Comment by logicaldash on Competent Elites · 2011-09-26T12:27:17.776Z · LW · GW

(My apologies if it turns out you no longer hold the opinions I'm responding to. I'm new here.)

Still, so far as I can tell, the world's upper echelons - in those few cases I've tested, within that extremely biased sample that I encounter - really are more intelligent.

You have acknowledged the problem with the method by which you arrived at these views, and then gone right on asserting them.

I seem to recall that you dislike this behavior in others:

It is all too easy to meet every counterargument by saying, "Well, of course I could be wrong." Then, having dutifully genuflected in the direction of Modesty, having made the required obeisance, you can go on about your way without changing a thing.

Perhaps you only find this sort of hypothesis troublesome when people keep on believing it despite other people's objections? Are your self-criticisms exempt? If not, I really don't see how you're supporting the notion that people in power-elites are generally more competent than people who aren't. You've identified the fault in the belief already; you've said in as many words that your sample is severely biased.

If you went looking for power-elites full of lucky bastards or extremely persistent dullards, I'm sure you'd find a lot. I don't think it's worth your time to go looking, unless you really believe that elites are more competent, in which case you need to test that belief like a good rationalist.

My personal opinion is that it's fairly useless to generalize about such a vague group of people as "those who hold the most power and/or money". About the only things you can conclude about that kind of group are that they have a lot of power and money. If you like, you can look at how they got it, at which point you're looking at a subset: "those who got their power and/or money this way". Or, you can study the most generally effective ways of getting power and/or money, which are by necessity culturally specific but might let you make some weak but valid generalizations about what sorts of people get into the elite classes of a particular culture.

However, power and money are quite often necessary to create the sort of environment that, for instance, genius inventors need to invent stuff; so those people are going to spend a lot of time around the elites, and will take a lot of their money as the opportunity presents. If the elite group in question contains people who really "get" what the genius inventors are doing, those particular elites will naturally go out of their way to show up at talks the working geniuses are giving. So I don't think Steve Jurvetson calling out Eric Drexler is a good example of a VC going to transhumanist conferences, but rather of a specific subtype of VC who goes out of his way to find people like Eric Drexler.

Such VCs aren't representative of VCs in general, but you, personally, would tend to run into a lot of people like them, because you, too, go out of your way to find people like Eric Drexler.

Comment by logicaldash on The Level Above Mine · 2011-09-24T19:50:04.092Z · LW · GW

I too would like to hear "how it works," because if I don't know how Eliezer thinks it works, it just sounds like he's defining the problem of Being a Great Researcher in the most intimidating way possible. Whatever way that may be. Inflating the problem like that is bad practice, for much the same reason that cheap gestures of humility are bad practice.

I'm commenting on a two-year-old post, so I guess I shouldn't expect a response, but this post is linked from the getting-started page, so I was a bit disappointed that it ended with what looks a lot like a handwave at humility.