Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

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  • Dean Jens

    Let’s brazenly paraphrase Arrow’s theorem as “forming a large organization serves as a credible commitment to hypocrisy.” Are there markets where I should expect to observe a benefit from this — markets where there are few real benefits to scale, but many benefits to being able to get away with more inconsistency than might be allowed a sole proprietor?

    • efalken

      If you work in management–reporting, directing, measuring others–or in sales, there’s a large amount of what you do that is for real reasons inconsistent with what you state or even understand. Think about the purpose of college, value-at-risk reports, OSHA regulations.

      You need to be a hypocrite to deal with other people, and people even lie to themselves about many things (a bad habit, mostly).

      I suspect this is optimal (an equilibrium) because, as I think Keynes said, ‘good policies are most often chose for the wrong reasons.’ That is, people aren’t smart enough (or, less pejoratively, the world is too complex) to choose good policies based on simple logic; people need a good story AND the policy/practice must work in some way (which might not be optimal to a utilitarian, but benefit enough key people).

  • BenGolden1

    Lately I’ve been puzzling over metaphysical naturalism. My sense is that many serious-minded people (rationalists and scientists particularly) are metaphysical naturalists. I’m having trouble finding a particularly strong / rigorous argument for metaphysical naturalism. Care to comment or link?

    • oldoddjobs

      Most people who are not religious are philosophical naturalists, right? Even the ones who aren’t behave as if they were on a daily basis.

      • BenGolden1

        Plenty of non-religious have fairly non-scientific ideas about things like love, emotions, free will, karma, spiritual energy, etc. and these ideas to affect behavior.

  • Filter Fan

    It’s the Great Filter, Charlie Brown
    Too Big to Succeed

    Unfortunately, it seems, the Great Filter never seems to make it into spooky Halloween stories. I find it a fun diversion though, and thought I would bounce my latest theory about it off you all. This is a story scaling factors and society. The group dynamic tools that function well for people in small and medium groups break down as group sizes increase. Even if we are predisposed to a hunter/gatherer forms of interaction, technologically advanced societies will end up being centrally managed (in fact, even if not in name). The problem here is that people still make mistakes at about the same rate as always, and bureaucratic safeguards when they exist will be insufficient to prevent a filtering event. Even with an infinitesimal small chance of a filtering inducing mistake, over the timespan required for expansion it happens. I’m doubtful that a singularity AI would make a difference either. Suppose a singularity AI removed the possibility of a filtering mistake. The probability of creating an AI without a systematic flaw that would eventually be equivalent to a filtering event is highly unlikely. Even singularity AI is unlikely to predict/cope with systematic, possibly emergent, defects.

    The hypothesis here is that black swans events do occur, and huge technological societies will tend towards central management, which are most vulnerable to the black swans.

    Happy Halloween++

  • solipsist

    Could a billionaire stop political fundraising by committing to maintain the parity of candidates coffers? The more moneyed candidate couldn’t raise a dollar for herself without raising a dollar for her opponent, so her incentive to fundraise would be negligible. The fundraising-hating-billionaire wouldn’t even have to spend very much money if his commitment were credible.

    • Dean Jens

      This would create an incentive for third-party candidates to enter.

      • guest

        The less well-known candidate would raise money but not as much as now. The other one does not have to raise money. Both facts would favor celebrities and incumbents with respect to Mitt Romneys.

    • IMASBA

      Alternatively you could just do away with the district-based voting system and mandate reserved airtime for political parties free of charge (or reimbursed by the government). Just some things that help make it so that in Europe (except Britain) you don’t have to be a multimillionaire to get into a parliament or cabinet.