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While the framing of treating lack of social grace as a virtue captures something true, it's too incomplete and imo can't support its strong conclusion. The way I would put it is that you have correctly observed that, whatever the benefits of social grace are, it comes at a cost, and sometimes this cost is not worth paying. So in a discussion, if you decline to pay the cost of social grace, you can afford to buy other virtues instead.[1]

For example, it is socially graceful not to tell the Emperor Who Wears No Clothes that he wears no clothes. Whereas someone who lacks social grace is more likely to tell the emperor the truth.

But first of all, I disagree with the frame that lack of social grace is itself a virtue. In the case of the emperor, for example, the virtues are rather legibility and non-deception, traded off against whichever virtues the socially graceful response would've gotten.

And secondly, often the virtues you can buy with social grace are worth far more than whatever you could gain by declining to be socially graceful. For example, when discussing politics with someone of an opposing ideology, you could decline to be socially graceful and tell your interlocutor to their face that you hate them and everything they stand for. This would be virtuously legible and non-deceptive, at the cost of immediately ending the conversation and thus forfeiting any chance of e.g. gains from trade, coming to a compromise, etc.

One way I've seen this cost manifest on LW is that some authors complain that there's a style of commenting here that makes it unenjoyable to post here as an author. As a result, those authors are incentivized to post less, or to post elsewhere.[2]

And as a final aside, I'm skeptical of treating Feynman as socially graceless. Maybe he was less deferential towards authority figures, but if he had told nothing but the truth to all the authority figures (who likely included some naked emperors) throughout his life, his career would've presumably ended long before he could've gotten his Nobel Prize. And b), IIRC the man's physics lectures are just really fun to watch, and I'm pretty confident that a sufficiently socially graceless person would not make for a good teacher. For example, it is socially graceful not to belittle fledgling students as intellectual inferiors, even though they in some ways are just that.

  1. ^

    Related: I wrote this comment and this follow-up where I wished that Brevity was considered a rationalist virtue. Because if there's no counterbalancing virtue to trade off against other virtues like legibility and truth-seeking, then supposedly virtuous discussions are incentivized to become arbitrarily long.

  2. ^

    The moderation log of users banned by other users is a decent proxy for the question of which authors have considered which commenters to be too costly to interact with, whether due to lack of social grace of something else.

Flippant response: people pushing for human extinction have never been dead under it, either.

Thanks for writing this!

Typos & edit suggestions, for the post at, not in order: (feel free to ignore)

Stephan Guyunet -> Stephan Guyenet

The fourth mechanism is saturated fat free radicals. -> saturated fat causing / producing free radicals (?)

When humans build complex systems we modularize, -> systems, we modularize

That might suggest that that seed oils -> That might suggest that seed oils

Had cholesterol that looked slightly better by most measures -> Had cholesterol that looked slightly better by most measures.

I don’t see this as a conclusive, -> I don’t see this as a conclusive argument,

the experimental evidence suggest -> the experimental evidence suggests

rich in lionleic acid. -> linoleic

These “inconvenient” results were mostly ignored until 43 years later, Ramsden et al. (2016) came around -> later, when Ramsden

meaning the average subject was only in the trial for only one year. -> for one year

There’s a whole sub-debate debate about -> sub-debate about

despite eating lots saturated-fat-rich croissants or whatever. -> lots of

looked at trials of trials that increased linoleic acid or omega-6 fats -> looked at trials that

metabolism of lionoleic acid -> linoleic

low levels of LA consumption (Liou and Innis (2009). -> (missing closing parenthesis)

with a long term trend of people -> long-term

The leftmost part of the plot is an estimate for men born in 1882 in 1932 (when they were 50) -> for men born in 1882 living in 1932

But the Citadel, if anything is decreasing -> But for the Citadel, if anything BMI is decreasing

hunter-gathers -> hunter-gatherers

f some mechanism turned out to part of a larger, more complicated story. -> turned out to be part

Thanks for writing this post, I really liked it!

Due to the high upvotes, I figure it has a decent chance to feature in the LW Review for 2024, so I figured I'd make some typo & edit suggestions. Feel free to ignore.

An approach that may not be well received in all social circles, but probably in those closer to lesswrong, is -> An approach that may not be well received in all social circles, but probably is well received in those closer to LessWrong, is [I feel like an "is" is missing in the middle, but this edit makes the sentence a bit awkward due to the "lesswrong, is" follow-up]

in exchange for the utility you get out of it yourself -> in exchange for the utility you yourself get out of smoking

The idea is that when when people make some decision -> The idea is that when when people make some decision

instead of deciding for the other option. -> instead of deciding on the other option.

even though that would not be expected thing to do. -> even though that would not be the expected thing to do.

opt-in style questions -> opt-in-style questions

Although in the end this post is not meant to be normative and make any such should-claims. -> Although in the end this post is not meant to be normative and not meant to make any such should-claims.

So these songs have now all gotten at least 1k views within 9 days. That seems like a great performance, right? I wonder where all the traffic came from. Besides this LW post, presumably the recent ACX link also helped a ton. But I do also wonder which fraction of the traffic came organically via the Youtube algorithm itself.

No, those are clickbait. 4 is straightforwardly misleading with the meaning of the word "hunt". 2 and 3 grab attention via big dollar numbers without explaining any context. And 1 and 5 are clickbait but wouldn't be if an arbitrary viewer could at any time actually do the things described in the titles, rather than these videos being about some competition that's already happened.

Whereas a title saying "Click on this blog post to win $1000" wouldn't be clickbait if anyone could click on the blog post and immediately receive $1000. It would become clickbait if it was e.g. a limited-time offer and expired, but would not be clickbait if the title was changed at that point.

Have you or anyone else on the LW team written anywhere about the effects of your new rate-limiting infrastructure, which was IIRC implemented last year? E.g. have some metrics improved which you care about?

I don't really agree with this definition of clickbait. A title that merely accurately communicates what the post is about, is usually a boring one and thus communicates that the post is boring and not worth reading. Also see my comment here. Excerpt:

Similarly, a bunch of things have to line up for an article to go viral: someone has to click on your content (A), then like it (B), and then finally follow a call to action like sharing it or donating (C). From this perspective, it's important to put a significant fraction of one's efforts on quality (B) into efforts on presentation / clickability (A).

(Side note: If this sounds like advocacy for clickbait, I think it isn't. The de facto problem with a clickbaity title like "9 Easy Tips to Win At Life" is not the title per se, but that the corresponding content never delivers.)

Maybe the takeaway is that it's hard to build support behind the prevention of risks that 1. are technical/abstract and 2. fall on the private sector and not individuals 3. have a heavy right tail. Given these challenges, organizations that find prevention inconvenient often succeed in lobbying themselves out of costly legislation.

Which is also something of a problem for popularising AI alignment. Some aspects of AI (in particular AI art) do have their detractors already, but that won't necessarily result in policy that helps vs. x-risk.

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