quanticle's Comments

Why Do You Keep Having This Problem?

Oh, yes, that's a good point, and I have updated in your direction. I was thinking more along the lines of things like product reviews and survey feedback, where the user is much more likely to take the time to complete the feedback form if they've had a negative experience than if they've had a positive one.

Edited to add: I wonder if there's a distinction between unsolicited feedback and requesting feedback, or giving feedback to an individual vs. feedback to a corporate entity.

Why Do You Keep Having This Problem?

I think what tends to be voiced vs. not voiced varies a lot based on both the field and the culture involved. I've been in some environments where it seems like everyone loves to complain even when things are fine, but I've also been in some where people are very reticent to speak up even when there's a problem.

I'm not sure that's at odds with what mscottveach is saying. To put it in different words, while the amount of feedback might vary, I don't think the ratio of positive vs. negative feedback varies. It's the very rare situation where the number of messages that say, "This was good, everything went as planned or intended," outnumbers the messages that talk about how something went wrong.

Steelmanning Divination

Thank you for this comment. I was trying to point to something similar in this comment I wrote about the importance of understanding the origins of your ideas, but you've stated the point, in my opinion, much better than I did.

In defense of deviousness

You might be interested in Fred Brooks' seminal essay, No Silver Bullet -- Essence and Accident in Software Engineering. In it, he distinguishes between essential complexity and accidental complexity. Essential complexity is complexity that comes from the problem domain. It cannot be factored out of the program, and any attempt to do so will likely introduce bugs. Accidental complexity is complexity that arises from details of the implementation, and which can be simplified out of the implementation.

A good example of accidental complexity is memory management. A good chunk of programmer effort in languages like C and C++ goes towards ensuring that memory is managed properly, and that the program returns memory to the operating system when it is finished using it. Memory managed languages take that burden away from the programmer and place it either with the compiler (in the case of Rust's borrow checker) or with the runtime environment (in the case of garbage collected languages like Java, or Python). The effect of this has been a significant reduction in accidental complexity (at the cost of some performance), with a commensurate increase in programmer productivity.

"human connection" as collaborative epistemics

Surely there are all kinds of other ways to cooperate. A friend can help you move your stuff. You can exchange gifts. You can fend for each other. But objectively none of these are worth the huge chunk of resources we allocate to maintaining friendships and relationships. Only the upgrades to your worldview you get from interacting with other people is worth the trouble of interacting.

I think this is a very narrow, Straw Vulcan way of viewing the world. The primary value that other people have is the information and updates they can bring to your worldview? That seems like an awfully narrow conception of the value that other people can bring.

Moreover, how can you say, "objectively" that these benefits are not worth the effort? Do you presume to speak for everyone's utility function here?

New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies"

User Said Achmiz has take the old Rationality: From AI To Zombies text and laid it out in a much more aesthetically pleasing format at Read The Sequences. I definitely encourage you to check it out.

What is Life in an Immoral Maze?

That's fair, though I do wonder how representative 25-person-deep reporting chains are. I've never worked in a company that had a reporting chain > 8 and my dad works in a company with a reporting chain of 12. 25 seems... incredibly painful.

Stripping Away the Protections

I know of a number of large organizations that are much more functional than described in these posts.

That's one thing that stood out to me as well. The dynamics seem typical for law and finance, but far less so for firms that actually have to produce goods and services that are consumed by others (and, insofar as those dynamics do take hold in firms that have to produce, the results are usually disastrous -- see: American auto manufacturing from the late-70s through the 2000s, the decline and fall of Sears, the decline of GE, and, most recently, Boeing).

What is Life in an Immoral Maze?

Yeah, I would agree with that. I was really confused when the OP kept referring to "middle management".

(Is considering oneself "middle management" like considering oneself "middle-class" -- i.e. everyone considers themselves that, even when they're far above the actual median?)

What is Life in an Immoral Maze?

I was specifically referring to these two passages:

When asked who gets ahead, an executive vice-president at Weft Corporation says: The guys who want it [get ahead]. The guys who work. You can spot it in the first six months. They work hard, they come to work earlier, they leave later. They have suggestions at meetings. They come into a business and the business picks right up. They don’t go on coffee breaks down here [in the basement]. You see the parade of people going back and forth down here? There’s no reason for that. I never did that. If you need coffee, you can have it at your desk. Some people put in time and some people work.

For those in middle management who want to succeed, that’s not how things work. Everything you are is on the table. You’d better be all-in.

That hasn't been my experience. In my experience, those who get ahead are not those who work hardest, but those who are most visible. You can "come in earlier, and leave later", but it won't matter if your project is not one that's a priority for senior management. Moreover, that sort of "working harder" doesn't seem to correlate with whether your project gets picked up as a priority or not.

So even a 9-5 guy who goes fishing is still likely to play politics, avoid rocking the boat, pass the blame downhill

To a first approximation, that's true of every job role, whether it's front line, middle management, senior management, or the C-suite. Nobody wants to look bad. Nobody wants to be blamed for a problem that they don't perceive was their fault. My disagreement is not with the fact that people play politics at work. Of course people will play politics; it's human nature to have politics when you have more than two people attempting to make a decision on which there's meaningful disagreement.

What I disagree with is the notion of middle management as a sort of all-consuming lifestyle that totally snuffs out your ability to be yourself outside of work. Maybe it's like that at some firms (like finance, or law), but my intuition is that most firms are not like that. Most firms are less American Psycho and more Dilbert.

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