Roundup from the Southern Fortress

1. I’ve called in the hard-assed rationalist community into an e-mail debate I’ve been having about revelation and epistemic virtue, viz., my latest post on Overcoming Bias, in which I ask if the Pope is Catholic and come up with the less obvious answer. Key issues: do revealed truths count as reasons? If not, how do we account for the fact that people may claim opposing revealed truths? How does someone who thinks he has a revealed truth incorporate information about other people’s beliefs that they have different revealed truths?

2. My friend Nina has a lovely and heartwarming story of thanksgiving family tradition.

3. It’s good to be briefly back in LA. Zankou chicken is the best in the world (have the tarna wrap). I finally got a haircut — and can unequivocally recommend Shorty’s on Fairfax in WeHo. Ask for Dee — I love my haircut so much I gave her a ten dollar tip. And, for a native who develops strong connections to places as do I, there’s nothing like driving down the 101, descending into LA, seeing the first of the iconic streets fly by on the freeway sign (Mulholland is first — one of these days when I have the time, I’m going to jump off the freeway early and cruise on top of the hills). As the Chili Peppers put it, the city she loves me. (That song captures my mood perfectly, lonely and roaming the streets, taking comfort in the city that moves with my personal rhythm. It’s also just about the only truly good 90’s alt-rock song.)

4. Mike’s repeated posts about Obama’s “alpha” status remind me that I’ve been meaning to suppress my “what the fucking fuck?” reaction and initiate a blogospheric investigation into the whole damn thing. No, not Obama. But this whole “alpha,” “game,” “pick-up artists” business. Questions to be answered: “are there really such things as alpha males?” “does being, or pretending to be, an alpha male bring about sexual success?” and “is it ethical?” The hypothesized answers are no, no, and irrelevant in light of the previous two answers, respectively, for the following two major reasons: 1) If there were such a thing as “natural” (i.e., genetic) “alphas,” and if Roissy is right that such people have 10 times the number of sexual partners as others, then that’s such a huge fitness advantage that it would require a huge major explanation as to why 90% of the men in the world aren’t natural “alphas.” And 2) nine-tenths of that stuff, as far as I’ve seen, purports to be based on neuro-linguistic programming, which, as far as I can tell, is totally scientifically vapid.

5. Speaking of “alphas,” everyone else on the internet is linking to this and so shall I.

6. Brian Weatherson offers some interesting thoughts on the finite iterated prisoners’ dilemma. I have a paper lying around on this (backwards-induction focused) that I’ve been thinking of working up into something presentable if I ever have time, so I always like to keep track of this sort of thing.

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5 Responses to “Roundup from the Southern Fortress”

  1. Mike Says:

    what the fucking fuck

    I literally LOL’ed at that. My definition of alpha goes beyond Roissy’s. I was using that term long the PUA/game movement, and only saw his blog after Amber or someone linked to it. I even wrote a paper in philosophic called, “Political Correct Language and the Destruction of the Alpha Male” persona taking the position that being forced to use PC language made a man less manly. Now, laugh your ass off all you want……. But my line of argument wasn’t much different from the line of argument used my feminists. There is a relationship between language and thought. Or at least that’s what I thought when I was into Vygotsky.

    Anyhow…….. Unless you view people as something other than entities who fall into order, how can you deny alpha (fe)males exist? Someone has to lead these people. Those who do are alphas. (Though it’s not a chicke and egg thing; we can discuss over beers.)

    if Roissy is right that such people have 10 times the number of sexual partners as others

    He only focuses on game. I look at alpha in other ways. There is more to life than sex – as great as it is – and anyone who has had power will attest to. Some can be an alpha in some sense (business or military) but not in others (getting action).

    purports to be based on neuro-linguistic programming, which, as far as I can tell, is totally scientifically vapid.

    NLP hasn’t been validated yet. Sometimes, though, things not validated by science – or even things that were invalidated – are in fact valid.

    Look at the history of anabolic steroids. Until the past decade or two, scientists and doctors were saying that steroids didn’t “work.” I shit you not.

    As an epistemological aside: Just because science hasn’t proven something doesn’t mean it’s not true. Of course, it we take that too far, we can get into all sorts of horse shit like astrology, etc.

    Some things, like NLP, can be studied and observed. The scientific community hasn’t seem too interested in seriously studying it. That might say more about science than about NLP, though.

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Hmm… I tend to think the world is a little too complicated to be divided into “leaders” and “followers.”

    Take, well, me as an example. For some reason, I find myself ordinarily completely unable to get others to do what I tell them, no matter how good the argument or the use of persuasive technique and oratorical skill. Pretty much the easiest way to win a bet about someone’s behavior is to bet against their doing whatever I want them to do. So obviously, I’m not “alpha.”

    Yet I’m hardly a person who falls into line, or a follower. I’m independent (downright stubborn, even), self-directed, pretty much fearless, and I tend to get my way by sheer force of determination + ability eventually. So, obviously, I’m not “beta.”

    What am I?

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    (As an aside, what is UP with that Obama/blackberry thing? The man will soon command the best communication apparatus the world has ever known — if he needs to, he will be able to receive super-encrypted messages on the MOON, instantly. Why on earth doesn’t he just wait until inauguration day then ring up the brigader general in charge of DARPA or the NSA or something and say “bitch, I want something like a blackberry, but really secure, and I want it to be able to sing lullabies to my children, and I want it by noon tomorrow?”)

  4. Mike Says:

    Hmm… I tend to think the world is a little too complicated to be divided into “leaders” and “followers.”

    Paul, there are two kinds of people in this world – those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t! ;)

    But, yeah, I agree. But, in general, we are leading someone and following someone in some context. I’m sure you have your intellectual heroes, or whatever. And people are e-mailing you for advice all the time……. so, yeah, you have people looking up to you, too.

    What am I?

    West Point has a saying, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

    Some people live off the grid.

    But to the extent you are neither a beast or god, you’ll fall into line somewhere. In some contexts, I imagine you’re alpha. I assume you ripped some shit up as a law student, establishing dominance. Speaking out in class is just another form of an ape beating its chest.

    I imagine in some, you’re a beta. “Like OMG your book was so awesome and I’m going to read it really carefully ten times.”

    People assume that alpha or beta is normative rather than positive. I am beta in some contexts – and completely and totally content to be beta. If a chick wanted to pay all of my bills, make all of the money, and manage the money, leaving me to do nothing but hit the gym and read books….. Color. Me. Beta. And proud of it!

    I find myself ordinarily completely unable to get others to do what I tell them, no matter how good the argument or the use of persuasive technique and oratorical skill.

    Keep practicing.

    Of course, people often think, “If they won’t do what I want them to do, my arguments might not be tight enough!”

    Aren’t you a Humean or at least quasi-? Much of getting people to do shit has to do with emotion. Discover their hidden desires and use those to motivate them.

    That’s what game teaches. Too many quality guys say, “Well, look at me, on paper, I’m the shit! Why can’t I meet girls?!” I mean, that’s why there is game. All these guys with good personalities and good jobs couldn’t have a relationship. It made no sense. So people started thinking, “Well, let’s break this down and make it make sense.” To do that, they looked beyond the typical logical arguments. Which brings me to a meta-point…….

    This whole discussion is somewhat amusing……… You blog at Overcoming Bias. We have discussed cognitive bias and heuristics. Well, that’s game.

    Game says: People often don’t “think” the way they claim to “think.” They are more emotional than they realize, and “think” in terms of heuristics. So let’s take advantage of that!

    Saying there is no game is like saying either that cognitive bias don’t exist; or if they exist, they can’t be exploited. Yet you’d never either argument.

    So if you think of game as just flipping the script, using thinking errors to your advantage, then…. well……. you begin to see why game does exist.

    Thus the actually controversial issue is whether using game is ethical. Should we really using cognitive bias to our advantage? Shouldn’t we fight sloppy thinking? Etc.

    So I think there’s a lot to discuss there.

    Oh, and NLP is based in large part on reprogramming one’s self. There has not been a lot of science there. BUT…… There is some recent literature showing that one can “reprogram” herself. I’ve been meaning to blog about interpersonal neurobiology:
    http://www.cbd.ucla.edu/part%20faclt/bios/Siegel.pdf

    So science is catching up with NLP rather than exposing it as garbage.

  5. Uncommon Priors » Some men have game. Others have The Game. I … have game theory. Advantage: Gowder. Says:

    [...] with my plan to initiate a blogospheric investigation into the existence of “game” (item 4), I have engaged in discussions with a friend who will remain nameless (not that I think he’d [...]

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