Some Complaint-Action Gaps

by mike_hawke1 min read29th Mar 20212 comments


World Optimization
Personal Blog

[This was previously a shortform post]

Sometimes I scroll social media (because I am yet weak) and I see rationalists raising Concerns about various news topics and current events. I am bothered by what appears to be a high ratio of (raising awareness) : (taking action).

To better articulate this, here is a list of some of the concerns I hear a lot lately. Each issue has a sublist of potential actions, starting with the least useful. I’m definitely interested in hearing better ideas too.

  • Our institutions are losing trustworthiness and competence
  • Freedom of speech is under attack! Gatekeepers! Reality czar! The Narrative!
    • Take traditional political action
    • Less twitter, more substack
    • Research and post about the economics and logistics of running your own servers.
    • Experiment with ring signatures?
  • Social media is harming mental health, undermining individual & group epistemics, and enabling horrible actions in meatspace
    • Complain about it on social media in between dunking on your outgroup.
    • Await humanity’s inexorable slide down the fitness gradients toward memetic collapse.
    • Promote more group activities in your group house. Establish device-free zones.
    • Coordinate to stigmatize doomscrolling, hate-reading, and contempt addiction. While we’re at it, let’s stigmatize using Twitter at all.
  • Large, free, liquid prediction markets cannot exist, supposedly due to the global influence of burdensome US trading regulations.
    • Traditional political action
    • Pay a competent YouTuber to make a really good explanatory video (series) about prediction markets.
    • Write a postmortem on Augur to help similar endeavors in the future avoid the same pitfalls
    • Research and post about why prediction markets haven’t gotten big even where regulation is looser
    • Start up a competitor to Kalshi, and launch before they do
  • Ongoing Uighur atrocity
    • Share an article about it once in a while
    • Take traditional political action, push for substantial international response
    • Make fewer purchases from companies that profit from the abuse of Uighurs

  1. See Vitalik Buterin: Credible Neutrality, Legitimacy, Change The Incentives, Change The World ↩︎


2 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:54 AM
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On one hand, I don't actually find it that alarming that the talk/action ratio is skewed. Talk is way cheaper than action, so it's not surprising there's more of it. 

The question is more like "how much of an 'action bandwidth gap' is there – how much serious action could people be doing that they aren't already spending resources on? Of the people who can tractably allocate their time on 'real action', are the things they are currently working on more or less important than these other things?"

I also think when you sit down to brainstorm "okay, what sorts of serious projects might I want to embark", I honestly don't (usually) want people sifting through random things on social media. Those are selected for being fun to talk about, not necessarily important.

That said, some of these ideas do in fact seem like good projects for someone who's sitting around thinking "man, I feel vaguely like I should Do Something but I'm not currently the sort of person who Does Things." (For people in that position, I think getting started on Something, Anything, is more important than exactly which thing you pick)

Reputation has to be shared to have any value. When it comes to untrustworthiness, awareness is the action.