The tonic, again

by on November 13, 2008 at 6:21 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

Best to clear your mind and emotions of group loyalties and resentments
and ask, if this belief gave me no pleasure of rebelling against some
folks or identifying with others, if it was just me alone choosing,
would my best evidence suggest that this belief is true?  All else is the road to rationality ruin.

I don’t have to tell you who that is.

Mike November 13, 2008 at 7:57 am

My best evidence is that 55 cents out of every $1.00 I make, on the margin, is taken out of my pocket. I don’t like it – and I don’t care if others agree with me or others think I am an idiot (the latter is likely). And if folks want to make me like it, I’d prefer to have those funds spent on things other than Monorails (cue the old Simpson’s episode).

I wonder how many “beliefs” resemble ones where Robin’s questions even apply? My feeling is that we are biased upward in beliefs about the nature of people’s beliefs depending on rebellion or identification, and we tend to ignore all of the beliefs people have otherwise (e.g. I believe eating lots of Tim Hortons donuts will make me larger than if I eat lots of carrots) … gosh, but I think that this question / belief can use a dose of tonic!

a student of economics November 13, 2008 at 8:25 am

People typically do better when they’re passionate about their work, and that includes truth-seeking.

Marvin Minsky at MIT once said that he doesn’t try to shut down all irrational emotions (or “agents” as he calls them). Instead, he co-opts them. For instance, when he hits a roadblock in a research project, he imagines his archrival working on the same problem and nearing a solution. Suddenly, he feels extra motivation to solve the problem himself.

Our legal system is based on the premise that two teams competing against each other from opposite sides do a better job discovering the “truth” than a single, dispassionate and wholly “objective” team.

Likewise, it’s clear than many of the participants in academic seminars get extra motivation from working to find a flaw in the presenter’s story.

In each case, the emotions can be abused and safeguards are needed, but it’s not so clear that shutting them down altogether would help society find “truth” any faster. If Robin is going to take all the fun out of truth-seeking, a lot of people might choose to watch TV instead.

Zamfir November 13, 2008 at 8:37 am

Robin Hanson doesn’t strike me, from his web presence, as a particularly non-partisan, objective person. Business gurus have the same problem: if their advice is good, why are they not rich businessmen?

talboito November 13, 2008 at 9:30 am

“What’s popular isn’t always right and what’s right isn’t always popular”? Who knew?

Oh, brave rational truth teller. Next will you enlighten us that “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”?

kebko November 13, 2008 at 10:21 am

Man, tough crowd here. Discovering Robin Hanson has been a revelation for me. His ideas have changed the way I view the world, and made me much less judgmental of people who I disagree with, because he has clarified for me all of the non-logical pressures operating on them (us). Especially during political season, I have found his ideas very useful. The scientific method & capitalism are similarly inhuman systems. They also happen to be the primary sources of our progress. Discovering Robin Hanson has helped me understand that this is simply a fact of nature & it is only natural for progress & truth to be threatening to people (us).

igor November 13, 2008 at 11:21 am

I guess I am a Hanson fan. The guy is amazing, full of energy and sound ideas.
I’m glad he is whacking people about their ears with those ideas.
Let’s hope he’ll never grow up!

StreetWalker November 13, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Robin Hanson’s unique background allows him to be the Sir Isaiah Berlin for the 21st century. Combining values pluralism, rationality, extremely sound scientific knowledge, the tools of social science, and a fearlessness in following the truth where it goes positions him to experimentally be the most significant philosopher of our lifetimes. And to do it with his famous dry, ironic wit.

His thinking revolutionizes so many areas, addresses many timeless problems. As an example, consider how his ideas approach a completely new understanding of the issue of free will.

If we were wise, we would open a fund to buy him out of all his classes for the next 18 months so he could just write the book. There is nothing “inhuman” about Hansonism – he notes humanity’s limitations sharply, but with a core tenderness.

kurt9 November 13, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Robin Hanson is correct, of course. But like many other libertarian transhumanists like him, he is completely unaccepting of the reality that most people choose group or tribal identity over the “objective” truth. This is human nature for like 95% of the human race. His ranting and raving against it will not change this reality one iota.

Like Hanson, I am also a libertarian transhumanist. The difference is that I lived outside the U.S. and the West for 10 years and have, therefor, come to accept the tribal nature of most human beings. I accept the fact that 95% of the human race have no desire to become the kind of “objective” transhumanists that expects us all to become. Human beings are what they are, warts and all.

Contrary to what Hanson and others believe, transhumanism is perfectly compatible with the “1000-state” sovereignty model tribal world that is to come. We simply become one of the tribes, freely trading and interacting with the rest of the world to suit our rational self-interest. Maybe we might even end up with our own version of Singapore or Hong Kong (I do expect the city-state to come back into vogue in the post continental nation-state world to come), perhaps even the anchor port to the space elevator (if it ever gets built).

As I said, transhumanism is perfectly compatible with tribalism.

Robert Scarth November 13, 2008 at 3:02 pm

“like many other libertarian transhumanists like him, he is completely unaccepting of the reality that most people choose group or tribal identity over the “objective” truth. This is human nature for like 95% of the human race. His ranting and raving against it will not change this reality one iota.”

This is one of life’s greatest tragic ironies: the world decides what’s true, not us; and one of those truths is that most people don’t accept that the world decides what’s true, and this fact determines much of what happens in our social and political lives.

J Thomas November 15, 2008 at 6:07 am

My best evidence is that 55 cents out of every $1.00 I make, on the margin, is taken out of my pocket.

Are you an employee?

I think we should get rid of the current employment tax, which taxes employees, and replace it with an employment tax which taxes employers instead. Collect the same amount of money, but take *nothing* out of employees’ pockets!

Most voters would be much happier that way. Their taxes would be far smaller. Many of them would not have to file income tax at all.

The W-2 taxes you pay are not really a tax on you anyway. You never saw that money, it’s money your employer already sends to the IRS. He just calls it your money as a courtesy. You are a middleman, not really needed in the taxation process at all.

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