Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sophist Hunting: Adams on What-He-Calls-Thinking

I shall idly propose pack-hunting Sophists. I think it would be a fun group activity to hunt down and maul these puny specimens. I'm concerned about self-criticism tolerance: necessarily, the group would need to criticize each other to improve, and moderns seem waaaaaay too thin-skinned for that.

"I don’t believe our brains evolved to give us truth. Our brains evolved to create little movies in which we get to be the stars."
This is something people like me say to easily control the kind of people who regularly read Scott Adams posts and cartoons. It works like all good Sophistry, by simplifying a truth in such a way as to make the target more vulnerable to Sophistry.

This is the reason that training yourself to refute Adam's "Identity-Analogy-Reason" hierarchy is the best lifehack by far. Believing things because they are true is not only immensely powerful but immensely comfortable. Want to quit your cognitive dissonance habit? You can. It's not easy or cheap, but it's not exactly risky. Continuous effort will succeed, period.

Back down a meta level, this one works by comforting the mark who wants to give up the hard work of identifying truth. If you invest in less of it, you'll know less of it. "I'm not being lazy, the job is futile." Problem: the job is not futile. Ultimately, every Sophistry is a lie. If it weren't a lie, it would be called epistemology instead.

Adams soothes his insecurities about his own life by controlling yours, (Trump is probably similar) so he likes to spread ideas that makes controlling you easier.

"For example, Ted Cruz and Richard Dawkins believe totally different things about reality and yet both can use an ATM, shop at a store, and procreate."
Believing in true things doesn't necessarily mean rejecting everything with a fallacy in it. It merely means rejecting that as a reason to believe. Especially on personally-relevant but complex facts, a gut instinct can be more reliable than formal reasoning, especially early in your training. E.g. many studies come out condemning meat, but you just like meat a lot. In the end, it turns out the studies were wrong, and your gut (literally in this case) was right, even if you couldn't figure out how.

This one's just wrong though. Cruz and Dawkins can both use an ATM because they don't believe different things about using an ATM, so there's your lie.

"So your filter on reality need not be related to any actual underlying reality in order to keep you alive. It just has to NOT kill you."
Truth: very poor models of the world are often good enough.
Lie: not killing you is insufficient. The model also has to reproduce.
Behind the curtain: perhaps you want more out of life than successfully reproducing your mental model. You are in competition with other models for these goals, because resources are scarce. Merely not killing you is not enough to succeed.
Truth: if your conscious model is whack enough, the subconscious will assume control by manipulating you, making the model all but irrelevant. E.g. Muslims in fact eat pork and cheat at Ramadan, as long as nobody is looking. The belief-alief distinction is absolutely critical.

Notice how much  more complicated the truth is. As per Moldbug, once an idea is in there, if it wanted to come out it would have done so on its own. Once such a sophistry is planted, it's often too complicated to understand the truth instead, so the sophistry fossilizes there. If nothing else, the hobbit will lose patience with the explanation. And why wouldn't they? It's all talk, it has nothing to do with their job. Thinking is hard, and there's no ROI here.

"At the bottom of the chart we have what I call a Social Filter. That involves two or more people lying to each other in ways that society expects them to lie."
A very sophisticated piece of sophistry. It's really good, you have to admire the craftsmanship.

Virtue signalling. It makes you feel good when someone says they'll pretend your lies aren't lies.
The theory is predictive, which is grit in the gears of Adam's mind-control.
Finally, he misrepresents the theory in a plausible way. The whole point is we don't expect them to lie that way. We don't naturally assume Iowa's election was rigged until proven otherwise.

Notice the almost-Xanatos-gambit nature. If you simply believe him, it's easy. If you buy the form of the theory, it will stop being predictive, meaning you'll slump back into moist robot mode, ceding control to Adams and people like him. (Me, for instance.) Even if you realize the theory's been lied about, you might not talk about it because you, too, realize there's virtue to be signalled here. Not to mention competitive advantage if you can fool one of your competitors.

The problem it's impossible to do a full Xanatos gambit when the truth is your enemy. The truth is eternal, it literally cannot be defeated. Anyone who genuinely wants it can borrow its endless power.

"This is the dumbest and least predictive filter, but the one you see most often because of social necessity."
Truth: it is dumb, and unpredictive, and socially necessary.
Lie: this is in fact the theory at hand.

"One level up from the Social Filter is where the pundits and candidates try to live. This group takes the “high ground” and understands that all candidates are lying during a campaign."
My brain rejected this whole section as noise. How about yours?
"The next level up is the Aspirational/Imaginary Reason filter."
More noise for a bit.
"Do you believe in climate change science? How about the existence of a gender pay gap? The people on both sides are certain the science is with them."
Truth: they believe science is with them.
Lie: this means science is in fact with them.

Small digression...
"I need to add one level to the BOTTOM of the persuasion stack. That level involves arguing about the definition of a word."
Using definitions correctly is one of the most powerful tools for clarity of thought. Naturally, Adams doesn't want you using them.
Truth: When NRO decided to argue about definitions, they capitulated.
Lie: It's not because they were using definitions. It's because they were capitulating, and their style of definition use was a tell. Using definitions requires discipline. NRO is just, like, not discipline. NRO&discipline = false.

Back now, let's use definitions correctly.
"start of social lie —
Science is the best way to understand our reality. The scientific method is the best tool we have for predicting the future."
This is phrased as a forward definition "Science, which we agree what is, happens to predict and understand well." It's a backwards definition. "What predicts and understands well is science." (Also, lie: we agree what science is. Adams must know this is a lie, because it's contradicted by the fact he knows that both climate apologists and vaccine deniers think they have science on their side.)

Obviously, both sides can't be correct the science is with them. It's hardly shocking to propose that this means the science isn't with them. It's perhaps slightly shocking to propose neither side is using science. This does not mean science isn't predictive: it's predictive by definition. You can argue science is not possible if you want, but if you do I'll show you an airplane.

Basically Adams is not your friend. He sure likes to pretend, though. He'd get along well with Al-Ghazali. Spread their ideas too much and you stop being able to build airplanes.

"At the top level, we have the Moist Robot filter. This is the subject of my book, and the basis for my Trump predictions that have been accurate except for one rigged election in Iowa. (And I should have seen that coming.)"
Truth: the persuasion filter is a predictive filter.
Lie: Moist Robot is the basis for his predictions. You do not have to be mind-controlled by Adams if you don't want to be. It is less work, I'll grant.
"Under the Moist Robot filter, persuasion is everything, and free will is an illusion."
Truth: persuasion is important.
Lie: free will doesn't exist.
Free will is probably irrelevant. What matters is agency: can you jump out of that window, right now? Or can you not even make that decision? If you can make that decision, you can make any advantageous decision. If you can't make that decision, it's likely there are many, less pointless decisions you can't make either. Whether it was determined or chosen that you could or could not make these decisions is quite irrelevant to whether they would profit you or not.

The point is to comfort those who are worried about the fact being mind-controlled is the lazy way out. "No, no, don't worry, all that work is futile."
"Reason is an illusion too."
Strait-up contradiction. "I'm highly predictive but predictions are an illusion." Obvious self-serving lie. Graceless and craftless.

"Under this way of thinking, anything that CAN be corrupted already is."
Truth: if it can be corrupted, it is already.
Lie: he predicted this due to the 'reason is illusion' model.
Lie: this model naturally leads to this inference. Not to mention, if reason is an illusion you can't make inferences.