(Cross-posted from the EA Forum out of the Goodness of my Heart, and since the same post will often spark radically different discussions on EAF vs LessWrong.)

This week, Elon Musk revealed that he has purchased a 9% stake in Twitter, and has joined the company's board of directors.  Media coverage has focused on Musk's pro-free-speech views, which will probably shape how he tries to influence Twitter.   But there are also many other ways that we might hope to tweak Twitter for the long-term benefit of humanity!

Purchasing a prestigious, tastemaking institution (like a social media site, newspaper, university, or scientific journal), has repeatedly been proposed as an "EA megaproject".  The common theme is:
1. We could buy influence over the "commanding heights of culture", then use that influence to either:
2a. Directly promote a rationalist worldview, like by publishing EA-flavored newspaper editorials.
2b. Generally reform and improve the rationality/functioning of those institutions, like by improving the practices of a scientific journal.  (As a neutral public platform, Twitter seems best suited for this approach, rather than direct EA promotion.)

Elon Musk seems sympathetic to effective altruism, so with him on Twitter's board, we could consider Step 1 of a Twitter Megaproject partially accomplished, and get started on brainstorming specific potential reforms that Twitter could make.  Personally, I think it would be cool for Twitter to add features that familiarize people with decisionmaking mechanisms like prediction markets and approval voting.  But I'm sure there are other great ideas out there -- I know there have been several rationalist efforts (including this very forum!) to design social media sites that promote especially thoughtful, productive discussion.  What's your take on what Twitter could do for the long-term betterment of civilization?

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Jackson Wagner

Apr 06, 2022


Twitter could implement a play-money prediction market just like metaculus or manifold markets -- they could even consider buying one of these teams.  Ideally, starting or voting on a prediction market would be as easy as running a Twitter poll.  (Reddit recently did something similar.)  Having large, metaculus-style prediction markets on newsworthy events might directly help important online conversations become more productive, more reality-based, and less polarized.  And in the long run, familiarizing people with how prediction markets work might also encourage/legitimize the further adoption of prediction markets as information sources to inform decisionmaking.

Yes, great idea. An epistemic golden age will result when it's possible to dunk on people by making better predictions than them.

A key of what distinguishes Metaculus from PredictionBook before it is that it's harder and not easier to start prediction markets. A good prediction market should have well defined questions.

I would expect that having curated markets with well-defined questions would still be good. Twitter could hire a handful of people to write and score the predictions for the most important issues of the day.

Then you could turn the system so that people who actually make predictions get their tweets that are related more often surfaced to the top than the average person.

Metaculus (unlike Manifold) is not a market and does not use play money except in the same sense that Tetris score is play money.

Jackson Wagner

Apr 06, 2022


Instead of the current, AI-based system of content moderation, Twitter could experiment with different methods of community governance and judicial review.

Imagine a system where AI auto-censorship decisions could be appealed by staking some karma-points on the odds that a community moderator would support the appeal if they reviewed it.  Others could then stake their own karma points for or against, depending on how they thought the community moderator would rule.  An actual community moderator would only have to be brought in for the most contentious cases where the betting markets are between, say, 30% and 70% -- this would make the system more scalable since most appeals would get resolved by the community without ever escalating to a moderator.  

You could then have multiple levels of appeals and judges, creating another market on whether some kind of Twitter Supreme Court would uphold the moderator's decision.  (The above idea is ripped directly from Robin Hanson but I can't find the exact post where he describes it.  It also resembles the dispute-resolution mechanism of the UMA crypto coin.)

Making nuanced, human-based judgement scalable in this way could both directly improve the quality of twitter discourse, and help familiarize people with an innovative new social technology.  Also, by creating a system of community governance instead of AI-based censorship, it might offer a superior middle path compared to the current "AI-based censorship vs 4chan anarchy" debates about social media content moderation.

Kleros provides a good model for how you can do community-based courts.


Apr 26, 2022


Hiring someone from Audrey Tang's team might be a good idea. Even without the authority of the government, Twitter could host consultations on various topics the way Aubrey Tang's polis system works. 

If Audrey Tang is interested he might make a good Twitter CEO. 

Jackson Wagner

Apr 06, 2022


Twitter could create an easy-to-use, secure voting infrastructure for use by student groups, nonprofits, small businesses, unions, and other relatively low-stakes situations where you mostly just want to get a reasonably trustworthy voting system up and running easily.  Twitter could use this platform to advertise the merits of designs like approval voting and quadratic voting, boosting interest in those types of voting and building legitimacy for them to be adopted in higher-stakes contexts.

2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:27 AM

Purchasing a prestigious, tastemaking institution (like a social media site, newspaper, university, or scientific journal), has repeatedly been proposed as an "EA megaproject".

That seems like a very ineffective use of money. Instead, gaining the ear of people like Musk who can use their wealth and/or clout to influence a media outlet would give a lot more leverage.

The EA movement does indeed have the ear of people like Musk, and especially people like Dustin Moskovitz, Sam Bankman-Fried, etc! I agree that getting billionaires on board with EA is a key objective, but at this point we've already done that a bit, and maybe the best way to get further billionaires on board is probably some combination of:

  • Doing great object-level stuff to show we're worth funding.
  • Thinking up scalable uses of additional funds that could absorb literal billions, while retaining at least a pretty strong level of effectiveness.
  • Trying to influence elite culture to make the EA worldview more salient and prestigious and legible to billionaires and other powerful decisionmakers (like white house staffers, etc).