Dan B

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Highlights from the Blackmail Debate (Robin Hanson vs Zvi Mowshowitz)

I'm not arguing for abolishing norms. You are arguing for dramatically increasing the rate of norm enforcement, and I'm arguing for keeping norm enforcement at the current level.

Above, I've provided several examples of ways that I think that increasing the rate of norm enforcement could have bad effects. Do you have some examples of ways that you think that increasing the rate of norm enforcement could have good effects?

Note that, for this purpose, we are only counting norm enforcements that are so severe that people would be willing to pay a blackmail fee to escape them. You can't say "there's a norm against littering, so increasing the rate of enforcing that norm would decrease littering" unless you have a plausible scenario in which people would get blackmailed for littering.

Highlights from the Blackmail Debate (Robin Hanson vs Zvi Mowshowitz)

For non-crime blackmail, there's a broader question about whether we should give people incentives to share information about norm-violation. I think an important question is: whose norms?

Perhaps most of society believes in ritually torturing themselves for an hour every day with electric shocks, to ward off demonic possession. Perhaps I don't believe in that. If you find out that my ritual-electric-shock chair has been mostly disabled and is running at 1% of standard power, should you have an incentive to blackmail me about that?

Perhaps I think X is a bad religion, and I spend a lot of time warning people away from it and trying to deconvert people who have joined it. Members of X are notoriously aggressive about attacking people who do this, in ways both legal and illegal. If you find out that I'm really active on the X-Is-Bad forum, should you have an incentive to blackmail me about that?

Perhaps I'm gay, or I'm in an open relationship, or I have lots of unusual sex. (The stories of Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan come to mind here.) Perhaps there are lots of socially-conservative people who would want to cancel me if they found that out. Should you have an incentive to blackmail me about that?

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I'm only aware of one non-crime activity which I think we should try to discourage, and that's cheating-on-your-spouse. But I can think of lots of examples of non-crime activities which I think we should be free to do without fear of getting blackmailed. To me, that suggests that we should have a special case for the cheating thing, and we should have the general case be that blackmail continues to be illegal.

Highlights from the Blackmail Debate (Robin Hanson vs Zvi Mowshowitz)

Let's talk about blackmail-for-non-crimes.

I'm worried that a blackmail-for-non-crime contract is weirdly hard to enforce. The blackmailer has an incentive to leak the information to their friends, so that their friends can begin separate blackmail attempts and extract more money from the blackmailee. The blackmailee has no good defense against this, but does have an incentive to murder the blackmailer to prevent the blackmailer from leaking the information (and to save money on their blackmail contract).

I'm sure there are other categories of contract which give one party an incentive to murder the other, but I'm not sure if there are other categories of contract which give such a strong incentive. I think it might be correct to outlaw blackmail contracts just to avoid situations where people have such bad incentives.

Highlights from the Blackmail Debate (Robin Hanson vs Zvi Mowshowitz)

I feel like we should make a distinction between blackmail about crimes and blackmail about non-crimes.

I don't think we should make blackmail-for-crimes legal. I think that, if someone has evidence of a crime, their incentive should be to report the crime to the police so the crime can be punished. Perhaps the police should be offering them money as a reward for reporting the crime (although we'd have to think carefully about how to do that without creating an incentive to make false reports). But I don't think we should let anyone have a monetary incentive to cover up a crime.

Types Of Online Meetups

We played this and it was fun! Thanks for the recommendation!

Lurking More Before Joining Complex Conversations

For online events, I want to try the following solution: add a text channel to the conversation.

Like, if you're watching someone have a conversation, but you feel like interrupting to say something might derail them, instead you should be able to post a text thing. The text thing appears next to your character, lasts thirty seconds, and then fades away. If people feel your thing is valuable, they can react to it and make it a part of the conversation; if they don't feel it's valuable, they can ignore it.