I'm planning on being at BABSCon next week! Maybe I'll see some of you there??
I'm planning on being at BABSCon next week! Maybe I'll see some of you there??
"It's International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I'm not going to say anything obnoxious about it, because I've already spent my obnoxious-infovism budget for the quarter, and I'm sensitive about managing the trade-off between the demands of my aggressive autogynephilia anti-denialism campaign, and the good of social harmony with my extremely trans friend group!" proclaimed Mark. "You're welcome."
"That announcement itself was incredibly obnoxious," Alexa pointed out. "You know that your pretentious displays of purported self-awareness don't excuse you from the consequences of your actions, right?"
"Like, you didn't expect us to—how do I put this?—pretend not to notice, right?"
Friend of the blog—I mean, I hope we're still friends even though I'm kind of trying to overthrow them as de facto Gender Czar of the Less Wrong diaspora—Ozymandias of Thing of Things has been running an intellectual Turing test challenging adherents of the gender-identity and two-type theories of transgenderedness to try to impersonate each other for the good of our collective epistemology!
(An aside on credit-assignment and the history of ideas: Ozy says Blanchard–Bailey where I've usually been trying to say two-type in order to avoid the tricky problem of optimal eponymy, but if you are going to be eponymous about it, I can understand just saying "Blanchard" but feel like it's unfair to include Bailey but not Anne Lawrence. My understanding of the history—and I think Michael Bailey reads this blog and I trust him to send me an angry email if I got this wrong—is that Bailey's research had mostly been about sexual orientation and from-childhood gender nonconformity, not the two-type taxonomy as such. Bailey's popular-level book The Man Who Would Be Queen drew controversy for explaining the two-type taxonomy for a nonspecialist audience (in the last part of a book that was mostly about the androphilic/feminine-from-early-childhood people, not my people), but the critics who disparage Queen as "unscientific" are missing the point: popular-level books that present a scientific theory aren't supposed to capitulate all the evidence for the theory—for that, you need to follow the citations and read the primary literature for yourself. In analogy, it should not be construed as a disparagement of R. Dawkins to note that it would be weird if people talked about the "Darwin–Dawkins theory of evolution"!)
In the intellectual Turing test, contestants answer a set of questions both as themselves, and while trying to pass as someone who believes the other thing, while the audience tries to discriminate the honest entries from the fakes. Below are my probability assignments for this contest (I think it's important to assign probabilities rather than binary guesses, so that you can assess your rationality with a Bayesian strictly proper scoring rule rather than a crude "number correct"), along with an optional brief comment—
Update, 5 June: Two months after the results were posted, I finally got around to scoring these. ("Bayes-score" is the base-two logarithmic score. Someone who, claiming complete ignorance, gave a 0.5/0.5 distribution for each entry would lose a bit on each question for a final score of −18.)
Gender identity entries
#1: GI: 0.65, BBL: 0.35 (strong philosophy of language; if telling the truth about being a cis woman, ignorance of non-dysphoric AGP is plausible), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.621
#2: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6 (awareness of 4chan shows non-naïveté about what's actually going on), Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#3: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4 (maybe a little too doctrinaire??), Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#4: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#5: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#6: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3 (seemingly sincere trans man), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.515
#7: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3 (standard trans woman rationalizations), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.515
#8: GI: 0.65, BBL: 0.35 (really knows her stuff; this is what a smart, intellectually-honest BBL skeptic looks like, and I'd like to believe that they exist!), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.621
#9: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3, Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.737
#1: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#2: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6, Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#3: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6, Actual: BBL ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#4: GI: 0.9, BBL: 0.1 (shibboleth fail!—people who believe in biology do not say "assigned at birth" when describing their own beliefs! Also, failure to notice the obvious "for the same reasons men are" re programmers), Actual: BBL (!!) ✘, Bayes-score: −3.322
#5: GI: 0.2, BBL: 0.8 (preach it!), Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −2.322
#6: GI: 0.8, BBL: 0.2 ("male socialization, which unlike androphilic trans women they actually tend to absorb as kids" sounds like someone who believes that innate gender identity determines what socialization you latch onto from your culture, rather than someone who actually believes in sexual dimorphism), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.322
#7: GI: 0.9, BBL: 0.1 (shibboleth fail again!—my comment at Thing of Things), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.152
#8: GI: 0.1, BBL: 0.9 (raw reality), Actual: BBL ✔, Bayes-score: −0.152
#9: GI: 0.85, BBL: 0.15 (my comment), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.234
Proportion correct (construing assignment of probability greater than 0.5 to the actual answer as "correct"): 11/18
Total Bayes-score: −18.012 (just worse than chance)
Not what teacher said to do
Making dreams come true
Living tissue, warm flesh, weird science!
—"Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo
So, I took off my estradiol patch during my recent nervous breakdown. I still don't think it had much, if any, real effect. (In particular, the stress and sleep-deprivation by themselves seem quite sufficient to explain the breakdown without attributing any of it to a nonstandard hormone balance, especially given how similar it felt to my 2013 nervous breakdown.)
Again, everyone had told me that just-estrogen without an anti-androgen doesn't do anything, but that didn't seem absolutely locked down from me from what I had read ("Anti-Androgens May Not Be Necessary", according to a lit review that I may or may not have had a causal role in commissioning), and remember: from my perspective, if everyone is lying about the etiology, maybe they got the dosages wrong, too! So I don't regret being conservative for the initial experiment. (The starter in "starter dose" is code-switching for placebo!)
Anyway, during the aftermath of my release from prison/kindergarten, my father got me to promise not to restart the drug experiment for a month, and I care about keeping my promises—particularly so in the aftermath of a psychotic quasi-religious experience featuring heavy themes of reducing morality to game theory. (Transparent agents who tell the truth and keep their promises are easier to cooperate with and therefore form more powerful coalitions.) That would have been on 20 February, so it is in keeping with my word that I didn't get the medical establishment to resupply me with more estradiol patches and—this time—the standard anti-androgen spironolactone, until 24 March. (I should also have an order of oral estrogen and spiro coming from an Indian supplier in the post, if for no other reason than that my recent imprisonment taught me that I need to practice being less authoritarian-submissive towards the medical establishment.)
It was raining in "Portland" that day. I was eager to try my first dose of spiro before even getting home, and walked to a nearby outpost of a hegemonic coffeeshop chain to do so. The paper bag from the pharmacy nearly dissolved in the rain, and I ended up having to carry the supplies in my jacket pockets on the way home.
And now—soon I may have greater apprehension of what it means to have a more female-like hormone balance! Wish me luck!
Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I'll tell you how I became convinced that I share the same underlying psychological variation that motivates males like me to become lesbian trans women, but have been disturbed that apparently-politically-fueled cultural trends seem to be pushing people into interpreting it as an intrinsic female gender identity presumably caused by some sort of brain intersex condition for which the appropriate quality-of-life intervention is to transition, when I think it's obviously not an intersex condition and that transition might not be such a good idea given the enormous costs to both oneself and others of trying to live as a woman despite (a) likely not passing very well given the limitations of existing technology, and (b) the conjunction of one's psychological traits noticeably being far more male-typical than female-typical. I started this pseudonymous blog in an attempt to counteract the sorry state of public misinformation about the etiology of MtF transgenderedness and was going to let that be the extent of my attempts to intervene, but I soon became sufficiently upset with the level of transition cheerleading and uncritical acceptance of trans-activist ideology among my otherwise very smart and scientifically-literate social circle, that I decided to express my feelings in the form of a dramatic public Facebook meltdown, which led to much heated discussion amongst my friends, the stress of which was probably a contributing factor to my subsequent psychotic break. (If almost everyone is lying to me about autogynephilia, maybe they're also lying about whether humans actually need to sleep!)
I made one little expression of suicidal ideation and my mom got scared
And called the cops, resulting in my being kidnapped by strange men who threw me in a prison/kindergarten that everyone bizarrely insists on calling a "psychiatric hospital", where I continued to have psychosis-fueled insights into the ubiquity of deception in human social life, the anthropic and decision-theoretic implications of the simulation hypothesis, and how Christianity as a memeplex is highly-optimized to exploit bugs in the human mind (in Christ there is neither male nor female). Now I'm taking a sabbatical from my software-engineering career to study the game theory of social epistemology and blog more about the surprising true nature of late-onset gender dysphoria in males!
Of course, "Blanchard's" typology is subject to Stigler's law of eponymy.
No, I'm not talking about earlier Western sexologists like Robert Stoller, Magnus Hirchfield, or Blanchard's mentor Kurt Freund.
I'm talking about Abu Zakaria Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī writing in the 13th century CE:
A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.
"High-IQ educated people like to think we're so smart. But we're just not—at least not in a straightforwardly prosocial way. Any double-digit-IQ Trump voter from West Virginia could tell you that men who think they're women are delusional perverts.
"I know. I prefer not to phrase it that way, either, because like you—like everybody who matters—I think males with late-onset gender dysphoria should have a respected place in Society to pursue their dream if that's what makes them happy.
"But if you ignore the derogatory style of that way of phrasing it and just ask about the predictions made by the mental model that generated the derogatory phrasing, 'men who think they're women are delusional perverts' is the correct theory! If really smart people who are really good at philosophy can't get this really easy question right because saying the right answer out loud in clear language makes us look bad—what are we good for? Why should people who aren't already ideologically allied with us care?"
I want to be a synthesis
Whimsical, passionate, liberal-arts feminist
I'll be a synthesis
Hard-headed serious reductionistic scientist
Free our markets with the power of the collective heart!
"So, I agree that there's a potential for public discussion of certain theories in psychology to have harmful social consequences, and I agree that we should take that into account when deciding whether to discuss something publicly.
"However, I also think it's important to be specific about the putatively-harmful social consequences you're afraid of, rather than just accepting the Blue Tribe's cached thought that all discussion of group differences is ipso facto harmful.
"If the specific thing you're worried about is something like, 'Well, maybe the Red Tribe will win an election and then they'll use their power to do bad things,' well, guess what? It's morning in America, motherfuckers!"
"What's wrong with you?! Why are you doing this?!" screamed Alexa. "It's like you've been possessed by a Nazi ghost."
"I'm sorry," said Mark. "I'm not sure if this will make sense to you, but I'm thinking of it as playing DEFECT against trans women—I genuinely regret that part and I'd be grateful if you could tell me if there's anything I can do to make it up to you-all collectively—in exchange for being able to DEFECT against the victimhood identity-politics mind-virus, to COOPERATE with closeted TERFy women who don't want people like me in their bathrooms but are too scared to say so out loud and might reward AGP males who say it for them with sex and intimacy, and—most importantly of all—to tell the truth about the beautiful feeling at the center of my life that has shaped me more than almost anything else. This is just too good of a deal for me to refuse unless it means literal physical violence or poverty."
"Oh! I get it! I shouldn't have said that last part, because that creates an incentive for powerful people being controlled by the victimhood identity-politics mind-virus to threaten me with literal physical violence or poverty after I blog a dramatization of this conversation. What I should have said was, 'This is just too good of a deal for me to refuse, full stop.' Except I'm really bad at lying. So maybe I should just trust that my friends—well, what's left of them when this is over—the police, my savings, and my programming skills are altogether enough to keep me safe and happy."
"I continue to be loudly upset that people mostly use language to manipulate social reality rather than describe actual reality!"
"Have you considered ... using language to manipulate social reality to incentivize people to use language to describe actual reality?"
"What?! You can't do that!"
"Because that's a good idea that you had that I didn't have! I'm supposed to be the idea girl!"
"That doesn't make any sense! You're not even a girl!"
"Ever since I was a child, I've always dreamed of being an astronaut. Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons including but not limited to my poor eyesight and distaste for formal schooling, my life took a different path. I still like to indulge the fantasy as much as I can—attending space camp, dressing up in the realistic space suit that I bought, reading and writing erotic fiction about ordinary people being kidnapped and forced to become astronauts—but sadly, given the enormous costs of actually pursuing astronaut training, it doesn't look like I'll get the chance to fulfill my dream—barring unforeseen advances in spaceflight technology that drastically lower the costs of becoming an astronaut, of course—and I am gracefully resigned to this reality."
"Well, I think you literally are an astronaut and always have been!"
"Um. Thank you? But I've never been to space."
"Oh, well, you're not a cis astronaut. But trans astronauts are astronauts! Anyone who asks questions about the detailed truth conditions of this statement will be socially punished!"
On 6 August 2006 (I was eighteen years old), while browsing Wikipedia (likely the 31 July revision of what is now the "Blanchard's transsexualism typology" article?), I came across the word autogynephilia for the first time, and immediately recognized that this was the word; this was the word for my thing.
I didn't know it was supposed to be controversial, and was actually surprised that it had been coined in the context of a theory of transsexualism; I had never had any reason to come up with any ludicrous rationalizations that I was somehow literally a girl in some unspecified metaphysical sense.
I wrote in my notebook:
THERE'S A WORD FOR IT. There's a word for it. I don't know whether to be happy that there's an adjective for what I have, or sad that other men have it, & that it's not mine, & only mine. Bless Wikipedia for showing me [...] But still, after all emotions have fitted themselves away, there is the word. "Autogynephilia." So simple; I know all the foreign roots; I should have thought of it. "Autogynephilic." That's what I am.
Scarcity is a metaphysical fact, so why am I hurt when my word (which I didn't invent & only discovered a few hours ago) has so many connotations attached to it that I don't like? The dictionary definition is perfect for me, but all the exposition after that has to do with transsexualism, which annoys me, although thinking of it now, I suppose it would seem to be a logical extension to some. I'm autogynephilic without being gender-dysphoric—or am I? If transitioning cheap & fast & painless & perfect—wouldn't I at least be tempted? What I can't stand is transsexuals who want to express the man/woman they "truly are inside"—because I don't think there's any such thing. It has to be about sex—because gender shouldn't exist.
My views on gender have changed a lot over the past ten years—most notably, I'm not a psychological sex differences denialist anymore, so I'm afraid I can no longer endorse that "gender shouldn't exist" stance. (Given that sex differences exist and people aren't going to pretend not to notice, social-role defaults are inevitably going to accrete around them.)
The funny part is that, in retrospect, it looks like a lot of the appeal to me of psychological sex differences denialism—besides its being ideologically fashionable—was an autogynephilia-inspired rationalization: I didn't want to believe that girls were a different thing that I didn't understand. (This theme is very explicit in my writings at the time. In the same notebook, I wrote: "Heterosexuality should already imply antisexism, as people don't generally want to slander their lovers.") And the "woman I truly am inside" gender-identity narrative that I so disdained also looks like an autogynephilia-inspired rationalization, on the part of autogynephilic males (perhaps growing up in a less egalitarianist memetic environment than me) who took the other route, of successfully deluding themselves into believing that they themselves are feminine, rather than my route of successfully deluding myself into believing that femininity isn't a real thing. (Contrast to androphilic "true" transsexuals who have just been really feminine their entire lives and don't need any delusions to justify their desire to be women.)
Still, despite everything I've learned in the past decade, what's striking—at least, striking in contrast to the utter raving lunacy I see trotted about around me in the name of transgender rights—is how much I got right even then. I've had these desires since puberty, and have grown to cherish them, to let the fantasy shape my morals and ambitions. I didn't think it would be wrong to do something about it, if the costs and benefits added up. But I never took the fantasy literally, let alone expected the rest of the world to take it literally.
Ten years later, this still seems like the only sane approach.
"Hey Mark, a bunch of us are going to a concert tomorrow night: the Holograms are headlining at the Rose Garden, and I have an extra ticket. You want in?" offered Caleb.
"Maybe ..." said Mark. "Who's the opening act?"
"Let me check," said Caleb, fiddling with his phone. "Geez, that's a weird band name."
"Who is it?"
"It says, 'Late-Onset Gender Dysphoria in Males Is Not an Intersex Condition, You Lying Bastards'."
I wish I were more self-aware. People tell me caffiene is a stimulant, and I believe them, but I tend to doubt if I could tell, double-blind, from the inside, whether an iced-coffee I just drank was decaf or not.
Similarly, I applied my sixth patch today and should have had elevated estrogen levels in my system for a month now, but don't seem noticeably more female-like or otherwise effected in any easily-discernible way. Are there some kind of measurements I should be taking in order to pick up on subtle changes? (Bust size?) I guess I got a little teary a few times in the past week or so, which hasn't been common for me in recent years? (I used to cry a lot when I was younger.)
My dayjob performance has been utterly abysmal because I've been too upset to think about code, instead continuing to hyperfocus on how (virtually) everyone has been lying to me about the most important thing in my life for ten years, but I don't want to attribute that to the patch, because I've kind of been doing that more-or-less continuously for the past six months.
Again, none of this is very surprising on a starter dose with no spiro. That's fine. This is known to be a slippery slope, best explored slowly and carefully if at all.
"No, it turns out that there are actually three types of male-to-female transsexualism: effeminate homosexuality, autogynephilia, and—by far the most common—the third type that we made up in order to keep our jobs."
Anne Fausto-Sterling, Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men, Ch. 1, "Introduction: the Biological Connection":
In the end, the resolution of such controversy often depends upon one's standard of proof, a standard dictated in turn by political beliefs. I impose the highest standards of proof, for example, on claims about biological inequality, my high standards stemming directly from my philosophical and political beliefs in equality. On the other hand, given the same claims, a scientist happier with present-day social arrangements would no doubt be satisfied with weaker proof. How much and how strong the proof one demands before accepting a conclusion is a matter of judgment, a judgment that is embedded in the fabric of one's individual belief system.
S. Goldberg, Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance (the previous edition of which was titled The Inevitability of Patriarchy (!!)), Introduction:
[T]he relevant point here is that the consequences of an acceptance of an empirical explanation have nothing to do with the correctness of that explanation. This is so obvious that for thousands of years the attempt to refute an explanation by citing the (putative) bad effects of an acceptance of that explanation has been recognized as fallacious. Even if acceptance of the belief that the world is round somehow threatened our species' survival, that would not make the earth flat. Truth is independent of consequences.
To readers who come to this book prepared to think for themselves and to listen to reasoned argument: I hope you find this trip illuminating and enjoyable and remember that nothing here commits you to any moral or political view that you do not like.
I just hate hate hate it when people saying the good things turn out to be bad at epistemology, and people who are good at epistemology turn out to say the bad things. If it happens too often, it's almost enough to make you wonder whether some of the bad things are actually true (!?!).
"... a sex-fueled mental illness made up by Ray Blanchard—" said Alexa.
"A sex-fueled mental illness named by Ray Blanchard," interjected Mark.
Oh, we have to get this right
Yes, we have to make them see
—"Ballad of the Crystal Empire", My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
(Epistemic status: somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but also far more plausible than it has any right to be. Assumes the correctness of Blanchard's transsexualism typology without arguing it here.)
So, not a lot of people understand this, but the end of the world is, in fact, nigh. Conditional on civilization not collapsing (which is itself a kind of end of the world), sometime in the next century or so, someone is going to invent better-than-human artificial general intelligence. And from that point on, humans are not really in control of what happens in this planet's future light cone.
This is a counterintuitive point. It's tempting to think that you could program the AI to just obey orders ("Write an adventure novel for my daughter's birthday", "Output the design of a nanofactory") and not otherwise intervene in (or take over) the universe. And maybe something like that could be made to work, but it's much harder than it looks.
Our simple framework for benchmarking how intelligence has to work is expected utility maximization: model the world, use your model to compute a probability distribution over outcomes conditional on choosing to perform an action for some set of actions, and then perform the action with the highest expected utility with respect to your utility function (a mapping from outcomes to ℝ). Any agent that behaves in a way that can't be shoved into this framework is in violation of the von Neumann–Morgenstern axioms, which look so "reasonable" that we expect any "reasonable" agent to self-modify to be in harmony with them.
So as AIs get more and more general, more like agents capable of autonomously solving new problems rather than unusually clever-looking ordinary computer programs, we should expect them to look more and more like expected utility maximizers, optimizing the universe with respect to some internal value criterion.
But humans are a mess of conflicting desires inherited from our evolutionary and sociocultural history; we don't have a utility function written down anywhere that we can just put in the AI. So if the systems that ultimately run the world end up with a utility function that's not in the incredibly specific class of those we would have wanted if we knew how to translate everything humans want or would-want into a utility function, then the machines disassemble us for spare atoms and tile the universe with something else. There's no reason for them to protect human life or forms of life that we would find valuable unless we specifically code that in.
This looks like a hard problem. This looks like a really hard problem with unimaginably high stakes: once the handoff of control of our civilization from humans to machines happens, we don't get a second chance to do it over. The ultimate fate of the human species rests on the competence of the AI research community: the inferential power and discipline to cut through to the correct answer and bet the world on it, rather than clinging to one's favorite pet hypothesis and leaving science to advance funeral by funeral.
Stereotypically at least, computer programming is the quintessential profession of autogynephilic trans women, although it's unclear how much of this is inherent to the work (a correlation between erotic target location erroneousness and general nerdiness) and how much is just a selection effect (well-to-do programmers with non-customer-facing jobs in Silicon Valley can afford to take the "publicly decide that this is my True Gender Identity" trajectory, whereas businessmen, lawyers, and poor people are trapped in the "secret, shameful crossdressing/dreaming" trajectory).
Thus, the bad epistemic hygiene habits of the trans community that are required to maintain the socially-acceptable alibi that transitioning is about expressing some innate "gender identity", are necessarily spread to the computer science community, as an intransigent minority of trans activist-types successfully enforce social norms mandating that everyone must pretend not to notice that trans women are eccentric men. With social reality placing such tight constraints on perception of actual reality, our chances of developing the advanced epistemology needed to rise to the occasion of solving the alignment problem seem slim at best. (If we can't put our weight down on the right answer to a really easy scientific question like the two-type taxonomy of MtF—which lots of people just notice without having to do careful research—then what hope do we have for hard problems?)
Essentially, we may be living in a scenario where the world is literally destroyed specifically because no one wants to talk about their masturbation fantasies.
(To the tune of "Love and Marriage.")
Sex and gender
Sex and gender
A disaster like a fender-bender
The latter tends to smother
But you can't have one without the other!
Try, try, try to separate them
It's an illusion
Try, try, try and you will only come
To this conclusion—