Next Monday is Petrov Day (September 26), an annually observed Rationalist/EA holiday inspired by the actions of Stanislav Petrov:

As a Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Army, Petrov manned the system built to detect whether the US government had fired nuclear weapons on Russia. On September 26th, 1983, the system reported five incoming missiles. Petrov’s job was to report this as an attack to his superiors, who would launch a retaliative nuclear response. But instead, contrary to the evidence the systems were giving him, he called it in as a false alarm. 

It was subsequently determined that the false alarms were caused by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites' Molniya orbits, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite.

In explaining the factors leading to his decision, Petrov cited his belief and training that any U.S. first strike would be massive, so five missiles seemed an illogical start.

Petrov underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his actions. Initially, he was praised for his decision. Petrov himself stated he was initially praised by Votintsev and was promised a reward, but recalled that he was also reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork with the pretext that he had not described the incident in the military diary.

He received no reward. According to Petrov, this was because the incident and other bugs found in the missile detection system embarrassed his superiors and the influential scientists who were responsible for it, so that if he had been officially rewarded, they would have had to be punished. He was reassigned to a less sensitive post, took early retirement (although he emphasized that he was not "forced out" of the army, as is sometimes claimed by Western sources), and suffered a nervous breakdown.

For more information see 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident 

Each year, people find ways to commemorate Petrov Day, e.g. with this ceremony written by Jim Babcock or Raemon's Modes of Petrov Day

On LessWrong, we find our own way to celebrate, generally involving a large red button that brings down the frontpage for the duration of Petrov Day.

Petrov Day on LessWrong in 2020

What does Petrov Day celebrate?

There isn't a canonical precise answer accepted by everyone. There's a cluster of virtues and actions that people find worthy of remembering with different degrees of emphasis. These include:

  • Not doing things that would cause immense destruction (or the end of the world)
  • Avoiding the dangers of unrestrained escalation
  • Not taking unilateralist action[1]
  • Resisting social pressures in order to do the right thing
  • Making the right decision even in the face of uncertainty

You might even say part of the Petrov Day tradition is debating which virtues Stanislav Petrov displayed and which ones we ought to celebrate. Personally, I like the underlying simple theme of "someone was in a high-stakes situation where they could have chosen a destructive path, and they didn't" and "things were close, but we survived". As far as the LessWrong celebration goes, each year I like the idea of exploring a different sub-element of surviving high-stakes scenarios and the virtues required to do so. This brings us to this year's plans...[2]

The 2022 Plan

This is what I'm thinking:

  • Every user with an existing LessWrong account (created before 2022-09-21) and non-negative karma is able to participate. We may manually exclude some known historical troublemakers.
  • Your actions will be anonymous[3], including to the LessWrong team.  This is a major change from last year. If you act counter to what other people think you should do, you'll only have to live with your own self-judgment and the mental simulation of others :P
  • There is a virtue in preventing yourself from ending up in tempting situations where you'd have to apply a lot of willpower (e.g. facing an alluring red button that calls out to you like a siren). Also a virtue of distancing yourself from things you think are wrong. Accordingly, you can opt out of LessWrong's Petrov Day commemoration by checking the "opt out of Petrov Day" checkbox in your account settings. The checkbox will be hidden once Petrov Day starts to prevent people undoing their self-commitment in a moment of weakness[4].
  • We will place a Big Red Button on the frontpage, as is customary. Pressing the button and entering a valid launch code causes the frontpage of LessWrong to be taken down and replaced with a "Game Over" screen (other pages will remain up).
  • At the start of the 24-hour celebration, only those with 2,300 karma or more will be able to successfully launch. Every hour after that, the karma required to destroy the frontpage drops by 100 points.

I will post the launch code for the missiles in the comments below once The Button is displayed, starting at 8pm, Sunday, September 25 PST / 3am, September 26 UTC.

Should you press the button?

Personally, on net, I think you shouldn't. I think it destroys some real value and is symbolic of destroying real and even greater value. Plus, I think there's symbolic value in not pressing buttons that launch nukes. But that's what I think...I may write more in the comments about what I think so as not to overly privilege my own view here. I do think there are not-crazy arguments in favor of pressing it.

Yet many argue that Petrov's virtue lay in deciding for himself the correct thing to do, not going with what authority figures or social consensus dictated. To that end, this year's LessWrong Petrov day has been designed to more readily let you come to your own conclusion and act on that without fear of a public shaming[5].

You're free not to participate (see opt-out above) and you're free to apply your own interpretation, different from mine. If you reason that it is in fact correct to press the button, earnestly believe that, and have reasoned well – then I commend you for pressing it.

Straightforward Cost

A useful piece of info I think might help inform people's judgments is the practical cost of bringing down the LessWrong frontpage for a number of hours.

On average, a bit over 3,000 unique people visit the LessWrong frontpage each day. Equivalently, 100-150/hour. If the frontpage goes down halfway through Petrov Day, that is 1500 people who wanted to check latest posts, etc., who were not able to do so.



We've got a few more days before Petrov Day and while our plates are pretty full, it's not too late to make adjustments. I'd also be interested to hear alternative ideas, e.g. Ben Pace's An Idea for a More Communal Petrov Day in 2022 

Let me know your thoughts! I look forward to surviving Petrov Day with y'all!


  1. ^

    This is the frame of Petrov Day presented on LessWrong in 2019, though I found it then and still now an odd one.

  2. ^

    The first couple of years of Petrov Day on LessWrong involved selecting a group for ~100-200 trusted users and giving them launch codes that would let them bring down the site, kind of exploring "how large is the circle of people we can trust?". Last year we played out the game theory of Mutually Assured Destruction by pairing up with the EA Forum.

  3. ^

    To get more technical, there are two parts of launch: (1) pressing the red button, (2) entering a launch code and pressing "launch". The code will not record any user-identifying information with the second event. We do track which users have pressed the red button at all in order to persist the animation state (for historical reasons it was written that way). My guess is that with effort it might be possible for us to forensically determine the identity of someone who made a successful launch event, but I commit that we will not do so barring extreme circumstances (that I haven't yet imagined, but it's hard to think of everything in advance).

  4. ^

    If you wish to opt-out once Petrov day has begun, message us.

  5. ^

    That isn't to say I can't promise you there are zero consequences for your choices. That's not within my power. For example I can't promise no one else will ever ask you "did you ever press the LessWrong Petrov day button?", though you could glomarize.

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[-]habryka1yModerator Comment877

Edit: This comment refers to the site going down at 11pm PT last night, not the site going down now at ~5:40pm PT.

Hah, surprise! It was just a false alarm, the site is actually still up. Definitely not because we suck at programming and flipped a boolean in a giant boolean logic expression that should have definitely been better factored and therefore allowed anyone with zero karma (but only exactly zero karma) to launch the missiles.

This was of course totally intended and part of a metaphor of how Petrov had to deal with shoddy software engineering and false nuclear alarms. Take this as a lesson in... something. I am sorry.

I do really wish good luck to whoever is managing the resolution of that manifold market.

Yay!!!! I was unironically annoyed that we pressed the button like 2 hours in.
I'm curious how you discovered this? Like, was it something like "oh, that was faster than expected, let's double check we did the code right... ah shit"? Or, well. How you think you might have discovered this, if it had happened accidentally and not on purpose, of course.

I wondered about the same thing.

Just to clarify: Did the LW team discover a bug and take the site down while the bug was being fixed or did someone with zero karma actually push the button?

If it's the second case:

  • How did you discover this given that no information about the person pressing (or rather entering the code) is being collected?
  • Shouldn't this count as having the nukes launched and the site simply staying down? Just like a real-life system where the security clearance system is severely buggy and a random janitor launches the missiles by simply trying some knobs. Sure, it would suck, but it wouldn't change the outcome.

How did you discover this given that no information about the person pressing (or rather entering the code) is being collected?

It was actually a pretty close call. I think the rest of the team had stopped working for the night and resigned themselves to the site going down so quickly, but I had a nagging doubt that something was wrong.

We currently have some code keeping track of what users pushed the big button, without launching the nukes (i.e. not entered any codes, or entered the wrong codes), mostly as a vestige from last years. By that point, already like 50 users had pressed it. I did a count on our database for any button pressed by users who were above the karma threshold, without returning any of the names, and it returned 0, so I knew that something had gone wrong.

I had also looked at the code and had a suspicion the code was quite hard to get right, because of a bunch of timezone shenanigans (which javascript has terrible handling for). So I pinged Robert and we walked through the code together and found the bug. My suspicion about timezones ended up being wrong, but we discovered a different bug that was more straightforward.

Shouldn't this count as having the nukes

... (read more)
I feel like there's some kind of parallel here with Petrov's situation that I'm not smart enough to describe beyond saying I think it exists.
5Nathan Young1y
I think you should remove the code which checks which users pressed the button but didn't enter the code. That seems not in the spirit of the game. 

I mean, I am sure glad we had it, given that it allowed me to debug this.

I also think de-facto, making it so I really couldn't tell who launched nukes would require many hours of effort and changes to our logging infrastructure that seem ill-advised, so ultimately the only thing that whoever launches the nukes can rely on is our word and promise here. I don't think it's worth it for me to make that information unrecoverable, given both the risk and time cost it would entail.

9Nathan Young1y
Sure, but in the unlikely event that a high karma user had blown up the site immediately wouldn't you have known their identity and broken your word? If anything I'd like you to not promise and instead say "it's unlikely we'll know".
No, I wouldn't have known, since I intentionally only counted the number of records, not seen any details about them.
1Nathan Young1y
I retract my criticism.
It can count metaphorically, but I still want to do the real test.
2Rafael Harth1y
Did it go down after 21 hours when the karma threshold was at 300, or did I miscalculate?
1Martin Randall1y
It was up at the start of the 200 karma threshold, but I don't know how long for. Edit: 40 minutes.

Next year, we should give the Sneerclub reddit a big red button to destroy LW, and have a big red button here to destroy Sneerclub. Nuclear war is more fun when it's not all like-minded people.

I am not sure why,but this comment made me suddenly realize how close we used to be to doomsday(and still are)!

8Amelia Bedelia1y
That is a cute idea but they'd do it right away [>95%]. Even if you just gave it to like five moderators. They are largely conflict theorists who believe rationalists are [insert the strongest politically derogatory terms imaginable] and LW being down is morally good. Maybe if there were real stakes they would consider it, like an independent party making a donation to both MIRI and an organization of SC's choice — except on second thought, I think they would find this too objectionable: "wow, you'll donate to charity but only if you get to humiliate me by forcing me to play your idiotic game? that really shows that [insert further derogation]") So maybe with a different group. It would be particularly cool if it were a foreign entity, but that seems difficult to arrange.

Perhaps ironically/terrifyingly I think the LW/Sneerclub Petrov Day experiment is most interesting if it actually destroys the whole site forever, rather than symbolically taking down one page for a day. This is more analogous to the US/Soviets and their goals + level of hostility

(Although I expect that deal to still be heavily lopsided in favor of SneerClub, given that SneerClub's main goal seems more like "fuck LW" than "have a functioning nice community")

5Zach Stein-Perlman1y
This is a bad idea. Don’t do it.
To be clear I was not even slightly implying this was a "good idea". Just "interesting."
3Zach Stein-Perlman1y
Great. I would be even happier if you explicitly thought it’s a bad idea. Edit: this received many downvotes and I'm puzzled. Maybe it sounds snarky? That was unintentional; sorry Ray. Maybe it sounds pedantic and unnecessary? I dunno, explicitly and directly destroying value feels like Not A Game to me (related to but distinct from sacredness), analogous to if Ray had said "it would be interesting to see how many more people would die if we sabotaged the Against Malaria Foundation" though of course weaker than that.

I do indeed explicitly think it is a bad idea.

It would be better if it was merely an organization that merely had contradictory goals (maybe a degrowth anarcho-socialist group? A hardcore anti-science christian organization?) but wasn't organized around the dislike of our group specifically.
3[comment deleted]1y
Maybe (to make it more similar to nuclear war): Lesswrong/sneerclub each have a button to take down the other for the day. Once pressed the other site is taken down, after a 15 minute delay (so mutual destruction is possible if return fire happens within 15mins). People would spend the whole day^[1] going back and forth between the two sites saying "look, one of them says they have already fired, we have to shoot NOW, before we go down." We don't even need a mechanically introduced false alarm system, I think people getting hyped and misreading/misrepresenting comments on the other site would do enough. [1] Or, at least the day until  00.15.01 am, when the inevitable first strike lands.
1Isaac King1y
Something like that would be much more representative of real defection risks. It's easy to cooperate with people we like; the hard part is cooperating with the outgroup. (Good luck getting /r/sneerclub to agree to this though, since that itself would require cooperation.)

Adjusting for the unilateralist's curse is good, but creating common knowledge about everyone's beliefs is even better. So: please agree-vote this comment if you think the site should be nuked and disagree-vote if you think it shouldn't. (Strong-vote if you feel strongly or have relevant private information.)

This comment is the first successful deployment of agree-disagree trick I have seen. Neat!

I saw those scores and thought I was about to witness the greatest exchange of constructive contrarianism in the history of the forums. (Pretty proud of a +7 -12 I posted recently. A real fine stinker. The blue cheese of comments.)

The blue cheese of comments is the funniest phrase I have read in weeks; I am looting it. If constructively contrarian arguments stink like a good cheese, then we might say the path to rational discourse is trod with the feet of god.
[-]Ruby1yModerator Comment201

And the launch code is...


Aw, I was imagining that some heroes kidnapped the LW team to prevent the launch code from being published...

They couldn't hold us for long.

This is a classical example where having a prediction market creates really bad incentives.

If $10 of fake money is enough to blow up your Petrov Day celebration maybe celebrate differently.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
9Nathan Young1y
I bought 1000 yes. Will donate/waste profits if someone says how I can do it without it having further bad impacts.
1Jalex Stark1y
My knee-jerk reaction to the argument was negative, but now I'm confused enough to say something. If the contract is trading for M$p, then the "arbitrage" of "buy a share of yes and cause the contract to settle to 1" nets you M$(1-p) per share. Pushing up the price reduces the incentive for a new player to hit the arb.   If you sell the contract, you are paying someone to press the button and hoping they do not act on their incentive.  An interesting plot twist: after you buy the contract, your incentive has changed -- instead of the M$(1-p) available before purchase, you now have an incentive of a full M$1 for the button to be pushed rather than not (which maybe translates to a somewhat lower incentive to personally push the button, but I'm not sure that's the right comparison)  
1Martin Randall1y
1Nathan Young1y
I bought a load of yes, to try and drive the price up and incentivise people to sell their yes. Curious whether this was the right call.
1Nathan Young1y
If happy to pledge to waste profits if I get them if there is a way that can't be broken.
lol, I filed the same market on manifold before scrolling down and seeing you already did.

A case for taking down the site as soon as you're able to (I don't necessarily endorse this action, since some people care a lot about LW Petrov Day rituals for reasons I don't understand):

Two years ago, Ben Pace said "it's plausible that we want to try very big stakes" sometime. This would be bad in expectation--potentially very bad--so we should decrease the probability that it occurs, and more Petrov Day failures (and more clear failures, like taking down the site sooner) would decrease the probability that it occurs.

(Nuking the site as soon as possible makes failure stronger; nuking the site later--e.g., just before Petrov Day ends--has slightly less benefit but also less cost in frontpage-being-down and slightly less cost in people-being-sad-we-nuked-the-site.)

Any other nonobvious consequences of nuking the site, positive or negative?

Incidentally, the latest xkcd

Seems to be more about poking fun at the phenomenon of "centralized decentralization" (at least based on the alt text), but definitely Petrov day themed. (At least I can't think of other instances where this pattern of "bypassing security for convenience then trying to rebuild it one layer above" obviously applies.)

As someone who was very unhappy with last year's implementation and said so (though not in the public thread), I think this is an improvement and I'm happy to see it. In previous years, I didn't get a code, but if I'd had one I would have very seriously considered using it; this year, I see no reason to do that.

I do think that, if real value gets destroyed as a result of this, then the ethical responsibility for that loss of value lies primarily with the LW team, and only secondarily with whoever actually pushed the button. So if the button got pushed and some other person were to say "whoever pushed the button destroyed a bunch of real value" then I wouldn't necessarily quibble with that, but if the LW team said the same thing then I'd be annoyed.

I'm glad you're happier with this year's version!

I'm not sure I'd say primarily/secondarily, probably I'd guess more at 50-50 (that might be the Shapley attribution?) between LessWrong and the pusher, if someone pushes the button. But overall agree LW gets a bunch of culpability.

The LW staff are necessary to take down the site. If we assume that there are multiple users that are willing to press the button, then the (shapely-attributed) blame for taking the site down mostly falls on the LW staff, rather than whoever happens to press the button first.

According to if there were 6 people who were willing to push the button, the LW team would deserve 85% of the blame. (Here I am considering the people who take actions that act to facilitate bringing down the site as part of the coalition.)

I am not quite sure how to take into account all the people who choose not to take down the website and thus delay, and there is some value in running the Petrov day event, so the above does not take everything into account.

Tweaking some values in the website to model this, where value = 7 if either LW and/or all the other users refuse to shut down the site, and 7-i where i is the highest numbered player that shuts down the site (higher meaning they shut things down sooner), I get these values:

The Shapley value of player 1(Low Karma button pusher) is: -0.023809523809524
The Shapley value of player 2 is: -0.057142857142857
The Shapley value of ... (read more)

Oh, you're totally right that you need to account for number of users willing to press the button, of course.

Thread for people to publicly opt out after updating their LW settings.

I opted out. Not that I expect the site (or the world) to still be up at my Karma (or IQ).

The checkbox will be hidden once Petrov Day starts to prevent people undoing their self-commitment in a moment of weakness.

This does not appear to be working, I can still see the checkbox.

I can also see the big red button. That is perhaps working as designed, but I was hoping to opt out of the whole thing, missiles and all.

I opted out as well; it seems like the best course of action to take if I really don't want to press the button

I opted out as well.
Opted out. Also, IQ? Edit: ah I get it now
Not like it gonna matter (<100), but if it did, I don't want future me to do the funni.
I opted out.

It's difficult to incentivize people to not press the button, but here's an attempt: If we successfully get through Petrov day without anyone pressing the button (other than the person who has already done so via the bug), I will donate $50 to a charity selected by majority vote.

I can successfully access the front page by using the highly sophisticated method of inspecting the front page and deleting the div element that corresponds to the Petrov Day loss screen.

It might be a good idea to make the front page getting taken down have more serious of an impact, as the time cost of clicking "inspect" and deleting the associated div element is pretty low, so the overall cost of submitting the launch codes is likely substantially reduced by this way of accessing the front page remaining available after a launch.

2Yoav Ravid1y
I think that's actually fine. Most people won't do that, but if for some reason the front page is really important for someone then it's good that there's an option to still access it.
2Ege Erdil1y
My impression of the LW crowd is that the median person on the forum would have enough technical expertise to figure that out, but maybe that impression is poorly calibrated? I'm not sure.
Wait, is it down? I can see the front page fine without using any workarounds
2Zach Stein-Perlman1y
Petrov Day ended two hours ago.
Ahhh I see, I missed that it was 8pm-8pm, not midnight to midnight, thanks.
-1Martin Randall1y
If it takes a minute to hide the div and 10 AI safety researchers spend that minute then the mean cost of the home page being down is probably somewhere between zero and a billion lives, depending on your assessment of AI risk and the effectiveness of AI safety research and the best use of the future lightcone.

That didn't last long. What time zone did The Button run on? It's 07:42 here in the UK, which makes it not even September 26 yet in Pacific Time.

ETA: The button is back now (09:00 UK time). Was that just a test firing?

ETA2: Ah.

I’ve selected to opt-out of Patrov Day, not because I don’t want to participate, but because I think this is the most optimal strategy. The more people who opt-out, the less likely the button will be pushed.

I like that the LessWrong team is trying to iterate on this holiday. I like the theme of Petrov day and even if this isn't the perfect implementation, I like that they are pushing through. I think that the small chance of one day having a really broadly-accepted Petrov day is better than 50% chance of losing LessWrong 1 day a year for the next 10 years.

Is there anywhere to see the history of lesswrong Petrov day? I'd be interested in whether we've ever succeeded before. 

Also, I think most people know that the real cost of 1500 people not being able to check lesswrong for 12 hours is essentially 0. It may even be net positive to have a forced hiatus. Perhaps that's just a failure to multiply on my part. Anyway, I view this exercise as purely symbolic.

You can look at the petrov day tag. 2019 and 2021 were successful.
For this Petrov day, I'm also interested in how many people will have access to the button as a function of time. How many users have 1000+ Karma?
5Yoav Ravid1y
507  (checked by going to the search page with no search prompt and clicking next in the users section until I get to sub-1000, which was page 85, which had three out of six sub-1000 users. So 6*84+3=507)
2Yoav Ravid1y
And checked the same way, there are 824 above 500. And thousandth person from the top (which is how much users the search page shows) has 368 Karma.
I have 1,733 Karma (as of typing this) and don't feel like I'm particularly well-known on this forum, for some context

As a note, I've just found out that I can simply adblock the Petrov Day overlay and frontpage functionality returns to normal.

The front page going down doesn't actually make people who want to check the latest posts unable to due so; it's so easy to circumvent that I think the front page going down is nearly costless 

That said I do think the symbolic meaning is neat

If all goes according to plan, I will share a message in nine hours. The SHA-512 hash of the body of my post will be 4bcd648f64509bad281053ab84305ed281cb2767c30e8ad2faabfc1fd9ea289a1601bf9795e4670e3d6cdfb0981ff1258f7209aea1a829edfaf4aef91acfeee7.

Copying that code so you can't edit after the fact: 4bcd648f64509bad281053ab84305ed281cb2767c30e8ad2faabfc1fd9ea289a1601bf9795e4670e3d6cdfb0981ff1258f7209aea1a829edfaf4aef91acfeee7

(This isn't a commentary on how much I trust you, it just seems good on general principles.)

5Zach Stein-Perlman1y
Thanks, I almost asked readers to do that. (I shared a hash less because of the EV of being able to prove that I wrote it the message in advance and more because it seemed like a vaguely virtuous thing to do in situations like this; if you really want to prove that you wrote something in advance, you should do more, but I don't know a super-easy way off the top of my head and it didn't seem worth nontrivial effort.)
5Zach Stein-Perlman1y
(Plan failed; nevermind.)
I think you should tell us what the message would have said anyway.
3Zach Stein-Perlman1y
If I had promised to share, I would. If this was a high-stakes situation, I could find a trusted community member, privately reveal it to them, and have them publicly say it's reasonable. But neither is the case, and there's little reason to share, and there's maybe a 1% chance it will be advantageous not to have shared, so I won't.
  I now believe I should treat any supposed information coming from you as much more likely to be filtered evidence than I would usually suspect. :(
3Zach Stein-Perlman1y
I'm pretty sure that's an incorrect conclusion. The related, correct conclusion is that if I revealed the statement, and it was a correct prediction, you shouldn't give me credit, because I hadn't promised to reveal it. Or if I had said that it was a prediction and then refused to reveal it, that would be epistemically bad. But it wasn't a prediction, and I never suggested it was. I was just giving myself the opportunity to prove that I wrote something in advance. This turned out not to be useful. I'm pretty sure it's epistemically fine to do this, or to share hashes of personal policies with no obligation to share them unless you decide they're relevant. But I’ll try to make non-predictions more clearly not predictions in the future, thanks.
4Zach Stein-Perlman1y
Another angle: Suppose Alice thinks there's a smallish chance that she will say X and then Bob will say no way you thought of X beforehand and then she will want to prove that she thought of X beforehand. What should Alice do? She could do something like: write X on a google doc in advance and then if she says X later, she also shares the google doc with its version history (so Bob can see when she wrote it). But that's consistent with her writing many google docs and selecting one to share after the fact, which is problematic in some cases. Or she could do something like what I did, which is like proving that you only had one google doc. That seems like the optimal low-effort solution. I agree we should clearly distinguish predictions from stuff like this, though. I intuit that it would be crazy if there was no way for Alice to show that she thought of X in advance without being accused of evidence-filtering when she doesn't share.
I guess I'm still assuming the only reason to timestamp a statement is for the prediction-y qualities. "I was just giving myself the opportunity to prove that I wrote something in advance." Why would this matter at all, if not for the prediction-y qualities of what you wrote? Could be a failure of imagination on my part. Can you give me a concrete example of something someone might want to write down, not share, and later prove they thought of in advance, not for the prediction-y qualities? I guess there's "I was first so I get the patent", and in a world where the idea doesn't work but does contain a trade secret, you wouldn't want to reveal it, to preserve the secret? Too convoluted - sorry, currently, due to my failure of imagination, despite your statements to the contrary, I think it's very likely that the message was written for its prediction-y qualities. (Also - is there a reason I should believe that if all did go according to plan, when you revealed your message, you would also have said "if all had not gone according to plan, I would not have revealed this message"? 'cause I currently think there's a very low chance you would have said that. There would be at least a 1% chance it would have been advantageous to avoid saying that, for sure.)
5Zach Stein-Perlman1y
Sure, here are three, wanting to show you'd thought about something in advance for various reasons: Alice notices an unfixable vulnerability that would cause a website to go down. Drawing attention to it would have no benefit, but she hides an explanation so that if someone takes down the website, (1) she gets credit for noticing it and (2) she better helps others understand what happened (the fact that she wrote in advance about the website going down, and then the website went down, means people should pay more attention to her explanation). Bob anticipates a situation (that others don't anticipate that he anticipates), writes a personal policy on what to do in that situation, and publishes the hash (along with many other hashes). If he acts on that policy, he can prove that he wrote the policy in advance. He can't prove that he didn't write alternatives, but he can prove he considered the situation in advance, which is sometimes sufficient. Carol is contemplating taking a unilateral action. She shares a hash. Now if she takes the unilateral action later, she can prove that she carefully thought about it well in advance. And regardless, if the possibility of the action becomes obvious, she can prove she thought of it before it became obvious. Well, I know that the message says things like "if you're reading this then ..." and asserts things about the past that did not come to pass. But I can't easily prove that to you, no. Note also that I mentioned that this whole hash-sharing thing wasn't actually necessary for what I was doing.
Since the other party to the dialog wants to be secretive, i figure giving imagination help decouples the principle matters and that fact in particular matters. I can think that you could confess to a crime or claim an attack and withhold it for self-incrimination reasons. Then if confessing becomes advantageous validity of it is pretty solid. The confessed crime could be in the past at the moment of writing so it is not predicting anything.

On mobile with my throwaway acc the current karma threshold needed to push the button for me is 1600, but on desktop from my main account it is 1800. (Though while the page is loading 1600 appears but changes, users above threshold changes similarly) Possible bug?

Upd: now its the same with 1500 and 1700

Upd2: there is no discrepancy now

LessWrong is currently deciding to do something that will have an estimated 90%+ chance of blowing up the home page. This decision is 90% as bad as just blowing up the home page.

What is the utility function that might cause LessWrong to take such a decision? I can't come up with anything that fits other evidence. This has confused me in prior years but now there's a prediction market I can quantify my confusion more easily.

If we calibrate so that "taking down the homepage" (redirects to 404 error or whatever it is) for 24 hours is of badness 1 (goodness = -1).

Then the "game over" page is of badness <1 (maybe 0.75?).

Then the whole red-button game is fun, and gives people (like both of us) something interesting to talk about, which is worth some goodness (-X badness). Plus the homepage might be down for less than 24 hours.

So they think :   X >~ 0.75

IE The Lesswrong team appear to have decided that the fun of the game (playing/speculating) is worth more than a few hours of homepage plus the time spent implementing the game.

1Martin Randall1y
First observation: this represents a different set of values to those I infer from the 2020 post-mortem. Good, perhaps there have been updates. Second observation: Games are more fun when the outcome is less certain, and currently it seems very likely to result in "game over". The participant count is higher than 2020 and players are anonymous. Modifying the rules to reduce the estimated chance of "game over" would thus increase the upside and decrease the downside. There are also other games to play, keeping the fun but without the costs. How about a nice game of chess?
But the outcome IS uncertain. I want to know how low the karma threshold can go before the website gets nuked. There are other fun games, but this one is unique to LW and seems like an appropriate way of celebrating Petrov Day.
I wonder how it would change things if there was an additional rule: "the button will be taken offline after X hours, pulled from [publish the distribution], unknown to anyone but Ruby in advance".
-1Martin Randall1y
The 2020 and 2021 retrospectives did not emphasize fun as a terminal value for LessWrong admins, as I read them. If they now believe that blowing up the home page is fun then I understand the decision more. Looks like they will have that fun twice today.
It’s an exercise in collective adequacy.
4Martin Randall1y
Nit pick: There is a 90%+ chance it's an exercise in collective inadequacy. Do you think that this proposal is positive EV because of the value of running such an exercise? Given the probabilities involved, that implies that the net benefit of running an exercise in collective adequacy, is more than 10x larger than the cost of having the home page blown up. That seems large. Also, simply increasing the karma cut-off would allow the same exercise to be run with a lower chance of blowing up the home page. Would this be so much less valuable than the current proposal, as an exercise in collective (in)adequacy? Personally, on net, I think LessWrong shouldn't create the button. I think it probabilistically destroys some real value and is symbolic of destroying real and even greater value. Plus, I think there's symbolic value in not creating buttons that launch nukes.
Oh I support increasing the karma cutoff. I do think that running such an exercise is valuable, if only because it allows us to learn things about our community.

well crap, that was fast. does anyone know what karma threshold the button was pressed at?

i found out exactly three hours in, so most likely 2,100 but possibly 2,000. Edit: per habryka's comment, the relevant threshold was apparently zero.

awww :(

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Thanks so much for posting about this year's Petrov Day -- i just reminded me that I had my one year anniversary of being on LessWrong (and on the journey towards becoming a better rationalist) just a few days ago! 

I suppose I'll be celebrating how this website changed my life for the better today, and then the fact that humanity is still alive (which in itsef is something that would deserve a yearly holiday) on Monday.

I like this post. We should be able to practice collective adequacy without public shaming. In the real world, policies that rely on public shaming are quite imprecise, often cruel, and frequently ineffective. 

generally involving a large red button that brings down the frontpage for the duration of Petrov Day

As a nitpick, in 2019 and 2020 the button was said to bring down the frontpage for 24 hours. In 2021 it was said to be for the remainder of the day, like this year.

2019: "the Frontpage will go down for 24 hours"

2020: "The Frontpage was taken down for 24 hours."

2021: "cause the EA Forum homepage to go down for the duration of Petrov Day"

Aaand I forgot to come back and check the site before the day was over. Sigh

This year Petrov day almost sneaked past me. This strikes me as weird on account of the biggest proxy war since the 80s being underway, putting us closer the same stakes in realspace.

Last year two years ago, when the front page went down, I was still able to access posts at the direct link. Since that is my normal bookmarked link, I didn't even realize the button had been pressed until people started commenting about it. What is the reasoning for just the front page being affected?

I think it's enough real stakes to be meaningful but not overly much. Taking down the entire site...that's a big cost. With the frontpage you can get around it, and at this point, LessWrong is a major work resource for many people (researchers) and I'm pretty reluctant to make it too hard for them to work.

The button isn't showing up for me. Well, it shows up for like a second after I re-load the page but then it's gone. I tried Opera GX browser and Chrome, it happens in both. Is this intended behaviour? I use Windows 7, maybe thats why...

2Rafael Harth1y
You shouldn't yet be able to blow up the page due to your karma. Idk if it's supposed to show up.
The button shows up for me despite low karma. I have looked through the client-side code, and found this snippet: const currentKarmaThreshold = getPetrovDayKarmaThreshold() const disableLaunchButton = !userCanLaunchPetrovMissile(currentUser) const beforePressMessage = <p>press button to initiate missile launch procedure</p> const afterPressMessage = disableLaunchButton ? <p>You are not authorized to initiate a missile strike at this time. Try again later.</p> : <p>enter launch code to initiate missile strike</p> This probably means Mawrak is encountering some sort of Javascript error, since the code indicates the button should only reject the launch attempt after you press it, not before.