Starting today, we're replacing karma with Good Heart Tokens which can be exchanged for 1 USD each.
We've been thinking very creatively about metrics of things we care about, and we've discovered that karma is highly correlated with value.
Therefore, we're creating a token that quantifies the goodness of the people writing, and whether in their hearts they care about rationality and saving the world.
We're calling these new tokens Good Heart Tokens. And in partnership with our EA funders, we'll be paying users $1 for each token that they earn.
"The essence of any religion is a good heart [token]."
— The Dalai Lama
Voting, Leaderboards and Payment Info
Comments and posts now show you how many Good Heart Tokens they have.
(This solely applies to all new content on the site.)
At the top of LessWrong, there is now a leaderboard to show the measurement of who has the Goodest Heart. It looks like this. (No, self-votes are not counted!)
The usernames of our Goodest Hearts will be given a colorful flair throughout the entirety of their posts and comments on LessWrong.
To receive your funds, please log in and enter your payment info at lesswrong.com/payments/account.
While the form suggests using a PayPal address, you may also add an Ethereum address, or the name of a charity that you'd like us to donate it to.
Why are we doing this?
On this very day last year, we were in a dire spot.
To fund our ever-increasing costs, we were forced to move to Substack and monetize most of our content.
Several generous users subscribed at the price of 1 BTC/month, for which we will always be grateful. It turns out that Bitcoin was valued a little higher than the $13.2 we had assumed, and this funding quickly allowed us to return the site to its previous state.
Once we restored the site, we still had a huge pile of money, and we've spent the last year desperately trying to get rid of it.
In our intellectual circles, Robin Hanson has suggested making challenge coins, and Paul Christiano has suggested making impact certificates. Both are tokens that can later be exchanged for money, and whose value correlates with something we care about.
Inspired by that, we finally cracked it, and this is our plan.
...We're also hoping that this is an initial prototype that larger EA funders will jump on board to scale up!
The EA Funding Ecosystem Wants To Fund Megaprojects
"A good heart [token] is worth gold."
— King Henry IV, William Shakespeare
Effective altruism has always been core to our hearts, and this is our big step to fully bring to bear the principles of effective altruism on making LessWrong great.
The new FTX Future Fund has said:
We’re interested in directly funding blogs, Substacks, or channels on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
They've also said:
We’re particularly interested in funding massively scalable projects: projects that could scale up to productively spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
We are the best of both worlds: A blog that FTX and other funders can just pour money into. Right now we're trading $1 per Good Heart Token, but in the future we could 10x or 100x this number and possibly see linear returns in quality content!
Trends Generally Continue Trending
Paul Christiano has said:
I have a general read of history where trend extrapolation works extraordinarily well relative to other kinds of forecasting, to the extent that the best first-pass heuristic for whether a prediction is likely to be accurate is whether it's a trend extrapolation and how far in the future it is.
We agree with this position. So here is our trend-extrapolation argument, which we think has been true for many years and so will continue to be true for at least a few years.
So far it seems like higher-karma posts have been responsible for better insights about rationality and existential risk. The natural extrapolation suggests it will increase if people produce more content that gets high karma scores. Other trends are possible, but they're not probable. The prior should be that the trend continues!
However, epistemic modesty does compel me to take into account the possibility that we are wrong on this simple trend extrapolation. To remove any remaining likelihood of karma and intellectual progress becoming decoupled, we would like to ask all users participating in the Good Hearts Project to really try hard to not be swayed by any unaligned incentives (e.g. the desire to give your friends money).
Yes, We Have Taken User Feedback (GPT-10 Simulated)
We care about hearing arguments for and against our decision, so we consulted with a proprietary beta version of GPT-10 to infer what several LessWrong users would say about the potential downsides of this project. Here are some of the responses.
Eliezer Yudkowsky: "To see your own creation have its soul turned into a monster before your eyes is a curious experience."
Anna Salamon: "I can imagine a world where earnest and honest young people learn what's rewarded in this community is the most pointed nitpick possible under a post and that this might be a key factor in our inability to coordinate on preventing existential risk".
Kaj Sotala: "I am worried it would lead to the total collapse of an ecosystem I've poured my heart and soul into in the past decade".
Scott Garrabrant: "Now I can get more Good Heart tokens than Abram Demski! This is exactly what I come to LessWrong for."
Clippy: "What's the exchange rate between these tokens and paperclips?"
Quirinus Quirrell: "A thousand of your measly tokens pale in comparison to a single Quirrell point."
Zvi Mowshowitz: "I would never sell my soul for such a low price. LessWrong delenda est." (Then my computer burst into flame, which is why this post was two hours late.)
(Of course, this is only what our beta-GPT-10 simulations of these users said. The users are welcome to give their actual replies in the comment section below.)
Our EA funders have reviewed these concerns, and agree that there are risks, but think that, in the absence of anything better to do with money, it's worth trying to scale this system.
A Final Note on Why
I think the work on LessWrong matters a lot, and I'd like to see a world where these people and other people like them can devote themselves full-time to producing such work, and be financially supported when doing so.
Future Enhancement with Machine Learning
We're hoping to enhance this in the future by using machine learning on users' content to predict the karma you will get. Right now you only get Good Heart tokens after your content has been voted on, but with the right training, we expect our systems will be able to predict how many tokens you'll receive in advance.
This will initially look like people getting the money for their post at the moment of publishing. Then it will look like people getting the money when they've opened their draft and entered the title. Eventually, we hope to start paying people the moment they create their accounts.
For example, Terence Tao will create a LessWrong account, receive $10 million within seconds, and immediately retire from academia.
Good Hearts Laws
- While we're rolling it out, only votes from existing accounts will count, and only votes on new content will count. No, self-votes will not count.
- There is currently a cap of 600 Good Heart Tokens per user while we are rolling out the system.
- The minimum number of tokens to be exchanged is 25. If you don't make that many tokens, we will not take the time to process your request. (Go big or go home.)
"Together, people with good hearts [tokens] and fine minds can move the world."
— Bill Clinton
Why have "notice your surprise" day when you could instead have "publish all of your drafts" day? ;)
I have so many unpublished drafts that I hit the limit (5) of what LW allows in a day. When I hit the limit, I took the least popular one down and put up a better post instead.
With deep surprise and betrayal and regret in my heart am I forced to announce that we noticed highly suspicious voting and posting activity from three suspicious user engaging in a criminal conspiracy:
We reported this case to the Good Hearts police, who have seized all Good Heart Tokens from the three individuals, and fined them each 1000 Good Heart Tokens.
While we never thought it would come to this, we are clarifying that voting rings are not allowed, and will be met with harsh punishment.
My client acknowledges his guilt but wishes to appeal the harshness of the punishment.
My client has renounced his evil ways, and sworn to follow the straight and narrow path. As proof of his sincere remorse, he has submitted two new articles (1, 2), intending to pursue Good Hearts with honestly-written articles earning honest upvotes.
However, the severity of the fine has made it impossible for him to ever return to a normal life in society. The GH1000 penalty is as of this writing ~5 times the largest quantity of GH earned by any writer.
My client is additionally willing to delete the criminal posts, just as soon as someone tells him how to delete a draft (it's unclear to me how you can actually do this).
In the interests of clemency and rehabilitation, Your Honor, I ask that you reduce my client's penalty to a sum he can more realistically 'work off' through good deeds, rather than fining him an amount far in excess of what even the wealthiest GH-holders are able to pay.
After much careful evaluation of this counterargument, examining the value of your posts, wringing my hands, and then kinda winging it because I didn't feel like spending that much effort carefully counting up all the relevant bits of karma, I decided to set your karma to -22, and johnswentworth's to 114 (each of these are the values of your top-level posts, minus 50, which seemed like a reasonable penalty)
This isn't the last you'll see of us, Good-Hearter! You may have won a token victory, but we'll be back. Muahahahaha!
I am shocked, shocked, to find voting rings in this forum!
Your upvotes, sir.
Ah, thank you very much. Everybody out at once!
Strong-downvoted to deprive Ben Pace of money, because mwahaha.
[After thinking about this more, I changed my mind and upvoted]
Question: where can I see my Good Hearts score if I'm not currently on the leaderboard?
Assertion: lsusr appears to be setting a good example by engaging with this in good faith, posting lots of actually good stuff today. lsusr is also currently in the lead!!!
This provides actual evidence that this is actually an actual good idea (at least, a good idea for an April 1st one-shot)
If you are ALSO engaging with this in good faith, comment here to let me know. This will reduce the chance that I miss the good stuff you post today. (IE, I'll consider upvoting it in good faith.)
I'm engaging with this in good faith, tho I think my current effortpost-draft is one that I want reviewed by other people before I post it, which suggests either I should switch to a different idea that I can shoot from the hip with or just do comment-engagement instead of post-engagement today.
 Also I think we should just keep the leaderboard? I remember being pretty motivated by the 'top karma last 30 days' leaderboard to post something about once a month.
Not sure why your simulation of me didn't point this out, but it seems odd to call something a "token" and then not make it into a cryptocurrency. Maybe this was the original plan, but then you realized that launching a GoodHeartCoin would make you even richer, thus worsening the very problem you are trying to solve?
You can't just cite a Shakespeare quote as being from King Henry IV, that is two different plays you BARBARIAN. If you were trying to pander to me because King Henry IV Part 1 is my favorite play, you FAILED; you quoted from King Henry IV Part 2. Disgusting.
Next thing you know they'll be announcing on the Alignment Forum that they've founded the Ally Mint, a foundation for minting tokens to award to our allies in alignment research.
I'm curious what people think the natural exchange rate is between dollars and LW karma. Presumably it's not zero, although I think it's definitely less than $1; it takes me a lot more than $100 worth of effort to write a 100 karma post.
It's a little bit weird to think about "how much would I pay for karma", because the whole point of karma is that you can only get it through creating a specific kind of value, and if anyone could buy it then the whole system would lose it's purpose. But it feels more natural to ask "how many karma is an hour of my time worth", and then I can convert that through "how many dollars is an hour of my time worth".
Unfortunately, it's generally a lot easier to generate karma through commenting than through posting.
Once upon a time, I hear there was a 10x multiplier on post karma. 10x is a lot, but it seems pretty plausible to me that a ~3x multiplier on post karma would be good.
You could instead ask: how much would you be willing to pay for 1 karma's worth of the-sort-of-value-karma-measures?
Or perhaps: how much would the LW community altogether be willing to pay?
We could estimate the second by dividing the amount of money Scott Alexander makes on substack per month (where do I find this?) by our estimate of the monthly LW karma those articles would generate, if they appeared on LW. (100 per post??)
The value of a post grows faster than its karma. A 200 karma post is more than 2× harder to write and provides more than 2× the value of a 100 karma post. A 100 karma post is more than 2× harder to write and provides more than 2× the value of a 50 karma post.
...I actually didn't see this until now. Huh.
It's really interesting seeing the change in attitude toward low-effort asking-for-money posts. Earlier, people upvoted/put up with them; now people are actively punishing bullshit with strong downvotes. This is good for LW implementing monetary incentives in the future; we can punish Goodharters ourselves.
Finding a way for people to make money by posting good ideas is a great idea.
Saying that it should be based on the goodness of the people and how much they care is a terrible idea. Privileging goodness and caring over reason is the most well-trodden path to unreason. This is LessWrong. I go to fimfiction for rainbows and unicorns.
I think that was part of the whole "haha goodhart's law doesn't exist, making value is really easy" joke. However, it's also possible that that's... actually one of the hard-to-fake things they're looking for (along with actual competence/intelligence). See PG's Mean People Fail or Earnestness. I agree that "just give good money to good people" is a terrible idea, but there's a steelman of that which is "along with intelligence, originality, and domain expertise, being a Good Person (whatever that means) and being earnest is a really good trait in EA/LW and the world at large, and so we should try and find people who are Good and Earnest, to whatever extent that we can make sure that isn't Goodharted ."
(I somewhat expect someone at LW to respond to this saying "no, the whole goodness thing was a joke")
Literally took me until the end of the post to figure out the pun.
Can I request a 2-dimensional version of this? What if I want to distinguish between good comments and comments I agree with?
If I get negative karma do I need to pay LessWrong money
I'm worried that if I exchange my Good Heart Tokens for sordid monetary profits, this will reduce the goodness of my heart. Do the payments replace the Tokens that earn them, or does my Heart remain Good?
This is a really good start, and I look forward to the inevitable improvements in the quality of discourse. But to fully leverage the potential of this exciting new system, I think you should create a futures market so we can bet on (or against) specific individuals writing good posts in future.
Also: from now on, I vow to ignore any and all ideas that aren't supported by next-level puns.
Brilliant, and a marvelous pun.
I appear to have disappeared from the leaderboard despite my large volumes of high-quality content and justly earned Good Hearts. Is there a display bug of some kind?
I've updated the donation lottery to reflect the update to the program. Thus I'm canceling this bit of fun since it doesn't make sense after April Fools Day.
So I'm attempting to run a donation lottery off the new system, which is fun. However, it'd also be nice to end up with the Goodest Heart. I've already promised on that post to subsidize the donation lottery up to the $600 level if it turns out there's actually no money (or I just get less than $600 worth of votes). However, in the interest of getting the most internet points I can today, if at the end o... (read more)
I'm so glad that comments with pointed nitpicking of world saving ideas are getting the respect and remuneration they deserves!
That said... I think maybe you've never heard of quadratic voting, which is VERY TRENDY lately?
Based on reasoning that I can unpack if you're not smart enough to steelman my arguments and understand it for yourself, you should consider giving mere OPs the natural log of their upvotes, while giving e^upvotes good hearts for votes on comments.
The deep logic here is based on the insight that the hardest part of writing is figuring out... (read more)
Given the flood of comments that will inevitably result from this, it might be hard to get noticed and to surface the best ones to the top. So I am offering the following service: If you reply to this I guarantee that I will read your comment, and then will give you one or two upvotes (or none) depending on how insightful I consider it to be. Sadly, this only works if people get to see this comment, so it is in your best interest to upvote it. Let’s turn this into a new, better comment section!
There is an inconsistency in the formatting of (simulated) user feedback. Some are formatted as Username: "XXX", e.g.
while others are formatted as Username said "XXX", e.g.
you saw nothing
4 hours ago, I thought there was a 0% chance money would be paid out. But 3 hours ago, a discussion made me think there was a chance they would do a payout for today, and then retract the whole thing tomorrow. That made me 20% certain that money would be paid out. So between those hours, there was a linear increase in the chance of money being paid out. And as other trends are possible, but not probable, then the prior should be that the trend continues, right? So I expect this to arrive at 100% chance several hours before payout time.
Though I'm curious wh... (read more)
It's the kind of number caused by government regulation.
Wait, did people actually subscribe to the LessWrong Substack?
I've been working on setting up a TED talk at my high school, and since the beginning have been planning on asking for speakers through a post here. However, the day that we finally finished the website, and I can finally post here about it, is... when we're doing this whole GoodHeart thing. Not sure whether I should publish it today or tomorrow. (Pros: money. Cons: possibly fewer views because of everything else posted today.) What do you all think?
The link to "a dire spot" links to this post itself.
I think the strongest incentive is not the financial payout, but the desire to be on the leaderboard.
Oh no! Our Dark Conspiracy is being foiled!
Sorry in advance for an entirely too serious comment to a lighthearted post; it made me have thoughts I thought worth sharing. The whole "Karma convertibility" system is funny, but the irony feels slightly off. Society (vague term alert!) does in fact reward popular content with money. Goodhart's law is not "monetizing an economy instantly crashes it". My objections to Karma convertibility, are:
First of all, happy April Fools!! Second, taking this seriously (🙃), I predict (contingent on this not disappearing tomorrow) that this will lead to far more posts and comments than we’ve previously seen. Will those posts and comments be higher quality? …probably not, but it will look great for SEO! Overall, I’d say that the likelihood that I’ve written this entire comment just to receive some sweet sweet good heart tokens is…~1?
Heartbreaking CDT. I’ve got a Transparent Newcomb’s I’d like to sell you
Is this an April fools joke?
Do you think the Lesswrong team would lie to you‽
So, what are the actual biggest problems you've noticed with the LW karma system?
This is brilliant! Way better than the points we used at Camp Bell long ago.
I don't think this experiment could prove anything other than "it doesn't work". It's too gameable. Even if it works in the short term, that's only true for the current population. You'd change the people who join the community in the long run towards people who are willing to game the system.
I genuinely can’t tell how much of this is an April Fool joke. If all of it, it’s gone on too long now
Did anyone with >25 Good Heart Tokens get paid out at midnight last night? I'm still unsure whether this was just an April Fool's joke or not. https://manifold.markets/WilliamKiely/will-lesswrong-pay-users-1-for-each
I swear this post said payouts would go out at 11:59pm PST earlier, but that seems to be removed and I haven’t received my money yet. What gives?
oh new post
What's up with the leaderboard? Did you make a downvote worth 5$ or so, just for fun? Or what?
Created a market on Manifold to see if either today's GoodHeart system will last past today, or else if LW will try financial rewards for posting in 2022.
Any monetisation could add to the funds of an agreed /a couple of agreed just causes. This, as opposed to individual acquisition of Good Heart Tokens, seems Goodest to me:)