Yudkowsky vs Trump: the nuclear showdown.

by MrMind1 min read11th Nov 2016172 comments

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Sorry for the slightly clickbait-y title.

Some commenters have expressed, in the last open thread, their disappointment that figureheads from or near the rationality sphere seemed to have lost their cool when it came to this US election: when they were supposed to be calm and level-headed, they instead campaigned as if Trump was going to be the Basilisk incarnated.

I've not followed many commenters, mainly Scott Alexander and Eliezer Yudkowsky, and they both endorsed Clinton. I'll try to explain what were their arguments, briefly but as faithfully as possible. I'd like to know if you consider them mindkilled and why.

Please notice: I would like this to be a comment on methodology, about if their arguments were sound given what they knew and believed. I most definitely do not want this to decay in a lamentation about the results, or insults to the obviously stupid side, etc.

Yudkowsky made two arguments against Trump: level B incompetence and high variance. Since the second is also more or less the same as Scott's, I'll just go with those.

Level B incompetence

Eliezer attended a pretty serious and wide diplomatic simulation game, that made him appreciate how difficult is to just maintain a global equilibrium between countries and avoid nuclear annihilation. He says that there are three level in politics:

- level 0, where everything that the media report and the politicians say is taken at face value: every drama is true, every problem is important and every cry of outrage deserves consideration;

- level A, where you understand that politics is as much about theatre and emotions as it is about policies: at this level players operate like in pro-wrestling, creating drama and conflict to steer the more gullible viewers towards the preferred direction; at this level cinicism is high and almost every conflict is a farce and probably staged.

But the bucket doesn't stop here. As the diplomacy simulation taught him, there's also:

- level B, where everything becomes serious and important again. At this level, people work very hard at maintaining the status quo (where outside you have mankind extinction), diplomatic relations and subtle international equilibria shield the world from much worse outcomes. Faux pas at this level in the past had resulted in wars, genocides and general widespread badness.

In August fifty Republican security advisors signed a letter condemning Trump for his position on foreign policy: these are, Yudkowsky warned us, exactly those level B player, and they are saying us that Trump is an ill advised choice.
Trump might be a fantastic level A player, but he is an incompetent level B player, and this might very well turn to disaster.

High variance

The second argument is a more general version of the first: if you look at a normal distribution, it's easy to mistake only two possibilities: you either can do worst than the average, or better. But in a three dimensional world, things are much more complicated. Status quo is fragile (see the first argument), surrounded not by an equal amount of things being good or being bad. Most substantial variations from the equilibrium are disasters, and if you put a high-variance candidate, someone whose main point is to subvert the status quo, in charge, then with overwhelming probability you're headed off to a cliff.
People who voted for Trump are unrealistically optimists, thinking that civilization is robust, the current state is bad and variations can definitely help with getting away from a state of bad equilibrium.

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First of all, I think anecdotal evidence from personal experience with people IRL is always extraordinarily compelling. When, for instance, I go onsite with a client, or when I go to a workshop and do research with people, I feel that I've been vastly more productive per hour than I am when I'm on my own. The standard startup advice is always "talk to customers/users." Talking face to face with the people who do a thing has outsized power in teaching you about the thing.

On the other hand, some of this impression can be illusion. Social reality is strong. Being around people IRL might make you feel like you're learning a lot very fast, but it might just be fairy glamor. Eyewitness accounts are famously unreliable testimony in court.

Basically, how much is it right to update on "I met some people who actually worked on national security, and I tried doing national-security stuff with them, and believe me, it is very serious and very hard and Trump would fuck it up"? How valuable is Eliezer's eyewitness testimony?

I think eyewitness testimony is probably one of the important correctives to news and polls and opinion pieces -- data is better than analysis on the m... (read more)

3waveman4yThis reminds me of Paul Graham's essay about weird programming languages. Languages designed for people less smart than you seem dumb and powerless. Those designed for people smarter than you seem weird. If someone seems weird I take that as a sign they may be playing a higher level game. (They may just be weird of course). A lot of people think Trump is stupid and has low impulse control. Consider though that his uncle was a professor of physics and his sister was a judge. His father was too poor to go to college but showed every indication of being a very capable person. It seems unlikely he is over-endowed with low IQ genes. How many people have strong opinions about Trump without much data to base that on? How many have read his books? Read his account of how he worked his way around the bullyish teacher Theodore Dobias - a strategy that, if you believe it, required a lot of restraint and finesse.
5Viliam4yJust a reminder that "higher level", despite being a local applause light [https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Applause_light], doesn't necessarily imply "good". For example, having BLM people interrupt Sanders' meetings was a higher level game by Clinton. Doesn't mean it was good for the voters, and it even failed to be good for her own victory (although the last part may not apply to some parallel Everett branches, maybe even the majority of them). Similarly, Trump may also be playing a higher level game which will backfire; except that it will happen after the election. (The hypothetised WW3 scenario would be a most dramatic example; it will probably be something less dramatic.) Going back meta: playing the game on a higher level doesn't imply you are not making mistakes, such as getting short-term gains along with greater long-term losses; it just means that you are doing it on a different level.
1waveman4yIndeed. But that was not my point. I was arguing that Trump does not seem to be stupid.
4ChristianKl4yGhostwritten books tell you little about the intelligence of a person. They just tell you that he's rich enough to afford a capable ghostwriter. The Ghostwriter of the Art of the Deal wrote an article about what he learned writing the book for Trump: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all [http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all] That's like saying that if you believe Trump when he says that he's the person who respects woman the most, there's no reason to think he's a misogynist. There's no reason to believe Trump when he tells tales about how great he is.
0waveman4yThe latest one does not seem to have been ghost written. Also the quality of the writing is only one thing you get from the books. I notice that no-one seems to be claiming they have actually read his books.
1ChristianKl4yI didn't even speak about the quality about the writing. A bigger problem than writing quality seems that you simply take the stories that Trump wants to have told about himself at face value. Could you make the case for why you believe it wasn't?

"People who voted for Trump are unrealistically optimists,"

I don't think that's really a fair charge.

Like, reading through Yudkowsky's stuff, his LW writings and HPMOR, there is the persistent sense that he is 2 guys.

One guy is like "Here are all of these things you need to think about to make sure that you are effective at getting your values implemented". I love that guy. Read his stuff. Big fan.

Other guy is like "Here are my values!" That guy...eh, not a fan. Reading him you get the idea that the whole "I am a superhero and I am killing God" stuff is not sarcastic.

It is the second guy who writes his facebook posts.

So when he is accusing us of not paying sufficient attention to the consequences of a Trump victory, I'm more inclined to say that we paid attention, but we don't value those consequences the way he does.

To spell it out: I don't share (and I don't think my side shares), Yudkowsky's fetish for saving every life. When he talks about malaria nets as the most effective way to save lives, I am nodding, but I am nodding along to the idea of finding the most effective way to get what you want done, done. Not at the idea that I've... (read more)

I'm a right winger and I totally disagree with this comment.

For me, conservatism is about willingness to face up to the hard facts about reality. I'm just as cosmopolitan in my values as liberals are--but I'm not naive about how to go about achieving them. My goal is to actually help people, not show all my friends how progressive I am.

In practice I think US stability is extremely important for the entire world. Which means I'm against giving impulsive people the nuclear codes, and I'm also against Hillary Clinton's "invade the world, invite the world" foreign policy.

Also: I don't like Yudkowsky, but I would like him and the people in his circle to take criticism seriously, so... could we maybe start spelling his name correctly? It ends in a y. (I think Yudkowsky himself is probably a lost cause, but there are a lot of smart, rational people in his thrall who should not be. And many of them will take the time to read and seriously evaluate critical arguments if they're well-presented.)

4WalterL4ySorry about misspelling his name. Egg on my face.
0onlytheseekerfinds4yWhich in particular?
1hg004yLots of "politically incorrect" claims are true, and this matters for policy. E.g. for [http://thosewhocansee.blogspot.com/2015/09/why-re-colonization-commonweal.html] immigration [http://evonomics.com/do-immigrants-import-their-economic-destiny-garrett-jones/] .
0onlytheseekerfinds4yVery well - the reason I asked is because it seems to be not at all obvious with how accepting hard truths about race and immigration should be made to align with being
1hg004yYeah, my current view is that long-term risks of high immigration outweigh near-term benefits.
1onlytheseekerfinds4yIt's puzzling that you've termed these risks "long term" when America is currently being rocked with race riots and Europe has an ongoing refugee crisis.
2hg004yWell, you could see the issues America is facing as being a long-term effect of importing slaves from Africa and liberalization of immigration laws in the 1960s. But racial tension is not the only thing I'm worried about.
4MrMind4yWhile I'm horrified by your values, I thank you for the clear exposition. And I think you made, although implicitly, an interesting point: outside of our stable equilibrium, things are a generally a net negative if you factor in the welfare of all humanity. But if you consider only US' well being, things might be a net positive. This I believe is so far from Yudkowsky's set of values that it was impossible for him to envision. Well, an easy guess would be that you believe the world to be a zero-sum game: if that's the case, then better have your team win big at the expense of everyone else than having everybody live on the scraps.
1Tyrin4yIf actions can be traced down to cause a whole lot of suffering, then it might be less certain to get a net positive outcome (for example due to empathic people revolting against these actions or feelings of guilt harming education and innovation; exodus of professionals to metropolitan regions in Europe, Asia etc.).
4scarcegreengrass4yI'm a left-libertarian and i mostly disagree with this comment, but i upvoted it because it's very clear and respectful. I agree that politics discussions are better suited for other rationality-sphere sites, not LW.
2Viliam4yAs a bonus, those other sites may be free from sockpuppet accounts consistently downvoting one side of the debate.
2Artaxerxes4yYes, I agree with this sentiment and am relieved someone else communicated it so I didn't have to work out how to phrase it. I don't think Yudkowsky think malaria nets are the best use of money anyway, even if they are in the short term the current clearest estimate as to where to put your money in in order to maximise lives saved. In that sense I don't think you disagree with him, he doesn't fetishize preserving pulses in the same way that you don't. Or at least, that's what I remember reading. First thing I could find corroborating that model of his viewpoint is his interview with Horgan. Also, on this: Especially here, I'm pretty sure Eliezer is more concerned about general civilisational collapse and other globally negative outcomes which he sees as non-trivially more likely with Trump as president. I don't think this is as much of a difference in values and specifically differences with regards to how much you each value each level of the concentric circles of the proximal groups around you. At the very least, I don't think he would agree that a Trump presidency would be likely to result in improved American prosperity over Clinton. I think this is probably not what's going on, I honestly think Eliezer is being more big picture about this, in the sense that he is concerned more about increased probability of doomsday scenarios and other outcomes unambiguously bad for most human goals. That's the message I got from his facebook posts anyway.
2TheAncientGeek4yIt's almost like epistemic and instrumental rationality are two different things.....
2CronoDAS4yIndeed, the "I am a superhero and I am killing God" stuff, as you put it, isn't sarcastic. He really is trying to make saving every single living human mind he can his life's work...
1Bobertron4yAs I understand it you are criticizing Yudkowski's ideology. But MrMind wants to hear our opinion on whether or not Scott and Yudkowski's reasoning was sound, given their ideologies.
5WalterL4yI'm not trying to criticize Yudkowki's ideology. It seems to be basically Sailor Moon's. I wish him the best, and will benefit vastly if it works out for him. I'm saying that when he talks about the people who supported Trump, ("People who voted for Trump are unrealistically optimists,") he is making a factual error.
3TheAncientGeek4yHis comment could be read as "people who voted for D. Trump and share my values are excessively optimistic about his chances of implementing them ". I think that's credible, given that he context was P. Thiel's support.
-4ernestdezoe4yYou know , there was one other guy who wasn't preoccupied at all about the other team's welfare , that guy was John Von Neumann and were he able to have it his way he would have cold bloodedly killed 600 millions people between USSR and China in 1955 when US had B52s and thermonuclear bombs ironed out , while he could have used his intelligence and technical wisdom to deescalate tension with the ultimate goal of getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether . Irony of the ironies he died relatively young because of a cancer probably developed working on the bomb , exactly like his soviets counterparts...he'd have had more chances of surviving if american , soviet and chinese researchers would have been able to talk to each other and exchange informations on potential life saving treatments . Besides that I don't even mention the damage that wiping out 600 millions people would have done to the world's economy , the world would have been a very different place if Von Neumann succeeded in acting his personal version of the final solution There is only one team and that's team humanity , the prostate cancer which kills a russian citizen is the same identical disease which would take your life if you're unlucky enough to develop one , so given that ever since we (almost) stopped killing each other over land we enjoyed a prosperity which has no precedent in the history of our specie and it is mostly correlated with the fact that there are more humans around to solve our common problems [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate] , so how about we keep it that way? Also how about we increase the number of humans around and we lift them from poverty so they'd be able to contribute to the economy and together find a solution to our common problems (energy crisis , diseases , aging , AI) ? Also I agree with you that the "preserve every pulse" kind of thinking could lead to an impractical situation , but I also think that the correct approach for this issue
4WalterL4yJust want to say I didn't downvote you man. It is actually really good for my argument that no sooner do I say: "We want different things from Yudkowsky and he is wrong that we want the same things and are stupid", than someone shows up to say "Actually you just need me to contempt at you until you start wanting the same things as me." Libs, this happens literally all the time. We can't go anywhere without the John Oliver / Ernestdezoe's of the world appearing to sneer at us. Do the experiment if you like. Make any conservative argument, in any context, and someone will be along to tell you that you are a nazi who wants to kill 600 million people. These disdain elementals are not on your side. They lost you this election. They have never persuaded anyone, and they never will. Contempt is absolutely anti-persuasive. I'm not going to engage with his arguments. I'll reiterate that this is lesswrong, and we don't talk politics here. Examine them for a few seconds with an open mind and you'll see how persuasive they are. The point of my post was that Yudkowsky's model of his difficulties was flawed. He isn't playing Dance Dance Revolution with a drunken partner who can't help messing up. He is playing Street Fighter vs. a skilled opponent. The point of this response is that the ernestdezoe school of persuasion is a loser, and should be forsaken. Don't be like this person, and you might change some minds.
-4ernestdezoe4yYou didn't make just any conservative argument , you clearly claimed that you don't care about other people (non american) welfare! It has been proved time and time again that throughout the history of our specie more humans alive and capable of contributing to the economy meant greater progress , improved quality of life , longer average lifespan... Also this is not about politics , this can be discussed on LW , in fact we're discussing about x-risks , altruism , best paths for human prosperity and so forth
1Vanilla_cabs1yDo you realize that under such guidelines, one could easily make the case for most of the unemployed people to be eradicated? I'm pretty sure that's not your goal here. I can see the correlation, but I think you have the causation backwards. The case for progress and quality of life leading to increases in human population seems much more straightforward to me. In my simplified model, progress is increased production. Quality of life is production per capita. But when quality of life raises, so does natality and death drops, until human population has absorbed most of the additional production and people are just slightly better off than before.

The foreign policy issue is coming up a lot. Apparently some people are arguing that Hillary may have been just as dangerous but for different reasons. I don't think myself an expert, so I'm using the 'look at what experts think' heuristic, somewhat like Eliezer.

We all know about the open letter from Republican national security experts.

In a relatively highly upvoted comment, hg00 points out that Eliezer omitted a similar letter from 88 retired high-ranking military officers.

hg00 omits that Clinton received 95 endorsements from retired military leaders (later 110).

The Atlantic points out that Mitt Romney received 500 endorsements in 2012. So both lists of endorsements may be historically low.

An article in the Washington Post cites surveys conducted by the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project implying that most international relations experts (IR) positively regard Clinton's ability to conduct international relations, and that expert opinions are considerably less polarized than public opinion on each candidate's ability to conduct international relations:

This survey, the ninth in a series of snap polls conducted by the Teaching, Research and International P

... (read more)

EY's central argument for level B incompetence was that Trump is creating ambiguity around which countries the US will defend against Russia, which could lead to war. Now, I agree that it would be wrong for a sitting president to create that ambiguity, but a presidential candidate has to ask those questions, otherwise the foreign policy can never change. As long as Trump arrives at a concrete policy over which countries the US will defend when he becomes president, I don't see that there is a problem.

I also don't see that the status quo is keeping the world all that safe, with a proxy war between the US and Russia in Syria.

Most substantial variations from the equilibrium are disasters, and if you put a high-variance candidate, someone whose main point is to subvert the status quo, in charge, then with overwhelming probability you're headed off to a cliff.

This is exactly the same as the argument for radical conservatism that the neoreactionaries make. Can you really believe that when the right challenges the status quo, priors are that they almost certainly wrong, but when progressives challenge the status quo they are almost certainly correct? This is extremely motivated reasoning and totally inconsistent.

And EY is all about finding the 'correct contrarians' and subverting the status quo on every other issue.

4ChristianKl4yThat's not the only argument. The fact that Trump suggested that it's fine that the Saudi's (and others) get nukes. That statement gave him no electoral advantage but he still made it. I don't think that's the case. I doubt EY would have made the same arguments against Ron Paul. The problem isn't that Trump is right but that he doesn't listen to experts, doesn't read and is a compulsive liar. Not the usual kind of lying that most politicians engage but also lying to the people around him. Trump got rich because he frequently didn't pay people what he owned them. The the campaign he suggested that he wants to do the same with US debt. It's bad moves that lead to bad foreign policy.
3skeptical_lurker4yThat is pretty disturbing. I wish people would lead with 'Trump is ok with nuclear proliferation' rather than 'Trump is basically Hitler'. Back to the problem that 'right/left' is too simplistic. Perhaps I should have said libertarians/progressives vs authoritarians/conservatives, but since neither candidate is libertarian I was not thinking in those terms. I recall that there is an (as yet unresolved?) court case about him failing to pay people, but to say that this is the main cause of his wealth sounds like a stretch. Increasing the national debt is also worrying, but (a) Hillary's economic policies she would presumably raise the debt too [https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/17/clinton-says-she-wont-add-a-penny-to-the-national-debt-thats-highly-unlikely/] albeit to a lesser extent, and (b) we've now moved off talking about nuclear war, at least directly
3ChristianKl4yThe problem isn't just the call for uncertainty around defending NATO countries or saying that it's okay that the Saudi's get nukes. It's that the reason he makes those bad calls is that he lacks the skills to be a good B-player. EY then references how various right wing national security officials think Trump is dangerous for those reasons. For any individual call you can make the argument that the call is unlikely to cause WW3 but a person who consistently makes bad calls like that because he doesn't listen to experts and has a low attention span is likely to make a lot of bad judgement calls once in office that in turn create problems. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There's a lot more than just a court case. You are off by more than an order in magnitude on the amount of court cases. In many cases a person who sues was also looking at paying more in legal costs than the case is worth and Trump had lawyers who dragged out cases for years. It got so far that contractors in Atlantic City institute what the called a "Trump tax" that meant charging Trump more because they didn't expect him to pay his full bills: http://europe.newsweek.com/quora-question-does-donald-trump-refuse-workers-pay-508992?rm=eu [http://europe.newsweek.com/quora-question-does-donald-trump-refuse-workers-pay-508992?rm=eu] The issue here isn't raising the debt but saying on the campaign trial that he plans to default on US debt. When a president speaks about their willingness to default on debt that creates a reason for rating agencies to downgrade US debt when means that the US has to pay more interest for their debt. I don't think it's a different topic from nuclear war. If the US doesn't do what it promised to other countries the way Trump doesn't payed his contractors that can lead to international tension and that tension can lead to war. A key quote from another article [http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-business-plan-l
4skeptical_lurker4yI'm not denying that Trump does not seem like the best choice (out of the entire US population) for geopolitics. I'll concede that point. But look at Hillary - doesn't she want to impose a no-fly zone over Syria? Threaten to shoot down Russian planes? Why? This isn't the cold war, where maybe we had to draw a line in the sand. If the Russians want to have greater influence over Syria, let them. Maybe there is another level to this that I don't understand because I am not an expert in geopolitics, but I would have thought it wiser to not restart the cold war, let Russia have influence over some nearby countries, and present a united front against radical Islam. As for the economics arguments, to be frank I attach little weight to what the media says given how biased they've been. Lets look at the markets, where people actually put their money on the line. The USD is up against the Euro and the Yen. The sp500 is up 1%. I see no reason for the US to worry about economics. Finally, Trump will have advisers. And even if he does appear a little unstable, well, there are some games (like chicken) where someone that appears to be a little crazy will beat a calm rational person running causal decision theory every time.
1Viliam4yIt would be nice to see USA turning against Saudi Arabia, and Russia against Kadyrov and Assad. I wouldn't bet my money on such outcome, though. Would you? Okay, here is the part where I would be much more comfortable betting my money.
0skeptical_lurker4yNot soon. Maybe later, as solar takes over from oil. But maybe we can move in that direction.
0ChristianKl4yIt's not good for the Yen when the US wants to introduce trade tariffs. It's also not good for the Euro. With the stock market it's also not clear to interpret the message. Normally risky times mean that traders sell stocks and buy treasury bonds. Given that Trump suggested he might partly default on US debt, that's not a safe move. Many stocks did rise because of the prospect of their industries getting deregulated. The reduction of the corporate tax rate would normally also be expected to produce a stock market rise. The prospect of various US companies maybe being able to bring home to the US huge sums of cash that's currently overseas also has an effect on the macro. But the role of the US president shouldn't be to beat other people but to create win-win situations. Trump isn't used to seeking win-win. Trump will have advisers but that doesn't automatically mean that he listens to them. Policy wise I don't think Clinton's plan is good, but I think her moves are calculated.
0skeptical_lurker4yGood point - I had not considered this. Still, I would assume that even if the dollar does not go down, there would still be some sort of sign of danger in the markets if there were possible economic problems. Maybe US stocks going down as money flows into overseas assets? Ideally, yes, but the world is not some perfect utopia, and there are external threats that do need to be beaten.
0ChristianKl4yQuite a lot of money is going to flow into the US when there's a deal to allow companies like Apple to move their cash to the US and not pay the full taxes for it. In general a trader who assumes that Trump engages into actions that are harmful for other countries also has no reason to move assets to other countries.
-1morganism4yThe history of war says. to be concerned.. "History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump" https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.z3m3a3ilj [https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.z3m3a3ilj] "But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because: 1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future 2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally 3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views"
-4TheAncientGeek4yNo, it's a particular case of that argument which is much more plausible than almost all the others, because the realistic outcomes are so much more impactive. Reactionaries would have it that tinkering with gender norms brings on the apocalypse, too,

One flaw in this argument could be the assumption that "Clinton will maintain the Level B status quo" implicitly means "everything is fine now and therefor will continue to be fine for much the same reasons".

Eliezer views a Trump election as accepting a higher% risk of annihilation for essentially no reason. What if it's not no reason? What if all the Level B players are just wrong, irrationally buying into a status quo where we need to be engaging in brinksmanship with Russia and China and fighting ground battles in the Middle East in order to defend ourselves? You have to admit it's possible, right? "Smart people can converge en mass on a stupid conclusion" is practically a tenet of our community.

Hillary's campaign strategy has already shown this in principle. The obviously intelligent party elite all converged on a losing strategy, and repeatedly doubled down on it. It is reminiscent of our foreign policy.

Saying "we haven't had a nuclear exchange with Russia yet, therefor our foreign policy and diplomatic strategy is good" is an obvious fallacy. Maybe we've just been lucky. Shit, maybe we've been unlucky and we're having this conversation... (read more)

5ChristianKl4yThat's a strawman. EY isn't saying that our foreign policy is good.
0akvadrako4yThe argument rests on that assumption, mostly clearly shown in the quote: If we are stuck in a locally optimal valley, then a high-variance candidate is more likely to push us out of it and into another valley. Whether that's a good idea depends on if our current state is overall good or bad. Personally I think we should be taking more chances and trying to find a better equilibrium. That means occasionally rocking the boat, but if you never do it you're condemning yourself to stagnation.
4ChristianKl4yNo, it depends on whether random changes to our current state are an improvement or aren't. If you would make a change that requires all high level government burocrates to be superforcasters in their domains of expertise, it would likely be a huge improvement and you could speak of the resulting government as being good and the present one as bad. That doesn't mean that randomly breaking things and creating change improves the bad current state. A lot of possible changes lead to WW3 or otherwise end civilisation.
0akvadrako4yI think you are missing the point. If I have a random variable between 0 and 10, than "random" changes will cause a regression to the mean. Thus, if the current state is bad, say 1, a many "random" changes are likely to be an improvement. More simply, if our state is bad, we should take more risks.
0ChristianKl4yThe model of a scalar between 0 and 10 is bad because it doesn't show the high dimensional nature with many different scenario that real world society has. We have a huge decline in violence in the post-WWII are. The mean of history has a lot more violence as Steven Pinker lays out in "The Better Angels of Our Nature".
3Bobertron4yI don't understand. Could you correct the grammar mistakes or rephrase that? The way I understand the argument isn't that the status quo in the level B game is perfect. It isn't that Trump is a bad choice because his level B strategy is taking too much risk and therefore bad. I understand the argument as saying: "Trump doesn't even realize that there is a level B game going on and even when he finds out he will be unfit to play in that game".
0Artaxerxes4yThis is a really good comment, and I would love to hear responses to objections of this flavour from Eliezer etc. I mean it's less about whether or not it's good as much as it is trying to work out the likelihood of whether policies resulting from Trump's election are going to be worse. You can presuppose that current policies are awful and still think that Trump is likely to make things much worse.

T̶o̶ ̶s̶u̶m̶m̶a̶r̶i̶z̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶g̶u̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶m̶a̶d̶e̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶Y̶u̶d̶k̶o̶w̶s̶k̶y̶'̶s̶ ̶r̶e̶a̶s̶o̶n̶i̶n̶g̶:̶ (see my comment below on why the strikethrough)

Here's a summary of the original counter arguments that commenters have brought against Yudkowsky :

1 - Hillary is not necessary a better B player than Trump
2 - existing level B players might deluding themselves that they are making a good job at maintaining the status quo
3 - the local optima might be surrounded by a valley of worse equilibrium, but only if you care about the wellbeing of ... (read more)

2Gram_Stone4yUpvoted. Thank you for hosting. Both user:hg00 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/o3t/yudkowsky_vs_trump_the_nuclear_showdown/dhd9] and I [http://lesswrong.com/lw/o3t/yudkowsky_vs_trump_the_nuclear_showdown/dhgq] argued that Eliezer stopped searching for expert opinions in a motivated way [http://lesswrong.com/lw/km/motivated_stopping_and_motivated_continuation/], but I concluded that relying on expert opinion, which ultimately appears to indicate that Trump will probably have more negative effects on our foreign policy than Clinton, was correct anyway. The OP specifies that the purpose of the discussion is to evaluate methodology, and remains silent on the evaluation of conclusions. I request that the summary you've written be edited to reflect this. (Removing the phrase 'Trump's move wasn't bad' seems sufficient to me; maybe explicitly mention motivated cognition?) I also tentatively suggest appending the summary to the OP once you expect that you won't have to edit it again.
1MrMind4yI realized just now that the summary could have been taken as "here's why Yudkowsky was wrong", while for me it has always been: "here's people thought about why Yudkowsky could be wrong". It is intended purely as a summary, not an endorsement. I will retain point n° 6, but I'll edit to a more neutral first sentence.
1MrMind4yI'll write an ETA reflecting this.

The election has made me consider one of the opening argument's for the neoreactionary movement a bit more seriously. I have doubts about the goodness of democracy.

Specifically, I don't think the average voter knows anything. About a third of voters can't identify the three branches of government and half don't know their state has two senators.. I've seen polls saying something like 40% of Republicans believe Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen. I know many people personally who sincerely believe he is a secret Muslim.

But policy governing 300+ million peo... (read more)

2Lumifer4ycf. Winston Churchill: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." You make an interesting distinction between "we" and "the electorate" X-D Perhaps you should ask how could you trust yourself to make important decisions about your life.
1Brillyant4yPerhaps. And maybe I don't. But then, even more so, I couldn't trust the average American voter to make a good decision about the complex issues facing the U.S. gov't.
1Lumifer4yAnd the average American voter doesn't make a decision about "the complex issues", he only makes a decision as to who will represent him (referendums aside). As to who actually makes a decision about the complex issues, the usual answer is "the civil service bureaucrats".
1Brillyant4yI couldn't trust the average American voter to make a good decision about who should make decisions about the complex issues facing the U.S. gov't.
2Lumifer4yWell then, is there someone or someones you could trust to make such a decision? And what do you base your trust on?
0Brillyant4yI'm not sure. I'll have to give this more thought. I guess my concerns in the immediate aftermath of this election are based on how much misinformation and ignorance are involved in the process. People know almost nothing about anything (or believe lots of things that are easily proven false), and yet they have strong opinions that inform their decision on who to vote for. And then they (basically) directly elect the President.
1Lumifer4yKeep in mind that all the empirical data on the basis of which we conclude that democracy is an okay political system comes from reality which includes stupid and ignorant electorates.
0Carinthium4yA good question to keep in mind is how much real power the electorate has, as opposed to entrenched bureaucrats or de facto oligarchies.
0Carinthium4yOn a purely theoretical level (which is fun to talk about so I think worth talking about) I would like to see one of the high status and respected members of the rationalist movement (Yudowsky, Hanson etc) in power. They'd become corrupt eventually, but do a lot of good before they did. On a practical level, our choices are the traditional establishment (which has shown its major flaws), backing Trump, or possibly some time in the future backing Sanders. Unless somebody here has a practical way to achieve something different, that's all we have. (EDIT: For what it's worth, I base my trust on their works, somewhat on their theories on rationality, and the fact that reviewing ideas in far mode for so long has them "nailed" to policies. Without, say, an implacable Congress in their way, I think they'd do enough good to outweigh their inevitable corruption)
0MrMind4yBut also: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." by the same man :-)
0Viliam4yI understand this to mean that it is better when the people in power use propaganda to convince at least a fraction of the population that they are the good guys, instead of simply using torture to keep everyone in line. But of course there are people who prefer torture over hypocrisy. (Often they assume they would be among the torturers, and historically they often find out this assumption was wrong.)
1Gram_Stone4yI think these are important points, but an important counterpoint is the subject of The American System and Misleading Labels [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mh/the_american_system_and_misleading_labels/]: This debate is the main reason that I'm fascinated by post-democratic ideas, but dial my skepticism up to 11 with regards to their real-world consequences.
0MrMind4yBut then, if you have a better knowledge than the average voter and still couldn't decide who is better, what difference does it make? If more knowledge is not able to influence your opinion on who to vote, then no harm is done by ignorance. It even saves you time to do other things.
-1Brillyant4yIt seems to be possible to win elections even if you are obviously not qualified to run the country. Trump ostensibly has some business chops, but I don't see any reason to believe who we elected would need to have any governing skill. This is, I suppose, my point. For example, is it impossible to conceive that Beyonce or Ellen Degeneres could win the next election? Or Justin Bieber? Kim Kardashian? I know it's cliche... but because of social media... and the fact we can all vote and it's easy to do, the system can be hacked. And then everyone will just kind of agree to the results and say, "Welp, that's the Sacred System. So we have to go by it. Drake is our new president." There seems to be a skill set and set of circumstance (eg. celebrity and fame) that is useful for winning elections that is not necessarily correlated to being a president. And the system seems to be super hackable so that we get a leader that doesn't know how to do the job. In other areas, people advanced based on their merit in a given field. There are "politics" involved, but there seems to be a glitch in the democratic system whereby someone could get elected based on some combination of name recognition, a sincere populist desire plus some faction of the population that just wants to see the world burn (like, apart from a genuine belief that a given candidate actually represents their interests, they take joy in the chaos upsetting the status quo for it's own sake. I.e. Trolls)
2Lumifer4yHacked? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Democracy is a beauty contest by design.
0Brillyant4yUse whatever word you'd prefer. I meant the election could be overridden in ways those who came up with the format didn't intend. Tell me more. How do you mean?
2Lumifer4yI mean that democracy's basic point is that the masses elect whoever they like. They don't have to be rational and the candidate doesn't have to be competent. The will of the people is paramount and sanity is not a prerequisite. Imposing various limitations on the freedom of stupid people to vote for whoever (such as e.g. literacy tests) is seen nowadays as undemocratic :-/
0MrMind4yThey are, by definition. On the other side, you have the problem of imposing boundaries and the gaming of said boundaries. What you measure you get more. Exactly what you measure...
0Lumifer4yThat depends on the definition, doesn't it? I don't think that defining democracy is a trivial exercise. /me looks at voter turnout percentages. Is that so?
0Brillyant4yWell, sure. What I started out saying is that I don't think that is good, which was one of the opening points made by the neo-reactionaries, IIRC. The system is breakable so that a very harmful candidate could be elected. And perhaps it is. Some sort of filter to prove you are reasonably rational and informed seems like an idea that may have some good consequences. Maybe it creates more problems than it solves. Tough to say. But 40% of Republicans voting and thinking Obama is a secret Muslim who isn't actually a citizen seems...off.
2Lumifer4yWhat exactly does this mean? The real world is messy and you are doing the nirvana fallacy bit. What kind of a political system do you think is NOT breakable? The word you're looking for is "disenfrachisement" X-)
0Brillyant4yI was just thinking this...perfect solution fallacy. I agree. I agree there isn't necessarily a perfect solution. The voters' decision making process just seems to be getting exceedingly bad. For example, a comment on reddit regarding The Denver Guardian [http://denverguardian.com/about/] This story was shared half a million times. (Btw, the only two people I talked with at length regarding the election this past weekend mentioned that the Clintons were "murderers"...) I'm not under the illusion people have ever been hyper-rational in regard to politics, but with the "mainstream" media receiving a huge black eye in this election, it seems possible that this trend of the electorate being utterly bamboozled by obvious falsehoods may continue, or get worse.
1Lumifer4yCompared to what? and why do you think so? Speaking of "literally Hitler", the fascists in both Italy and Germany came to power democratically. That usually means Vince Foster [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Vince_Foster].
0morganism4yhttp://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/11/playtime-is-over.html [http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/11/playtime-is-over.html] "Nearly four years ago I wrote about the Beige Dictatorship, and predicted: Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the "peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off" mechanism that prevents revolutions. If we're lucky, emergent radical parties will break the gridlock (here in the UK that would be the SNP in Scotland, possibly UKIP in England: in the USA it might be the new party that emerges if the rupture between the Republican realists like Karl Rove and the Tea Party radicals finally goes nuclear), but within a political generation (two election terms) it'll be back to oligarchy as usual."
0MrMind4yNo, they didn't. They were elected democratically, but then sized power not granted by the democratic process through a combination of political assassinations, a sizable private militia and the ineptitude (or cooperation) of those who should have stopped them.
0Lumifer4yYes, they did. They came to power democratically and then used their position to grab more power.
0MrMind4yNo democratic position allows the creation of a private militia or grants political assassinations rights. They grabbed some power through elections, they grabbed some other power by force, they grabbed some other power by sheer assumption and others, too cowards to intervene, let them. They were most emphatically not political hackers, weaseling their way through the democratic process and installing themselves through subtle laws editing. They rose to power mainly using violence, intimidating and killing those who opposed them.
0Lumifer4yI don't know about that. I suspect it depends on the definition of "democratic position" and that historically there were interesting edge cases. Plus, of course, the democratic position of the President of the United States grants you assassination rights (colloquially known as "droning"). Yes, I agree.
0Brillyant4yIt would be hard to measure objectively. I've not compared Trump to Hitler because, well, it's the internet. But the idea of a populist swell leading to a dangerous leader a la Hitler, yeah, it occurred to me. And I'm not sure saying 'America circa now isn't as bad as that' makes me feel any better. :) Yeah. Or the email with "90 people close to the Clintons that have died mysteriously". I've received at least two different versions from three different people in the last couple months. Or it could have been Benghazi.
2Lumifer4yLike everything else democracy has its failure modes. Neoreactionaries think they are a big deal (though their list of the failure modes of democracy is probably different from yours). It's not a new idea, of course: "When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism'" (New York Times, 1938)
0Brillyant4yWhat is the list of neo-reactionary failure modes for democracy?
2Lumifer4yI'm too lazy to compile one, maybe one of our local NRx people will provide :-/ Or you can go read Moldbug, Nick Land, and such. "Being gamed by demagogues" is probably in there and I'm sure some derivative of the word "cuck" will make an appearance.
0MrMind4yWell, that's your revealed preference: you do know that Drake (or Trump) is worse for America's interests than Hillary or Johnson.
1Brillyant4yIt seems reasonable to conclude there is something like a "Good at Being President" rating composed of some mix of appropriate skills. It also seems there is a "Good at Winning Elections" rating that overlaps with the "Good at Being President" rating in some ways. And then there is a "Good at Being Popular and Having a Large Online Following" rating because of the ever-growing internet, which may be starting to overlap more and more with the "Good at Winning Elections" rating, and which itself has less overlap with the "Good at Being President" rating. So then an Instagram chick with XXX million followers becomes POTUS because voting is so simple and no one knows anything and fake news is everywhere so everyone thinks all the "insider" candidates are corrupt and murderers and this Instagram chick probably has some good ideas and isn't a shill to special interests...but said Instagram chick, by all reasonable accounts, has a very low "Good at Being President", despite her incredible "Good at Being Popular and Having a Large Online Following" rating that allowed her to be elected. Like I said, Trump winning isn't inconceivable and ostensibly he has some POTUS skill rating. But how low a POTUS skill rating could we possibly elect if there is a crazy cynical, troll-ish, populist swell? If Instagram chick or Taylor Swift or Beyonce become president, do we just say, "Welp, the people have spoken! Yay, democracy!"

Level B

The inversion of the usual ranking is weird. 'B' is usually worse than 'A' -- B list, B movies, plan B -- and here 'B' happens to be the supreme level of knowledge/operation...

Eliezer attended a pretty serious and wide diplomatic simulation game, that made him appreciate how difficult is to just maintain a global equilibrium between countries and avoid nuclear annihilation

Eliezer is being an idiot who forgot his own maxim to not rely on fictional evidence.

This was a game. Let me repeat this: game. I rather doubt its goals were to educate the ... (read more)

3username24yIt was a simulation. Simulations can be incredibly powerful educational tools, when they reflect reality. These sorts of simulations are meant to reflect reality (in as much as is possible in a 4-hour window). That is entirely the point of these simulations. I've been in them before, and helped construct a simulation once. The entire point of the exercise is to educate the players as to how the world really works. The designers, who themselves have relevant real world experience, spend a massive amount of time obsessing over this.
-1Lumifer4yYou're doing content-free handwaving. "Can be", "meant to" -- sure, a lot of things are possible, but we're talking about EY suddenly gaining a formative insight into geopolitics on the basis of a 4-hour simulation. Conveniently, it matches his existing political bias. I wonder if playing a couple of Civ games should shape your view of history... :-/ Are you talking in general or about the specific scenario playthrough that EY participated in? How do you know what is the entire point of that exercise was?
3username24yWhat I was trying to do is to point out that you might not be understanding the situation correctly. I think you are getting hung up on the word "game." This is not a game in the sense of a video game, or even dungeons and dragons. Rather, it is standard practice within the national security apparatus to transfer knowledge by means of simulation of events, and that is what is being described here. This should not be surprising -- the realm of governance is that of human actions and responses in a world constrained by time and limited data. A typical mistake of someone "too smart for their own good" is to assume that they can just get better data, or think their way out of a situation, when the data itself is confused and possibly suspect and deep consideration carries with it the cost of inaction and giving your opponent more time. These sorts of simulations teach both how decision making occurs under time and resource pressures, and the various common failure modes. It is an educational exercise designed to draw accurate references from. Absolutely not, because Civ is not meant to accurately simulate historical decision making; it's a game meant for entertainment, not decision-theoretic education. Am I really failing to make this point? In general because I'm not sure what specific exercise he went through. But as I did say, this is standard practice in the industry, and industry I have been involved in. EY says at the very beginning of the narrative that it was a "game" (read: simulation) constructed and run by national security insiders. That was the clue that he was talking about a training exercise and not some live action role playing nonsense.
0Lumifer4ySigh. It would simplify things if you were to assume I'm not stupid. I did explicitly mention "games/simulations/scenario playthroughs"... I'm not getting hung up on the word "game". I'm getting hung up on it being not empirical reality. I don't think EY holds a security clearance which makes any simulations he's allowed to participate in... very incomplete. This still looks like a mostly PR exercise to me. I agree. Therefore you design the simulation to teach what you want the participants to learn. As I mentioned, accuracy is merely an instrumental goal. And if the participants are not actually people who would be expected to make such decisions, your goals might well be different from just transferring knowledge.
0ChristianKl4yI don't know specifically that he has a clearance but there might be good reasons for him to have a clearance. The purposes of MIRI call for him being able to talk with people about classified AI projects. Palantir has classified AI and Thiel is likely capable of making the necessary introductions.
1niceguyanon4yIt is and it was a distraction in getting to the core argument, for me at least. In the range of possible ways to describe the status quo, from 0/100 to 100/100, sleepwalking off a cliff is oddly specific and on one end of an extreme assessment. Isn't the main argument that for most cases high variance is bad?
1Lumifer4yI have no idea. Which "most cases"? From whose point of view? There is no Law of Nature which states that high variance is bad. Not to mention that for sufficiently fat-tailed distributions variance does not exist
0MrMind4ySorry for that. But there could be a tower of meta-level, and if someone had invoked a level above level B, I wouldn't have known how to call it if it was named level A. On the other hand, one safe bet is that a game is always less complicated than the real thing is trying to simulate. Without knowing the details, it's impossible to tell if the game was a sort of "big diplomacy game with ex diplomats just for fun" or a Dem publicity stunt. While possible, assuming it for certain is unwarranted. Anyway, your argument would fall under the category: level B isn't real / doesn't matter. In the mind of Eliezer, as far as we know, he considers Trump pretty clueless (level B speaking), so that necessarily all his moves would be random.
1Lumifer4yI see no reason to believe that this game was trying to accurately simulate reality. One notable difference is that in this game nothing was a stake. You launch your nukes, obliterate Moscow, get obliterated in return, and they all y'all go have a beer and discuss the whooshing sound that ICBMs make as they rise out of their silos. Huh? Even under this assumption, since when clueless people behave randomly?
0MrMind4yDo you know something more about it that I don't? Because neither I know if it was trying to simulate reality, and I also have no idea if it wasn't, so it's 1/2. That is a general argument against any game, simulation or drill. Well, nothing is onthologically random, but from a Bayesian perspective, random is something about which you have no information. So if Trump has no information about the state space of international equlibria, from the point of view of the system his actions will be random.
1Lumifer4yNo, but my prior is neutral -- I said "I have no reason to believe" otherwise. In general, I think that in most games/simulations/scenario playthroughs of this sort accurate simulation is merely an instrumental goal and the actual terminal goals vary. Not so, you can play for stakes including high stakes. Don't think in black and white. Even assuming Trump is clueless, he has some information about geopolitics and will act according to his goals and information available to him which is not zero. Let me point out some examples of random moves: sending troops to occupy New Guinea; imposing trade sanctions on Kiribati; signing a mutual defence treaty with Uruguay. Do you think any of this is likely?
0MrMind4yYou'll have to ask Eliezer, I'm afraid. But I understand where you're coming from, I guess neither Yudkowsky believed in such level of cluelessness.

Some of Yudkowsky's arguments were good, but he was still an embarrassment to the movement. If I recall correctly he posted maybe half a dozen Facebook statuses to the effect of "OMG Trump is THE WORST" before offering any sort of argument. Of course, this plays in to the idea that people who oppose Trump are bullies who care more about optics than substance.

And the evidence he offered us was filtered evidence. He mentioned that open letter, but he didn't mention this list of conservative intellectuals who endorse Trump or this list of general... (read more)

9MetaPolitics4yThis style of argument seems unproductive. The concrete accusation against Yudkowsky is apparently that he made several posts which mentioned his position on Trump before making the posts which laid out the reasoning behind his position. If that is a vice, it seems like a minor one. It's possible that there was something specific about Yudkowsky's posts which made them worse, but there are no details given here, nor links which might allow someone to see what exactly he wrote and form their own opinion. Just an uncharitable paraphrase "OMG Trump is THE WORST". Uncharitable paraphrases are a fuel of unproductive political discussions, since they make it easy for people to talk past each other, get caught up in their preferred storylines [http://lesswrong.com/lw/13k/missing_the_trees_for_the_forest/], and collect reasons for disliking the other side. The loaded terms (e.g., "embarrassment", "bullies") also aren't helpful if the goal is to have a conversation where people who disagree about Trump can talk with each other productively. They also don't seem to fit the behavior described. Yudkowsky thought that one of the two major party candidates would be a bad President, and he shared that opinion on Facebook several times before giving his reasoning. What a ?bully?! If something about his posts was bullying, then call him out on it and be clear about what the bullying consisted of. If they weren't bullying and you're just concerned that other people might mistakenly see them as bullying and think less of the rationality community because of it, then talk about them in a way that makes it clear that they were not bullying. "Of course, this plays in to the idea that people who oppose Trump are bullies [http://blog.dilbert.com/post/152293480726/the-bully-party]" does neither.
0hg004yThe way I remember it, he "mentioned his position" in a way that came across as mudslinging. It certainly did not seem like his goal was to "have a conversation where people who disagree about Trump can talk with each other productively". I think you're holding me to a higher standard than you're holding him. But maybe you're right that I should have written my comment more carefully.
6waveman4yAnd certainly no signs of the Charles Darwin 'steelman' strategy. Did not make the best possible case for Trump before making the opposite case. Politics does make being rational very difficult. He certainly got that one right.
0Fyrius4yThese sources are very partisan and biased.

I am half way through her book on her tenure as Secretary of State (Hard Choices) and I find her thinking just astonishingly pedestrian and unimaginative. Especially when she is trying to sound imaginative and creative.

5Lumifer4yIt's a funny thing about Hillary which her campaign tried to downplay as much as they could, but she has no accomplishments. The standard "what are your major achievements?" question stumps her. She's successful at playing power games and pretty much nothing else -- starting from the health care reform under Clinton, to her tenure at State Dept, and ending with her presidential bid.

1)

Unless I am much mistaken, the reason that no one has yet used Nuclear Weapons is Mutually Assured Destruction, the idea that there can be no victor in a nuclear war. MAD holds so long as the people in control of nuclear weapons have something to lose if everything gets destroyed, and Trump has grandchildren.

Grandchildren who would burn in nuclear fire if he ever started a nuclear war.

So I am in no way sympathetic to any argument that he's stupid enough to start one. He has far too much to lose.

2)

I believe that the sets of skills necessary to be a g... (read more)

1sohois4yOn 1, whilst that should reduce your belief that Trump himself will fire nuclear weapons, it is a fairly weak argument for several reasons: first, many many people have had something to protect yet engaged in reckless behaviour anyway with no regard for others. It's on a much smaller scale than starting a nuclear apocalypse but we should still consider that family members are only a weak protection, especially if, as others have argued, Trump is highly impulsive. Further, it only holds if Trump really does value his family highly, higher than his own self image, and given that he is a massive narcissist I'd say that's not guaranteed by any means. The second issue is that there are more ways for MAD to occur than simply Trump ordering an attack. A nuclear war could be started by other nations, and there is reason to believe that Trump leads to a higher probability of this. First of all, he has encouraged nuclear proliferation, which will simply increase the number of actors capable of an attack and thus inevitably increasing the probability. Secondly, many non-nuclear nations may be tempted to acquire some if they believe they are undefended, which again is something that Trump has stated. Perhaps Japan feels endangered by North Korea and starts their own weapons program as the US pulls out troops or some such. I believe Scott Alexander made a similar argument over at SSC, probably better worded than mine. I have no disagreements on point 2, and no comment on 4. Regarding 3, I think this is a false argument. The issue I have is that 'Islam' is not a nation state or even a physical construct , you cannot start a nuclear war with 'Islam'. Presumably when you refer to Islam you are talking of the danger of a terrorist group or possibly ISIS. However, its difficult to see any MAD situation with such groups - for one, it is extremely unlikely that they are ever able to acquire more than one weapon and thus they can't 'retaliate' further. In addition, if they were able
0Fyrius4yHe's gone bankrupt six times.
0Carinthium4yQuestion. I admit I have a low EQ here, but I"m not sure if 4) is sarcasm or not. It would certainly make a lot of sense if "I've been glad to see in this thread that we LW's do, in fact, put our money where our mouths are when it comes to trying to navigate, circumvent, or otherwise evade the Mindkiller." were sarcasm. I would have said we had information on 2), but I've made so many wrong predictions about Donald Trump privately that I think my private opinion has lost all credibility there. 1) makes sense. I can see why you might be afraid of war breaking out with Russia, but why do you consider Islam a major threat? Maybe you don't and I'm misinterpreting you, but given how little damage terrorist attacks actually do isn't Islam a regional problem to which the West has a major overreaction problem?
0Sable4yI was trying to be sincere with 4), although I admit that without tone of voice and body language, that's hard to communicate sometimes. And even if LW hasn't done as good a job as we could have with this topic, from what I've seen we've done far better than just about anyone not in the rationalist community at trying to remain rational. Glad you agree with 1); when I first heard that argument (I didn't come up with it), I had a massive moment of "that seems realy obvious, now that someone said it." With regards to 2), you're right that we do have information on Trump; I spoke without precision. What I mean is this: beliefs are informed by evidence, and we have little evidence, given the nature of the American election, of what a candidate will behave like when they aren't campaigning. I believe there's a history of president-elects moderating their stances once they take office, although I have no direct evidence to support myself there. When it comes to Islam, I should begin by saying that I'm sure the vast majority of Muslims simply want to live a decent life, just like the rest of us. However, theirs is the only religion active today that currently endorses holy war. Then observe that MAD only applies to people unwilling to sacrifice their children for their cause, and further observe that Islam, as an idea, a meme, a religion, has successfully been able to make people do exactly that. An American wouldn't launch a nuke if it would kill their children, and Russian wouldn't either. But a jihadist? From what I understand (which is admittedly not much on this topic), a jihadist just might. At least, the jihadist has a much higher probability of choosing a nuclear war over a nationalist. I agree that the West overreacts in terms of Terrorism, in the sense that any given person is more likely to die in a car accident than be killed by a terrorist, but I was referring to existential threats, a common topic on LW and one that Yudkowsky himself seems concerned wit

Yudkowsky showed laughable naivete (or he was just playing dark arts) by citing a bunch of "foreign policy experts" who were against Trump. They were against Trump because they were neocons who might have a spot in a Clinton administration but certainly not in Trump's. (People who describe themselves as "experts" implying impartiality should never be taken at face value--most of the times they are advocates rather than experts.)

Hillary Clinton's state department pushed the "Arab Spring" policies which turned the middle east an... (read more)

Those both sound pretty valid to me. We don't know what we're getting with Trump, except that it would be astonishing if it was consistency and steadiness.

This sounds like really bad news on a 'level B', and I'm pretty sure that level is real.

Real life makes Dwarf Fortress look easy. Random actions lead to 'fun'.

To veer off topic: is there an analogous historical case to "uncontrolled third-world immigration" and if so what happened?

0TheAncientGeek4yHow literally are we taking "uncontrolled"?

Well, given that his opponent has committed serious crimes, why shouldn't she be jailed? Or do you believe that ex-presidential candidates should be immune from prosecution?

Presidents shouldn't appoint special prosecutors for their political opponents. It's not their role to encourage the justice department to bring suits against political opponents.

Wait, I thought you were against nuclear proliferation.

The Iran deal that Obama did is good at preventing nuclear proliferation. Trying to stop the deal isn't good for nuclear proliferation.

The deal is... (read more)

I blocked Eliezer for gossiping too much and doing everything he can via gossip to manufacture support for his views, such as saying he knew Peter Thiel and Thiel wans't going to support Trump, I support both but he did not correct himself afaik and I blocked him because of excessively propagandizing their own views he did it to take the edge off Mr.Thiels endorsement. Julia Galef is another one that cannot stop the excessive posturing fashion show.

The situation in Syria is too important you guys, nothing else matters if we bring that one home we get our p... (read more)

2ChristianKl4yWhat makes you think that Trump hates the Saudi's? From what I have seen he decided against making a big deal about the fact that Hillary said in the Podesta emails that the Saudi's fund ISIS. Putting attention on the issue would have been good politics in the sense of raising his chances of getting elected. Not doing so, suggests that he doesn't want to alienate the Saudi's. If I missed news stories about Trump making that link, please provide links. Trump suggested it's fine to protect Saudi's if they pay. The Saudi's do pay for the weapons that get send to them. His comments about the Saudi's getting nukes are problematic. Someone who wants to oppose the Saudi's should consider it important that they don't have nukes. I don't think that the world would give a president Trump prestige even if he ends the Syrian war.
-3SanguineEmpiricist4ySalafi support will decrease tremendously no matter what you say, Syria is too important, it defeats all other concerns and is preeminent not only right now, but for history. Syria has greco-roman heritage too. Only white people would obscurantly try to say Trump is not a great candidate. They gave some random ass president prestige for destroying 3 countries and accomplishing nothing significant. My race is the race of the anti-mohammeans, and such are my metaphysical biases, that will remain this way.
1ChristianKl4ySalafi support in Syria might stop but that doesn't mean that the US doesn't still side in Yemen with the Salafi's. It doesn't mean that the US will stop the general Saudi foreign policy. Fighting Bin Ladin was also important for US foreign policy and US foreign policy did little against the Salafi's. The choice not to fight over the topic in the election is a sign of Trump not wanting to do anything to stop the Saudi's despite maybe billing them more money for the weapons we send them and billing them for having their side in Yemen. Obama got prestige for holding inspiring speeches and getting elected. His prestige on the world stage is not defined by any policy achievements. In contrast to Obama who gave the world inspiring speeches Trump scares many and therefore the world doesn't see him as prestigious.
-2ernestdezoe4yOh god , we're talking about the star of a reality show who had to decide who between Bret Michaels and Cindy Lauper would have been a better CEO for a company that doesn't exist... Also : * He went bankrupt more time than one could possibly count * Evades taxes , * Has a terrible reputation in the construction business because he doesn't pay people or unilaterally renegotiate terms * Has 3550 something law suits filled against him * Never donated a dollar to charity * Thinks Global Warming is a hoax made up by the chinese * Wants to build a 50 billion dollar wall which is a fucking joke just to channel that public money through his shady companies * Believes he's above the law and sexual assault doesn't apply to him because he's a reality show celebrity * He's as authoritarian as dictators like Putin and Qaddafi * Advocated for war crimes * Advocated for deportation * Threatened to jail his opponent * Threatened to kill journalists * Threatened to block the internet * Praised Putin for being a "strong leader" * Lies consistently * Advocated for violence against protesters * Spent 5 million dollars to have his bathroom plated in gold * Claimed that mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists * Didn't rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Europe * Made ridiculous promises of bringing back jobs which would not be brought back * Is anti trade even though even a 5 year old understands how trade advantages everyone * Wants to pull out the Paris agreement on climate change * Advocated for a proliferation of nuclear weapons * Advocated for an increased defense spending * Advocated for an upgrade of Minutemen ICBM nuclear missiles * Is a demagogue who appeals to the lowest common denominator * Praised Qatar for it's infrastructure built using slave labor * Used immigrant labor in each and every project he developed * Succeeded in bankrupting a casino * Completely destroyed a political party * Scammed people for mi

In other words, you know I'm right but don't want to admit it.

Absolutely , I would never contradict a person so in love with this guy that he'd be willing to die for him , have fun at the front while sane people stay at home

You're confusing Trump with Obama again.

No , you're the one confusing a guy who has great temperament , diplomacy skills and the ability to laugh at himself with a thin-skinned scammer con-artist whose only goal in life is to fuck the next man in the ass and get away with it (think of Trump University and all his other scams).....Who is more likely to start a war?

And where did this abundance of resources and inequality come from? Does the dirt north of the Mexican border have somehow magically generate wealth, whereas the dirt south of it tragically doesn't?

Having the most fertile soils in the entire world in the midwest , and having gargantous deposits of coal basically , also being such a large country and enjoying no customs duty or tariffs while the rest of the world had to deal with them and still deals with them today because of the political fragmentation on our planet

And yet for some reason people buil

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Ok dude whatever you say...you might want to head here you'll find many likeminded people..

I must say that it really warms my heart that there are people like you out there so that when this maniac brings us to some other useless war in the Middle East or South East Asia there would hopefully be plenty of suckers ready to enroll and go die for him so that mr.Trump would be able keep his immaculate record of never having to concede anything to the counterparty during a negotiation

The real existential risk is unclear result of elections and civil war in US.

It was real if Trump didn't win - he blackmailed not concede if lost. It still could happen in case of electoral college mess or callexit or protests go to far.

Such civil war would mean end of technological progress, or at least most beneficial part of it, like friendly AI research. Such civil war would have basically the same sides as 1861, geographically and in values.

I want to tell also if I were able to vote, I would vote against Trump, so my point was not to support Trump. My point is to help him to make his presidency be short and boring 4 years. Obama wants basically the same.

Personally I think Trump does increase the odds of human extinction occurring before the Singularity, and that stopping him should have been a priority for everyone with a voice. Basically, doing so was a really efficient way to do X-risk prevention at that time. So I don't have any problems with what S/A or yudkowsky have done whatsoever.

5skeptical_lurker4ySo... any comments on methodology?
0Luke_A_Somers4ySounds like acceptance of the Variance argument at least, possibly the first as well.
-2siIver4yWell, I agree with it. Yudkowksy and S/A both seem to view the world through the lense of "let's do everything possible to a) reach singularity and b) get singularity right" which I think is the only rational perspective based on their beliefs about singularity (and utilitarianism). The amount of value associated with the singularity makes everything else insignificant in comparison. To be perfectly honest, I think this case is straight-forward. I don't see any argument against the above that has merit.
5skeptical_lurker4yWell, I agree with that. The question is, does Trump as president increase the probability of human extinction, and why? Bear in mind that Peter Theil, who has donated a lot of money to MIRI, supports Trump, so its not as clear-cut as all the smart people being on the same side of this issue.
-4siIver4yI wrote an extensive reply, but then decided that it was too political and I guess opinionated. Here is a shorter version I think the risk of extinction definitely goes up under Trump. The two X-risks I see being affected by the president are * Climate Change * Nuclear War Trump is bad for both for obvious reasons. Moreover, the Supreme Court nominees probably have indirect consequences on c/c aswell. Note also that those can't be reversed in four years. Lastly, the argument that a Trump presidency will cause a true progressive to be elected in four years is I think sound, and it is the best argument, but it might happen anyway. Bernie Sanders got 46% of the vote with age as the most important demographic factor. Just based on math, he'd probably win in four years. The same could be true for Warren or whoever it will be.
4skeptical_lurker4yRe Climate change, I agree with Kawoomba, with the caviat that GW could provoke conflict which causes an indirect X-risk. Interestingly, the Green party candidate said Clinton is worse for nuclear war. Maybe she's wrong, but I don't think the issue is as obvious as you think it is. I though the Supreme Court dealt more with civil rights stuff. How will they affect CC?
-2siIver4yThat is not a caviat. That makes it an X-Risk. It is utterly irrelevant whether c/c leads to extinction directly or indirectly, what matters is the probability that it does in fact lead to extinction. If you want to argue that the probability is lower because it requires a longer causal chain, that would be a different point. Supreme Court: for one, it was responsible for Bush coming into office instead of Al Gore. That impacted c/c massively. I would agree that this is a scenario unlikely to happen again, and I am not an expert on Supreme Court matters, hence why I said 'maybe'. My suspicion is that, because political spectra are so heavily labeled, everything that shifts the discourse significantly also impacts every other issue. I think Stein is full of crap in that regard. I've followed her pretty closely, and my reading is that she wants to distance herself from Hillary as much as possible for political reasons, but also won't quite go as far as to claim Trump is better in general. You can always find some people who back any position. But the idea that Clinton is worse for nuclear war is frankly kind of silly. Some things don't have to be complicated. One person gets provoked by Tweets in the middle of the night and has repeatedly demonstrated ignorance about foreign policy, the other is the most establishment politician possible, and yes, the system as we have it has avoided using nukes for a long time. Sure it could have been luck, but that's not the plausible explanation. ( I would agree that the median of Clinton's foreign policy would have been more violent than that of Trump. That is backed by evidence. But that's not the question. )
2ChristianKl4yIt was luck that Vasili Arkhipov was at the submarine when the two other officials wanted to launch nuclear weapons. When that bomber crashed in the US and 3 of 4 mechanism that have to be activated for the nuclear weapon failed it was luck that not all four failed. Petrov might have acted differently.
1entirelyuseless4yThe idea that Supreme Court appointments cause existential risk is one of the most obvious examples of being mind killed that I have ever seen.
1siIver4ySo are you saying you think that in a universe with 8 years of Al Gore instead of 8 years of bush, X-risks have even odds on average? That seems very unlikely.
0entirelyuseless4yYes, I am saying I think neither Gore nor Bush nor any other president is going to make any significant difference to the probability of the human race being wiped out, as long as the probability is your reasonable subjective estimate. Also, my statement was about Supreme Court appointments, which are even less likely to make a difference. But they make a big difference to culture, which is what politics is about. That is why I said this is about being mindkilled -- bad Supreme Court justices = bad cultural effects = the worst thing in the world = existential risk.
1skeptical_lurker4yWell, its possible that e.g. Conservative judges -> ban abortion -> increased crime -> government spends more energy trying to stop crime and less on FAI reserch -> paperclips But we're into the realm of tiny minute one-in-a-million probabilities here. Altering Supreme Court appointments is not exactly the most effective way to fight x-risk by any stretch of the imagination.
1entirelyuseless4ySomething like that could happen, but someone could just as easily come up with some opposite chain of events. And saying that you could still make an overall estimate of which is more likely is no different from saying that you can choose which religion is best for Pascal's wager.
3ChristianKl4yThe Obama administration did a very poor job on global warming and the same would likely have been true for Clinton as well. There a chance that the Trump administration does better than either because it embraces nuclear energy. Peter Thiel is in Trump's transition team and sees nuclear as an important move [http://www.popsci.com/peter-thiel-goes-nuclear].
2Kawoomba4yClimate change, while potentially catastrophic, is not an x-risk. Nuclear war is only an x-risk for a subset of scenarios.
-1siIver4yI disagree.
1skeptical_lurker4yElaborate? Even with just a link?
-1siIver4yIt is very strange to me that claiming c/c is an X-risk is the position that requires explaining, rather than the opposite (as is the amount of scepsis/shading thrown at c/c on LW in general). Afaik (correct me if I'm wrong) the future of humanity institute also treats it as an X-risk, though they assign a lower probability to it than to other ones. That is my view aswell, I think c/c is likely to kill several billion people overall before we stop it, and might also lead to extinction. As for how that would happen, I imagine a sceanario of nation wide collapse, caused by mass migration due to flooding and hunger. Alternatively, it could escalate chaos and cause nukes to be used without leading to total collapse.
3skeptical_lurker4yScientific consensus is that warming under 2 degrees c could be good, warming over that is bad. Worst case scenario is that we will hit that around 2060. Many forecast the singularity as most likely to happen in the 2040s, but even if that is over optimistic, solar panels are halving in cost per watt each decade. Naively extrapolating, by 2060 solar power should be 20x cheaper, so even if the singularity is delayed we should still be able to move most of the economy onto clean energy even without subsidies long before we reach dangerous levels of warming. I certainly think that global warming is a risk we should monitor, and keep funding research into solar panels, but I really don't think it needs to be a priority.
-3obin4yThere's no such consensus. There is a consensus (which may be more political than scientific in nature) that below two degrees is somewhat safe, globally and on average (locally, not necessarily; ask the island nations of the Pacific). And my impression is that more recent research has suggested that two degrees may be worse than previously though. Naively. I think solar currently accounts for less than one percent of global energy consumption. With CO2 levels still on the rise, there's a long way to go before the world economy is rid of fossils, and we don't know if solar and other renewables can actually scale high and fast enough. There are reasons to suspect they can't. Plus, with renewables like solar, we would also need to be able to store electricity on a massive scale, and that may not be possible either. Edit: Whoah, -3 with no responses. Now I get why LessWrong shuns politics.
2ChristianKl4yI IPCC summary for policy makers doesn't say that policy makers should be worried about global warming causing human extinction. The position of treating c/c as an X-risk is either treating it as a risk with p<0.01 or it's a position of skepticism of the IPCC scientific consensus.
-1siIver4yThis doesn't match with the information I have gathered. I would hope you are right – if you are, it is at best still a simplified stance. c/c already causes chaos in some parts of the world and will continue to do so. That can and will cause interventions which adds fuel to international tensions. The narrative you are laying out seems to be possible, but there are also numerous ways in which c/c can lead to extinction.

In Egypt and Tunisia , where there was a grassroots movement to end the dictatorship yes , it turned out extremely well...the problems emerged in Lybia , where people would have not toppled Qaddafi if not for the massive western support