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lionhearted's Comments

Why Science is slowing down, Universities and Maslow's hierarchy of needs


>I have a low prior they will show anything else other than "University is indeed confounded by IQ and/or IQ + income in money earning potential"

Probably also confounded by...

Networks (if you inherited a lot of social connections from your upbringing, university is less useful);

Exposure to certain types of ideas (we take the scientific method and "De Omnibus Dubitandum" for granted but there's people that only get these ideas first at university);

And most interestingly, whether particular institutions are good at helping students on rare habit formation (eg, MIT seems almost uniquely exceptional at inculcating "tinker with things quickly once you get an early understanding of them").

Actually, that last point — rare habit formation — might be where the lower Maslow's Hierarchy and higher Maslow's Hierarchy needs could meet each other. Alas, this seems an underexplored area that's arguably going in the wrong direction at many institutions...

Exercises in Comprehensive Information Gathering

Makes sense. This is probably worth a top level post? —

>People haven't had much time to figure out how to get lots of value out of the internet, and this is one example which I expect will become more popular over time.

Sounds obvious when put like that, but I think — as you implied — a lot of people haven't thought about it yet.

Exercises in Comprehensive Information Gathering

Ahh, great question.

I think eventually patterns start to emerge — so eventually, you start reading about federalization of Chinese Law and you're "ah, this is like German Unification with a few key differences."

While you do find rare outliers — the Ottoman legal system continues to fascinate me ( ) — you eventually find that there's only a few major ways that legal systems have been formulated at larger modern country scales than earlier local scales.

Science, art, and sport are also ones I've delved into incidentally. And there's also some patterns there.

Exercises in Comprehensive Information Gathering

Phenomenal post.

I've done similarly. It's actually remarkable how little time it takes to overview the history of breakthroughs in a sub-field, or all the political and military leaders of an obscure country during a particular era, or the history of laws and regulations of a a particular field.

Question to muse over —

Given how inexpensive and useful it is to do this, why do so few people it?

Why Science is slowing down, Universities and Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Apprenticeship seems promising to me. It's died out in most of the world, but there's still formal apprenticeship programs in Germany that seem to work pretty well.

Also, it's a surprisingly common position among very successful people I know that young people would benefit from 2 years of national service after high school. It wouldn't have to be military service — it could be environmental conservation, poverty relief, Peace Corps type activities, etc.

We actually have reasonable control groups for this both in countries with mandatory national service and the Mormon Church, whom the majority of their members go on a 2-year mission. I haven't looked at hard numbers or anything, but my sense is that both countries with national service and Mormons tend to be more successful than similar cohorts that don't undergo such experiences.

Why Science is slowing down, Universities and Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Great post.

To one small point:

>After all there’s a surprising lack of studies (aka 0 that I could find, and I dug for them a lot) with titles around the lines of “Economic value of university degree when controlling for IQ, time lost and student debt”.

I'm reminded of Upton Sinclair's quote,

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

The Road to Mazedom

Just tracing the edges of hard problems is huge progress to solving them. Respect.

The Road to Mazedom

Two thoughts.

First, small technical feedback — do you think there's some classification of these factors, however narrow or broad, that could be sub-headlines?

For instance, #24 and #29 seem to be similar things:

#24 As the overall maze level rises, mazes gain a competitive advantage over non-mazes. 

#29 As maze levels rise, mazes take control of more and more of an economy and people’s lives.

As do #27 and #28:

#27: Mazes have reason to and do obscure that they are mazes, and to obscure the nature of mazes and maze behaviors. This allows them to avoid being attacked or shunned by those who retain enough conventional not-reversed values that they would recoil in horror from such behaviors if they understood them, and potentially fight back against mazes or to lower maze levels. The maze embracing individuals also take advantage of those who do not know of the maze nature. It is easy to see why the organizations described in Moral Mazes would prefer people not read the book Moral Mazes. 

#28: Simultaneously with pretending to the outside not to be mazes, those within them will claim if challenged that everybody knows they are mazes and how mazes work.

While it's hard to pin down exactly what the categories would be, It seems that the first cluster is about something like feedback loops and the second culture is about something like deceit, self-deceit, etc.

The categories could even be very broad like "Inherent Biases", "Incentives and Rewards", "Feedback Loops", etc. Or could be narrower. But it's difficult to follow a list of 37 propositions, some of which are relatively simple and self-contained and others are synthesis, conclusion, and extrapolation of previous points.

Ok, second thought —

This is all largely written from the point of view of how bad these things are as a participant. I bet it'd be interesting to flip the viewpoint and analysis and explore it from the view of a leader/executive/etc who was trying to forestall these effects.

For instance, your #4 seems important:

#4: Middle management performance is inherently difficult to assess. Maze behaviors systematically compound this problem. They strip away points of differentiation beyond loyalty to the maze and willingness to sacrifice one’s self on its behalf, plus politics. Information and records are destroyed. Belief in the possibility of differentiation in skill level, or of object-level value creation, is destroyed.

Ok, granted middle management performance is inherently difficult to assess.

So uhh, how do we solve that? Thoughts? Pointing out that this is a crummy equilibrium can certainly help inspire people to notice and avoid participating in it, but y'know, we've got institutions and we'll probably have institutions for forever-ish, coordination is hard, etc etc, so do you have thoughts on surmounting the technical problems here? Not the runaway feedback loops — or those, too, sure — but the inherent hard problem of assessing middle management performance?

In Defense of the Arms Races… that End Arms Races
So if an arms race is good or not basically depends on if the “good guys” are going to win (and remain good guys).

Quick thought — it's not apples and apples, but it might be worth investigating which fields hegemony works well in, and which fields checks and balances works well in:

There's also the question with AGI of what we're more scared of — one country or organization dominating the world, or an early pioneer in AGI doing a lot of damage by accident?

#2 scares me more than #1. You need to create exactly one resource-commandeering positive feedback loop without an off switch to destroy the world, among other things.

Firming Up Not-Lying Around Its Edge-Cases Is Less Broadly Useful Than One Might Initially Think

Lots of great comments already so not sure if this will get seen, but a couple possibly useful points —

Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff is worth a skim —

Then I think Wittgenstein's Tractatus is good, but his war diaries are even better

"[Wittgenstein] sketches two people, A and B, swordfighting, and explains how this sketch might assert ‘A is fencing with B’ by virtue of one stick-figure representing A and the other representing B. In this picture-writing form, the proposition can be true or false, and its sense is independent of its truth or falsehood. LW declares that ‘It must be possible to demonstrate everything essential by considering this case’."

Lakoff illuminates some common metaphors — for example, a positive-valence mood in American English is often "up" and a negative-valence mood in American English is often "down."

If you combine Lakoff and Wittgenstein, using an accepted metaphor from your culture ("How are you?" "I'm flying today") makes the picture you paint for the other person correspond to your mood (they hear the emphasized "flying" and don't imagine you literally flying, but rather in a high-positive valence mood) — then you're in the realm of true.

There's independently some value in investigating your metaphors, but if someone asks me "Hey how'd custom building project your neighbor was doing go?" and I answer "Man, it was a fuckin' trainwreck" — you know what I'm saying: not only did the project fail, but it failed in a way that caused damage and hassle and was unaesthetic, even over and beyond what a normal "mere project failure" would be.

The value in metaphors, I think, is that you can get high information density with them. "Fuckin' trainwreck" conveys a lot of information. The only more denser formulation might be "Disaster" — but that's also a metaphor if it wasn't literally a disaster. Metaphors are sneaky in that way, we often don't notice them — but they seem like a valid high-accuracy usage of language if deployed carefully.

(Tangentially: Is "deployed" there a metaphor? Thinking... thinking... yup. Lakoff's book is worth skimming, we use a lot more metaphors than we realize...)

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