Learning about society.
Thank you for your thoughts!
The essay is quite compressed. The evidence and argumentation made in pieces and books it links and references are actually necessary reading. For this reason I placed it about halfway through my book draft and should ideally be read in that sequence. The whole draft and much of writing can be read and was in fact written as an extension and decompression of this essay. So I’d agree with part of your critique, if one takes this as a stand alone piece.
I think I disagree regarding the best epistemic style of writing:
When writing Functional Institutions are the exception I strove to make the evidence and arguments presented as simple as possible. Much as in proofs, the best proof is the simplest valid one.
I think contemporary academic culture has overshot in terms of signaling intelligence and due diligence. The most important reason we overshot, is that they are easily faked as anyone who has ever done homework knows. In fact most of our schooling teaches us how. The cognitive dissonance around the trust we put in such ornamentation when reading, and the ease for us to produce it when graded should give us pause.
My best immediate antidote for this is communication minimalism. Have claims and arguments lad and fall on their own strength, rather than be buried in bloated pieces that make inferences harder.
Thank you! Had asked some lawyer contacts, but always good to get another data point.
Thank you! There are many conflicting recommendations when it comes to writing, but I think that for imparting models articles should open by introducing themselves.
Agreed. Implicitly the intended audience is already familiar with many of those.
Overbuilding an outside view and under-building an inside view is one of the key generators of akrasia, and renders knowledge inert rather than allowing book knowledge to be mixed in with lived life experience.
Yes. Opened the recent series of articles with it. I talked about Great Man theory in Functional Institutions are the Exception.
Hm. I tried the link and it seems to work?
On August 23rd I’ll be giving a talk organized by the Foresight Institute.
Our civilization is made up of countless individuals and pieces of material technology, which come together to form institutions and interdependent systems of logistics, development and production. These institutions and systems then store the knowledge required for their own renewal and growth.
We pin the hopes of our common human project on this renewal and growth of the whole civilization. Whether this project is going well is a challenging but vital question to answer.
History shows us we are not safe from institutional collapse. Advances in technology mitigate some aspects, but produce their own risks. Agile institutions that make use of both social and technical knowledge not only mitigate such risks, but promise unprecedented human flourishing.
Join us as we investigate this landscape, evaluate our odds, and try to plot a better course.
See the Facebook event for further details.
There is a limited number of spots and there has been a bunch of interest, still I’d love rationalists to attend so try to nab tickets at eventbrite. Feel free to introduce yourself and chat me up after the talk, would be happy to meet rationalists thinking about civilization and sociology :)
The government agencies and corporations that dominate our society are many decades, if not centuries, old. It is also clear they are in need of renewal.
Why did they reach such a state of misalignment? I believe that across society we had a notable failure of succession.
These things were created by people, and then they took on a life of their own, in an almost automated fashion, rather than continuing human oversight. As a result we are in a society that is more fragile, less cooperative and less coordinated than it could be.
Mostly yes. Some bureaucratic growth is driven by actively piloted centralizing drives, but in those cases the task at hand is increasing central power, with the nominal work being pretext.
One never returns “borrowed” power
Not quite correct, it is possible for example to rescind delegation. Nothing in the world can be undone as we seem to live in a universe of rising entropy. But since sustained vs. temporary access is an important distinction both for rational planning as well as having an excellent negotiating position, the ability to rescind access amounts to an important ability to have power returned to you.
One of my favorite things about resouce-based power is that it’s ablative—if you spend money to excercise your will (as opposed to investing to maximize returns), you have less money afterward. Self-limiting power is awesome. Other types of power (social, governmental) gets stronger when used, as it trains people to obey.
Self-limiting power can be argued to be a useful feature for society. For the common good some wills should be contested rather than let loose. Some desires and goals should not be realized.
But for an individual ablative power does not seem as desirable as durable power. The individual presumably aspires to agency in the world and therefore wishes to actualize their will and values in the world. It would be strange to imagine a person that does not, however many psychological epicycles they might add on top.
It is true that sometimes self-distrust can be the right course of action, because of an outside view that suggests inside view irrationality. Self-distrust implies trust in something else. When you willingly tie yourself to the mast like Odysseus, someone else is steering the ship, hopefully your loyal crew and friends. An unsteered ship however meets an unsightly end either by Scylla or Charbydis.
Particularly with mistakes that cannot be survived unsteered outcomes are not desirable. Navigating existential risk requires steering.