MikkW's Shortform

Sorry, I don't think I suceeded at speaking with clarity there. The way you use LW is perfectly fine and good.

My view of LW is that it's a site dedicated to rationality, both epistemic and instrumental. Instrumental rationality is, as Eliezer likes to call it, "the art of winning". The art of winning often calls for collective action to achieve the best outcomes, so if collective action never comes about, then that would indicate a failure of instrumental rationality, and thereby a failure of the purpose of LW.

LW hasn't failed. While I have observed some failures of the collective userbase to properly engage in collective action to the fullest extent, I find it does often succeed in creating collective action, often thanks to the deliberate efforts of the LW team.

MikkW's Shortform

I acknowledge that I don't know how the effort needed to found a livable settlement compares to the effort needed to move people from the US to a Covid-good country. If I knew how many person-hours each of these would take, it would be easier for me to know whether or not my idea doesn't make sense.

MikkW's Shortform

On an individual basis, I definitely agree. Acting alone, it would be easier for me to personally move to NZ or SK than to found a new city. However, from a collective perspective (and if the LW community isn't able to cordinate collective action, then it has failed), if a group of 50 - 1000 people all wanted to live in a place with sane precautions, and were willing to put in effort, creating a new town in the states will scale better (moving countries has effort scaling linearly with magnitude of population flux, while founding a town scales less than linearly)

MikkW's Shortform

Are there any areas in the states doing this? I would go to NZ or South Korea, but getting there is a hassle compared to going somewhere in the states. Regarding size, it's not about self-sufficiency, but rather being able to interact in a normal way with other people around me without worrying about the virus, so the more people involved the better

mike_hawke's Shortform

I will note that I'm surprised that this currently stands at negative karma (-1)

MikkW's Shortform

It seems to me that months ago, we should have been founding small villages or towns that enforce contact tracing and required quarantines, both for contacts of people who are known to have been exposed, and for people coming in from outside the bubble. I don't think this is possible in all states, but I'd be surprised if there was no state where this is possible.

MikkW's Shortform

With vaccines on the horizon, it seems likely that we are nearing the end of lockdowns and the pandemic, but there is talk of worry that it's possible a mutant strain might resist the vaccine, which could put off the end of the pandemic for a while longer.

It seems to me that numerous nations have had a much better response to the pandemic than any state in the US, and have been able to maintain a much better quality of life during the pandemic than the states, including New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. For someone with the flexibility, moving to one of these countries would have seemed like a smart move when it seemed there was still a long time left in the pandemic; and would still seem like a good idea if one feels that the pandemic will not be over soon enough.

While every US state has as a whole failed to reign in the virus, I suspect that it may be possible and worthwhile to establish a town or village in some state - perhaps not CA or NY, or whichever state you would most want to live in, but in some state - where everybody consents to measures similar to those taken in nations that have gotten a grasp of the virus, and to take advantage of a relative freedom from the virus to live a better life. This may be, if taken up by a collective, be a cheaper and more convenient (in some ways) alternative to moving to a country on the other side of the world.

MikkW's Shortform

I think capitalism staddles the line between these two modes: an inventor or well-function firm will optimize by making modifications that they actually understand, but the way the market optimizes products is how Scott and Abram describe it: you get a lot of stuff that you don't attempt to understand deeply, and choose whichever one looks best. While I am generally a fan of capitalism, there are examples of "adversarial subsystems" that have been spun up as a result of markets - the slave trade and urban pollution (e.g. smog) come to mind.

MikkW's Shortform

In "Emedded Agency", Scott and Abram write:

In theory, I don't understand how to do optimization at all - other than methods that look like finding a bunch of stuff that I don't understand, and seeing if it accomplishes my goal. But this is exactly the kind of thing that's most prone to spinning up adversarial subsystems.

One form of optimization that comes to mind that is importantly different, is to carefully consider a prototypical system, think about how the parts interplay, and identify how the system can be improved, and create a new prototype that one can expect to be better. While practical application of this type of optimization will still often involve producing and testing multiple prototypes, it differs from back-propogation or stochastic hill-climbing because the new system will be better than the prototype it is based on due to reasons that the optimizing agent actually understands.

MikkW's Shortform

Life needs energy to survive, and life needs energy to reproduce. This isn't just true of biological life made of cells and proteins, but also of more vaguely life-like things - cities need energy to survive, nations need energy to survive and reproduce, even memes rely on the energy used by the brains they live in to survive and spread.

Energy can take different forms - as glucose, starches, and lipids, as light, as the difference in potential energy between four hydrogen atoms and the helium atom they could (under high temperatures and pressures) become, as the gravitational potential of water held behind a dam or of a heavy object waiting to fall, or as the gradient of heat that exists between a warm plume of water and the surrounding cold ocean, just to name a few forms. But anything that wants claim to the title of being alive, must find energy.

If a lifeform cannot find energy, it will cease to create new copies of itself. Those things which are abundant in our world, are things that successfully found a source of energy with which to be created (cars and chairs might be raised as an exception, but they too indeed were created with energy, and either a prototypical idea, or the image of another car or chair in someone's mind, needed to find energy in order to create that object).

The studies of biology and economics and not so far separated as they might seem - at the core of both fields in the question: "Can this phenomenon (organization, person, firm) find enough energy to survive and inspire more things like it?". This question also drives the history of the world. If the answer is no, that phenomenon will die, and you will not notice it. Or, you might notice the death throes of a failed phenomenon, but only because something else, which did find energy, enabled that failed phenomenon to happen. Look around you. All the flowers you see, the squirrels, the humans, the buildings, the soda cans, the roadways, the grass, the birds. All of these phenomena somehow found energy with which to be created. If they didn't, you wouldn't be looking at them, they would never exist.

The ultimate form of life is the life that best gathers energy. The Cambrian explosion happened because first plants discovered they could turn light into usable food, then animals discovered they could use a toxic waste by-product of that photosynthesis - oxygen - as a (partial) source of energy. Look around you.  Where is there free energy laying around, unused? How could that energy be captured? Remember, the nation that can harness that energy will be the nation that influences the world. The man who takes hold of that energy can become the wealthiest man in the world. 

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