Subduing Moloch

by Teja Prabhu 1 min read14th Feb 201815 comments


If rationality is systemized winning, then the diaspora of rationalists should be the most powerful group in the world. One way to increase individual and group power is to increase cooperation among rational agents.

As a starting point, the obvious way to increase cooperation is to increase the frequency of high bandwidth communication among the agents. Imagine the existence of an app that each week would randomly pair you with another rationalist. You would converse with the person for an hour everyday (for example, you could spend 30 mins each discussing your respective days and how to optimize it). Then if you repeat the process for a year, then you would get to know 52 people. In 10 years, you would know 520 people. If you connect particularly well with someone, you can continue talking with them elsewhere after the week is over.

The purpose of this is to develop a real community of people with the shared mission of optimizing the world. This is admittedly a pretty weird idea, but once there is a sufficiently high density of edges, then the group as a whole can act as an "super-agent" when the need arises.

While the benefits of forming such a community will initially be restricted to mundane things like job references and entertainment, it can eventually be used to resolve multi-player prisoner's dilemmas of the kind described by SlateStarCodex:

Bostrom makes an offhanded reference of the possibility of a dictatorless dystopia, one that every single citizen including the leadership hates but which nevertheless endures unconquered. It’s easy enough to imagine such a state. Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person. Suppose these rules were well-enough established by tradition that everyone expected them to be enforced.
So you shock yourself for eight hours a day, because you know if you don’t everyone else will kill you, because if they don’t, everyone else will kill them, and so on. Every single citizen hates the system, but for lack of a good coordination mechanism it endures. From a god’s-eye-view, we can optimize the system to “everyone agrees to stop doing this at once”, but no one within the system is able to effect the transition without great risk to themselves.

An example might be everyone deciding that the current education system is completely broken (student debt in the US is over 1 trillion dollars) ― and having an organization, let's call it the Bayesian church fix it by supplying the coordination mechanism needed to change the system.

Much like the Catholic Church was all-powerful in the 16th century, the Bayesian Church should also end up wielding enormous power in the far future. The above thought experiment where rationalists interact with each other could be the first step towards igniting the coordination mechanism that will subdue Moloch.

I feel rather excited about this idea, please let me know what you think in the comments.