Many people tout big outside-the-Overton “radical” proposals for change. They rarely do this apologetically; instead, they often do this in a proud and defiant tone. They seem to say directly that their proposal deserves better than it has gotten, and indirectly that they personally should be admired for their advocacy.
Robin, I'm commenting on this one post almost at random, as one example of many. I find that I tend to discount arguments that you make to say that social signalling explains some behavior, just because the prior odds that you'll try to explain any arbitrarily-chosen behavior via social signalling are very high. I don't mean that as an argument against this post; I just thought you might want to know.
Yes, yet our media have ignored it, especially since Katrina.
I must quibble with your examples re Morality.
I don't see what encryption limits have to do with morality. I oppose such limits, but on practical grounds, not moral ones.
And every ethical system I know of calls theft immoral. So how does advocating a 90% tax on the rich a demonstrate morality? Any tax beyond an amount proportional to public services provided or consumed (necessarily a rough calculation) sounds like theft to me.
(This assumes of course that the rich became so honestly - if they didn't, they are or ought to be criminals under the law, and taxation doesn't seem like the right response.)
And, yes, I did read Christopher Boehm's Hierarchy in the Forest (at your suggestion) and am aware that people have strong egalitarian emotions and naturally want to tear down anyone who appears socially more powerful than the rest.
But morality is all about resisting our natural impulses - if all we had to do is whatever our emotions made us want to do, we wouldn't need morality or ethical systems.
(I created this account solely to post this - I have enough people who think I'm a monster already.)
I supposed I'm better at inventiveness than math, though I'm good enough at math for many purposes.
Surely we can agree that effectiveness is good. all else equal.
Would you grant that inventiveness rather than, say, tricky math, is the route to impressiveness you have favored and is to your comparative advantage?
the most socially valuable form of signaling is effectiveness?
The Chinese government is the most effective on Planet Earth, a fact reflected in the 95% policy support it garners.
Maybe I'm a pessimist here but inducing such an equilibrium seems like a long row to hoe.
By way of example I'm reminded of the following comment by Scott Aaronson on his latest post in his Shtetl-Optimized blog. It concerns how the Effectiveness (to the extent this correlates with a proposal's intellectual soundness) and Investment goals are misaligned in the VC world. How would one go about changing this at all?
"One thing you learn, from even short exposure to the VC world, is that VCs are not even trying to answer the same question that an academic would: “is this proposal intellectually sound, or isn’t it?” They’re looking at a large number of other ways they might recoup the investment, like accumulating valuable IP, a buyout by a larger company (which might be more for the people than for the idea), etc."
I'll admit to wanting to seem impressive, and inventiveness is one kind of impressiveness.
I think before you've described your own priorities in academia as being more about inventiveness than impressiveness, although I haven't been able to find the specific post where you analyzed yourself as a status-seeker.
Yes, they can. But if you have a radical proposal, you can share with me the details of it, and the background info and arguments based on which you think it's great. Of course you can't perfectly transfer all your info and you can't implant your priors into my brain. But my question is: what salient info you can't credibly convey for which a signaling mechanism is a good second-best way to convey it (leading to a separating equilibrium)? I'm not sure your examples (except maybe for conformity and in small part for morality) fit this description. They either directly show that the proposal is good (in a first best way) or they just show that you strongly believe it is good. But maybe it's a just a semantic quibble over what "signaling" means?
"Everybody can observe what's there to observe" You really think no one could possibly know more about radical proposals than you do?
I'm not sure costly signaling is really effective when the signaller does not have superior information. The signallers might very well be convinced that their idea is great or very effective. But this is a matter of beliefs (which can be heterogeneous). Everybody can observe what's there to observe and they may come up with different conclusions. In real world, disagreement is real. If I don't believe that your idea is great, your costly signal will not do much to convince me. I may very well believe that you sincerely think your idea is great and still not buy it.
A costly signal is good to reveal something I cannot observe. The real intensity of your belief is unobservable, it's true. But Intensity of belief is not hugely relevant when it comes to the likelihood of success of investments, popular ideas, inventions, policies etc. Lots of people are intensely convinced of crazy things.
A difference case is when I do not want to spend the time and energies to review the observable evidence and make up my mind about X and I have some previous reasons to trust you in general. Or at least not to distrust you. In that case, your sincere intensity of belief is an important piece of evidence and your costly signalling of it becomes relevant.