(This post is important enough that I’m breaking my commitment not to post until a certain time in the future.)
The model here strikes me as the correct *sort* of model, but deserving of substantial complication. Two complications in particular seem clear and relevant to me.
First, will the smart sincere idealists be simply *misled?* Given that this hypothetical imperfect rationalist space exists within Green territory, deviations from the Overton ratio will be punished by Greens *both inside and outside* the rationalist space; as such, it could (entirely unintentionally, at least at first) serve to *reinforce* Green partisan hegemony, especially if there’s a large imbalance between the abilities of Greendom and Bluedom to offer *patronage*.
We already know from history that regimes may become so… self-serving and detached from reality, as one could put it… that they’ll feel the need to actively select against smart, sincere idealists, or any permutation thereof. Loyalty to anything but the regime may be seen as an inefficiency and optimized away.
As a result, it could be useful for Green partisans to keep such spaces around, albeit low-prestige and generally reviled. Partisans also have an interest in identifying the sincere and the idealistic, but for precisely the opposite reasons. (Cf. the Hundred Flowers Campaign.)
Second, the neat division of truths into Green, Blue, and Gray rings unconvincing to me. Consider the Greens and Blues as having reality maps: certain things directly benefit their reality maps, certain things directly harm those maps, and certain things are neutral. (To pick on Zoroastrianism: the reality of Ahura Mazda or Angra Mainyu would be in the first category, a genealogical account of Zoroastrian doctrine in the Nietzschean sense would be in the second, and the contents of a randomly selected academic journal in the field of (say) accounting would, I assume, be almost entirely in the third.)
If we multiply the three categories of the Greens by the three categories of the Blues, we get nine options, not three. If we make certain assumptions about Green-Blue conflict, we can reduce this somewhat, and posit that anything that is beneficial to one side but seemingly neutral to the other in fact benefits the first at the expense of the second.
But this leaves five possibilities, not three! In addition to [+Green -Blue], [-Green +Blue], and [0Green 0Blue], we have [+Green +Blue] and [-Green -Blue]. Would Blues and Greens not fear displacement by something outside their union?
What’s the value proposition of enlightenment?
If I have a choice between taking up organized religion and going to church or taking up spirituality and following empirical instructions to scale the mountain of enlightenment, why should I do the latter instead of the former?
What’s the common theme in all these books? I don’t see it. Impro contains some useful exercises, although I think most of the value in the book would come from people getting together IRL and actually doing them, and I haven’t heard of anyone doing this. (I tried to get someone whose social network is much bigger than mine to make this happen, but then she moved to the Bay.) But it’s about developing acting skills, not Buddhism...
The Wikipedia article on it does.
These are good questions.
0. Are “we” the sort of thing that can have goals? It looks to me like there are a lot of goals going around, and LW isn’t terribly likely to agree on One True Set of Goals, whether ultimate or proximate.
I think one of the neglected possible roles for LW is as a beacon—a (relatively) highly visible institution that draws in people like-minded enough that semirandom interactions are more likely to be productive than semirandom interactions in the ‘hub world’, and allows them to find people sufficiently like-minded that they can then go off and do their own thing, while maintaining a link to LW itself, if only to search it for potential new members of this own thing.
My impression of internet communities in general is that they tend to be like this, and I don’t see any reason to expect LW to be different. Take Newgrounds, another site formed explicitly around productive endeavors (which has the desirable (for my purposes here) property that I spent my middle school years on it): it spawned all sorts of informal friend groups and formal satellite forums, each with its own sort of productive endeavor it was interested in. There was an entire ecosystem of satellite forums (and AIM/MSN group chats, which sometimes spawned satellite forums), from prolific NG forum posters realizing they had enough clout to start their own forum so why not, to forums for people interested in operating within the mainstream tradition of American animation, to a vast proliferation of forums for ‘spammers’ who were interested in playing with NG itself as a medium, to forums for people who were interested in making one specific form of movie—wacky music videos, video game sprite cartoons, whatever. And any given user could be in multiple of these groups, depending on their interests—I was active on at least one forum in each of the categories I’ve listed.
(As an aside: I say ‘spammers’ because that’s what they were called, but later on I developed enough interest in the art world to realize that there’s really no difference between what we did and what they’re doing. (The ‘art game’ people would do well to recognize this—they’re just trolls, but trolling is a art, so what the hell.) There were also ‘anti-spam’ forums, but I brought some of them around.)
1. As for classical LW goals, the AI problem does seem to have benefited quite a bit by ethos arguments. I’m not sure if “our goals” is even the type of noun phrase that *can* have semantic content, but cultivating general quality seems like a fairly broad goal. A movement that wants to gain appeal in the ways I’ve outlined will want its members to be visibly successful at instrumental rationality, and be fine upstanding citizens and so on.
2. I don’t think I’m smarter than Ben Franklin, so my advice for now would be to just do what he did. At a higher level: study successful people with well-known biographies and see if there’s anything that can be abstracted out. I notice (because Athrelon pointed it out a while ago) that Ben Franklin, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Thiel, and Musk have one thing in common: the benefit of a secret society or something like it—the Junto, the Inklings, or the Paypal Mafia.
I’m not a biologist, but I think it would be pretty difficult to tell whether fruits are intended to encourage animals to eat them or to protect the inner seed. But the energy in an avocado is primarily stored as fats, and it’s generally thought that they were eaten by now-extinct Central American megafauna. (And it’s common to stick avocado seeds with toothpicks to get them to sprout...)
There’s also the chili pepper, but I don’t know if anyone’s studied digestion of pepper seeds in birds (which aren’t sensitive to capsaicin) vs. mammals (which are). It may be that chili peppers evolved to deter mammalian but not avian consumption because the mammalian digestive tract is more likely to digest the seeds, rather than (as the common explanation has it) because birds disperse the seeds more widely.
It started as the leftist alternative to Conservapedia.
How do we (second) convince others, and (first) establish for ourselves, that we’re different? What can we offer to prospective joiners that cannot be offered by other movements (i.e., what can we offer that constitutes an unfalsifiable signal that we are the “true path” to the “good ending”, so to speak)?
I came to this article having just read one about Donald Trump’s response to the 9/11 attacks, which mentioned that Trump saw them from the window of his apartment. The WTC attacks happened at around 9 AM, the start of the standard workday; but he had decided to stay in his apartment later than usual to catch a TV interview with Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.
I thought that was interesting. Welch is well-known in the business world, and at least was once well-regarded. I have one of his books, although I haven’t read it yet.
Now, the problem of how to convince people to pay attention to a memeplex is a problem Less Wrong has. Jack Welch, not so much. I saw his book at a thrift store, had some idea of who he was, and figured it’d be worthwhile to buy it. Donald Trump heard that he’d be on TV, knew well (I assume) who he was, and figured it’d be worthwhile to watch the interview. We aren’t on TV.
Maybe it’s because we aren’t Jack Welch.
We’ve all read our Aristotle, right? Our marketers come up with plenty of logos and pathos. Ethos, not so much. But it worked for Jack Welch...
There’s an important difference between the alien’s initial sales pitch and the problem of recruiting people to Less Wrong. The alien is a representative of an advanced civilization, offering a manual for uplifting the human race—so there’s a solution to widely advertising it that will only work if the manual does: simply distribute the manual to a few hundred people around the world who are highly motivated to do well in life. Once they’ve learned it, applied its contents, and become wildly successful CEOs of General Electric or whatever, some of them will (almost certainly) make it known that their success is due to their mastery of the contents of a book...
But the book doesn’t actually exist, we aren’t hot-shit enough to recruit through ethos (why not? could it be that we’re failing? could it be that we’re failing so badly that our startups try to write their own payroll software?), and our sales pitches are pretty bad. I noticed so many of our quality people leaving, and so much lack of interest in *actually winning*, that I stopped paying attention myself—I only saw this post because it was linked on Twitter.
Before asking what LW can offer to prospective joiners that can’t be offered by other movements, ask if it *has* anything like that. I don’t think it does, and I don’t think it’s in a position to get there.
I don’t think the orthogonality thesis can be defined as ~[moral internalism & moral realism] -- that is, I think there can be and are philosophers who reject moral internalism, moral realism, *and* the orthogonality thesis, making 66% a high estimate.
Nick Land doesn’t strike me as a moral internalist-and-realist (although he has a Twitter and I bet your post will make its way to him somehow), but he doesn’t accept the orthogonality thesis:
Even the orthogonalists admit that there are values immanent to advanced intelligence, most importantly, those described by Steve Omohundro as ‘basic AI drives’ — now terminologically fixed as ‘Omohundro drives’. These are sub-goals, instrumentally required by (almost) any terminal goals. They include such general presuppositions for practical achievement as self-preservation, efficiency, resource acquisition, and creativity. At the most simple, and in the grain of the existing debate, the anti-orthogonalist position is therefore that Omohundro drives exhaust the domain of real purposes. Nature has never generated a terminal value except through hypertrophy of an instrumental value.
This is a form of internalism-and-realism, but it’s not about morality—so it wouldn’t be inconsistent to reject orthogonality and ‘heterogonality’.
I recall someone in the Xenosystems orbit raising the point that humans, continuously since long before our emergence as a distinct species, existed under the maximal possible amount of selection pressure to reproduce, but 1) get weird and 2) frequently don’t reproduce. There are counterarguments that can be made here, of course (AIs can be designed with much more rigor than evolution allows, say), but it’s another possible line of objection to orthogonality that doesn’t involve moral realism.
While you can’t just try to transfer the effect of Coca-Cola’s branding to your new product, I think you can, in fact, try to compete on branding.
La Croix did this. It’s just flavored seltzer, the same as the 59c store-brand bottles, but it became wildly successful. What’s more, it had been around for a while before becoming successful.
What did they do?
The first MAI study identified a highly-attractive target segment of prospective sparkling water users not at all interested in the Perrier brand and its “snobbish / expensive / for special occasions” positioning
Among package designs evaluated, MAI research led to recommendation of the design considered least appealing by the Heileman Marketing Group. The MAI-recommended design:
a. Promoted an “all occasion” image
b. Offered strong LaCroix name presence
c. Used elements that were most consistent with water imagery to the newly-identified target segment
Another unexpected research result was the surprising consumer enthusiasm for sparkling water in cans, a packaging idea that had not yet been introduced in this category. LaCroix’s subsequent introduction of sparkling water in cans allowed the brand to capture the lion’s share of new category growth from this innovation
I don’t think that’s the whole story. La Croix was originally positioned as an alternative to Perrier, whereas now (maybe as a result of the packaging in cans) it’s positioned as an alternative to soda. And the copy on the box is pretty distinctive—“calorie-free”, “innocent” and so on. (It isn’t quite grammatical, but that must be intentional. Trying to affect a European accent?)
There’s a plausible narrative where La Croix succeeded because no one else had tried packaging seltzer in cans, but there’s also a plausible narrative where it succeeded mostly because of its unusual branding.
If pressed, I’d favor the first—Poland Spring also has a line of expensive brand-name flavored seltzers, but the bottles are a little unwieldy, not the sort of thing you’d pack with a work lunch. But I’m not in the target audience for its branding, so.
Once a company reaches a monopoly position, its incentive structure is to suppress all innovation that does not improve its core business.
Once an actor reaches uncontested dominance, its incentive structure is to suppress all change that does not improve its position.
In my more paranoid moments, I suspect there’s something like this going on in general: American power actors want stagnation and fear change, because change can be destabilizing and they’re what would be destabilized. This is obviously true in the case of cultural power, but I’m not sure how it would extend beyond that.
You’re just not going to convince me that playful cover for hitting people out of the blue is OK.
Yes, that’s the operative filter.
I have a pretty different class background from most LW posters (think “banlieue”), and “social ownership of the micro” reads to me like the fable of the princess and the pea. The egalitarianism of the lower classes is that, since not everyone can insist that the single pea be removed from under their twenty mattresses, no one is allowed to—and instead, you’re required to become the sort of person who doesn’t even notice it.
Another operative factor is that the appearance of being useful if the shit hits the fan is a desirable trait. No one likes a weakling, and squeamishness at the sight of blood is decidedly uncool. But people also like people who are socially useful; and since you can tell she’s a princess because she notices the pea, that pattern is countervailing.
For instance coca cola was made with actual coca (the plant cocaine alkaloids are derived from) and sold as a cure for headaches.
Coca tea is still in use in parts of South America. I’ve been told it isn’t really comparable to cocaine. Wikipedia is under the impression that there’s about 6x as much cocaine in a cup of coca tea as a line.
I’ve never had coca tea, but I can buy that doing cocaine is a little like what snorting 600mg of pure caffeine would be like for someone with no prior exposure to caffeine. (I don’t recommend either at all.)
How much cocaine was in the original Coca-Cola recipe? Allegedly, the original recipe had 3 drams coca extract to 2.5 gallons of water, whatever that means.
I’m truly baffled that people would become very self-conscious of all the small unease of everyday life and then choose to elevate them as major inconveniences. It’s a bit like discovering who holds your chains and redoubling in bondage and obedience to this silent master.
Nobles can take offense at peasants, but peasants can’t take offense at nobles.
Peasants are expected to take care not to offend nobles, but nobles aren’t expected to take care not to offend peasants.
Maybe it’s a bit like that.
(More generally, we can imagine a sort of “metaperennialist” framework, whereby there are, for whatever reason, common human behavioral modules that can be activated when certain conditions obtain, even if no one involved is thinking in terms of these modules and in fact they all think they’re doing something completely different. (Cf. standard perennialism, whereby there are metaphysical truths underlying all religions, which can be mystically experienced even when no one involved is thinking in terms of these truths and in fact they all think they’re being visited by the Holy Spirit or talking to Jibril or whatnot.) One advantage of this framework is that it can easily explain why people would choose to pay such attention to the micro—and why certain people would make this choice, and certain others would not. Frankly, the people who pay the most attention to the micro tend to remind me of Captain Aguilera.)
Decreasing general propensity for violence, increasing refinement of social control technologies, increasing class stratification, the replacement of liberal with progressive justifications for institutions (e.g. the state), and internet communication technology (most notably, Google and social media) will result in the emergence of an ethic of nobility and peasantry, unless the current sharp correction goes through. The new noble class will not correspond well to any existing economic class, which will be a source of conflict for as long as this remains the case.
As life shifts from rural/frontier communalism (mutual support, barn-raising etc.) to atomized urbanism and Malthusian class competition, Christian forgiveness and the Quaker Inner Light will be replaced with an attitude closer to Zhang Xianzhong than to anything known from the West. The attitude toward local strangers may not necessarily deteriorate—I don’t think we’ll see anything more like samurai killing random peasants to test their blades than what we already see in America—but the nobility will regard the peasantry with disdain and fear, and each other as evil unless useful. On some level, they’ll know that the peasantry might rise up collectively and overthrow them (so they must be hated, feared, controlled, and suppressed); that individual peasants might rise to noble status (so they must be hated and kept down); and that all the other nobles are, in a Malthusian sense, making their life worse by existing as nobility, and that their risk of downward mobility is high (so any given noble will hate all the other nobles that aren’t directly useful to himself and want them expelled from the nobility).
These are the things I think we’re already seeing.
This seems to imply that you think the current amount of “social capital” that people are being “awarded” is inaccurate (in the sense of being incommensurate with their achievements, or… something like that?). Is this, indeed, what you meant? And if so, on what do you base this?
I’m not ialdabaoth, but “social capital isn’t awarded commensurately with achievement” seems accurate.
We’re more like a social group than a corporation. Corporations have well-defined goals, metrics, and so on that they can take into account when awarding people, and have incentive to keep morale high. Social groups have none of that, and instead reward people based on how shiny they are. It seems to me that we’re much more willing to reward people for being shiny than for corporation-like achievements.
(Some of this is probably because social groups and corporations have different incentives on tap. You won’t get more friends and become more attractive by building things, and you won’t get a raise for having a shiny Tumblr brand. Then again, you can get praise for both—although it’d be a little incongruous to be praised in a corporation for social-group stuff or vice versa.)
From where I’m standing, the incentives point strongly in the direction of social-group stuff rather than corporation stuff. Being shiny rather than building things. If we want more things to be built, the incentives have to change so more people decide they’re better off building things. But this might be hard to do, at least in the case of building local things, because local things are less legible outside the locality than internet shininess is. (Probably also than IRL shininess—gossip travels faster and draws a bigger audience than status reports.)
(Of course, different people have different levels of building ability and different levels of shininess. Maybe we could follow the meat/brains/class/etc. deal and talk about the RPG stats of “grit”, “tech”, and “shine”. If people are just following social incentives, a marginal change in favor of building will move the line on the grit + tech vs. shine plot, but the people who don’t build will still tend to be shinier than the people who do. Maybe we need an RPG stat of “care” to normalize against here. Whatever.)
It also seems to me that we’re an unusually low-praise group, and that higher-praise subsets tend to be more socially inclined.
Suppose a group performs some task which is not a one-off, but iterated (or performs tasks sufficiently similar to some previous tasks). Practice makes perfect (in various ways which needn’t be enumerated here), and thus the “amount of leadership” required to complete the task will decrease over time. Will the “amount of leadership” required to apportion rewards also decrease over time? Why or why not?
V’q thrff gung vg qbrf. Vs abguvat ryfr, cerprqrag graqf gb pneel abamreb jrvtug.
My day job is, essentially, “grunt”. I work with about 30 other people. I can immediately think of two leader-types among the grunts—three if I count someone who recently quit. I used to work a different shift, and there were no leader-types among the grunts there. There are a few more people who I’m pretty sure could be leader-types if they wanted to, but don’t want to.
Small sample size, I know, but one ought to test these things against daily life, and by that test 1⁄30 seems to be in the right ballpark.
That said, things like grunt jobs and (I assume; I’ve never played any) MMORPGs probably lend themselves more easily to leadership opportunities than things like rationality—there are different sorts of leadership called for.
In the one case, there are concrete and well-defined goals to be met, and there’s domain-specific knowledge accumulated mostly through experience that needs to be applied in order to meet those goals, and leadership entails being generally recognized as 1) having a sufficient accumulation of domain-specific knowledge to know what has to be done to meet those goals, know what to do in most situations that will arise, and probably be able to figure something out in most of the rest of the situations, 2) not a prick.
In the other case… I’m not really sure what leadership in the ratsphere calls for, but it’s probably not that. For one thing, we don’t have concrete and well-defined operational goals; for another thing, we don’t even have much general agreement on _strategic_ goals, although there are subsets of the ratsphere that do.
Incidentally, tobacco products aren’t an unqualified vice the way alcohol is sometimes argued to be. (I also disagree with that assessment WRT alcohol, but the benefits are smaller and the harms are larger there than they are with tobacco.) They’re better seen as general-purpose OTC psych meds—they’re surprisingly good at ameliorating a wide variety of flavors of things being a bit shit—that have the unfortunate side-effect of dramatically increasing the likelihood that you get cancer.
Absent alternatives, this is probably a worthwhile tradeoff for many people, most of whom are not upper-middle-class sorts who, if neuroatypical, are so in upper-middle-class ways, because things are much less likely to be a bit shit for said sorts; so those sorts (who, if neuroatypical, are so in etc.) keep failing to pick up on this and deciding cigarettes should be banned.
This seems transparently… failing to notice the entire west coast exists?
It exists, but it’s less populous.
The Northeast and South together (by Census Bureau definitions) contain 55% of the population of the US. The West contains 24%, and the Midwest contains 21%.
But the West extends as far east as Colorado, and also contains Alaska and Hawaii, which should be excluded here; and the Midwest contains states like Ohio and Michigan, which aren’t all that far out.
Unfortunately, Wolfram Alpha can’t tell me how many people live within whatever distance of Berkeley or DC, so I have to ballpark. A thousand miles seems like a reasonable number—it’s about a thousand miles from Boston to Atlanta, and that’s about a three-hour flight. While you’d have to sleep on your parents’ couch overnight, it wouldn’t be a _huge_ excursion the way a cross-country flight is.
For Berkeley: the total population of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona is about 65 million people. (I can’t even use Census _divisions_ here—Alaska and Hawaii are in the same division as the West Coast.)
And for DC: the total population of the Northeast Census region, the South Atlantic and East South Central divisions of the South Census region, and the East North Central division of the Midwest census region is about 186 million people.
The list of states could be quibbled with—maybe Colorado should count for the West, maybe Missouri should for the East—but I doubt it’d make much difference. The underlying factor here is that population density drops off sharply a few meridians before 100° west and doesn’t pick up again until you hit the Pacific.
To be a little cynical, Berkeley has the community-hub advantage of imposing a strong selection effect: it’s far from everything that isn’t the West Coast, it’s hideously expensive, and as a city it isn’t all that great—I know New Yorkers who tried to move out there and came back with a litany of horror stories to rival those of my friends in Baltimore. So only the hardcore (or people competent enough to land a SF tech industry job) move out there.
The East Coast, on the other hand, has a lot of nice cities and, for most Americans, isn’t so far away. I moved to Boston from a location that’s pretty far away in east-of-the-Appalachian-range terms, but I could still take a day trip (by plane) to visit my parents, which I couldn’t do if I lived in Berkeley.
As much as I like Boston, I think there’s an important advantage DC has over it: where Boston has students, DC has people who opted to take safe, cushy government jobs and now have a lot of intellectual energy and no channel for it. (It also has the advantage of being Where The Government Is, which might be important at some point, for some purposes or other.) And, while it’s a worse city than Boston in many respects, there’s more to do—if I lived in DC, I’d try to put together a group for going to free concerts (of which there are many in DC) and so on, but I don’t know of anything like that here.