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The allegory of the hospital
What needs to be assumed when reasoning about existential risk, and how are the high stakes responsible for forcing us to assume it?

I guess I opted for too much brevity. By their very nature, we don't* have any examples of existential threats actually happening, so we have to rely very heavily on counterfactuals, which aren't the most reliable kind of reasoning. How can we reason about what conditions lead up to a nuclear war, for example? We have no data about what led up to one in the past, so we have to rely on abstractions like game theory and reasoning about how close to nuclear war we were in the past. But we need to develop some sort of policy to make sure it doesn't kill us all either way.

*at a global scale at least. There are civilizations which completely died off (Rapa Nui is an example), but we have few of these, and they're only vaguely relevant, even as far as climate change goes.

The allegory of the hospital

Writing well is really hard. Thanks for sharing.

Non offensive word for people who are not single-magisterium-Bayes thinkers

I believe the term you are looking for is a fox, in the sense of Tetlock. But honestly, as someone who is generally pro-toolboxism, I don't understand why that's offensive. The whole point is that you have a whole toolbox of different approaches

The allegory of the hospital

Often the issue is that what you're trying to predict is sufficiently important that you need to assume *something*, even if the tools you have available are insufficient. Existential risks generally fall in this category. Replacing the news with an upcoming cancer diagnosis, and telepathy with paying very careful attention to that organ, and whether Sylvanus is being an idiot is much less clear.


On the other hand, if someone is taking even odds on an extremely specific series of events, yeah, they're kind of dumb. And I wouldn't be surprised to find pundits doing this.

Are Humans Fundamentally Good?

not at all, and especially not for subjects with intro textbooks. That said, it's just a starting place, and it's almost worth as much as a source of references as an actual overview.

SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott
There is a power imbalance in place.

this is precisely the argument that cancel culture often makes, often with good reason, with outside actors piling on what may have started as a parochial dispute.

Are Humans Fundamentally Good?

So for something interactive which helps build intuition, this is a great game about the prisoner's dilemma (goes in the same direction as what greylag linked actually, but with much cuter animations, and can serve as intro). If you want something with more substance, I don't think I can beat a thorough reading of the wikipedia page followed by choosing a book from their further reading section which matches what you're comfortable with.

Are Humans Fundamentally Good?

I'm vaguely pointing at the role of game theory and the resulting mechanism design in shaping what actions are viable. The tragedy of the commons is a classic example where some mechanism is needed to prevent a common loss. It can be easy to portray people in such a situation as greedy, but the mechanism works for altruistic people too. Escape without oversight requires everyone to be selfless, which is a totally unreasonable bar.

Are Humans Fundamentally Good?

Often the problem isn't inherent goodness or badness, but the incentive structure that an environment creates, and whether people's natural tendencies to want to be high status results in benefit for everyone or not. In an environment with no one who has the exclusive right to the use of force, violence becomes a means of acquiring resources and status. If you set up the rules correctly (and people view you as a legitimate source of laws), people are incentivized to work towards the common good.

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