Wiki Contributions


Speaking of Stag Hunts

I guess long-time lurkers/new posters like me are part of the problem(though obviously I assume most online only LW members didn't engage with a California drama post). I still think LW is a great place for discussion and just being exposed to new ideas and good feedback, but I'm probably dragging down the sanity level.

Re fear: I think the SSC situation made it clear that LW and rationalist adjacent spaces are more public than users might think, maybe people are hesitant because they don't want to get twitter blasted or show up as a snap in an NYTimes article two years down the line.

Re concentration of force: I would imagine raw censorship would be really hard and contentious to enforce. Probably attempting to aristocratize/oligarchize the site might work better. Maybe increase the visibility of old-time users and posters, tweak the karma needed to post/vote, highlight high karma account comments over low karma comments. 

There must be some blog post somewhere documenting every attempted antidote to Eternal September syndrome to pick and choose from. Disclaimer, norm and law changes have chaotically unpredictable effects on communities, so who knows what the outcome would be.

A democratic version of this is people being more meta in comments and replies, addressing structural concerns with what people are commenting, as you mention in the post rewriting the original comment in a more rigorous/ironman form. Upside, this is a way to acculturate people into the community in an emotionally positive manner, rather than just by punishment. It's also much more legible and learnable than a comment deletion, which might have all sorts of reasons. Downside, this can make actual discussion really difficult and encourages pedantry which can also be taken too far. It also requires some degree of critical mass of users willing to engage in it.

The utopian version of this to me would be people looking at a post or comment they disagree with, suspending their own opinion on it, and attempting to help the commenter improve their argument in the direction the OP was going.

Save the kid, ruin the suit; Acceptable utility exchange rates; Distributed utility calculations; Civic duties matter

Is the close relation actively killing people? I don't think it's an unreasonable standard to say you should attempt to kill your own child if they're about to go on a spree killing and you definitely have exhausted all other options. I might fail it, but I'd definitely think I was a bad person for it(granted raising a spree killer in the first place is the bigger fault here).

How else are their lives trading so favourably? Organ transfers are pretty 1-1, tho maybe a more general policy encouraging people to donate spare kidneys wouldn't be terrible. Also certainly people have encouraged their kids to go to war and so on, that's a probabilistic sacrifice for the greater good.

Also killing/death tends to be a bit of a utility singularity so even the clumsy math of regular mode utilitarianism breaks down. How much utility do I lose by killing my child? Possibly infinite? Like I'm probably going to kill myself afterwards, surely that counts as a singularity.

Would I encourage myself or a relative to donate a kidney to save a life? Eh. Maybe, again there's potential of death when donating an organ, so singularity type stuff slips in maybe.

Just because singularities exist in certain conditions of a theory doesn't mean it's unusable in finite number cases.

Save the kid, ruin the suit; Acceptable utility exchange rates; Distributed utility calculations; Civic duties matter

No because of the things I say in Claim 3. Like. If I were to do it alone, that would sort of be fine. But if everyone were to live that way, everyone would be miserable(something something Kant's categorical imperative, what if everyone adopted this behaviour, would that work?).

I guess, there's a difference between what is utility maximising for an individual to do in a given society, and what is a utility maximising way for individuals to behave in an ideal society.

Like society should be such that Claim 3 is all you need, localized responsibility + government redistribution. 

Self-Integrity and the Drowning Child

The internal Ideal Observer is the amalgamated averaged out result of interactions with the world and other people alive and dead. Human beings don't come from the orangutan branch of the primate tree, we are fundamentally biologically not solitary creatures. 

Our ecological niche depends on our ability to coordinate at a scale comparable to ants, but while maintaining the individual decision making autonomy of mammals.

We're not a hive mind and we're not atomized individuals. We do and should constantly be balancing ourselves based on the feedback we get from physical reality and the social reality we live in.

Is the Ideal Observer the thing doing that balancing? Sure. But then it becomes a very reduced sort of entity, kinda like science keeps reducing the space where the god of the gaps can hide.

There's an inner utility function spitting out pleasure and pain based on stimuli, but I wouldn't call that me, there's a bit more flesh around me than just that nugget of calculation.

Self-Integrity and the Drowning Child

I agree, sort of. I'd argue that in the military example there is already a plan that includes consultation phases on purpose. The rules of engagement explicitly require a slow step. I don't know if this applies in genuinely surprising situations. A sort of known unknown vs unknown unknown distinction. I guess you can have a meta policy of always pausing ANY time something unexpected happens, but I feel like that's... hard to live(or even survive) with? Speeding car coming towards me or a kid in the road. Just act, no time to think. In fairness, this is why you prepare and preplan for likely emergency events you might encounter in life.

Self-Integrity and the Drowning Child

Regarding the direct example 

I feel like it's self-subverting. There's an old canard about https://www.watersafetymagazine.com/drowning-doesnt-look-like-drowning/ Given how staggeringly disproportionate the utility losses are in this scenario I think even a 1% chance of my assumption that 'I have 15 seconds to undress' would lead to death means I should act immediately.

In general when thinking about superfast reflex decisions vs thought out decisions: Obey the reflex unless your ability to estimate the probabilities involved has really low margins of error. My gut says X but my slow, super weak priors-that-have-never-been-adjusted-by-real-world-experience-about-this-first-time-in-my-life-situation say Y... Yeah just go with X. Reflect on the outcome later and maybe come up with a Z that should have been the gut/reflex response.

There's an old video game Starcraft 2 advice from Day9 that's surprisingly applicable in life: Plan your game before the game, in game follow the plan even if it seems like it's failing, after the game review and adjust your plan. Never plan during the game, speed is of the essence and the loss of micro and macro speed will cost you more than a bad plan executed well.

Don't plan during a crisis moment where you have seconds to react correctly. Do. Then later on train yourself to have better reflexes. Applicable when socializing, doing anything physical, in week 1 of a software development 2 week sprint etc.

Regarding the more general point of people having ... self-consistent utility functions/preferences

I fundamentally disagree that you shouldn't criticize someone for their utility function. An individual's utility function should include reasonably low-discount approximations of the utility functions of people around them. This is what morality tries to approximate. People that seem to not integrate my preferences into their own signal danger to me. How irrelevant is my welfare in their calculations? How much of my utility would they destroy for how small a gain in their own utility?

People strongly committed to non-violence and so on are an edge case, but I'd feel much more comfortable with someone not in control over their own utility function than someone that is in control, based on the people I have encountered in life so far.

How intrusively should people integrate each other's preferences? How much should we police other individual's exchange rate from personal utils to other people utils? No good answer, it varies over time and societies.

Society is an iron maiden, shaped around the general opinion about what the right action is in a given scenario. Shame is when we decide something that we know others will judge us badly for. Guilt is when we've internalized that shame.

The art of a good society is designing an iron maiden that most people don't even notice. 

It seems irrational to me to not internalize the social moral code to some extent into my individual utility function. (It happens anyway, might as well do it consciously so I can at least reject some of the rules) If the social order is not to my taste, try and leave or change it. But just ignoring it makes no sense. 

I'd also argue that the vast majority of preferences in our, so-called, 'personal' utility function are just bits and bobs picked up from the societal example palette we observed as we grew up.

People's utility functions also include components for the type of iron maiden they want their society to build around other members. I want to be able to make assumptions about the likely outcomes of meeting a random other person. Will they try to rob me? If I'm in trouble will they help me? If my kid is playing outside unsupervised by me, but there's always random people walking by, can I trust that any of them will take reasonably care of the child if the kid ends up in trouble? 

I strongly do not want to live in a society that doesn't match my preferred answers on those and other critical questions. 

I absolutely do not want to live in a society that has no iron maiden built at all. That is just mad max world. I can make no reasonable assumption about what might happen when I cross paths with another person. When people are faced with situations of moral anarchy, they spontaneously band together, bang out some rules and carve out an area of the wilderness where they enforce their rules.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fabricated Options

Of course :D

There's a strain of thought that would say price allocation of society's production itself is only ethical when everyone has the same amount of money, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fabricated Options

To treacherously switch sides to the pro-price gouging side:

The obvious solution is for shops to jack up prices as soon as an emergency situation occurs, thereby taking the wind out of speculators' sails. Now businesses are not going to want to do this, since it'll ruin their reputation with customers for minor short term gain.

So the actual solution is for the government to mandate price-gouging in emergency situations, this way businesses can do it, without having to bear the public opinion penalty.

If an area is declared a public disaster area, all shops are obligated to immediately implement scarcity prices. Scarcity prices work like this: as the stock of an item goes down, the price goes up by 100% of base cost for every 1% of missing stock. So by the time you only have 90% of toilet paper left in store, you're already paying 10 * base cost for it.

Of course private citizens are also allowed to come in and sell whatever they want.

I'm not sure what incentive this creates for shop owners, like maybe they want to not bring stocks back up to normal, but whatever, I'm sure it'll work out.

Modern society gives people too much incentive to live in floodable/hurricanable/earthquakable areas anyway, a bit more spice in their lives would shift populations to more reasonable regions to live in so it's all good either way.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fabricated Options

Triple prices or empty shelves is a false dichotomy.

Everyone gets the supply and demand curve. That's not the point. Society exists to counter-balance natural bad luck not to amplify it. Social policies that make a disaster even more disastrous for an individual are going to produce rage. Your house got flooded, you have no heat or electricity, you really need some oil for your generator and now that oil is 10 times more expensive. 

I get that price signals are a good way to coordinate everyone in a community consuming less of a good, but people will fundamentally dislike it because it makes a bad situation worse for an individual. 

Also the actual reasons economists are against price gouging are hilariously theoretical universe of frictionless spheres type arguments. Supply chains can take ages to react to price changes even in situations where there is no government boogie man tweaking things. Just look at the microchip supply crisis.

The actual solution to these issues is having effective emergency supply delivery handled by the government. The whole price gouging conversation is societal bike shedding. Modern governments can and do provide emergency aid almost in real time as disasters happen. If X developed world government lacks that capability, smack'em at the ballot box and tell the next crew to copy whatever the other dozens of countries are successfully doing in that department.

Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Given that they said we'll spend the money on the NHS instead of on EU, I don't see how that was what Cummings campaign implied. 


Thirteen Government ministers and senior Conservatives have today committed that every region, group and recipient of EU funding will continue to get that money after a ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum. In an open letter, the signatories - who include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel -  assure those people and organisations who currently receive money from the European Union that their funding is safe if we Vote Leave.

In the letter they say:

‘There is more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU - including universities, scientists, family farmers, regional funds, cultural organisations and others - will continue to do so while also ensuring that we save money that can be spent on our priorities.

‘If the public votes to leave on 23 June, we will continue to fund EU programmes in the UK until 2020, or up to the date when the EU is due to conclude individual programmes if that is earlier than 2020.

‘We will also be able to spend the money much more effectively. For example, some of the bureaucracy around payments to farmers is very damaging and can be scrapped once we take back control.’

The cynic in me finds turkeys voting for christmas endlessly entertaining, but this sort of blatant lying is why western societies' trust in government is evaporating.

There's no point to have farming subsidies for pig farmers. In a society where people on average eat too much meat, pork should cost at the supermarket the economic price it costs to produce pork and not less because of government subsidies. Brexit allowed to get rid of bad policy like that. 

"Farm subsidies are bad" is literally the type of elitist white collar values attitude that vote leave campaigned against. They tricked tons of working class people to vote for them under the assumption that the tory party would then take care of them. And of course because labour and the lib dems haven't represented the working class since the Blair era.

Oh but they said 'we can' not 'we will'. This isn't a court of law. What was implied is very clear. 

Rhetoric about Project Fear was meant to explicitly make all warnings about brexit downsides seem ridiculous and overblown. And tons of people actually believed that they would kinda sorta trundle along and be ok. Well, most of us are gonna be ok, but some turkeys definitely got plucked hard.

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