nick_kees

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Killing the ants

I really enjoyed this post. No assumptions are made about the moral value of insects, but rather the author just points out just how little we ever thought about it in the first place. Given that, as a species, we already tend to ignore a lot of atrocities that form a part of our daily lives, if it WERE true, beyond a reasonable doubt, that washing our sheets killed thousands of sentient creatures, I still can't imagine we'd put in a significant effort to find an alternative. (And it certainly wouldn't be socially acceptable to have stinky sheets!) I think it would be healthy to cultivate genuine curiosity and caring about these things, rather than ridicule people who depart from social norms. If insects do deserve moral weight, I'd like to be the sort of person who, and a part of a community that, would notice and take that seriously.

Meditations On Moloch

A monarch is an unincentivized incentivizer. He actually has the god’s-eye-view and is outside of and above every system. He has permanently won all competitions and is not competing for anything, and therefore he is perfectly free of Moloch and of the incentives that would otherwise channel his incentives into predetermined paths. Aside from a few very theoretical proposals like my Shining Garden, monarchy is the only system that does this.

It seems to me that a monarch is far from outside every system, and is highly dependent on their key supporters (generals, bureaucrats, etc.) to stay in power. Their rule is not guaranteed to be permanent, and they are forever competing to avoid being replaced by their court. The Dictator's Handbook makes this argument better, but it seems the main difference between an authoritarian ruler and a democratically elected one is not whether or not they have to satisfy the people they rule, but rather how many of those people they need to satisfy to stay in power. 

Actually, autocrats are often terrible, not because of bad luck, but because their particular flavor of incentives also gives them a race to the bottom. I highly recommend the Dictator's Handbook, they give a much fuller explanation there. Even selling our souls to a potential Stalin won't rid us of the great almighty Moloch!