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In my opinion, the biggest shift in the study of rationality since the Sequences were published were a change in focus from "bad math" biases (anchoring, availability, base rate neglect etc.) to socially-driven biases. And with good reason: while a crash course in Bayes' Law can alleviate many of the issues with intuitive math, group politics are a deep and inextricable part of everything our brains do.

There has been a lot of great writing describing the issue like Scott’s essays on ingroups and outgroups and Robin Hanson’s theory of signaling. There are excellent posts summarizing the problem of socially-driven bias on a high level, like Kevin Simler’s post on crony beliefs. But The Intelligent Social Web offers something that all of the above don’t: a lens that looks into the very heart of social reality, makes you feel its power on an immediate and intuitive level, and gives you the tools to actually manipulate and change your reaction to it.

Valentine’s structure of treating this as a “fake framework” is invaluable in this context. A high-level rigorous description of social reality doesn’t really empower you... (read more)

7Hazard1yFunny enough, when I did a reread through the sequence, I saw a huge number of little ways EY was pointing to various socially driven biases, which I'd missed the first time around. I think it might have been a framing thing, where because it didn't feel like those bits were the main point of the essays, I smashed them all into "Don't be dumb/conformist" (a previous notion I could round off to). Also great review.
5Valentine1yThank you. Thank you for sharing how you were impacted. That touched me. I'm delighted to have played a role in you enjoying your life more fully. :-) I quite agree. Thank you for stating this so clearly. At the time I was under the delusion that people would read and consider what I had to say because they consciously could expect a benefit from doing so. So I tried to state the value up front. I think I was also a little embarrassed to be talking in public in a way I wasn't aware of, so the "laundry list" was a way of assuaging my unrecognized shame. All of which is to say, I agree. :-) And I'm glad this point got into the reviews for this.

Just posting to record that this post successfully alarmed me, by raising the possibility that I might be missing really important things.

This feels like a really useful framing. It meshes with other fake frameworks I sometimes use, but the emphasis on the web pulling you back in if you don't break with it hard enough feels true and important.

If anyone remembers the r/place experiment Reddit did, similar dynamics were extremely apparent. (In brief, /r/place was a blank 1000x1000 pixel canvas, where anyone with a Reddit account could place one colored pixel anywhere they wanted every 5 minutes.) It was actually really hard to randomly vandalize anything, because wrong pixels looked out of place and would be fixed pretty fast. The only things that worked were:

1) Building a new pattern in a neutral location (which might eventually grow big enough to challenge existing patterns), or

2) Nudging a pattern into a different nearby attractor.

You didn't see coherent images dissolving into noise, because bystanders would fix things too fast. But you did see things like adding genitalia to Charizard, or changing the text "PC MASTER RACE" to "PC MASTURBATE", because those could start as relatively minor changes that bystanders might decide to help with.

The most skillful application of this I saw was w... (read more)

I don't know if I'll ever get to a full editing of this. I'll jot notes here of how I would edit it as I reread this.

  • I'd ax the whole opening section.
    • That was me trying to (a) brute force motivation for the reader and (b) navigate some social tension I was feeling around what it means to be able to make a claim here. In particular I was annoyed with Oli and wanted to sidestep discussion of the lemons problem. My focus was actually on making something in culture salient by offering a fake framework. The thing speaks for itself once you look at it. After that point I don't care what anyone calls it.
    • This would, alas, leave out the emphasis that it's a fake framework. But I've changed my attitude about how much hand-holding to do for stuff like that. Part of the reason I put that in the beginning was to show the LW audience that I was taking it as fake, so as to sidestep arguments about how justified everything is or isn't. At this point I don't care anymore. People can project whatever they want on me because, uh, I can't really stop them anyway. So I'm not going to fret about it.
    • I had also intended the opening to have a kind of c
... (read more)

I've made my edits. I think my most questionable call was to go ahead and expand the bit on how to Look in this case.

If I understand the review plan correctly, I think this means I'm past the point where I can get feedback on that edit before voting happens for this article. Alas. I'm juggling a tension between (a) what I think is actually most helpful vs. (b) what I imagine is most fitting to where Less Wrong culture seems to want to go.

If it somehow makes more sense to include the original and ignore this edit, I'm actually fine with that. I had originally planned on not making edits.

But I do hope this new version is clearer and more helpful. I think it has the same content as the original, just clarified a bit.

4Raemon1yThanks! Probably will end up with a couple more thoughts but definitely appreciate you making some time for this. :)
2habryka1yIndeed, thank you a lot for taking the time for this!
1Long try1yMay be off-topic, but can you elaborate on where LW culture wants to go? Or point to a specific post...
9Valentine1yI can't point to a specific post without doing more digging than I care to do right now. I wouldn't be too shocked to find out I'm drastically wrong. It's just my impression from (a) years of interacting with Less Wrong before plus (b) popping in every now and again to see what social dynamics have and haven't changed. With that caveat… here are a couple of frames to triangulate what I was referring to: * In Ken Wilber's version of Spiral Dynamics [https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Ken-Wilber-et-al-Altitudes-of-consciousness-across-some-major-developmental-lines_fig9_301754519] , Less Wrong is the best display of Orange I know of. Most efforts at Orange these days are weaksauce, like "I Fucking Love Science [https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/I_Fucking_Love_Science]" (which is more like Amber with an Orange aesthetic) or Richard Dawkins' "Brights" campaign [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brights_movement]. I could imagine a Less Wrong that wants to work hard at holding Orange values as it transitions into 2nd Tier (i.e., Wilber's Teal and Turquoise Altitudes), but that's not what I see. What I see instead is a LW that wants to continue to embody Orange more fully and perfectly, importing and translating other frameworks into Orange terms. In other words, LW seems to me to have devoted to keep playing in 1st Tier, which seems like a fine choice. It's just not the one I make. * There's a mighty powerful pull on LW to orient toward propositional knowing [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descriptive_knowledge]. The focus is super-heavy on languaging and explicit models. Questions about deeper layers of knowing (e.g., John Vervaeke's breakdown in terms of procedural [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_knowledge], perspectival, and participatory forms of knowing) undergo pressure to be framed in propositional terms and evaluated analytically to be held here. The whole thing with "fake frameworks [https://www.l
9romeostevensit1yI don't think everyone playing on the propositional level is unaware of its shortcomings, many just recognize that propositional knowledge is the knowledge that scales and therefore worthy of investment despite those shortcomings. And on the other side of things you have Kegan 3 (I don't like Integral terms for reasons related to this very topic) people with some awareness of Kegan 5 but having skipped a healthy Kegan 4 and therefore having big holes which they tend to paper over with spiritual bypassing. They are the counterpart to the rationalist strawmen who skipped over a healthy Kegan 3 (many of us here do have shades of this) and run into big problems when they try to go from 4 to 5 because of those holes from 3.
4Valentine1yI didn't mean to imply that everyone was unaware this way. I meant to point at the culture as a whole. Like, if the whole of LW were a single person, then that person strikes me as being unaware this way, even if many of that person's "organs" have a different perspective. That's actually really unclear to me. Christendom would have been better defined by a social order (and thus by individuals' knowing how to participate in that culture) than it would have by a set of propositions. Likewise #metoo spread because it was a viable knowing-how: read a #metoo story with the hashtag, then feel moved to share your own with the hashtag such that others see yours.
5Raemon1ytl;dr: that raised some interesting points. I'm not sure "actionable" is the right lens but something nearby resonated. My current take is something like "yes, LessWrong is pretty oriented towards propositional knowledge". Not necessarily because it's the best or only way, as Romeo said, because it's a thing that can scale in a particular way and so is useful to build around. Your point that "fake frameworks that are actionable are seen as preliminary, but there doesn't seem to be a corresponding sense that compelling-but-inactionable-models are also 'preliminary'" was interesting. I hadn't quite thought through that lens before. Thinking through that lens a bit now, what I'd guess is that "actually, yes, non-actionable-things are also sort of preliminary." (I think part of the point of the LW Review was to check 'okay, has anyone actually used these ideas in a way that either connected directly with reality, or showed some signs of eventually connecting.' A concept I kept pointing at during the Review process was "which ideas were true, and also useful?") But, I think there is still some kind of tradeoff being made here, that isn't quite about actionability vs vetted-explicit-knowledge. The tradeoff is in instead some vaguer axis of "the sort of stuff I imagine Val is excited about", that has more to do with... like, in an environment that's explicitly oriented towards bridging gaps between explicit and tacit knowledge, with tacit knowledge treated as something that should eventually get type-checked into explicit knowledge and vetted if possible, some frames are going to have an easier time being talked about. So, I do think there are going to be some domains that LessWrong is weaker at, and that's okay. I don't think actionability is the thing though. Some of this is just about tacit or experiential knowledge just being real-damn-hard-to-convey in writing. A lot of the point of the original sequences was to convey tacit knowledge about how-to-think. A lot o
8Valentine1yAgreed. I mean actionability as an example type. A different sort of example would be Scott introducing the frame of Moloch. His essay didn't really offer new explicit models or explanations, and it didn't really make any action pathways viable for the individual reader. But it was still powerful in a way that I think importantly counts. By way of contrast, way back in the day when CFAR was but a glimmer in Eliezer's & Anna's eye, there was an attempted debiasing technique vs. the sunk cost fallacy called "Pretend you're a teleporting alien". The idea was to imagine that you had just teleported into this body and mind, with memories and so on, but that your history was something other than what this human's memory claimed. Anna and Eliezer offered this to a few people, presumably because the thought experiment worked for them, but by my understanding it fell flat. It was too boring to use. It sure seems actionable, but in practice it neither lit up a meaningful new perspective (the way Meditations on Moloch did) nor afforded a viable action pathway (despite having specific steps that people could in theory follow). What it means to know (in a way that matters) why that technique didn't work is that you can share a debiasing technique with others that they can and do use. Models and ideas might be helpful for getting there… but something goes really odd when the implicit goal is the propositional model. Too much room for conversational Goodharting. But a step in the right direction (I think) is noticing that the "alien" frame doesn't in practice have the kind of "kick" that the Moloch idea does. Despite having in-theory actionable steps, it doesn't galvanize a mind with meaning. Turns out, that's actually really important for a viable art of rationality. I'm wanting to emphasize that I'm not trying to denigrate this. In case that wasn't clear. I think this is valuable and good. This resonates pretty well with where my intuition tends to point. That's somethin
5habryka1y(Note: I found this comment helpful in thinking about LessWrong, though don't have much to say in response)
2Long try1yThanks a bunch, Val. I say you saved me dozens if not hundreds of hours, because I was (am) pretty confused about the big picture around here. The associated Ken Wilber image helps with the understanding a lot. Now, if I don't really get nearly half of the articles on LW, does that mean I'm redder than orange? Are there tests on the internet where I can pretty reliably tell where I'm standing on that scale? Also, I'm quite sure that my goal is to get to the turquoise level. What online resources I should learn and/or what "groups" I should join, in your personal recommendation?
2Valentine1yI'm glad to have helped. :) I'll answer the rest by PM. Diving into Integral Theory here strikes me as a bit off topic (though I certainly don't mind the question).
4Raemon1ySome thoughts I wanted to share on this aspect (speaking only for myself, not Oli or anyone else) [quick meta note: the deadline for editing was extended till the 13th, and I think there’s a chance we may extend it further] I agree that axing the previous opening section was mostly good – it was a bit overwrought and skipping to the meat of the article seems better. I think what I'd personally prefer (over the new version), is a quick: “Epistemic Status: Fake Framework”. You sort of basically have that with the new version (linking to Fake Frameworks at the beginning, but we have the Epistemic Status convention to handle it slightly more explicitly, without taking up much space) What I think I actually prefer, overall (for LW culture) is something like: * Individual posts can give a quick disclaimer to let readers know how they’re supposed to relate to an article, epistemically. Fake Frameworks are a fine abstraction. This should be an established concept that doesn't require much explanation each time. * Over the long term, there is an expectation that if Fake Frameworks stick around, they are expected to get grounded out into "real" frameworks, or at least the limits of the framework is more clearly spelled out. This often takes lots of exploration, experimentation, modeling, and explanatory work, which can often take years. It makes sense to have a shared understanding that it takes years (esp. because often it’s not people’s full time job to be writing this sort of thing up), but I think it’s pretty important to the intellectual culture for people to trust that that’s part of the longterm goal (for things discussed on LessWrong anyhow) I think a lot of the earlier disagreements or concerns at the time had less to do with flagging frameworks as fake, and more to do with not trusting that they were eventually going to ground out as “connected more clearly to the rest of our scientific understanding of the world”. I generall
I think what I'd personally prefer (over the new version), is a quick: “Epistemic Status: Fake Framework”.

Like so? (See edit at top.) I'm familiar with the idea behind this convention. Just not sure how LW has started formatting it, or if there's desire to develop much precision on this formatting.

I think a lot of the earlier disagreements or concerns at the time had less to do with flagging frameworks as fake, and more to do with not trusting that they were eventually going to ground out as “connected more clearly to the rest of our scientific understanding of the world”.

Mmm. That makes sense.

My impression looking back now is that the dynamic was something like:

  • [me]: Here's an epistemic puzzle that emerges from whether people have or haven't experience flibble.
  • [others]: I don't believe there's an epistemic puzzle until you show there's value in experiencing flibble.
  • [me]: Uh, I can't, because that's the epistemic puzzle.
  • [others]: Then I'm correct not to take the epistemic puzzle seriously given my epistemic state.
  • [me]: You realize you're assuming there's no puzzle to conclude there's n
... (read more)

I won't respond to that right now. I don't know enough to offer the full rigor I imagine you'd like, either. So I hope for your sake that others dive in on this.

Yeah, to be clear I am expecting this sort of thing to take years to do. (and, part of the point of the review process is that it can be more of a collective effort to either flag issues or resolve them)

What seems like an achievable thing to shoot for this year, by someone-or-other (and I think worth doing whether this post ends up getting included in the book or not), is something like 

a) if anyone does think the post is actually misleading in some way, now's the time for them to say so. (Obviously this isn't something I'd generally expect authors to do, unless they've actually changed their mind on a thing).

b) write out a list of pointers for "what sort of places might you look to figure out how this connects to the rest of psych literature of neuroscience, or what experiments you'd want to see run or models built if there isn't yet existing literature on this". Not as a "fully ground this out in one month", but "notes for future people to followup on."

This is the clearest description of this model of social reality that I've seen – I found the metaphors easy to work with, and appreciated the degree of ways it built on itself.

It's making me think about a few other fake frameworks and how they fit together.

The first half of this post reminded me a lot of Melting Asphalt's Personhood essay. The shared concept is having a interface that makes it easier to plug into a social network. But the scene metaphor was a helpful lens that oriented my thinking slightly differently (and in particular, instead of thinking in terms of "everyone uses the same interfaces so that they tile easily", there are multiple roles which can fit together depending on context).

I'm also interested in how this fits (or doesn't) with the Elephant / Rider metaphor [aka Barrel of Monkeys + Wrangle or Monkeys + Voicebox or whatever]. The Player vs Character model is interesting in that... I think the Character is the one whose more of the PR Agent, which I normally associate with the 'Rider' and conscious thought.

I don't think the mapping quite makes sense, but insofar as Player == Elephant, this is a framing wherein it makes more sense to me to "identify with" the Elephant.

I will note that the metaphor I found least intuitive was calling the network "Omega" – I'd personally have named the post "The Improv Scene Model of Social Reality" or something, rather than focusing on that. But YMMV.

I do think having a unique name for this post to make it easier to refer to (without concept clashing with similarly-named posts) would be handy.

6Valentine3yThat makes sense. I do want to reference this as akin to Omega from Newcomb's Problem, though. That'll become very, very relevant in a future post. But from where you're standing, I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense.

Might I propose renaming the post The Social Improv Web? Like Raemon, I think that "Real World Omega", while being an important component of what you're saying here, is less likely to act as a sticky handle for this post.

Perhaps leave the old title in a parenthetical for continuity's sake: The Social Improv Web (aka "Real World Omega").

(I have written on naming concepts to reduce incidents of people thinking they understand terms they haven't even heard before)

6Kaj_Sotala3yI strongly support renaming the post into something like "The Social Improv Web".
5Valentine3yMmm… strong mixed feelings. I agree about the general point about naming. I worry that "The Social Improv Web" creates a different wrong impression though. Also, none of these are names I natively use for it, but I've started to refer to the emergent distributed intelligence sometimes as "Omega", which totally matches stuff about Newcomblike problems that I'll be talking about later. (The mythic mode name I use for it is "Fate"… but I don't want to embed mythic mode in the way we talk about the framework here. I'd rather keep in mind that mythic mode is one possible implementation.) I think I, personally, will close to never remember to call it "the social improv web". So… I'm not yet persuaded. But I like the thing you're trying to address, and the effort you put into it.
5Raemon3yI do get the concern you have here, although I at least worth checking if something like "Omega, the Social Web" or some such permutation works.
2crybx3yAfter reading your Mythic Mode post, and before seeing this comment, I was trying to think of a possible mythic mode name for this other than Omega. Hermaeus Mora, [http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Hermaeus_Mora] a Lovecraftian-like being from the Elder Scrolls video game series, overpowers any other ideas in my head: He/it also looks like a bunch of tentacles, which is sort of web like. I don't think this is remotely a name that could spread, but when I recalled that I thought of him as Herman when I played the game, I became very amused at the idea of calling "The Intelligent Social Web" by the name Herman.
4Unreal3yI don't like the name "Social Improv Web" for this thing in particular. The handles I'm mostly taking away from this article are "roles" and "the web." So my suggested names would be "Your Role in the Web" or "The Web" [lol "Web" stopped looking like a word to me]
5Valentine3yOkay, persuaded. How's this? (Unfortunately, this breaks links to this post…)

It does not! We were smart and clever and the english-looking part of the link is basically irrelevant – all the work is being done by the hash part of the url.

See also:


5Valentine3yWoohoo! I am pleased to be wrong here!
3weft3yAgreed. "Omega" already refers to too many other things in our discourse. I almost didn't open this post because I thought it would be about decision theory/ Newcomb. One reason Moloch works is that's it's an old reference that wasn't currently being used to describe a hundred other things. In keeping with the theme, how about calling the social network something like Hestia, Vesta, or Eunomia. You can write a post personifying it in a poetic and mythic way. Omega can be her son with Hephaestus, if you like. If you wait too long to change it, it's going to stay Omega by default, and I think that would be a BAD thing.
5Valentine3yFor what it’s worth, the mythic mode name I usually give the social web is “Fate”, and the mythic name I give scripts played out in the web is “fates”. As in, “It’s his fate to be poor, so Fate will see to it that his business does not succeed.”
2Raemon3yVal did mention he planned to tie it more explicitly in with Omega and decision theory later in the series, so I don't think this particular approach would make sense.

I haven't really understood where the fakeness in the framework is. And the other comments also seem to not acknowledge, that it is a fake framework, which I am interpreting as people taking this framework at face value to be true or real. I suspect I haven't quite understood what is meant by "fake framework".

I'm currently seeing two main ways in which I can make the fakeness make sense to me:

  1. People do step out of their roles quite often in real life, breaking the expectations of the web. So the framework works better for broad strokes predictions, than specific behavior. Or rather, there is a lot of behavior not accounted for in the framework.
  2. Just like "every model is wrong", every framework is fake, and this is a framework that is "less fake" than others.

A thing that's rather irrelevant to the actual topic at hand, but that I feel like sharing:

  • Me reading this: "Oh neat, links about attachment theory, this is acutely relevant to me. Let's check out the 'how to tell if your partner is X' links.
  • Reading the links: "Hm yeah, seems like I'm anxious-preoccupied and the person I'm interested in could be dismissive-avoidant."
  • Reading th
... (read more)
I haven't really understood where the fakeness in the framework is.

Well, by my model of epistemic hygiene, it's therefore especially important to label it "fake" as you step into using it. Otherwise you risk forgetting that it's an interpretation you're adding, and when you can't notice the interpretations you're adding anymore then you have a much harder time Looking at what's true.

In my usage, "fake" doesn't necessarily mean "wrong". It means something more like "illusory". The point of a framework, to me, is that it pumps intuition and highlights clusters and possible Gears. But all of that is coming from your mind, not the territory. When you don't yet know how much to trust a framework, I think it's especially helpful to have clear signs on its boundaries saying "You are now entering a domain of intentional self-induced hallucination."

Like, it's worth remembering that you don't see molecules. When you look at a glass of water and think "Oh, that's dihydrogen monoxide", if you can't tell that that's a thought you're adding and not what you&... (read more)

5Valentine3yOh, haha, I should be more careful when using a phone interface to read these comments. I visually missed that you'd said: So, yep, basically that.
3dsatan3yI'd just like to point out that this leads to a interpretation of map and territory that is really weird from the perspective of the bayesian-skeptical correspondence theory given in the sequences. If I were to give a name pointing at what this metaphysics is, I'd say something like "direct realism". This is not to say that it is wrong.
3Valentine3yYep, I agree. I'm also concerned that the theory you're pointing out has an ontology problem. I'm hoping to get to spelling my concern out — but that's several posts later in the sequence.
6Kaj_Sotala3yI would say that it's fake in that we're not literally actors playing roles while being unaware of it, events in our life are not literally scenes in a play, etc. Lots of metaphors that are easy to understand and which import useful reasoning rules [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_metaphor] from the domain of theater, but the things that they refer to are probably implemented quite differently in brains.
3[comment deleted]3y

Are social roles really that arbitrary though? I think of it as more of a market, where your position is determined by what you have to sell and for how much. For example, if you're good looking, that means your goods are better. If you're insecure, your prices are higher, and so on. Then people come together and work out a trade. Telling yourself that the market is a shared hallucination (or distributed computation, or whatever) won't change anyone else's incentives, so it won't change your market position. Better to change your goods and asking price and let the market float you up.

2crybx3yI would be wary of thinking of social roles as a market. There's something about social interactions that isn't market related, and bringing up prices seems to be able to make people's relationships less fulfilling. At least according to Dan Ariely in the book Predictably Irrational. "...once a social norm is trumped by a market norm—it will rarely return." Quick Googling of market vs social norms (or some variation on that) brought up tons of links, but this one does an okay job of summarizing what the book said about it: https://natewkratzer.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/market-norms-are-crowding-out-social-norms-and-society-is-poorer-as-a-result/ [https://natewkratzer.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/market-norms-are-crowding-out-social-norms-and-society-is-poorer-as-a-result/]
8cousin_it3yAgree with the second part - trade is low status (because it means people aren't rewarding you for inherent qualities). Disagree with the first part - trade is still what's going on, just not with money. It's always a good idea to understand what the other person is buying from you and at what price. The world is full of people who thought they were being rewarded for inherent qualities. Then they accidentally withdrew the thing that was being traded, and lost relationships as a result. Eliezer had a nice essay [https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10156159061989228] about it recently.
1Valentine3yYes, I think so. What I think you're highlighting are the constraints that emerge from (a) roles and scripts that have been chosen and (b) environmental factors. That second one is a bit like "The scene has to involve a stuffed bear somehow." That certainly shapes what happens, but it doesn't overwhelm the role choices. It just interacts with them. Also, whether someone is considered attractive, or insecure, is often determined in large part by their position in the web. Yes, there can be genetic factors that make someone seem visibly more or less genetically fit… but it's pretty impressive how attractive someone can be if it's in common knowledge that everyone desires that person. But these roles being so "arbitrary" doesn't mean you can just switch them up. You're right, they're highly constrained by context. In the OP, I described this as a question of slack.
9cousin_it3yNo mention of personal qualities that determine what you can supply to others and what you demand in return? Do you think anyone could have the right personal qualities if they were put in the right role? That seems wrong, I couldn't lead the troops as well as Napoleon. The same thing happens in markets.
4Valentine3yAh, I think we're missing each other through different usage of terminology. I now think you're trying to point at individuals' resources that they bring into the interactions with other individuals. E.g., assumedly there was something intrinsic to Napoleon that made him a great leader of troops. Let me know if I'm missing you there. When I translate that into the framework I'm using in the OP, I focus on three things: * I would call factors that are intrinsic to individuals part of the "environment". E.g., genetic gifts are environment. This is in the sense that a scene is shaped in part by what's in the set, how energetic and responsive the players are, etc. * A lot of things that we think of as intrinsic to individuals are actually a result of their position in the web. Hence my comment about people's attractiveness based on where they are in the web. (And yes, I agree, that happens in markets too. That's not a disagreement. I think you're noticing an overlap in the patterns that two different frameworks point at.) * People are usually prevented from reaching and holding roles they can't execute. I posit that you in fact aren't in a position like Napoleon's in large part because you lack the native abilities in question, and the web is accounting for that.

Well, yeah. Your view seems reasonable enough on its own terms. The reason I'm being a bit naggy in the comments here is because I've got my own pet framework, which has some claim to being the next step after yours in terms of improving life outcomes :-) The market thing. I'll try to explain why I like it so much.

There seems to be a natural progression in how people think about success:

1) Success comes from being better than others

2) Success comes from ~some mind hack~

3) Success comes from trading with others

Imagine you're unhappy about your lot in life. The natural response is to grit your teeth and follow (1), trying to improve yourself so people flock to you. That's a healthy response in many ways. But then there are so many self-help books explaining how reality is in your mind (2), and you can look at it differently to get ahead! That sounds like an amazing opportunity, but to me it's not much different from (1). You're still trying to improve your position, like everyone else, but now you're also using shortcuts. Like everyone else.

The real jump is from (2) to (3), where you realize that you can't succeed alone. You've got to pull someone else along. And once you accept that... (read more)

7alkjash3yI like this a lot as well, I was operating under assumption (1) until probably 2 or 3 years ago, until I realized the main value I derive from being better than others is the warm fuzzy of immediately teaching them the thing. So success (1) is self-defeating. To fully appreciate this I had to disentangle the warm fuzzy of "pretending to teach while lording over" which is admittedly good but nowhere as good as actually watching the other person improve because of my efforts.
6Qiaochu_Yuan3yI'd be excited to see a top-level post from you elaborating on this with some examples.
4ChristianKl3yValentine isn't a hedgehog about this framework. The point of calling it a fake-framework is to make it clear that it isn't the one-framework to explain everything. Given that frameworks are useful intuition pumps having multiple useful frameworks allows you to generate more useful ideas. Not all value exchange is about market-based trading. David Ronfeld lays out Tribes/Hierarchies/Markets/Networks in "In Search of How Societies Work" [https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR433.html]. When I ask on StackExchange a question I don't think it's helpful to think of how I trade with the person who will answer my question. It's more useful to think in terms of roles. There are certain cultural exceptions by the StackExchange community and when I write StackExchange answers it's more useful to think about living up to those norms than thinking about how to trade with people answering. StackExchange follows network norms of value creation.
1cousin_it3yHuh? StackExchange has karma! So does LW. The value exchange mechanism is exposed for all to see. Reputation systems are designed markets. They also complement goods markets (Amazon, eBay, Yelp). And there's intermediate cases like social media, where companies promote their content by making it upvote-worthy. Thinking that you do stuff to follow norms misses the point: you follow norms to make a profit.
2ChristianKl3yPopper made the point that one of the problems with Marxism is that the Marxist has no problem to see any conflict as being about class struggle. In the same way you can see every problem as being about market and fit them into that perspective. On StackExchange you find bad question and answer getting downvotes even when that costs the people who downvote karma. You wouldn't expect that behavior to happen as often it it would be a market where participants purely optimize for getting their questions answered, earning karma and badges. People desire to do work on StackExchange that doesn't bring them karma. People work through review queues even when that doesn't bring them karma to help the project. If you start to look at a problem with multiple lenses you see more aspects of it and that helps generating new solutions.
2MalcolmOcean3yI would add: 4) Success comes from collaborating with others Trade is one way to have an economic interaction where value is created, because each of us might value something twice as much as the other, so when we trade, we get more value. But we can also create value where no value existed before. If you and I play a game together that we both enjoy, we're not trading something: we're creating new experiences that we value. If you and I start a company together, we might be selling our products on a market, but the value we're creating by working together is probably something that neither of us had on our own, therefore not well-modelled as a "trade". Some might argue this is the same as 3, but it seems like an important distinction to me, and very relevant to improv, also.
5Unreal3yWhy? If you think this, then I start suspecting you might consider everything to be 'arbitrary'. What does 'not arbitrary' look like? Like, let's say I have a genetic gift like photographic memory. And then I start playing the role as a person who remembers things that they've seen. Maybe people make jokes about it. Or they ask me what was in the paper this morning. Would this still be considered an arbitrary social role?
6Valentine3yI now think the word "arbitrary" is shifting meaning around as different people use it. I'd like to taboo [https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rationalist_taboo] it. Here are some things that, by my model, contribute to defining someone's position in the web: * Their genes. * The situation that they were born into. (E.g., who their parents are, in the web.) * Major physical events around them. (E.g., earthquakes.) * Physical constraints of their environment. (E.g., living in non-fertile land.) * The positions in the web that people they interact with hold. I doubt that's exhaustive — but I think it might be close. I'm reading a bunch of this thread as folk interpreting me as saying that genetic gifts don't matter. That's not my stance. I think genetic gifts do in fact matter — but I suspect I think they matter differently than other people think they do. E.g., many people might think that someone is a natural leader when what's really going on is just that they're tall and can easily put on muscle and have symmetric features and were thus raised to practice playing a role that looks leader-like. But it's helpful to the web for people to think and talk as though the people they've chosen for leadership roles have various virtues that make them worthy [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect]. I think it's helpful to distinguish between recursive factors (your role helps define my role, which helps define your role, etc.) and non-recursive factors (e.g., being tall, or being in a drought). The non-recursive factors define the things that the recursive ones have to address. But the recursive ones define what people treat as real about the non-recursive ones. That doesn't depend on whether the thing is intrinsic to a person (as with genes) or not (as with rain). E.g., climate change has a similar kind of "web-woven reality dominates perception of physical reality" thing going on as with people who claim that Tally McTallface just seems more Presidential
3Unreal3yFWIW, my current belief is that 'tall' functions as something like a Schelling point. it only slightly grants 'leadership ability' (in that, if you're tall, i'm more likely to be able to SEE you in a crowd, and if you wanted to give me directions, that seems relevant; also taller means i have to look up to see your face, and this costs ME more than YOU, and so given you get natural energy savings in interactions, this is some indication of who has more resources; i expect things like this to compound). anyway, being tall was probably a much more useful leadership ability way back when, but now it is not a super good indicator. but given the lack of other more correlated signals that are fast to assess, tall is a natural Schelling point over short. and having Schelling points for this seems useful. when i enter a room, i want to immediately be able to guess what people's relative status positions are. ideally before i hear them say anything. (because, as you say, i just wanna know what my role is goddamnit!) my sense is there's something that bothers you about 'tall' ~ 'leader' and it doesn't seem to bother me. so that's where i get curious.
9PeterBorah3yThis almost seems too obvious to say, but one reason to be bothered by the move from "tall" to "leader" is that sometimes you want your group to have a leader with skills that cause the group to succeed, and the most optimal choice for that might not be the tallest person.
8Kaj_Sotala3yThe discussion about leadership reminded me that siderea has written an absolutely fascinating analysis (part 1 [https://siderea.livejournal.com/1212245.html], part 2 [https://siderea.livejournal.com/1212664.html]) about leadership; the one problem with the analysis is that it basically requires you to have read at least the first 65 pages of Watership Down. But if you have done that, it's an excellent analysis about how leadership (or kingship as she calls it) isn't a really a formal position in the way that we think about it, but rather about you relate to others in the social web, and how those others relate to you in turn. That seems like a very appropriate perspective for this thread. A couple of quotes:
5Qiaochu_Yuan3yTallness is also reasonably strong evidence of good genes and nutrition.
2CronoDAS3yI think the height thing is a holdover from childhood: someone taller than you is older and more adult-like, so you should do what they say.
1Unreal3yoh, maybe you're only bothered by people claiming a hand-wavy 'natural leadership' thing when in fact it's stuff like 'they're tall and handsome'. i would agree that is not ideal than being more aware of this kind of thing. belief reporting seems to help suss it out?
3habryka3yMy guess is that about 70% of attractiveness is explained by objective factors, or at least highly inter-subjective factors that are not that dependent on the role someone is playing. There are some studies on this that I read a while ago, this one seems relevant but not the one I remember: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9106275

One lesson I think is really important to draw from this framework is responsibly using the power you have in any given social web. What behaviors from the people around you do you reinforce or punish? Having more choice about what you do here can make a big difference to the behavior of the web depending on your placement in it, although of course your reinforcement is subject to its own meta-reinforcement from others. (At the very least, it's interesting to try being deliberate about what you reinforce and punish, and notice what resistance you get internally and externally from doing so.)

Edit: It will perhaps come as no surprise that I think this is something you can learn via circling. Reinforcement and meta-reinforcement are often implicit and circling is an opportunity to make them explicit so you can vividly see them happening in real time: A punishes B, C punishes A for punishing B, D notices and calls out this dynamic, A punishes D for doing this, etc. Of course it helps a lot to have facilitators skilled enough to manage these sorts of dynamics.

Fantastic post! I knew that my social environment was super-important for guiding my actions, but this made me realize I might once again have underestimated its significance.

I'm reminded of Kevin Simler's "Personality: An Ecosystems Perspective":

Every class has its clown, because “class clown” is a strong, viable niche (even if it’s not particularly wide) — a stable attractor in the social behavior-space of a classroom. If a class doesn’t yet have its clown, someone will inevitably find that making a wisecrack is rewarded (with social approval in the form of laughter), and before you know it, he or she will be cracking wise at every opportunity.
But like I said, there are far more niches, which are far more nuanced, than just the ones we’ve learned to identify by name. “Alpha,” for example, doesn’t refer to a single niche, but rather a whole class of niches that happen to share a particular feature (being on top). There are many different types of “alpha” niches — leading by intimidation, leading by example, leading by wits and with humor, servant leadership, having an inherited titled (kingdoms etc.), leading with the support of the people, etc.
When it comes to
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I had an extremely nerdy friend group in college, which led to weird effects since we couldn't all be "the nerd". One of my friends still gets annoyed at the fact that she became the "jock" and the "sensible person", just because she was slightly less helpless at life than the rest of us. Her reaction seems to be something like, "I'm for real actually a nerd, why are you making me play this other role??"

I've been trying to clarify my thinking on social reality, and this post has helped. The idea that the scene is a thing that exists outside of the actors in it is a very helpful framing.

It also helps me clarify some of the problems I had when I was deep in the uncanny valley of rationality. I grew a strong aversion to anything that smelt like a role, and I also had no idea how I actually wanted to act around other people. This resulted in me either playing and old role and resenting it, or being as non-interactive as I could be without weirding people out.

Promoted to frontpage.

I claim that most of us, most of the time, are playing out characters as defined by the surrounding web — and we usually haven’t a clue how to Look at this fact, much less intentionally use our web slack to change our stories.

Hmm, question – I didn't read the entirety of the Kensho comments, but I'm unclear whether your use of the word "Look" here is an archetypical example of the thing you were meaning to convey in the Kensho post, or if it's just something that could use a similar metaphor to explain a la cell phone world, or som... (read more)

7Valentine3yMmm, I'm a little confused about what exactly your question is. I think you're trying to ask how my use of "Look" here relates to the kind of "Look" I refer to in my post on kenshō. I'll try to answer that question — but if that's not the question you meant, please let me know! I claim that there is just one core skill, which I'm calling "Looking". But once one knows how to Look, there are lots of things to Look at. I don't know what you mean when you ask whether the example is "archetypical" — it certainly doesn't strike me as being an archetypal image [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_archetypes] — but it's definitely an example of applying the skill I was pointing at in Kenshō. In the cell phone analogy, this would be that once someone knows how to look up at all, it becomes possible to point out different kinds of things that they can use "looking up" for. They can go look at cell towers, or watch pedestrian traffic flow directly, or lock eyes with someone else who's looking up. They're all different applications, but they all pivot on the same core skill. For a sillier analogy: in the roleplaying game Mage: the Ascension [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mage:_The_Ascension], a mage's magical power comes from their degree of enlightenment, which is measured by the trait called Arete [http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Arete_(MTAs)]; but what they can use their magical power on is determined by what bodies of knowledge and practice they've mastered, called Spheres [http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Sphere_(MTAs)] . If we are analogous to (potential) mages, then Looking is analogous to using Arete, and different worthwhile things to Look at and come to understand deeply are analogous to the domains governed by Spheres.

Your first two paragraphs mostly answered my question – I'm mostly trying to get a clearer sense of what you mean by Look, and whether it always refers to the same thing.

A different question to circumambulate. :P

Can you describe briefly (nevermind about me necessarily "getting it" in full), 2-3 examples of you Looking at something, and 2-3 examples of you doing something I might mistake for Looking but which is not the same thing, or only superficially similar?

Can you describe briefly (nevermind about me necessarily "getting it" in full), 2-3 examples of you Looking at something, and 2-3 examples of you doing something I might mistake for Looking but which is not the same thing, or only superficially similar?

Oh man. I really like this question! Happy to oblige… though that second part is going to be super tricky. I can give lots of non-examples, but you're asking for non-examples that I think you might think are examples. I'm less confident I can do that well. But I'll try!

Some positive examples (briefly, without trying to explain in full):

  • Sometimes in conversations I've noticed that my mind has started moving quickly, and I feel a bit anxious, and when I try to think about why I get a mental fog or I forget what I was thinking about. This is a signal to me that I'm probably running some subconscious strategy. So sometimes I'll pause, and Look behind the wall of fog or forgetfulness, and hold that whole section of my mind as object. Often it tries to squirm out of reach, but I can See where it's squirming, and why, and just trace it to its root.
  • A while back I was interacting with a friend of a
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Yup, quite good. I'll have to think on it a bit but was exactly the sort of answer I was looking for.

I'd hadn't meant to force you do a more-cognitively-intense "model me modeling Looking" thing, and maybe an easier question might have been "what's something you think a past, less experienced version of you might have thought was looking" or "what's a common mistaken impression you might think people might make" or "when people ask you to explain Looking, what's your surprise-o-meter expecting to come across wrong?"

Like, in the kensho post it was clear that you were afraid of falling into the "I am looking higher on my screen" trap, so it seemed like you had some kind of notion of what that would non-metaphorically look like, which is what I was trying to get at.

Like, in the kensho post it was clear that you were afraid of falling into the "I am looking higher on my screen" trap, so it seemed like you had some kind of notion of what that would non-metaphorically look like, which is what I was trying to get at.

Oh! Oh jeez. That makes a lot of sense. I can give tons of examples of that! That's a very different thing in my mind.

Heh, although, I should warn that giving examples of this is prone to starting arguments. Just tag all of this as "Val's interpretations of the world" and we're good. :-)

So with that, here's a few:

  • For a few months before my kenshō, ialdabaoth kept telling me that I had a social strategy that was being really annoying to him, something something sexual competition something something. I kept listening to what he was saying and thinking carefully about it, and I tried to do focusing on it, but it felt weird and I kept thinking that he was probably wrong (but as a general policy I kept in mind that I might just be deluded). This contrasts with right after the kenshō: one of the first things I Looked at was my sexual strategy system. If I remember right, I laughed and said something
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8Hazard3yJust wanted to note that I really like the phrasing of your question and think it's a quality move for circumambulating Valentine's position. (I'm also very interested in the response)

I am the only person who doesn't really understand the Omega analogy?

I can see some similarities, as Newcomb's problem involves predictions, but here Omega isn't trying to nudge you to do what it predicts you will do, but instead tries to make sure that you benefit from one-boxing, instead of two boxing. Is the similarity any greater than Omega being really good at predictions in both cases.

4lifelonglearner3yOmega also feels out-of-place to me. While it feels like the Web exists as a Thing with properties which can lead attitudes / etc. to propagate, painting it as the archetypal omniscient alien we've come to know doesn't really fit.

Could I offer a thought on style?

I think this is a tremendous piece and there's at least 3-4 very remarkable insights in here... I wonder if it could be a transcendent piece with a bit more editing for tightness?

EX — if the piece had cut most of the preliminary and opened with "When you walk into an improv scene, you usually have no idea what role you’re playing. All you have is some initial prompt — something like:" — it would have grabbed attention faster. Then the core point from the improv scene could have been made 30% shorter/tighter b... (read more)

I think this post introduces a useful concept / way of thinking that I kept applying in my own life since reading it and that helped me understanding and dealing with certain social situations.

In most cases, I don't think this is malice. It's just that they need the scene to work.


I'm really excited about this post on a whole bunch of levels.

One post on my list of posts to write is called something like "Everything is Improv", and I feel like you captured a decent fraction of what I want to say in that post, here! Plus a ton of additional pieces that I hadn't yet notice or connected yet. These two sections in particular felt very important:

"Another challenge here is that the part of us that feels like it’s thinking and talking is (usually) analogous to a character in an improv scene. The players know they’re
... (read more)

Characters often want change as part of their role. And just as importantly, their role often requires that they can't achieve that change. The tension between craving and deprivation gives birth to the character's dramatic raison d'être. The "wife" can't be as clingy and anxious if the "husband" opens up, so "she" enacts behavior that "she" knows will make "him" close down. "She" can't really choose to change this because "her" thwarted desire for change is part of "her" role.

I'm conflicted about drawing this kind of conclusions from people behaviour, it ... (read more)

Powerful improv metaphor. Powerful post.

Ah, but if we’re immersed in a culture where status and belonging are tied to changing our minds, and we can signal that we’re open to updating our beliefs, then we’re good… as long as we know Goodhart’s Demon isn’t lurking in the shadows of our minds here. But surely it’s okay, right? After all, we’re smart and we know Bayesian math, and we care about truth! What could possibly go wrong?

The trickiness of roles that involve the disidentification with specific ... (read more)

Supposing I know how to Look, when and where do I Look, and what might I see? For my own purposes, I want to get a better idea of what my own role Looks like, see where I can move within the slack that I have, and see where tension in the web is coming from so that I can create more slack if needed.

2Valentine3yYep. From the OP: You're watching for the way that stories arise and play out, how people are falling into characters, the way that justifications arise in you, etc. And… you're noticing the gap that's between all of them. The sort of canvas on which it's all written. This can't be analytical, since that's within the character part of you. You have to watch your character and the whole scene from the transcendental not-knowing space that can never be tangled up in the web. After a while, I claim, you can sort of "get" what the underlying patterns are, and how to act on them from outside your character. And how to lean into your character in order to produce the right effects on the web strands around you. And where you, the player, have room to reach for and tug on a different role for yourself. And what the consequences are for the web as a whole. But in the meantime, you're just Looking at how the scene plays out, in detail, from the not-knowing. Does that help?
3Vanessa Kosoy3yI found this essay insightful, but I am still confused by the concept of "Looking" (in the sense that, not only I don't understand the concept, which would be okay, I don't even understand the type signature of the concept). When you say "This can't be analytical... You have to watch... from the transcendental not-knowing space", do you mean that Looking is a mental motion that relies on mechanisms other than analytical thought (for example, on intuition), but which still happens within your biological brain, governed by the usual rules of cell membrane electrochemistry, and which in particular can theoretically be simulated by a computer program designed according to perfectly "analytical" principles, or, do you mean something which happens outside the laws of physics as we currently ("analytically") understand them?
5Qiaochu_Yuan3yThe former.
1dsatan3yAh, I remember having the distinct impression of drawing a blank when reading that sentence. Your further description helps, but it's feeling a little vague. I think I can kind of see it in my memory of past interactions, but I don't think I have enough of a handle on it that it seems like I could have done much differently. The referent of "not-knowing," and what it is not-knowing of is fuzzy/not so clear to me (though as I am writing all of this, it is becoming clearer and clearer). Is it not-knowing of how the scene will unfold? Of what the scene is? Of the roles we are playing? All of the above? This does give me something that I can pay attention for in future social situations though and I'm pretty sure I can discover how to look at these things now, especially to see if I can achieve any of this:
2dsatan3yPretty sure I have a handle on it now.
1Valentine3yI find myself wanting to do the annoying zen thing of answering "mu [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative)]". I think that's the most accurate answer. I'll try saying more words, though, to offer an illusion of it being more satisfying: You're trying really hard to understand what it is that you're not knowing. Or rather, your character is trying really hard at this. Whether it succeeds by its own standards or not is totally irrelevant. If you Look, honestly, at what it is that you do not know, you'll See what I mean. I claim.

The subtext is only clear in retrospect.

This post gave me an important set of intuitions and things to be on a watch for. What stands out the most clearly in my mind are:

  • The notion of the social web acting as an agent in its own right, and being on a watchout for things which might violate existing scripts
  • The thing where, after your role is explained to you, you try to act based on that new information... while still continuing to re-enact your same role, as you don't really know how else to act.

I do think that these things were not explained with as much rigor as might have been good: but

... (read more)

" A few months later he told me he’d converted. Last I heard they had moved to Utah. "

This seems more easily explainable as a Crony Belief. The new belief was very valuable and useful to him, therefore it was adopted as true.

Its value as an epistemic belief plummeted as its value as a crony belief soared since the existence or non-existence of god doesn't have value to people's everyday lives (in the way that an armed robber or cancer diagnosis does).

Love this post. As I was thinking about your Intelligent Social Web, it occurred to me that all this character-playing is serving an important role, it is adding value or it would have died out ages ago. In a small ancestral tribe, it is easy to see how this kind of web-force is keeping the whole tribe operating smoothly.

I've a question about times when we are called upon to clearly play a limited role, such as small talk. I really find it unsatisfying and dislike it. I'm curious if/how your relation to small talk has changed after you learned t... (read more)

If you move away and then make new friends and sort of become a new person (!), you might at first think this is just who you are now. But then you visit your parents… and suddenly you feel and act a lot like you did before you moved away. You might even try to hold onto this “new you” with them… and they might respond to what they see as strange behavior by trying to nudge you into acting “normal”:

worth tying this into the subject object transition of the kegan stages of development. See here - meaningness.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/developing-ethical-s... (read more)

Actually thinking in a way that for real changes your mind in ways that defy your web-given role is socially deviant, and therefore personally dangerous, and therefore something you’re motivated not to learn how to do.

When reading that, I think it's a good reason why Quantified Self is so hard. Looking at data and making real changes about yourself based on it is emotionally taxing.

I would be interested in seeing this expanded to talk about what the change you can create by stopping is.

My initial thought is that humans have to exist in one of these stories to participate in society, but stopping could allow you to realize you want to change stories completely.

Maybe it is also possible to dramatically influence the story you are already in, but this seems less likely as the other characters would have to accept that change.

A concrete example of this is giving up drinking. If you give up drinking you usually need new friends. You won't enjoy the story anymore because you aren't drinking, and your old friends won't want a downer like you around.

This really made me think of Gandalf, as being a superb conductor/chef of the social web, based on very raw ingredients (Bilbo, Frodo, Aragorn).

What is the internal experience of playing the role? Where does it come from? Is there even a coherent category of internal experience that lines up with this, or is it a pattern that shows up only in aggregate?

[The rest of this comment is mostly me musing.] For example, when people in a room laugh or smile, I frequently find myself laughing or smiling with them. I have yet to find a consistent precursor to this action; sometimes it feels forced and a bit shaky, like I'm insecure and fear a certain impact or perception of me. But often it's not that, a... (read more)

Actually, update: Apparently I can't link to the old Less Wrong wiki. There's some kind of automatic script that's messing up the URLs. E.g., the very last link is intended to go here:


…but instead tries to go here:


…and then complains that that place doesn't exist.

So, apologies for some of the links being broken.

4Ben Pace3ySorry about that. Does it still mess up if you get rid of the 'https://' ?
2Elo3yI have also had some linking problems of a similar style.
1Valentine3yYep, looks like. I also notice that another link to the old LW wiki does not go wonky this way. I'm not sure why the system is particular about linking to rationalization! :-P
2habryka3yAh, sorry. I figured it out. There is a bug right now where links sometimes do weird things when you use them simultaneously with other styling. I.e. bold or underline or italic. And you had a link that had some italic text in the middle of it, and so that had some unintended effects. I just removed the italic for now, and am looking into how we can fix the general problem. Happy to delete this whole thread if we don't want it to take up a bunch of unnecessary space in the discussions section.
1Valentine3yWoohoo! Thanks! Deleting this thread seems fine by me.