Wiki Contributions


I think this post highlights some of the difficulties in transmitting information between people - particularly the case of trying to transmit complex thoughts via short aphorisms.

I think the comments provided a wealth of feedback as to the various edge cases that can occur in such a transmission, but the broad strokes of the post remain accurate: understanding compressed wisdom can't really be done without the life experience that the wisdom tried to compress to begin with.

If I was to rewrite the post, I'l likely emphasize the takeaway that, when giving advice or attempting to transmit such wisdom, the point is that you have to take the time to convey the entirety of the context of what you're saying, unless you're just reminding someone of something they already know. "Don't zip your wisdom, just transfer the whole thing" might be a better title than "wisdom cannot be unzipped", for the practical application of the lesson.

I do like - and intend to continue - inserting pieces of related knowledge into posts, in the way that this post teaches a little about what compression is in the course of conveying its message. I think that benefits the discourse, and by assuming a low level of shared knowledge, makes the post friendlier to newcomers and beginners.

I don't see this as a conscious choice people make to not solve the problems the institution they're a part of is supposed to address. I agree that many of the individuals within the institution are working in good faith and genuinely care.

The issue is that the incentives of the people are not the same as the incentives of the institution itself, which are to grow and attract more status and money, which happens when the problem is seen as harder and more important.

Yes, Climate Change is obviously not solvable by a few activists, but there's a finite amount of time/energy/money in the world, and it's not clear to me at all that it's optimally distributed between cause areas. More time/energy/money going into solving climate change means less going elsewhere.

I use homelessness as an example, but I believe the logic generalizes. You're right that in many cases, the incentives facing an institution aren't powerful enough to matter, or the people involved could/would just go do other things.

But there are also a lot of cases (see: almost all nonprofits) where people's jobs depend on the existence and salience of the problem, in which case I think the incentives do start to matter.

While I haven't looked at the data lately, there are a lot of institutions in the US, as I use the term. Surely of the many social ills they address there are some that solvable/solved?

While I used ending homelessness as an example, the salience of an issue matters too. Climate change organizations receive lots of funding because their cause is seen as an important priority. If that changes, their funding dries up. So they have an incentive on the margin to overemphasize the importance of their associated problem - they benefit from the problem, while generally not solving it. Hence, commensalism.

Thanks! I've been pointed to them by others as well; it's a good example of an institution surviving the death of their problem.

I do think that the case underlines how important problems are for institutions, in a sort-of "exception that proves the rule" kind of way.

They would need another problem to pivot to.

Also, I suspect that such a pivot on an institutional scale is difficult to pull off. People often prioritize altruistic work because they're passionate about a specific cause - maybe they were homeless in the past, or they were a cancer survivor, etc. That wouldn't necessarily translate.

This was well thought-out, thank you.

You're right about redefining the word/problem. I've been referring to this as "The Pivot" in my head.

It would still be better if we found a way to form institutions such that, once they had solved a problem, their resources were efficiently allocated to the solution of the next-most-pressing problem.

Wait until you discover the world of Worm fanfiction (*cue evil laughter*).

Very possible.

I do suspect, though, that your friends at least have an internal process of analysis going even if they're not working. (I could of course be wrong.)

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