Comment by ckai on Facebook is Simulacra Level 3, Andreessen is Level 4 · 2021-04-30T01:05:33.197Z · LW · GW

I was not commenting on goodness or badness, just simulacraness.

Are you saying that assigning titles according to a system that you think is how titles should work makes the title a more accurate truthful signal about actual social reality than assigning titles according to the way titles are generally assigned industry wide?

It seems to me that this is not the case, because assigning titles that are inaccurate (according to industry standards) in either direction causes confusion.  In the case of title deflation, the excerpt above suggests that it makes it harder for people with lower titles than their actual responsibility to interface with those outside the company, get meetings, etc.  The inaccurate signal imposes a cost.

Comment by ckai on Facebook is Simulacra Level 3, Andreessen is Level 4 · 2021-04-29T17:33:47.267Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that they're both doing exactly the same thing:  assigning titles according to a method that's not industry standard for reasons of their own.  Maybe industry standard is more meaningfully simulacra level 3 (in the social truth sense) than either of them?

Comment by ckai on Unpopularity of efficiency · 2021-01-28T17:53:45.075Z · LW · GW

The efficiency of a process is the rate with which it turns what you have into what you want.

This definition seems to imply that what you have is not what you want (fair enough, I guess), and that the process is a means to get what you want, and the process itself is also not a part of what you want.

Since life is a process (I do not believe that the one who dies with the most toys wins), efficiency under this definition is trading away a part of life for some end result that you want.  (And I think that people tend to object to efficiency in human things, not in purely mechanical things.)  May or may not be a good trade, but intuitively, a process that is less efficient in producing the end result but more life-affirming (for lack of a better word) sounds good to me, and I don't agree that efficiency is definitionally equivalent to goodness.  There is a tradeoff.

(On the other hand, if you consider the process as part of the end result, and the process as producing itself, and the efficiency as the rate with which the process produces itself in a form that's what you want, I suppose you can get around this definitionally, but I find that definition less intuitive and more difficult to work with, as you can probably tell by the awkward way I described it.  I don't think this is usually what is meant by efficiency.)

Comment by ckai on Matt Levine on "Fraud is no fun without friends." · 2021-01-21T02:39:31.851Z · LW · GW

I'd also say it's kind of sweet that you assume that people who are pursuing the arts find it to be rewarding, or that the camaraderie that keeps these communities knit together is a pleasant experience.

Actually, that was an element that you introduced.  "We don't want people working a job primarily because it's fun and they like their coworkers."  and "the occasional bright spots of camaraderie when they do manage to get some sort of project going"  

But given your description of "a slowly-developing psychological exaggeration of how meaningful their 'work' is", I guess I'm more inclined to give the people being described the benefit of the doubt than you are, which I admit is a bit cheeky considering that they're not people I've ever met.  Still, I think it's worth at least considering the possibility that their values are not your values, and what you describe as exaggeration might be actual meaning to them.

Re: bullying, I've seen plenty of bullying over the internet, and some types of bullying are much more prevalent in online spaces.  I don't really see any argument for bullying going away when more things are virtual.  And for obnoxious people, I wonder if they might be more obnoxious, based on virtual things being generally more awkward.  Obnoxious and awkward might be worse than just obnoxious?

Re: artist vs. shoe salesperson, there is one difference that seems especially salient to their influence on their respective scenes.  Artists are expected to bring their uniqueness to what they do, while most shoe salespeople are limited in how much they are allowed to do so.  So the loss of an artist to the art world is more likely to be the loss of something unique than the loss of a shoe salesperson to the shoe world.

When you describe the arts by saying "Their community as a whole knows how to create a false sense of glamour that draws in artist and audience alike. Chasing this glamour is a big motivator for the whole enterprise." and then go on to talk about "collective self-delusion that perpetuates deep deviations of work from social value, or even from genuine sustained happiness or achievement" and "a lot of that 'camaraderie' looks like FOMO, jealousy, inferiority complexes, extreme competition for scarce resources, and a sense of identity defined by victory in a zero-sum status competition, and to top it all off, it has to come with the pretense of liking others in the scene (and the scene itself)"

... sure, you're examining the idea that being alone is better, but you also seem to have an axe to grind against the arts.  I am not reacting against the idea that sometimes being alone is better.  I'm reacting against the idea that the world would be better off without much of the arts, and that the arts are in some sense perpetuating a fraud against hopeful artists and audience alike -- that they are just glamour and illusion -- that any value is the exception, not the rule, and most claimed value is deception.  I believe your argument relies on your own sense of what is valuable, and I do not believe that your sense of what is valuable captures all value.

On a different note, if you haven't already seen it, you might find this interesting:

Comment by ckai on Matt Levine on "Fraud is no fun without friends." · 2021-01-20T21:46:36.140Z · LW · GW

I know a successful author who says he started writing because he noticed authors get more attention at cons.  FWIW.  (I'm pretty sure he gets something out of the work itself, and yet, this is the story he tells.)

Observing this discussion, your point seems to be that there are some people in the world who do things because they are fun rather than because they are worthwhile (IYO), and that the world as a whole would be better if these people were less able to have fun so that they would be more motivated to do worthwhile (IYO) things.  Given this, I don't suppose my anecdote actually changes anything about the main thrust of your argument, as you can just define the guy I know as outside of the class of people you're talking about.  I mean, the amount of time he spends writing is probably more than the amount of time he spends at cons.  Maybe his hard work purifies his desire to have fun?  Maybe he's earned the right to have a little fun?  Maybe he would have found some other reason to start writing if there were no cons?

And yet, I do sort of wonder if you're constructing a meaningful class of people, these people who are seduced by parties and glamour but would otherwise be doing something more worthy (IYO)...  I sort of wonder if you are yourself being seduced by a narrative about the lone genius and/or the intrinsic value of hard work, and maybe by that thing that Zvi recently talked about where things are considered more valuable because they are sacrifices.  Sacrifice all your fun, and your work will be more valuable?

I also think it's...really sweet, in a way, that you just assume that these people can find some way of contributing to the world that will both make them more money and be a more meaningful contribution to the world.  Have you considered that maybe some of the people who you think could find something more valuable...maybe they don't share your belief, maybe they resonate with the idea of "bullshit jobs" or "moral mazes" rather than whatever assumptions about jobs and value that you have, and that perhaps these people are taking their meaning, their value, and their idea of what their true work is where they can find it?  And that the thing stopping them from doing the things you consider more valuable may run deeper than being seduced by parties?

And finally, perhaps consider that in art, there is not necessarily one measure of value.  The piece that speaks to you may not speak to me.  The piece that speaks to me may not speak to you.  I assume you've also heard of the long tail?  Something doesn't have to change the world or even reach a large portion of the world in order to have any value at all, and if that small value is lost, if all those small bits of value are lost...

I suppose you might not miss it much if the people whose art you disdain were to stop making art altogether.  At least at first.  But as John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind."

Perhaps you might consider art as an ecosystem, and the loss of any art potentially diminishes all art.  So if you like any art at all (which I assume you do, otherwise I can't imagine why you'd spend so much time in and around the arts)... "Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;  It tolls for thee."

Comment by ckai on Review: The Gioconda Smile · 2021-01-04T17:49:54.586Z · LW · GW

You could see it as a portrait of a man who's stuck at simulacra level 3 (in the masking the lack of reality sense, not so much the signaling sense, though you can also watch him deciding which signals to send and which he's just going to ignore even though he knows he should send them).  He not only lacks the epistemic tools to see reality except in glimpses before retreating to his fortress of banality, but is scared of reality and so doesn't want to, despite his near-constant boredom and misery.  And so he dies in confusion, a banal, narcissistic void in the center of the story.

(Although if you consider that this was published in 1921, i.e. just a little after WWI, you may consider that the main character may have participated in WWI and have a little more sympathy for him.  Or maybe not.)

I don't think the existence of multiple movies is good evidence that what appeals about the story as a written story is not at least partially the writing style.  Yes, it is impossible to film the story as written.  Moviemakers may rise to the challenge of creating something with the same feel and basic plot, and take the existence of previous versions as evidence that it's a project that's worth doing and also that it hasn't been done right yet, so there's still room for their version.  (Though apparently Huxley did one of the adaptations to film, so presumably he got it right if there is a right.  Still, updating classics is always popular.)

I do think this was probably a more successful story at the time it was written, and now it's more classic.  To some degree, I think the story depends on the gender roles and expectations of the time (1921), which can to some extent be derived from the text, but maybe not completely, and probably it was more meaningful when this was something the reader would be living with directly.  The Sleepwalkers is describing the period just before WWI, and WWI had an effect (shell shock, society trying to deal with the reality of shell shock), but:

Historians of gender have suggested that around the last decades of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth century, a relatively expansive form of patriarchal identity centered on the satisfaction of the appetites (food, sex, commodities) made way for something slimmer, harder and more abstinent. ... Yet these increasingly hypertrophic forms of masculinity existed in tension with ideals of obedience, courtesy, cultural refinement and charity that were still view as markers of the 'gentleman'.  Perhaps we can ascribe the signs of role strain and exhaustion we observe ... to an accentuation of gender roles that had begun to impose intolerable burdens on some men. ... The nervousness that many saw as the signature of this era manifested itself in triumph over the 'weakness' of one's own will

Comment by ckai on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2020-12-13T03:22:25.025Z · LW · GW

Yes, I agree with that.  Of course it's meaningful!  It wouldn't be a reflection of reality if it wasn't.  But meaningful isn't the same as complete or undistorted.

For example, I think it's meaningful (maybe not the most insightful thing that could possibly be said, but meaningful) to talk about the original Star Trek in terms of head, heart, and gut as reflected in the characters of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk.  I don't think this covers everything that Star Trek is, or everything that those characters are, or everything that real people can be, but it's an interesting pattern (and from there one can have some fun considering felt senses and gut feelings, because so often people use an even simpler model and just contrast head and heart, so I think it's fun to consider the gut as Captain).

I saw The Gervais Principle as a way of looking at the show and at those aspects of reality that are reflected in the show (I read the whole thing for the reflections of reality, not the show analysis), and an interesting one, but not necessarily intended to be complete to every possibility (especially possibilities not explored in the show) or even...I mean, I'd have to read it again, but just as real people aren't only one of head heart gut, in terms of The Gervais Principle, I thought there was some simplification going on, but I can't actually remember if I thought the categories were more like personality types (which are usually a continuum), or like cultures, or like roles that one is forced into and then forced to act according to.  I remember aspects of all of these, actually.

Comment by ckai on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2020-12-12T20:26:35.920Z · LW · GW

But The Gervais Principle is a model of a tv show, not directly of reality.  I haven't seen the particular show, but most tv shows are not trying to model reality, but reflect it, and distorting it is fair and even expected.  There's an argument to be made that the distortions are what makes it interesting.

Do you see this differently?

Comment by ckai on Cultural accumulation · 2020-12-09T16:11:43.109Z · LW · GW

I'm reminded of this:

(And no worries.)

Comment by ckai on Cultural accumulation · 2020-12-08T16:51:38.419Z · LW · GW

That's a really different scenario from the historical one.

I'd like to note that I didn't say the governors were stupid (nor do I believe that people in the past were stupid), just that they were likely to be very different in outlook and understanding about the world and likely to act on these ways of thinking (and I also think that the world was also different and some of their understanding may be more accurate for their time).  I was trying to question the notion of control, which I think is a question that still holds in the AGI scenario.

When you say we've lost and game over, what do you mean?  Roman Empire level of lost, colonialism level of lost, something else?  Even in colonialism level of lost, obviously it has had long term effects but I do not think "game over" is quite the phrase to describe the situation today, and that being the case, how can it be the phrase to describe anything that came before today?

And if you're thinking of a level of "game over" that has no historical counterpart, then I'd question the relevance of the historical discussion as a supporting argument for the scenario you're really interested in.

Comment by ckai on Cultural accumulation · 2020-12-07T21:22:09.314Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure that works when you're not starting with a unified culture.  Long term long distance delegation may only work if everyone shares the same doctrine, more or less, went to the same schools, has similar ideas about what the goal is, has similar loyalties, etc.  You install a governor in India and you have some idea of what sorts of things they may do, because you know how they were brought up.

But if you write to a subordinate "Sounds like we need to increase moral" and the next thing you hear about they've killed a lot of people and put their heads up on poles at the city gate, and you're like (via letter, which they may get months later) no no no why did you do that and half a year later you get back a bewildered reply where they're like well obviously we had to for whatever reason made sense to them as a product of that era and location?  I mean, maybe you don't care as long as you're "in charge", but maybe you do care?

And maybe some of the unexpected things they do involve selling your more advanced technology to your enemies, or starting wars with your other governors, or...

(I'm not sure any amount of communication technology makes up for this, but more would be better, even though you can't micromanage the whole world either.)

And if you have complicated plans for what to do with the world once you control it...well, good luck?  Also, start founding schools and training teachers, but expect anything you try to instill to mutate at least somewhat, or for portions of it to be ignored entirely because it doesn't make sense to the teachers, much less the students, or...

Though I guess I'm not sure what degree of control you're really aiming for.  The Roman Empire involved a lot of local rule, for example, so if what you really want is taxes and maybe some form of conscription...  (Though they also had their provincial governors looking out for Rome and with the same basic idea of what looking out for Rome meant...)

Comment by ckai on Cultural accumulation · 2020-12-07T15:51:23.809Z · LW · GW

What level of communication technology do you consider necessary?  It seems that in order to control the whole world, you'd need a pretty high level of communication technology.

Comment by ckai on Cultural accumulation · 2020-12-06T18:47:29.701Z · LW · GW

Okay, but what is a bicycle?  

Is this?

Is this?

What about this?,_around_1820._Archetype_of_the_Bicycle._Pic_01.jpg

Except for the pneumatic tire, about which I really have no idea, it seems pretty likely that a blacksmith and/or clockmaker in the past <i>could</i> make a bicycle.  But is it economically feasible?  How would the bicycle work on the streets/roads of the time?  Can you make a cross-country type of bicycle out of wood (i.e. less expensive but able to deal with likely terrains)?

What would people use this bicycle for?  Is it more useful than a cart?  Than a horse?  Would someone who could get around in a coach and four (i.e. rich enough to buy something that may be expensive, especially if made mostly of metal) choose to use a bicycle?

I feel like your question about physical artifacts is on the right track, but that it needs to be expanded quite a bit.  It's not just the physical artifacts for making things, but the environment in which things will be used, and that environment includes both physical artifacts and economic situation and mental memes and ways of thinking and culture and etc.

I haven't read it, but from what I've heard, the 1632 series by Eric Flint and collaborators looks into some of these questions, and at least tries to be realistic about it.  It is fiction, but I think it's the kind where some thought has gone into how things work.

Comment by ckai on Evading Mind Control · 2020-11-25T17:33:05.536Z · LW · GW

You may find that this is a cycle.  At some points you may need to process for yourself and give more weight to what you think, but at some points you may feel the need for more information or an outside point of view.

Comment by ckai on Propinquity Cities So Far · 2020-11-20T03:54:20.911Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I don't feel like that really covers it.  Maybe what I meant wasn't really utility per se, but rather an intuition about people ragequitting this system not just because of the moving issue but because of a lot of little unpredictable annoyances adding up, with moving into a new space being one example of how this could happen.  It seems like the more things change, the more unexpected annoyances are likely to pop up, whether within a living space, a neighborhood, the whole city, or whatever.

Like, a lot of people move one month (it could even be moves that optimize the expected utility of genuinely everyone in terms of things like proximity to friends and what kind of living space they're assigned and so on) but suddenly after the move there are traffic jams or public transport is suddenly overwhelmed at certain times or from certain locations because when change happens at a normal rate people adapt and maybe change their route when it starts to get a little crowded or change what time they go to work or whatever, but when there's a sudden change, there's no time to adapt, you just have to deal with yourself and everyone else having habits and practices that may suddenly no longer make sense.

(This is just an example.  I feel like there are all kinds of things that can go wrong when people change their habits suddenly.  See also: covid + toilet paper.)

Maybe some sort of generally applicable habits and practices could develop, but maybe not.  It seems unlikely that generally applicable habits would be as efficient as habits and practices that have had time to get optimized through use.

(Also, lots of people moving at the same time once a month is not a great way to utilize moving companies.  But if they don't move at the same far from optimal can it get because of moving delays?)

I feel like this idea needs a Bill of Rights to assure residents that there is some maximum to the ways that they can be badly treated for the sake of others (only required to move once a year against their will, for example), and maybe some way to make sure that change happens somewhat incrementally, at a rate that doesn't overcome the ability of the residents to adapt.

Comment by ckai on Propinquity Cities So Far · 2020-11-19T15:41:51.351Z · LW · GW

I think you're underestimating the utility of living in the same place for periods longer than a month.  Most real places have some problems that are annoying at first but easy (or at least possible) to work around once you've had a chance to figure out what the work arounds are.

You should probably also consider that some people will want to keep their preferences private, so giving everyone access to all preferences for the purposes of distributed optimization doesn't seem reasonable.

Comment by ckai on Tweet markets for impersonal truth tracking? · 2020-11-11T15:42:55.260Z · LW · GW

It seems pretty important to know who are the people who get to vote later on.  Since Twitter is a social network, is it people who are networked in some way, or is it random Twitter users, or...?  It seems like this could work very differently depending on exactly how it's implemented.  And how it works will influence whether anyone is willing to stake their cred on the results of a vote of this group of people.


What incentivizes anyone to vote at all, or to vote accurately?

Comment by ckai on The bads of ads · 2020-10-23T20:51:44.021Z · LW · GW

Ah, I was looking at your comment in the other direction, do ads cause prosperity or are ads correlated with prosperity (and having a hard time forming a model that ads cause prosperity while not finding ads being correlated with prosperity significant, really).  But I guess you were saying more that ads are a sign of prosperity and so even if they're annoying it's better than living somewhere that isn't prosperous enough for ads?

Comment by ckai on The bads of ads · 2020-10-23T16:23:53.472Z · LW · GW

Do you consider this connection to be correlation or causation?

Comment by ckai on On Destroying the World · 2020-09-29T17:04:17.574Z · LW · GW

I am an outsider/lurker, so maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that even if the messaging around this event is changed to make it more clearly serious rather than there being a possible interpretation of all in fun no particular outcome is better than any other, there is a very real (not symbolic) mixed message going on with the way things are currently set up.  The first message is hey, we're doing this really cool ritual and you are invited to participate.  The second message is we don't want our website to go down so don't do anything (please don't participate).

This is completely outside the question of what the event actually symbolizes and so on.  It's about, well, as far as I understand the simulacra model, it's about the simulacra level 1 aspects of the situation.

Someone who didn't check their email/messages would participate as desired.  

There is no clear way to accept the invitation to participate in an active way without threatening the desired outcome.

Maybe this is the point.  Maybe it's meant to be confusing.  Maybe the people running the event are deliberately setting up a situation where they are sending mixed messages on purpose, because the event is about mixed/ambiguous messages?

But if mixed messages are not a vital part of the event, then I wonder if it would be a more effective ritual for people who receive codes if there was some way they could publicly revoke their codes.  That way they could actively participate in not destroying something, instead of the only way to participate in the desired outcome being to not do anything (to imitate the person who didn't check their messages).