Voting in elections is a wonderful example of logical decision theory in the wild. The chance that you are genuinely logically correlated to a random trade partner is probably small, in cases where you don’t have mutual knowledge of LDT; leaving altruism and reputation as sustaining reasons for cooperation. With millions of voters, the chance that you are correlated to thousands of them is much better.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to believe the dictate of Causal Decision Theory that if an election is won by 3 votes, nobody’s vote influenced it, and if an election is won by 1 vote, all of the millions of voters on the winning side are solely responsible. But that was a silly decision theory anyway. Right?

Do you know if anyone has done/published a calculation on whether, given reasonable beliefs about (i.e., a large amount of uncertainty over) opportunity costs and logical correlations, voting is actually a good thing to do from an x-risk perspective?

If your decision is determined by an x-risk perspective, it seems to me you only correlate with others whose decision is determined by an x-risk perspective, and logical correlations become irrelevant because their votes decrease net x-risk if and only if yours does (on expectation, after conditioning on the right information). This doesn’t seem to be the common wisdom, so maybe I’m missing something. At least a case for taking logical correlations into account here would have to be more subtle than the more straightforward case for acausal cooperation between egoists.

I think you’re right, for x-risk logical correlation seems irrelevant. So I guess we instead want to know whether voting is good for reducing x-risk assuming that the opportunity cost comes entirely from other x-risk reducing activities, and if not, can a case for voting be made based on both x-risk and other (e.g., selfish) considerations where logical correlation is relevant.

ETA: Ironically, if everyone bought into the CDT argument for not voting based on self interest, much fewer people would vote and it would be a lot easier for people like us to flip elections based on x-risk concerns.

The case would rely on curvature in the sigmoid that describes probability of winning the election as a function of participation. And you’re right, that makes it decidedly a second- or third-order effect; to first order, correlation is irrelevant.

and logical correlations become irrelevant because their votes decrease net x-risk if and only if yours does

I don’t understand this part. What do you mean by “their votes decrease net x-risk if and only if yours does”, and why does that mean logical correlations don’t matter?

And how is this situation different from the general case of voting when some other voters are like-minded?

Naive and extremely rough calculation that doesn’t take logical correlations into account: If you’re in the US and your uncertainty about vote counts is in the tens of millions and the expected vote difference between candidates is also in the tens of millions, then the expected number of elections swayed by the marginal vote might be 1 in 100 million (because almost-equal numbers of votes have lower probability density). If 0.1% of the quality of our future lightcone is at stake, voting wins an expected 10 picolightcones. If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per hour. If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime. The popular vote doesn’t determine the outcome, of course, so the relevant number is much smaller in a non-swing state and larger in a swing state or if you’re trading votes with someone in a swing state.

If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per lifetime.

Do you mean “per hour” instead?

If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime.

Have you thought about how to estimate microlightcone per lifetime from our other x-risk activities?

Intuitively it seems like everyone except maybe the most productive x-risk activists probably have less than 10 picolightcones per hour of marginal productivity. Does that seem right to you?

Thanks, I did mean per hour and I’ll edit it. I think my impression of people’s lightcones per hour is higher than yours. As a stupid model, suppose lightcone quality has a term of 1% * ln(x) or 10% * ln(x) where x is the size/power of the x-risk movement. (Various hypotheses under which the x-risk movement has surprisingly low long-term impact, e.g. humanity is surrounded by aliens or there’s some sort of moral convergence, also imply elections have no long-term impact, so maybe we should be estimating something like the quality of humanity’s attempted inputs into optimizing the lightcone.) Then you only need to increase x by 0.01% or 0.001% to win a microlightcone per lifetime. I think there are hundreds or thousands of people who can achieve this level of impact. (Or rather, I think hundreds or thousands of lifetimes’ worth of work with this level of impact will be done, and the number of people who could add some of these hours if they chose to is greater than that.) Of course, at this point it matters to estimate the parameters more accurately than to the nearest order of magnitude or two. (For example, Trump vs. Clinton was probably more closely contested than my numbers above, even in terms of expectations before the fact.) Also, of course, putting this much analysis into deciding whether to vote is more costly than voting, so the point is mostly to help us understand similar but different questions.

Density for almost-equal numbers of votes is not lower in most high-stakes elections. I’d say 1 in 5 million or so. That’s just a bit more than one order of magnitude and doesn’t substantially change the overall conclusions.

With millions of voters, the chance that you are correlated to thousands of them is much better.

It seems to me there are also millions of potential acausal trade partners in non-voting contexts, e.g. in the context of whether to spend most of your effort egoistically or altruistically and toward which cause, whether to obey the law, etc. The only special feature of voting that I can see is it gives you a share in years’ worth of policy at the cost of only a much smaller amount of your time, making it potentially unusually efficient for altruists.

Voting in elections is a wonderful example of logical decision theory in the wild. The chance that you are genuinely logically correlated to a random trade partner is probably small, in cases where you don’t have mutual knowledge of LDT; leaving altruism and reputation as sustaining reasons for cooperation. With millions of voters, the chance that you are correlated to thousands of them is much better.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to believe the dictate of Causal Decision Theory that if an election is won by 3 votes, nobody’s vote influenced it, and if an election is won by 1 vote, all of the millions of voters on the winning side are solely responsible. But that was a silly decision theory anyway. Right?

Do you know if anyone has done/published a calculation on whether, given reasonable beliefs about (i.e., a large amount of uncertainty over) opportunity costs and logical correlations, voting is actually a good thing to do from an x-risk perspective?

If your decision is determined by an x-risk perspective, it seems to me you only correlate with others whose decision is determined by an x-risk perspective, and logical correlations become irrelevant because their votes decrease net x-risk if and only if yours does (on expectation, after conditioning on the right information). This doesn’t seem to be the common wisdom, so maybe I’m missing something. At least a case for taking logical correlations into account here would have to be more subtle than the more straightforward case for acausal cooperation between egoists.

I think you’re right, for x-risk logical correlation seems irrelevant. So I guess we instead want to know whether voting is good for reducing x-risk assuming that the opportunity cost comes entirely from other x-risk reducing activities, and if not, can a case for voting be made based on both x-risk and other (e.g., selfish) considerations where logical correlation is relevant.

ETA: Ironically, if everyone bought into the CDT argument for

notvoting based on self interest, much fewer people would vote and it would be a lot easier for people like us to flip elections based on x-risk concerns.The case would rely on curvature in the sigmoid that describes probability of winning the election as a function of participation. And you’re right, that makes it decidedly a second- or third-order effect; to first order, correlation is irrelevant.

I don’t understand this part. What do you mean by “their votes decrease net x-risk if and only if yours does”, and why does that mean logical correlations don’t matter?

And how is this situation different from the general case of voting when some other voters are like-minded?

Naive and extremely rough calculation that doesn’t take logical correlations into account: If you’re in the US and your uncertainty about vote counts is in the tens of millions and the expected vote difference between candidates is also in the tens of millions, then the expected number of elections swayed by the marginal vote might be 1 in 100 million (because almost-equal numbers of votes have lower probability density). If 0.1% of the quality of our future lightcone is at stake, voting wins an expected 10 picolightcones. If voting takes an hour, then it’s worth it iff you’re otherwise winning less than 10 picolightcones per hour. If a lifetime is 100,000 hours, that means less than a microlightcone per lifetime. The popular vote doesn’t determine the outcome, of course, so the relevant number is much smaller in a non-swing state and larger in a swing state or if you’re trading votes with someone in a swing state.

Do you mean “per hour” instead?

Have you thought about how to estimate microlightcone per lifetime from our other x-risk activities?

Intuitively it seems like everyone except maybe the most productive x-risk activists probably have less than 10 picolightcones per hour of marginal productivity. Does that seem right to you?

Thanks, I did mean per hour and I’ll edit it. I think my impression of people’s lightcones per hour is higher than yours. As a stupid model, suppose lightcone quality has a term of 1% * ln(x) or 10% * ln(x) where x is the size/power of the x-risk movement. (Various hypotheses under which the x-risk movement has surprisingly low long-term impact, e.g. humanity is surrounded by aliens or there’s some sort of moral convergence, also imply elections have no long-term impact, so maybe we should be estimating something like the quality of humanity’s attempted inputs into optimizing the lightcone.) Then you only need to increase x by 0.01% or 0.001% to win a microlightcone per lifetime. I think there are hundreds or thousands of people who can achieve this level of impact. (Or rather, I think hundreds or thousands of lifetimes’ worth of work with this level of impact will be done, and the number of people who could add some of these hours if they chose to is greater than that.) Of course, at this point it matters to estimate the parameters more accurately than to the nearest order of magnitude or two. (For example, Trump vs. Clinton was probably more closely contested than my numbers above, even in terms of expectations before the fact.) Also, of course, putting this much analysis into deciding whether to vote is more costly than voting, so the point is mostly to help us understand similar but different questions.

Density for almost-equal numbers of votes is not lower in most high-stakes elections. I’d say 1 in 5 million or so. That’s just a bit more than one order of magnitude and doesn’t substantially change the overall conclusions.

It seems to me there are also millions of potential acausal trade partners in non-voting contexts, e.g. in the context of whether to spend most of your effort egoistically or altruistically and toward which cause, whether to obey the law, etc. The only special feature of voting that I can see is it gives you a share in years’ worth of policy at the cost of only a much smaller amount of your time, making it potentially unusually efficient for altruists.