Honestly pretty disgusted with the state of the modern LW community but it's marginally better than other non-blogs so I'm still here. Sort of.

It should be possible to easily find me from the username I use here, though not vice versa, for interview reasons.

Wiki Contributions


Weighted Voting Delenda Est

The 'application process' used by Overcoming Bias back in the day, namely 'you have to send an email with your post and name', would probably be entirely sufficient. It screens out almost everyone, after all.

But in actuality, what I'd most favor would be everyone maintaining their own blog and the central repository being nothing but a blogroll. Maybe allow voting on the blogroll's ordering.

Weighted Voting Delenda Est

The point of LessWrong is to refine the art of rationality. All structure of the site should be pointed toward that goal. This structure points directly away from that goal.

Weighted Voting Delenda Est

What I see when I look is almost nothing of value which is less than five years old, and comment sections which have nothing at all of value and are complete wastes of time to read at all. And I see lackluster posts by well-known names getting tons of praise and little-to-no meaningful argument; the one which ultimately prompted this post to be written now was Anna's post about PR, which is poorly reasoned and doesn't seem to be meant to endure scrutiny.

The annual reviews are no exception; I've read partway through several, and gave up because they were far lower in quality than random blog posts from personal blogs; sample purely randomly from Zvi's archives or the SSC archives and you'll get something better than the best of the annual review nine times out of ten, and I get far more value out of an RSS subscription to a dozen 'one or two posts a year' blogs like those of Nate Soares or Jessica Taylor than the annual review has even approached.

You think that the bet on "the current culture (or the culture at the time) being healthy and being able to grow into good directions[...] seems to be going fairly well." I do not see any reason to believe this is going well. The culture has been bad since nuLW went up, and getting steadily worse; things were better when the site was old, Reddit-based, and mostly dead. The site maintainers are among the groups of people who are receiving the benefit of undeserved social proof, and this is among the significant factors responsible for this steady degradation. (Also half of the team are people who had a demonstrated history of getting this kind of dynamic badly wrong and doing the collective epistemic rationality equivalent of enthusiastically juggling subcritical uranium masses, so this outcome was predictable; I did in fact predict it.)

I also resent the characterization of my list as 'babble'; this imputes that it is a bunch of ideas thrown against the wall, rather than a considered list. It is a well-considered list, presented in long form because I don't expect any action to be taken on any of it but I know no action would be taken if all I presented was the things I thought would be sufficient.

Weighted Voting Delenda Est

Fair point. The short version is that it expands the scope of 'what is endorsed by the respected' from just the things they say themselves to the things they indicate they endorse, and this expands the scope of what social proof is affecting.

It seems obvious in my head, but I should have elaborated (and may edit it in, actually, once I have a long version).

“PR” is corrosive; “reputation” is not.

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 corrosive; “reputation” is not.

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 incoherent and impossible to act on. Ask people what the brand of <Company X> is, and you'll get even more answers than that, and you'll be lucky if any of them are coherently actionable.

And if you (generic you, not 'specifically Anna Salamon') get together a panel today - maybe your organization's board - and give them a day to hash out a definition of what 'being honorable' means for your group, you'll get an answer. But if you bring them back next year, even if you give them today's consensus then, they won't get the same answer. Even if there are no major changes in the societal zeitgeist, which is a very unsafe assumption given that the last few years have given those to us on an annual basis, you're not going to have a stable picture of your target. (Examples: #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter redux, all had significant effects on what we culturally perceive as proper conduct. It's not enough for them all to be improvements on net, though I think they are, or even enough for them all to be purely-good uncaveated improvements, which is uncertain but plausible.) Even if all the changes are improvements, society getting a better picture of the moral good, they're still substantial changes which are neither predictable in advance nor backwards-compatible.

The obvious response to this is to stick to your current best working theory of what you ought to do to behave honorably. This has several complications. Firstly, assuming you are not a sole proprietorship or a startup small enough that the founders can make decisions by consensus and directly, personally relay them to everyone else in the org, you are not all going to make the same updates. You will not have one idea of honorable conduct; even if you start with one (already difficult!), when the underlying social reality changes, you will have many different ideas of what that means. You can attempt to reach consensus, but you will not succeed in a feasible timeframe, even if you take the time to hash it out until you're satisfied you've reached consensus; Hofstadter's Law is in full force, doubly so because you don't just have to resolve your disagreements with other people but also your internal disagreements between the elephants in your brains and their riders. Secondly, you have to decide how much to apply it retroactively, and you, y'all, and y'all's backers/customers/funders/supporters/audience, will each have a different idea of how much that should apply. This is where the 'call your bluff' bit gets into it. If standards change and you change along with them, you essentially must bluff your way past the obstacle of past behavior. For things which are in retrospect egregious, you can apologize and/or make restitution and move on, but for all the judgment calls, you're not going to have the time, energy, or bandwidth to check, so you have to 80/20 it and tacitly declare that good enough. This works most of the time, but you're bluffing, and if someone watching you (either externally, e.g. customers contemplating a protest, or internally, e.g. middle manager contemplating a leak) has a large enough difference of opinion, they might call your bluff and force you to have an opinion. This downside risk here is not small, and it is rarely practical to get compact. Your audience and employees are usually not out to get you, but that could, on a limited front, change at any time. You can try to route around this - but that's just back to 'PR', examining all the ways in which your environment might start being out to get you and hedging against all of them.

If you really want to get out of the game: get tenure. Literal tenure probably works, but I primarily mean metaphorical tenure. Have a full alternative stack such that you're not beholden to anyone outside your subculture (which is smaller, more uniform, and therefore much easier to get compact against than broader society). Be independently wealthy. (Hey, it worked pretty well for the psychedelics pioneers!) Establish an extremely robust UBI that can't be interrupted by retroactive declarations of criminality or wrongthink. Secede. Take over the world. Become god. In short: make yourself immune to other people's low opinion, directed along any of the thousands of levers by which they can express it tangibly in ways that may ruin your life.

It would be better, for everyone, if it was a feasible strategy to listen to Aral Vorkosigan. But, besides being fictional and therefore poor evidence, he was the Imperial Regent of three planets. "Let your reputation fall where it will and outlive the bastards" is much more feasible advice when you have an army, a navy, an immense family fortune, and the personal loyalty of everyone of consequence in the entire planetary government. Which I do not, and I'm fairly certain no one else does either. And even if someone does, it doesn't scale.

Making Vaccine

None of that sounds like a thing most people attempting to arrange this will manage to do without exhausting some scarce resources; primarily willpower but also social capital, relationship closeness, and other fuzzy things. People on LessWrong are worse, not better, than the general population, both at weighing those costs and at bearing them.

Making Vaccine

No one said anything about a clinical trial. Emphasis added:

I could not find one research study using any of the peptides in the RADVAC white paper that found they inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection in cells,

Researching the effects in cells requires no IRB approval and publishing the results of that research as a publicly-accessible preprint is not hard. This should be fairly easy to do, for someone with access to a good lab, personal-scale funding, and motivation. I have to assume that Church et. al. have the first two, so either they don't care enough to bother, or they did but the results weren't encouraging (and either kept quiet or just unnoticed). Neither is what I'd call a 'good sign'.

Making Vaccine

20 people sequentially, over a day or two, navigating an unfamiliar kitchen, without contact with the host? Not gonna happen. Most of them, at least, are going to have substantial exposure to the host (and vice versa).

Load More