Monday, November 27, 2017

Unpopular Opinions

I'm joining the trend. Some of these will be unpopular to theists and seem unsurprising to atheists. Others may seem positively offensive. This is why they're compiled in this post.

There are many unpopular or dangerous ideas I'm not putting in this post because they benefit my family (or benefit lots of people) and making the public more aware would stop this. I think some of them are actively harmful and so I cannot morally put it out in public. Before you get mad, think about how many other people consciously make the same decision, but don't do you the favor of honestly telling you this. In fact think about how strange it is that we live in a world where people try to get you to have false, senseless beliefs (religion) but actively try to stop you from having true, useful beliefs (how to think critically and vote in your self-interest, financial behavior, etc.)

There are people who are fundamentally irrational, unintelligent, with poor executive function who may benefit from having false beliefs - or failing that, the more rational, intelligent, self-controlled among us would benefit from the irrational having false beliefs.

The U.S. Constitution is a remarkable document but we Americans fetishize it like the Ten Commandments, and the Supreme Court today mostly exists to create a reputable-sounding bridge between people's actual moral attitudes and practices, and what's in the document. In other words, the Supreme Court exists to make us believe we're still following this document, to give us some semblance of shared identity. I hesitate to post this because I fear that this shared identity is ending. (Do we do this with state constitutions? Do you even know what's in your state constitution?)

Almost all fiction (books, movies/TV) is a waste of time. You're learning gossip. About people who don't even exist.

All religion is a net negative, and Islam is the worst of the bunch.

All social organization, i.e. putting restrictions on your behavior and enforcing cooperation, at any level beyond close friends and family, ultimately comes down to violence, or implied threat of it, however distant. If there is another way (and I'm not convinced there is) we haven't found it yet.

Atheists don't take the question of the foundations of morality seriously enough.

Many American atheists are kind of naive and dismissive of the many negative realities of life. Bad things happen for no reason, and we don't understand why. We all suffer and none of us is really in control, and eager dismissal of others' search for meaning as they go through their own difficulties is not making us any friends. Furthermore, there are incompletenesses and conflicts and uncertainties within our own beliefs and with our intuitively sensed values, and these should trouble us. It's arrogant to the point of delusion to believe we've figured it all out.

Most atheists put far too much weight on input (knowing what's true) and not nearly enough weight on output (making good decisions.)

There's a cost for irrationality. We should hope that those of us who easily fall prey to arguments from authority give their money to relatively harmless stuff like doomsday cults instead of ISIS, anti-vaxxers or the Trump re-election campaign. Joel Osteen might actually be a rationalist and secretly wishing he could point out that he's parting fools from their money.

There's a good chance Trump will win again in 2020, because the Democrats will select someone who fits their institutional quirks but is not what middle America is looking for.

A formally fully rational person, i.e. by Von Neumann-Morgenstern rationality axioms, would be a psychopath.

Humans may not be able to organize themselves for effective collective action, or even motivate themselves, without false or incoherent beliefs to organize around.

There is no solution to full self-modification (i.e. wireheading.) Either you have an itch you can never scratch, or you quickly stop existing.

Almost all food, wine, music, and art, including what's considered the best, is the same in quality, and only attains its position due to historical accident. Coordination games, especially status-signalling coordination games, are very slow to change.

Whether or not morality is "real", there is no solution to morality, either for a fully consistent moral system that can be built into a philosophy or government, or into an AI.

Intelligence is an evolutionary dead end, and humans as such will probably never leave the solar system.

The universe is probably filled with space algae (easy to evolve) and/or the cancerous echoes of alien singularities that wiped out their native ecosystems, not with other intelligences, because intelligence is a dead-end. The alien singularities will, like all other replicators, select for fecundity and not for intelligence, and post-singularity AIs will just look like a different kind of space algae, i.e. those cancerous echoes I mentioned above. We may already find this sort of thing on comets, asteroids and low gravity moons in our own solar system. (By extension, the singularity on Earth would be an ecocide of a kind never before seen. There's no guarantee the singularity agent(s) would survive it either. The Permian-Triassic extinction will seem quaint by comparison.)

If aliens ever do visit Earth, life on Earth will end very quickly. (Or be quickly replaced.) That's especially the case for intelligent aliens, but any space algae that manages to make it here is likely very well adapted to many environments, much like Old World flora and fauna often become invasive and replace New World when they get introduced - except orders of magnitude worse in this case.

For conspiracies, I wouldn't be surprised if there's more to the JFK assassination than the public knows, but if more evidence came to light or an objective truth machine told me that no it was really Oswald, I wouldn't be surprised or care too much about that either.

There are biological differences between populations of humans. There is no reason why some of these differences could not be in behavioral and cognition-influencing genes that differ in frequency between human populations, and history may already be demonstrating these. (A way to tell the difference between a racist and non-racist promoting this view is that the non-racist might point out a group besides their own that’s more intelligent. For different reasons, it's very uncomfortable for both white nationalists and left progressives as they try to ignore the conspicuous success of East Asians in Western countries.)

There are sets of characteristics in each culture that make some cultures more likely to be happy, and some cultures more likely to replace the other cultures. Unfortunately they are often not the same set of characteristics, and if you're happy and not in the process of being replaced, a large part of the reason why is probably historical contingency that put your ancestors in some isolated non-Malthusian part of the world e.g. the modern United States.

Being middle class in the U.S. is just fine, because in fact it means you’re probably morally a better person than upper or lower class people.

In 2017 there are almost certainly already (secret) CRISPR children. Most of them are in China. In 2050 there will be large numbers of CRISPR children. This will be a net benefit to the places that allow it, but there will also be unforeseen problems.

Many chronically poor or homeless people have severe psychiatric and/or substance disorders that make them want to continue their life as they’re leading it, irrational though it may be.

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