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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Answer
New Comment

7 Answers sorted by



Updated: 2019-12-22

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

Bootstrapping a commitment platform

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

Improving the Cause Prioritization Wiki (CPW)

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

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

Moving to Phoenix

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

Financing cryonics research

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

Doing a cryonics related PhD

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

Training a local cryonics team

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

Organizing Rationalist Olympiads

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

Simplified spelling

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

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

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

Why Phoenix? (I live in Phoenix, BTW)

Because it's near the best cryonics facility in the world: https://alcor.org, and the quality of cryopreservations for people living in Phoenix is much higher on average than remote cases (it reduces the delay to start the procedure, it avoids problems at borders, the delay to start the sub-zero cool-down is shorter, they have good relationships with nearby hospitals, they have better infrastructure, and there's more legal antecedent supporting cryonics). This summer I went to Phoenix for about a month to see how it was. I organized the first local effective altruism event: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EffectiveAltruismPhoenix/. I reached out to the LessWrong group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/317266081721112/ and the SlateStarCodex group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/slate-star-codex-phoenix . There are 4 people in the Brain Debugging Discussion Facebook group that specified living in Phoenix on their Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/groups/144017955332/local_members/ , 1 on the Effective Altruism Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/437177563005273/local_members/ , 0 on EA Hub: https://eahub.org/profiles , and 7 on the Global Transhumanist Association: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2229380549/local_members/ . IIRC, I had reached out to (some of) them as well (and probably more). I also had invited people from the cryonics community. IIRC, there was 2-3 rationalists and 3 cryonicists that showed up to the event. And maybe around 5 that were interested but couldn't make it. IIRC, there had been a few SSC events in the last 2 years, with maybe a total of something like 12 people showing up. I've also met with about 20 cryonics old-timers. Other approaches I see towards solving this problem: * do movement building once I'm Phoenix, or support other people that are interested in doing that * try to connect more with rationalists (or rationalists adjacent) that are already in Phoenix * instead of finding 75 interesting (to
6Alex K. Chen (parrot)
Climate change is causing the American southwest (and Phoenix) to warm up even faster than other places - plus the Colorado River's flow is drying up at its sources - is Phoenix even a sustainable choice 30-40 years down the line? Especially for cryopreservations? In Phoenix's favor, it is surrounded by deserts which should make use of the area's solar power, so maybe cost of electricity to cool the damn city down may not be as much of an issue as before, but I'd still worry about the constant electricity needed to cool the cryopreserved bodies throughout the year. Keep in mind that the energy required for AC increases as the square of temperature difference between inside and outside, and very few people really know how to deal with temperatures that regularly go above 120F, which could very well happen to Phoenix in 60 years. It seems that scaling laws of "removing waste heat" are such that the feedback loops are all positive as temperature further increases (eg more AC, more venting of heated air outside, more people who stay inside b/c they can't go outside, water becomes far scarcer and more expensive to import, etc)
The cryonics dewars are in buildings at the same temperature than any other businesses in Phoenix, or any other cryonics organizations in the world, pretty much. So liquid nitrogen doesn't evaporate faster than other cryonics organizations, and electricity cost to cool down the building are just as high as any businesses in Phoenix. Not a big concern.
1Alex K. Chen (parrot)
But aren't cooling costs to room temperatures higher in Phoenix than other places? (esp given the longer duration of heat?)
yes, but it's a rather small consideration
-3Alex K. Chen (parrot)
The chances of climate change making Phoenix uninhabitable >>> the changes of being cryonically revived. Keep in mind that the energy required for AC increases as the square of temperature difference between inside and outside, and very few people really know how to deal with temperatures that regularly go above 120F, which could very well happen to Phoenix in 60 years.

How would a Rationalist Olympiads event look like?

See section “Games and Exercises” of “How to Run a Successful LessWrong Meetup Group” for some ideas: https://wiki.lesswrong.com/mediawiki/images/c/ca/How_to_Run_a_Successful_Less_Wrong_Meetup_Group.pdf

Pee Doom


People at Location X and Y move to Location Z.

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

Switching from worse dating sites to something better.

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

Buying or renting an otherwise too-expensive property.

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

Switching to a new religion from Christianity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can write more specific examples upon request.

"I'll stop making political posts if >75% of my friends also agree to stop making political posts"

So, one of the things that might be tricky about a tool, where people make commitments of the form "I'll do X if Y% of people do X" is that there can be more than one fixed point. Adding the "friends" constraint adds a graph theory aspect to it. (And makes it sound like the product is going to need to be like Facebook.)

Meta: sufficient amount of people coordinating to use the same Kickstarter for Inadequate Equilibria.

Yeah... that's the ironic tragedy, huh?

Yoav Ravid


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

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

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

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

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

With the start time thing, is the idea that students basically wage a civil disobedience campaign?

2Yoav Ravid
Hmm... yeah i guess, though it will be "against" the school, not the state. also it's a democratic school, so it will probably be seen in a better light. But yeah, it brings up again the ethical issue of whether such a website should only allow action that obey the law. I think this case of civil disobedience should be allowed, but do we want all civil disobedience to be allowed? Maybe the spirit of this martin Luther king quote is right
Nod. I asked the question mostly just to clarify what you meant. But I do think it's probably necessary for the tool to ban illegal things, if only because otherwise it'll come under fire from governments. I do feel like the ideal outcome is somehow "you can use to the tool to coordinate civil disobedience but only when it's... 'good'", but I think it'd be both too hard a legal battle and also too hard to thread the needle of "not accidentally causing a bunch of weirdly bad outcomes." I do think "everyone shows up late for school every day until the policy changes" is probably fine.
The trick is, if enough people do it/do it for reasons the school's administrator approves of, they don't get in trouble.


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

Yoav Ravid


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

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

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

Anything voting related

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

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

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

So, important subquestions here are: which of these are something where, a) if the tools all existed, you would be ready right now to change your own behavior if only the tools and existed, and b) you feel like you have a network or a plan to get the relevant people on board?

It's not that I can't think of inadequate equilibria, it's that I'm not sure whether there's shovel-ready inadequate equilibria, where there's 100 - 100,000 people who'd be excited to commit and are just waiting on the tool.

Often, when you're lau... (read more)

(re voting – it may warm your heart to know there is already a collective action plan for removing the US Electoral College. One by one, some states are committing that IF 270 electoral-college-votes-worth-of-states join a contract, that all states in that contract will give all their electoral college votes to whoever wins the popular vote. See this article about Connecticut joining)
3Yoav Ravid
That's really cool. In voting thought especially on Israel (where i live). here there are 120 seats in the parliament, and there are many parties that you may vote for. when elections are over, each 1/120 of total votes gets the party a seat. But, if you don't get enough votes for at least 4 seats, you don't enter at all. So, there's is a party which is all about veganism, and it never passes entry threshold (although there are half a million vegans, which is 7-8 times enough for that). apart from it not being very well known, most people who know about don't want to vote for it cause it'll be a wasted vote. I'd be happy to vote for it if i know that a 60,000 people commit to do the same.
1Yoav Ravid
Already a vegan, but it's likely that i would be willing to make another diet change that seems reasonable if it has enough momentum. I'm already not using most platforms which an exodus from will be popular, but neither am i on an alternative, so i might join the alternative part of the movement. In my last house i had many fruit trees, would have been glad to share them. Not a scientists. Sure, I'd boycott anything that seems reasonable. Was these the answers you were looking for in the first question? Getting people on board requires campaigning, the day in which it won't will be very happy indeed. I had a few ideas for how to build it into the system, but of course it won't be enough. people who want to coordinate actions will have to put a lot of effort into it. not like in CollAction, where you might post an action, and forget about it for the rest of time. Sense we're talking about it in LessWrong, we should (at least currently) think of it as the target audience, asking what equilibria will the LW community want to change (either by itself or by campaigning), ready to put effort into it, and needing a coordinated action.

mako yass


Food delivery systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[+][comment deleted]30

Mary Chernyshenko


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

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

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

13 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Perhaps we need a list of inadequate equilibria. I've thought before it could be interesting to have some curated set of (ideally well-researched and discussed) 'hey this thing is dumb'. Things like higher education cost disease, paywalled scientific journals, first-past-the-post voting in democratic elections, etc. Even if we don't have coherent solutions yet, it would be good to be able to easily see the scope.

Great idea! it deserves its own post

Note: Several of the suggestions have been somewhat generic. That is good for general brainstorming, but I do want to clarify, I'm hoping for specific, concrete, shovel-ready actions, that you personally would do, and preferably that you credibly believe other people would do, such that the only missing ingredient is the coordination tool.

(So, "Move from Berkeley to Wisconsin" works if you actually live in Berkeley and actually think you + other rationalists should move to Wisconsin, and preferably if you actually know at least a few people who would seriously move to Wisconsin if N other people moved to Wisconsin. Whereas "Move from X to Y" sounds more like something someone might want to do, but I'm looking for things people actually want to coordinate on in 2019.

Didn't mean to pick on the Move X to Y suggestion in particular, most of the other answers so far felt similar. It was just the easiest example)

A single or small number of answers you are quite excited about, sorter by how many other people you expect to be excited about it (With estimations) would be best

I would add, that actions with 150+ people are preferable, since this is about the range where humans start having a really hard time coordinating (below that, you usually don't need a full-blown website, you can make a collective decision in easier ways)

below that, you usually don't need a full-blown website

Unless people are really far apart, don't know each other in advance, or both.

An important metric is an independent expert estimate of how likely a particular equilibrium will be shaken if there is a large-scale coordination effort, and what potential costs might be. Strikes, localized (e.g. at a Walmart store) or country-wide (an air-traffic controller strike during Reagan years) often backfire badly. An inside estimate is guaranteed to be heavily biased, and so is largely useless. So I would run any suggestion for a kickstarter like that through a payoff estimate filter.

Actually Raemon asked specifically about such possible negative outcomes here. I only point it out because I think you make a valuable point and I'd be interested to see any further discussions of it.

I was talking with a friend just tonight about how scientific journals take months to get submissions reviewed, even though most reviewers do all of the reviews at the last minute, or pass it on to their grad students.

I think academia could be significantly less stressful if everyone actually finished reviews promptly. It's very demoralizing (at least in my experience as a grad student) to pick up a paper that you thought was done months ago and have to fix it up again after it's been rejected.

But unfortunately, there's little benefit in that for the reviewers themselves. And academia seems particularly resistant to any attempts to change things.

Hmm. This doesn't seem quite like the right sort of change. I don't think reviewers procrastinate because they think everyone else procrastinate, and would change if everyone else would. I think they procrastinate for the same reasons most people do – general willpower failure or not caring.

A version of this that might work is (if there are deadlines, and they are waiting till the last minute to do the work), simply shortening the deadline.

Or if you can get a bunch of reviewers together in a room. The issue might be - if I do this fast/on time, what happens? It's still on slow/late unless everyone else also gets it done on fast/on time.

Nod. But that seems far less scalable, and meanwhile the reviewers don't actually have much incentive to even want that. I assume the benefits accrue when you can expect that if you review things more promtply, this means later you can reasonable expect a paper you submit somewhere to get reviewed more promtply.

Seems somewhat related: Liberal Radicalism: A Flexible Design For Philanthropic Matching Funds

Especially interesting because the authors are rich enough & credible enough to stand up a big project here, if they decide to.