Non Polemic: How do you personally deal with "irrational" people? 2020-11-02T13:44:24.841Z
Rationality and Climate Change 2020-10-05T10:21:09.512Z


Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Hammertime Day 9: Time Calibration · 2021-01-23T10:50:39.333Z · LW · GW

"Yeah, I can totally do my master thesis in six months, even it if involves examining a large database of newspaper articles by myself, inventing a methodology to analyse them that translates in quantitative data, invent an observation grid for what people would usually treat as subjective evaluations, mapping and quantifying the business relationships between newspapers and other industries, and generally pushing past the methodology limits that prevented studies I saw so far to actually prove quantitatively that there were in fact a relationship between newspaper relationships with fossil fuels industries and their treatment of climate change in the news, while I know nothing about journalism studies or text analysis. No, my tendency to procrastinate hard or unpleasant things I don't know how to do won't be a problem. Why do you ask?"

It took a bit less than one and a half years.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Book Review: Age of Em · 2021-01-22T11:02:04.675Z · LW · GW

The more I read about simulated humans the more I'm convinced that a hard ban on simulating new humans and duplicating existing one is a key point of what differentiates dystopias too horrible to even grasp and hyper-existential failures from sane futures, at least until we have aligned AI.

He’s even right that on utilitarian grounds, it’s hard to argue with an em era where everyone is really happy working eighteen hours a day for their entire lives because we selected for people who feel that way. But at some point, can we make the Lovecraftian argument of “I know my values are provincial and arbitrary, but they’re my provincial arbitrary values and I will make any sacrifice of blood or tears necessary to defend them, even unto the gates of Hell?”

I also think that if we don't, we run fast into what we can call... Cenobitical Existential Failures? (Cenobites are Hellraiser demons who see excruciating pain as the best thing in the universe). 

Or in a lot of very tiny people really happy about hydrogen atoms (or working overtime).

I'd also strongly argue about making this stand before we select untold billions of people who don't care if they live or die and they outcompete anyone who actually cares out of business.


Now take it even further, and imagine this is what’s happened everywhere. There are no humans left; it isn’t economically efficient to continue having humans. Algorithm-run banks lend money to algorithm-run companies that produce goods for other algorithm-run companies and so on ad infinitum. Such a masturbatory economy would have all the signs of economic growth we have today. It could build itself new mines to create raw materials, construct new roads and railways to transport them, build huge factories to manufacture them into robots, then sell the robots to whatever companies need more robot workers. It might even eventually invent space travel to reach new worlds full of raw materials. Maybe it would develop powerful militaries to conquer alien worlds and steal their technological secrets that could increase efficiency. It would be vast, incredibly efficient, and utterly pointless. The real-life incarnation of those strategy games where you mine Resources to build new Weapons to conquer new Territories from which you mine more Resources and so on forever.

Economical Growth has stopped to correlate with nearly all measures of wellbeing for the population in first world nations. We are already more than halfway there it seems.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Don’t Fear The Filter · 2021-01-22T10:27:55.718Z · LW · GW

I'd think that some of these alien civilisation would have figured it out in time, implanted everyone with neural chips that override any world ending decision, kept technological discoveries over a certain level available only to a small fraction of the population or in the hand of aligned AI, or something.

An aligned AI definitely seems able to face a problem of this magnitude, and we'd likely either get that or botch that before reaching the technological level any lunatic can blow up the planet.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on SSC Journal Club: AI Timelines · 2021-01-22T09:49:50.743Z · LW · GW

How many of the experts in this survey are victims of the same problem? “Do you believe powerful AI is coming soon?” “Yeah.” “Do you believe it could be really dangerous?” “Yeah.” “Then shouldn’t you worry about this?” “Hey, what? Nobody does that! That would be a lot of work and make me look really weird!”

It does seem to be the default response of groups of humans to this kind of crisis. People died in burning restaurants because nobody else got up to run. 

"Why should I, an expert in this field, react to the existential risk I acknowledge as a chance as if I were urgently worried, if all the other experts I know are just continuing with their research as always and they know what I know? It's clear that existential risk is no good reason to abandon routine".

As in Asch conformity experiment, whee a single other dissenter was enough to break compliance to the consensus, perhaps the example of even a single person who acts coherently with the belief the threat is serious and doesn't come across as weird could break some of this apathy from pluralistic ignorance. Such examples seems to be one of the main factors in causing me to try to align my effort with my beliefs on what's threatening the future of mankind twice, so far.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Superintelligence FAQ · 2021-01-22T00:48:34.500Z · LW · GW

This was a remarkably successful attempt to summarise the whole issue in one post, well done.


On a side note, I think that getting clever people to think as if in the shoes of a cold, amoral AI can be an effective way to persuade them of the danger. "What would you do if some idiot tried to make you cure cancer, but you had near omnipotence and didn't really cared one bit if humans lived or died?" It makes people go from using their intelligence for arguing why containment would work to use it to think how containment could fail.

When I first met the subject in the sequences I tried to ask me what I would do as an unaligned AI. Most of my hopes for containment died out in half an hour or so.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on How The West Was Won · 2021-01-21T10:19:03.785Z · LW · GW

A common complaint about immigration is "they're taking our jobs." For a group whose primary asset is their ability to do labor, this seems pretty fair to characterize as "our resources are being appropriated," and it's easy to notice that many billionaires who are made better off by mass immigration support decreasing regulatory barriers to immigration.

[Of course, open borders seem like a good idea to economists, and billionaires are more likely to have economist-approved views on economic policy, so I don't think this is just a 'self-interest' story; I just think it's worth noticing that the same "disenfranchised group having their resources appropriated" story does in fact go through for those groups.]

Sorry, I guess I could have explained this part more clearly. I agree that the Rural Brits and American Reds like-groups often believe in a narrative about some external power attacking and erasing them (the evil EU ruling council, billionaires engaged in philanthropy, etc...). My point was that the difference in sympathy these group receive from a third party is best explained: 

1) by the belief of this third party in the existence of this external power. Most people criticising these groups would believe in China's violations of human rights but not in evil billionaires controlling the choice on immigration policies.

2) by the strategy these people adopt in defending their culture. If the Tibetan started harassing refugees from a war thorn country I would sympathise with them less than I sympathise with their current attempts to defend their traditions by just practicing them.

I feel like this is missing the core point of the article, which is that the "colonizer / colonized" narrative misses the transition from the 'traditional cultures' of Britain and America to universal culture. Why did universalism win in Britain and America? If it was because those places were torn apart in order to exploit the hell out of them, then the flavor of this analysis changes significantly.

First, I think a lot of the universal culture is actually straight from the "traditional cultures" of Britain and America, it's just harder to see it as something not universal since we grew up in it. Often I feel a cultural barrier that gets in the way of the conversation when I'm discussing certain subjects with Americans on this site, and I'm from Italy, so still in the western culture myself. It is however a complex subject and debating exactly which is what would be pretty hard.

I also think it's not clear what is considered "traditional cultures" of these places, if we are talking about their cultural traditions from before industrialisation... then those were changed in those place to better fit the requirements industrialisation had. Other western countries started to industrialise as fast as they could because the first ones who did it were starting to gain a military-economical supremacy over them.

Non-western countries weren't fast enough to adapt or didn't had enough weapons to stave off who did, so they were colonised, invaded and etc until they either managed to build up an industry and a military or were torn apart to exploit them.

I'm of course generalising a bit, but I think that 90% of this "culture war" was actually a war of might. Industrialisation gives you an edge that everyone wants, so everyone either tries to copy it or is invaded and exploited until they do it anyway. 

If nations didn't have to compete for domination and freedom, I think a lot of them would have picked just some bits of the "universal culture" rather than the whole package, either for inertia or because some bits you can just left out and your population would be better off. (I guess whether that would have been better or worse would require calculating a lot of deaths and of changes in quality of life. A lot of the costs will hit us in the face in the next years if they aren't prevented, so the question would still be left open anyway).

The bits that these nations would usually pick would be "universal culture" that fits the description suggested in the post, since they would be practices that win over other in a fair fight for culture. But the main driving factor for the expansions of these norms was the increased military and economical effectiveness that came with industrialisation, so we can't really call Coca Cola an universal winner because we have no idea of how things would have gone in a cultural fight, we just mainly saw a military and economical one.

Human rights and democracy do seem like these cultural universal winners, I gave it some thoughts and realised that yeah, a lot of places seem to have people in it who kinda buy this whole "not being exploited by our local feudal overlords" once they hear the concept. Unfortunately, Coca Cola itself and other... competitive spreaders had a few words against it in a lot of these places. 

Also, other cultural practices have expanded peacefully in western countries, but usually they are just exported in other countries as part of the whole industrialisation package, so it would be hard to name them as universal winners. 

There's also the whole subject of mass medias of communications, which I think are pretty effective at overwhelming any kind of culture with new content. I do hope that nazism and fascism aren't universal winners, and that they managed to take over Germany and Italy because they had just found a way to be louder than anyone else for a while. The same thing can happen with McDonald or action movies or whatever.

This is a really tangled subject, so I guess I was a bit a lot harsh in my comment, but missing those points I mentioned was a rather biased way to look at it. 

To summarise, I guess I understood the main idea of the article, and I'm interested in how exactly reality could be shaped to maximise the benefits of "true cultural universal winners" without erasing the parts of local culture that don't make people miserable. 

But I think the post didn't managed to carve reality at the right joints and confounded different kind of victories.   

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on How The West Was Won · 2021-01-20T18:23:02.819Z · LW · GW

Edit: I've changed my original post a bit because I couldn't tell if it came across as aggressive and I was starting to really obsess about it.

I'm... kinda puzzled by the questions and the situation described by this post. It seems it's missing a couple points that are a relevant part of the whole picture. These points are also extremely relevant in the motivations of those who support differently "local conservatives" and "foreign populations that try to defend their cultures" and in most reasoned objections to the spread of "universal ideology" (I've also met a large number of stupid objections that argue against it for worse reasons). My position is one of support for the spread of some of the elements of this "universal ideology" and of opposition to the spread of others.

  1. The clear distinctions you can make between Australian Aborigines, Tibetans, Native Americans on a side, and rural British and "American Rednecks" on the other is that in the first group there's a foreign culture that's also overwhelming in power that has come to their home and is erasing both their culture and their properties/territories/wellbeing in general. Their cultural erasure it's also going step by step with an exploitation from the power that's attempting to erase their culture. In the second group... not at all. Rural British and American Rednecks aren't certainly seeing their resources appropriated by the powers behind the immigrants. It is only their culture that's under "siege" and it's a different kind of siege involving no laws or planned attempts to erase their cultural ways, the attack comes from mere exposure to different ideas and customs. So yeah, it makes perfect sense to sympathise with Tibetans trying to shield what's left of their culture and not with British trying to do the same, especially since the attempts that elicit different reactions are usually very different in nature. It would take a special kind of fanatic to go bother British trying to have a traditional warm pint of beer with shepherd pies in their pubs (I apologise with any British reading this for stereotyping and not bothering go search a cherished British tradition) because "sushi is better, you uncultured simpletons". Usually you contest British for trying to defend their culture in ways that make other people miserable or will break a lot of stuff, such as banning immigrations or exiting UE. If Tibetans started throwing rocks and making racist signs against poor North Korean immigrants who are escaping from the persecutions of dictatorships and trying to make a new life for themselves, well support would evaporate fast.
  2. I think the idea of Western Culture that needs to be defended from barbarism often seems to be actually talking about the universal rights, a reasoned attempts to understand what rights every human should be granted. (There is some opposition about Western Culture choosing universal rights for everyone, but most objections to universal rights I've heard seem to melt under the base kind of pragmatism that's required to allow Zeno of Elea to not starve before reaching his kitchen, it just takes starting to think concrete stuff like "okay, then are you okay with being eye-gouged if the other guy's culture insist it's really necessary?"). The current set of universal rights fits the Noahide Laws example in spade, they're awesomely tolerant of everything that don't involve oppressing people and atrocities and, if applied correctly, would take a lot of fanatism out of the fight for transgender bathrooms. People don't get that pissed off about the bathrooms, people get really pissed off because of a myriad of bigger and smaller things that oppress category x and then every fight for category x right becomes a crusade for some of them. It would be really hard to get that heated about the bathroom issue by itself, I think. Sadly, coca cola seems to be more competitive than universal rights if things are left to take their course, so we might want to give universal rights a hand there.
  3. I'd also point out that a lot of the "fair fights" that universal culture and colonialism picked were more about bombing the other guys to hell and/or setting up a local corrupt, bloodthirsty dictatorship/protectorate/whatever from which to "buy" their resources for pennies than saying who would win between the Dreamtime and sushi restaurants in a free market fight. It's a bit weird to say that western/universal culture wins fair fights when it has mostly been exported by weapon superiority. Most of the places where universal culture is replacing their own were first torn apart to exploit the hell out of them. If this war of cultures was an experiment, I'd say this was a hell of a confounder.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that, if you try to take a step back and look at what's happening on the whole, the situation goes back to be... not so complicated, at least about the goals we can pick. We can go big in support of universal rights and of attempts to preserve individual cultures that don't involve deeply problematic strategies. We also go big against large countries invading and exploiting the hell out of small ones and cancelling their culture as they do. Then we can see what problems are actually left after this approach and deal with them.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Things Probably Matter · 2021-01-20T17:16:19.856Z · LW · GW

I'd strongly suggest that anyone looking into this kind of issues explored more the current research on how wealth distribution affects wellbeing. I recommend The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett as a point to start, is the single most relevant book I've read in my whole psychology curriculum.

Countries hardly find themselves better off due to economic growth and GDP alone, what matters the most is how this increased wealth is distributed, and economic growth is getting more and more decoupled with people finances.


A separated problem is that people seem to be pretty bad at finding an anchor against which to evaluate their happiness level. I'd be pretty skeptical of any program that tried to improve the quality of life and used the people subjective reports of happiness as a measurement. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Against Tulip Subsidies · 2021-01-18T17:58:18.700Z · LW · GW

A few years later, another Dutch trader comes to the little kingdom. Everyone asks if he is there to buy tulips, and he says no, the Netherlands’ tulip bubble has long since collapsed, and the price is down to a guilder or two. The people of the kingdom are very surprised to hear that, since the price of their own tulips has never stopped going up, and is now in the range of tens of thousands of guilders. Nevertheless, they are glad that, however high tulip prices may be for them, they know the government is always there to help. Sure, the roads are falling apart and the army is going hungry for lack of rations, but at least everyone who wants to marry is able to do so.

A kingdom having no preconceptions about the state legitimate role in the economy could have just started some tulip farms and hand those to the poor, free of charges. I guess that would lower the price tulips would reach, but given the damage bubbles do to the economy of a country I see as a plus.

There's also a harsh lesson to be learned on allowing speculations on goods that are "basic necessities". 

Higher education is in a bubble much like the old tulip bubble. In the past forty years, the price of college has dectupled (quadrupled when adjusting for inflation). It used to be easyto pay for college with a summer job; now it is impossible. At the same time, the unemployment rate of people without college degrees is twice that of people who have them. Things are clearly very bad and Senator Sanders is right to be concerned.

The price of education has quadrupled, not the costs. Just fund good public universities and call it a day. Nations that manage to spread education do so by spreading good "cheap" education. 

If, for reasons I can't imagine, getting a degree on Medieval History has a production cost of 100000$, then make a good public online university and call that a day.

I think that if education was deemed a basic necessity good, with governments supplying it at fixed prices for those who can't afford it, the world would be way better off.

There would be some ifs and how people could qualify for it, but it would definitely be an improvement.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-17T13:32:22.649Z · LW · GW

People also stocked up with disinfectants. (I don't remember whether authorities mentioned these, or it was just common sense.) This seemed more tricky, because making disinfectants at home... well, you couldburn some strong alcohol, you wouldn't even have to worry about toxicity if you do not intend to drink it;

This one they handled better, I'm 99% sure that the government started to hand out instructions on how to make disinfectants at home the minute people started trying doing it on their own... I guess it fits my hunch of "prevent flashy, showy bad consequences" as a decisional process, since people self procuring x-degree chemical burns would make the news fast.


Which again makes me think that if there is a risk of panic and shortage, you might want it to happen sooner rather than later, so that the market has enough time to adapt before the worst happens. 

I think I disagree on this one. The market starts producing as soon as it suspects there might be panic and shortage, I don't think that shops running out are actually needed for industries getting the message. But once shortages start to happen, people go crazy and start stockpiling more, so you get a random family owning more disinfectant than what they'll consume in the next three years and a lot of families without. Then the behaviour spreads more and more, people worry what might run out next and so on.

As a government, you could even contribute to the shortage, by buying tons of stuff... and later redistributing it to the places of greatest need: sell it to hospitals for the original price, thus shielding them from shortage and price hikes.

I guess any politician would say "no" just by the thought of the backlash in consensus from the population. The party who's playing opposition can jump on the "soviet requisitions" bandwagons and pitch the government as an adversary of the people, fighting them on the product they absolutely need to survive.

Even leaving political games aside... I think it would have backfired. The governments back then had the difficult task of convincing people to concede them more authority on their lives and follow restrictions, "sanity dictatorship" has become a rallying cry for protests already. Stuff like this would have made people revolt from day one.  

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Hammertime Day 6: Mantras · 2021-01-17T11:57:41.875Z · LW · GW

This was a more embarrassing question than I was expecting... well, here it goes.

Who the hell do you think we are?


Do the impossible, break the unbreakable 

Row, row, fight the power! 


Kick reason to the curb and do the impossible.

These three are straight from Gurren Lagann. I use them often as mental rally cries when I feel I'm at loss for hope or about to give up on something.

The first is a vague "don't give up and persevere" mostly for getting grit in the moment.

The second is more for my long term plans that are a long way from my reach (I know it's a misquote, but I like it more expressed this way.

The third I always interpreted as "kick common sense to the curb and think a way to do the impossible", I use it  for situations where I see no way of winning and have to make me think a way anyway.


Shut up and just do the impossible.

From HPMoR and Lesswrong, when I have to solve something I'm certain I can't, and the price for failure is high. Most of times I used I managed to at least make the situation better. 

I can do anything if I study hard enough!

I can do anything if I think hard enough!

From HPMoR, courtesy of general Sunshine. The second is more or less as the one above, the first one is for pushing through plans or reach goals that would ask me to study for a long time.


Are you making an extraordinary effort?

Are you doing everything you can?

Less pleasant than the ones above. I use these two to both step up my game and take ideas seriously. 

The first one is from Lesswrong, but I had been using the second one from a while already, so they got paired up. I got the second one from reading something about Greta Thumberg, and it hit me that it was the first "ordinary" person I saw described in details as one that was actually taking the climate change issue seriously and  behaving as she believed that much was at risk

(To clarify: I don't think she's the only one doing so, but her behaviour had struck me as impressively more coherent than what one would usually expect and left an impression)

They seem to put on me a lot of stress though, since they require me feeling like everything depends just on my ability of breaking my limits, giving my 100% effort, and then somehow reach past that an order of magnitude more. I'm using it only on my current life goal. So far my results ramped up.


Are you trying to argue you are right or to understand where the truth is?

This is my "rationality mindset, on!" mantra, it seems to be pretty effective on stopping certain bias when they activate and make me look at a question with the right mentality. I've often changed my mind and ideas when I used it, so I think it works pretty well.


Remember you can choose not to care.

Remember you can regulate your emotions.

I use these when I'm feeling bad for something I can't change or that I don't think I should be feeling bad about, or when I'm in the grip of anger or some other emotional state that's hindering me. 

I'm not 100% sure it's the healthiest thing I could say to myself, but it did got me through a light depression when I was a teenager and stabilised my mood a lot, so it stuck.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Instrumental Rationality: Postmortem · 2021-01-17T10:20:55.507Z · LW · GW

Thanks, I'll check them out as well!

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-17T10:18:58.567Z · LW · GW

So, I remain firmly convinced that discouraging people from wearing masks caused deaths. In short term, by making the pandemic spread faster. In long term, by undermining public trusts in experts.


It might be I guess... I'm starting to wonder if my memories about the "no mask" period are how most people lived it.


The way it happened for me was that in Italy masks quickly started to go sold out. People started making masks at home here too, I don't trust my memories 100% but I think that in a week or so most people I saw outside were wearing one. 

The narration I remember being pushed by experts was "if you aren't elderly or at risk in other ways you don't need one" so I think the attempt was to make sure the few masks available were getting to the most vulnerable citizens... but it might have been that they were just worrying about panic and fistfights breaking out on pharmacies or something, consequences that would "look bad" or weaken the perception of how well the government was handling things. Then again, if people started to panic it's hard to tell before how serious the consequences would be.

I think the shift toward "wear a mask" here was done gradually and quickly as more masks were being produced, but as I said I wouldn't trust my memories too much.  

A problem with my memories is that I remember interpreting the mask message that was being pushed as... ambivalent from day one. 

I'm sure I hadn't read Lesswrong opinions on it, but I remember clearly I had concluded from the start that masks had to help reduce the spread of the virus because they would reduce how far you'd breathe. I guess I figured the experts would be able to realise it, so this ought to be an attempt to slow down the starting panic rush toward masks. 

A lot of people instead apparently polarised and started arguing against masks because the far right had jumped onboard the "Chinese virus" bandwagon, but at the time I was avoiding any mention of the virus I could because I got fed up with it (I had recently finished a long work about how medias weren't focusing enough on news about global warming but coverage was improving at last, seeing this attention for a virus that even in the worst possible case of "hundreds of millions of people get infected" would kill significantly less people annoyed me a great deal. Not a rational reaction from my end, but I couldn't help it) and I was just checking a couple sites for the number of infections and RT, avoiding people and wearing what I could on my face, so I think I missed most of the confusion about it.


Thinking through it now, my guess is that instructions on how to make a mask at home or what to use as a quick fix would have likely contained the pandemic more and prevented more deaths. 

But if people panicked the wrong way the pandemic would have spread faster. 

Governments pushed the "don't panic" button by habitude and didn't really tried to see through the issue. 

In hindsight I guess they should have tried a different way to keep the calm, I think they underestimated how widespread the pandemic would become. Back then the call was harder (but I don't think they really weighted it rationally).


I wouldn't be able to estimate the "undermining public trusts in experts" damages. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T15:03:46.112Z · LW · GW

Part of the problem is that facebook has a lot of moderators who can just ban people. Ron Paul is strong enough to complain and get a decision reversed but average people who get banned by a random moderator can't. 

I agree it's a big problem, the inability of average people to complain worries me as well. 

I think Facebook should elaborate a strict guideline for its moderators, hold them accountable on how they decide and keep track on how they acted in the past, rewarding accuracy and punishing "interpretations". For such a big organisation it wouldn't really be excusable to leave moderators free to interpret the norms as the average forum would.

This would likely help a bit, if a moderator thinks he's acting properly when he's shooting down people belonging to the "enemy and obviously wrong" faction then things would turn sour really fast. 

If the solution doesn't do the trick and there are still too many "mistakes" then some other way to implement controls on the decision system would be needed.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Instrumental Rationality: Postmortem · 2021-01-16T14:53:31.746Z · LW · GW

It's very late feedback, but I think this was easily in the top three of the most well written self-help advice I've ever read.

It's early to judge, but I also think it's been one of the most useful. I have been kinda doing stuff similar to some of what you describe for a while, and I kept doing it because it was effective, and in the few days I had to try it having a more... explicit and systematic model of what actually works to shape my behaviour turned out to be useful. 

So far I haven't tried to apply it to too much stuff at once for fear of burning out, but problems I tried to fix in the past have been fixed for days now, where past solutions worked for mere hours before.


With the disclaimer you've made me realise that lately I had cut all of a sudden a lot of the stuff that makes me happy to improve productivity on stuff that's important, which explains why my mood got lower. I will act to restore some balance into that as well. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T13:49:11.044Z · LW · GW

I've also been concerned by the rise in politics-related content recently.

Thank you, I've now noticed I'm getting in more and more ideologically charged discussions in this site lately. I'm certain I'm not the only one who's pushing toward adding ideological charge in at least most of these, but I realised I should hold myself to stricter standards for what I write if I notice I'm in a sensible area.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T10:21:30.302Z · LW · GW

As I said, this ban seemed like a pretty good Schelling point. "Don't organise riots using our private service, thank you very much". I've never really seen in history a democracy turning into a dictatorships due to slippery slopes like these (if one has an example please provide it) usually the power shift happens first, and then the dictatorship and secret police might start with the easiest target first, but the corruption of the core principles always came first.

Edit: I guess the Schelling point only works if 1) it's a stricter standard politicians are held to 2) there is a clear way to define riots from protests. A Schelling point stating that if you're a politician you can't say "great, do it again" when a protest you sponsored turned violent seem to work fine, one that goes "random people or activist said to protest, in the last protest there were episodes of violence, thus we banned him for inciting people to riot and be violent" is clearly more sketchy. I guess I feel safer on social medias pulling this stuff on politicians rather than ordinary people because politicians are a lot harder to silence, and unfairness toward them would be a lot more easy to notice. 

But as I mentioned, ordinary people were being banned for praising episodes of violence long before this, so we jumped that point already. 

To me, it makes a lot of sense that politicians should be held to stricter standards of ordinary people anyway, since their words have a lot more weight and we saw again and again that people go crazy if they are just left free to say whatever it suits them. End of the edit.


If the social medias didn't ban Trump once he got this far, well.. that also would have set a precedent, one that, as an Italian, rings a lot more alarm bells to me. Because then any politician can try something like this, and this is exactly how we got fascism the first time. 

I mean, if we want to talk about Slippery slopes, a president openly refusing to accept elections and calling for a popular march on the government is jumping headfirst down one, rather than taking a small step. A fence had to be built, since freedom of expression used this way destroys freedom pretty fast once the process starts and the right factors are in place. 

Also, suppose the platforms then tried to coordinate on a ban of a less... well, obvious target. The politicians would not miss it and would immediately coordinate to have them back down, the offended party would call every resource it has if threatened this way, and it's likely that even the enemy party would join in on the effort, I'd expect them to be able to figure out the next obvious steps if they don't. 

Why would social medias even want such a war with powerful figures who can reduce their profit and that the ban of costs them users and backlash every time? 

So all in all, not banning Trump was a move a lot more dangerous for slippery slopes.


And that's just the overt bans. What about coordinated shadowbans? Coordinated removal of positive mentions, and promoting of negative mentions on the front pages?

This worries me a lot more. In all of this, I'd hardly ever say that the social medias platforms are the good guys. 

However, this strategy is a lot more effective if people aren't worrying about the overt bans. If you want to control society and power from the shadows, the last thing you worry is people suddenly becoming all worried on how you do things and who you grant access to. 

So I see the Trump ban as something Twitter was forced into by the circumstances, likely to avoid politicians and sponsors wanting to regulate what you can say on the "evil, fascist ridden social media platforms" themselves. 

How exactly social medias choose to promote and don't promote content has been worrying me for a while already. Sadly, normal information medias do it too. Free informations isn't really as free as people would hope, people, ideas, politicians and corporations have been facilitated or impeded in reaching the public with sketchy reasons for decades now, very few people noticed. 

You might want to have a look at research on media accountability and the propaganda model. If you have heard the controversies on it, I'd jump ahead and agree that Norman and Chomsky made questionable decisions in their research on it, but the model validity has still been proven beyond doubt and research from other authors confirmed it again. I confirmed it myself in a research for my master thesis.


On a side note: I think the whole slippery slow threat for democracy has been set as an argument inside the American culture during the cold war, where everything too "lefty" was argued to be a slippery slope for communism, often with "first the government steps into business a bit, then they take your home and then bam, you are a starving soviet peasant". I've heard this reasoning more times than I could count, but it's not at all how the communist revolution, or the fascist revolutions happened.

It might also be than in Europe the ban on fascism and such has long been in place so nobody worries about it turning some other ways, but there seems to be a cultural component on how worried people are toward the excesses of freedom of speech vs the dangers of limiting freedom of speech. 


Second Edit: I had a nagging suspicions I was doing something wrong in this reply. After thinking about it, I feel I've focused too much on the "banning Trump, right or wrong" side of the question.

I guess what I am trying to say is that from a larger perspective, I see this as a shift of power: away from elected politicians, towards colluding social media monopolies. People applaud, because the first nuke landed on Trump. Okay, cool. Who is next? And next? Who decides? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

This is really a good point. 

I still think politicians aren't the ones at risk here, and that letting excesses slide is more dangerous than stopping them, but as social medias start taking on themselves the role of "guardians" of their content, there should be a lot of focus on the decision processes involved, there should be a lot of caution in how this problem is managed (a "shoot first, ask later" as Youtube did with copyright issues and monetisation would be a disaster), and there should be a lot more transparency in how these companies generally do stuff since they basically have to power to shape society as they desire.

This feels to me as the key point of the issue, the key point to be discussed, rather than the too abstract "freedom of speech vs censorship" and the too specific "banning Trump right or wrong". 

The key question in your post seemed to be regarding how scientific controversies, where evidence is pointing away from consensus, should be handled by these platforms, which was more on the level that I think should be discussed, I've accidentally moved the focus away from that first by asking about which examples you were thinking of. Then we moved further from it, I think.


I guess a policy I kinda see as okay on the specific issue of factual accuracy is kinda like 

  • Flagging is better than censoring. Use the first if it seems it can be enough.
  • While in an emergency, posts contradicting official authorities guidelines are flagged as such. (The CDC wasn't likely being stupid about masks, if people knew masks would have made them safer from day one then there would have been more deaths, not fewer, because masks would have not been available where they'd have saved most lives. Scientific consensus is rarely wrong, and if the official authorities aren't following it the problem is much bigger than a social network policy can hope to fix. Once or twice you'd accidentally flag people being right, but science doesn't move forward by arguing on social networks during times of emergencies, and on average you'd flag a lot more vaccine deniers than rationalists).
  • While not in an emergency, follow a cautionary principle that limits censorship and flagging to the most extreme cases. Use it only where the false information is proven as false beyond doubt, and the risk it represents for the public is severe.
  • Keep the decision process as transparent and public as possible.


I feel this guideline is still too lax to hold back most forms of political fake news, which are a huge problem. But if you try to regulate something that can be that capillary, abuses become exponentially more likely, so I don't think I can think up an effective policy if I haven't studied the problem in a lot more details.

The policy for banning users that incite to violence, racism or stuff is a different subject yet, but I guess it should still follow a cautionary principle to limit censorship.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T09:46:43.480Z · LW · GW

Facebook seems to have undone Rob Paul ban, and explained it as a mistake. Given that Ron Paul lamented he had received no warning about violations of the community standards before the ban, it seems likely it wasn't a deliberated and approved move, since they haven't acted this way before and if they wanted to start a fight for power with politicians they'd start with cases where their decision for the ban is as defensible as possible. 

Shooting the moderated figures would turn everyone against the social medias and they'd lose the power struggle fast. My most likely guess for what happened is an employee taking a shot against a figure he personally hated, and given the risk of backlash I'd expect Facebook to put in place a system against the risk of this happening again.

If you can quote me the other figures like Rob Paul and there are no explanations, or too many "accidental ban" explanations, then there would be more reasons to worry, I guess.

I 100% agree that I'd rather see this sites err on the side of caution than on the site of ban, and that such weird "mistakes" can be made is rather worrying. 


Refuting the validity of an election, starting before it happens, in a total lack of proofs, while you are the losing party of this election... eh. I'd hardly see it as a purely epistemological question. 

However, Twitter blocked the statements made by Trump as part of their "fact checking" policy, and banned his profile on a totally different motivation, how he addressed the rioters in supportive ways and the hints of doing it again in the future.

I can't really see social medias wanting to risk a fight this harsh with politicians for reasons like factual accuracy (Which worries me as a theme, but the alternative is leaving a giant fascism-shaped door wide open for taking our society.) also because every time they ban someone popular their profits go down. 

All in all, I'm believing the stated reasons and I see no evidence they'd have banned him anyway if he just disputed the election results in a more... let's say peaceful way. (Which is still attempting to subvert the government and a horrible thing to do).


I'd also say that the traditional information medias have long taken on themselves the power to interpret, comment, and refute news. What Twitter did calling Trump on such fake statements is hardly an unprecedented move. Any journalist that wouldn't have done the same would be hardly doing his job, and we'd see society being a lot worse off if they didn't. 

I know social medias aren't journalists, but if they provide information channels to the masses, there has to be a way to prevent powerful people from just systematically lying about everything with no contradictions. You get dictatorship a lot faster this way, it's basically how it gets on power every time (this isn't a claim that Trump is a fascist, just that we'd get one soon eventually).

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Teachers: Much More Than You Wanted To Know · 2021-01-15T15:01:01.334Z · LW · GW

And here’s the other weird thing. Everyone else has found that teacher effects on test scores decay very quickly over time. Chetty has sort of found that up to 25% of them persist, but he doesn’t really seem interested in defending that claim and agrees that probably test scores just fade away. Yet as he himself admits, good teachers’ impact on earnings works as if there were zero fadeout of teacher effects. 

Students are pretty short-sighted and high school seems to be designed everywhere to have them worry only about the next test rather than their education as a whole. 

I'm speaking from personal experience, but when I think back to a subject I studied in high school I remember nearly only what I learned with good teachers, and nothing of what I learned with bad ones. 

A single good teacher makes me now remember a subject with some amount of interest, if I had none it's significantly harder to feel something like that. 

I had to study a second time nearly all of the high school knowledge I needed to use in my university, so I think the attitude toward a subject (or the experience of learning) lasts a lot more than the notions you needed to fork out for a test. 

When you are in high school, you have no say in what you have to study and get graded all the time, so I guess a new teacher can make you dislike a subject you liked the year before pretty fast. 


More generally, it feels to me like, from these findings, lots and lots of stuff that happens in your education affects by a lot your income. Basically we'd expect to see that the possible income values are all over the place. I'd suspect that this means that whatever control were put in place for these studies weren't enough, and that a many factors that cause probabilistic income shifts and the possible stuff that might happen in a single year of preschool/high-school education weren't adequately controlled for and there's something subtle that's screwing up everyone's results.



In fact, these groups are the strongest opponents of the above studies – not because they doubt good teachers have an effect, but because in order to prove that effect you have to concede that good teaching is easy to measure, which tends to turn into proposals to use VAM to measure teacher performance and then fire underperformers.

I guess that this isn't the main point of the post, but I still feel it's worth to point out this way you'll select to have only teachers that spend all their time preparing their classes to game the evaluation system. From what I understood about the USA educational system It's already a serious problem, I can't even imagine how badly things would turn when a test score would determine the chance people kept their job...

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-15T12:54:44.496Z · LW · GW

I'm a bit confused about the "purges" you are referring to. The last unprecedented episode regarding Trump was related to norms about hate speech and inciting people to break the law, not about scientific accuracy. Ordinary people were getting banned for those reasons long before, so I'm not sure if you are talking about that or some other purge I'm not aware of. I'm not sure the example from RationalWiki can be representative of a trend on other social networks.


If you are referring to the last unprecedented episode, it's also worth noting the most obvious and blatant forms of hate speech have been banned in the countries that had the most problems with them (such as Italy and Germany) for decades now. 

These restriction have in no way spread to anything else, it seems that being tolerant of everything save the worse forms of intolerance is a pretty good Schelling point. 

I always interpreted these restrictions as natural extension of laws people never saw as problematic. Freedom of speech doesn't really allows you to fabricate horrible rumours about me, or to try persuade someone to assault me. It is commonly understood that such behaviours are wrong and that I'm allowed to denounce who did such things to the authorities to protect myself. Why should it be different for groups?

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Instrumental Rationality 4.3: Breaking Habits and Conclusion · 2021-01-15T10:20:06.524Z · LW · GW

My reply is likely late, but I think part of the trigger is having fingernails that are long enough to be bitten. You could make a habit of keeping them as short as you can.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Instrumental Rationality 4.3: Breaking Habits and Conclusion · 2021-01-15T10:15:56.046Z · LW · GW

Great chapter. I've noticed I've been kinda applying similar strategies more and more in the last years, but it never occurred me to do this systematically. 

I think it could be improved by adding more examples. Breaking habits feels like a less intuitive process than making new ones. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Guns And States · 2021-01-13T18:21:59.105Z · LW · GW

A huge confounder in "gun ownership and crimes" would be "reports of crimes by media in an area". In Italy it predicted fear of crime way more than actual crime rates. 

Scared people would buy guns in a percentage a lot higher than murderers and other criminals, and the number of crimes reported by media isn't well correlated to the actual number of crimes.


How much you'd talk about your guns and how everyone has guns and shoot each other would make that option a lot more salient in people's mind when considering murders, I'd expect Germany and Canada to talk a lot less of guns than the USA after adjusting for the number of guns the population owns.


I'd expect a culture of guns to cause a culture of violence. If having a cultural weapon is a common thing in your country, your self image would change. You'd be more likely to buy one, and once you buy one you would be more likely to end up with a self image of a "warrior", who is more likely to react with violence to certain situations. Also an armed population weakens the state monopoly on violence, and might encourage people into taking matters in their own hands.

Since the culture of guns is there in the USA from day one, it might have caused a large part of the other cultural factor. Taking guns away might change the culture as well, it would be awkward for everyone to switch to knives.


Overall, I feel that guns and murders would not scale linearly with each other, and that some points of this analysis assume such a linear mechanism would be most of the relationship, so the number of murders avoided by having less gun would decrease more. I have no concrete ideas at the moment on how to try a different analysis, though.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Wheat: Much More Than You Wanted To Know · 2021-01-11T10:25:06.462Z · LW · GW

It means a breakfast of 3 eggs with green peppers and sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese for breakfast at 7 am and you’re not hungry until 1 pm. That’s an entirely different experience than the shredded wheat cereal in skim milk at 7 am, hungry for a snack at 9 am, hungry again at 11 am, counting the minutes until lunch. Eat lunch at noon, sleepy by 2 pm, etc. All of this goes away by banning wheat from the diet, provided the lost calories are replaced with real healthy foods.”

Doesn't this just sounds like the effect of eating a lot more at breakfast, rather than not eating wheat? If I ate all that stuff, replacing one course with one or more slices of bread, I don't think I'd be hungry at all until 1 pm either.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Centrally planned war · 2021-01-08T01:21:29.927Z · LW · GW

I don't suffer if I have an antibiotic resistent infection and a company sells a drug to cure it at market price. I suffer if I have an antibiotic resistent infection and there's no drug available that cures my illness and I die.

You need a lot of ideology to the conclusion that the act of someone selling me a drug that prevents me from dying at market prices makes me suffer.

I have to point out that in my last comment I specifically said that negotiating with the private company is the correct choice when the alternative is mass deaths due to the lack of antibiotics. We agree on "death due to infection is worse of having to pay market prices plus public money for development". 

It's just that I believe "using public moneys to develop X as a private resource" it's a worse long-term strategy for keeping society supplied of Xs than "use public moneys to develop X as a public resource", and I'm really not understanding why you assume there is no possible third alternative where I suffer even less because I only have to pay market prices or the costs of development, and not both. (I'm also fine with short term hybrid solutions such as "government pays half of X development costs, private agrees to keep prices at an agreed value to ensure X is easily accessible", I guess).

Since you accused me twice of coming from a biased and strongly ideological viewpoints while I sticked with practical considerations and arguments, citing no kind of rhetoric or anti-capitalistic moral to justify my position, I start to feel like I'm not the one bringing ideology into this argument.


Corporations are a lot better at cutting of wasteful research that doesn't make proftis then government research labs are

Corporations are way too good at cutting any research that doesn't make the most profits. This is a huge problem for research and science, because anything that might lead to huge public benefits and breakthroughs but needs 20 years of expensive research gets ignored and cut. 

Also, you focus research on what gets you profit rather than generating utility for mankind.


The fact that free market driven enterprise is much effective then government run programs.

Can you link me any data on this? I had saw research in different textbooks that said that public service was actually matching private enterprise for quality/costs of service in stuff like healthcare, water, light and other commodities, and in retirement investment plans. I'll try to recover it and link it since I'll need to write something on this, but I have to locate it first. Or you were referring to other types of programs?


The idea that lifesaving medince doesn't help population welfare seems very strange to me. Having more corporations that develop medicine for conditions that previously couldn't be treated as well clearly improve welfare. 

The key issue is that economic growth stops correlating too much to the development of lifesaving medicine after a certain point, and stops correlating to the access of the public to lifesaving medicine even faster. 

Wealth distribution, instead, correlates with access to such lifesaving medicine a lot more. The population suffers not because there is no lifesaving medicine to be bought, but because the market price of lifesaving medicine can be unreasonably high and still be the one which generates the most profits. 

I'm not managing to find accurate informations of how much antibiotics cost in the US, it seems to be twice or three times what they cost in Europe, and they still seem to be one of the cheap drugs, as I expected (I remember having bought Ofloxacin for 27€, here it's listed at 80$). Anyway, all the sources I found seem to agree that prescription drugs in the US are basically the most expensive in the world, and by a lot. 

Companies likely wouldn't scalp too much on flashy stuff like the antibiotic needed to save the population from flesh eating bacterias due to getting bad press, but poor people in need of "boring less-flashy lifesaving medicines" are currently haiving to make the choice between having medicine or having a roof (If I understand correctly insulin is sold in the US 700$ a dose?). 

Corporations can develop all the lifesaving medicines they want, if the optimal profit solution is to sell them at a price only 40% of the population can afford, you won't nearly see as much benefits for the population than in a system that treats health as a public resource and sets prices to what everyone can afford.

So to link back with

I don't suffer if I have an antibiotic resistent infection and a company sells a drug to cure it at market price. I suffer if I have an antibiotic resistent infection and there's no drug available that cures my illness and I die.

You suffer if you have to choose between losing your home/sinking into debt/renouncing lots of   things needed for health to afford treatment for the antibiotic resistant infection (which, money wise, actually seems one of the best health problem you can get).


As a society we want developing new drugs to be more profitable then laying of researchers and doing stock buybacks because better medicine is one of the ways we can actually translate increased societal wealth into increased population welfare

This seems like the most expensive way to get new drugs ever. I have to make it so that developing new drugs is one of the most profitable things a company can do with its moneys? Either you pay as a society many times what you'd pay to develop it yourself (remember, you're paying twice already, first to cover costs with public moneys, second to buy it at market price as a population), or you systematically sink and ban all other things a corporation can do, which I don't believe would really be a good idea.



Maximising profit isn't an utility function that can be expected to be efficient at providing utility to the general population. It's an utility function that doesn't have public health at all in its parameters. 

What kind of unlikely coincidence is needed to make so that maximising profit ends up, by basically mere chance, to also improve public health more than a system with as utility function to actually improve public health?

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Centrally planned war · 2021-01-07T18:13:58.075Z · LW · GW

I notice that I wrote costs, while what I had in mind was more like a... contractor fee. The government pays X to the industry so Y stuff gets done. The government owns the Y stuff it paid for. 

I wasn't expecting a private industry to just do the job at 0 profits for the goodness of their hearts.


I apologise in advance for how much I ended up writing below. My opinions on these themes are based on a number of inferential steps and I did my best to sum it up, because I think that clearing that possible misunderstanding on "costs" still left the problem I was thinking about unmentioned. It also has no real bearing on the issue of central vs individual logistics efficiency.


However if your ideological views bias you to find things besides having antibiotics more important then it turns out that you won't get new antibiotics.

I can't really see it as an ideological bias, I think it's a legit worry about the state of future based on not-ideological considerations. 

First, I'm pretty concerned about policies such as "governments paying the cost for industries developing X and then such industries retain the full right to use it and profit from it as if they had shouldered the costs". 

The government sees no return whatsoever. The population suffers a loss as well, since a medication (or X) they paid for is being sold back at them at market price, rather than the production price a government could set, or the lower yet price industries would set if facing competitions.

So it feels like this is the less possible efficient usage a tax-payer could see of his moneys, basically a free handout to private industries.

Paying a contractor fee makes more sense, at least the government can try to produce value from what he paid for more effectively. It still has problems, but I guess it can be a good way to produce more value for the population.


My second issue is that these kind of policies hugely weakens public research over the years. 

Governments keep incurring in large expenses year after year, these expenses are likely considered as part of the research budget, but anyone working in the public research doesn't sees a dime from this, so eventually shifts to private research for lack of work and funds, and the capacity of the nation to produce public research gradually shrinks further and further.

It is the exact opposite of what taxation should do, and corporations of large enough size are basically immune to taxation already. Rather than redistributing wealth you are just concentrating them in the hands of a big private.

A government should evaluate the costs and benefits of research infrastructure in the medium run, build the infrastructure it needs if it's economically viable, and if not, look for ways to make it happen in the future while negotiating for the better terms it can get with the corporations to develop the antibiotic now, if it's needed in the short term. 

Of course, I have no clue on how to calculate costs and benefits for research infrastructure, and the vague knowledge I heard tells me it's complicated as hell.

But, if it's economically viable for a corporation to build their own research lab, I see no way it wouldn't be so for a government. 

(If anyone has detailed knowledge on why this isn't the case I might change my view on this, but there would still be no reason to not look for the best "price" you can get from corporations for the antibiotics. Why should governments be the only ones not worrying about trying to get the most value from their moneys?)

This way you can get antibiotics, thriving public research, and a population that's not growing more and more impoverished.


This still might not be important enough to be left without antibiotics in a deadly pandemic.

So of course, if you need the antibiotics now and have no other way that's equally efficient, negotiating with the corporation on worse terms is acceptable. But it better be an emergency-only policy, not the norm.


Third, I have a problem with the reliability of private research in general, (though not so in fields such as medicine, where the liabilities for missteps are too costly). 

If you go look at what research from private industries sustained on subjects such as acid rains, global warming, tobacco and such, it's clear that reality and standards gets tossed from the window as soon as they become a threat (I actually researched these claims for my thesis, I'm not talking from personal feelings like I mentioned above).

There's also the problem of intellectual property, that makes a lot more harder for science to be able to pile up if half the stuff I'd need to build on is intellectual property of someone else who acts to maximise its profits. I'm fine with giving royalties and big cash prizes to whoever deserved them, but if you don't have science that's public and can be used by everyone, I fear that science eventually just slows more and more.

To clarify: I'm not against private research, the world would be clearly a lot worse off without it and it can produce a lot of improvements for the whole mankind as it did already. But a future with more and more private research and less and less public research looks a lot worse off to me.


Lastly; A lot of this is coming from the background knowledge that, if you look at how the distribution of wealth has been going in the last thirty years, you can see that the wealth of the world is basically being sucked in a whirlpool of large capitals and corporations, with the rest of the population slowly having less and less. 

A key cause for it is that anyone large enough can legally stop paying taxes and does so, so he gets to reinvest a 100% of his profits to make more profits, while also receiving funds from governments to cover up large losses (or, in the case we discussed, expenses). 

(It's also pretty frustrating, if large corporations and capitals just payed taxes in the ratios the average citizen does we'd be basically swimming in a huge pile of public research and utility already.)

Anyway, the economic growth these entities are producing isn't benefiting the general populace enough to compensate just how good these entities are at making bucks at the general expense. If it was enough, we would be seeing the general population getting richer, and the big private entities getting even more richer, but only the second one is happening. 

Research shows that economic growth just stops correlating with the population welfare after a certain threshold (plenty of research on this from Wilkinson and Pickett and many others) and what determines the population wellbeing turns out to be the wealth distribution in said nation, which is getting more and more focused everywhere. 

So, to get back on my issue with this kind of policies of public funded private research, any transaction that takes public money and hands them to these entities that aren't giving back enough, just makes the problem worse, and should have some pretty amazing benefits to be considered.


I really have to write a sequence on this. It's a lot more efficient than occasionally spending a hour to comment on a thread.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Centrally planned war · 2021-01-07T09:30:38.180Z · LW · GW

Selling them to people would quickly make bacterias develop a resistance to the new antibiotic, making them useless for their purpose (having a way to fight a pandemic from a strain of bacterias that developed a resistance to all available antibiotics).

I agree that this law sinks the profits to the bottom, but this was more or less my point. You can't expect private profit to match what's actually needed.

Paying them to develop the drug makes sense if it wouldn't be their intellectual property after and if it's cheaper than developing them yourself... it's still central logistic thought, I think the military always used contractors for mass orders they paid themselves. 

My feeling is that on the long term we're way better off building up the structure to carry on such  research in the public sector, but it's not relevant to the issue.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Learning To Love Scientific Consensus · 2021-01-06T17:36:23.180Z · LW · GW

My impression is that economists not only know about these criticisms, but invented them. During the last few paradigm shifts in economics, the new guard levied these complaints against the old guard, mostly won, and their arguments percolated down into the culture as The Correct Arguments To Use Against Economics. Now the new guard is doing their own thing – behavioral economics, experimental economics, economics of effective government intervention. The new paradigm probably has a lot of problems too, but it’s a pretty good bet that random people you stop on the street aren’t going to know about them.

I'll have to redo my evaluation of economics as a field. I was assuming it was complete bogus because of spectacular failure of economists consensus on themes such as austerity and other politics, but reading I realised that the consensus observed was merely the one of the experts used to promote such politics. It might well be it wasn't a consensus at all. Economics might be one of the most ill-represented fields of human history.


I feel a deep temptation to sympathize with global warming denialists who worry that the climatological consensus is biased politicized crap, because that is exactly the sort of thing which I would expect to come out of our biased politicized crappy society.

At this point I have to point out that if any climatologist ever managed to find anything serious against global warming he'd become the most published man in the world and the most payed scientist in a matter of two months. Fossil corporations would jump at the chance fast after thirty years of publishing in over 200 editions the same 4 authors that haven't managed to find anything at all. 

Also, climatologists were subjected to all kind of adverse pressure from fossil corporations, some lobbyists went as far as to publish their home addresses and instigating people to send them death threats. 

Biased politicised crap doesn't hold for two minutes after adverse biased corporation crap starts to bombard it with everything it has.

The study that found out about the 97% consensus on global warming was made because after years and years a furious debate of "experts" was still raging on all medias (turns out that only one side had experts and evidence).

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Centrally planned war · 2021-01-06T17:03:46.663Z · LW · GW

Part of the issue is the predictably, I feel. The Russian winter example is pretty obvious now, but I doubt french coat makers really had more chances to see the problem coming than Napoleon and his advisors. 

An industry of dedicated providers for the military could spend money to research possible wars in hope to be better informed and make profits... provided they can't make more profits in just investing more on marketing or whatever. Their goal would be to just maximise profit, and with competitors in the equation the welfare of the army starts to be less and less relevant for that.

For example: pharmaceuticals industries aren't really showing much foresight in the development of new antibiotics. The growing resistance of bacterias to antibiotics could become a really dire problem in the future, but research to develop new antibiotics is pretty expensive and unlikely to yield short-term profits. (granted, I hadn't heard governments being much more foresightful about this).


Part of the problem is that any corporation large enough to match the military's intelligence and research capacity is also going to suffer from badly thought incentive programs, so there's no reason to expect them to be better off. If I'm a manager evaluated on this year profits, I should be pretty "stupid" to invest in something that might yield profits ten years from now.

If you replace any goal an organisation might have with "maximise profit" there's no real reason it should yield better results than an organisation with a goal that's actually what you want. My feeling is that modern corporations are pretty close to unaligned AIs in how they're able to ignore what a human moral would expect them to act and just stick with their "maximise profit" utility function.


The last point of the issue is that individuals might suck at deciding what they need. 

In the case of a winter coat in the middle of the Russian winter you' have to be an idiot not to buy it, but there's no reason a soldier would pick the equipment that maximise his chances of survival, if the problem can't be seen easily. Like a gun that look cool but has higher chances to jam at the wrong moment. Other soldiers would warn you... but aren't you likely to have bought the gun before reaching them? What do you do then? You buy a new one even if it's expensive? Also, now marketing is getting involved, so there are actually five guns with "anti-jamming" mechanisms, plus the "better and improved" version of the one you have, which offers a 50% discount if you turn in your old gun... 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Centrally planned war · 2021-01-06T12:07:19.171Z · LW · GW

It doesn't look like "each person looking after themselves" works better in peace time either. 

Dictatorships screw up horribly for a large number of causes, but if you look between democracies, the states where the governments intervene the most to ensure the livelihood of their citizens are the ones better off.

A peacetime where every people look after themselves would mean no taxes, no public transportations, no public services. You want safety? You have to buy yourselves a gun. Health? Even insurance is a collective deal (and it works way worse than public healthcare, if you see the ratios between health and costs of healthcare), you'd have to have enough moneys in your pockets to actually pay for your doctor visits, operations, etc...


In warfare, if you remove central logistic, each soldier have to buy or "obtain" what he need by himself. Soldiers would be bidding against each other, the local sellers would increase prices (this is all considering the buy option and not the "obtain" which... yeah) and local shortages that bring to disaster become much more likely, especially since large number of soldiers often have to be moved quickly to new areas with no room to worry whether that area could sustain them or not.

Even if you imagine a central transportation system being put in place and a central buyer from which soldiers are encouraged to buy what they need, you'd get a lot of problems because individual and group foresight would be pretty low. ("We knew Russia was cold, we didn't expect it was so cold! Could you get us 100000 heavier coats and shoes within, say, three days? Most of us should still have toes by then").


Generally, individual people are absolutely horrible at preventing problems, preventing problems is unbelievably cheaper than solving them, and central organisations have a lot more ways to see problems coming and prevent them. In warfare, the cost of problems and lack of foresight is a lot higher. 

Ideally you'd also want central organisations to be evaluated using the individuals feedback ("How much are you, U.S soldier in the Vietnam war, satisfied with the M16 assault rifle? Which problems did you experienced using it? Being dead means you automatically gave the worst possible score") to fix all the kind of problems you run into by using central organisations, and some emergency procedure to fix the problems if central organisation seem to have screwed up big time.


Mostly I think the problem is where you set the line, the question is a bit vague on where to draw boundaries on individual efforts and central organisations.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2021-01-04T14:18:25.732Z · LW · GW

None of these should be relevant to the main point, but they still felt worthwhile to point out.

But in most cases, I think this is more of an emotional argument, or even an argument from "You would look silly saying that". You really can't say "Oh, he's the good kind of criminal", and so if you have a potentially judgmental audience and not much time to explain yourself, you're pretty trapped. You have been forced to round to the archetypal example of that word and subtract exactly the information that's most relevant.

I think you usually can try to parry most of these by doubling down. "In his steps, I sure wish to find myself having the courage to breaking that racist, unfair, law". "I don't care what you call it, I wouldn't let children suffer from a disease just because the way you want to name my cure". 

The trick is to push back hard enough that you're not just defending from an accusation of something bad, you are re-establishing that your position is good. If he wants to pursue that line, you are now the one attacking his stance on a value, and you can attack by pressing on points that are related to your main issue.


If you define murder as "killing another human being", then abortion is technically murder.

If you concede the opponent definition of what's a human being. I'm not sure conception it's an ideal Schelling point.


2: This should be distinguished from deontology, the belief that there is some provable moral principle about how you can never murder. I don't think this is too important a point to make, because only a tiny fraction of the people who debate these issues have thought that far ahead, and also because my personal and admittedly controversial opinion is that much of deontology is just an attempt to formalize and justify this fallacy.

In Italy this is a huge problem actually. It's unbelievably hard to find a doctor who's not a conscientious objector. Though I guess they would still be a small percentage of people involved in a debate on this.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on …And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes · 2021-01-03T18:30:51.694Z · LW · GW

This was great.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Beware Isolated Demands For Rigor · 2021-01-03T18:11:27.357Z · LW · GW

(actually, I can think of something even worse than that, which is a TV western based on this premise, where a roving band of pre-Socratic desperadoes terrorizes Texas. The climax is no doubt when the hero strides onto Main Street, revolver in hand, saying “There’s a new sheriff in town.” And Parmenides gruffly responds “No, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.”)

I'm pretty sure this would actually be fairly good.


“The only truly consistent people are the dead, Protagoras,” he said – and squeezed the trigger.

I rest my case.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on The Schelling Choice is "Rabbit", not "Stag" · 2021-01-03T09:23:55.049Z · LW · GW

I don't feel the "stag hunt" example to be a good fit to the situation described, but the post is clear in explaining the problem and suggesting how to adapt to it.

  • The post helps understand in which situations group efforts where everyone has to invest heavy resources aren't likely to work, focusing on the different perspectives and inferential frames people have on the risks/benefits of the situation. The post is a bit lacking on possible strategies to promote stag hunts, but it specified it would focus on the Schelling choice being "rabbit".
  • The suggestions on how to improve the communication and how to avoid wasting personal resources where this can't be done are useful and are likely to change the way I act in these situations.
  • The real life situations described fit my experience in group works and how I've witnessed people fail to cooperate.
  • I don't think there's a subclaim I can test.
  • I'd like a followup work that would focus on how to enforce/promote cooperation in groups to successfully stag hunt, with different strategies listed for different levels of power one could have on the group and for different levels of group inertia.
Comment by andrea-mulazzani on The Schelling Choice is "Rabbit", not "Stag" · 2021-01-03T09:02:06.664Z · LW · GW

The insight is pretty useful, even if I feel the whole "stag hunt" example is a bit misleading. (Hunts are highly coordinated efforts, and there's no way people wouldn't agree on what they're doing before setting off in the wood. Then, anyone who hunts a rabbit after saying stag isn't making a Schelling choice, but defecting in full)


They don't stop.

So I start subtly socially punishing them for it.

They don't stop. What's more... now they seem to be punishing me.

Generally speaking, I don't think this is an effective way to change people's behaviour. Scientific literature agrees punishments aren't really effective in modifying behaviour (even if there are some situations where you can't not use them, or where the knowledge of a lack of punishment causes defection). 

In this situation 1) it's not clear what they're being punished about or even that this is a punishment, so they might miss it completely and 2) they'd have plenty of ways to avoid the punishment (like avoiding you) so I wouldn't expect this tactic to work. 

Socially reinforcing/rewarding the desired behaviour should work a lot better to shape behaviour and doesn't exposes you to possible collateral side effects.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2021-01-02T13:34:46.172Z · LW · GW

Concise. The post briefly sums up the fields and directions where rationality have been developed on the site, then asks for users to lists the big open questions that are still left to answer.

  • The post is mostly useful to 1) people wishing to continue their training in rationality after they went through the recommendations and are looking for what they should do next and 2) continue the conversation on how to improve rationality systematically. The post itself lists a few of the fields that have been developed and are being developed, in the answers there are several open questions left to explore.
  • The post improved the list I made of what I should study in the future to further improve my understanding of rationality.
  • It seems to be accurate, the user that wrote it is focused on organising the LessWrong site, with many years of activity and an extremely high karma. Many high-karma answers from "reliable" users also suggests the post has good informations, both in the question and in the answers.
  • The claims on Forecasting and Behavioral Economics having been developing fields on LessWrong fit with what I saw on the site. I plan to read "How to Measure Anything" which the user claims to be a good book to test how useful its recommendations are, but don't have the time to do so now. 
  • An edit or a followup post listing the open problems of rationality that most answers agreed on (also considering the answers' karma) would be useful. If this has been done, the post lacks a link to it.
Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Nash Equilibria and Schelling Points · 2021-01-02T10:10:56.527Z · LW · GW

I see, expressed like this it's obvious... 

I think I should calculate the loss of utility multiplying or the missed defences, then, since the utility is different only when the defence is unsuccessful.

This way I get -10 x 1/11 and -1 x 10/11, so the utility stays the same and I'm defending Metropolis 10 times out of eleven as I'm supposed to.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Incremental Progress and the Valley · 2020-12-16T10:25:51.984Z · LW · GW

And only now I finally get why some of the people I know kept telling me, again and again, "okay, but rationality is not enough for everyone to get through their lives, people need something to believe in..." they were just picturing the step of being "realistic".

It has dawned on me that nearly all the illusions I was wrapped in were making my life considerably unhappier. 

I guess that's why I've never experienced anything close as finding myself worse off because of studying rationality, not even after the first steps. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Epistemic Viciousness · 2020-12-14T10:58:03.525Z · LW · GW

I'm mostly speaking from anecdotal experience, but my experience confirms that the effectiveness goes way up if you go back to historical martial arts. 

I'm practicing historical fencing, the techniques are from the textbooks that we got from where people were actually killing each other with them, and many seem to have been independently recreated in modern times, such as the techniques for defence against knives (with modifications caused by the different length of the blades).


On a side note not really relevant to the subject, we had some group fights and I've personally tested that "hitting the enemy before he's ready to block, preferably from behind" is a definite win for effectiveness, so bonus points to prof. Quirrel. 

I'm also really happy that I found a teacher that sees cheating as "technique" when you're not training for a tournament. One of the thing I got really surprised is that I'm managing to use "creative thinking" in the middle of a sparring match to win.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate · 2020-12-12T18:31:50.900Z · LW · GW

Perhaps a way to have comments of agreement that can also work as signalling your own smarts would be to say that you agree, and that the best part/most persuasive part/most useful part is X while providing reasons why. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate · 2020-12-12T18:15:26.449Z · LW · GW

Our culture puts all the emphasis on heroic disagreement and heroic defiance, and none on heroic agreement or heroic group consensus.

There's a lot more of this in anime, I feel. A lot of characters end up trusting someone from the bottom of their hearts, agreeing to follow their vision to the end, and you see whole group of good guys that are wholeheartedly committed and united to the same idea. Even main characters often show this trait toward others.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on 3 Levels of Rationality Verification · 2020-12-12T17:30:34.099Z · LW · GW

Something the masters (and students) of each school can do to keep it real:

The Winning Tournament: Organise a yearly or so event. A group of clever, evil people select and creates a number of "games" or tests, if you'd rather. Wannabe masters of rationality can compete against each other for the title, pride and  glory. 

The type of games and tests should be kept varied. Some could be contests where participants randomly compete against each other, other might be battle royals where people can form alliance and all around try as hard as they can to win. Others are just games where there is a correct solution to be figured out from clues, the fastest you get there the more points you gain, but if you get to the wrong solution, well, that's really worse than having been slow.

Physical abilities and expertise in fields should be kept out of these games if possible, since they are powerful "noise" sources. 

The tests should be really hard, so a committee of clever, evil people who approach the task of creating the games with a certain degree of evil glee is recommended. They can get inspirations from real life problems that have caused disasters and routinely mess up experts are recommended. Games that are similar to real problems people can meet in real life are recommended (for example, having to mediate an agreement between other groups of participants, or just by hearing the description of a situation).

A good example was the Darwing Game here on Lesswrong, though it seriously advantaged programmers it had the effect to spark a lot of interesting plans.

For organising it... if you keep things "fun" enough it should be doable to find interested people. If you keep things "amazing" enough, rationality might even start to get a bit of "awesomeness" reputation from it. It seems possible to even organise it online. You could charge a small fee to participate it to cover expenses (something proportionated to the "fun" you'd get participating) and perhaps use a part of it as prize money for the winner.

A group of intelligent people acts as "graders" of the game, to create an individual score that hopefully could be more or less coherent between tournaments, so you'd know how much you've improved from the last one.


Clearly, this is just as good as the games and tests that are put into it. Crucial aspects would be how much does a game has a victory that correlates with rationality skill rather than just some more specific skills, how much does a game has a victory that correlates with being able to "win" in common real life problems. But I think the committee could have fun in creating said games, and I'd expect people skilled in thinking and rationality to be advantaged. Raw native intelligence would be a major source of noise, but that can't really be helped I think.   



Something you could do to test a hundred student

A number of "games" or "situations" where a mathematical solution is calculated is devised, and such games are handed in a yearly test people can do online. 

The betting game with the lights in "A Technical Explanation of a Technical Explanation" is a good example.  People are asked to bet each round, with evidence coming from a mathematical simulation of the game being provided bit by bit. More than a scoring function can be used for such betting games, so players also have to calculate what the best winning strategy is depending on the circumstance.

Deduction games can also be played, where you have to use the clues (again, we are supposing types of games where we can calculate the exact or most likely solution for the evidence provided)

For such games, elaborated rules can be devised, not necessarily going with simple random distributions. Perhaps some scoring system for correctly stating the rule could be used? Occam's Razor might apply to how likely you are to have a complex rule vs. a simple rule.


Other possible games can be devised in decision theory, with the task of maximising a given utility function, predicting the moves of other entities is incorporated as well. For extra fun, some of these games will be connected, if a certain number of people will be asked to choose the move of the entity A in a scenario, and a number of player will be asked to choose the move of the entity B in the same scenario, then the percentages of the players' decisions will be used to choose A and B moves, evaluating the final score each player got in that scenario depending on his individual decision. 

Arguments with fallacies, biases or other errors of cognition can be provided (not in every test there will be one, and participants won't know how many there are). Participants would choose the correct option from a long list of options, and will have to also mark the numerical number of the line where the fallacy appears to specify which is what, so the scoring system can be automatised.

We can also put in some hard logic exercises for good measure.

Participants receive a global score and more detailed ones, which are determined using time and precision.


Note: I think this kind of test measures more the "theoretical skill" of the participant, and not whether they can apply it in real life.


Something you could use as a test even if people have an incentive to game it

Class project: a group of rationalists choose an ongoing problem in a particular field. A group of experts in the field is selected to act as judges. 

A number of rationalists offers to collectively tackle the issue. When they sign up for the game they specify the number of hours they could put into this (a minimum number is required for participation). Applicants are required to specify why they think they could help solving that particular problem, those that aren't judged suited to the task might be refused by the judges.

Ways to communicate with each other are provided. The participants have to organise the work between themselves, and be able to propose a solution, analysis, or something that would provide progress in said field. Each participants or group of participants will be assigned a task based on the number of hours they offered to put in, if they can't complete their tasks this affect negatively their score (which also depends on the number of hours). Of course groups are expected to be able to take care of such problems by themselves.

When the final work is produced (which has to suit standard requirements for their fields) it is graded by the judges, to give a "quick score". 

More importantly, attempts are made to put the work under the scrutiny of the fields it belongs to (for example, by publishing it in a scientific journal). If this scrutiny goes well, it goes into the "real score". Progress made in solving said problem are monitored. If the work produced by the rationalist group ends up being right, it goes into the "real score". If the project leads to solving the problem, it super goes into the "real score" and badges or something are handed out to everyone who worked on it and received an adequate score.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Schools Proliferating Without Evidence · 2020-12-12T15:15:20.577Z · LW · GW

I have a master degree in psychology. 

Other than cognitive-behavioural therapies many form of brief psychotherapies have been developed in recent years to tackle specific problems, with scientific literature showing their efficacy.

At the moment measuring the results, understanding and testing what works and why it worked, is an element of mental-health intervention that's receiving more and more attention and it's being required in many "schools" or approaches.

From what I've seen, most of the resistance to this is coming from the "long" forms of psychotherapy, arguing that it's too difficult. 


But yeah, as a field, psychotherapy is still struggling with the task of getting rid of a bunch of stuff that's about as evidence based as voodoo, and the standards required to operate in mental-health are way too lax. 

Many books written to train psychotherapist will tell you that most of the healing power comes from the relationship between the psychotherapist and the patient, and that you have to rely a lot on your personal experience and intuition, with no mentions at all of attempts to do better and to improve the methodologies.


Talking to a professional is still your best shot if you need to take care of your mental health, but you might want to find out which school or approach use the professional you are considering, and whether they have an approach of measuring results, operating on scientific evidence and so on.



This was probably, to no small extent, responsible for the existence and continuation of psychotherapy in the first place—the promise of making yourself a Master, like Freud who'd done it first (also without the slightest scrap of experimental evidence).

I agree wholeheartedly, still Freud has the credit that the field was such a disaster when he started, that talking to people and trying to go by ear was still a huge improvement. He wanted to help people and didn't understood the scientific approach well enough to use it in such a confusing and unexplored field as mental health, or just wanted to help people now and not 50 years later.

His biggest success seems to be the radical intuition that talking to people with mental health issues yield better results than torturing them and locking them up, but it was still an improvement and I think scientific psychology would have been born a lot later without the impact his ideas had on popular culture, so I'd avoid picking on him too much.  

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Make an Extraordinary Effort · 2020-12-10T17:30:53.777Z · LW · GW

Or the ones who say to me:  "You should go to college and get a Master's degree and get a doctorate and publish a lot of papers on ordinary things—scientists and investors won't listen to you otherwise."  Even assuming that I tested out of the bachelor's degree, we're talking about at least a ten-year detour in order to do everything the ordinary, normal, default way.  And I stand there thinking:  Are they really under the impression that humanity can survive if every single person does everything the ordinary, normal, default way?

I guess it's not exactly a coincidence, but I had to make the near same judgment not two weeks ago. 

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on The Level Above Mine · 2020-12-09T13:05:05.927Z · LW · GW


All this time, and I've never thought once that Eliezer could be thinking about other people nearly the exact way I thought about him.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Raised in Technophilia · 2020-12-09T11:43:43.638Z · LW · GW

It was Pournelle's reply to Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, who were saying, in the 1960s and 1970s, that the Earth was running out of resources and massive famines were only years away.  It was a reply to Jeremy Rifkin's so-called fourth law of thermodynamics; it was a reply to all the people scared of nuclear power and trying to regulate it into oblivion.

Club of Rome letter talked about disasters decades away, precisely, the first decades of the twenty first century. They were dismissed as unreliable because there was a petrol crisis in the year following the letter, and when that was solved people misrepresented the content of the letter as if it was talking of a disaster only years away.

That was the fundamental meaning of A Step Farther Out unto me, the lesson I took in contrast to the Sierra Club's doom-and-gloom.  On one side was rationality and hope, the other, ignorance and despair

Given the current situation, and what science is saying on the current state of the planet, it seems to me that they got things amazingly right


But how many people have died because of the slow approval in the US, of drugs more quickly approved in other countries—all the drugs that didn't go wrong?  And I ask that question because it's what you can try to collect statistics about—this says nothing about all the drugs that were never developed because the approval process is too long and costly.  According to this source, the FDA's longer approval process prevents 5,000 casualties per year by screening off medications found to be harmful, and causes at least 20,000-120,000 casualties per year just by delaying approval of those beneficial medications that are still developed and eventually approved.

It's a huge mistake to generalise the cost/benefits of regulation regarding medicine to technology as a whole.

So there really is a reason to be allergic to people who go around saying, "Ah, but technology has risks as well as benefits".  There's a historical record showing over-conservativeness, the many silent deaths of regulation being outweighed by a few visible deaths of nonregulation.  If you're really playing the middle, why not say, "Ah, but technology has benefits as well as risks"?

The historical record can't possibly take into consideration the rising destructive potential of technology and the abysmal conditions of life we started in. Worst case, if you allowed an unsafe steam engine in the 1800, it could blow up, start a fire and kill an average of dozens people.


I feel the reasoning on the cost and benefits of regulation and industrialisation is still really shallow if confronted to everything else in the sequences. The risks coming from regular technology aren't even close to extinction level threat, but they are pretty real and there's a lot of damages that could be cut down without any drawback.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on The Incomprehensibility Bluff · 2020-12-07T09:33:47.529Z · LW · GW

I'm really surprised by the fields where you perceive this to be more frequent, especially philosophy and social activism. One would expect that in the humanistic fields this kind of bluff would be much harder to pull off, since you have less excuses to be obscure and not make sense.

Though I've seen bad reasoning in these fields, and also bad reasoning that nobody called because it was hidden by some amount of complexity. And in technical fields the bluff would have no chance at all to work on anyone save uninformed laypersons.

Could you perhaps provide links of examples of this? I think it would make the post clearer.


You seem to imply, with the part where the speaker can also opt to fall for his bluff, that this doesn't apply only to the cases where the perpetrator is wilfully trying to deceive the audience.

If so, I feel that "bluff" might be a misnomer. The Incomprehensibility Obfuscation perhaps could be a bit more accurate?

When I was forced to waste my time and actually study post-Freudian psychoanalysis I think I've met a lot of this, theories I'd stare at for several minutes and just looked... empty, like the whole thing was a complex renaming system talking about nothing (not that I think Freudian psychoanalysis is in any way reliable or useful), but I think that most people working in the field would have some illusion of knowledge and understanding from it, so I'm puzzled if the feeling of "I don't get what you're saying but don't want to look stupid" is the focal part of this process, or if it works better when you manage to give people arguments they don't notice themselves to have not understood, or that are at least easy to remember.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Feeling Moral · 2020-12-06T17:44:12.091Z · LW · GW

If the googolplex number of hiccups is one per human, as in, "each of these googolplex number of humans that are available in the countless parallel many-worlds will suffer a single hiccup more in their whole life", then I feel like it's just... noise? So not actually worth anything. (Assuming the annoying omnipotent Omega who just keeps showing up to test our rationality in rather sadistic ways assures that there won't be any ripple effect from the hiccups, so no billions of pilot crashing planes during landing and so on). 

Inflicting a lesser number people with more hiccups each would eventually reach a point where it would become something, and so we'd have to take the deal.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on D&D.Sci · 2020-12-06T16:58:13.423Z · LW · GW

Not to nitpick, but does this mean classes like fighter, wizard, etc.. were merged in a generic "adventurer" class? 

If not, I get the point of the post anyway, but it seems we are missing a pretty big part of the informations we need to choose.

Comment by andrea-mulazzani on Fake Selfishness · 2020-12-05T14:35:29.675Z · LW · GW

The one replied:  "Well, if you become selfish, then you'll realize that it's in your rational self-interest to play a productive role in the economy, instead of, for example, passing laws that infringe on my private property."


I get that this isn't the point of the post but... what? No, just no. If I'm selfish I'm going to pass laws that don't infringe on MY private property, why should I care about yours? Indeed, I'll just go on with using any shred of political influence I have to make sure your taxes end up paying my expenses and thus increase my private property while decreasing yours, thank you very much.

And how did this amazing economical system where it's not just more convenient to exploit cheats and take away value from the others got in place if selfish people build it? Was it just an amazing coincidence that this amazingly fair set up was the most convenient for the selfish rule-makers?