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Rationality Feed: Last Month's Best Posts

Thanks, and I hope you keep doing these!

Expertise Exchange

If anyone is a multidisciplinary expert in some or most of the following: sociology, psychology, law, business, political science and economics; I'd love to reach out. I'm thinking of pursuing a post-grad after a few years of practice, where my thesis would be trying to combine/map out the relationships between those fields. Having someone to ping ideas off of would be great.

If anyone wants to ask me about Law and Economics, (mostly Canadian) legal theory and/or (Canadian) constitutional law, or behavioural economics, feel free.

Caveat: Don't consider anything I say as legal advice, everything is in an academic context.

A Developmental Framework for Rationality

Really interesting. To provide a personal data point/take, my journey started at a mix of C and D through personal introspection, reading HPMOR by happenstance one day which led me to lesswrong, which then got me started in A at the same time as I was taking a behavioral economics course.

That let me re-approach C and D with a framework more in line with what the rationality community uses since everything was ad hoc before, and I'm just currently at the point of trying to implement the automaticity in B.

Active vs Passive Distraction

Aren't most distractions ones that you can put as much or as little thought into as you want? To use your example, playing the guitar can be passive as well - just playing songs you already know or jamming along randomly/improv (assuming you have sufficient skill). Conversely, a lot of people completely shut off their brain while watching TV, or are so engrossed in the drama that they do not ruminate on whatever distress they are experiencing. I would guess that the distinction between distraction 'kinds' as you described it is not tied to the activity but to the mindset of individual.

Anecdotally, I find this especially applies to exercise/sports. When I run, I can be either deep in thought or completely engrossed in my muscle movements - it really depends on my mood.


I think you miss the point entirely with justifying some of these actions as wrong based on your own set of values instead of based on the goals and values of the person doing them. For example:

  • Being overly skeptical to demonstrate how skeptical you are

The person doing this values social signalling of skepticism more than efficiency in this particular matter

  • Always fighting for the truth, even when you’re burning more social capital than the argument is worth

The person doing this values truth more than social capital, or values the argument more than the lost social capital

  • Optimising for charitability in discussions to the point where you are consistently being exploited

The person doing this values the outcomes of being seen as consistenty charitable more than the effect of being exploited on occasion

  • Refusing to do any social signalling or ever bow to social norms to signal that you're above them

The person doing this is not doing it for signalling purposes, but because the effort to comply with social norms or signalling would take away from the spoons they have to do other things that are more important to them.

It seems to be that the "pseudo-rational" trap one should actually avoid is to apply one's own goals/values/utility functions to other people by default.

Factorio, Accelerando, Empathizing with Empires and Moderate Takeoffs

Thanks for the post, it was a viewpoint I hadn't closely considered (that a friendly but "technically unsafe" AI would be the singularity and its lack of safety would not be addressed in time due to its benefits) and is worth thinking about more.

Parable of the Faraway Manager

Sounds like a stupid manager who takes unnecessary personal risks (cooking books) for no personal gain.

Arbital postmortem

For those of us who are new to the community, can you have a writeup at the start of the explaining what Arbital is? I got to Chapter 2 in the article and I still had only a vague idea what it was (is?) and the website itself doesn't even have an 'about' page or explanation other than " Arbital is a hybrid blogging and wiki platform. "

Seeking an Outside View on Israeli Military Service

If you broaden the definition of military to include cyberwarfare in the vein of propaganda/fake news/hacking, then I think it is still a tremendously important activity. Military participation in on the ground activities - not as much. I'm personally of the view that actual ground activities now play the support role to cyber activities, rather than the other way around (Rather than try explain my views on that here, I'll just link you to the book I got that view from: War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century).

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