I mostly post this because people rarely click the links in my sidebar (blogroll etc.) and I think some of you may be missing out on good stuff. So I decided to post a few quotes from more or less random posts at Katja Grace’ blog here, to give you a sense of why I’ve put a link to her blog on my blogroll. Some of her ideas I consider plain weird, but there’s a lot of good stuff too:
i. “people are uncomfortable comparing their friends and partners with others they might have had instead, and in the absence of comparison most people think those they love are pretty good. You rarely hear ‘there are likely about half a billion wives I would like more than you out there, but you are the one I’m arbitrarily in love with’.
This all makes evolutionary sense; blind loyalty is better than ongoing evaluation from an ally, at least towards you. So you evaluate people accurately for a bit, then commit to the good ones. Notice that here the motivation for not comparing appears to come from the benefits of committing to people without regret, rather than the difficulty of figuring out what a nice bottom is worth next to a good career.” (from Experiences are friends)
ii. “When we don’t have concepts for things, we can hardly think about them. When I learn new concepts, I often notice them applying everywhere where before I didn’t even notice anything missing. […] We don’t invent our own concepts very much; we mostly inherit them from our society. How many concepts that you have did you invent? If it is very few, this is probably not just because society has already found all the useful concepts and given them to you. If you lived a thousand years ago, my guess is that society wouldn’t have given you concepts like ‘subjective probability’ or ‘tragedy of the commons’ or ‘computation’. And no matter how nerdy you are, you probably wouldn’t have made them up. After all, a whole bunch of people did live then, and they didn’t make them up. […]
Hypothesis: We have relatively few concepts for the world inside our heads, because it’s not very shared, and we get concepts mostly from other people. This means it is hard to think about the world inside our heads, and so also hard to remember. (This is all relative to the world outside our heads, and relative to how we would be if we could show one another inside our heads more).” (from Are we infantile introspectors)
iii. “Why are aphorisms cynical more often than books are for instance?
A good single sentence saying can’t require background evidencing or further explanation. It must be instantly recognizable as true. It also needs to be news to the listener. Most single sentences that people can immediately verify as true they already believe. What’s left? One big answer is things that people don’t believe or think about much for lack of wanting to, despite evidence. Drawing attention to these is called cynicism.” (from Why do aphorisms and cynicism go together?)
iv. “Imagine you were aiming to appear to care about something or somebody else. One way you could do it is to work out exactly what would help them and do that. What could possibly look like you care about them more? The first problem here is that onlookers might not know what is really helpful, especially if you had to do any work to figure it out. So they won’t recognize your actions as being it. You would do better to do something that most people believe would be helpful than something that you know would.
Another problem arises if everyone knows the thing is helpful to others, but they also know that you could do the same thing to help yourself. From their perspective, you are probably helping yourself. Here you can solve both problems at once by just doing something that credibly doesn’t help you. People will assume there is some purpose, and if it’s not self serving it’s probably for someone else. You can demonstrate care better with actions which are obviously useless to you and plausibly useful to someone else than actions plausibly useful to you and obviously useful to someone else. Fasting to raise awareness for the hungry looks more sincere than eating to raise money for the hungry.” (from Being useless to express care)
v. “One way to be more satisfied with life is to lower your standards. People seem pretty hesitant to do this most of the time. And fair enough: who wants to be satisfied at the expense of everything else they care about? Happiness isn’t that great.
If only it were possible to feel like you had lower standards without actually settling for the very easiest career that would pay for your tent, noodles, and blow up companion.
I wonder if this is a significant reason people drink alcohol.
It seems that when people drink they lower their standards for many things. For what to laugh at, for what’s worth saying, and for who it’s worth saying to, for instance. They enthusiastically eat things they would find barely passable sober, and are thrilled by activities they usually find beneath them.
Yet this standard lowering is constrained in time, so as long as you don’t become permanently intoxicated you can spend most of your days having high standards. And since there was a specific identifiable reason for your low standards (even if purely social), it need not contaminate your image as a discerning person. At least not as much.
Is this an actual common point of drinking, or just a side effect? I don’t know – I don’t drink enough, and apparently this isn’t considered a good topic of party conversation.” (from Drinking to lower standards?)
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