Many martial arts gurus would totally lose in real fights.
Some of the reasons why this can happen:
- The art, the dojo, and the sensei are seen as sacred. “Having red toe-nails in the dojo is like going to church in a mini-skirt and halter-top… The students of other martial arts are talked about like they are practicing the wrong religion.”
- If your teacher takes you aside and teaches you a special move and you practice it for 20 years, you have a large emotional investment in it, and you’ll want to discard any incoming evidence against the move.
- Incoming students don’t have much choice: a martial art can’t be learned from a book, so they have to trust the teacher.
- Deference to famous historical masters. “Runners think that the contemporary staff of Runner’s World know more about running than than all the ancient Greeks put together. And it’s not just running, or other physical activities, where history is kept in its place; the same is true in any well-developed area of study. It is not considered disrespectful for a physicist to say that Isaac Newton’s theories are false…” (Sound familiar?)
- “We martial artists struggle with a kind of poverty—data-poverty—which makes our beliefs hard to test… Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be fighting a hand-to-hand war you cannot check to see how much force and exactly which angle a neck-break requires…”
- “If you can’t test the effectiveness of a technique, then it is hard to test methods for improving the technique. Should you practice your nukite in the air, or will that just encourage you to overextend? … Our inability to test our fighting methods restricts our ability to test our training methods.”
- “But the real problem isn’t just that we live in data poverty—I think that’s true for some perfectly respectable disciplines, including theoretical physics—the problem is that we live in poverty but continue to act as though we live in luxury, as though we can safely afford to believe whatever we’re told…”
Remember Rorschach ink-blot tests? It’s such an appealing argument: the patient looks at the ink-blot and says what he sees, the psychotherapist interprets their psychological state based on this. There’ve been hundreds of experiments looking for some evidence that it actually works. Since you’re reading this, you can guess the answer is simply “No.” Yet the Rorschach is still in use. It’s just such a good story that psychotherapists just can’t bring themselves to believe the vast mounds of experimental evidence saying it doesn’t work—
—which tells you what sort of field we’re dealing with here.
And the experimental results on the field as a whole are commensurate. Yes, patients who see psychotherapists have been known to get better faster than patients who simply do nothing. But there is no statistically discernible difference between the many schools of psychotherapy. There is no discernible gain from years of expertise.
And there’s also no discernible difference between seeing a psychotherapist and spending the same amount of time talking to a randomly selected college professor from another field. It’s just talking to anyone that helps you get better, apparently.
In the entire absence of the slightest experimental evidence for their effectiveness, psychotherapists became licensed by states, their testimony accepted in court, their teaching schools accredited, and their bills paid by health insurance.
You just have to love psychologists. The question is of course: “Is Lesswrong any different?”
Ah, great post. There is another reason why rationalists aren’t as effective as they should be. We are too contrarian, we can’t cooperate. I often enjoy disagreeing with the majority and sometimes I feel like a stupid brainwashed cultist when I endorse more idiosyncratic/bizarre ideas backed up by only little evidence like FAI, cryonics, etc. Furthermore most of us don’t enjoy social interactions and are introverted. I’m probably an exception that proves the rule. Of course, these days I don’t enjoy most social interactions but that’s because most people are stupid or boring. In my youth I was rather extraverted. Anyway, the takeaway:
Our culture puts all the emphasis on heroic disagreement and heroic defiance, and none on heroic agreement or heroic group consensus. We signal our superior intelligence and our membership in the nonconformist community by inventing clever objections to others’ arguments. Perhaps that is why the atheist/libertarian/technophile/sf-fan/Silicon-Valley/programmer/early-adopter crowd stays marginalized, losing battles with less nonconformist factions in larger society. No, we’re not losing because we’re so superior, we’re losing because our exclusively individualist traditions sabotage our ability to cooperate.
Yudkowsky admits that he is very intolerant of others tolerance:
The danger of punishing nonpunishers is something I remind myself of, say, every time Robin Hanson points out a flaw in some academic trope and yet modestly confesses he could be wrong (and he’s not wrong). Or every time I see Michael Vassar still considering the potential of someone who I wrote off as hopeless within 30 seconds of being introduced to them. I have to remind myself, “Tolerate tolerance! Don’t demand that your allies be equally extreme in their negative judgments of everything you dislike!”
Personal Bla: I’m also very intolerant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very libertarian and believe that everyone can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn’t hurt anybody without the consent of the victim.
Yep, I mean it. I just read the new and great book “The Righteous Mind” by J. Haidt. As you probably already know he postulates that there are 5 moral (now 6 to be precise) dimensions. Liberals value harm and fairness whereas conservatives also value sacredness, authority and loyalty.
There was a funny passage in which Haidt tried to show that even liberals value things like sacredness. He described the “Rotenburg Cannibal” Armin Meiwes who basically ate another guys’ penis and skin but with the consent of the guy. And then Haidt wrote that of course also liberals think that this should be illegal and Meiwes should go into jail or at least in a psychiatric ward. Sorry folks, I beg to differ. Sure, it’s pretty disgusting (although quite hilarious) and I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable smoking a joint with this guy, but he did nothing wrong and you can’t punish him for that. Srsly.
Anyway, back to the topic: I’m pretty intolerant in a social sense. Other guys have to be intelligent, funny and interested in most of the stuff I like (which pretty much excludes 99,99999% of humankind) or else I can’t build a friendship, even a superficial one, with them. If other people don’t understand me I feel more alone than when I’m really alone. One of the most depressing things is a conversation in which you find out that the other one just can’t understand you because the inferential distances are just to great, be they of an intellectual (in the IQ or knowledge sense) or moral nature. And the bar for romantic relationships is even higher cuz the girl has to be (in addition to the above mentioned qualities) beautiful and
anorexic skinny or else she would disgust me sexually. But I’m still hoping for a drug that makes me gay or rewires my sexual preferences. Or somebody just eats my dick and I would lose my need for romantic relationships altogether. Just kidding.