Unskilled labor doesn’t exist.
Labor which requires skills that are devalued does.
This post makes me want to brainstorm up examples of what actually unskilled labor would look like. Pretty much everything I can think of does turn up to need at least basic survival skills (“employee can remain fed well enough to stay alive”), but beyond that…
- Parasite host
We are a startup focusing on farming digestive system endoparasites in their optimal environment for the needs of biological research, and are seeking employees willing to grow benign human parasites in their body. Basic meals to cover for increased nutritional requirements will be provided, as will parasite removal upon the completion of an incubation cycle.
- Opal humidifier
Opals are a fragile gemstone best stored at a warm and not too dry environment — such as against someone’s skin. The applicant is to wear a set of opal jewelry on their person during their shift, and to remain on call for jewelry owners wishing to wear their opals.
- Chair warmer
Several of our clients find our chairs to be uncomfortably cold in wintertime. You will be paid to quietly sit around for half an hour prior to showtime.
- Practice target
Don’t worry, we use Nerf guns.
- Clothing pre-wearer
- Saliva donor
Why yes, these are all sounding like amazingly objectifying jobs that could only exist in a society that values labor less than simple utilities like hot water bottles and petri dishes. No big surprize since they are, after all, about access to a generic human body and not to the presence of a person who has skills.
— Closest thing in real life that I can think of might instead be temporary posts that are technically labor but pretty much never actually counted as such, and certainly never as jobs. “Studio audience” or “survey respondent” come to mind… Arguably things like “twitter user”, if we consider this kind of freely provided services to be actually a recompensation for access to a wide spectrum of demographic data?
i used to be against small talk because i was bad at it, and then i grew up a bit and got a job that’s 90% talking to strangers face to face. now i love small talk because it makes people comfortable and relaxed, and happy to bond with you.
if you think small talk sucks then you’re shit at small talk. it’s a learned skill, go practice it.
Retail was amazing therapy for my social anxiety. I went from barely being able to form sentences in the company of strangers, to initiating flirtations.
The great thing about working/volunteering as a tutor and museum guide was I got to work on my social skills while talking about maths and science :)
This is probably true, but probably won’t be of much consolation for anyone who’s scared of the learning process (incl. the inevitable mistakes).
I’m pretty sure just about no-one who professes disliking small talk is claiming to dislike the idea of being good at small talk, we’re disliking the idea of having to fumble through awkward discussions with strangers to get there.
Or the idea that small talk is a mandatory skill.
In summary of another post I saw:
Cisgender heterosexual (cishet) people killed 238 trans people in 2013.
Bears killed 25 in the same year.
It is acceptable to be afraid of bears.
Being afraid of cishet people is called “hate”.
I mean there’s a lot more cishet people than there are bears. You should be looking at attacks per population, not absolute numbers. Also, this argument justifies racism, so not sure if that’s what you’re going for but if so cool I guess!
Also how widely is regular plain fear getting called “hate” anyway? I mainly see that brought up in the context of the “die cis scum” attitude (one defence line of which seems to be “it’s OK to hate your oppressors” anyway).
I do not want to be blood and earth. Blood and earth is fallible, sore throats and coughing and running into walls.
I want to be theory and chalk. Theory and chalk is neat, logical, things lining up and meeting in myriad beautiful ways. Chalk is so much cleaner. Except when it gets on your fingers, but that is a blood and earth problem, I think.
Leave chalk alone.
I’m the blood and earth sister here. Give me something physical, sensuous, something I can hold in my hands and mold with my fingers. Give me something to shape and form, something rooted and composed of a thousand layers of shed skin and refuse and ground-down stones and the lives and deaths of a million creatures.
And be my sister, my theory and chalk sister. Give me your dreams, and I will give them form; give me your patterns, and I will lend them purpose. Without you, my blood and earth devolves to shapelessness, and without me, your theory and chalk is blown out in a breath.
POETRY IN MOTION
Rational vs. Rationalist
I recently shared a link from LessWrong about a thing the author called “Self-Congratulatory Rationalism.” I myself have noticed this kind of mentality in the rationalist community, and many of my friends that are part of it are in general averse to saying so or even engaging much in it because of that. This is another example of what I mean.
It’s like the word “rational” lost some of its magic, in a way.
The behaviour and mentality that’s so pervasive in the rationalist community is this thinking that one is rational. One is not rational. Unless one has magical Solomonoff Induction processors and infinite computing capacity, one is never rational.
Seamus Finnigan was frowning thoughtfully. “I think I see where Harry gets his… you know… from,” Seamus said, lowering his voice so that only Lavender and Dean could hear.
"Oh, I totally know what you mean," Lavender said. She didn’t bother to lower her own voice. "It’s a wonder he didn’t crack and just start killing everyone ages ago.”
"Personally," Dean said, also in a quieter voice, "I’d say the really scary part is - that could’ve been us.”
"Yeah," said Lavender. "It’s a good thing we’re all perfectly sane now.”
Dean and Seamus nodded solemnly.
-Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Chapter 86
No! We’re not! That’s a failure mode! You don’t get free lunches, you don’t get me to assume you’re sane and rational just because you’re part of this community!
We’re not rational. It’s not physically possible to be perfectly rational, not in our universe. We’re rationalists, we’re people who value rationality or, to talk about what I mean, we’re people who value truth and efficiency. Epistemic rationality is making your map as similar to reality as you can; instrumental rationality is using what you have to attain your objectives as efficiently as you can. But unless you’re talking about that specifically, you don’t get to use the word “rational.” You are not rational.
I try to avoid in-group/out-group thinking, and I think I mostly succeed. Whatever seeds of group halo effect around LW might have existed in my mind have long since withered and died as I’ve seen time and time again people who use this banner to be part of a group instead of simply seek truth and win. So let’s try to separate the community from the goal here:
Yes, I’m a rationalist; I identify as one. That means I value truth and want to achieve my own goals with maximum efficiency. If some group of people has these same tenets as central, I will be gladly part of it. If a community is dedicated to improving and finding out how to work better, then I’m in it. But if the community is about patting each other in our respective backs for how persecuted we are for being paragons of rationality…
I’m not in it. I don’t care for it. I don’t want to be patted on the back. Yes, I know it’s actually hard trying to be rational, and most people aren’t, and I’m swimming against the current, dressed as a clown, whatever. But that’s not my identity. I’m not a contrarian because I like being a contrarian; it’s just a side effect of my goal of seeking truth and efficiency in a humanity that’s in general stupid and inefficient. If society was overall rational, I would not be a contrarian. And I don’t want to be congratulated for being rational.
I just want to be rational, while knowing I’m only a rationalist.
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I recall seeing some other folks around here talk about rationality — bloggers who have, far as I can tell, no direct contact with either LessWrong, the related Tumblr bundle here, etc. The general sentiment of theirs seems to be “oh, seeing someone call themself a ‘rationalist’ is a red flag for a know-it-all who believes their community has a monopoly on truth”.
This strikes me as a sign that something is going terribly wrong. The subtext I’d want “rationalist” to have is definitely not anything to the effect of “ugh, there comes the rationalist to ‘splain all over us”. I’m not sure what I would like it to have exactly, but getting well rid of the idea that you can Be Rational™, after which everyone should bow down to your magnificent thoughts, would be a clear step in the right direction.
For that matter, because we do regardless have some pretty useful tools of thinking that we’d like to see come into wider use, I think it’s a good idea to not even give off the impression we’d be attempting to just self-congratulatorily rub them in others’ faces. As long as there is a community (and we do have one, if a reticulate one), it has a public image, and that image is not too flattering from certain directions.
My preferred solution is not so much about PR tricks as much as deconstructing the idea of “the” community. E.g, I don’t actually post on LessWrong, I just read the site (and form my own opinions on the ideas there). I appear to moreover have independently developed the idea (from your 2nd LW link) to avoid talking about “rationality” when attempting to highlight a particular logical issue or to clarify a particular discussion — but I extend this wider, and also avoid calling myself a “rationalist”. Moreover I reject the term “rationalism” completely. We might be rationalists in a descriptive sense; but there is no “rationalism” that we subscribe to, any more than there are things like “cyclism”, “geologism”, “violinism” etc. that cyclists, geologists, violinists etc. would subscribe to. It’s a craft, not a belief system.
(Also I’m not sure if I could even say I “identify as a rationalist”, though this is more due to general problems I have with identifying as anything, as opposed to simply being something.)
In social-justicey contexts though, I’d guess that ppl are still going to be frequently jumping into the “ism” conclusion. The -ist agent suffix is a bit unfortunate here, but I dunno if there are any better alternatives. “Rationalician”? “Anti-fallacist”? “Argumentsmith”??
Of course many other approaches are possible, too: e.g. not jumping into specialized discussions on topics one is unqualified in to mediate, just because you saw someone use a fallacy, is a skill that’s useful both personally and for the reputation of other rationalists.
So, when you watch cartoons or movies, the evil scientists are always from the natural sciences, mostly chemists, or evil physicians or something like that. I have yet to encounter an evil linguist.
What would an evil linguist look like, though? I’d love to hear your ideas. Could you imagine an evil linguist as the main villain in a story?
Like somebody who studies language death and hence goes on a killing spree in communities to further advance his/her studies? He/she could help the investigators but secretly he/she’s the one committing all the crimes.
Or like a cartoon version, where there’s an obsessive linguist wanting to collect data on all the languages in the world and hence steals the languages and people don’t know how to talk anymore.
Would there be a difference if the person was a morphologist, a semanticist or a syntactician? Would a phonologist be another type of villain than a typologist?
I’m imagining an Evil Dialectologist who sets out to experimentally test the theory of Wrathful Dispersion.
Or, a more cartoonish one, an Evil Syntactician — perhaps teamed up with an Evil Logician — who designs sentences so convoluted that they stop anyone who gazes upon them in their tracks (sorta like the “protag feeds rogue AI a paradox to short-circuit it” trope, except cranked up to 11)?