This is in some sense a small detail, but one important enough to be worth write-up and critique: AFAICT, “PR” is a corrupt concept, in the sense that if you try to “navigate PR concerns” about yourself / your organization / your cause area / etc., the concept will guide you toward harmful and confused actions. In contrast, if you try to safeguard your “reputation”, your “brand”, or your “honor,” I predict this will basically go fine, and will not lead you to leave a weird confused residue in yourself or others.

To explain the difference:

If I am safeguarding my “honor” (or my “reputation”, “brand”, or “good name”), there are some fixed standards that I try to be known as adhering to. For example, in Game of Thrones, the Lannisters are safeguarding their “honor” by adhering to the principle “A Lannister always pays his debts.” They take pains to adhere to a certain standard, and to be known to adhere to that standard. Many examples are more complicated than this; a gentleman of 1800 who took up a duel to defend his “honor” was usually not defending his known adherence to a single simple principle a la the Lannisters. But it was still about his visible adherence to a fixed (though not explicit) societal standard.

In contrast, if I am “managing PR concerns,” there is no fixed standards of good conduct, or of my-brand-like conduct, that I am trying to adhere to. Instead, I am trying to do a more complicated operation:

  1. Model which words or actions may cause “people” (especially media, or self-reinforcing miasma) to get upset with me;
  2. Try to speak in such a way as to not set that off.

It’s a weirder or loopier process. One that’s more prone to self-reinforcing fears of shadows, and one that somehow (I think?) tends to pull a person away from communicating anything at all. Reminiscent of “Politics and the English Language.” Not reminiscent of Strunk and White.

One way you can see the difference, is that when people think about “PR” they imagine a weird outside expertise, such that you need to have a “PR consultant” or a “media consultant” who you should nervously heed advice from. When people think about their “honor," it's more a thing they can know or choose directly, and so it is more a thing that leaves them free to communicate something.

So: simple suggestion. If, at any point, you find yourself trying to “navigate PR”, or to help some person or organization or cause area or club or whatever to “navigate PR,” see if you can instead think and speak in terms of defending your/their “honor”, “reputation”, or “good name”. And see if that doesn’t make everybody feel a bit clearer, freer, and more as though their feet are on the ground.

Related: The Inner Ring, by CS Lewis; The New York Times, by Robert Rhinehart.

New Comment
95 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

I think another way to gesture at the distinction here is whether your success criteria is process-based or outcome-based.

If you're "trying to do PR," then you're sort of hanging your hopes on a specific outcome—that people will hold you in high regard, say good things about you, etc.  This opens you up to Goodharting, and various muggings and extortions, and sort of leaves you at the mercy of the most capricious or unreasonable member of the audience.

Whereas if you're "trying to be honorable" (or some other similar thing), you're attempting to engage in methods and processes that are likely to lead to good outcomes, according to your advance predictions, and which tend to produce social standing as a positive side effect.  But you're not optimizing for the social standing, except insofar as you're contributing to a good and healthy society existing in the first place (and then slotting into it).

I see this (the thing I'm describing, which may or may not be as closely related to the thing Anna's describing as I think it is) as sort of analogous to whether you do something like follow diplomatic procedures or use NVC (process-based), or do whatever-it-takes to make sure you don't offend anybody (outcome-based).  One of these is sort of capped and finite in a way I think is important, and the other is sort of infinitely vulnerable.

PR is about managing how an antagonist could distort your words and actions to portray you in a negative light.

By contrast, for the concept of “honor” to mean anything, you have to be imagining that there’s a community of people who care about honor and approach that question with integrity. It assumes a level of charity and sophistication in the people you’re appealing to.

It assumes a level of charity and sophistication in the people you’re appealing to.

And that statement assumes you're trying to do PR instead of acting with honor. Having integrity isn't about whether you're appealing to people, but whether you're willing to stick to your principles even when they're not appealing to people.

I think the point of this article was that, the very moment you've chosen "always appealing to people" as your goal, you've already lost. (And it rather seems to point towards a reason for the current moral bankruptcy of corporations and political parties, these days.)

One overlooked complication here is the extent to which honor is still socially constructed in particular circumstances. One helpful way to frame practical ethics is to distinguish between public and private morality. Almost nobody subscribes to a value system that exists in a vacuum independent of the at least somewhat subjective influence of their social environment. Having integrity can sometimes still mean subverting one's personal morality to live up to societal standards imposed upon oneself.  To commit suicide after a sufficiently shameful act has been part of a traditional code of honor in some aspects of Japanese culture for centuries. Presumably not everyone who commits suicide in Japan out of a sense of duty and honor feels in their heart of hearts is what definitely the right choice. Yet they still feel obliged to act upon a code of honor they don't believe in the same way a soldier is still supposed to follow the orders of a commanding officer even if the soldier disagrees with them.  This mixture of what public and private morality mean for one's honor and integrity to the point people will sacrifice their lives for the sake of relatively arbitrary external societal standards points to how honor can't be so easily distinguished from PR in this way. 
That's a good thought. I certainly think that some people attack principle P with conscious intent to erode it, based on valuing V, an alternative principle W, or trying to get X from you. Standing up for P in the face of such anti-P partisans can only be done by rejecting their anti-P stance. However, people will also attack principle P for a variety of other reasons. * P is the foundation of principle Q, which they support. But anti-P propaganda has severed this link in their mind. Appealing for P on the basis of their value for Q might be more effective than a straightforward defense of P. * They actually support P, but they're surrounded by punitive anti-P partisans. You have to appeal to them by building trust that you're not an anti-P partisan. * They support P intellectually, but feel no urgency about defending it. You don't need to defend P to them, but to appeal to them by showing that P is under attack.

By contrast, for the concept of “honor” to mean anything, you have to be imagining that there’s a community of people who care about honor and approach that question with integrity. It assumes a level of charity and sophistication in the people you’re appealing to.

That sort of thing isn't guaranteed to fail, but it easily can. The worst failure mode is a kind of just world fallacy, where you assume that you must eventually get your reward, in this world or the next, for doing the "right" thing, even if no-one in this world cares about that value of "right".

There are narrow contexts in which the overwhelming purpose of PR, to the exclusion of almost any other concern, is to manage how an antagonist could distort one's words and actions to depict one in a hostile way. That's not the only good reason for PR in general.  Much of PR is about finding the right ways to best communicate what an organization is trying to do in an accurate way. Miscommunication may trigger others into fearing what one really intends to do and they anticipate needing to respond with hostility when one starts acting to achieve their stated goal. In such a case, one is antagonizing others by sending an errant signal. To minimize the rate of communication errors is only one example of another reason organizations engage in PR. 

Thanks; I find this comment helpful and interesting, like part of a puzzle.

Thanks, this is a great clarification.

I like this framing, particularly the intuition about being infinitely vulnerable. I have an entirely different frame, which seems to pull in the opposite direction somehow: PR is a set of actions; reputation is a set of relationships. * The most quintessential PR thing is a press release; a nonspecific one-to-many communication. Pile up all the press releases, interviews, and ad campaigns and you have PR. * The most quintessential reputation thing is one party in a relationship telling a third party about it. Pile up all the things people you have done business with think about how you do business, and you have a reputation. Reading what I just wrote suggests to me that my intuition is almost opposite of yours, where concern about reputation is much more about outcomes (I want everyone I do business with to feel like I did right by them) and PR is mostly sort of an organizational reflex that gets deployed whenever anyone says anything negative (issue a press release). This framing strongly suggests that PR is largely inescapable, because third parties are going to talk about and form an opinion with or without information about our relationships, and responding to that situation is a challenge.
A visual demonstration of this principle can found here

I came here to say something pretty similar to what Duncan said, but I had a different focus in mind. 

It seems like it's easier for organizations to coordinate around PR than it is for them to coordinate around honor.  People can have really deep intractable, or maybe even fundamental and faultless, disagreements about what is honorable, because what is honorable is a function of what normative principles you endorse. It's much easier to resolve disagreements about what counts as good PR. You could probably settle most disagreements about what counts as good PR using polls. 

Maybe for this reason we should expect being into PR to be a relatively stable property of organizations, while being into honor is a fragile and precious thing for an organization. 

As a counterpoint, one writer thinks that it's psychologically harder for organizations to think about PR:

A famous investigative reporter once asked me why my corporate clients were so terrible at defending themselves during controversy. I explained, “It’s not what they do. Companies make and sell stuff. They don’t fight critics for a living. And they dread the very idea of a fight. Critics criticize; it’s their entire purpose for existing; it’s what they do.”

"But the companies have all that money!” he said, exasperated.

"But their critics have you,” I said.

The conversation ended.

My point was that companies are so psychologically traumatized by the very prospect of controversy that many of the battles they may face are over before they begin. This mindset has four pillars: denial, avoidance, surrender, and expedience. It also has a basis in functional reality. In addition to the drain on financial resources, companies don’t have all day to sit around fighting issue-warriors and the “bathrobe brigade,” the diffuse army of millions who wage war on the world from their kitchen table laptops at no cost. Their critics are able to make decisions about prosecuting attacks in a fraction of

... (read more)
This is very interesting; I am going to add this to the list, but just from the quoted section I am reminded of the position that companies are too risk-averse when it comes to lawsuits, which leads to the baroque CYA verbiage which covers everything, and hospitals overpaying for malpractice insurance. The law is also a case where the company relies on experts unrelated to their core competency with an overwhelming focus on just making the bad thing go away.
Further to Kaj and Eric, this sounds like people who are in the middle of an Immoral Maze.  That's probably statistically true, because any corporation large enough to be worth attacking is probably large enough to have three layers of middle-management. Assuming that, doing 'honour' requires having goals other than power-seeking which, according to that sequence, makes one untrustworthy for the modal middle-manager, who has sacrificed everything else to it, and professionally doomed.

It's much easier to resolve disagreements about what counts as good PR.

I mostly disagree. I mean, maybe this applies in comparison to “honor” (not sure), but I don’t think it applies in comparison to “reputation” in many of the relevant senses. A person or company could reasonably wish to maintain a reputation as a maker of solid products that don’t break, or as a reliable fact-checker, or some other such specific standard. And can reasonably resolve internal disagreements about what is and isn’t likely to maintain this reputation.

If it was actually easy to resolve disagreements about PR, I suspect we wouldn’t be so spooked by it, or so prone to deferring to outside “PR consultants”.

I… my thoughts aren’t coherent enough here to let me know how to write a short comment, so I’m gonna write a long one, while noting aloud that this is a bad sign about my models here.

But: it isn’t just a matter of deferring to polls. Partly because with “bad PR” or scandals, there’s a dynamicness to the mob. It isn’t about peoples’ fixed standards or comparisons, that you could get by consulting polls. (Or just by consulting a friend or two, the way you probably do when you are faced with norma... (read more)

Modernity has made people quite averse to talking about and dealing with spirituality. I think maybe a big part of what's going on is that while PR is a material concept, honor is a spiritual concept. It deals with meaning directly rather than only indirectly. Honor matters for its own sake (or can), matters to your soul. Whereas PR can only ever matter indirectly, only as a consequence of other things. No one has PR in their soul.

That would mean that people end up avoiding thinking about and relating to things like honor and reputation because it just feels weird. It feel like the sort of thing that you're not supposed to deal with. It feels like something that science and technology have vaguely disproven.

I get how honor is a spiritual concept but don't really get how reputation is. It seems like reputation is precisely the thing PR is concerned with while it ignores honor.

This is very confusing to me when Anna in the original post talks about "reputation" "honor" and "brand" as equivalent. Reputation and brand are precisely worrying about how others think of you (PR), whereas Honor is about how you think of yourself.

9Rob Bensinger
Yeah, I'm confused about this too. I feel like the real distinction is three-way: 1. Trying to embody specific virtues; vs. 2. Trying to convince others that you embody those virtues; vs. 3. Trying to make others approve of you. Anna's original post sort of sounds like it was distinguishing 3 from 2 -- "PR" and "defending your reputation/brand" are both about optimizing what others think of you, but 2 is less corruptible because it has more content (assuming you care about the specific content of your brand/reputation, and your goal isn't just "have a positive brand/reputation"!). Duncan's reply feels more to me like it's distinguishing 3 from 1 (while noting that 2 can sometimes emerge from 1 as a side-effect, because truly possessing a virtue can help convince others that you have that virtue). I think the word "honor" encourages some sliding between 1 and 2: Anna's focus was on defending your honor, which is more of a reputation-y category-2 thing, whereas Duncan spoke of "trying to be honorable", which is a category-1 thing.

A note of caution: I think the analytic-philosophy thing I'm doing, of trying to carve things up into a precise and exhaustive set of buckets, risks picking the wrong carving and missing subtleties in the thing Anna was gesturing at in the OP.

E.g., Anna said:

If I am safeguarding my “honor” (or my “reputation”, “brand”, or “good name”), there are some fixed standards that I try to be known as adhering to. For example, in Game of Thrones, the Lannisters are safeguarding their “honor” by adhering to the principle “A Lannister always pays his debts.” They take pains to adhere to a certain standard, and to be known to adhere to that standard. Many examples are more complicated than this; a gentleman of 1800 who took up a duel to defend his “honor” was usually not defending his known adherence to a single simple principle a la the Lannisters. But it was still about his visible adherence to a fixed (though not explicit) societal standard.

I feel like this is a deep-ish paragraph that's getting at some attitude shifts that haven't yet been fully brought to consciousness in this discussion. Like, I feel like there's a sense in which US-circa-2021 PR culture and "defend my good name" culture ... (read more)

Yeah,  I was having similar thoughts.
When I read this, I thought (with my feelings, not my words) "It sounds like Rob thinks honor is a combination of virtue and reputation, but I do not think that honor is a combination of virtue and reputation." So before I go and try to write a bunch about what I think honor might be, I'd like to check: Do you think that honor is a combination of virtue and reputation? Do you think that's basically right but incomplete description of honor? Do you think that honor is some other thing entirely, which you could state? Do you not know what honor is in a way that you could state without a lot of time and effort?
5Rob Bensinger
I'd be interested to hear what you think honor is. :) I think the word 'honor' is used to point at some 'inherently good things about a person' (things related to integrity, promise-keeping, fairness, respect, grace) and also to point at some things about how others perceive you (that you're seen as having honesty, principle, dignity, etc.). I wasn't trying to precisely define 'honor', just saying that honor seemed to involve both internal-virtue-like things and reputation-like things.
That's a good point. Reputation is less naturally spiritual. I think you can experience it both ways. Imagine someone who thinks about reputation as painted on their heart. Versus someone who is is fine with trying to manipulate their reputation.
Furthe to Matt, I like this distinction.  At the cost of generalising from fiction, in "A Civil Campaign", Lois McMaster Bujold phrased it as: "Reputation is what other people know about you. Honour is what you know about yourself."  Quoted here:
5[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien
This seems true to me but also sort of a Moloch-style dynamic?  Like "yep, I agree those are the incentives, and it's too bad that that's the case."

I read this post for the first time in 2022, and I came back to it at least twice. 

What I found helpful

  • The proposed solution: I actually do come back to the “honor” frame sometimes. I have little Rob Bensinger and Anna Salamon shoulder models that remind me to act with integrity and honor. And these shoulder models are especially helpful when I’m noticing (unhelpful) concerns about social status.
  • A crisp and community-endorsed statement of the problem: It was nice to be like “oh yeah, this thing I’m experiencing is that thing that Anna Salamon calls PR.” And to be honest, it was probably helpful tobe like “oh yeah this thing I’m experiencing is that thing that Anna Salamon, the legendary wise rationalist calls PR.” Sort of ironic, I suppose. But I wouldn’t be surprised if young/new rationalists benefit a lot from seeing some high-status or high-wisdom rationalist write a post that describes a problem they experience.
    • Note that I think this also applies to many posts in Replacing Guilt & The Sequences. To have Eliezer Yudkowsky describe a problem you face not only helps you see it; it also helps you be like ah yes, that’s a real/important problem that smart/legitima
... (read more)

I have a postgraduate diploma in public relations and I was a member of the UK Chartered Institute for Public Relations for several years. I'd like to defend the honour of the public relations profession by sharing the definition used by the CIPR:

Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.

Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact. They all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with - whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations.

In today's competitive market, reputation can be a company's biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all organisation stakeholders.

Our definition of Public Relations:

Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with th

... (read more)
I appreciate you showing up to give the when-it-is-done-right perspective. To strongly oversimplify, the CIPR position appears to be that the two things contrasted in the post should really be the same thing. Question: how much penetration does the CIPR perspective have in companies in the UK (or AMEC globally)? I'm sort of operating under the assumption here that both organizations collect data on this, such that a "X% of public companies and government agencies successfully practice AMEC principles" or similar number is available.
Thanks Ryan. I wouldn't say they're the same thing. Reputation is an asset (similar to social capital). Public relations is the work you do to increase the value of that asset. I'm not aware of any data on how many organisations have adopted the framework I'm afraid. My very rough hypothesis is that the bigger the organization, the more likely they are to be using a framework along these lines.  I did find this quote from the Executive Director of Government Communications in the UK:


I think "PR-focus distorts good thinking and clear communication" is a fairly widespread problem. Somehow PR makes people anxious, and focusing on it tends to result in people engaging in weird social games at the expense of engaging or communicating directly about reality.

I'm curating this partly because Anna's suggestion of "replace 'PR' with 'defend honor'" seems like an interesting suggestion, which might directly help people who are currently PR focused. And partly because addressing the problem somehow seems fairly important, and several comments here seem fruitful to me for further exploring the issue.

I'm gonna try to 'defend my honor' more. And 'the honor of LessWrong'.

I feel mixed about this. 

My guess is that Anna means something fairly specific by "honor", but there are many cases of people using honor or similar abstractions to justify some really terrible things (lots of violence, for example). So if you were to tell most people to "maximize honor instead of do PR", I could see this going quite poorly.

For one thing, for many people, in many important situations, "not saying anything at all" is a really good thing. Think of prisoners who don't plead the fifth, or many other legal cases or otherwise. Arguably Trump and Elon Musk have been fairly damaging on Twitter to themselves.

I think a lot of PR professionals are quite bad, but this is true for most professions. I imagine in a lot of (good) cases their advice is "don't say really stupid stuff", and much of the time their clients really could use hearing that. 

What are some examples of good PR that’s reputation-like and bad PR that’s not? It’d be interesting to analyze a failed high-budget public PR campaign.

What do you think of this article by Holden:

Holden seems rather concerned with PR to me. The article explicitly supports your claim that 'PR concerns' push people towards not communicating at all. But it seems like Holden has quite good reasons to communicate less openly. 

To be honest I am not sure what exactly is being advised. It seems important in many contexts to avoid angering the wrong people. Maintaining 'good PR' is a valuable instrumental goal. To wh... (read more)

To be honest I am not sure what exactly is being advised.

I am basically advising that you treat the concept of PR, and the word “PR”, the way you would treat a skilled but incredibly sleazy used car salesman. You may sometimes wish to deal with him anyway, if you can’t practically locate any other way to buy a car. But you’ll want to be very very alert to what’s being slipped into “your” “beliefs”, while you do so.

Sort of like if you were using a concept from Scientology to navigate a personal psychological issue.

Do you think trying to be 'honorable' will suffice to avoid bad outcomes?

I think that attention to “honor”, “reputation”, “brand”, etc. will get us most but not all of what we might hope for from PR, and including some things that PR itself won’t give, such as some kinds of longer-term freedom, grounding, and ability to think.

I would advise using this concept first (just, very simply, substituting the word “reputational concerns” for “PR concerns” in conversations, and seeing where this substitution gets you).

I don’t think it’ll do everything PR would do. And I’m not saying you should never care about the residual (although I am saying that the sleazy car salesman may have tricked us into sometimes thinking the residual matters more than it does).


Nice distinction! this feels connected to simulacra. people who try to safeguard their honor tend to do that even privately, at least to an extent. that no one sees them and no one will know isn't a good reason to do something they consider dishonorable. they don't just try to seem honorable, they try to be honorable. they're on level 1.

People who safeguard their PR are on level 2 (or higher). They pretend to be honorable, or keep a good name, but as Duncan said, are focused on the outcome "People think good of me" and not on the process of actually being ... (read more)

I thought that as I was reading this, but came to different conclusions. I see a focus on honour and reputation as a level 3 concern, while a focus on PR is a level 4 one.
2Yoav Ravid
Interesting. What would the level 2 and level 1 of that then?
There isn't really a level 1; caring what other people think is exactly what level 1 is not about. Level 2 would involve some sort of lying to level-1 people, but since there isn't really a level 1 in this context, there isn't really a level 2 either. Although I think PR vs honor fits into level 3/4 best, it still doesn't seem like quite a perfect fit to simulacra in general. PR is a clean fit to simulacrum 4, but honor doesn't quite fit right in the simulacrum framework; it has elements of both "actually doing the thing" (i.e. level 1) and "making sure that other people know you're actually doing the thing" (i.e. level 3).
5Yoav Ravid
Yeah, i guess what i thought of is the type of honor that you adhere to for yourself, even if no one else knows. but that's not exactly what the post talks about.
That sort of honour is probably level 1.
2Yoav Ravid
Maybe that's integrity, or something like that.

I think this distinction is largely illusory. There's a continuum from less real standards (PR, brand) to more real ones (contract law, keeping promises), but it's all fragile, sometimes extremely so, and rests on the assumption that the societal conception of what those standards means won't change underneath you, and/or, in many cases, on the assumption that no one will call your bluff.

What is honor? Ask five people and you'll get at least three answers. What is ethical behavior? Ask five people and you'll get at least five answers, half of which will be... (read more)

Another way to separate these two concepts is whether you're trying to hold yourself to an internal or external standard. This is captured by this Lois McMaster Bujold quote (though she uses "reputation" where you might use "PR"):

Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will.

To me, internal vs. external seems like the more crucial distinction than "fixed standard" (reputation) vs. "modelled reactions" (PR) that you describe in the post.

Heh, I wrote a very long comment and then ended it with "it would be nice if we could be Aral Vorkosigan". It's certainly a good concept, but my objection here is that, unlike the speaker of that quote, we do not: * control an army and navy, which can be used either directly to suppress the consequences of a very bad reputation or indirectly to merely suggest that we could and you therefore ought to be reluctant to act on your low opinion unless you have a very good reason * have a substantial family fortune to fall back on if we are unable or unwilling to use that bludgeon and can no longer rely on ever receiving resources from anyone else * have close bonds of personal/filial loyalty with everyone of any importance in the government, such that even if society judged your reputation sufficiently unforgivable, the chances of having our resources forcibly taken away are nil In short, it's not something that works unless no one has power over you. Everyone has someone who has power over them.

PR is something that can be done to you as in negative PR. There is no negative reputation, or negative honor, there is only slander.

My dictionary has "dishonor" in it, as both a noun and a verb.

But dishonor is rarely used in its transitive meaning. It is difficult to reduce someone's honor by dishonoring somebody, only your own honor can be dishonored by you.
I find this idea shocking. Could you talk a bit more about your thoughts here? By way of examples, how would you describe any the following: * The reputation of Exxon-Mobile or BP for environmental practices? * The reputation of the National Enquirer for news? * The reputation of the Soviet Union for free expression? Relating to honor specifically, what are your thoughts on shame?
All your examples point to self-inflicted reputation loss. I am talking about reputation loss inflicted from outside. Here is my counter-example: Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis, the inventor of hand hygiene in medical (specifically OBGYN) practice. He was reviled and ridiculed and driven insane by the medical establishment of Vienne. 
Aha; I failed to parse the second sentence in light of the first, and mistook them for an independent claim. Confusion resolved!

I like this for the idea of distinguishing between what is real (how we behave) vs what is perceived (other people's judgment of how we are behaving). It helped me see that rather than focusing on making other people happy or seeking their approval, I should instead focus on what I believe I should do (e.g. what kinds of behaviour create value in the world) and measure myself accordingly. My beliefs may be wrong, but feedback from reality is far more objective and consistent than things like social approval, so it's a much saner goal. And more importantly,... (read more)

At quick glance it seems just a slightly more complicated example of always telling the truth (a la Kant) VS lying strategically. But lying can be useful. Likewise PR can be useful.

I'm not sure how I feel about this post. 

Here are three different things I took it to mean:

  1. There are two different algorithms you might want to follow. One is "uphold a specific standard that you care about meeting". The other is "Avoiding making people upset (more generally)." The first algorithm is bounded, the second algorithm is unbounded, and requires you to model other people.
  2. You might call the first algorithm "Uphold honor" and the second algorithm "Manage PR concerns", and using those names is probably a better intuition-guide.
  3. The "Avoiding ma
... (read more)

Interesting post. I notice PR here being used in a mostly "avoid negative" way, and while I get why, I feel like it's just one side of the coin... and the comparison to adhering to honor doesn't quite capture the full thing either.

One of the ongoing struggles I write the protagonist in Pokemon: The Origin of Species as having with some of the others is that they grew up the children of famous people and so are immersed in a worldview in which PR is a good and important thing, while he did not and so it seems intrinsically dishonest or "slimy" to think in w... (read more)

Pardon if I am misremembering, but did you just change the title of this post from "honor" to "reputation'?

'Honor' seems much more evocative to me than 'reputation', so I'm a bit dissatisfied by the change.

Nope, haven't changed it since publication.

Yes! Reputation/Honor vs. PR management is the difference between being known for adhering to good principles/values/standards of ethical conduct especially in difficult situations and makes amends when neccasary vs. the effort made to maintain one's image and appearance of doing so while not operating from one's stated principles/values/standards of ethical conduct and/or violating these by engaging in PR efforts that are in and of themselves dishonest and unethical. 

This brings up the concept of theory of mind for me, especially when thinking about how this applies differently to individual people, to positions/roles in society, and e.g. to corporations. In particular, I would need to have a theory of mind of an entity to ascribe "honor" to it and expect it to uphold it.

A person can convince me that their mind is built around values or principles and I can reasonably trust them to uphold them in the future more likely than not. I believe that for humans, pretending is usually difficult or at least costly.

What a corpor... (read more)

2Tomáš Gavenčiak
Side-remark: Individual positions and roles in society seem to hold a middle ground here: When dealing with a concrete person who holds some authority (imagine a grant maker, a clerk, a supervisor, ...), modelling them internally as a person or as an institution brings up different expectations of motivations and values - the person may have virtues and honor where I would expect the institution to have rules and possibly culture (where principles may be a solid part of the rules or culture, but that feels somewhat less common, weaker or more prone to Goodharting as PR; I may be confused here, though).

Downvoting your comment for being low-quality is not the same as blocking it. 

I was talking about an off-site interaction, not a downvote on here.
Then it has no reason to be in this this thread. Generally, if someone wants Anna Salamon to spend time interacting with them and she doesn't think it's worthwhile to spend that time, blocking them  when they use private channels seems very reasonable.

FYI: The link to "The New York Times," by Robert Rhinehart, appears to be broken.  I tried for a few minutes, but didn't find an alternate.

The concept of PR of course is to make something popular. But I would not say that it is a bad thing. Maybe it is more about the way how to use it. And, of course, who's using it.  Even though most of it is to show, or better to say, persuade other people to do something that other people want, or to be someone like other people tell you. But much of the good stuff I found, was because I saw it in ads or SM. In Germany, I was looking for an office to rent. If it wasn't for good PR, I would not find this Büro Stuttgart on the web, and this way, would n... (read more)

Thanks for sharing! This reminds me of a similar post I recently read on Commonplace.

One way I interpreted it is that our reputation is a second order effect of our actions - we cannot control it directly. Your insight about "honor" or "principles" such as "A Lannister always pays his debts" might be a valid to try to approach and communicate what we want our reputation to be and what actions we are taking to get there.