The YouTube Revolution in Knowledge Transfer 2019-09-17T20:10:01.046Z · score: 54 (24 votes)
Intellectual Dark Matter 2019-07-16T15:20:00.648Z · score: 47 (15 votes)
Honors Fuel Achievement 2019-06-10T16:10:01.002Z · score: 39 (15 votes)
Announcing my YouTube channel 2019-05-17T17:50:01.342Z · score: 43 (14 votes)
Eight Books To Read 2019-05-14T17:40:00.867Z · score: 63 (22 votes)
What Botswana Can Teach Us About Political Stability 2019-05-09T18:30:04.588Z · score: 43 (13 votes)
The risk of an American Civil War is remote 2018-07-23T18:00:02.072Z · score: 44 (20 votes)
How To Use Bureaucracies 2018-07-17T08:10:02.190Z · score: 71 (48 votes)
Competition for Power 2018-04-04T17:10:00.888Z · score: 48 (15 votes)
On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge 2018-03-08T18:40:00.737Z · score: 110 (35 votes)
Social Technology 2018-03-02T19:54:23.415Z · score: 39 (13 votes)
On Building Theories of History 2018-02-23T23:40:55.722Z · score: 69 (17 votes)


Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2019-12-02T20:36:11.314Z

Thank you for your thoughts!

The essay is quite compressed. The evidence and argumentation made in pieces and books it links and references are actually necessary reading. For this reason I placed it about halfway through my book draft and should ideally be read in that sequence. The whole draft and much of writing can be read and was in fact written as an extension and decompression of this essay. So I'd agree with part of your critique, if one takes this as a stand alone piece.

I think I disagree regarding the best epistemic style of writing:

When writing Functional Institutions are the exception I strove to make the evidence and arguments presented as simple as possible. Much as in proofs, the best proof is the simplest valid one.

I think contemporary academic culture has overshot in terms of signaling intelligence and due diligence. The most important reason we overshot, is that they are easily faked as anyone who has ever done homework knows. In fact most of our schooling teaches us how. The cognitive dissonance around the trust we put in such ornamentation when reading, and the ease for us to produce it when graded should give us pause.

My best immediate antidote for this is communication minimalism. Have claims and arguments lad and fall on their own strength, rather than be buried in bloated pieces that make inferences harder.

Comment by samo-burja on Intellectual Dark Matter · 2019-07-16T21:57:57.899Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you! Had asked some lawyer contacts, but always good to get another data point.

Comment by samo-burja on What Botswana Can Teach Us About Political Stability · 2019-05-22T18:54:58.802Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you! There are many conflicting recommendations when it comes to writing, but I think that for imparting models articles should open by introducing themselves.

Comment by samo-burja on Eight Books To Read · 2019-05-14T19:37:38.816Z · score: 26 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. Implicitly the intended audience is already familiar with many of those.

Overbuilding an outside view and under-building an inside view is one of the key generators of akrasia, and renders knowledge inert rather than allowing book knowledge to be mixed in with lived life experience.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-09-06T20:20:02.043Z

Yes. Opened the recent series of articles with it. I talked about Great Man theory in Functional Institutions are the Exception.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-09-06T20:18:07.968Z

Hm. I tried the link and it seems to work?

Comment by samo-burja on Open Thread August 2018 · 2018-08-09T14:31:19.932Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On August 23rd I'll be giving a talk organized by the Foresight Institute.

Civilization: Institutions, Knowledge and the Future

Our civilization is made up of countless individuals and pieces of material technology, which come together to form institutions and interdependent systems of logistics, development and production. These institutions and systems then store the knowledge required for their own renewal and growth.

We pin the hopes of our common human project on this renewal and growth of the whole civilization. Whether this project is going well is a challenging but vital question to answer.

History shows us we are not safe from institutional collapse. Advances in technology mitigate some aspects, but produce their own risks. Agile institutions that make use of both social and technical knowledge not only mitigate such risks, but promise unprecedented human flourishing.

Join us as we investigate this landscape, evaluate our odds, and try to plot a better course.

See the Facebook event for further details.

There is a limited number of spots and there has been a bunch of interest, still I'd love rationalists to attend so try to nab tickets at eventbrite. Feel free to introduce yourself and chat me up after the talk, would be happy to meet rationalists thinking about civilization and sociology :)

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-08-03T17:44:12.638Z

The government agencies and corporations that dominate our society are many decades, if not centuries, old. It is also clear they are in need of renewal.

Why did they reach such a state of misalignment? I believe that across society we had a notable failure of succession.

These things were created by people, and then they took on a life of their own, in an almost automated fashion, rather than continuing human oversight. As a result we are in a society that is more fragile, less cooperative and less coordinated than it could be.

Comment by samo-burja on How To Use Bureaucracies · 2018-07-30T11:19:47.989Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Mostly yes. Some bureaucratic growth is driven by actively piloted centralizing drives, but in those cases the task at hand is increasing central power, with the nominal work being pretext.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-26T21:22:09.788Z
One never returns "borrowed" power

Not quite correct, it is possible for example to rescind delegation. Nothing in the world can be undone as we seem to live in a universe of rising entropy. But since sustained vs. temporary access is an important distinction both for rational planning as well as having an excellent negotiating position, the ability to rescind access amounts to an important ability to have power returned to you.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-26T21:18:37.131Z
One of my favorite things about resouce-based power is that it's ablative - if you spend money to excercise your will (as opposed to investing to maximize returns), you have less money afterward. Self-limiting power is awesome. Other types of power (social, governmental) gets stronger when used, as it trains people to obey.

Interesting observation!

Self-limiting power can be argued to be a useful feature for society. For the common good some wills should be contested rather than let loose. Some desires and goals should not be realized.

But for an individual ablative power does not seem as desirable as durable power. The individual presumably aspires to agency in the world and therefore wishes to actualize their will and values in the world. It would be strange to imagine a person that does not, however many psychological epicycles they might add on top.

It is true that sometimes self-distrust can be the right course of action, because of an outside view that suggests inside view irrationality. Self-distrust implies trust in something else. When you willingly tie yourself to the mast like Odysseus, someone else is steering the ship, hopefully your loyal crew and friends. An unsteered ship however meets an unsightly end either by Scylla or Charbydis.

Particularly with mistakes that cannot be survived unsteered outcomes are not desirable. Navigating existential risk requires steering.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-23T20:53:46.384Z

Distinguishing what kinds of power are durable goods and which are not, produces the best long term results. We are always at the mercy of chance of course. Work on fundamentals doesn't necessarily actualize the most power, it is merely the only thing that can raise the ceiling of achievable power.

Comment by samo-burja on On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge · 2018-03-17T01:38:29.383Z · score: 14 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is an excellent analysis of a particular aspect. Firstly I do want to emphasize that this mindset is already very rare, few people reason from the existence of traditions of sound knowledge and begin thinking how to access them. The exercise for most remains, pardon the pun, academic.

The only thing I would add is less of an emphasis of universities and more on particular institutions such as branches of government or particular companies. This represents a kind of institution that, assuming a sound career or skill-set, those in middle age are better positioned to understand and make use of. Particular social circles can fulfill this function as well. Further those in middle age can and do easily gain access to postgraduate education of high quality but seem to do so less frequently. As a very practical example I could cite Robin Hansons reorientation towards the social sciences after a successful stem career.

Comment by samo-burja on On Building Theories of History · 2018-03-15T21:10:33.922Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great example! Talking to him made it clear he was one of the clearer social thinkers around. His project certainly deserves more attention.

Comment by samo-burja on On Building Theories of History · 2018-03-15T21:06:31.875Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You correctly describe these incentives. Assuming both incentives and distribution of information are such, the obvious next research step becomes clear.

A key problem is conveying the reality of such trade secrets and the value of finding them to those without practical or scholarly experience in the area. Only having found such information can one then try to aim to achieve particular outcomes, trying to do so without appropriate knowledge results in wasted or misdirected efforts.

Comment by samo-burja on On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge · 2018-03-15T20:56:20.087Z · score: 14 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, he was one of the major influences on my views of society, epistemology and knowledge.

Mortimer Adler uses the same argument in How to Read a Book to argue for reading original texts, because they are known to have allowed for the transmission of relevant knowledge, textbooks sometimes succeed and sometimes fail at this.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-15T17:47:59.965Z

I don't make claim being a strategic player being a desirable or happy state of life. But I can see the connotation you note. It isn't intentional. The purpose of the model is to help with making predictions as to what happens in the world and in particular to help with decision making and evaluation in adversarial contexts.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-15T17:46:17.573Z

I expect there to be large differences in power and skill among the live players so I don't actually expect much instability.

You are correct that there are systems put in place sometimes to limit such strategic actors, however the actors either bypass the systems or the systems are themselves maintained and modified in an adaptive way by other live players.

Then one has to examine the motivation of the live players maintaining the systems. Arguably the most common one is to use them as vehicles of personal power against other live players.

Comment by Samo Burja on [deleted post] 2018-03-15T17:45:46.354Z

The realistic extent of Russia's sphere of influence after 1991 was merely the Post-Soviet republics. The wider sphere that the Soviets held in Eastern Europe, East Africa, the Middle East and Asia effectively implodes then. A demonstration of this is Russia's policy being essentially irrelevant to the Balkan conflicts.

Comment by samo-burja on On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge · 2018-03-08T22:15:40.821Z · score: 28 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent exercise! It seems a good way to evaluate content, initially building out or explicating one's own models before comparing it to someone else's, I will remember to do this.

I'm happy to hear you've found the model I present on useful and interesting!

Comment by samo-burja on Social Technology · 2018-03-03T01:37:25.764Z · score: 14 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes! It was intended to be a simple introduction to the concept.

I agree in-depth exploration of social technologies being a valuable kind of writing & research, but to include them in this piece would balloon it quickly. The "examples" given are not instances, but categories. I don't even claim it is an exhaustive list of useful categories of social technology. There will be future pieces that reference back to this one, with detailed object level examples for each category.

As an example for a in-depth treatment of a category of social technology I would recommend David Friedman's book on law and even that doesn't exhaust the category.

Comment by samo-burja on On Building Theories of History · 2018-02-24T06:07:32.080Z · score: 30 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to follow this up in later pieces if there is interest... In particular an overview of existing theories and also laying out my own.

Comment by samo-burja on On Building Theories of History · 2018-02-24T05:59:01.422Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW