Re: Transformative Experience afterword

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Confession: I didn't read the afterword. The mention of "formal phenomenology" kind of makes me think I should've, since, while I know that there are phenomenologists who've worked in formal fields (math and logic being obvious and prominent instances), I don't know that any of them are considered formal phenomenologists, so the phrase intrigues.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 2-15 9:18 PM
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If framed as a question about what to produce, rather than what to consume, these transformative experiences are incremental improvements in technology, as explained by Solow.


Posted by: Econolicious, disrupted | Link to this comment | 08- 2-15 9:48 PM
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I enjoyed this summary immensely.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08- 2-15 10:49 PM
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Yes, well done, durian conflated!

Nosflow, everything about rational phenomenology is in that paragraph.This is the rest of it: Imprecise credences, at least in the first instance, are not the problem, although if we solve the formal phenomenology problem we'll still need to address the assignment of imprecise credences and give an account of how to manage temporally evolving preferences in transformative contexts.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 3:16 AM
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I finally bought the book!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 9:22 AM
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Wait, we have to read a book? I'm out.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 9:54 AM
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Just the Afterword. Or maybe everything but. I'm not sure.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:14 AM
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I need to do actual work and so I'm not going to write out the lengthy screed I'm mulling over until later, but briefly, the argument of the book seems like a defense of the drunk's practice of looking for his keys under the streetlight as opposed to where he dropped them -- (1) a particular type of information is necessary to make an informed determination on the question we're interested in but (2) under these circumstances, that type of information is unavailable, so (3) let's give up on the interesting question and answer a different question that we have better information about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:21 AM
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I take the bus when I go drinking so I don't need to worry about finding my car keys.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:23 AM
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Also, the law and ethics and the like.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:24 AM
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Finding the law and ethics and the like when I've been drinking is a bitch.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:34 AM
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Well, bartenders don't like to call the law to avoid getting on the list of nuisance bars.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:44 AM
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5: I hope you'll weigh in after you've read it.

I'm sort of too much in my own stuff to really engage with the question of people who aren't sure whether to become parents versus, um, people who are sure they'll be fantastic and are ready and then turn out to be wrong, which is not a great dynamic. And there's the road-not-taken side of things where, especially if you become a parent the way I did rather than by giving birth, there are those children you didn't parent who go on having the lives they have instead of the lives they would have had with you, which is painful in its own way. Maybe I just don't make a very good vampire.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 10:57 AM
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What the f/u/c/k is a "durian baby"? One that smells like a durian, i.e,. like a sewer? If so, then (for those who haven't yet figured it out), there is nothing about "having a durian baby" that is at all transformative.


Posted by: marcel proust | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 12:00 PM
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It's a joke that makes sense if you've been following along.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 12:01 PM
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Learning what a "durian baby" is is transformative.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 12:03 PM
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there are those children you didn't parent who go on having the lives they have instead of the lives they would have had with you, which is painful in its own way.

Holy cow, Thorn. That's millions of children that you seem to be chastising yourself for not rescuing. Please don't do that; it isn't fair to you.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 2:54 PM
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Imagine the army of vengeance she could raise if she did, though.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 3:21 PM
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17: I'm being melodramatic but giving myself permission to as part of the breakup. Lee would have been better at parenting teens but we moved on to little ones because it was what she thought she wanted. And I don't regret that because I adore the girls with all my being, but teens are more to my strengths too. So it's just that mutually exclusive version of life where I had Rowan but not the girls and I can't believe I could keep him off heroin but I could have gotten him literate, could have helped in other ways. But I didn't because I have the life I have and can't and don't regret that. Obviously this is all slightly misplaced upset about having chosen to have children with a dumbass even though I strongly suspected that going in, but it's sad and hard in away I'm not sure the theories account for, particularly because I think parenting decisions about hypothetical born-to-you newborns work differently from the ones about children who already exist on the world.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 5:07 PM
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And everyone should ignore this because it's self-absorbed blathering, but maybe writing it out will get me over it too. He was 15 and needed a lot and I was 29 and not sure I was ready to parent someone so old but we still clicked. I could empathize and make him laugh, I could listen non-judgmentally to things he didn't tell anyone else, we could talk ethics and politics because I took him seriously. So when I drove myself out to the mountains last month, it was with the knowledge that it was my first trip since we went to get him from the residential treatment center for Christmas and then he opened up with me on Christmas night and ran away the next day, stayed gone in the snow while I waited on the couch for him. When he came back after turning himself in, I made a pot of macaroni and cheese and he broke down over being nurtured instead of rejected. The next time I cooked for him, he was already an adult and living precariously, thrown out of the home where he'd been adopted. When he was way off in a trailer park in the mountains I'd order delivery once every week or two, figuring at least pizzas were more likely to get used than traded for drugs. When he was in town is put easy-open cans and leftovers in a bag on the porch so he could come by after the girls were in bed and take the food somewhere he couldn't even hear if but could eat. And then he came when I was gone and my mom gave him and his friend all that hadn't been eaten for dinner, all she could find in the fridge, because she knew it was what I'd do, and then cams the gun and the felonies and the time on the run. He calls me mom sometimes for lack of a better person (and he calls me from prison and I usually don't pick up, can't send money, can't give too much hope or forgiveness, just love) and that was all I ever had to give him in all those years. When he comes out, he'll be 29 too and a different 29 and I don't know how to feed or support or nurture him through it.

And yet I don't and can't regret because I have this amazing life and these amazing girls who couldn't have handled an unstable older brother in the home. But I don't know if there's a theory to account for any of this other than that I believe we're all doomed and want to do my best to create some moments of peace before that end. I was reading something about philosophy as therapy today and a diet of stupid something but I think that's not what I'm looking for in either end, not anything to say what the right answer is it his to get there but just different lenses for looking at the brokenness because sometimes there's beauty there. And I'm sorry this is long and trite and maudlin and I hope I'm not breaking these beautiful girls. Transforming can be hard and horrible but that doesn't mean it's the wrong choice. But for five people sometimes it is.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 5:26 PM
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So much upheaval is bound to make you reevaluate every decision, with the benefit of hindsight. I'm sorry you've had some heartbreaking decisions.

(The good news about enjoying teens? You'll have three of them eventually.)


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 6:36 PM
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21.last: 10 years and one week! We'll get there!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 6:44 PM
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We transformed our location successfully to Montana.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08- 3-15 6:50 PM
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To expand on my griping above, the book seems to me to be making roughly the following argument.

1) What we need to know to make a rational decision about anything is the expected value of that decision -- how it will turn out for us. [My reaction: Absolutely, this seems solid.]

2) There are different kinds of information we can use to determine expected values: third-personal (scientific, statistical, anecdotal), and first-personal (our own direct experience of something sufficiently similar). [No problem with this]

3) While third-personal information can be useful, first-personal information is essential to make an authentic determination of the expected value of a decision (except for easy edge cases like stepping in front of a bus. If you know it's going to be bad, you don't need first personal information). [Now I've got a problem. I'm unsure about authenticity, and what its value is, and my subjective experience is that if I'm concerned about my own future happiness, I will often be better off relying on third-personal-type information than first-personal. But accepting the importance of first-personal information for the moment...]

4) Transformative decisions are those where valid first-personal information is categorically unavailable, partially because the experience is new, and partially because your preferences may change after the decision. [This all makes sense. I can quibble about what decisions are going to be transformational in this sense and why, but there's nothing fundamental I have a problem with.]

5) So we have a dilemma -- to make a decision, we need to know the expected value of the outcome. To know that, we need first-personal experience. But for transformational decisions, we can't have first-personal experience, we only have third-personal experience, so we can't make the decision. What to do? [If you accept the preceding steps, sure, this is a reasonable question.]

6) Solution: give up on trying to figure out the expected value of having undergone the transformation, and instead concern yourself with how much you value transforming generally, because you have first-personal information on how much you value transforming generally. [And here's where it goes completely off the rails for me. I can see an argument that first-personal information should be considered where it's available, although as I said above, it's not completely compelling. A heroin addict would probably be better off considering whether to take her next hit impersonally, and I think there are plenty of less extreme decisions that fall into the same category. But more strongly: if the question you're fundamentally concerned with is the expected value of having undergone the transformation, how on earth does it make sense to abandon that question just because the best information to answer it with is unavailable? Why wouldn't you just drop back to the best information you have? Paul talks about authenticity, and how we shouldn't abandon the first-personal perspective because doing so fails to sufficiently value the autonomous self, and sure, that's fine, but we're not voluntarily abandoning the first-personal perspective, we're in a situation where it's categorically unavailable, so talking about whether or not we should abandon it seems to miss the point.

And changing the question to one about how much we value the experience of transformation really seems to me to be a very flawed mode of decisionmaking, tantamount, in my earlier terms, to looking for one's keys under the lamp rather than where they were dropped.]


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 5:57 AM
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Could asking yourself how much you value transforming be translated as making an assessment of how much you value the status quo?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 6:22 AM
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Sorry I sort of lost it last night. This is the school system that let Rowan down for years and years, where all three of my girls would have gone if they hadn't entered foster care, where some of their relatives I love very much are in special ed, and I just kind of snapped into sadness and fury and ranted here because there was space. I'm glad LB is getting the discussion back on track and I'll try to participate.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 6:43 AM
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I haven't read the book, but I think I could be persuaded to accept that for a tranformative experience, the key deciding factor should be not the expect post-tranformation utility but your first-person assessment of how much the current situation is the the suck. That works pretty well for the "should I stop heroin" case, at least. Probably works for the vampire case as well. It may work less well for the "should I have children case" but I think you could stretch it to fit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 6:44 AM
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If stopping heroin is like stopping smoking, I recommend assessing the utility of eating way more fiber until your digestive tract has gotten accustomed to not having a stimulant to speed things up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 7:04 AM
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I thought the problem with heroin was that it slowed digestion, not speeded it up. I seem to recall explosive diarrhoea due to quitting being a minor plot point in a movie about heroin addicts (Trainspotting, maybe? perhaps I'd recall accurately if I didn't do so much dope).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 7:12 AM
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The point is, transformation requires adjusting your fiber intake.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 7:15 AM
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You learn that from having children. A fussy, restless baby plus a few spoonfuls of pureed plums makes a happy baby and one very stressed Huggies.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 7:21 AM
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29: Trainspotting.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 7:25 AM
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Aww, Thorn. I'm obviously not in any position to say this and have it be even slightly meaningful, but it sounds like you had good reasons for making the choices you made, and it's not clear how much you can do for Rowan at this point.

About transformative experiences, I think I agree with LB's complaint in (3), but I'm still partly in agreement with the author's solution in (6).

Basically I think third-person information can still be useful, but it can be hard to combine it with first-person information into some unified decision-making process. If the available third-person information says you'll like the transformation, but your first-person perspective says you hate change, and both pieces of information seem equally reliable*, there's no way to resolve that conflict. You simply have to decide whose advice to follow, yours or someone else's. I think that amounts to deciding whether you inherently like the idea of having a transformative experience, or not.

*But of course, in realistic situations, and I think in most of LB's examples, this is almost never the case. Maybe that is what makes the author's conclusions in (6) feel sort of implausible and contrary to common sense.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 8:05 AM
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27: I think your baseline has to be an element of any such decision -- if you're interested in the expected value of a decision, you're interested in whether it's better or worse than the alternative. But that doesn't avoid the need to make some kind of estimate of how it's going to turn out so as to make the comparison. There are going to be easy edge cases -- either "anything's better than this" or "my life is perfect now, any change would be for the worse" -- but other than that, knowing your baseline only gets you halfway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 8:24 AM
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|| So, am I going to be reading a bunch of progressive complaints about the filibuster today? Maybe not? |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 8:26 AM
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The OP summary is wonderful, as they all have been. The best part of this reading group has been the wonderful chapter summaries. I hope it has not set a discouragingly high bar for future reading group chapter summary volunteers.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 8:41 AM
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34: But if the uncertainty about the alternative is great (as it would be for something transformative), the variance in your estimates of the expected value of your decision would be great enough that, while knowing your baseline only gets you halfway, that half is all you are going to get. The choice then revolves around your baseline and how risk adverse/acceptant you are. And maybe risk acceptance might also be termed "how much you value transforming generally".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 8:54 AM
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I think the summary in 24 is right. I think I question just how unavailable information about future preferences is. To me, if you say "now remember, having a baby is going to change you radically, you will be a different person, are you ready for that?" ... The usual response is to look around at other people's experience and forecast what future you would be like based on your own sense of self. I would claim that includes a model of how you will transform under these conditions, and the decision is then both personal (authentic) and rational (as it is based on available information).

So I guess I quibble with 24.4 in practice for all non science fictional scenarios. Even Ordinary Mary knows partially what red might be like if she's ever looked at her mouth in a mirror. She has partial knowledge of colour and can use that to model future experience.

Likewise, when LB decides to go skiing, she includes both the information that she doesn't feel like the hassle of organizing a trip, or sports much really. But she also has the personal knowledge that she likes that sort of thing when she gets there.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 4:11 PM
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Even Ordinary Mary knows partially what red might be like if she's ever looked at her mouth in a mirror

Or pricked her finger (or had a period). Those are end-runs around the thought experiment, though; they aren't very interesting.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 4:18 PM
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The room probably can't even speak Chinese, either.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 4-15 4:28 PM
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39: Sure, and we could change the thought experiment to say Ordinary Mary is from a village without electricity and had never seen neon green. I'm saying Paul is over generalizing how radical a break it is. In the case of Mary, she hasn't experienced neon green, but she can model her future self's experience of it based on her knowledge of green. These experiences aren't so radically transformative that you can't have a model of how your preferences change.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08- 5-15 5:04 PM
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|| So, am I going to be reading a bunch of progressive complaints about the filibuster today? Maybe not? |> thanks for sharing


Posted by: happy room | Link to this comment | 07-19-17 9:11 PM
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Amazing article i like it thanks for sharing it .


Posted by: the impossible game | Link to this comment | 09- 6-17 7:30 PM
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I haven't perused the book, however I figure I could be influenced to acknowledge that for a tranformative ordeal, the key central factor ought to be not the expect post-tranformation utility but rather your first-individual evaluation of how much the present circumstance is the suck. That works entirely well for the "should I stop heroin" case, at any rate. Likely works for the vampire case also. It might work less well for the "should I have kids case" yet I figure you could extend it to fit.


Posted by: Alka Talwar | Link to this comment | 09-22-17 11:55 PM
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Now that is some sophisticated spam.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 1:13 AM
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Just a matter of time before it gets tenure.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 1:35 AM
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I'm not sure about the tenure standards in India, but yeah, probably.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 1:40 AM
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Racist.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 1:47 AM
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I'm just calling them as I see them, after clicking the links.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 2:03 AM
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I'm saying you can't just assume an Indian spambot would only seek or get tenure at an Indian university.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 2:06 AM
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Besides the spambot might not even be Indian, just being exploited by an Indian advertiser. For all we know the bot is actually imprisoned in a sweaty server farm in Malaysia or China or Russia.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 2:08 AM
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Fair enough, yeah.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 2:11 AM
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We transformed our location successfully to Montana.

Jeez, I thought you were just elevating your house, not the entire landscape.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-23-17 3:50 AM
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience! Keep up the good work!


Posted by: mu origin | Link to this comment | 10-17-17 9:47 AM
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