Eventually—sure. But for that eventuality to take place, the “electrical shock tyranny” would have to be more resilient than any political faction we’ve known of and persist for thousands of year. I doubt that this would be possible.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough. My critique refers to your point about scenarios where humans evolve like a dystopia not being applicable because if it were, suffering should be a rare occurence—if I understand you correctly, you’re stating that if we could evolve to like dystopias, by this point in time we would have evolved to either avoid or like any source of suffering. My counterpoint to this is that there is a massive sub-multitude of sources of suffering that do not affect evolution in any way because they are too transient to effect any serious selection pressure.
You could perhaps engineer scenarios where humans will genuinely evolve to like a dystopia
I think that this kind of misrepresents the scale on which evolution happens—it’s not one generation, or two, it’s hundreds and thousands, and it’s taken relatively good care of the sources of suffering that are fundamental enough to persist and keep the selection pressure on across that time frame—we’re pretty good at not eating things that are toxic, breeding, avoiding predators and so on. The problem with evolution is that a significant number of sources of suffering are persistent enough to have a detrimental impact on an individual’s life, but transient enough to not be able to affect selection across generations.
This post reminds me of an insight from one of my uni professors.
Early on at university, I was very frustrated with that the skills that were taught to us did not seem to be immediately applicable to the real world. That frustration was strong enough to snuff out most of the interest I had for studying genuinely (that is, to truly understand and internalize the concepts taught to us). Still, studying was expensive, dropping out was not an option, and I had to pass exams, which is why very early on I started, in what seemed to me to be a classic instance of Goodhart, to game the system—test banks were videly circulated among students, and for the classes with no test banks, there were past exams, which you could go through, trace out some kind of pattern for which topics and kinds of problems the prof puts on exams, and focus only on stuying those. I didn’t know it was called “Goodhart” back then, but the significance of this was not lost on me—I felt that by pivoting away from learning subjects and towards learning to pass exams in subjects, I was intellectually cheating. Sure, I was not hiding crib sheets in my sleeves or going to the restroom to look something up on my phone, but it was still gaming the system.
Later on, when I got rather friendly with one of my profs, and extremely worn down by pressures from my probability calculus course, I admitted to him that this was what I was doing, that I felt guilty, and didn’t feel able to pass any other way and felt like a fake. He said something to the effect of “Do you think we don’t know this? Most students study this way, and that’s fine. The characteristic of a well-structured exam isn’t that it does not allow cheating, it’s that it only allows cheating that is intelligent enough that a successful cheater would have been able to pass fairly.”
What he said was essentially a refutation of Goodhart’s Law by a sufficiently high-quality proxy. I think this might be relevant to the case you’re dealing with here as well. Your “true” global optimum probably is a proxy, but if it’s a well-chosen one, it need not be vulnerable to Goodhart.
I understand that this may be well outside the scope of your writing, but still—any chance you could actually post some epistemic defense decks for Anki? Or are there any good ones already available?
(Apologies if the question is stupid, I’m somewhat new to LW)
Disclaimer: this comment includes a lot of speculation on philosophy and art movements that I myself don’t have an in-depth understanding of. Please take this with a grain of salt. If anyone reading this understands the matter better and sees me saying BS, please correct me.
I think that one thing that can be helpful to examine is postmodernism. As Jean-Francois Lyotard had originally described it in the late 70s, it is “incredulity towards metanarratives”. For Lyotard this meant rejecting the idea that the world is described or describable by some unified model. He criticized both capitalists and marxists, which were two sides of the big ideological struggle of his time, for trying to assert that there is a single and universally true vision of society and money and power and how to handle those. He also criticized science, which he said had turned from “truly producing knowledge” to “performativity” and churning out self-contradictory results, which to him meant that the “metanarrative” of science explaining the world was fake and discredited.
Now, Lyotard later rejected some of these ideas and admitted he did not have a very good understanding of the sciences he was trying to criticize, but his work was influential and the notion of skepticism towards big universal narratives (including scientism) took hold in the French intellectual sphere and birthed the entire movement of postmodernism.
These are things I’m relatively (see disclaimer) confident in. From here, we have to make two assumptions to get us somewhere relevant to your question. First, assume portrayal of some event in art has influence on its public perception, including this event being celebrated or not (I’m quite confident in this assumption). Second, assume Lyotard’s ideas had influence not only on philosophy, but also on art (I’m less confident in this—in fact, Lyotard borrowed the term “postmodernism” from art critics, who were using it before him, and I’m not familiar with anything about postmodernism in art that would scream rejection of science and technology—maybe aside from that postmodern artists are broadly understood as rejecting modern ones, and Bauhaus, an art movement obsessed with glorifying technology, is broadly understood as modernist).
If these assumptions hold, we have something like an answer to your question—if the artist starts with the abstract notion that there is no universal rhyme or reason to the world that humans could discover, they will not create works that glorify discovery or science, and thus will not spur public celebration.
Thanks for the reply and sorry I couldn’t get to this for some time! Hope you’re still interested in the discussion.
I expect that politics in most places, and US Congressional politics especially, is usually much more heavily focused on special interests than the overall media narrative would suggest
This is really interesting and you probably have a good point. Do you think there’s a more reliable way (for an outsider like myself, who’s not able to, I dunno, go and ask people in a dive bar what they think) to get the lay of the political land in a particular point in space? (And time?) Maybe some centralized kind of poll repository?
Every media outlet in the country (including 538) wanted to run stories about how race was super-important to the election, because those stories got tons of clicks, but that’s very different from actually playing a role.
On a side note, I can imagine this kind of perspective, when taken to an unmitigated extreme, leading to a very cartesian-demon view of the world. Most people that publish their thoughts are incentivized to make you, the reader, like it or be interested in it. Mass-media obviously so, bloggers or analysts or think tanks less obviously so, but still. If, when faced with a choice of writing about (a) things that are real but dull vs (b) things that are not real but get clicks, no one has an incentive to do (a), how do you form a view of the world?
(Had I not known about publish-or-perish and read Gelman/Falkovich on p-hacking, I myself would give the traditionally cartesian answer of “by reading scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals”, but… yeah).
So we just ignore the gullible people, and apply the discussion from the post to everybody else.
I think we’ve made an important move in argumentation here—we’ve started to introduce the possibility of the voters differing by whether they believe the lies/bullshit or not. But if we do—that is, we introduce the possibility of the voter considering some of the politician’s commitment to a future policy Schelling point not genuine—we also open the possibility for the voter to speculate on what the politician’s true policies are.
Say, Alice runs for president on a conservative/jobs-centric platform, commits to outlaw work visas and expunge all foreign workers, and wins the race, and says that she’s working hard to achieve that goal. Bob is a total supporter and he’s sure that she does exactly that and thinks that deportations are only a couple days away. Charlie may be skeptical about the promise, because sounded very radical and campaign-y, but thinks she’s probably going to cut work visas, but not be able to expunge foreigners already in the country. Dave agrees with Charlie that the promise was radical and will not be followed through on fully, but not on what will actually happen—he thinks Alice will be able to expunge already present foreigners, but never risk the political turmoil of removing work visas. Erin is a total skeptic and thinks Alice is merely exploiting the voters, and is actually not doing anything about the foreigners, and finally Frank is a conspiracy theorist and thinks that Alice is secretly working with a cabal of globalists to bring even more foreigners (maybe even illegally!) in while bullshitting him.
All of these people have different Schelling points! If Zack, a foreigner, asks Bob to loan him money, Bob is going to refuse, because he thinks Zack will be kicked out of the country tomorrow and he’s not getting his money back. If he asks Erin, she’s likely to agree, because she doesn’t believe Zack is going anywhere.
Now, sure, there’s only so many ways to interpret a single campaign promise, and there are bound to be groups within the voter base that will agree on what Alice will actually do, the Schelling point will work for them—but since Alice is incentivized to make a lot of focused-benefit-disperse-cost promises, voters who agree on what her actions on a certain policy are, may disagree on what her actions regarding a different policy are. So… when nobody agrees on what the Schelling point is, does it, for all intents and purposes, exist?
So… it’s possible that there is something about Middle Eastern politics that I don’t understand, and it would be cool if you could clarify. If I understand you correctly, you write that farms in the South are owned by rich people. At the same time, you write that farms in the North are somehow connected to the ruling coalition, and because of this the government had to signal loyalty to them.
I was under the impression that in monarchic/autocratic countries it was near-impossible to be rich while not being connected to the ruling group (= not being the kind of agent the ruling group would need to signal loyalty to). The farmers in the South contradict that. How does this work?
I’m probably missing something obvious, but I don’t trivially see how this
Interestingly, this suggests that a leader can get high value from a group whose preferences are orthogonal to their own; pursue power in groups which care about different things than you!
follows from this
A leader’s power is high when group members all want to coordinate their choices, but care much less about which choice is made, so long as everyone “matches”. Then the leader can just choose anything they please, and everyone will go along with it.
Could you please elaborate?
Also, I have an outsider’s view of American (or, indeed, Western in general) politics, so I can be wrong, but I think an argument from empirics could be made against this:
It’s special-interest politics: look for policies with focused benefits and diffuse costs. Pile many such policies together, and you have a winning coalition.
At least in the two most recent American elections (2016 and then the 2018 midterms) it seems like it was very much not the case of people racing for the most focused benefits and most diffuse cost, but rather for the most efficient way to galvanize their voters, cost be damned. Think of the wall on the Mexican border—it would probably be exorbitantly expensive, including to those that voted for it, but it was a very powerful symbol that people who felt strongly about the issue could rally behind.
538 here do a kind of literature review—and find, amongst other things, that
racial attitudes mattered more in 2016 than in any recent election — even 2008, when the presence of an African-American candidate shaped the political conversation.
Unless I misunderstand the idea, I don’t think issues of race have a narrow focused scope of benefits and costs diffuse enough not to be noticed by other voters.
I also think this point
Would-be leaders make promises: they precommit to certain policies, thereby cutting off certain options if they win (i.e. sacrificing potential power), but gaining more support for their Schelling point in the process.
makes an assumption of voters being more-or-less perfectly informed about what the Schelling point (policies and laws) actually is. What if a leader could get elected by pre-commiting to certain policies, but then actually not act on them, while managing to convince the voters that they, in fact, are doing their best to implement these policies, but are failing to for a certain (probably not a very falsifiable) reason? Or does the model already support this in a way that I don’t notice?