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Comment by meister on An Equilibrium of No Free Energy · 2017-11-01T08:43:47.078Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Re: Rocket Companies

It turns out it is possible to compete by playing a different game than the incumbents, but you need to have a huge amount of capital and tolerate the risk of losing all of it. If you read the early history of SpaceX, they came within a hair's width of bankruptcy.

This seems to be a general feature of startup founder stories. Founding a startup has been so romanticized that some people would still try even if there's only a 1% chance of success. So even though it requires individuals to go against the energy-gradient, we nevertheless see people try to innovate. And a few even succeed. And this is good for society.

This might give us a general tactic for breaking out of inadequacy-traps: if the successful risk-takers are awarded enough status, then others will try to follow their example even though the expected utility of doing so is disasterous for the individual.

I've heard it said that the fastest way to win a Nobel prize is to do something that everyone else in your field believed was impossible. Maybe academia recognizes that it's held back by a bandwagon-research inadequacy-trap, and giving its highest prize to researchers that don't follow the same incentives as everyone else is a way that the system self-corrects? Not by compensating them for their risk, but by encouraging other researchers to act against their own best interests and perform risky research in the vain hope of obtaining a ludicrously high status prize.

I don't know how you use this to fix politics, though. My first thought is to declare some genuine lifelong public servants to be national heroes or something, but I worry that any such honor will become a popularity contest that the more common kind of politician is more optimized for.