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If a "Kickstarter for Inadequate Equlibria" was built, do you have a concrete inadequate equilibrium to fix?

by Raemon1 min read21st Feb 201934 comments


Coordination / CooperationWorld Optimization

Yoav Ravid asks: "Is there an assurance-contract website in work?"

i.e. a site where, if there's a locally bad equilibrium that would be better if everyone changed strategies at once, but which requires a critical mass of people in order to be worthwhile, you can all say "I'll put the effort if other people put in the effort", and then if X people agree, you all go into work the next day and demand a policy change, or a go to a political rally, or change a social norm, or whatever.

Some attempts have been made at such a system. It's not that technically hard to build. But I think it'd need a couple major "flagship" Coordinated Actions in order to rally people's attention and turn it into a more frequently used tool.

So, if a good website existed to coordinate action, do you have a well operationalized action you'd want to coordinate? ("Everyone leaves Facebook at once" doesn't work IMO, because it doesn't say where people are moving to, or otherwise replacing FB's tools with.

"Everyone on one platform switches to another platform" seems viable.

"Everyone at my office signs a letter demanding change for a particular policy" seems viable (although in cases like this, where you maybe don't want your boss to know you're planning a revolution, and I'm not sure how to best achieve common knowledge without risk)

(For further reading, see "The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge" and "Inadequate Equilibria")

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7 Answers

Updated: 2019-12-22

General note: If you're interested in any of the propositions below (except the first one), please let me know, either here or at contact@matiroy.com .

Bootstrapping a commitment platform

Make at least 5 commitments if a commitment platform is created (or rather, the creator might want to commit to improving a bare-bone platform if at least 200 people commit to make a total of at least 1,000 commitments).

Improving the Cause Prioritization Wiki (CPW)

Migrate the CPW on the MediaWiki platform and improve the structure if enough people commit edits for a total of 2000+ edits.

Side note: I've added this thread here: https://causeprioritization.org/Coordination

Moving to Phoenix

If 75 EAs / rationalists / life extensionists committed to move to Phoenix this year, I’d move to Phoenix this year.

Financing cryonics research

If 500 other people committed 10,000 USD to cryonics research, I would give 10,000 USD to cryonics research.

Doing a cryonics related PhD

I would do a PhD in some field relevant to cryonics if some people committed a fraction of my salary to do cryonics research over 10 years. That is, they would give say 20% (or 10k USD / year) of my salary to whatever cryonics lab that hires me.

Training a local cryonics team

I would arrange to have a local (to Montreal) standby cryonics team if at least 500,000 CAD was committed (exact amount TBD). (Although I guess I could just use Kickstarter for that, or do it entirely ad hoc?)

Organizing Rationalist Olympiads

If 12+ people committed to go to Rationalist Olympiads (in Montreal), I would organize Rationalist Olympiads.

Simplified spelling

I unilaterally switched to simplified spelling in French ( https://www.facebook.com/mati.roy.09/posts/10157948032459579 ), but I feel more uneasy about doing it in English for a combination of reasons (not my native language, switch seems more complex, I have more important conversations in English than French, competing proposed simplification).

I'm not sure what coordinated commitment I would want here exactly, but maybe something like 1% of my Facebook friends or 1% of LessWrong posters committing to switching to a simplified spelling convention in English. I might still end up unilaterally switching, but that's much less likely.

Ref.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_reforms_of_the_English_language

In the spirit of raemon's specification, here are much more specific situations.

Inadequate Equilibrium (IE) - Israeli media is inadequate at disqualifying Bibi. Coordinated action (CA) - an attention boycott of Benjamin Netanyahu (PM of Israel). not going into detail - basically it seems that any attention given to him, whether in good or bad light, is only helping him. but he also brings a lot of of rating (Well, similar to trump, this would have been even more fitting for him). The aim is for media people on the left (in Israel), i estimate at least 1000 media personal willing to join if the other 1000 do too (I also think of a few specific people who i think will join).

IE - vegans aren't adequate enough at changing market norms. CA - buying only from 100% vegan companies, if at least 200,000 other vegans do so too. I'm not sure if it's feasible in 2019 (Both i terms of market, and willingness for vegans), but it's something i can see, and would likely join, in the feature.

IE - vegans can be more adequate at reducing suffering. CA - Adopting a wider definition of veganism, to include avoiding things like palm oil, i think it's a good thing to do, but would do it only if there's a major movement in that direction, including with vegan Food producers. In Israel I estimate it's feasible to get at least 40,000 vegans (Out of half a million) on board, together with many producers (which will make even vegans who didn't commit consume less of these)

IE - school start times are hurting students health and cognitive abilities. CA - Arriving a hour and half late if a 150 other students do too. Would have been feasible in the school I've been in.

  • Paying people to contribute to open-source software projects. Sometimes, I'm using a software package, wish it had a certain feature, but don't care enough to fix it myself or to pay somebody else to fix it. It would be nice if there were a kickstarter-type mechanism to make things like this happen. A similar example would be working to make reciprocity (a dating site many people in my social circle use) better. [In fact, I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more on Kickstarter. But you don't want exactly that platform, since project proposal should probably be on the consumer side.]
  • Getting community trials of various potential nootropics to happen, e.g. Paul Christiano's proposal of replicating a study of the cognitive benefits of creatine among vegetarians.

Obligate to turn vegan if a hundred thousand more do so too. (There are many people who say that they alone won't make any difference)

you could generate dozens of examples from "platform1>platform2"

Doing/giving certain stuff for free (Say, sharing food)

Anything voting related

Moving to open access journals, and i this spirit, changing the P-value, per-anounce methodology, change grant and review system, etc..

Boycotts (not sure if there's any platform more effective for that than FaceBook, which isn't very effective), and with this site you would also be able to decide on the alternative (if you want only one)

I'll edit when i remember/think of more things

Food delivery systems.

You have a bunch of stuff that needs to get from one point in a city to another. Which is more efficient

  • Having the customer use a whole car to drive to a place, get their thing, then drive home?
  • Or having a bunch of vehicles, each carrying a large amount of stuff, visiting multiple people per round-trip.

The problem is, if you have a very narrow delivery window- 20 minutes after the order is placed- you wont generally have enough orders to batch your deliveries together like that.

If we want to get to the world where 10 deliveries can be made per trip, we just need lots and lots of people to be using the food delivery system. Currently, the price of delivered food is prohibitive, and instead people opt to either eat at expensive rent-captured main-street restaurants, or, more frequently, to cook for themselves (subsistence economy much!)

Having a scaled delivery economy allows food production to move away from main-streets, or to move into delivery-only restaurants, dramatically lowering their rent and lowering the price of fresh-cooked food along with it.

This transition may happen organically, but this is not assured. The current market leader in most cities is Uber, who take a very large cut, seem to be very inefficient as a software producer (so maybe couldn't lower their fees even if they wanted to), don't pay drivers well and are terrible for restaurants, having a fairly evil policy of taking a percentage of the order (on top of a flat fee) even though the service they're providing pretty much doesn't have costs proportionate to the cost of the order, then, iirc, they forbid restaurants from raising the price of the menu items to cover that.

I would propose to switch to a particular low-overhead food delivery system now, but I don't know of any. Low-cost software infrastructure may be a kind of product that can only thrive once we have coordinated commitment platforms. Without a method for manifesting an egg without the prohibitively costly chickens of risk-amortisating investment and advertising, there's no incentive to build or talk about the candidates. We might have tens of viable uber clones lying around with hypercompetent twenty person dev teams, we wouldn't talk about them, we seem to be too uncoordinated to lift them up, there would be no point.

(Although I have to ask; why don't restaurants simply fund the development of their own delivery infrastructure? They have all the ad-space they could need.)

Also, signatories should commit to getting some kind of standard lockable street-side box so that the deliverer doesn't have to exit their vehicle and find their way to the door.

People at Location X and Y move to Location Z.

People in a city switch from using cars to using other forms of transport.

Switching from worse dating sites to something better.

People in a group house switching from defecting on cleaning the house out of expectation others won't help clean, to one in which everyone starts cleaning because they expect others to cooperate in cleaning.

Buying or renting an otherwise too-expensive property.

Switching from the Multiplayer Game That Everyone Is Playing to a Better Multiplayer Game.

Switching to a new religion from Christianity.

Accountability contracts - "I'll engage in habit X if Y other people are also engaging in Habit X conditional on Y other people engaging in Habit X"

"I'll stop making political posts if >75% of my friends also agree to stop making political posts", "I'll stop making memes if 1000 other people also agree to stop making them".

Recruiting people to make world record attempts that involve large numbers of people, where it's not worth marginally joining if that doesn't look likely and therefore it doesn't get off the ground.

Recruiting people to do things that would otherwise result in the police arresting them if there were a smaller amount of people, e.g. 1 million people using psychedelics as a protest in Washington D.C.

People attending events in general! Many events don't have a critical mass to seem worthy of joining on the margin.

Starting an exercise circle if there are 5 other people to also start it with.

Going through a course of study if there are 10 other people to also study it with.

Switching people from Bitcoin to whatever is better (how would people decide that?).

Meta: sufficient amount of people coordinating to use the same Kickstarter for Inadequate Equilibria. (I'm sorry)

I can write more specific examples upon request.

I would systematically destroy selected invasive species (like Ambrosia artemisiifolia or Heracleum sosnowskyi) in the localities I know, and seek out new localities, if ten more people pledged to do the same and at least one person accompanies me every time for safety reasons (and hopefully to dig along). The main effect would be educating local people, of course, since I know for a fact that some still *plant* Heracleum "because it is impressive". Hopefully if such attitude to the species becomes more widespread, we could demand changes in local legislature which would make the relevant state agencies actually do something about the issue. There's just no reason why we should have such dangerous aliens in our environment (Ambrosia produces lots of airborne allergenic pollen, while contact with Heracleum makes skin photosensitive, which in the worst case causes death from unhealing "chemical" burns.) There are, of course, many other invasive species, but I would target the worst threats.

However, I also expect to be looking for a job... or emigrate.

(EDIT: to be clear, systematic attempts to eradicate Ambrosia are already happening in some areas of my country, and some of them are citizens' initiatives far more industrially scaled than anything I can afford. Which is admirable, but also not something most people can afford, too.)