crl826's Shortform 2020-12-23T20:10:50.497Z


Comment by crl826 on What are some examples from history where a scientific theory predicted a significant experimental observation in advance? · 2021-07-17T15:35:35.748Z · LW · GW

Along with your black hole example and Jeff's light bending example, Relativity also predicted time dilation and gravitational waves before they were confirmed experimentally.

Comment by crl826 on (Another) Using a Memory Palace to Memorize a Textbook · 2021-06-22T22:56:28.138Z · LW · GW

I worry I will sound like a jerk. I'm not trying to, but why?

What is the advantage of memorizing a grocery list over writing down a list?

Comment by crl826 on Quotes from Moral Mazes · 2021-05-25T16:06:49.271Z · LW · GW

Koch Industries claims that a major piece of social tech they use is compensating managers based on the net present value of the thing they're managing, rather than whether they're hitting key targets


I looked but can't seem to find any information about this.  Do you have any idea where I could explore this more?

Comment by crl826 on Controlling Intelligent Agents The Only Way We Know How: Ideal Bureaucratic Structure (IBS) · 2021-05-25T14:26:59.706Z · LW · GW

Bureaucracy is just as gameable as any other system. Human bad actors are able to use bureaucracies to their own ends, I see no reason to believe that AI couldn't do the same.

Might be worth checking out the Immoral Mazes sequence and the Gervais Principle to see how that goes down.

Comment by crl826 on Deliberately Vague Language is Bullshit · 2021-05-14T20:46:05.166Z · LW · GW

It's not just bending the truth. Being vague also gives you more discretion in decision making. 

If you list objective criteria for a decision, then you don't have discretion to give things out to your friends or deny things to your enemies.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-05-14T01:02:06.299Z · LW · GW

This is a great post exploring academic environment according to the Gervais Principle. Love more stuff like this.

This is mainly just a note to call out two great comments that I think may add to the theory.

Comment by crl826 on Academia as Company Hierarchy · 2021-05-11T22:18:51.004Z · LW · GW

Sometimes people seem clueless just because we don't understand them, but that doesn't mean they are in fact clueless.

I suppose you aren't using his suspect definition of Clueless. But your point is potentially valid either way. 

It's also true that something can seem "excessively cynical, inaccurate" or "counterproductive" doesn't mean they are, in fact, excessively cynical, inaccurate, or counterproductive.

Does this framework actually explain how diffusion of responsibility works?

The framework alone doesn't but reading the whole thing does.  You can also check out some of my shortforms for some summaries.


You clearly don't like his advice and certainly don't have to follow it. I have found it very helpful (at understanding some previously confusing situations and getting promoted).  I'm not the only one in this thread either so I humbly suggest it might be worth updating priors on how good or bad the framework is.

Comment by crl826 on Academia as Company Hierarchy · 2021-05-11T22:05:47.714Z · LW · GW

I strongly suspect you are incorrect.  Having read much of Rao's work, he pretty explicitly advocates becoming more sociopathic (per his definition). One of his other books is called "Be Slightly Evil"

As far as underperformers getting promoted, Luthans has published work on the difference between successful managers (defined as getting promoted) and effective managers (defined as having high performance teams). The reality is that they do very few of the same things and there is very little overlap between the two. Evidence shows that 'doing well' at work is not the best way to get to the top.

Comment by crl826 on Academia as Company Hierarchy · 2021-05-09T23:53:08.731Z · LW · GW

That is explicitly stated in the post.

Losers recognize that being a wage slave IS a bad deal. As a result, they do the minimum necessary to not get fired and keep collecting their paycheck. Again, this is a reasonable thing to do in many cases. For example, you may be a Loser in your day job so you can pursue your real interests nights and weekends.

Comment by crl826 on Why has nuclear power been a flop? · 2021-04-16T22:58:03.056Z · LW · GW

I suspect, but can't prove, that now so many justify wanting something because of climate change that they don't actually want a solution until and unless they have already got whatever they actually want.

Comment by crl826 on The National Dashboard and Human Progress · 2021-04-16T02:41:44.017Z · LW · GW

I like it. I'd love to pair it with a prediction market so we can find out who best understands what drives these metrics

Comment by crl826 on A New Center? [Politics] [Wishful Thinking] · 2021-04-14T00:44:50.422Z · LW · GW

What values are exclusively centrist?

Comment by crl826 on Rediscovery, the Mind's Curare · 2021-04-13T23:51:15.509Z · LW · GW

I think you're overlooking the biggest (best?) reason to not worry about this.

Just because someone has said it doesn't mean everyone has heard it. Unless everyone you're writing for knows everything ever are making the world a better place by letting them know whatever the thing is.

Comment by crl826 on Compounding Incumbent Advantage · 2021-04-07T20:54:12.261Z · LW · GW

I love it, but since unpaid internships are extremely frowned on and/or explicitly illegal I can only imagine that "you pay me" internships are a non starter.

Comment by crl826 on How do you reconcile the lack of choice that children have in being born? · 2021-04-07T15:16:57.024Z · LW · GW

How many people truly wish they were never born?

Comment by crl826 on Would a post about optimizing physical attractiveness be fitting for this forum? · 2021-04-04T15:29:40.395Z · LW · GW

I'd like to read it. PM me please if you decide not to post it publicly.

Comment by crl826 on What is the semantics of assigning probabilities to future events? · 2021-04-03T14:37:04.946Z · LW · GW

First, how can we settle who has been a better forecaster so far?


The first forecaster thought it was less likely that 2 out of 3 things that didn't occur -  wouldn't. The second forecaster thought it was more likely that 2 out of 3 things that didn't occur - would. So I think that the first forecaster has got a pretty easy case on this one.

I think the rest of your questions seem to be thinking that the percentages are measuring something in the real world.  They are a measure of the predictor's confidence. A way to tell the world how seriously they think you should take their prediction.

What kind of argumentation can the first forecaster make to convince the other one that 42% is the 'correct' answer?

I don't think he can. He is technically a little less sure that humans that will land on the Mars than second forecaster. (or, if you prefer, a little more sure that they won't) And a 1% difference is functionally 0 difference in this situation.

If they had vastly different levels of confidence, they could discuss the gaps in the optimism/pessimism,  but at 1% difference....that's just personal preference 

And what does this numerical value actually mean, as landing on Mars is not a repetitive random event nor it is a quantity which we can try measuring like the radius of Saturn?

To repeat self, They are a measure of the predictor's confidence. A way to tell the world how seriously they think you should take their prediction. 

If one believes the 42% is a better estimation than 43%, how can it help making any choices in the future?

Even if you had predictors with so many predictions that you could actually take a 1% difference seriously....I still don't know when that 1% would matter much.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-03-21T22:30:51.553Z · LW · GW

Why your boss is a jerk and your coworkers are idiots

There are people who want to be at the top of an organization, for status or money, not because they care about the stated goals of an organization. 

By definition, the larger and more successful the organization is the more these types of people will be attracted to it. 

Also, by definition, these people are willing to do far more to get to the top than people who only want to “be good” at their jobs.

Given that willingness to do anything to get to the top, they have an edge on hiring and promotions and will eventually succeed.

To ensure they don’t lose their position, they will bring in people that are loyal to them. The only way to prove loyalty is by doing something against their own self interest and/or the interests of the organization. Loyalty means being willing to act dumb.

Over a long enough timeline, the odds that a large organization is led by people who don’t care about the goals of the organization approaches 1. And those leaders will bring in people whose most valuable trait is a willingness to act in a non-productive fashion.

Comment by crl826 on On Changing Minds That Aren't Mine, and The Instinct to Surrender. · 2021-03-19T23:40:55.745Z · LW · GW

I would consider that most people aren't really in the market to have their mind changed. Especially about politics. They aren't talking do open a discussion. They are talking to let you know how smart or 'good' they are. (or how dumb or 'bad' the people who disagree with them are)

If you want to change people's mind, start with people who accept the concept of 'mind changing'.


Shameless plug for my idea for a new internet forum :)

Comment by crl826 on Prediction: The Defense Department Will Blame Trump for the Slow Response on Jan. 7, 2021 · 2021-03-03T18:34:52.486Z · LW · GW

National Guard blaming DOD. Not sure that DOD has responded.

Comment by crl826 on The Median is Less than the Average · 2021-02-20T04:57:54.061Z · LW · GW

This makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

Comment by crl826 on The Median is Less than the Average · 2021-02-20T04:57:15.190Z · LW · GW

This is a good, fair point (unlike the person who wrote me and told me I was spreading Nazi propaganda). Thank you.

I confess I am not tech savvy enough to validate these arguments, but I have heard that Piratebay is much simpler (text files that point to other files) and is much easier to keep play cat and mouse games than, say, a social network.

But, either way, you are right to point out that a determined opponent can keep up a fight for awhile.

Comment by crl826 on The Median is Less than the Average · 2021-02-15T05:14:40.305Z · LW · GW

Except blogs have been removed from the internet. And entire, smaller platforms are wiped from the internet.

It's becoming less true that you can always move to a blog or a smaller platform. That's what I said. Seems true and not in the article.

But I suppose I will live to fight another day.

Comment by crl826 on The Median is Less than the Average · 2021-02-15T04:42:01.785Z · LW · GW

As I wrote: that is becoming less and less true. 

I'm surprised that that was taken so negatively. I'm not exactly sure why.

Comment by crl826 on The Median is Less than the Average · 2021-02-15T03:50:59.540Z · LW · GW

Now you can access all the opinions.


This is becoming less and less true. Removing people from social media. Removing entire websites. Even denying people the ability to participate in financial systems.

Comment by crl826 on Five examples · 2021-02-15T00:22:15.860Z · LW · GW

Sure. I'd love to hear what other caveats you think are important.

Comment by crl826 on Five examples · 2021-02-14T21:18:59.887Z · LW · GW

2) If you’re not feeling “hell yeah!” then say no


I've thought a lot about this myself.  

I think the first thing you have to stipulate is that this helps when deciding on goals, not necessarily the things you have to do to get the goal. You may be "hell yeah" about traveling the world, but not "hell yeah" about packing. That doesn't mean you shouldn't travel the world. I don't think Derek was arguing for this level of decision making.

If you buy that, I think the key is that it only works when you have a lot of slack. Derek Sivers is and has been independently wealthy and has way way more options than most people do. It's a very good sorting move in that situation. If you have few options, you probably can't use this as universally as he suggests.

Comment by crl826 on Making Expertise Legible: Being right should make you respected, not the other way around · 2021-02-10T23:40:58.231Z · LW · GW

It would probably be better described as staying within the Overton window.


It's a different name, but by definition, this standard means you are not getting new, unorthodox opinions to the public.

OP was trying to figure out how to have respectability follow 'rightness'. Only talking to people who are already respectable doesn't help that at all.

Comment by crl826 on Making Expertise Legible: Being right should make you respected, not the other way around · 2021-02-10T00:16:39.003Z · LW · GW

I hesitate to bring this up since politics, but in the US it is a very common perception that the media is liberally biased. 

And the fact that certain stories are almost exclusively discussed in certain outlets based on politics makes me think that it is not random error.

Also, wouldn't avoiding controversial figures be the opposite of helpful if you are trying to get new information out.  Seems to not solve the problem of getting legible expertise that is contrary to popular opinion into the marketplace.

Comment by crl826 on Making Expertise Legible: Being right should make you respected, not the other way around · 2021-02-09T23:15:21.449Z · LW · GW

Utopia isn't an option, but that aside....I would argue that it is still better today where people can consistently be wrong and still get to consistently give incorrect opinions. And everyone else in the market will still learn along the way which is an improvement over current state.

I don't think there would be much of a market for ridiculous conditional like that so not too worried about that.

Comment by crl826 on Making Expertise Legible: Being right should make you respected, not the other way around · 2021-02-09T00:08:23.629Z · LW · GW

I've been thinking about this a lot.  

Imagine Reddit + Prediction market.  Instead of betting/winning money, you get enhanced karma and increased posting/commenting weight.

If you predict something successfully, say number of COVID deaths for the week, your posts and votes would have more weight than the people who failed to correctly predict the number of deaths. 

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-02-07T18:54:51.667Z · LW · GW

Do tell

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-02-07T01:46:58.958Z · LW · GW

Hiding metrics as a way of avoiding Campbell's Law and Goodhart's Law.

What if you weren't 100% honest about telling people what metrics you were using? Wouldn't that avoid much of the downsides of the 2 laws?

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-02-07T00:27:40.229Z · LW · GW

Gervais Principle

Chapter 4 Part 2

The Lake Wobegon Effect Reconsidered

I began this post with an homage to Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon,” where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

The delusions of the Clueless (false confidence of the Dunning-Kruger variety, which are maintained through the furious efforts and desperate denials on the part of the deluded individuals themselves).

Loser superiority is generally not based on an outright falsehood. Loser dynamics are largely driven by Lake-Wobegon-effect snow jobs, which obscure pervasive mediocrity. Loser delusions are maintained by groups. You scratch my delusion, I’ll scratch yours. I’ll call you a thoughtful critic if you agree to call me a fascinating blogger. And we’ll both convince ourselves that our lives are to be valued by these different measures. The delusion lies not in a false assessment of skills, but in the group choosing to evaluate members on the basis of different skills in the first place.  

In other words, Losers are too smart to fool themselves. They enter into social contracts which require them to fool each other.

Remember, you are unique, just like everybody else. And everybody is uniquely above average. This is why, paradoxically, collectivist philosophies that value equality must necessarily value diversity. Nobody wants to be equally average. Everybody must be given a chance to be equally above average. The “uniqueness” game is a game of mutual delusion.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-02-06T00:30:57.062Z · LW · GW

Gervais Principle

Chapter 4 Part 1

Marxist Office Theory

Marx provides the core idea we need in his famous line, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”  

There is a deep truth here. Social clubs of any sort divide the world into an us and a them. We are better than them. Any prospective new member who could raise the average prestige of a club is, by definition, somebody who is too good for that club.

So how do social groups form at all, given Marx’s paradox? 

If your status is clear, and the status of the club is clear (which is, by definition, the average status of all its current members), then either your status is higher, in which case the club will want you, but you won’t want to join, or your status is lower, in which case the opposite is true. If status were precisely known all around, then the only case that allows somebody to join a club is if their status exactly matches the average of the club. The probability of this happening is vanishingly small, even if status could be measured accurately and quantitatively. Worse, this benefits neither joiner nor club. 

But consider what happens when all you really know about the club is the range of status, from lowest to highest. If you know you belong in the range, but have no idea whether your status is above or below the average, the uncertainty allows you to join. And your fealty to the group, and the group’s to you, will be in proportion to the legibility of your status. If events conspire to make status too legible, competitiveness is amplified, weakening group cohesion, and stabilizing dynamics kick in, restoring the illegibility, or the group breaks down.

The answer lies in the idea of status illegibility, the fuzziness of the status of a member of any social group. Status illegibility is the key to the Marx paradox, and the foundation of every other aspect group dynamics. Status illegibility is necessary to keep a group stable. 

This is governed by what I will call Marx’s laws of status illegibility.  

  1. Marx’s First Law of Status Illegibility: the illegibility of the status of any member of a group is proportional to his/her distance from the edges of the group.
  2. Marx’s Second Law of Status Illegibility: the stability of the group membership of any member is proportional to the illegibility of his/her status.

The laws imply that in a group of ten people it is much easier, both for insiders and outsiders, to identify numbers 1 or 10 (alpha and omega) than it is to identify number 4 unambiguously. 

The legible limit points are necessary to provide basic calibration to potential new members, and to help Sociopaths assess the social capital represented by the group, and negotiate terms with alphas with legitimate authority. The alpha and omega set the range. But the status of anyone who is not the alpha or the omega, is necessarily fuzzy. It requires that the middle be jumbled up. It is a deep form of uncertainty. I am not saying that there is a ranking that is just not known or knowable. I am saying there is no clear ranking to be known. There can be no correct rank ordering, but the group is still meaningfully coherent. 

The laws also imply that alpha and omega are weakly attached to the group, while Both are by definition the most unstable members. The alpha can be tempted away into the illegible middle of a higher-ranking group, with more murky room to climb, while the omega, might get sick of being the whipping boy, and move to a higher relative status in a lower group. The obscure middle is stably attached. Should either the alpha or omega leave, a new alpha or omega will emerge through a succession battle. Social groups grow from the illegible but stable center of the status spectrum, and leak at the legible but unstable edges.

Continued in Part 2

Comment by crl826 on Any rationalist judges? · 2021-01-16T18:01:33.403Z · LW · GW

I'm not in the law field so don't know any judges or judges to be.

I would offer that in many (most?) cases, the judge is not supposed to offer new thoughts but instead follow precedents.

The legal field is often already very rigorous in applying analytic/rational frameworks to the new problems. The debate comes from which frameworks to use.

Comment by crl826 on A vastly faster vaccine rollout · 2021-01-14T02:23:34.923Z · LW · GW

The question was "why didn't we ramp up sooner?".  I answered the question as best I knew how. Everyone is acting like I'm the one that decided to not use option pricing. 

And yes, government paying for things that might not work is hard. Besides generic mind killing, there are people that don't want the government to spend money and the people who don't believe in vaccines at all.  They all vote.

Comment by crl826 on A vastly faster vaccine rollout · 2021-01-12T21:30:33.887Z · LW · GW


If you want to eliminate testing and government approval, I'd be willing to have that conversation. I don't think many would though.

Why would anyone pay to ramp up production on something that might not do anything? Or might even make thins worse?

Comment by crl826 on A vastly faster vaccine rollout · 2021-01-12T21:28:17.162Z · LW · GW

I mean....sure.

But why would the government, or anyone, pay for a vaccine that couldn't be used? An unapproved vaccine does nothing for anyone.

Comment by crl826 on A vastly faster vaccine rollout · 2021-01-12T18:37:26.366Z · LW · GW

Don't worry so much about "fairness"


Along with all the points you brought up, "fairness" is also where politics gets involved and slows things down.

In extreme cases, people destroyed vaccines rather than give them to someone that jumped the line.

Comment by crl826 on A vastly faster vaccine rollout · 2021-01-12T18:33:55.851Z · LW · GW

They can't ramp up until they are approved.  You don't make a billion doses only to discover a year later you aren't going to get paid for them.

Comment by crl826 on Prediction: The Defense Department Will Blame Trump for the Slow Response on Jan. 7, 2021 · 2021-01-11T13:52:56.653Z · LW · GW

Sounds like they are going with "lack of planning".

If you wanted to convert that into "someone" sounds like they are blaming it on DC city politicians for not figuring out the plan with them

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-01-10T20:09:33.752Z · LW · GW

Yep. Lot of overlap between this, Moral Mazes, and Dictator's Handbook. That's why I started posting these summaries.  To make it easier to start that discussion.

Comment by crl826 on What currents of thought on LessWrong do you want to see distilled? · 2021-01-10T18:15:39.644Z · LW · GW

Awesome. Looking forward to it. 

I've also put summaries of 3 out of 6 chapters of Gervais Principle on my shortform.  (The other chapters frankly weren't that interesting to me).

Working on a summary of Moral Mazes right now.  Not sure if I will post it since, we already have Zvi's version.

Comment by crl826 on How should you go about valuing your time? · 2021-01-10T16:55:30.771Z · LW · GW

I've pondered this before and this post has made me ponder it again. I like the addition of 'valuing time'. Thank you.

I think the problem is treating this like there is a single answer. There is context every time you make the 'should I pay someone to do this for me?' question that will change it quite often.

An example...Should I pay someone to clean my place?  Normally the answer is 'no', because my place is small and relatively easy to clean. And perhaps more importantly, I'm not going to work more either way so how much I make for an hour of work is irrelevant.  Paying someone to do something for me when it just gives me another hour of Netflix that I probably won't enjoy that much is really silly.

But maybe I have a hot date coming and, for whatever reason, I don't have time to clean my place....then it might be worth it. Or maybe I'm sick so laying like a lump has more value than the average hour of TV.

I'm not sure there is an answer to 'what is my time worth' because it is relative to the options I have at that time.

Comment by crl826 on What currents of thought on LessWrong do you want to see distilled? · 2021-01-09T00:32:23.218Z · LW · GW

I'd love to see more explorations of the connections/overlaps/gaps/disagreements between Moral Mazes, Dictator's Handbook, and Gervais Principle like this recent post. I've started hacking away at it in my shortform, but would love some help/an excuse to quit.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-01-04T03:19:51.146Z · LW · GW

Gervais Principle

Chapter 5

Sociopaths look for ways to systematically claim paternity for successes, and orphan failures.

Hanlon Dodge

The basic mechanism by which Sociopaths transfer blame to the Clueless, while reducing the overall severity of the penalty, is an application of Hanlon’s Razor: never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.  

Because Hanlon’s Razor is often true, it is a believable dodge even when it is not. Coupled with another uniquely human trait, the tendency to link penalties to intentions rather than consequences (eg. first-degree murder vs. vehicular manslaughter), Hanlon’s razor can be used to manufacture predictable risk free outcomes out of fundamentally unpredictable situations.  How? By shifting blame from a locus where it would be attributed to malice, to one where it can plausibly be attributed to incompetence, the severity of penalties incurred is lowered.  Hanlon’s Razor is double-edged, and Sociopaths use it to feign incompetence themselves or to charge others with incompetence, as necessary.  

When ends are defensible, but means are not, Sociopaths feign incompetence, and you get the first kind of Hanlon Dodge.   When means are defensible, but ends are not, Sociopaths engineer execution failures via indirection and abstraction in the requests they make, thereby achieving their ends via “lucky accidents.” This is the second kind of Hanlon Dodge.

In summary, seasoned Sociopaths maintain a permanent facade of strategic incompetence and ignorance in key areas, rather than just making up situational incompetence arguments. This is coupled with indirection and abstraction in requests given to reports. 

Divide and Conquer

Losers are far too smart to fall for Hanlon Dodge maneuvers as individuals. You need to work them in groups to get them behaving in sufficiently stupid ways.

Loser group dynamics offer a natural exploit: almost anyone can be made to ally with, or turn against, anybody else, with no need to manufacture reasons. Almost any sub-group can be played off against any other sub-group, since there are no absolute loyalties. The presence of myriad fault-lines within a Loser group presents a canvas for divide-and-conquer artistry.

Gilded Cage (Bureaucracy)

The predictability allows Sociopaths to automate much of the risk-management they need. Instead of having to expend effort executing Hanlon Dodge maneuvers, putting on justification theaters or engineering divide-and-conquer situations, they program the organization to act in those ways by installing bureaucracy-ware.  Bureaucracies are structures designed to do certain things very efficiently and competently: those that are by default in the best interests of the Sociopaths.  They are also designed to do certain things incompetently: those expensive things that the organization is expected to do, but would cut into Sociopath profits if actually done right.  And finally, they are designed to obstruct, delay and generally kill things that might hurt the interests of the Sociopaths.

There are only three ways to get a bureaucracy to do anything it wasn’t designed to do: by stealth, with secret and deniable support from allies in the staff hierarchy; by getting air-cover from a sufficiently high-up Sociopath who can play poker with whichever oversubscribed Sociopath is in charge of exception-handling for the specific process (i.e. jumping the appeals queue and calling in favors to ensure the required ruling); and through corruption and bribery.

Putting the whole picture together, you have a story of systematic risk elimination of the rewards and penalties earned. Blame is partitioned among the individual Clueless (via Hanlon Dodges), Loser groups (via divide-and-conquer) and the designed-to-fail bureaucracy.

The Clueless and Losers debate whether or not ends justify the means. Sociopaths use whatever is justifiable to cover up whatever they want to get done. The result is a theater of justification.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-01-03T06:07:23.073Z · LW · GW

Gervais Principle

Chapter 1 Part 2

Continued from Part 1

The Gervais Principle is this:  Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly 

  • promote over-performing Losers (ie Clueless) into middle-management
  • groom under-performing Losers (ie Sociopaths) into upper-management
  • leave the average bare-minimum-effort Losers to fend for themselves.

The business wouldn’t survive very long without enough people actually thinking in cold, calculating ways. On the other hand, Sociopaths know that the only way to make an organization capable of survival is to buffer the intense chemistry between the producer-Losers and the leader-Sociopaths with enough Clueless (ie over performing Losers) padding in the middle to mitigate the risks of business. Without it, the company would explode like a nuclear bomb, rather than generate power steadily like a reactor. 

Why does “over performing Loser” = Clueless? The simple reason is that if you over-perform at the Loser level, it is clear that you are an idiot. You’ve already made a bad bargain, and now you’re delivering more value than you need to, making your bargain even worse. Unless you very quickly demonstrate that you know your own value by successfully negotiating more money and/or power, you are marked out as an exploitable clueless Loser. 

So why is promoting over-performing Losers to middle management logical? At the bottom, the overperformers can merely add a predictable amount of value. In the middle they can be used by the Sociopaths to escape the consequences of high-risk machinations like re-orgs. That’s why they are promoted: they are worth even more as Clueless pawns in the middle than as direct producers at the bottom, where the average, rationally-disengaged Loser will do. 

Why does an “under performing Loser” = Sociopath? The future Sociopath must be an under-performer at the bottom. Like the average Loser, he recognizes that the bargain is a really bad one. Unlike the risk-averse loser though, he does not try to make the best of a bad situation by doing enough to get by. He has no intention of just getting by. He very quickly figures out – through experiments and fast failures – that the Loser game is not worth becoming good at. He then severely under-performs in order to free up energy to concentrate on maneuvering towards an upward exit. He knows his under-performance is not sustainable, but he has no intention of becoming a lifetime-Loser employee anyway. He takes the calculated risk that he’ll find a way up before he is fired for incompetence.

So why is grooming under-performing Losers for upper-management logical? You need a steady supply of Sociopaths for sustainable performance or growth and you cannot waste time moving them slowly up the ranks, especially since the standard promotion/development path is primarily designed to maneuver the Clueless into position wherever they are needed. The Sociopaths must be freed up as much as possible to actually run the business, with or without official titles.

Finally, you need someone to actually do the work. The average-performing, rationally-disengaged Losers can create diminishing-margins profitability and will suffice.

The career of the Loser is the easiest to understand. Having made a bad bargain, and not marked for either Clueless or Sociopath trajectories, he or she must make the best of a bad situation. The most rational thing to do is slack off and do the minimum necessary. Doing more would be a Clueless thing to do. Doing less would take the high-energy machinations of the Sociopath, since it sets up self-imposed up-or-out time pressure. So the Loser – really not a loser at all if you think about it – pays his dues, does not ask for much, and finds meaning in his life elsewhere.

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2021-01-03T00:55:29.702Z · LW · GW

The Gervais Principle

Chapter 1 Part 1

Sociopaths contribute creativity and cold-bloodedness and drive decisions that others are too scared or too compassionate to drive. They are the ones capable of exploiting an idea, killing one good idea to concentrate resources on another at maturity, and milking an end-of-life idea through harvest-and-exit market strategies. They enter and exit organizations at will, at any stage, and do whatever it takes to come out on top.

The Clueless serve as a Cat’s Paw for Sociopaths and as a buffer in what would otherwise be a painfully raw master-slave dynamic in a pure Sociopath-Loser organization. They don’t leave the org until they have absolutely no choice. They hang on as long as possible, long after both Sociopaths and Losers have left. They build up a perverse sense of loyalty to the firm, even though the firm is not loyal to them. To sustain themselves, they must be capable of fashioning elaborate delusions based on idealized notions of the firm.

Losers do the actual work of an organization. They produce, but are not compensated in proportion to the value they create. They made a bad economic bargain and traded freedom for a paycheck. They’ve given up some potential for long-term economic liberty (as capitalists) for short-term economic stability. They enter and exit reactively, in response to the meta-Darwinian trends in the economy. But they have no more loyalty to the firm than the Sociopaths. They do have a loyalty to individual people, and a commitment to finding fulfillment through work when they can, and coasting when they cannot. The Losers like to feel good about their lives. They are the happiness seekers, rather than will-to-power players.

Losers have two ways out, which we’ll get to later: turning Sociopath or turning into bare-minimum performers. The Losers destined for Cluelessness do not have a choice. 

A Sociopath with an idea recruits just enough Losers to kick off the cycle. As it grows, it requires a Clueless layer to turn it into a controlled reaction, rather than a runaway explosion. One of the functions of the Clueless, recall, is to provide a buffer in what would otherwise be a painfully raw master-slave dynamic in a pure Sociopath-Loser organization. Eventually, as value hits diminishing returns, both the Sociopaths and Losers make their exits, and the Clueless start to dominate. Finally, the hollow brittle shell collapses on itself, and anything of value is recycled by the Sociopaths, according to meta-firm logic.


Continued in Part 2

Comment by crl826 on crl826's Shortform · 2020-12-31T02:19:45.404Z · LW · GW

Gervais Principle - the three (6?) different types of people in organizations according to the Gervais Principle.  I think eventually I'll do a full on post on it, but thought I would start with some shortforms to make progress and get any questions/feedback before I do the whole thing





Create, accelerate, or scavenge value for themselves or firmTo themselves, enter and exit firms when it is to their advantage (will to power)


Serve as Cat’s Paw for sociopathsTo the firm, won’t leave until/unless they have no choice


  • Overperformers - promoted to Clueless
  • Enlightened, risk taking underperformers - promoted to sociopath
  • Enlightened, risk-averse underperformers - coast/get by/bare minimum effort
  • Unenlightened underperformers - fired
To Happiness, enter and exit reactively based on economics