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Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

I think locking out anyone who might be a criminal, when you have the power to potentially stop them being a criminal and their home country doesn't, is morally negligent. (I'm your standard no-frills utilitarian; the worth of an action is decided purely by whether you satisfied people's preferences and made them happy. Forget "state's duty to the citizens", the only talk of 'duty' I really entertain is each of our duty to our fellow humans. "The White Man's Burden" is a really stupid idea because it's every human's responsibility to help out their fellow humans regardless of skin colour.) I think it doesn't matter whether you decreased or increased crime on either side of a border, since borders are neither happiness nor preferences and mean nothing to your standard no-frills utilitarian type. I just care about whether you decrease crime in total, globally.

Let me try to briefly convince you of why there should be a state's duty to citizens from a utilitarian perspective, also corresponding greater concern about internal than external crime:

1) A state resembles a form of corporate organization with its citizens as shareholders. It has special obligations by contract to those shareholders who got a stake on the assumption that they would have special rights in the corporation. Suddenly creating new stock and giving it to to non-shareholders, thereby creating new shareholders, would increase the utility of new shareholders and decrease the utility of old shareholders to roughly the same extent because there is the same amount of company being redistributed, but would have the additional negative effect of decreasing rule of law, and rule of law is a very very good thing because it lets people engage in long-term planning and live stable lives. (There is no such problem if the shareholders come together and decide to create and distribute new stock by agreement - and to translate back the metaphor, this means that immigration should be controlled by existing citizens, rather than borders being declared to "mean nothing" in general.)

2) A state is often an overlay on a nation. To cash those terms out: A governing entity with major features usually including a legal code and a geographically defined and sharply edged region of influence is often an overlay on a cluster of people grouped by social, cultural, biological, and other shared features. ("Nation" derives from those who shared a natus.) Different clusters of people have different clusters of utility functions, and should therefore live under differing legal codes, which should also be administrated by members of those clusters whom one can reasonably expect to have a particularly good understanding of how their fellow cluster-members will be happiest.

3) Particularly where not overlaid on nations, separate states function as testbeds for experiments in policy; the closest thing one has to large-scale controlled experiments in sociology. Redistributing populations across states would be akin to redistributing test subjects across trial arms. The utilitarian thing to do is therefore to instead copy the policies of the most successful nations to the least successful nations, then branch again on previously unexplored policy areas, which each state maintaining its own branch.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

No, I'm fairly confident the neoreactionaries, for whatever reason you brought them up, would happily join in the plan to strip out the objectionable bits of Pakistani culture and replace it with something better. Also, demanding more integration and acculturation from immigrants. What they probably wouldn't listen to is the apparent contradiction of saying we don't need to get rid of multiculturalism, but we do need to push a certain cultural message until it becomes universal.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

My intuitions say that specialism increases output, so we should have an all-controlling central state with specialist optimal-career-distributors and specialist psychologist day-planners who hand out schedules and to-do lists to every citizen every day which must be followed to the letter on pain of death and in which the citizens have zero say.

To me, this seems like a happy wonderful place that I would very much like to live in. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to strongly disagree.

I think there's an implicit premise or two that you may have mentally included but failed to express, running along the lines of:

The all-controlling state is run by completely benevolent beings who are devoted to their duty and never make errors.

Sans such a premise, one lazy bureaucrat cribbing his cubicle neighbor's allocations, or a sloppy one switching the numbers on two careers, can cause a hell of a lot of pain by assigning an inappropriate set of tasks for people to do. Zero say and the death penalty for disobedience then makes the pain practically irremediable. A lot of the reason for weak and ineffective government is trying to mitigate and limit government's ability to do terribly terribly wicked things, because governments are often highly skilled at doing terribly terribly wicked things, and in unique positions to do so, and can do so by minor accident. You seem to have ignored the possibility of anything going wrong when following your intuition.

Moreover, there's a second possible implicit premise:

These angels hold exactly and only the values shared by all mankind, and correct knowledge about everything.

Imagine someone with different values or beliefs in charge of that all-controlling state with the death penalty. For instance, I have previously observed that Boko Haram has a sliver of a valid point in their criticism of Western education when noting that it appears to have been a major driver in causing Western fertility rates to drop below replacement and show no sign of recovery. Obviously you can't have a wonderful future full of happy people if humans have gone extinct, therefore the Boko Haram state bans Western education on pain of death. For those already poisoned by it, such as you, you will spend your next ten years remedially bearing and rearing children and you are henceforth forbidden access to any and all reading material beyond instructions on diaper packaging. Boko Haram is confident that this is the optimal career for you and that they're maximizing the integral of human happiness over time, despite how much you may scream in the short term at the idea.

With such premises spelled out, I predict people wouldn't object to your ideal world so much as they'd object to the grossly unrealistic prospect. But without such, you're proposing a totalitarian dictatorship and triggering a hell of a lot of warning signs and heuristics and pattern-matching to slavery, tyranny, the Soviet Union, and various other terrible bad things where one party holds absolute power to tell other people how to live their life.

"But it's a benevolent dictatorship", I imagine you saying. Pull the other one, it has bells on. The neoreactionaries at least have a proposed incentive structure to encourage the dictator to be benevolent in their proposal to bring back monarchy. (TL;DR taxes go into the king's purse giving the king a long planning horizon) What have you got? Remember, you are one in seven billion people, you will almost certainly not be in charge of this all-powerful state if it's ever implemented, and when you do your safety design you should imagine it being in the hands of randoms at the least, and of enemies if you want to display caution.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

I think you missed what I see as the main point in "What they might have considered, however, was that there was no valve in their pipe. Aiming to purify the American state, they succeeded only in corrupting the American mind." Not surprising, because Moldbug (the guy quoted about the Mugwumps) is terribly long-winded and given to rhetorical flourishes. So let me try to rephrase what I see as the central objection in a format more amenable to LW:

The scientific community is not a massive repository of power, nor is it packed to the gills with masters of rhetoric. The political community consists of nothing but. If you try to run your new party by listening to the scientific community without first making the scientific community far more powerful and independent, what's likely to happen is that the political community makes a puppet of the scientific community, and then you wind up running your politics by listening to a puppet of the political community.

To give a concrete relatable figure: The US National Science Foundation receives about 7.5 billion dollars a year from the US Congress. (According to the NSF, they are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities, which suggests 30 billion federal dollars are out there just for basic research)

The more you promote "Do what the NSF says", the more Congress is going to be interested in using some of those billions of dollars to lean on the NSF and other similar organizations so that you will be promoting "Do what Congress says" at arm's remove. No overt dishonesty needs be involved. Just little things like hiring sympathetic scientists, discouraging controversial research, asking for a survey of a specific metric, etc.

Suppose you make a prediction that a law will decrease the crime rate. You pass the law. You wait a while and see. Did the crime rate go down? Well, how are you measuring crime rate? Which crimes are you counting? To take an example discussed on Less Wrong a while ago, if you use the murder rate as proxy for crime rate over the past few decades, you are going to severely undercount crime because of improvements in medical technology that make worse wounds more survivable.

Obviously you can fix this particular metric now that I've pointed it out. But can you spot and fix such issues in advance faster and better than people throwing around 30 billion dollars and with a massive vested interest in retaining policy control?

When trying to solve something like whether P=NP, you can throw more and brighter scientists at the problem and trust that the problem will remain the same. But the problem of trying to establish science-based policy, particularly when "advocating loads of funding for science", gets harder as it gets more important and you throw more people at it. This is a Red Queen's Race where you have to keep running just to stay in place, because you're not dealing with a mindless question that has an objective answer floating out there, you're dealing with an opposed social force with lots of minds and money that learns from its own mistakes and figures out how to corrupt better, and with more plausible deniability.

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I know it's at least possible to have variant names; I am legally registered in different countries by parallell names analogous to "Venice" and "Venezia".

"NRx" vs. "Prog" Assumptions: Locating the Sources of Disagreement Between Neoreactionaries and Progressives (Part 1)

And "Patriarchy/Rape culture", according to SJWs, is those high-status industries and positions which shape public opinion and public policy - roughly, the respectable press, Hollywood, the Silicon Valley, the video games industry, the Ivy League, and so on.

This is not something I have ever seen asserted, and it sounds to me as though you are drawing a false parallellism here, so I'd be curious to see which SJWs that is according to. Moldbug points to a set of organizations when he says "Cathedral", and you could taboo the word into a list starting with the NYT. The descriptions of "Patriarchy" I've heard generally point to an institutional culture + its internalization in people's heads + the structure of power relations + male default on ungendered mentions of persons, etc.

(can we say that Fox News is neoreactionary?)

No. Or at least, please don't.

From the Open Letter to Open Minded Progressives:

"Where does this idea that, if NPR is wrong, Fox News must be right, come from? They can't both be right, because they contradict each other. But couldn't they both be wrong? I don't mean slightly wrong, I don't mean each is half right and each is half wrong, I don't mean the truth is somewhere between them, I mean neither of them has any consistent relationship to reality. [...] you and I and [conservatism] agree on the subject of the international Jewish conspiracy: there is no such thing. We disagree with [nazism], which fortunately is scarce these days. This can be explained in many ways, but one of the simplest is that if Fox News stuck a swastika in its logo and told Bill O'Reilly to start raving about the Elders of Zion, its ratings would probably go down. This is what I mean by "no consistent relationship to reality." If, for whatever reason, an error is better at replicating within the conservative mind than the truth, conservatives will come to believe the error. If the truth is more adaptive, they will come to believe the truth. It's fairly easy to see how an error could make a better story than the truth on Fox News, which is why one would be ill-advised to get one's truth from that source."

NR would like to distance itself from conservatism.

The point is that both SJWs and NRs perceive their "enemy" not limited to some specific people or organizations, but as a diffused cultural element,

Imagine you're kidnapped by inconvenient plot-driving aliens and dropped off a thousand years ago in, say, the Archbishopric of Trier, an ecclesiastical principality in the 1017 Holy Roman Empire. Conditional on you being a typical LessWrongian, I'm going to guess that you would object strenuously to living in a medieval theocracy, and not just because of the low level of technological development.

In one sense your "enemy" at this point might be the Archbishop, and secondarily the Pope who can appoint a replacement if you get rid of the Archbishop. In another sense your "enemy" might be the diffused cultural element that people around you generally accept that having one theocrat appoint another theocrat to make the rules for you is an acceptable form of government.

That's sort of how the neoreactionaries feel. In one sense there are wrongful people and institutions which are running the show, but making those magically disappear wouldn't help; because of the second sense in which there's a wide consensus that those people and institutions, or at least similar sorts of people and institutions, are acceptable ways of running the show. (Now, if the NRs could somehow get control over the NYT&co for a year and set the tone, that would be a different matter.)

which is thought to somehow "brainwash" the uninitiated into not seeing the obvious Truth of the One True Ideology.

Taboo "brainwash" and let's consider 1017 Trier again. The people of 1017 Trier believe very strange things. The people of 1017 Trier do not believe random things, but consistently similar sorts of strange things -- for example, they might believe that it is evil to take a census -- partly because someone has been teaching them those things. This is a pattern which happens. NRs believe it has happened to our countries, and is still happening today.

This is similar to the religious fundamentalists preoccupation with the Devil's influence, or the militant communists preoccupation with bourgeois propaganda. In fact, it could be argued that the defining trait of radical movements is a black-and-white morality that paints themselves as the morally righteous brave knights who fight a world of corruption.

This sounds like lazy thinking, specifically, rounding to the nearest cliche. I thought Yudkowsky had a post on this, but I can't seem to find it - the thing where journalists frequently describe AI research in terms of the Matrix/Terminator movies.

Furthermore, your use of "preoccupation" etc. sounds like loaded language to me, begging the question by implying that the preoccupation (or its target) is trivial or irrelevant, but that's part of what is under debate! For example, I don't think one would say that 1944 America had a "preoccupation" with nazi propaganda.

"NRx" vs. "Prog" Assumptions: Locating the Sources of Disagreement Between Neoreactionaries and Progressives (Part 1)

"The Cathedral", according to Moldbug, is those high-status industries and positions which shape public opinion and public policy - roughly, the respectable press (i.e. not the National Enquirer), Hollywood, the Ivy League, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc. It's not a way of explaining away anything; it's an attribution of blame for how present public opinion has turned out, combined with an assertion that these information organs form a natural group (left). Somewhere between Moldbug's rants about how the big universities should be torn down and their grounds sown with salt and their professors forbidden to teach ever again, there are some statements with a bit more gravitas.

Falsifiable assertion: The New York Times and publications like it will report on (for example) the SPLC's assertions with a tone of "and we should do as the SPLC says", but will report on (for example) the Pope's assertions and the Vatican with a tone of "and isn't it strange how Catholics believe such funny things?" (Unstated premise creating relevancy: The NYT has higher status than Fox News. General form: Left-wing media outlets have higher status, and closer ties to high-status institutions, than right-wing media outlets.)

Particular example: Consider the effect noted at The Federalist where the violent treatment of one side's holy victim/martyr figure is called disgusting pointless brutality, but the violent treatment of the other side's holy victim/martyr figure is called an important moral message.

As LW has discussed, nonsense can serve as a rallying point and a signal for demonstrating group loyalty. Anyone willing to buy into a group's insane nonsense is probably going to be a devoted member of the group. NR learned and copied quite a lot from LW (in particular, More Right was spawned from Less Wrong) including this, so there's no need to explain it away. But even before LW was created, Moldbug wrote:

from the perspective of the security forces, it may be quite useful to have one or two questions for which the bad answer is true, and the good one is nonsense. Some people are just natural-born troublemakers. Others are naturally loyal. Separating the sheep from the goats gives the authorities a great way to focus on the latter.

Nonsense also gives a basis for arbitrary acts of power. Following the Principle of Explosion, once you've incorporated something nonsensical or contradictory into your ideology, you can use it to rationalize any action or outcome you want. Isn't that great for the group in power?

"NRx" vs. "Prog" Assumptions: Locating the Sources of Disagreement Between Neoreactionaries and Progressives (Part 1)

Horseshoe theory seems to me like declaring North on a compass rose to be "middle", and saying as you go further "east" or "west" around the compass, the extreme east and extreme west gradually become more similar to each other. This is a mismapping resulting from the confusion of "east" with "counterclockwise starting from north" and west likewise - to restore the analogy to its origin, I think the political axis has here gotten mixed up with some other attribute or set of attributes.

To look at it another way: I could place the horseshoe so it's quasi-centered (middled?) on anything. Suppose I center it on, for example environmentalism, and declare the sides to be ordered by religion. Then I could argue that moderation is most compatible with environmentalism, while going towards the extreme end of the "religious spectrum" leads to the two sides becoming more similar to each other than to environmentalism - but this is really a feature of antitheists and fundamentalists both being non-environmentalists, which all look alike from the environmentalist position!

"NRx" vs. "Prog" Assumptions: Locating the Sources of Disagreement Between Neoreactionaries and Progressives (Part 1)

That's like arguing that because the line between "dog" and "wolf" is socially constructed, there's no need to worry if one's chihuahua is replaced by a timber wolf, or saying that because the Greeks thought of water as a basic substance, "hydrogen" is actually a social grouping.

It's true in the trivial sense that every grouping humans refer to is in some sense a social grouping, but that doesn't alter the underlying biology. Think of it as lumpers and splitters in action - disagreements over where to draw the boundary of a group don't change the characteristics of group members.

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