SamuelKnoche

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Can we hold intellectuals to similar public standards as athletes?

There's a lot of value to be had in understanding the wisdom of existing informal evaluation systems and scaling them into formal ones.

One consideration to keep in mind though is that there might also be a social function in the informality and vagueness of many evaluation systems.

From Social Capital in Silicon Valley:

The illegibility and opacity of intra-group status was doing something really important – it created space where everyone could belong. The light of day poisons the magic. It’s a delightful paradox: a group that exists to confer social status will fall apart the minute that relative status within the group is made explicit. There’s real social value in the ambiguity: the more there is, the more people can plausibly join, before it fractures into subgroups.

There is probably a lot to be improved with current evaluation systems, but one always has to be careful with those fences.

Can we hold intellectuals to similar public standards as athletes?

I maybe wasn't clear about what I meant by 'the game.' I didn't mean how to be a good public intellectual but rather the broader 'game' of coming up with new ideas and figuring things out.

One important metric I use to judge public intellectuals is whether they share my views, and start from similar assumptions. It's obviously important to not filter too strongly on this or you're never going to hear anything that challenges your beliefs, but it still makes sense to discount the views of people who hold beliefs you think are false. But you obviously can't build an objective metric based on how much someone agrees with you.

The issue is that one of the most important metrics I use to quickly measure the merits of an intellectual is inherently subjective. You can't have your system based on adjudicating the truth of disputed claims.

Can we hold intellectuals to similar public standards as athletes?

I like the thought. Though unlike sports, intellectual work seems fundamentally open-ended, and therefore doesn't seem to allow for easy metrics. Intellectuals aren't the ones playing the game, they're the ones figuring out the rules of the game. I think that's why it often is better to focus on the ideas rather than the people.

A similar question also applies within academia. There, citation counts already serve as a metric to measure intellectual accomplishment. The goodharting of that metric probably can tell you a lot about the challenges such a system would face. What metrics do you have in mind?

In a way, this problem is just scaling up the old reputation/prestige system. You find people you respect and trust, and then you see who they respect and trust, and so on. While regularly checking for local validity of course. Maybe some kind of social app inspired by liquid democracy/quadratic voting might work? You enter how much you trust and respect a few public intellectuals (who themselves entered how much they trust other intellectuals) and then it computes how much you can trust everyone else.

The Best Educational Institution in the World

True. I still think that market solutions would arise. Income Sharing Agreements (ISA) in particular seem promising for this kind of situation.

The Case for Education

I agree that it is less bad in Europe and the UK. To quote from a response I gave to a related question:

"I see the education in countries where it is free/mostly free as better than the US, but many of the same criticisms still apply. What is taught, and how it is taught is the same as in the Anglo-saxon World. See here.

Also, the higher education system in those other countries is still quite wasteful (people learning things they don't need or want to learn, zero-sum competition for credentials...). It's just that the cost is borne by the taxpayer and not the students themselves. This is probably better than getting young people deep into debt, but still not great.

I think that countries where higher education is free are more 'locked-in'. So, I'm much more hopeful about significant improvements coming out of the Anglo-saxon world than out of continental Europe, since in Europe any innovative education startup has to compete with a free alternative."

On the question of AI safety work being done in academia, it is my understanding that many people working in academia have to hide the true intent of their research, or frame it in some way that sounds more in line with more traditional lines of inquiry. This post has some interesting discussions on this topic: Intellectual Progress Inside and Outside Academia.

There's an old question, "What does the Bible God need to do for the Christians to say he is not good?" What would academia need to do before you let it go? -Yudkowsky

The Best Educational Institution in the World

By "if public education is all about helping employers in their hiring process" I am only referring to the ~80% signaling. I mean to say that the government shouldn't help companies select candidates, and definitely not in such a wasteful manner.

I agree that increasing human capital is a good goal (alongside creating the public good of an educated citizenry). It's just that the government does this very very inefficiently. I discuss this in more details in The Case for Education

The Best Educational Institution in the World

If public education is all about helping employers in their hiring process, then it's a really wasteful form of corporate welfare. So, I don't really consider this as a good argument in favor of funding public higher education.

I think that fixing the education system will require unbundling the learning part and the signaling part. So, learning communities for the learning part, and comprehensive standardized exams for the signaling. Not sure how elaborate the exams need to be to match the signal quality of a college degree. I guess for people mostly looking to signal intelligence, conscientiousness or specific abilities or knowledge, the exams can be quite short and inexpensive as long as they’re challenging enough (something like the final exams of graduate level classes).

The Case for Education

I do agree that it has a purpose. I discuss two of those: increasing human capital and the public good of an educated citizenry. Do you have any others in mind?

My goal isn't necessarily to directly improve education for the median knowledge-worker. I want to start by improving it for smarter and more self-directed students and then see for how well it can generalize. Focusing on smart people first is kinda the point, since if the system you build attracts smart people, it’s going to be a stronger signal of intelligence.

But I think you underestimate how many people would see my proposed model as an improvement. Just taking the field of programming, the project I'd like to start would make it easier for all those who already get into programming without a formal education, and all those who'd like to, but lack the social support and accountability to be successful following that route. I think that represents a decent amount of people.

And it’s not as if the population of intrinsically curious people is restricted to people who are math-inclined.

I wouldn't be surprised if the kind of environment I envision, with someone responsible to keep people on track and hold people accountable, would in fact be better for most students than the Zoom university they are getting now.

Not sure what risks you are thinking of. My own project at least just seems like a competitor to bootcamps, except >3x cheaper. I don't think anything I'm proposing is particularly risky. Could you elaborate on this?

The Best Educational Institution in the World

The EA Hotel specifically, I'm not quite sure. As I said, most people would need more accountability. But I'm fairly confident that the kind of environment I envision, with someone responsible to keep people on track and hold people accountable, would be better for most students than the Zoom university they are getting now.

Thiel on Progress and Stagnation

Awesome! Thank you for putting all this effort into creating this resource.

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