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Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

Sounds pragmatically weird in the case where the person isn't known to already be donating.

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

Can we have a recap from the mods of how Petrov Day went? How many people pressed the button, how many people tried entering anything in the launch code field, how many people tried the fake launch code posted on Facebook in particular?

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

Since the day is drawing to a close and at this point I won’t get to do the thing I wanted to do, here are some scattered thoughts about this thing.

First, my plan upon obtaining the code was to immediately repeat Jeff’s offer. I was curious how many times we could iterate this; I had in fact found another person who was potentially interested in being another link in this chain (and who was also more interested in repeating the offer than nuking the site). I told Jeff this privately but didn’t want to post it publicly (reasons: thought it would be more fun if this was a surprise; didn’t think people should put that much weight on my claimed intentions anyway; thought it was valuable for the conversation to proceed as though nuking were the likely outcome).

(In the event that nobody took me up on the offer, I still wasn’t going to nuke the site.)

Other various thoughts:

  • Having talked to some people who take this exercise very seriously indeed and some who don’t understand why anyone takes it seriously at all, both perspectives make a lot of sense to me and yet I’m having trouble explaining either one to the other. Probably I should practice passing some ITTs.
  • Of the arguments raised against the trade the one that I am the most sympathetic to is TurnTrout’s argument that it’s actually very important to hold to the important principles even when there’s a naive utilitarian argument in favor of abandoning them. I agree very strongly with this idea.
  • But it also seems to me there’s a kind of… mixing levels here? The tradeoff here is between something symbolic and something very real. I think there’s a limit to the extent this is analogous to, like, “maintain a bright line against torture even when torture seems like the least bad choice”, which I think of as the canonical example of this idea.
  • (I realize some people made arguments that this symbolic thing is actually reflective or possibly determinative of probabilistic real consequences (in which case the “mixing levels” point above is wrong). (Possibly even the arguments that didn’t state this explicitly relied on the implication of this?) I guess I just…. don’t find that very persuasive, because, again, the extent to which this exercise is analogous to anything of real-world importance is pretty limited; the vast majority of people who would nuke LW for shits and giggles wouldn’t also nuke the world for shits and giggles. Rituals and intentional exercises like these have any power but I think I put less stock in them than some.)
  • Relatedly, I guess I feel like if the LW devs wanted me to take this more seriously they should’ve made it have actual stakes; having just the front page go down for just 24 hours is just not actually destroying something of real value. (I don’t mean to insult the devs or even the button project - I think this has been pretty great actually - it’s just great in more of a “this is a fun stunt/valuable discussion starter” way than a “oh shit this is a situation where trustworthiness and reliability matter” way. (I realize that doing this in a way that had stakes would have possibly been unacceptably risky; I don’t really know how to calibrate the stakes such that they both matter and are an acceptable risk.))
  • Nevertheless I am actually pleased that we’ve made it through (most of) the day without the site going down (even when someone posted (what they claim is) their code on Facebook).
  • I am more pleased than that about the discussions that have happened here. I think the discussions would have been less active and less good without a specific actual possible deal on the table, so I’m glad to have spurred a concrete proposal which I think helped pin down some discussion points that would have remained nebulous or just gone unsaid otherwise.
  • If in fact the probability of someone nuking the site is entangled with the probability of someone nuking the world (or similar), I think it’s much more likely that both share common causes than that one causes the other. If this is so, then gaining more information about where we stand is valuable even if it involves someone nuking the site (perhaps especially then?).
  • In general I think a more eventful Petrov Day is probably more valuable and informative than a less eventful one.
Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

I'm pretty sure it is? I had already decided on & committed to a donation amount for 2019, and this would be in addition to that. The lifesaving part is relevant insofar as I am happier about the prospect of this trade than I would be about paying the same amount to an individual.

The only way in which I could imagine this not being perfectly counterfactual is that given that discretionary spending choices depend some on my finances at any given point, and given that large purchases have some impact on my finances, it may be that if some other similar opportunity presented itself later on, my decision re: that opportunity could have some indirect causal connection to my current decision (not in the direct sense of "oh I already donated last month so I won't now" but just in the sense of "hmm how much discretionary-spending money do I currently have and, given that, do I want to spend $X on Y"). I'm not sure it's really ever possible to get rid of that though?

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

To be clear I am NOT looking for people to press the button, I am looking for people to give me launch codes.

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

I'll note that giving someone the launch codes merely increases the chance of the homepage going down.

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

If someone else with codes wants to make this offer now that Jeff has withdrawn his, I'm now confident I am up for this.

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

this makes sense. I shall consider whether it makes sense for me to impulse-spend this amount of money on shenanigans (and lifesaving)

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019

hey actually I'm potentially interested depending on what size of donation you would consider sufficient, can you give an estimate?

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