(Previously: Why will 2021 NOT bring a return to normalcy?)
I made a list of some prompts that seem broadly useful whenever sufficiently big news drops. It’s on my mind right now because 3 days ago Sam Altman was fired by the OpenAI board. I don’t think our answers to these prompts will be useful over the next week, but writing them down seems like the kind of thing that might be a good habit over the course of years. Hindsight bias can be very strong and deeply rooted, both individually and collectively.
I recommend writing your thoughts privately first, so that you have the space to Be Secretly Wrong if that turns out to be what you want. But speculating publicly also has its benefits. I think it’s good to put your answers inside spoiler tags.
Here are the prompts:
(0. How much of my time and attention is this worth? On the margin, is it worthwhile to return my focus to something else?)
Which Manifold markets about the current thing are asking the right questions?
Which questions are resting on which unstated assumptions?
Separately, which questions seem most likely to end with a clear and clean resolution?
How impactful will this be to me personally? Within a few days, many rank-and-file EAs confidently and correctly predicted the longterm effect of the FTX crisis on their own daily lives (increased austerity, and a lot of soul-searching about trustworthiness and integrity). What sort of tangible effects on my daily life will the current thing have after one year, if any? (For example, maybe I will wear my EA shirts more or less often.)
Taboo Your Words. If someone says it was a coup, what exactly do they mean—which people did which things for which reason?
Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? If your immediate reaction to that question is that it is ill-posed and unhelpful, congratulations, you might be an ideal Bayesian reasoner. If you’re like me, your brain immediately started returning straightforward answers, ones which you might want to interrogate, lest your biases go unnoticed.
Are most of the important facts likely to be settled in a year? Might we remain uncertain indefinitely? (For example, as far as I know, the origin of covid-19 is still controversial, I haven’t bothered researching it myself, and my smart friends have not settled on a high-credence answer.)
What are the prevailing narratives inside my filter bubble? What does your distant friend say the prevailing narratives are inside their own filter bubble?
Is this the kind of thing I can make good inside-view guesses about, or is it more helpful to stitch together claims from people who I think know better than me.
I didn’t try very hard to generate this list, so I won’t be surprised if better ones are offered in the comments—please contribute any good ones you think of. Finally, I claim that Being specific is useful and virtuous, but takes a lot of extra cognitive work. It’s often less rewarding (both intrinsically and extrinsically) than exchanging quick takes.