Wiki Contributions


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.

On this topic you might be interested in skimming Zvi's three dating roundup posts. Here's the third, which covers dating apps in the first two headings, but all three posts mention them a lot (Ctrl + F "dating app").

Or if you're instead in the mode of deciding what to do next, or making a schedule for your day, etc., then that's different, but working memory is still kinda irrelevant because presumably you have your to-do list open on your computer, right in front of your eyes, while you do that, right?

Whenever I look at a to-do list, I've personally found it noticeably harder to decide which of e.g. 15 tasks to do, than which of <10 tasks to do. And this applies to lists of all kinds. A related difficulty spike appears once a list no longer fits on a single screen and requires scrolling.

If you find that you’re reluctant to permanently give up on to-do list items, “deprioritize” them instead

I've found that there's value in having short to-do lists, because short lists fit much better into working memory and are thus easier to think about. If items are deprioritized rather than getting properly deleted from the system, this increases the total number of to-dos one could think about. On the other hand, maybe moving tasks to offscreen columns is sufficient to get them off one's mind?

(Granted, lots of text editors have affordances for going through a document’s history to retrieve deleted text. But I find them a hassle to use.)

It seems to me like a both easier and more comprehensive approach would be to use a text editor with proper version control and diff features, and then to name particular versions before making major changes.

From here:

Profit Participation Units (PPUs) represent a unique compensation method, distinct from traditional equity-based rewards. Unlike shares, stock options, or profit interests, PPUs don't confer ownership of the company; instead, they offer a contractual right to participate in the company's future profits.

In the war example, wars are usually negative sum for all involved, even in the near-term. And so while they do happen, wars are pretty rare, all things considered.

Meanwhile, the problem with AI development is that that there are enormous financial incentives for building increasingly more powerful AI, right up to the point of extinction. Which also means that you need not some but all people from refraining from developing more powerful AI. This is a devilishly difficult coordination problem. What you get by default, absent coordination, is that everyone races towards being the first ones to develop AGI.

Another problem is that many people don't even agree that developing unaligned AGI likely results in extinction. So from their perspective, they might well think they're racing towards a utopian post-scarcity society, while those who oppose them are anti-progress Luddites.

You might appreciate the perspective in the short post Statistical models & the irrelevance of rare exceptions. (I previously commented something similar on a post by Duncan.)

In case you haven't seen it, you might like dynomight's recent post Thoughts on seed oil.

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

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