Technocratic Plimsoll Line 2021-05-15T08:34:51.630Z
On Chesterton's Fence 2021-04-29T14:56:33.747Z
Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat 2021-03-20T10:37:27.466Z
Teaching to Compromise 2021-03-07T13:57:15.010Z
On the Nature of Reputation 2021-02-20T12:50:30.128Z
Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking 2021-02-07T08:54:12.717Z
The Story of the Reichstag 2021-02-05T05:51:59.243Z
Political Lottery in Switzerland 2020-10-08T05:03:38.824Z
Split-a-Dollar Game 2020-08-24T04:54:22.313Z
The Human Condition 2020-08-16T05:23:15.027Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (III.) 2020-08-11T05:09:00.368Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) 2020-07-22T13:50:04.033Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) 2020-07-19T01:11:54.756Z
Institutional Senescence 2020-06-26T04:40:02.644Z
In Search of Slack 2020-05-23T11:20:02.929Z
Partying over Internet: Technological Aspects 2020-04-05T06:20:01.067Z
The Missing Piece 2019-10-27T05:50:00.824Z
Happy Petrov Day! 2019-09-27T02:10:00.739Z
On Becoming Clueless 2019-09-24T04:20:00.672Z
Type-safeness in Shell 2019-05-12T11:30:00.680Z
Hull: An alternative to shell that I'll never have time to implement 2019-04-28T07:40:00.528Z
On the Nature of Programming Languages 2019-04-22T10:50:00.862Z
The Politics of Age (the Young vs. the Old) 2019-03-24T06:40:04.359Z
Muqaata'a by Fahad Himsi (I.) 2019-03-10T15:10:00.962Z
Programmatic Code Generation: Composability 2019-03-02T22:50:06.865Z
Lydian song 2019-02-25T20:50:01.088Z
Tiles: Report on Programmatic Code Generation 2019-02-22T00:10:04.593Z
Graceful Shutdown 2019-02-16T11:30:00.927Z
Structured Concurrency Cross-language Forum 2019-02-10T09:20:00.779Z
Confessions of an Abstraction Hater 2019-01-27T05:50:01.066Z
Announcement: A talk about structured concurrency at FOSDEM 2018-12-30T10:10:00.836Z
State Machines and the Strange Case of Mutating API 2018-12-24T05:50:00.599Z
Equivalence of State Machines and Coroutines 2018-12-18T04:40:00.750Z
On Rigorous Error Handling 2018-11-17T09:20:00.753Z
Two Approaches to Structured Concurrency 2018-10-31T16:20:01.467Z
Unikernels: No Longer an Academic Exercise 2018-10-23T11:40:00.926Z
Update on Structured Concurrency 2018-10-19T11:10:01.179Z
Coordination Problems in Evolution: The Rise of Eukaryotes 2018-10-15T06:18:47.576Z
Coordination Problems in Evolution: Eigen's Paradox 2018-10-12T12:40:10.675Z
One-person Universe 2018-10-09T20:10:00.997Z
Anti-social Punishment 2018-09-27T07:08:56.362Z
Inadequate Equilibria vs. Governance of the Commons 2018-05-25T13:17:21.981Z
Soviet-era Jokes, Common Knowledge, Irony 2018-05-12T10:52:31.293Z
Research: Rescuers during the Holocaust 2018-04-30T06:15:40.659Z


Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Working With Monsters · 2021-07-28T06:10:31.407Z · LW · GW

I think it's not just that the old generation has died out. It's also that the conflict theorists shut up for a while after such a bloodshed and gave the people like Hugo Grotius a window of opportunity to create the international law.

Similar thing, by the way, happened in Europe after WWII. I've written about it here. I wonder whether this opening of the window of opportunity after a major catastrophe is a common occurrence. If so, working on possible courses of action in advance, so that they can be quickly applied once a catastrophe is over, may be a usful strategy.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Working With Monsters · 2021-07-27T08:49:39.373Z · LW · GW

Replace blue and green with protestant and catholic, 95% with 60% and what you get is the Thirty Years' War and the beginning of the modern world order.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-17T17:11:56.356Z · LW · GW

Here it is (my translation): "You'll get money to distribute at the banks of Loire and three tobacconist shops as well. I even hope to get two postman offices. The finance minister haven't answered yet in this matter, but I'll let you know by telegraph. And moreover, you'll be able to depose almost anyone. You are clever and you will use these rights discreetly." (chapter XLIX)

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-17T13:46:44.934Z · LW · GW

Correct. "Trafika" may have sold both tobacco and newspapers, but there was a state monopoly on tobacco, which then resulted in allocating those "offices" on political basis.

As for France, I remember there was a chapter in Stendhal's "Lucien Leuwen" where the protagonist was sent, as an election emissary, to the province with a list of offices that he could grant to the political supporters. Later on I'll have a look at what kind of offices those were.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-16T05:55:44.335Z · LW · GW

No, it's just a random thought.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-15T13:55:22.806Z · LW · GW

I think the real difference is in the incentives the person faces. If they need to compete for votes or for the favour of their superiors, they are, basically, in political business. The person may be an expert, yes, but the incentives force them to care less about technical superiority of the solution and more about whether it's palatable to the voters/benefactors.

If instead, you are hired to execute tasks that are handed to you by someone else, you can think: "Well, I can try to be cute and try to satisfy my boss' political preferences, at the expense of the solution, but, on the other hand, he's going to be replaced sooner or later and I'll better have a track record of successful execution so that the next person doesn't fire me."

The boundary is still blurry, but it at least answers the question about the people who rise as technocrats and are then politically selected: Once you are politically selected, your incentives change and you fall into the category of political appointees.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-04-02T05:51:12.553Z · LW · GW

Looking back at the history of continental Europe, it looks to me we can either have bureaucracy or bureaucracy plus war. Pick one. That being said, it's not so clear to me what went wrong with the EU vaccination strategy. (Admittedly, I haven't been following it closely.) EU did pretty well in its own area, that is coordination. It managed to get the authority to act on behalf of the member states and prevent bidding wars that would otherwise end up with all the vaccines going to Germany and none to Bulgaria. It (as far as I understand) signed cheapskate contracts with the pharma companies and once it became clear that all the contracts cannot be fulfilled the companies have chosen to serve the more lucrative customers first. But on the other hand, I am not sure whether the countries that paid more did consider it a victory back then. It may as well be that they've got lucky just because they had lousy negotiators. Anyway, none of this is related to bureaucracy. The Astra-Zeneca blood clot hysteria, I believe, was a matter of local governments. The only related statements by EU I remember were those declaring the vaccine safe. The vaccination itself is managed by local governments and the problems can not be blamed on EU. The only obvious blunder that comes to mind was the one with threatening to block export of the vaccines to Norther Ireland, but they've backtracked pretty fast on that one.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-21T22:10:41.228Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the feedback!

Unfortunately, the article is mess partly because the events back then were a mess and the entire topic seems to be under-researched. For example, I don't think there's any kind of official narrative for the early history of the EU. Popular understanding, I think, is that WWII was followed by the postwar boom. The entire dark period of 1945-1950 kind of went down the memory hole. (But I'm from the Ostblok, so maybe kids in the West were taught more about it.)

Anyway, I've added couple of links at the end of the article, but again, the events back then were complex and confusing, the resources are in multiple languages etc.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-21T06:59:33.074Z · LW · GW

If I knew. Different international organizations exhibit different kind of failures. For example, for UN it may be the failure to agree, but for EU, as the recent vaccination story shows, agreement can be achieved, but execution may lack. The problem is compounded by the fact that institutions evolve in lockstep with the common knowledge (trust in the institutions and such) and thus exactly the same institutional design may produce vastly different results when applied to different countries or organizations. In the end, the only way to approach this, in my opinion, is to take a concrete organization, choose a specific malfunction and dive deep into nitty-gritty details to find out what's wrong and how it can be solved. Not very enlightening, I know.

All that being said, there's one thing in the article that seems to generalize, namely, the "two layer approach", that is agreeing on the solution to the coordination problem first (on political level), solving concrete issues afterwards (on technical level). The approach is so simple that it can be even expressed in game theoretical language. At the same time it nicely takes into account human psychology (the tendency to use everything at hand as a bargaining chip) and aligns with existing institutional designs (politicians are involved in step 1, bureaucrats in step 2). What's interesting to think about is whether this approach of solving inadequate eqilibria can be somehow built into our existing institutions.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On the Nature of Reputation · 2021-02-20T17:02:25.495Z · LW · GW

Good point about extended names. Yet one more operation that can be done with reputation tokens.

As for the spelling, I've tried to fix what I could. Feel free to point out any remaining typos.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking · 2021-02-07T15:44:58.570Z · LW · GW

I am not an economist, so it's hard to me to judge the quality of the paper. In fact, I was just trying to show the kind of argument made for bank independence at the time. Feel free to check the paper for yourself: Section 2. is about measuring the central bank independence.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking · 2021-02-07T15:39:33.119Z · LW · GW

Wouldn't that create the same election-cycle-dependent behaviour seen with politically appointed boards?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Story of the Reichstag · 2021-02-07T01:29:34.773Z · LW · GW

The reference comes from Prof. Wolfram Pyta from University of Stuttgart. However, given that Wikipedia disagrees and that the fact doesn't add any added value to the article anyway, I am removing it.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Story of the Reichstag · 2021-02-06T06:28:48.889Z · LW · GW

This is something I would like to study one day. There seems to have been a turn in German public attitude at some point. As far as I can say from what I've read, it haven't yet happened in early 50's. Denazification programme and Nurnberg trials were felt to be a farce a it's unclear whether they could have contributed to the change. Some public figures (e.g. Adenauer) may have lead by example, but frankly, I don't know.

If people here, especially Germans, have any insights on the topic, it would be great if they could share.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Story of the Reichstag · 2021-02-05T19:08:55.300Z · LW · GW

Fair enough. I've just wrote what I've been taught in school. I'll remove the sentence.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Story of the Reichstag · 2021-02-05T18:52:07.671Z · LW · GW

Point taken.

Still, it feels a bit different. The 9/11 memorial is honoring the good Americans killed by the bad terrorists. But the inscriptions in the Reichstag are definitely not honoring the good Germans killed by bad Soviets. They were, after all, whether willingly or not, fighting for the Nazis. But neither are they honoring the Soviets. They were fighting for Stalin, for the Stasi, for Berlin families being separated by the Wall. It's hardly a memorial at all. If there's any moral to be taken, then it is that history is, in the end, not about the good and the bad, but about Alexey from Pskov and Hans from Göttingen, maybe neither of them a particularly good person, but both of them being swept alike by the uncaring forces of history.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-26T04:40:33.250Z · LW · GW

Yes, I am from Eastern Europe. That made me wonder whether the densification of the road system has slowed down in the west.

Here are statistics for the US:

In short, there's a slowdown, but it starts in '90.


Air miles per capita seem to tell a different story though:


Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-25T16:02:15.113Z · LW · GW

I was speaking from personal experience.

In 1980's it took 6 hrs to get to my grandmothers place. Today it is more like 3 hrs. All that not because of better cars but because there's a highway covering most of the distance.

In 1980 people rarely traveled by plane. A holiday by seaside meant a 12 hour ride by car to Yugoslavia. Today, everyone's flying to Turkey and Canary Islands.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-25T05:11:37.527Z · LW · GW

As for transportation, I would say the average time to get to a place have dropped considerably in past 50 years, not because of any specific invention, but because airplanes has become less toys for the rich and more of buses with wings available to everyone. Similarly, densification of the motorway system made it faster to go places by car.

It's not clear, of course, whether that kind of thing counts as technological progress. But if not so, what kind of progress is it?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-08-19T06:08:53.264Z · LW · GW

More laundry stories.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (III.) · 2020-08-12T16:27:04.130Z · LW · GW

Thanks! Fixed. (I think the party is actually called "FDP.The Liberals" without a space.)

As for the video, it's kind of funny. She's currently the president, he's the minister of home affairs.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (III.) · 2020-08-12T01:39:06.443Z · LW · GW


If FDP, CVP and SP each got two seats and SVP one seat - an arrangement that would later become known as Magic Formula - ...

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-26T06:18:32.272Z · LW · GW

But that would only push the upper limit on efficient governance downwards, no? So the limit would not be 100 people, but rather 30. Still, the question we are discussing is whether there's a limit somewhere between 8 million and 40 million, which is like five orders of magnitude difference.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-26T06:13:38.302Z · LW · GW

As far as I know, most people vote by mail. There have been some back and forth with respect to the online voting. The rules probably differ between the cantons.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-26T06:11:04.529Z · LW · GW

Portion of the budget paid by specific level of government. For example, if 100% of the "foreign relations" budget is paid by federal government, it means that cantonal and municipal levels pay no expenses related to foreign relations.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-25T07:26:28.363Z · LW · GW

The way I have seen this idea stated in the past (e.g. quadratic cost of all-to-all communication) was that the organization lacing a hierarchical structure would fall apart at quite a small size, maybe somewhere around ~100 people.

If one wants to use it to explain the different outcomes between Switzerland and California, they have to explain why something would work for 8 million people (which is not at all a negligible number) and 40 million. What exactly happens at, say, 20 million boundary that breaks the system?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2020-07-25T05:16:20.713Z · LW · GW

The owner of the block may have been willing to change the house rules if most of the inhabitants asked for it. Our block, for example, is owned by a bank and run by a company dedicated house-managing company. The company seems to be rather flexible and willing to resolve issues. That's another thing that I found unexpected in Switzerland: If something doesn't work, be it a person's behavior or an administrative problem, do complain (locals certainly do) and it will eventually get fixed. It's certainly not what I've learned at home, namely, that complaining if futile.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-21T17:22:45.538Z · LW · GW

Legislative referendum happens if 50,000 signatures are collected within 100 days.

As for polarization, I want to address that in part III., but the gist of it is that opposition can almost block the normal political process by initiating referenda over and over again.

The governing parties can maybe live with it for some time but eventually it leads to a crisis. And once the crisis hits the solution is usually to give the opposition a seat in the government. But keep in mind that this is a really slow process, measured in decades.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-20T15:35:08.432Z · LW · GW

The thing about the cost is that it's already paid. Voting happens four times a year in any case and adding one more initiative doesn't change much. There's certainly a cost associated with government and parliament processing the initiative, but again, that's what they are expected to do, it can't be really thought of as an extra cost.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-20T03:31:26.855Z · LW · GW

fixed. thanks!

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-19T19:19:20.353Z · LW · GW

Here "approved" means that official proposal was accepted. "Rejected" means that it was canceled. I.e., there will be no Rosegarten tunnel.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-19T11:58:13.395Z · LW · GW

Yes, it's a leftover from the last year. Changed to 37.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-19T07:36:08.442Z · LW · GW

In this particular case the exact implementation of UBI was left to the government. Here's how the initiative proposed to change the constitution:

Art. 110a (new) Unconditional basic income:

  1. The Confederation ensures the introduction of an unconditional basic income.
  2. Basic income is intended to enable the entire population to have a decent existence and to participate in public life.
  3. The law regulates in particular the financing and the amount of the basic income.
Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Institutional Senescence · 2020-07-01T12:30:41.688Z · LW · GW

Yes, it's a toy model. The idea is that equilibrium is only defined with a respect to the game being played. In this case the game is the set of rules (both formal and informal) used in the institution. If institution dies there are no rules. When a new one is crated a new set of rules is established, with different equilibria.

But whether the new rules will be better than the old ones, there's no guarantee. The protesters in arab spring in Syria hoped for better institutions, but they've got civil war instead. The crucial bit seems to be that it's controlled death. What exactly that means though is unclear.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Institutional Senescence · 2020-06-28T06:11:47.728Z · LW · GW

IIRC from the book, the debt forgiveness in the ancient middle east was mostly done on ad hoc basis (i.e. semi-randomly). Once the king felt that the things are getting out of control he declared all the debt obligations void.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Anti-social Punishment · 2019-12-12T06:09:48.290Z · LW · GW

Author here.

In the hindsight, I still feel that the phenomenon is interesting and potentially important topic to look into. I am not aware of any attempt to replicate or dive deeper though.

As for my attempt to explain the psychology underlying the phenomenon I am not entirely happy with it. It's based only on introspection and lacks sound game-theoretic backing.

By the way, there's one interesting explanation I've read somewhere in the meantime (unfortunately, I don't remember the source):

Cooperation may incur different costs on different participants. If you are well-off, putting $100 into a common pool is not a terribly important matter. If others fail to cooperate all you can lose is $100. If you just barely getting along, putting $100 into a common pool may threaten you in a serious way. Therefore, rich will be more likely to cooperate than poor. Now, if the thing is framed in moral terms (those cooperating are "good", those not cooperating are "bad") the whole thing may feel like a scam providing the rich a way to buy moral superiority. As a poor person you may thus resort to anti-social punishment as a way to punish the scam.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Inadequate Equilibria vs. Governance of the Commons · 2019-12-11T14:02:08.382Z · LW · GW

Author here.

I still believe this article is a important addition to the discussion of inadequate equilibria. While Scott Alexander's Moloch post and Eliezer Yudkowsky's book are great for introduction and discussion of the topic, both of them fail, in my opinion, to convey the sheer complexity of the problem as it occurs in the real world. That, I think, results in readers thinking about the issue in simple malthusian or naive game-theoretic terms and eventually despairing about inescapability of suboptimal Nash equilibria.

What I try to present is a world that is much more complex but also much less hopeless. Everything is an intricate mess of games played on different levels and interacting in complex and unpredictable ways. What, at the first glance, looks like a simple tragedy-of-the-commons problem is in fact a complex dynamic system with many inputs and many intertwined interests. To solve it, one may just have to step back a bit and consider other forces and mechanisms at play.

One idea that is expressed in the article and that I often come back to is (my wording, but the idea is very much implicitly present in Ostrom's book):

All in all, it seems that organically grown institutions are a lot like Hayek's free markets. They are information-processing machines. They aggregate countless details, too small and numerous for any central planner to take into account, and generate a set of efficient governance rules.

Another one that still feels important in the hindsight is the attaching of a price tag to a coordination failure ("this can be solved for $1M") which turns the semi-mystical work of Moloch into a boring old infrastructure project, very much like building a dam. This may have implications for Effective Altruism. Solving a coordination failure may often be the most efficient way to spend money in a specific area.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Missing Piece · 2019-10-28T05:24:10.376Z · LW · GW

Let me restate the question in a different way:

If we have just the compiler source code, we are missing some information (easily proven by showing that there's infinite number of such Xs where X(S)=X, whereas only one is "correct").

To find out what that information may be let's consider the case where both the source code of the compiler and the compiler binary are available, but there's no programmer that understands the language. Are we still missing said piece of information?

On one hand, we can assume that yes, the information in question is still missing. In that case it must be something that is in the head of the programmer, some kind of "interpretation" of the language. But if that is so, how does that apply to the biological case? What's the "interpretation" of DNA and whose head it resides in?

On the other hand, we can assume that no, with the compiler binary at hand there's no information missing. Therefore, there must be something in the binary that's not present in the source code. But given that the binary is just a transformation of the source code, what exactly that may be? Is it some kind of "interpretation" of the language, but encoded as machine code?

An unrelated though: Why is the Swiss/CAR case different from the other two? If one looks at how the reproduction is carried out in living organisms (not the high school biology version, but the real thing) then it is, given its complexity and distributed nature, much more similar to the working of a society than to a compiler. Maybe, after all, the biological and sociological cases are similar, and the compilers have nothing to do with the other two?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Recent updates to (2017–2019) · 2019-04-29T05:48:50.122Z · LW · GW

"On the Existence of Powerful Natural Languages": Have you read Umberto Eco's "The Search for the Perfect Language"? It's a pretty good history of the past efforts to create powerful artificial languages, from Raymon Lull to John Wilkins etc.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Hull: An alternative to shell that I'll never have time to implement · 2019-04-28T20:07:28.585Z · LW · GW

Thank's for the reference!

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On the Nature of Programming Languages · 2019-04-23T05:02:14.735Z · LW · GW

AFAIU, your argument is that a super-human intelligence can look at the program as a whole, be aware that both hind legs need to be the same length and can modify the code at both places to satisfy the constraint.

While imaginable, in the real world I don't see this happening except for toy examples (say, an academic exercise of writing a toy sorting algorithm). Actual software projects are big and modified by many actors, each with little understanding of the whole. Natural selection is performed by a, from human point of view, completely mindless entity. Same for genetic algorithms and, possibly, ML.

The point I was trying to make that in such a piecemal, uninformed development, some patters may emerge that are, in a way, independent of the type of the development process (human-driven, evolution, etc.)

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Politics of Age (the Young vs. the Old) · 2019-03-24T20:33:10.570Z · LW · GW

A skin-in-the-game vote multiplier based on age

There are two opposing ways to think about it.

You can either, as you do, say that your skin-in-the-game is proportional to the amount of time you have in front of you. From that perspective it seems fair that children should have biggest say in shaping long-term policies.

Or you can say that your skin-in-the-game factor is proprotional to how much you've already invested in the status quo. If you've spent 50 years working towards a goal it seems unfair that a 16-year old know-nothing should be able, on a whim, to throw all of that away.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on What makes people intellectually active? · 2018-12-30T20:06:33.064Z · LW · GW

Funny that I had exactly the same thought when writing the comment above: Isn't that just OCD? But if you look at concrete examples, it doesn't feel like that. Einstein? Incapable of accepting easy solutions? Yes. OCD? Probably not. Even van Gogh, despite the host of psychological problems, probably haven't had OCD.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on What makes people intellectually active? · 2018-12-30T08:50:15.278Z · LW · GW

I think it has to do with intellectual honesty. There's a lot of highly intelligent people who are willing to accept the status quo, even if they are aware that it's broken, and just move on with their life. Then there are some people who are just psychologically incapable of such "ignore it and move on" attitude. Interestingly, this applies across broad spectrum of disciplines.

Science: A former kind of person does all the steps from a scientific method textbook and move on with their research. The latter kind of person won't be able to avoid thinking about why the method is as it is, whether its rationale matches their experiment, whether there are special circumstances that make the method inadequate and so on.

Engineering: The former type of person would just take existing tools and practices, glue them together and get a viable product. The latter kind of person will agonize over corner cases, whether there's a fundamentally different way of doing the same thing, whether the design is internally consistent and so on.

Arts: The former type of person is a mannerist. They use the existing expressive repertoire of their time and use it to create viable art. The latter kind of person cannot avoid seeing the problems with the current style, trying different ways of addressing them, getting back to basics and so on. Think van Gogh, for example.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Coordination Problems in Evolution: The Rise of Eukaryotes · 2018-12-30T06:39:55.052Z · LW · GW

Does that matter that much? The life had to originate somewhere and it, presumably, must have faced the same coordination problems along the way.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Coordination Problems in Evolution: Eigen's Paradox · 2018-12-30T06:37:48.093Z · LW · GW

Yes, I own the book. However, I am not a biologist, so writing about the topic is hard for me. By focusing fully on the original book I have a reliable lead. If I had to compile from multiple sources, it would be much easier for me to go astray.

Anyway, if you'd like to write about the new developments, I would love to link that from this article.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Spaghetti Towers · 2018-12-22T06:12:07.866Z · LW · GW

“Can you just straighten out the yellow one without touching any of the others? Thanks.”

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Spaghetti Towers · 2018-12-22T06:07:05.614Z · LW · GW

Some more examples here:

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Coordination Problems in Evolution: Eigen's Paradox · 2018-11-09T06:40:09.025Z · LW · GW

Good point. I shall edit the article to make that clear.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Coordination Problems in Evolution: The Rise of Eukaryotes · 2018-11-02T15:34:39.090Z · LW · GW

There's an eerie similarity between an old software project and a inner working of a living organism. You see all these pieces that were serving some purpose in the past, then they were abandoned and repurposed, the changes are layered one on top of another without removing the vestiges of the old design first and so on.

I've written a small essay on the topic once: