All of Dr. Birdbrain's Comments + Replies

Academia as Company Hierarchy

I don't know enough about your situation to say anything productive. I know that the PhD journey can be confusing and stressful. I hope you are able to have constructive conversations with the profs at your PhD program.

Academia as Company Hierarchy

I wonder if it in fact provides useful orientation?

  • Sometimes people seem clueless just because we don't understand them, but that doesn't mean they are in fact clueless.
  • Does this framework actually explain how diffusion of responsibility works?
  • This framework explicitly advises ICs to slack off and try to attain "political playing cards" in an attempt to leapfrog their way into senior management. I wouldn't consider that to be a valuable form of orientation.
  • In the absence of a desire to become part of the "sociopath class", the model seems to advice ICs to
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5romeostevensit7moI think part of the issue might be you not being the target audience. My sense is that the people most helped by realpolitik explanations (of which this is a particular instance) is that they help scrupulous people who are being taken advantage of by the fake narratives of companies.
2crl8267moI suppose you aren't using his suspect definition of Clueless. But your point is potentially valid either way. It's also true that something can seem "excessively cynical, inaccurate" or "counterproductive" doesn't mean they are, in fact, excessively cynical, inaccurate, or counterproductive. The framework alone doesn't but reading the whole thing does. You can also check out some of my shortforms for some summaries. You clearly don't like his advice and certainly don't have to follow it. I have found it very helpful (at understanding some previously confusing situations and getting promoted). I'm not the only one in this thread either so I humbly suggest it might be worth updating priors on how good or bad the framework is.
5romeostevensit7moI read it as much more descriptive and less prescriptive but maybe I forgot about there being advice parts?
6rockthecasbah7moThose are some really strong critiques. The framework did do something valuable for me. I have a few professors at my PhD program who are properly clueless. I've been trying to speak straight talk to them for a while, with negative results. It just strains the relationship. After reading this, I will try some babytalk. Frame my research agenda with some woke jargon, stuff like that. Also the passage on woke talk and professors is spot on.
Academia as Company Hierarchy

It seems to me that the SCL framework is unnecessarily cynical and negative. When I look out at my company and others, the model seems neither accurate nor useful.

  • The framework suggests that an IC/loser can get promoted to senior management/sociopath by underperforming and "acquiring playing cards". I have never seen anybody get promoted from IC to senior management, much less by first underperforming. I have of course heard anecdotes of underperforming ICs that get promoted to middle management, but I have never heard of the leapfrog to senior management.
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7Hazard7moRao made his framework by combining his consulting experience with the TV show The Office. I don't believe he was trying to describe all corporations, which leaves me with the question "How would I determine which workplaces have these dynamics?" The world he describes doesn't seem incompatible with the corporate world that the book Moral Mazes depicts. I've not been in the working world long enough to have any data on what's common or normal, and haven't been at my current workplace long enough to have a sense for if it matches Rao's frame (it doesn't seem like it does). You also don't think your work place fits the bill. Have you interacted with any work places that seemed to match up? How many work places have you interacted with enough to feel confident making the judgement either way? I'm very interested to get more data points.
5crl8267moI strongly suspect you are incorrect. Having read much of Rao's work, he pretty explicitly advocates becoming more sociopathic (per his definition). One of his other books is called "Be Slightly Evil" As far as underperformers getting promoted, Luthans has published work on the difference between successful managers (defined as getting promoted) and effective managers (defined as having high performance teams). The reality is that they do very few of the same things and there is very little overlap between the two. Evidence shows that 'doing well' at work is not the best way to get to the top. []

You likely work in a well above average functioning company. The appeal of the framework is that it helps orient people who are totally bewildered by the sclerotic company culture they find themselves in by explaining key things like why the middle managers seem....well, clueless and the way diffusion of responsibility works.

A Natural Explanation of Nash Equilibria

Thanks--could you elaborate on what was fixed? I am a newbie here. Was it something I could have seen from the preview page? If so, I will be more careful to avoid creating unnecessary work for mods.

2habryka1yEvery line had a manual linebreak in it, instead of naturally wrapping when it filled the full line. Also, the tables were completely gone and you just had the contents of the cells spilled out on a single line.
A Natural Explanation of Nash Equilibria

Scott Alexander's "Meditations on Moloch" presents several examples of PD-type scenarios in which honor/conscience-style mechanisms fail. Generally, honor and conscience simply provide additive terms to the entry of the payoff matrix. These mechanisms can shift the N.E. to a different location, but don't guarantee that the resulting N.E. will not produce negative effects of other types. This post was mainly meant to provide a (hopefully) intuitive explanation of N.E.