Archive for June, 2011

Original, Original, Original, Original

I’ve been trying to take some of the important bits of some of the ideas I’ve generally come to understand, and to get them expressed in some way that other people would want to view or hear them, and to learn them. “Rationality Matters” is my first serious attempt – it has its good points, and its points that I could have done better, both of which I’m learning from for the future.

Oh, yes, and L. Freakin’ Neil Smith, noted libertarian SF authour, plugged it on his newsletter.


I’m becoming more committed to producing a third Rationality Matters comic, and to make it the best as I can at what I want it to do: to persuade furries and libertarians to adopt LessWrong/Sequences ideas and become more rational.

I’m trying to use the idea from HP:MoR’s chapter 25 about how to go about doing that… and, as part of that, I’m trying to figure out which particular LessWrong ideas to promote – things that are more specific than rah-rahing rationality as ‘how to win’. Page-space is limited, and I doubt I’ll make a fourth “Rationality Matters” in the same format, so… which LessWrong thoughts would you most like to see mentioned? Which ones do you feel are most valuable, or important, or at the very least are easy to compress into a comprehensible soundbite?


After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’ — Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

Sometimes, when discussing philosophy (or anything based on philosophy), the person you’re talking with will defend their point by taking refuge under the shield of the undisprovable – that there’s no way to prove the universe is real, or that you’re real, or that there’s any point in doing anything at all.

I’ve started using a shorthand argument against such positions, which I call the ‘Stick Test’. I simply start (virtually) thwapping them repeatedly on the head with a stick, until such time as they can offer a reason for me to stop, with the minor caveat that the reasoning they give can’t be self-annulling. For example, if their argument is that it is impossible to judge another culture’s activities as being ‘evil’, I offer up the idea that it’s part of my culture to repeatedly thwap people I disagree with on the head with a stick, and thus they have no justification for telling me to stop.

I’ve both had and inspired a few chuckles with this method… but I’m now throwing it in the fire – is it a *good* technique for pointing out that sort of flaw, or is it a poor tool which should be replaced by some *better* one? Assuming that it’s not totally useless, what can be done to apply it most effectively?


Having read through the Sequences, Methods of Rationality, related blogs and books and so on, and having changed my mind a few times on at least a few ideas that I’d been fairly sure about… I feel that I finally have enough of a grasp of the basics of LessWrong-style rationality to start trying to introduce it to other people. And while the Sequences form a good set of basics, getting someone interested enough in rationality to start reading them is a step of its own… and, as best as I can tell, one that needs to be custom-tailored to a particular audience.

For my first attempt, I’ve focused on two online subcultures which I’m at least somewhat familiar with: furries and a certain subset of libertarians. For example, a large number of furry fans are fairly easy to please – give them a short comic to read involving a cute anthropomorphic animal, throw in a bit of sex appeal and maybe a message that’s compatible with tolerance of all people, and that comic will be happily read by a lot of them. Trying to avoid “politics is the mind-killer” derailment, the community of libertarians I’m aiming for tend to have their own quirks about what attracts their attention.

The result I came up with was the creation of Rationality Matters, a couple of comics pages that introduce some LW-type thoughts in an audience-compatible fashion without beating the readers’ heads with them. I’ve already received some positive feedback from members of both target groups, indicating that I’ve accomplished my goal with at least a few individuals… so now I’m posting the link here, for whatever feedback I can get that could improve the existing pages (mainly for the text, since re-doing the art at this stage is impractical), and to make any future pages (should I decide to create them) better than I would have made them without such help.

(And yes, I try to follow Crocker’s Rules.)


I just dug up a couple of sidestories from the webcomic 21st Century Fox that I’ve never forgotten – even though I’d forgotten exactly which space-based furry webcomic had run them, or when. Anyone who’s actually reading this journal – just read ’em. And if you want to comment here, or tell anyone else to read ’em, go right ahead.

First story setup:

Second story setup:


In case anyone’s wondering – I’m not trying to take away the pageviews of any artist by posting the pics of DataPacRat here. I’ve simply seen too many pages controlled by other people, such as artists’ galleries, taken offline over the years. So if I want to make sure these pictures stay online, the only way I can do that is by maintaining my own online copies. (That’s why I run my own website of archived material, too.)