What does it mean to be a rat?

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Vulture
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 2:06 am

What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Vulture » Fri May 12, 2017 4:27 am

This is something that's been genuinely bugging me, so I'm curious what other people think.

Rationalists used to be Less Wrong people, right? Or, first Overcoming Bias people, and then LW people, and then maybe MIRI/CFAR people. But the social group is much bigger than that, now, and many people call themselves rats or rat-adjacents who have no interest in or connection to those original communities, who might disagree with Yudkowsky about many things or think MIRI is a waste of time or whatever. Does "rationalism", or "rationalists" have any ideological or philosophical meaning anymore? Or is it just a vaguely nerdy social club?

That might sound like a complaint, but it isn't, really; I drifted away from the center a long time ago, so I'd be out in the cold but for the fact that the center did not hold.

But I'm still curious to hear what y'all think: Do we have anything in common anymore?
Let's try to make this a place where we can choose not to assign moral valence to empirical claims.

chel_of_the_sea
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 9:39 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by chel_of_the_sea » Fri May 12, 2017 4:41 am

I mean, we might not agree about everything, but I see it more as a denominational difference than a difference in kind. To answer your main question, I think we'd all agree (at least in principle) to the Litany of Tarski ("If I am wrong, I want to know that I am wrong") and do our best, cognitive biases aside, to live up to that principle. I think we'd all agree to a general statement along the lines of "Our System I often sucks at dealing with complex situations, so I should be careful about what it tells me and get System II involved when necessary".

We might not agree exactly, but there's a pretty critical difference in culture.
:arrow: TL;DR: 27, trans woman, M.A. in math, Seattle area. Tutor by current trade, but in a bit of professional limbo (if you know anyone hiring, let me know!).

Vulture
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 2:06 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Vulture » Fri May 12, 2017 4:46 am

chel_of_the_sea wrote:
Fri May 12, 2017 4:41 am
I mean, we might not agree about everything, but I see it more as a denominational difference than a difference in kind. To answer your main question, I think we'd all agree (at least in principle) to the Litany of Tarski ("If I am wrong, I want to know that I am wrong") and do our best, cognitive biases aside, to live up to that principle. I think we'd all agree to a general statement along the lines of "Our System I often sucks at dealing with complex situations, so I should be careful about what it tells me and get System II involved when necessary".

We might not agree exactly, but there's a pretty critical difference in culture.
I suppose this does work - if only in the sense that post-rationalists don't consider themselves "rationalists"! (I guess one would say that they're "rat-adjacent")
Let's try to make this a place where we can choose not to assign moral valence to empirical claims.

house-carpenter
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri May 05, 2017 10:42 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by house-carpenter » Sat May 13, 2017 12:21 am

I don't see why anybody wouldn't agree to the Litany of Tarski, rationalist or not, so I'm not sure that works as a distinguishing property. As for the statement about Systems I and II, I think I'm more inclined to agree with its opposite. But I'd still call myself a rationalist, according to my personal definition, which is based on degrees of separation from the core of ideas established by the Less Wrong sequences. A rationalist is somebody whose thinking has been strongly influenced by the sequences, and whose subsequent thinking has been built up from those foundations. It doesn't matter what direction the building up has gone in, nor does it matter whether the thinking at a given level has been framed as an elaboration or a critique of the level below. I think it's unlikely that there's any proposition that all rationalists (given this definition) agree on the truth value of, but there is a meaningful unity of a sort that's intellectual and not just social in terms of shared ideological heritage.

dsp
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 11:24 pm

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by dsp » Sat May 13, 2017 2:02 am

house-carpenter wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 12:21 am
I don't see why anybody wouldn't agree to the Litany of Tarski, rationalist or not, so I'm not sure that works as a distinguishing property.
You would be amazed, and probably horrified, by conversations I have personally had.

chel_of_the_sea
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 9:39 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by chel_of_the_sea » Sat May 13, 2017 3:20 am

house-carpenter wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 12:21 am
I don't see why anybody wouldn't agree to the Litany of Tarski, rationalist or not, so I'm not sure that works as a distinguishing property.
Maybe this statement makes an even better flag for membership around here :P

But to respond to the rest of your post - I wasn't a LW-er and have only read a few scattered articles in the Sequences. I came in via SSC, mostly at the sheer delight of finding other people who have been thinking about the same shit that has bugged me since I was ten. Unlike a lot of the LW types, I have relatively little interest in e.g. AI risk, and tend to focus more on local optimizations than on global ones - I want to see some of the core rationalist insights fixed among the general public, for example.
:arrow: TL;DR: 27, trans woman, M.A. in math, Seattle area. Tutor by current trade, but in a bit of professional limbo (if you know anyone hiring, let me know!).

Vulture
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 2:06 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Vulture » Sat May 13, 2017 4:54 am

chel_of_the_sea wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 3:20 am
Unlike a lot of the LW types, I have relatively little interest in e.g. AI risk, and tend to focus more on local optimizations than on global ones - I want to see some of the core rationalist insights fixed among the general public, for example.
Raising the sanity waterline, one might say? :P
Let's try to make this a place where we can choose not to assign moral valence to empirical claims.

chel_of_the_sea
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 9:39 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by chel_of_the_sea » Sat May 13, 2017 5:37 am

Vulture wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 4:54 am
chel_of_the_sea wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 3:20 am
Unlike a lot of the LW types, I have relatively little interest in e.g. AI risk, and tend to focus more on local optimizations than on global ones - I want to see some of the core rationalist insights fixed among the general public, for example.
Raising the sanity waterline, one might say? :P
Yes, but as a rule the typical member of this community doesn't realize how many extremely basic-to-us mental operations are things the general public has never even seen. I had, as I never get tired of telling, an 11th grade honors student who did not know how to read - and no one had noticed.
:arrow: TL;DR: 27, trans woman, M.A. in math, Seattle area. Tutor by current trade, but in a bit of professional limbo (if you know anyone hiring, let me know!).

Vulture
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue May 02, 2017 2:06 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by Vulture » Mon May 15, 2017 3:42 pm

chel_of_the_sea wrote:
Sat May 13, 2017 5:37 am
[...A]s a rule the typical member of this community doesn't realize how many extremely basic-to-us mental operations are things the general public has never even seen.
The difficulty of understanding how somebody's internal model of the world works and what they do or do not understand is probably part of what leads me to (over(?)-)rely on rat spaces for socializing. There's something sort of relaxing about having a shared frame of reference and mental framework for understanding things - even if it's not necessarily, uh, very intellectually healthy.
Let's try to make this a place where we can choose not to assign moral valence to empirical claims.

chel_of_the_sea
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 9:39 am

Re: What does it mean to be a rat?

Post by chel_of_the_sea » Mon May 15, 2017 8:10 pm

I was really struck by that when I went to the meetup here in Seattle. It was like "oh, hey, I can actually just TALK to these people, not spend half an hour laying philosophical groundwork".
:arrow: TL;DR: 27, trans woman, M.A. in math, Seattle area. Tutor by current trade, but in a bit of professional limbo (if you know anyone hiring, let me know!).

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