We present an ethicophysical treatment on the nature of truth and consensus reality, within the framework of a historical approach to ludic futurecasting modeled on the work of Hegel and Marx. We prove an ethicophysical approximate conservation law: the Conservation of Bullshit. We conclude with a lengthy list of open questions, homework problems, and assigned readings, focused on many large and weighty questions about history and politics. We do not presume to know the answers to any of these weighty questions, but we invite any interested readers to submit answers to these questions, either as comments on this post, comments on my substack, direct messages on LessWrong, or direct emails to my personal email.

We hope that, by providing a mathematically rigorous treatment of naturalistic game theory and hooking it up to these weighty political and historical questions, we can encourage people to take history and morality more seriously without starting any unproductive flamewars. I will be setting the moderation settings on this post to Reign of Terror to encourage the LessWrong moderators to enforce these norms to the limits of their ability and discretion.

We provide the list of open questions, homework exercises, and assigned reading from the PDF, in order to facilitate productive discussion on LessWrong. Please share your answers or work-in-progress for any of the following questions in the comments:

  • Read Keat’s Ode on a Grecian Urn, reflect on the story of Dr. Faust by Goethe, and then formulate a short description of Keat’s Fallacy.
  • Read Friedrich Schiller’s “On the Aesthetic Education of Man”. Why would Keat’s Fallacy be relevant to moral actions in the world? 
  • Read “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” by Clement Greenberg (1939). Read any honest description of Adolf Hitler’s artistic style and level of skill. Then formulate working definitions of active kitsch, potential kitsch, describe how to measure both, and prove that total kitsch is a conserved quantity. Further, reflect on the question of whether the art school that denied Hitler admission made the right or the wrong decision for German society. 
  • Read T. H. White’s “The Sword in the Stone”. Then explain the concept of the “might makes right makes might” cycle. Prove that “might” is a conserved quantity, and come up with an empirical framework for measuring active and potential might. If a war is won by the side that coordinates more effectively, and if any sane nation is sure to propagandize its citizens into believing that it won the last war it won via moral persuasion rather than force of arms, then how true is the statement “good will always prevail over evil”? Give examples and counterexamples to this assertion. Are there any regularities in the temporal distribution of examples and counterexamples? What is the significance of those regularities, if you observe any? 
  • Write a python script to scrape Wikipedia’s list of wars and generate Glicko ratings for all actors who participated in at least one war in history. What regularities and interesting patterns do you note in the answer? For instance, where do militant Islamic groups tend to fall? Where do large and heavily armed nation states tend to fall? Characterize the top decile and bottom decile of the rankings. Characterize the middle two deciles of the rankings. 
  •  Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Then define active and potential privilege, the subjective energy quantities associated with the status field. Provide a critique grounded in Cultural Marxism of this mathematics. Then provide a critique from within Jordan Peterson’s point of view of your previous critique. What conclusions do you draw about the proper management and use of privilege? Is privilege a real thing or a bogeyman invented by social justice warriors? What are your thoughts on the concept of noblesse oblige? 
  • Derive a simple and efficient affiliation estimation algorithm that you think would provide reasonably correct Bayesian estimates of people’s internal felt sense of what team they themselves are on. How robust do you think your algorithm would be in the face of active Goodharting by an adversary that is trying to virtue signal? Can you think of any way to make your algorithm more robust? What conclusions do you draw about the concept of virtue signaling? 
  • Listen to Pete Seeger’s song “Solidarity Forever” and reflect on the nature of coordination mechanisms in games of Ultimatum between labor and capital. What conclusions do you draw about Marx’s labor theory of value? Are these the same as your previously held conclusions about the labor theory of value? Why or why not? If not, why do you think you previously held a different belief? Can you detect the presence of bullshit in your change of opinion, or in your failure to change your opinion? 
  • Watch the movie “The Death of Stalin”, and reflect on the moral failings of communism, as enumerated in Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon”, or “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Which side of the Cold War (if any) would the ethicophysics label the Good side? How sure are you of this conclusion? 
  • Reflect on the nature of optimal ethicophysical strategy in a tripolar conflict, as reflected in George Orwell’s 1984. Then explain the significance of Nixon’s detente with Communist China. Was Nixon right to go to China? Why or why not?
  • Reflect on the Cultural Revolution and any other events of the period of Mao’s dominance in Communist China. Was Mao a Good leader or an Evil leader in your opinion? How do the contents of the Little Red Book read in light of your opinion?
  • Reflect on the concepts of honor (the opinion of the self about the self) and reputation (the opinion of others about the self) in light of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel The Curse of Chalion. Do enough historical reading to figure out the historical sources of The Curse of Chalion’s macro plot. Was the historical inspiration for the character of Iselle a Good leader or an Evil leader, in your opinion?
  • Watch the movie “Lincoln”. Try to divide the ethicophysics of the American Civil War into at most 4 or 5 teams. Which side of the American Civil War would you consider the Good side? Which of the 4 or 5 teams would you consider to be Good or Evil? How would you rank the teams by virtue?
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9 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:16 AM

Do you actually want discussion on LW, or is this just substack spam?  If you want discussion, you probably should put something to discuss in the post itself, rather than a link to a link to a PDF in academic language that isn't broken out or presented in a way that can be commented upon.

From a very light skim, it seems like your "mathematically rigorous treatment" isn't.  It includes some equations, but not much of a tie between the math and the topics you seem to want to analyze.  It deeply suffers from is-ought confusion.

I actually want discussion on LW. I'll post my list of open questions as a comment on this post and encourage people to respond to it by taking a crack at them.

Edited the post to include the homework/discussion questions from the post. Hopefully these questions are substantive enough and phrased in neutral enough language that people feel comfortable discussing politics on an explicitly apolitical forum?

Also, any solution to the alignment problem must suffer from is-ought confusion when presented in plain language rather than extensively worked out theoretical equations with extensive empirical verification. 

Which part would you have me remove, the plain language, the extensively worked out theoretical equations, or my list of open problems that I hope people will use to help me assemble extensive empirical verification of my work?

On reflection, I suspect that I'm struggling with the is-ought problem in the entire project.  Physics is "is" and ethics is "ought", and I'm very skeptical that "ethicophysics" is actually either, let alone a bridge between the two.

That's fair (strong up/agree vote).

If you consult my recent shortform, I lay out a more measured, skeptical description of the project. Basically, ethicophysics constitutes a globally computable Schelling Point, such that it can be used as a protocol between different RL agents that believe in "oughts" to achieve Pareto-optimal outcomes. As long as the largest coalition agrees to prefer Jesus to Hitler, I think (and I need to do far more to back this up) defectors can be effectively reined in, the same way that Bitcoin works because the majority of the computers hooked up to it don't want to destroy faith in the Bitcoin protocol.

I suspect we have a disagreement about whether the "worked out theoretical equations" suffer from is-ought any less than the plain language version.  And if they are that fundamentally different, why should anyone think the equations CAN be explained in plain language.

I am currently unwilling to put in the work to figure out what the equations are actually describing.  If it's not the same (though with more rigor) as the plain language claims, that seriously devalues the work.

Check out my post entitled "Enkrateia" in my sequence. This is a plain language account of a safe model-based reinforcement learner using established academic language and frameworks.

Vote towards zero. I don't know what you're trying to say and would appreciate much more explanation without having to browse your other page.