After reading a thread with some criticism about a certain person and organizations that had personal insults mixed in with some sensible argumentation, I started wondering if it’d be possible to apply current AI technology to the task of weeding out insults from text but keeping any sensible arguments it might contain. If this could be done effectively, it might actually make the filter unnecessary pretty fast as people would give up writing insults since almost no-one would see them.
Is anyone aware of someone working on something like this yet?
Personal insults might have a place in private conversations, although I doubt it. However, they are merely harmful noise in public conversations. That’s what drives people interested in constructive discourse away from most forums eventually, as the forums grow.
In any case, if there was such a filter and it worked well, I’d be using it. I’ve never seen an insult that conveyed useful information that couldn’t be conveyed without an insult.
Well, if you’re feeling like it, you could try to give me an example of a situation where an insult serves a useful purpose. As far as I can tell, it’s the vocabulary of an intense emotional conflict and only serves to intensify the conflict and make everyone involved feel worse. Does it have a purpose other than that?
Yes. It’s emotional. We often like to be aggressive animals. Aggression and fighting is a key part of our existence/self. Evolution shaped our brains around it.
If a normal human tried to behave like Spock, it would be very unhealthy for them. We need to release our emotions. It’s possible to ‘bottle them up’, but this usually causes mind damage. Maybe with a lot of training and effort, some humans can be taught to ‘let go’ of their ego, and be totally peaceful and relaxed about everything, but operating exclusively in this mode is to miss out on some useful tricks.
So firstly, I’m saying we can’t be like Spock. Secondly: What do we gain from insults/aggression? What do we miss out on if we never use anger?
The point of communication is to be able to transfer certain ideas/brain states to other people. If my brain state is anger, I might want others to know this. In a world where ad hominem is banned and I can’t fully express my feelings towards Eliezer, people wouldn’t be able to tell how/what kind of angry I was. Knowing what kind of angry I am is important because it helps to reveal my intentions. Having these anger modes can be useful because it’s a way to focus energy. Operating in anger states gives me more tools in my toolbox. It allows me to use my brain in a different way that can be more effective at getting certain kinds of results. It allows some things to be more efficient.
No argument about this. Our brains evolved to be extra sensitive to anything that might be a threat. However, in modern world, things that actually are a threat are quite rare. Our brains keep trying to find them, though, and will make do with the worst things they can find. Unfortunately, these are very often completely imagined threats.
I find it curious you’re pulling Spock in here. The topic is personal insults. I haven’t advocated not having emotions nor have I advocated hiding them. However, I entirely agree. We can’t be like Spock.
If I’m angry, I won’t attempt to hide it. However, personal insults are a step further. They’re an attempt to incite the same or similar emotion that you’re having in the other person, which is usually very unwelcome. Insults are also often completely unwarranted. Either due to wrong target or the anger being entirely due to a misunderstanding.
Also, when you fling insults in a public setting, it’s not merely the target of your insults who’ll take the hit. Everyone reading or hearing it will be effected.
I was hoping for an actual example here…
Anyway, I know how operating in anger state helps with some things. I have done that. But it’s possible to be in that state without expressing it through personal insults. They’re an ineffective tool because 99.9% of the time, they’re completely untrustworthy and will evoke the perfectly rational instinct to doubt that validity in others.
When you mix them with actual reasoning, that reasoning also ends up facing that instinct to doubt. It takes considerable mental effort to consider the insults and reasoning separately and most people will, quite rationally, decide that it’s not worth it for them to expend that effort. It’s uncommon for someone flinging insults to actually have something to say that’s worth hearing.
Even for someone who does make that effort, some of the doubt will remain, making it less likely he’ll be convinced. So, if the goal is to actually convince others that you’ve got a point, insults will work counter to that.
If the goal is to bask in some kind of self-satisfaction from the imagined mental pain you’ve caused… Well, it’s certainly a tool very suited to the task. Just don’t expect others to take you seriously when that’s a goal. It makes everything you say a suspect.