This post is super-quickly written and mostly for reference.



  • precondition: agreeing with the idea. (here synonymous with holding a belief in the idea)
  • beliefs are intertwined. When you update one belief, you often have to update other beliefs to maintain consistency.
  • E.g. if you update to "my friend has Covid", you should also update to "I might have Covid"
  • all these intertwinings form belief networks, where, if one belief is updated, the whole network might have to update accordingly


Taking an idea seriously means 2 things:

1. updating your whole belief network according to the idea, including when that updates you towards weird or "out there" belief states

  • e.g., taking "animals can suffer" seriously, should update people towards "veganism good" (neglecting more complicated belief networks for a moment). However, many people find that too weird or radical intuitively and don't update properly; they fail to take the idea seriously

2. acting on your updated belief network

  • e.g., because of the updated belief "veganism good", a person might reduce their consumption of animal products. Many people don't take this step and, while agreeing with “veganism good” intellectually, never reduce their consumption of animal products; they fail to take the idea seriously



Compartmentalization in epistemic and instrumental rationality

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Animals can suffer - duty to prevent animal suffering - stop that lion hunting that gazelle - lion suffering increase - work out how to feed lions - conclude predators and prey exist - conclude humans are just very smart predators - eating meat ok.

I'd contend that some positions are taken very seriously but what the next perceived logical step for people is varies. An animal activist might be pro the world becoming vegetarian. A non-animal activist is pro strong animal welfare laws to prevent needless suffering.

Trying to resolve "humans are just smart predators so we can eat prey animals" vs "humans have moved beyond the need to behave as predator animals" is unlikely to be resolved by suggesting any parties don't take their ideas seriously.

Otherwise you end up in all sorts of quagmires. Food security is a big problem. Ok, go start a farm then. No, I'm going to write letters to politicians. You're not taking the idea seriously.

Where can that go?

I mean, this forum talks often about existential AI risk. The climate catastrophe is known and real and here now. So... are people not taking it seriously because they're highly concerned about AI?

I have three words. Epistemic learned helplessness.

It's a terrible idea to want people to take ideas seriously.

(Of course, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you at all, since you didn't say that it's a good idea.)