I first feel motivated to make completely pedantic points on the examples. (I’ll hopefully have something substantive to say about the actual implications later)
On “the most popular answer is Empire State Building”, I’ve heard a few people say this and it’s different from what Thomas Schelling says in Strategy of Conflict (most people said “The information booth at grand central station”). Curious if there was a particular followup study with a different answer.
Also, I think the Empire State Building is actually a tempting but demonstrably wrong answer. People who attempt to do this will regret having done so, and wish they and their partner had chosen the Grand Central Information booth. This is because the Empire State Building is big, it’s actually pretty hard to find each other in it. You can go to the top level observation deck where your attention is focused a bit better, but a) it costs something like $30, b) I’m not even sure if you can get there on a given day without buying tickets in advance. (I know that to get to the Statue of Liberty you have to reserve a spot weeks or months in advance)
By contrast, Grand Central station’s information booth is not only very iconic, and a narrow spot where it’s very easy to find other people, but New York City is quite literally designed to get you there. Whether you’re in some random place in Manhattan, or the Bronx, or even upstate New York, there’s a lot of infrastructure that make it really easy to get to the information booth.
(Penn Station is an option that you should consider, because there’s also a lot of infrastructure pointed there. But Penn Station is huge, and has at least two areas that you might consider the precise schelling point. I’ve seen people literally try to coordinate on meeting up at Penn Station with communication allowed, and fail, because they had different guesses about where the Schelling Point was. Times Square is another obvious choice and I think it’s better than Penn Station but still much worse than Grand Central at focusing all of your attention to a single spot.)
If you don’t live in NYC and don’t know about all the transportation infrastructure, you might end up having to pick Empire State Building because you don’t know any better. But, while you’re traveling there, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into the Grand Central information booth, and I think it might even be possible and advisable to figure out that that’s the real Schelling Point and switch strategy. (BUT! If you arrive at NYC by bus, you’d end up at Penn Station, and you might also be tempted to notice one of the Big Boards at Penn as a plausible schelling point and switch strategy, and you’d be wrong. I think the Grand Central Booth is visibly more Schelling than the Big Boards at Penn but I don’t trust my original seeing on it)
(If you live in NYC, and are having to play this game with someone who’s never been to NYC, and if it turns out that yes empirically most outsiders say “Empire State Building”, I’m not sure)
Meanwhile, even more pedantically, but there are now multiple buildings taller than the Empire State building which clearly didn’t become the new schelling point, so that strategy empirically* doesn’t actually work.
*I just now notice and wonder that Empire and empiric sure look like similar words and am wondering what’s up with that.
I think “empire” and “empirical” have less to do with one another than one would guess, but ultimately there is (probably) a connection.
“empire” and “emperor” of course comes from Latin “imperium” and “imperator”, from “imperare” to command. (Harry Potter fans may wish to know that the first person singular indicative active form is “impero”, not “imperio” :-).)
“empirical” comes from Greek “empeiria” meaning “experience”.
So I guess the question is whether “imperare” is related to “empeiria” somehow. Well, yes and no. It appears that “imperare” is from “in” (preposition) + “parare” (to prepare), whereas “empeiria” is from “en” (preposition) + “peira” (a trial or attempt). Greek “en” is the equivalent of Latin “in”, so the initial bits are indeed the same.
But what about “parare” and “peira”? Those are words with quite different meanings. But they are both thought to come from PIE *per-, which has a number of meanings (note: all this stuff is conjecture, but not my conjecture). Oldest seems to be something like “first” or “front”—we get “first” from this, and “pre-”, and all sorts of other things. That seems to have given rise to “go through”, “carry forth”, etc., which is where “paro” comes from. And that seems to have given rise to “try”, “dare”, “risk”, etc., which is where “peira” comes from.
So the (partly conjectural) tree looks like this. Conjectured bits are in square brackets.
[PIE *per-, meaning things like “first” and “front”]
[PIE *per-, meaning things like “bring out”]
Latin paro, meaning “prepare”
Latin impero, meaning “command”
Latin imperium and imperator
English empire and emperor
[PIE *per-, meaning things like “try”]
Greek peira, meaning “trial” and “attempt”
Greek empeiria, meaning “experience”
Greek empeirikos, meaning “empirical”
If you believe the PIE reconstructions then there is a common origin. But as far as actually known words goes, the oldest we’ve got is “paro”, prepare, and “peira”, attempt, and it’s not obvious prima facie that those are actually related.
The Shilling Point in NYC is, as I have always understood it, indeed the clock (aka the information booth) at Grand Central. It’s a much, much better choice than the ESB, and also what I expect others to expect here. Epistemic Status is “This Is Known” and this extends to the degree that I will literally say “Meet at the Schilling Point” when I want to indicate that’s where we are meeting, which is not that uncommon as it often makes a lot of sense, and the majority of the time no one asks where I meant by that.
(Yes, Penn Station’s train times display and Times Square itself are in theory possible but can confirm that they’re both objectively terrible, and worse at the job we’re proposing.)
Agreed that in theory ESB is on the board but I would be pretty shocked if someone actually went there.
The Shilling Point in NYC
This not the first time you’ve spelled “Schelling Point” “Schilling point” and I’m curious if that’s some kind of on-purpose thing or just a misspelling you happen to do by accident a lot?
The “Schelling points depend on who you’re playing with” essay is a different essay than this one, and Grand Central vs Empire State is an excellent example for that essay.
But this is a particularly interesting point which I will dive into a bit more:
… there are now multiple buildings taller than the Empire State building which clearly didn’t become the new schelling point, so that strategy empirically* doesn’t actually work.
The key point here is that most people who aren’t from the New York area probably don’t know that it isn’t the tallest building any more. And for Schelling point purposes, people knowing is all that matters. Just building a new tallest building isn’t enough, one also has to spread the word that there’s a new tallest building. Run ads, post on social media, all that jazz.
On the other hand, if one has to run ads and post on social media and all that jazz anyway, then the “Meet up here!” billboard starts to look like a more attractive option. Tallest building location doesn’t become relevant until there’s multiple competing billboards with competing ads, so nobody trusts the billboards anymore.
I feel like people knew the Twin Towers were taller? And probably also that the Freedom Tower is taller? The latter certainly had a lot of publicity (for reasons that are probably at least somewhat related to the points in this post, albeit a few abstractions removed)
As a foreigner i have a vague hunch that it’s probably no longer the tallest (cause come on, it can’t be for that long, right?), but there isn’t a different building I’m aware of that i would pick as probably taller.
People probably do start paying less attention as more Big Tall buildings are made, because it gets less interesting the more you do it. But I also think the Freedom Tower has basically all the advantages a Schelling point could have in terms and if publicity and narrative cohesion.