Zack_M_Davis

Zack_M_Davis's Comments

Book Review—The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution

no way to obtain a fair equilibrium or no way to obtain an equilibrium that is both fair and efficient. (How would you do that in my example, without going outside the game entirely

Taller person steps aside on even-numbered days, shorter person steps aside on odd-numbered days?? (If the "calendar cost" of remembering what day it is, is sufficiently small. But it might not be small if stepping-aside is mostly governed by ingrained habit.)

What are beliefs you wouldn't want (or would feel apprehensive about being) public if you had (or have) them?

(I feel bad for how little intellectually-honest engagement you must get, so I guess I'll chip in with some feedback.)

We overwhelmingly give custody of children to the statistically worse parent

Is the implied policy suggestion here to decrease the number of children being raised without married parents (e.g., by making divorce harder, discouraging premarital sex, encouraging abortion if the parents aren't married, &c.), or are you proposing awarding custody disputes to the father more often? Your phrasing ("the statistically worse parent") seems to suggest the latter, but the distribution of single fathers today is obviously not going to be the same as the distribution after a change in custody rules!

(Child care is cross-culturally assumed to be predominantly "women's work" for both evolutionary and cultural-evolutionary reasons: against that background, there's going to be a selection effect whereby men who volunteer to be primary caretakers are going to be disproportionately unusually well-suited to it.)

When your performance in a task is directly correlated to the presence or absence of another, what does that say about your value in that task?

If the presence or absence of the other also contributes to the task performance, then honestly, not much? If kids are better off in two-parent households, that's an argument in favor of two-parent households: if you have a thesis about women and mothers specifically, you need additional arguments for that.

Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed

Hopefully, it will be easier in the Bay Area than it would be otherwise.

Speaking as a Bay Area native,[1] I would not use the word "hopefully" here!

(One would hope to find or create a subgroup, but it would be nicer if it were possible to do this somewhere with less-insane housing prices and ambient culture. Hoping that it needs to be done here on account of just having moved here would be the sunk cost fallacy.)


  1. Raised in Walnut Creek, presently in Berkeley. ↩︎

Firming Up Not-Lying Around Its Edge-Cases Is Less Broadly Useful Than One Might Initially Think

(Thanks for your patience.)

This is part of what you mean when you say the report-drafting scientist is "not a bad person"—they've followed the letter of the moral law as best they can [...] your judgment ("I guess they're not a bad person") is the judgment that morality encourages you to give

So, from my perspective as an author (which, you know, could be wrong), that line was mostly a strategic political concession: there's this persistent problem where when you try to talk about harms from people being complicit with systems of deception (not even to do anything about it, but just to talk about the problem), the discussion immediately gets derailed on, "What?! Are you saying I'm a bad person!? How dare you!" ... which is a much less interesting topic.

The first line of defense against this kind of derailing is to be very clear about what is being claimed (which is just good intellectual practice that you should be doing anyway): "By systems of deception, I mean processes that systematically result in less accurate beliefs—the English word 'deception' is often used with moralizing connotations, but I'm talking about a technical concept that I can implement as literal executable Python programs. Similarly, while I don't yet have an elegant reduction of the underlying game theory corresponding to the word 'complicity' ..."

The second line of defense is to throw the potential-derailer a bone in the form of an exculpatory disclaimer: "I'm not trying to blame anyone, I'm just saying that ..." Even if (all other things being equal) you would prefer to socially punish complicity with systems of deception, by precomitting to relinquish the option to punish, you can buy a better chance of actually having a real discussion about the problem. (Making the precommitment credible is tough, though.)

Ironically, this is an instance of the same problem it's trying to combat ("distorting communication to appease authority" and "distorting communication in order to appease people who are afraid you're trying to scapegoat them on the pretext of them distorting communication to appease authority" are both instances of "distorting communication because The Incentives"), but hopefully a less severe one, whose severity is further reduced by explaining that I'm doing it in the comments.

You can also think of the "I'm not blaming you, but seriously, this is harmful" maneuver as an interaction between levels: an axiological attempt to push for a higher moral standard in given community, while acknowledging that the community does not yet uphold the higher standard (analogous to moral attempt to institute tougher laws, while acknowledging that the sin in question is not a crime under current law).

noticing small lies committed by accident or under stress.

Lies committed "by accident"? What, like unconsciously? (Maybe the part of your brain that generated this sentence doesn't disagree with Jessica about the meaning of the word lie as much as the part of your brain that argues about intensional definitions??)

2018 Review: Voting Results!

I'd rather get an answer to my initial comment - why it makes sense to you/them

Sure. I explained my personal enthusiasm for the Review in a November comment.

2018 Review: Voting Results!

What, in your view, is the main issue? Other than printing/distribution costs, the only other problem that springs to mind is the opportunity cost of the labor of whoever does the design/typesetting, but I don't think either of us is in a good position to assess that. What bad thing happens if the people who run a website also want to print a few paper books?

2018 Review: Voting Results!

Print-on-demand books aren't necessarily very expensive: I've made board books for my friend's son in print runs of one or two for like thirty bucks per copy. If the team has some spare cash and someone wants to do the typesetting, a tiny print run of 100 copies could make sense as "cool in-group souvenir", even if it wouldn't make sense as commercial publishing.

Book Review—The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution

Apologies—my blog distillation of "what I learned" is glossing over a lot of stuff that the actual book covers properly: the difference between models where agents only meet the other type vs. also their own type is discussed in §3.3.2–3, and "taller person leads, shorter person follows" is an example of what O'Connor calls "gradient markers" in §2.3.2.

As far as dancing goes, I think it's kind of like how we give cute mnemonic names like "Hawk–Dove" to payoff matrices of a particular form that don't quite make sense as a literal story about literal hawks and literal doves, but evolutionary game theory in general really is useful for understanding the behavior of animals (including birds).

How Doomed are Large Organizations?

#2 could be a "baptists and bootleggers" effect: ideological activists (the "baptists") want to change Society; mazey organizations (the "bootleggers") can offer the activists "shallow" concessions that (you can tell if you scrutinize closely enough, but almost no one does) don't actually end up changing Society much, but do shut out less-mazey competitors who can't afford to make the concessions.

Preliminary thoughts on moral weight

This kind of thinking actively drives me and many others I know away from LW/EA/Rationality

And that kind of thinking (appeal to the consequence of repelling this-and-such kind of person away from some alleged "community") has been actively driving me away. I wonder if there's some way to get people to stop ontologizing "the community" and thereby reduce the perceived need to fight for control of the "LW"/"EA"/"rationalist" brand names? (I need to figure out how to stop ontologizing, because I'm exhausted from fighting.) Insofar as "rationality" is a thing, it's something that Luke-like optimization processes and Zvi-like optimization processes are trying to approximate, not something they're trying to fight over.

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