All of Benquo's Comments + Replies

Bureaucracies create jobs. For mechanistic details see Parkinson's Law.

Thanks, the Hadza study looks interesting. I'd have to read carefully at length to have a strong opinion on it but it seems like a good way to estimate the long-run target. I agree 16,000 is probably too much to take chronically, I've been staying below the TUL of 10,000, and expect to reduce the dosage significantly now that it's been a few years and COVID case rates are waning.

This just seems like a much vaguer way to say the same thing I did. Is there a specific claim I made that you disagree with?

As far as I can tell, the function of this kind of vagueness is to avoid weakening the official narrative. Necessarily this also involves being unhelpful to anyone trying to make sense of state-published data, Fauci's public statements, and other official and unofficial propaganda. If we have an implied disagreement, it's about whether one ought to participate in a coverup to support the dominant regime, or try to inform people about how the system works.

This generalizes to actions.

Lots of people I know, including me, take way fewer actions than is optimal because we are trying to avoid making mistakes instead of trying to get what we want. (In some cases that's just a cover story and we're actually trying to avoid revealing our location or preferences, so that we're not a target.) But in lots of contexts if you just do things, instead of trying to supervise your intentions so you only do things you've preapproved, you can get lots more done that you want to do. 

If you're worried that this is risky, y... (read more)

I'm gonna treat this as a serious question, since most of the value of engagement comes from that scenario, and ignore the vibe of "why are you so negative?".

The gains from reason, discourse, and trade are so huge that they can produce positive returns for many people even in the presence of adversarial action. If you don't see this, some suggested reading at a few levels:

Human animals want to live, i... (read more)

This is actually very inspiring. Makes me kind of want to become a video game developer or logistician instead of just another startup founder.

I'd expect trying-to-live behavior to be trying to cooperate with other instances of itself, sharing and investigating what seems like relevant info. In the ideal case info being shared would be strong evidence of its relevance and importance, and info not being shared would be evidence of its unimportance.

"Intellectually incurious and un-agent-y" about info strongly relevant to mortality risk isn't consistent with a rational-agent model of someone trying to live, and I don't see what "trying to" could mean without at least implicit reference to a rational... (read more)

In my idiolect, saying someone is "trying to X" means that, within the limits of their general agentiness and willpower and whatnot, they exert some effort in the direction of X versus not-X. Just how much depends on context.

If you take one of those people you describe as not trying to live, point a gun at them, and say "your money or your life", they will probably give you their money. If you take one of those people you say are not trying to have their friends live and tell them credibly that their friend has a deadly but reliably curable disease, they w... (read more)

But again you don't have to go outside of mainstream microeconomics to find explanations for this. Liquidity premium is one (relatively mundane) explanation, and I suspect principle-agent problem again applies here, perhaps because it's easier (less costly) for a shareholder to monitor one big company for misalignment, and for the company to institute governance measures to try to ensure alignment, than the equivalent for n smaller companies.

I would expect a liquidity premium to exist but I'd expect it to be much smaller than the size of opportunity I'm se... (read more)

A standard principle-agent problem in corporate governance is managers who prefer to hoard cash instead of returning profits to investors, with the investors not trusting the managers to use that cash in their interests (instead of the managers' own interests) in the future. (That's probably why the shares of such a company are trading at such a low multiple to its earnings that you can afford to buy them by issuing debt.) Leveraged buyout can be viewed as a solution to this problem.

I understand this argument, it would be a perfectly logical reason for som... (read more)

If you were an owner or investor of a bank, should you really prefer that lending decisions be based on the subjective judgement of loan officers? What if they decide to base their decisions in part on what maximizes their values instead of yours? E.g., demand kickbacks, make loans to their friends or allies, bias their decisions with political ideology, or just slack off when they're supposed to be interviewing the farmer's friends and neighbors.

I'd rather people investing on my behalf use objective profit-maximizing criteria, ideally with skin in the gam... (read more)

If a physicist were to spend two hours trying to explain to me how they knew that the earth was flat, I'd expect to come away from that conversation with a better understanding of the physical world or the social construction of physics knowledge, which would better help me navigate my life, even if I ended up wronger on the bottom-line answer - because that's how epistemically persuasive explanations work, they have to show an ability to win bets either more often or with less computational cost than alternative hypotheses.

Some optimizer computed by a human brain is doing it on purpose. I agree that it seems desirable to be able to coherently and nonvacuously say that this is generally not something the person wants. I tried to lay out a principled model that distinguishes between perverse and humane optimization in Civil Law and Political Drama.

Hard to predict. In my case helping organize an early distribution of masks to prisons gave me cred with a formidable formerly-incarcerated mental health care activist who's now running for NY state assembly with a credible shot of winning, and who's already helping draft state-level legislation on multiple topics of interest to me. Not how I'd pictured that working out, and not every such venture bears fruit, but I tried fewer than 10 things like that before one did.

Currently hoping to help an African immigrant I know raise funds for a cheap-remittances-a... (read more)

I guess people are mean because it moves them up in the pecking order, or prevents them from moving down, and they think it's safer to be an aggressor than a victim. Since scolding people for maybe not wearing masks is a protected behavior, they can get away with more meanness, with less discernment, than in other contexts. I don't fully understand why this gives people cover for being mean to mask-wearers in the name of pro-mask propaganda, but it seems to be the case. This seems like part of the same phenomenon: (read more)

I don't think it's necessary to believe that "the MTA really is full of moustache-twirling villains" in order to believe that sometimes they're mean to people on purpose. This is a normal thing that normal people do and doesn't require someone to be totally committed at all times to evil. The interesting problem is not that someone was mean, but that the factional imperative to be pro-mask and anti-anti-mask effectively functions to provides cover for this, so that as part of their display of factional loyalty people refuse to recognize that someone did something mean.

Sure, people can be deliberately mean without being moustache-twirling villains. But the particular kind of deliberate meanness that you seem to be hypothesizing here seems pretty moustache-twirly. Normally when people are deliberately mean to others without being moustache-twirling villains it's (1) because they particularly dislike those other people or (2) because there is some concrete benefit to them from being mean. In the present case, you're suggesting that the MTA put out advertisements that intentionally had subtexts like "hey you, mask-wearers, eat shit". Is it plausible that the MTA (or their executives, or the people running their ad campaigns) particularly dislike their customers as a whole, or specifically their customers who wear masks in order to reduce the spread of disease on the trains? Not to me. Is there some other concrete benefit the MTA (or etc.) would get from making their customers (as a whole, or etc.) feel bad? Not that I can see. What's the actual psychological process you envisage here, and why do you find it plausible?

Another instance of approximately the same error: "They are not trying to live. They are not trying to save their friends' lives. If they were, they would have picked up my message about high-dose Vitamin D". You are firmly convinced that high-dose vitamin D is plainly very helpful, but they may not be, and the reason need not be stupidity or dishonesty. E.g., Scott Alexander, at least as of December 2021, doesn't think it likely that vitamin D is useful against Covid-19; he may be right or wrong, but to me this is already conclusive evidence that it isn't

... (read more)

On what basis do you think that people who are trying to live would reliably have been exposed substantially to the idea that taking vitamin D might be very good for them? Do you e.g. mean just that they would have heard you promoting it?

My impression is that most people will not, merely because one person in their social circle is strongly convinced of something, necessarily pay much attention to it. This is probably a good thing, at least for people with large social circles, because one only has so much attention to give and many people are strongly con... (read more)

It is extremely common for university students to become "artisans" in the sense that seems relevant here. (That is: people doing a skilled job that it is possible to do well or badly and in which it is possible to do better by trying harder.) And it is extremely common for university students to intend to become "artisans" in the same sense.

Maybe Caplan is right that in fact it turns out that university education is, on balance, not helpful to people in doing their jobs. That can hardly be relevant to Lewis and his audience, back in 1944, decades before B

... (read more)
So you're suggesting that the typical university student at a goodish UK university in 1944 would, after graduating, not be in the sort of job that involves skill and that it's possible to do better or worse? I am not in possession of the sort of statistics that might enable us to decide that question, but I have to say that that seems awfully improbable to me. When Lewis gives a short list of possible post-university destinations it goes like this: " whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down ...". So he's thinking of doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, people-working-for-businesses, and universities. Obviously that second-last category is a large and varied one. Anyway: clearly medicine is a skilled profession in which one can learn and exercise greater or lesser skill. So is law. One could argue about the clergy, but I'm pretty sure Lewis felt that it was such a profession. I think it's clear that education is such a profession, though maybe Caplan would disagree. Businesses, as I say, are many and varied, but at any rate the ones I've worked in have contained a lot of people doing difficult work that could be done well or badly. University education: same remarks apply as "lower" education. Make of all that what you will. At any rate, it seems that the internal evidence of Lewis's address suggests an audience to whom his advice is not in fact inapplicable. (So does the observation that Lewis was not an idiot.) It is not clear to me how the allegedly-lamentable-in-consequences behaviour of university graduates between Lewis's time and now is relevant. Are you saying that the bad state of society now proves that university graduates in 1944 did not work in jobs where one could do a difficult job well or badly? Surely not, but then what point are you making there?

I also remark that AIUI what Caplan looks at is not education's effectiveness in helping people do better jobs, but education's effectiveness in helping people get paid more. One would hope that the two are closely related, and perhaps they are, but it seems relevant that one of Lewis's key points in the talk we are discussing is that getting paid more is often determined by things that have little to do with how good a job you do.)

I don't understand what alternative hypothesis you're advancing here. How can people afford to spend increasingly large amount... (read more)

The alternative hypothesis I am advancing is that, in some (perhaps many) cases, people seek out education because they want to know certain things or because they want to be able to do certain things, rather than because they have made an estimate of the overall effect on their finances and decided that it's positive. For instance, my own case (not because it's particularly important or particularly typical, but because I know more about it): I don't remember ever seriously considering the possibility of not going to university, I don't remember ever doing any net-financial-effect calculations, I mostly wanted to be an academic and knew academics weren't particularly well paid, and I did the degree I did because I found the subject fascinating and thought I probably wanted to work in it after graduation. This was quite a long time ago. I had more ability not to make financial calculations than (e.g.) the typical student in the present-day United States; the government of my country paid my fees, the institution I attended provided accommodation without extra charge, and my parents had no difficulty covering my living costs. It may be that in the present-day US (and to a lesser extent the present-day UK, which is where I live) the cost of going to university -- especially one of the pricier ones -- is so high that no one other than the very rich would seriously consider going without doing a careful calculation of expected financial benefit. But it wasn't true in the UK circa 1990, and neither was it true in the UK in 1944 when Lewis gave that address. And even now, if someone has the good fortune to be able to afford not to choose whether and where and how to go to university mostly on financial grounds, it seems to me that Caplan has not offered (nor tried to offer) very compelling evidence that universities don't do a good job of teaching you things that might be interesting, useful, mind-expanding, etc., unless Lewis is all wrong about "inner rings", because

Fixed the lecture link to refer to Lewis's speech instead of a Google search for it.

It seems to me like either Bryan Caplan's made some significant error, or your learning useful mathematics was pretty much independent of your schooling, or you're in the minority, offset by cases where school caused someone to become less useful.

It seems like better discursive practice for this kind of objection to lead to a full blog post criticizing The Case Against Education, than for it to just show up ad hoc when people try to take already-established claims for granted. If there's an existing critique you think I should examine, let me know.

You are focusing on something that was incidental to the point I was actually making. That point, to make it more explicit, is: It is extremely common for university students to become "artisans" in the sense that seems relevant here. (That is: people doing a skilled job that it is possible to do well or badly and in which it is possible to do better by trying harder.) And it is extremely common for university students to intend to become "artisans" in the same sense. Maybe Caplan is right that in fact it turns out that university education is, on balance, not helpful to people in doing their jobs. That can hardly be relevant to Lewis and his audience, back in 1944, decades before Bryan Caplan was even born. [EDITED to add:] Also hardly relevant to me, doing my university studies decades before Caplan wrote The case against education. And only marginally relevant even to people at university now, most of whom have not read Caplan. What matters here is whether university students are likely to become "artisans", either in reality or in their expectations or both. (On the meta-point: I do not think it is so obvious that Caplan has proved his case, that anyone suggesting that university education might have value can just be presumed to be wrong unless they write a full-length rebuttal of Caplan. Beware the man of one study, etc. I also remark that AIUI what Caplan looks at is not education's effectiveness in helping people do better jobs, but education's effectiveness in helping people get paid more. One would hope that the two are closely related, and perhaps they are, but it seems relevant that one of Lewis's key points in the talk we are discussing is that getting paid more is often determined by things that have little to do with how good a job you do.)

You'd be simply incorrect if you claim that planning and mostly-non-violent dispute resolution didn't happen in non-literate tribes, or before the Magna Carta (or before the Thracians, or before the Israelites, or pick any case you like as "the start of civil law").

I meant to assert the opposite - that what we now know as civil courts are a formalization of an investigative process that must have been happening since the beginning of descriptive language, before people had the idea of courts to refer to, and that we mainly need a distinct idea of it in ... (read more)

I mean civil as opposed to criminal. Thanks for pointing out the ambiguity.

Seems to me like many such benefits are illusory for reasons Zvi alludes to in the Moral Mazes sequence; they are purchased at the price of losing the orientation that permits economic rationality and having interests.

The benefits may not be worth it for a given individual to seek membership in a given ring, but at least some of them are NOT illusory. Also, I don't agree that one gives up one's interests or loses economic rationality in seeking to join some inner rings. In fact, I suspect there's a fair bit of variance in the costs to join, making this just another case of signaling - showing that you can afford to join an inner ring indicates that you're either quite powerful and can afford it, or that you're fairly aligned with the ring and it doesn't cost you much.

It seems like you're claiming that it's obvious on consequentialist grounds that it is immoral to rob banks. While I have not robbed any banks, I do not see how to arrive at a general conclusion to this effect under the current regime, and one of my most trusted friends may have done so at one point. But I'm not sure how to identify our crux. Can you try to explain your reasoning?

Colors were not as bright, and the world seemed less alive.

Colorblind glasses such as EnChroma provide the same "hang out in really bright sunlight without needing to squint or shade my eyes" benefits, but make colors more vivid, not less.

I eventually transitioned away from regular wearing of sunglasses when I learned to soften the muscles around my eyes enough not to need them as much, but for a while my EnChromas were really great.

How many people do you think have both of these traits?

1 Access to enough capital to execute on that plan and expect it to be positive-EV taking into account not only opportunity cost, but risk.

2 Regularly calculates the ROI on different business categories they interact with, to look for business opportunities.

Seems to me like this number is very small, most people doing this are pretty busy making loads of money, and then their kids don't execute the same strategy so it doesn't snowball intergenerationally. And the rest of the post explains why, structur... (read more)

Listing "I don't know, some other reason we haven't identified yet" as an "obvious source" can make sense as a null option, but giving it a virtus dormitiva type name is silly.

I think that Jessica has argued with some plausibility that her psychotic break was in part the result of taking aspects of the AI safety discourse more seriously and unironically than the people around her, combined with adversarial pressures and silencing. This seems like a gears-level model that might be more likely in people with a cognitive disposition correlated with psychosis.

When I got back into town and talked with Jessica, she was talking about how it might be wrong to take actions that might possibly harm others, i.e. pretty much any actions, since she might not learn fast enough for this to come out net positive. Seems likely to me that the content of Jessica's anxious perseveration was partly causally upstream of the anxious perseveration itself.

I agree that a decline in bodily organization was the main legitimate reason for concern. It seems obviously legitimate for Jessica (and me) to point out that Scott is proposing a... (read more)

By latent tendency I don't mean family history, though it's obviously correlated. I claim that there's this fact of the matter about Jess' personality, biology, etc, which is that it's easier for her to have a psychotic episode than for most people. This seems not plausibly controversial.

I'm not claiming a gears-level model here. When you see that someone has a pattern of <problem> that others in very similar situations did not have, you should assume some of the causality is located in the person, even if you don't know how.

My recollection is that at that time you were articulately expressing what seemed like a level of scrupulosity typical of many Bay Area Rationalists. You were missing enough sleep that I was worried, but you seemed oriented x3. I don't remember you talking about demons or auras at all, and have no recollection of you confusedly reifying agents who weren't there.

The main thing I'd fight if I felt fighty right now is the claim that by not listening to talk about demons and auras MIRI (or by extension me, who endorsed MIRI's decision) is impinging on her free speech.

You wrote that talking about auras and demons the way Jessica did while at MIRI should be considered a psychiatric emergency. When done by a practicing psychiatrist this is an impingement on Jessica's free speech. You wrote this in response to a post that contained the following and only the following mentions of demons or auras:

  1. During this time, I was i
... (read more)

You wrote that talking about auras and demons the way Jessica did while at MIRI should be considered a psychiatric emergency. When done by a practicing psychiatrist this is an impingement on Jessica's free speech. 

I don't think I said any talk of auras should be a psychiatric emergency, otherwise we'd have to commit half of Berkeley. I said that "in the context of her being borderline psychotic" ie including this symptom, they should have "[told] her to seek normal medical treatment". Suggesting that someone seek normal medical treatment is pretty dif... (read more)

Elsewhere, you wrote:

I was the first person to publish the accusations of harm against brent on behalf of my friend who was his ex

If the mittenscautious Tumblr or Medium account was not run by you, in what sense was this true?

I posted it to Facebook first. I was friends/roommates with Persephone, discussed the post beforehand, and offered (or she asked, maybe?) to post it publicly there to get readership so she could also preserve her anonymity. This was scary for me at the time, as afaik I'd seen no negative discussion about Brent like that, and I was new to the community and didn't know the temperature/how people would react. Walking into a new community and being the conduit for a bomb dropping on one of its members is not a comfortable experience. I don't regret it though!

B... (read more)

I believe it was Aella who first published links to the Medium posts on Twitter Facebook or other platforms, so that their existence became known.

I'm just confused - if there's agreement that MIRI isn't particularly bad about this, then this seems to mostly preclude environmental attribution and suggest personal attribution?

I've read Moral Mazes and worked a few years in the corporate world at Fannie Mae. I've also talked a lot with Jessica and others in the MIRI cluster who had psychotic breaks. It seems to me like what happens to middle managers is in some important sense even worse than a psychotic break. Jessica, Zack, and Devi seem to be able to represent their perspectives now, to be able to e... (read more)

If I try to steelman the Rationalist-Empiricist divide:

Empiricists think that arguments justifying organized violence are nonsense so we ought to ignore them, do what we like instead, and argue about math and science.

Rationalists think that arguments justifying organized violence are sketchy so we should investigate them carefully as hypotheses for how mind organizes itself in the world.

This distinction was always fake. The Wikipedia page on Rationalism begins with portraits of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Spinoza was a lens grinder who worked closely with astronomer-physicist Christiaan Huygens and wrote in his magnum opus, Ethics, that we only know about things in the world through our bodies interacting with them. It is unclear to me how it is possible for someone to be more committed to looking at the world.  The Wikipedia page on Empiricism begins with portraits of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and David Hume. Hume's An Enquiry... (read more)

That quote is metal as hell <3 It might not be actually true, or actually good advice... but it is metal as hell :-)

A non-conscious intent? What on earth does this mean?

A brain can run computations optimizing for an outcome without running the additional computations needed to represent this optimization target to itself in explicit self-models available to reflective cognition.

Robin Hanson's developed extensive, detailed sociological models that include this component. I think that the entire Overcoming Bias archives, not just Eliezer's Sequences, ought to be canonical here, both because of their intellectual merit and because most of the Sequences were originally writ... (read more)

The stronger the common interest in accurate signaling, the higher the opportunity cost of doing something else, which is sufficient for an economic differential signaling cost, though not necessarily an evolutionary one; in some cases where the expected value of honesty far exceeds the expected value of dishonesty we may still want to prevent dishonest behavior from being selected for too fast to reach the payoff.

This reply would be more interesting if it engaged with the last two paragraphs of my comment, in which I tried to develop a relevant causal hypothesis.

an organization that always listens to lawyers is being more cautious than the optimum.

Even an organization that disobeys the lawyers sometimes but never regrets not having obeyed them is being more than optimally cautious.

This phenomenological account of frame control doesn't provide a causal model precise enough for me to understand what additional question someone would be trying to answer when asking "is this person doing frame control?" aside from noticing which of the features of "frame control" they satisfy.

Some of the "red flags" seem like they could equally well point to someone fanatically committed to totally dominating others, or someone whose perspective responds to evidence but not social pressure, and many of the signs that someone is not a "frame controller" ... (read more)

I feel like I understand aella's points, but obviously it's possible that I think of something slightly different. In any case, I'd answer this as follows: The additional question is whether there's a hidden (potentially non-conscious) exploitative intent to the person's communication style, one that has a distortionary effect on susceptible people. A person fanatically committed to dominating others may not be subtle about it. If you have the sense that a person is just trying to dominate you, you may be intimidated, but you don't necessarily think "Oh this person is the kindest and most misunderstood person I've ever met, I better do everything possible to help them, OMG they are so good." Or, alternatively, you don't think "OMG this person seems so smart, perhaps misunderstood in some way, but they've got everything figured out and I can learn so much from them." As for disagreeable people: They would be disagreeable in almost all contexts. Frame controllers, by contrast, can seem very agreeable in contexts where it makes them look good, but disagreeable in contexts where it helps to erode your confidence, or where they know that your social standing is now small enough that they can allow themselves to be disagreeable towards you. FWIW, I share others' impression that some of the OP's wording is unfortunate in that it lumps together signs of disagreeableness with frame control. In my experience, there's something extremely genuine about certain highly disagreeable people. They say what they think, even if it doesn't make them friends. As Anna said in a comment (I'm paraphrasing), disagreeableness can be a costly signal that someone has integrity. If you're always disagreeable, it means you're not exerting a lot of effort on subtle social cognition that can be used for "playing the audience." It's often a massive red flag about someone's character when you see them only be disagreeable towards people they consider "unimportant" or people they're trying to ex
3Rafael Harth1y
For one, "frame control" may draw a boundary around an empirical cluster in thingspace [], in which case the question they would get evidence for is "are they also doing the other things in this cluster"? But I think the claim the post makes goes further than that. It's not just that people who do frame control thing #5 are more likely to do frame control thing #13, it's also that both may be in service of common goals. The post doesn't make it explicit what those goals are, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. (And they can exist even in cases where frame control is applied subconsciously.)

Appreciating you pointing out via those first two quotes that some of these dimensions are pointing at someone being submissive rather than sovereign+respectful (not attached to these words).

Feels weird that I missed that when I was reading the draft, actually. Bullet points 2-5 of the "someone isn't doing frame control" list still seem solid to me. On reflection, I actually think bullet 1 is actually completely misleading, because someone frame controlling can also do a bunch of these things, particularly if they have a victim energy as in Raemon's commen... (read more)

This prison study is weird but appears to show that Moderna is MUCH more effective than the other vaccines. Applying Robin Hanson's heuristic that the non-headline numbers in a study are less biased than the headline numbers, we should maybe treat this as more credible than official estimates of relative efficacy.

On somewhat further investigation (really limited here -- lets not lean too much on it) -- the Moderna boosters are half the dose of the Moderna primaries. If you believe, as I do, that the primary reason for increased Moderna efficacy in trials was due to dosing, then the reduced booster dose means that the reason I give above (higher efficacy) is no longer a relevant factor. I do think @npostavs is right that this study is likely quite confounded. Though I do still believe Moderna primary doses had reasonably better efficacy against OG covid, and in all likelihood against delta and now omicron.
Does it really show that? Looks hoplessly confounded to me:

What do you see as the main sorts of interventions CFAR was organized around? I feel like this is a "different worlds" thing where I ought to be pretty curious what the whole scene looked like to you, what it seemed like people were up to, what the important activities were, & where progress was being made (or attempted).

I think that CFAR, at least while I was there full-time from 2014 to sometime in 2016, was heavily focused on running workshops or other programs (like the alumni reunions or the MIRI Summer Fellows program). See for instance my comment here.

Most of what the organization was doing seemed to involve planning and executing workshops or other programs and teaching the existing curriculum. There were some developments and advancements to the curriculum, but they often came from the workshops or something around them (like followups) rather than a systematic de... (read more)

Specific claim: this is how to take over New York.

Didn’t work.

I think this needs to be broken up into 2 claims:

1 If we execute strategy X, we'll take over New York. 2 We can use straightforward persuasion (e.g. appeals to reason, profit motive) to get an adequate set of people to implement strategy X.

2 has been falsified decisively. The plan to recruit candidates via appealing to people's explicit incentives failed, there wasn't a good alternative, and as a result there wasn't a chance to test other parts of the plan (1).

That's important info and worth ... (read more)

This is actually completely fair. So is the other comment.

Specific claim: the only nontrivial obstacle in front of us is not being evil

This is false. Object-level stuff is actually very hard.

This seems to be conflating the question of "is it possible to construct a difficult problem?" with the question of "what's the rate-limiting problem?". If you have a specific model for how to make things much better for many people by solving a hard technical problem before making substantial progress on human alignment, I'd very much like to hear the details. If I'm persuaded I'll be interested in figuring out how to hel... (read more)

This reads like nothing new has happened in the discourse since 2011 except the development of interest in deep learning. Eliezer is still arguing with people exhibiting the same sorts of confusions he addressed in the Sequences. This seems like evidence that the "keep trying" behavior has long since hit diminishing returns relative to what I'd expect a "reorient" behavior to accomplish, e.g. more investigation into the causes of this kind of recalcitrance.

Your failure starts with summarizing everything under one single label, here we are dealing with the word “liberalism.”

This reflects an empiricist view of language which is not compatible with analytic rigor. The kind of "liberalism" undermined by info about unequal capacities (a leftist commitment to economic leveling among citizens) is only associated with the word due to contingent facts about American coalitional politics. The natural cluster in political perspectives that "liberal" was invented to represent does not entail this position. Zack Davis... (read more)

In both cases of US local and global understanding of the word, it limits the scope of the discussion to be had. Once you start categorizing actions regarding specific issues in this way, you inadvertently start drawing boundaries in relations to other issues that are related to the issue at hand. It's a failure of methods, not language. For instance, the issue of abortion is closely tied to the issue of personal beliefs, which is also tied to the beliefs and laws regarding the preservation of life. The method is merely a simplification for the political machinery that take actions on resolving these issues. US has its own local political climate, but it's not to say that when other countries use the same rhetoric for the same functions, they would be much different other than the details.

Fred Kinnan is a comparatively sympathetic character among the looter coalition, for more or less the reason you just described. I think Rand's opinion is that people like Kinnan are being locally rational & self-interested, but within a worldview that is truncated in an unprincipled way to embed a conflict theory that is in tension with his ability to recognize & extract material concessions and, if taken to its logical conclusion, involves a death wish. It doesn't seem like he's enjoying his life or really has any specific concrete intentions.

Rob... (read more)

I agree Kinnan is more sympathetic, intentionally so. Like, if everyone around is a Kinnan, you just have to be good at mechanism design, and their local selfishness will, like fluid filling a container, form something good (according to the mechanism designer). I'm saying that Kinnan doesn't kowtow to the collective in the same way; but is still a looter, is still not living up to Rand's visionary form of selfishness that loves life, and would find his way to conflict with people, if that were in his local self-interest. In other words, I'm trying to say that although dropping selfishness altogether seems more something (less value-enacting; more able to be sucked into totally ungrounded maelstroms) than being a Kinnan, still, being selfish isn't enough to avoid conflict.
I like how Stadler's arc adds a touch of real horror to the story (related to the point of the OP). Where the viewpoint characters merely sustain the regime until they decide not to, Stadler "lets the cat out of the bag" and finds himself blindsided by the regime turning genuine scientific insight to depraved ends.

This was the intent, I think; people engaged in modernistic state violence who won't listen to carefully reasoned heterodox perspectives are now scared enough to consciously notice there's some lawless violence going on, and getting worse at their jobs.

Too bad a bunch of good stuff is being interfered with too, but that's how total war works. In the short run we're less likely to have a Holocaust but maybe more likely to have famines, plagues, wildfires...

I found this account helpful in contextualizing postmodern fields. Insofar as they come from good intentions, postmodern grievance studies is a response to a society that won't pay for criticism; in the absence of epistemic trade relations or functioning civil courts, the main alternative way to make criticism ecologically sustainable is predation, in which critics expropriate from the agents being criticized, making use of the information advantage derived from possessing a valid critique.

Once you understand clearly that academic fields are not genericall... (read more)

Seems like you agree with what I actually said, and are claiming to find some implied posture objectionable, but aren't willing to criticize me explicitly enough for me or anyone else to learn from. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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