?)

Robin Hanson's homo hypocriticus has something missing---- I don't know what to call it, but it's missing.....
False but non-detrimental-signaling (just rolls off the tongue doesn't it?)
Self-evaluation bias, perhaps? If someone believes they are a good person and attributes their actions to an altruistic motive, this may not be accurate, but is consistent with their other delusions (everyone being smarter, more attractive and a better astrophysicist than average.)

 Maybe, some people do X because of Y (i.e. are "genuine,") then because other people want to be trusted (Z) they do Y.  If the Z'rs don't break faith on other matters, their usurpation of the title X'rs might not be believed, but it may increase trust (which in turn could improve the outcome of interactions, and feeds into the "X  fantasy")

Such lies may not increase productivity or societal stability, but they are easier to "maintain" than the truth, perhaps that partially explains the pervasive errors in determining causality.

The US Human Rights Record of 2009

I can't decide whether to laugh or cry; I'll settle for conflicted amusement.
"In the United States, civil and political rights of citizens are severely restricted and violated by the government."
I think this speaks for itself.
".....workers' economic, social and cultural rights cannot be guaranteed."" Workers' rights were seriously violated."
So the lack of involuntary associations has really hurt the American workforce? 
"Racial discrimination is still a chronic problem of the United States." They're right on this point; we should stop calling everyone different from us "Yangguizi."

"We hereby advise the US government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field."
This reminds me of everything I both love and hate about China.

I lived in China when I was very small; and don't remember much, but I've heard many stories. Though it was in the western part of China; I would hope that the coasts would be a bit more civil and cosmopolitan, though the bureaucrats don't seem to be.

Unlike most people you'd understand this post

Appealing to people's vanity is a time-honored method of salesmanship.
Trying appeal to people of average or below average intelligence, or "smart people" who are terribly insecure will cover a lot of ground. In fact the only sections of society to which it does not appeal, are the small portions of secure, very intelligent people or weirdly disconnected unassimilated mavericks1.

While not exactly subtle, this propaganda is effective. It's also useful even when trying to sell an idea, instead of a product. Why else would anyone endure lengthy pseudo-intellectual books, lectures or articles, except for the fact that they have been told that's what smart people do:
"Smart people don't enjoy television, smart people don't like video-games, smart people like James Joyce." The more suggestible (not necessarily the same as 'less intelligent') accept these arguments and act as if having "intellectual tastes" increases your native intelligence. I do not find this particularly bothersome, unless I have to interact with someone who actually believes that reading Salinger or Margaret Sanger makes them smarter than the rest.
Truly "smart people" seem to be able to wring out a lot of intellectual goodness from the most barren and unappealing mental spaces, and are able successfully interact with less intelligent people; being an "intellectual" however guarantees neither of these abilities and seems to preclude them.

1. For the record: I hate the term maverick, because true mavericks are almost universally hated, so slightly daring and endearing term "maverick" is never used to describe them. I also really hate notes and references

in addition, for contrarians like myself there is: http://youarenotsosmart.wordpress.com/

Nerd Jokes!

"I thought d(jerk)/dt was yank."
from nerdy_yo_mamma_jokes

I love that someone did these, although the black hole and gravitational jokes lack imagination.
I just might start using reddit because of this. I love reading other people's jokes, it's sort of a Lamarckian theory of intelligence: 'I can understand intelligent people, hence I acquire their intelligence.. ' (edit 2011: this is probably the same reason I watch Big Bang)
I feel so witty... I can use big words like 'delicatessen' and know what they mean.

Additionally, I can't think where I heard it, but this probably qualifies as the worst nerd joke ever: "Q: What's the value of a contour integral around Western Europe? A: Zero, because all the Poles are in Eastern Europe."
(tell me if you can find anything in worse taste that won't get this blog blocked.)


I'm not philosophically opposed to freezing and then reanimating my gray, frozen corpse in a thousand years; and using advanced nano-slush to preserve my already fragile brain isn't particularly repulsive to me, but the logic of cryogenics escapes me.

In a possible future where it is actually possible to revive a pseudo-mummy, how would our beneficent post-cestors decide who to revive? More people would be put in the "deep-freeze" every year, the demand to be revived would always exceed the ability to do so. Even in an utopian society where kindness is perfectly subsidized, they would be forced to decide who would live. How would we repay the investment of a vastly more advanced society? By our labor, intellectual or physical.
Why are we even assuming that such an amazingly advanced society would want our worthless 21st century brains? They would already know that the standardized tests of intelligence left out a lot of essential information; and even people with exceptional native intelligence might be irretrievably damaged by our primitive educational processes.

At best the revived would be parochial curiosities:
"Zoo York" snapshot of the year 2010 with authentic inhabitants."
"Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons and Manhattanites."

We would not be highly valued members of an advanced society; saying that we are signing ourselves up for slavery might be a bit strong, but I can see no instance in history where disoriented, unacculturated and vulnerable people are not taken advantage of.

La Siesta

Because of the Industrial Revolution, western rates of productivity are pretty high.  But what about when rest of the world catches up? How are we going to eke out that last smidgen of production per person?

Napping, napping is the answer! Unfortunately, we don't take naps as a rule; and surely we all want to be more productive. Maybe napping just doesn't look productive, or a manic caffeine-orgy followed by it's inevitable depressive torpor feels more industrious.
Maybe we enjoy living in the clouds, simply floating, coasting on the magnificent pollution of the 19th century.

Now that we are assured that napping does in fact mean that we are resting our magnificent midbrains, instead of meaning that we are lazy louts------- the spanish will take over the world (again.)
The Japanese sometimes have special rooms for workers to nap in, and they seem to be doing okay. (haven't fallen of the edge of the earth, or become a third world nation or anything.)

And Gauss said ..... Let there be lies

I like statistics as much as the next person.
The study of probabilities is useful (and really cool,) but there's one problem; we allow uneducated people to read. Worse (and more harmfully) we actually allow them to own televisions; in this way an effective assault of meaningless numbers can be expertly aimed at uninformed bystanders.
Not that being ignorant of advanced statistics makes someone stupid. In this situation it's more like collateral damage: people buried under the numerological fallout from incendiary discussions; initiated in all likelihood by more "experts." (I'm not sure how many undergraduates you need to have bludgeoned into submission to qualify as an "expert.")

Leaving the actual manipulation and misrepresentation of data alone, there is still a bias towards agreement with previous results. It's difficult to adjust to new information.
There are people who just go along with the (possibly skewed) facts that they learned in college 10, 20 or 30+ years ago (I know and love people like this.)
Or possibly it's because even statisticians do not understand their own work.

So the same people who have (or have not) been educated (correctly or incorrectly,) are also allowed to vote; about subjects they may not know about, with a didactic method that is terribly confusing if you happen to have picked up your only smatterings on Rush Limbaugh, The Colbert Report, and NBC news. Actually some professors are just as confusing. I take it all back, Rush.

I'm pretty sure the only solution is to create a dictatorial intelligentsia, headed by the disembodied spirit of John Stuart Mill.

I have the right to disagree

Overcoming Bias on how it's free hearing not free speech. I disagree, but obviously my forum is.. limited. Illustrating my point.

Free speech is not simply a status-marker; the only thing it actually "marks" is the citizens' membership of an enlightened society.
The ability to speak does not mean that you are guaranteed listeners (that would be the status-marker in my opinion,) but it does provide some protection from the tyranny of the majority. "I should be able to speak my mind, even if no one in the world wants to listen to me." Perhaps, this explains the popularity of blogs.
It's perfectly rational to want to explain how you are right; even if your reasons for believing you are right are irrational. Sensible people realize that: if they are allowed to express themselves, others should be too. Otherwise, the whole construct wouldn't last very long.
Insert appropriate non-Voltaire quote. Even if the idealist rhetoric doesn't directly map onto reality, the end result is generally good.

Not everything is an absurd human power-signalling method.