Navigating an ecosystem that might or might not be bad for the world

post by habryka (habryka4), kave · 2023-09-15T23:58:00.389Z · LW · GW · 72 comments

I have this deep sense that somehow this ecosystem will do a lot of stuff that makes the world a lot worse, and I don't know how to relate to it in a way that doesn't make my actions dominated by my effect on that, and I expect that I will either contribute to making the world worse, or be consumed in some kind of political conflict that will make my life terrible.


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comment by Max H (Maxc) · 2023-09-16T05:37:57.590Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's refreshing to see someone who has accomplished something outwardly impressive and generally well-regarded to be so pessimistic about their own work. That seems like a really hard thing to be well-calibrated about.

To me, LW still feels like it is way ahead of anywhere else on the internet in terms of general sanity and likelihood of having a net-positive impact. But it's a good reminder that life is not graded on a curve, and that "way ahead" might be a far cry from "actually good".

I do think putting more effort into articulating object-level takes on a lot of stuff is a good idea for you in particular. Speaking from my own experience trying to have a lot of takes recently, it doesn't feel like there's any huge problems with norms or groupthink or goodharting around here. But it does feel like there's a lot of popular ideas floating around that are confused or just wrong, not because there's anything cynical going on, but because a lot of these topics are just genuinely pretty complicated and confusing, at least for earthlings.

Building infrastructure and enforcing norms is one way of fixing those problems, but there's also something to be said for just directly saying a bunch of true things, over and over again in different ways, until it sinks in. Also, there's probably a bunch of other things besides those two approaches you could also try!

comment by Chris_Leong · 2023-09-16T17:34:49.643Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are you worried about CAIS doing?

comment by johnswentworth · 2023-09-17T19:32:35.355Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Format note: it would be helpful to have some indication of whether the conversation is complete or ongoing.

Replies from: kave
comment by kave · 2023-09-17T19:38:01.757Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But I don't know if it's complete or ongoing ...

comment by Oliver Sourbut · 2023-09-17T18:13:15.345Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW Oli, I have at least one example front of mind where (in person) your honest 'this thing said by influential person/group does not make sense' vindicated my own feelings of confusion and (hopefully) helped me (continue?) along a path of truth and value. I assume this was not isolated. I think it wouldn't be a bad use of time to at least experiment with making more of your own object-level takes public!

But I think you're right, it'd be a substantial time investment and trade off against other things, which other might be your comparative advantage by virtue of organisational capital (I vague here because I don't know the detail of your day-to-day).

It might be that you're in a position to force-multiply the kind of critical thinking which you seem concerned about. Like having a formal or informal squad on this, or figuring out ways to incentivise it grass-roots within the community. I guess I'm gesturing at the danger that the perversion of 'heroic responsibility' is 'single-player thinking' and forgetting to consider options involving delegation or teamwork. (Take this lightly as I'm hesitant to psychologize.)

There are at least some folks who instinctively think critically about whatever is said, regardless of whether 'the standard people'[1] say it. (Though having 'standard people' as Schelling figureheads can provide value from coordination.)

  1. Who are they anyway? I think I might have the same status-blindness Eliezer has. ↩︎

comment by MondSemmel · 2023-09-16T12:51:27.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meta note: FYI, the comments counter on discussions is still bugged: at the top of the page (and in the LW feed) it says there are 57 comments, while the bottom only lists 5. So presumably the 52 missing comments are the individual segments of the discussion.

comment by Drake Morrison (Leviad) · 2023-09-16T05:47:55.782Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Has anyone tried experimenting with EigenKarma? [LW · GW] It seems like it or something like it could be a good answer for some of this.

Replies from: Raemon, philh
comment by Raemon · 2023-09-19T00:18:44.539Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One thing to note is that the LessWrong vote-weighting system is (in some ways) intended to be a poor man's eigenkarma (i.e. it does a somewhat similar thing of weighting karma by trust)

There's a few different ways that "canonical Eigenkarma" differs from LW upvote/strong-upvote power. What are the things you're particular interested in here?

Replies from: Leviad
comment by Drake Morrison (Leviad) · 2023-09-28T02:41:30.712Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

oh, that's right. I keep forgetting the LessWrong karma does the weighing thing. 

comment by philh · 2023-09-18T22:27:57.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is/was such a project. I don't remember details but @plex probably knows what's going on.

(That was meant to auto link and give him a notification but I've never tried it before and it apparently didn't work.)

Replies from: philh
comment by philh · 2023-09-18T23:16:00.542Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, this seems to work: @plex [LW · GW]

(Didn't work on phone or when editing parent comment on browser, did work when creating a new comment on browser.)

Replies from: ete
comment by plex (ete) · 2023-09-19T14:12:46.041Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup, there is a working prototype and a programmer who would like to work on it full time if there was funding, but it's not been progressing much for the past year or so because no one has had the free bandwidth to work on it.

comment by Oliver Sourbut · 2023-09-17T18:20:00.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd love to see more dialogues like this! I don't know what the UX is like but I wonder about the value of something like easy 'import dialogue' connectors if a conversation happens somewhere and then the participants think it's worth sharing.

Also, on a meta level, kave was an exemplary interlocutor here. This seems like a really tricky conversation-space to nail down and there were various thoughtful manoeuvres here which I think really unlocked some progress. Well done.

comment by NicholasKross · 2023-09-16T01:10:42.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I imagine there's a way for LW and/or widely-seen posts on it to prevent the talent-funnel noted.

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2023-09-16T02:22:44.475Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you say more details about what you mean here? I found the phrasing here a bit hard to parse.

Replies from: NicholasKross
comment by NicholasKross · 2023-09-16T03:33:00.080Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A few off-the-cuff ideas:

  • posts specifically aimed at people who, for one reason or another, are involved in capabilities or thinking of being involved in capabilities, but feel guilty about doing so. (Writing one of these myself, actually.)
  • Better at-a-glance notes about the "iffy" parts of orgs. E.g. If there's a big wiki/table/community-list/whatever of different groups, have flags for like "they're moving the capabilities frontier forward" or "This group isn't hiring much for actual alignment position".

Better ideas would be as specific and public-facing and, yes, even in the same OOM as opinionated as these, I think. Even just "other people are saying X Y Z about this group", or a "community notes" type feature, if a platform doesn't want to "take a stand" on a group that e.g. might be funding them.

comment by Oliver Sourbut · 2023-09-17T18:15:59.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Especially if it comes down to an influence-eating competition between capabilities and safety people (I hope not) then you might be in an unusually good position to eat/defend influence. It feels like one framing of this dialogue is the trade-off between eating and defending influence.

I'll just briefly note that if so, I think this is a false dichotomy, even if the third+ options are hard to articulate. Something like, the teams aren't fixed (yet), the lines aren't drawn, there aren't trenches...?

comment by Caerulea-Lawrence (humm1lity) · 2023-09-16T14:27:02.322Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hello habryka and kave,

I felt a bit uplifted from reading this, and I would love to see more of this on LW. This is more of a direct response to a problem - and so you are not only 'looking' at the problem, but your action is a good approach at solving it.

I do have some views that could be of use, but I mean, I wasn't in this dialogue, you didn't invite me and so being a 'backseat participant' feels a tad odd. Conversations of this kind are more situational in my experience, and so even when you post it - I just assume that the Form and the Content might be separate. If things are otherwise, I'd love to chip in.

Healthy and productive dialogue is good to see, and getting closer to a workable goal, and the process hereto, has broader application. Seeing this kind of dialogue is something I would absolutely love to see, for various reasons. 
By exploring things in this way, many ideas and concepts might be 'helped' out of their shell by a little water in the form of understanding, willingness to understand and being on the same page enough to make useful plays that help the other person improve upon what they have already got. I believe seeing how this is done is useful, not only as an inspiration, but also a practical guide into how things 'could be', instead of chopping left and right. Moreover, it is a good alternative way to explore themes and ideas without the boxed form of writing a post or a question. I guess it caters more to the Extrovert processing side of things - where it is useful, and necessary, for progress to have someone to bounce your ideas off of. 


Replies from: kave
comment by kave · 2023-09-17T22:51:49.937Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't in this dialogue, you didn't invite me and so being a 'backseat participant' feels a tad odd

Thanks for sharing this. I generally want dialogues to feel open for comment afterwards

Replies from: humm1lity
comment by Caerulea-Lawrence (humm1lity) · 2023-09-18T13:18:16.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


I guess if I were there, I guess I would have wanted to connect what you talked about to specific terms that might further clarify what kind of solution(s) you were looking for. Or, in plain English, to ask which of these needs-categories (NVC-list page 3&4) would best fit what you wanted to talk about. 

I mean, you are already meeting a lot of needs, but if you go back to the start, and you ask Which of these categories of needs best fit what you feel right now - It might have served as a decent anchor point both of you could have used to fill in confusing blanks.