Associate yourself with people whom you can confidently and cheerfully outperform the Nash Equilibrium with.
This isn’t necessarily “Come for the instrumentality, stay for the epistemology” — but, maybe.
broke peace first.
Have you read “Metaphors We Live By” by Lakoff?
The first 20 pages or so are almost a must-read in my opinion.
Highly recommended, for you in particular.
A Google search with filetype:pdf will find you a copy. You can skim it fast — not needed to close read it — and you’ll get the gems.
Edit for exhortation: I think you’ll get a whole lot out of it such that I’d stake some “Sebastian has good judgment” points on it that you can subtract from my good judgment rep if I’m wrong. Seriously please check it out. It’s fast and worth it.
I had literally the exact same experience before I read your comment dxu.
I imagine it’s likely that Duncan could sort of burn out on being able to do this  since it’s pretty thankless difficult cognitive work. 
But it’s really insightful to watch. I do think he could potentially tune up  the diplomatic savvy a bit  since I think while his arguments are quite sound  I think he probably is sometimes making people feel a little bit stupid via his tone. 
Nevertheless, it’s really fascinating to read and observe. I feel vaguely like I’m getting smarter.
Rigor for the hell of it :
 Hedged hypothesis.
 Two-premise assertion with a slightly subjective basis, but I think a true one.
 Elaborated on a slightly different but related point further in my comment below to him with an example.
 Vague but I think acceptably so. To elaborate, I mean making one’s ideas even when in disagreement with a person palatable to the person one is disagreeing with. Note: I’m aware it doesn’t acknowledge the cost of doing so and running that filter. Note also: I think, with skill and practice, this can be done without sacrificing the content of the message. It is almost always more time-consuming though, in my experience.
 There’s some subjective judgments and utility function stuff going on, which is subjective naturally, but his core factual arguments, premises, and analyses basically all look correct to me.
 Hedged hypothesis. Note: doesn’t make a judgment either way as to whether it’s worth it or not.
 Added after writing to double-check I’m playing by the rules and clear up ambiguity. “For the hell of it” is just random stylishness and can be safely mentally deleted.
(Or perhaps, if I introspect closely, a way to not be committed to this level of rigor all the time. As stated below though, minor stylistic details aside, I’m always grateful whenever a member of a community attempts to encourage raising and preserving high standards.)
First, I think promoting and encouraging higher standards is, if you’ll pardon the idiom, doing God’s work.
I’m so appreciative any time any member of a community looks to promote and encourage higher standards. It takes a lot of work and gets a lot of pushback and I’m always super appreciative when I see someone work at it.
Second, and on a much smaller note, if I might offer some......… stylistic feedback?
I’m only speaking here about my personal experience and heuristics. I’m not speaking for anyone else. One of my heuristics — which I darn well know isn’t perfectly accurate, but it’s nevertheless a heuristic I implicitly use all the time and which I know others use — is looking at language choices made when doing a quick skim of a piece as a first-pass filter of the writer’s credibility.
It’s often inaccurate. I know it. Still, I do it.
Your writing sometimes, when you care about an issue, seems to veer very slightly into resembling the writing of someone who is heated up about a topic in a way that leads to less productive and coherent thought.
This leads my default reaction to discounting the credibility of the message slightly.
I have to forcibly remind myself not to do that in your case, since you’re actually taking pretty cohesive and intelligent positions.
As a small example:
These are all terrible ideas.These are allterribleideas.I’m going to say it a third time, because LessWrong is not yet a place where I can rely on my reputation for saying what I actually mean and then expect to be treated as if I meant the thing that I actually said: I recognize that these are terrible ideas.
These are all terrible ideas.
These are all
I’m going to say it a third time, because LessWrong is not yet a place where I can rely on my reputation for saying what I actually mean and then expect to be treated as if I meant the thing that I actually said: I recognize that these are terrible ideas.
I just — umm, in my personal… umm.… filters… it doesn’t look good on a skim pass. I’m not saying emulate soul-less garbage at the expense of clarity. Certainly not. I like your ideas a lot. I loved Concentration of Force.
I’m just saying that, on the margin, if you edited down some of the first-person language and strong expressions of affect a little bit in areas where you might be concerned about it being “not yet a place where I can rely on my reputation for saying what I actually mean”… it might help credibility.
I’ve written quite literally millions of words in my life, so I can say from firsthand experience that lines like that do successfully pre-empt stupid responses so you get less dumb comments.
But I think it’s likely you take anywhere from a 10% to 50% penalty to credibility to many casual skimmers of threads who do not ever bother to comment (which, incidentally, is both the majority of readers and me personally in 2021).
I see things like the excerpted part, and I have to consciously remind myself not to apply a credibility discount to what you’re saying, because (in my experience and perhaps unfairly) I pattern match that style to less credible people and less credible writing.
Again, this is just a friendly stylistic note. I consider myself a fan. If I’m mistaken or it’d be expensive to implement an editing filter for toning that down, don’t bother — it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, and I’m really happy someone is working on this.
I suppose I’m just trying to improve the good guys’ effectiveness for concentration of force reasons, you could say.
Salut and thanks again.
There’s a very thorough paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, “Use of a prescribed ephedrine/caffeine combination and the risk of serious cardiovascular events: a registry-based case-crossover study”, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwn191
Apparently, and this really surprised me,
“Use of prescribed ephedrine in Denmark — Letigen was a pharmaceutical product containing 20 mg of synthetic ephedrine and 200 mg of caffeine, available only by prescription. Its recommended dose was 1–3 tablets per day, depending on the user’s tolerance. It was approved for sale in Denmark in 1990. During the peak of its use in 1999, some 110,000 persons, corresponding to 2% of the Danish population, were treated. In 2002, the marketing license was suspended, after a number of reports had suggested a safety problem.”
So there’s a pretty big sample there.
Now note, I’m not a doctor and this just my opinion — it seems that some people should never take ephedrine under any circumstances (certain heart problems or family history of certain heart problems, etc) and anyone else ought to be really quite careful taking it if it’s legal and approved in one’s jurisdiction.
Ephedrine increases metabolic activity and thermogenesis — heat production — and it’s more dangerous when it’s hot outside, when you’re doing any aerobic activity, or if you’ve had any other stressors on one’s heart or get into other contraindication with stressors.
Speculatively, it seems possible that safety rates in Denmark might be higher than elsewhere since it doesn’t get very hot there. If you compared someone using ephedrine/caffeine in Siberia in the winter to Dubai in the summer, the increased thermogenesis and physically radiating more heat might seem like a beneficial side effect in an arctic blizzard whereas both uncomfortable and dangerous under a desert sun.
I’m going off the top of my head here since I don’t have a copy in front of me, but I remember some very persuasive arguments and citations in the (terribly titled but otherwise quite good) book Extreme Productivity by Bob Pozen.
Basically, Pozen’s cited studies found the steady approach pays off on basically every dimension you’d care about (including quality and quantity of the work, efficiency, and decreased various badness). I found it pretty persuasive and switched from working in intense bursts to a more methodical way when writing, for the next few years, and it worked well for me. I got the time it took me to write a 6000 word essay down from ~40 hours to the 12-18 hour range, quality was better, and it was less stressful.
Doesn’t necessarily generalize, and I’d speculate it maybe generalizes least for things that benefit from being at some critical mass threshold for a short period of time (say, like, an auction). That part is just speculation thought.
Re: the Repugnant Conclusion, it’s not necessarily my opinion, but there’s a coherent set of moral principles that values A+ over A but also A+ over B-.
It might come from something like rejecting diminishing marginal utility as relates to certain very big questions — thinking that yes, Mozart + five otherwise uncreated good lives of new musicians is better than Mozart alone, but a world of six musicians substantially worse than Mozart is worse than either just Mozart+0 or Mozart+5.
Hmm. At the time of my starting this comment, this is on the frontpage and at +31 after my strong vote up — but it had no comments on it.
This is somewhat unusual — this is normally a group of people that at least one person will quickly comment with a flash first pass impression, introduce a question, talk about something in the domain, link a research paper or share a related quote...
And no one has yet done so.
So, here is my (somewhat meta) take — I read this in bits and pieces, somewhat slowly, over the afternoon and evening between calls and activities, periodically coming back to it in my browser. At first, I was like, ok, I get where this is going; I’m familiar with the general background and theories and I’ve had some of the personal experience of thinking through genes and their implications and how I relate to them, etc. Your personal experience of reasoning about it wasn’t exactly the same as mine, but close enough to be recognizable and it made sense.
Then you build up to your conclusion and there was this significant shift my thinking — I think It happened for me roughly around where you discuss how learning the underlying genetic theories seemed to “hollow out” the lion, but updating your understanding of the genetics didn’t “re-fill” the lion — and I had this experience of, “Oh wait, I think there might be a significant and large hole in my thinking on the topic.”
This combined with the general stylishness of the piece — for lack of a better word — Shakespeare, the image choices, the language choices, etc… left me in an interesting and unusual place I don’t wind up in after reading nonfiction:
The first was a strong intrinsic desire to think this through more clearly before formulating any other opinions on the topic. The second was — again for lack of a better word — a mild form of something like “awe.”
This was a really delightful and interesting read, and I’m grateful for having read it. I can understand why there aren’t any other comments yet, though — it seems like something of sufficient importance that it would not be fitting to make a snap judgment or contribute a tiny detail, since I should spend some time around what not seems to be a large gap in my thinking on this topic that I hadn’t adequately perceived or reasoned through.
So, anyways, that was my experience reading this. Thanks for writing it. “Thought provoking” gets thrown around rather casually these days, but this was very much the strong version of that for me.
First, I love this question.
Second, this might seem way out of left field, but I think this might help you answer it —
One of the BGB’s [editor: the German Civil Law Code] fundamental components is the doctrine of abstract alienation of property (German: Abstraktionsprinzip), and its corollary, the separation doctrine (Trennungsprinzip). Derived from the works of the pandectist scholar Friedrich Carl von Savigny, the Code draws a sharp distinction between obligationary agreements (BGB, Book 2), which create enforceable obligations, and “real” or alienation agreements (BGB, Book 3), which transfer property rights. In short, the two doctrines state: the owner having an obligation to transfer ownership does not make you the owner, but merely gives you the right to demand the transfer of ownership.
I have an idea of what might be going on here with your question.
It might be the case that there’s two fairly-tightly-bound — yet slightly distinct — components in your conception of “theoretical evidence.”
I’m having a hard time finding the precise words, but something around evidence, which behaves more-or-less similarly to how we typically use the phrase, and something around… implication, perhaps… inference, perhaps… something to do with causality or prediction… I’m having a hard time finding the right words here, but something like that.
I think it might be the case that these components are quite tightly bound together, but can be profitably broken up into two related concepts — and thus, being able to separate them BGB-style might be a sort of solution.
Maybe I’m mistaken here — my confidence isn’t super high, but when I thought through this question the German Civil Law concept came to mind quickly.
It’s profitable reading, anyways — BGB I think can be informative around abstract thinking, logic, and order-of-operations. Maybe intellectually fruitful towards your question or maybe not, but interesting and recommended either way.
I’ll review and think more carefully later — out at dinner with a friend now — but my quick thought is that the proper venue, time, and place for expressing discontent with a cooperative community project is probably afterwards, possibly beforehand, and certainly not during… I don’t believe in immunity from criticism, obviously, but I am against defection when one doesn’t agree with a choice of norms.
That’s the quick take, will review more closely later.
Hey—to preface—obviously I’m a great admirer of yours Kaj and I’ve been grateful to learn a lot from you, particularly in some of the exceptional research papers you’ve shared with me.
With that said, of course your emotions are your own but in terms of group ethics and standards, I’m very much in disagreement.
The upset feels similar to what I’ve previously experienced when something that’s obviously a purely symbolic gesture is treated as a Big Important Thing That’s Actually Making A Difference.
On the one hand, you’re totally right. On the other hand, basically the entire world is made up of abstractions along these lines. What can the Supreme Court opinion in Marbury vs Madison be recognized as other than a purely symbolic gesture? Madison wasn’t going to deliver the commissions, Justice Marshall (no relation) knew that for sure, and he made a largely symbolic gesture in how he navigated the thing. It had no practical importance for a long time but now forms one of the foundations of American jurisprudence effecting, indirectly, billions of lives. But at the time, if you dig into the history, it really was largely symbolic at the time.
The world is built out of all sorts of abstract symbolism and intersubjective convention.
That by itself wouldn’t trigger the reaction; the world is full of purely symbolic gestures that are claiming to make a difference, but they mostly haven’t upset me in a long time. Some of the communication around Petrov Day has. I think it’s because of a sense that this idea is being pushed on people-that-I-care-about as something important despite not actually being in accordance to their values, and that there’s social pressure for people to be quiet about it and give in to the social pressure at a cost to their epistemics.
Canonical reply is this one:
(“Canonical” was intentionally chosen, incidentally.)
I feel like Oliver’s comment is basically saying “people should have taken this seriously and people who treat this light-heartedly are in the wrong”. It’s spoken from a position of authority, and feels like it’s shaming people whose main sin is that they aren’t particularly persuaded by this ritual actually being significant, as no compelling reason for this ritual actually being significant has ever been presented.
From Well-Kept Gardens:
In any case the light didn’t go on in my head about egalitarian instincts (instincts to prevent leaders from exercising power) killing online communities until just recently. [...] I have seen rationalist communities die because they trusted their moderators too little.
Honestly, for anything that wasn’t clearly egregiously wrong, I’d support the leadership team on here even if my feelings ran in a different direction. Like, leadership is hard. Really really really hard. If there was something I didn’t believe in, I’d just quietly opt out.
Now, I fully understand I’m in the minority on this position — but I’m against both ‘every interpretation is valid’ type thinking (why would every interpretation be valid as it relates to a group activity where your behavior effects the whole group?).
Likewise, pushing back against “shaming people whose main sin is that they aren’t particularly persuaded by this ritual actually being significant” — isn’t that actually both good and necessary if we want to be able to coordinate and actually solve problems?
There’s a dozen or so Yudkowsky citations about this. Here’s another:
Let’s say we have two groups of soldiers. In group 1, the privates are ignorant of tactics and strategy; only the sergeants know anything about tactics and only the officers know anything about strategy. In group 2, everyone at all levels knows all about tactics and strategy.Should we expect group 1 to defeat group 2, because group 1 will follow orders, while everyone in group 2 comes up with better ideas than whatever orders they were given?In this case I have to question how much group 2 really understands about military theory, because it is an elementary proposition that an uncoordinated mob gets slaughtered.
Let’s say we have two groups of soldiers. In group 1, the privates are ignorant of tactics and strategy; only the sergeants know anything about tactics and only the officers know anything about strategy. In group 2, everyone at all levels knows all about tactics and strategy.
Should we expect group 1 to defeat group 2, because group 1 will follow orders, while everyone in group 2 comes up with better ideas than whatever orders they were given?
In this case I have to question how much group 2 really understands about military theory, because it is an elementary proposition that an uncoordinated mob gets slaughtered.
Now it may be the case—a more agreeable part of me wants to interject—that this ritual actually is important, and that it should be treated as more than just a game.But.If so, I have never seen a particularly strong case being made for it.
Now it may be the case—a more agreeable part of me wants to interject—that this ritual actually is important, and that it should be treated as more than just a game.
If so, I have never seen a particularly strong case being made for it.
I made that case last year extensively:
I even did, like, math and stuff. The “shut up and multiply” thing.
Long story short — I think shared trust and demonstrated cooperation are super valuable, good leadership is incredibly underappreciated, and whimsical defection is really bad.
Again though — all written respectfully, etc etc, and I know I’m in the minority position here in terms of many subjective personal values, especially harm/care and seriousness/fun.
Finally, it’s undoubtedly true my estimate of the potential utility of building out a base of successfully navigated low-stakes cooperative endeavors is undoubtedly multiple orders of magnitude higher than others. I put the dollar-value of that as, actually, pretty high. Reasonable minds can differ on many of these points, but that’s my logic.
Ah, I see, I read the original version partially wrong, my mistake. We’re in agreement. Regards.
Hmm. Appreciate your reply. I think there’s a subtle difference here, let me think about it some.
Thrashing it out a bit more, I do think a lot of semi-artificial situations are predictive of future behavior.
Actually, to use an obviously extreme example that doesn’t universally apply, that’s more-or-less the theory behind the various Special Forces selection procedures —
As opposed to someone artificially creating a conflict to see how the other party navigates it — which I’m not at all a fan of — I think exercises in shared trust have both predictive value for future behavior and build good team cohesion when overcome.
I’d be interested to hear various participants’ and observers’ takes on the actual impact of this event
Me too, but I’d ideally want the data captured semi-anonymously. Most people, especially effective people, won’t comment publicly “I think this is despicable and have incremented downwards various confidences in people as a result” whereas the “aww it’s ok, no big deal” position is much more easily vocalized.
(Personally, I’m trying to tone down that type of vocalization myself. It’s unproductive on an individual level — it makes people dislike you for minimal gain. But I speculate that the absence of that level of dialogue and expression of genuine sentiment potentially leads to evaporative cooling of people who believe in teamwork, mission, mutual trust, etc.)
Reasonable minds can differ on this and related points, of course. And I’m very aware my values diverge a bit from many here, again around stuff like seriousness/camaraderie/cohesion/intensity/harm-vs-care/self-expression/defection/etc.
Great comment. Insightful phrasing, examples, and takeaways. Thank you.
Two thoughts —
(1) Some sort of polling or surveying might be useful. In the Public Goods Game, researchers rigorously check whether participants understand the game and its consequences before including them in datasets. It’s quite possible that there’s incredibly divergent understandings of Petrov Day among the user population. Some sort of surveying would be useful to understand that, as well as things like people’s sentiments towards unilateralist action, trust, etc no? It’d be self-reported data but it’d be better than nothing.
(2) I wonder how Petrov Day setup and engagement would change if the site went down for a month as a consequence.
Interesting thought yeah.
My first guess is there’s some overlap but it’s slightly orthogonal — btw, it might not have come across in original post, but Butler is a really well-loved teammate who is happy to defer to other guys on his team, set them up for success, etc. He doesn’t need to be “the guy” any given night — he just wants his team to win with a rather extreme fervor about it.
I honestly don’t get it—do you have a link to the previous discussion that justified why anyone’s taking it all that seriously?
Here was my analysis last year —
In fairness, my values diverge pretty substantially from a lot of the community here, particularly around “life is serious” vs “life isn’t very serious” and the value of abstract bonds/ties/loyalties/camaraderie.
You’re being very kind in far-mode consequentialism here, but come on now.
Making your friend look foolish in front of thousands of people is bad etiquette in most social circles.