in which i dash hopes of cfar guy

In general your strategy of paying careful attention to what I write here is not going to pay off. I blog pretty sloppily.

I did, however, write that I’d been reading Sinceriously and that two things came up. I only got around to talking about one of them. The other one was not actually Sincerious but a link to Pete Michaud – an important guy in CFAR who I haven’t met yet because he joined way after I attended my workshop.

The post was Artifacts of Power – it’s short and interesting, go ahead and read it. It builds up a sense of talking about something wise, and then at the end:

If you’re a human, I am confident you are being wielded by some nonzero number of powerful artifacts. The easiest way to identify one is to identify something that’s fundamentally true about who you are. A thing you will always choose for and never against.

He gives some examples. None of them apply to me. In fact I’m terrible at all of them. Let’s take one that I might seem to be strong at.

  • Figuring things out for yourself

Let me think back to when I first heard about the idea of an intelligence explosion. My reaction was something like:

“Wait that’s completely… oh hang on um wait wouldn’t it…… oh no ok but then why would it want…. oh yeah right ok hmm. I’ll just put that on my list of things which seem extremely concerning when you think about them, but not actually think about it and certainly not put it into my category of things I can actually do something about”.

When Luke Muehlhauser heard about the intelligence explosion he went and became the boss of MIRI. In this extremely cherry-picked example I end up at the opposite end of the figuring things out for yourself spectrum from somebody else.

(That might seem more about taking ideas seriously than figuring them out for yourself, but I’d argue that it’s largely about figuring out the consequences of those ideas by yourself).

I don’t know how to come up with a non-cherry picked example. I guess I’m pretty good at figuring things out within limited domains like math and programming? But I seem pretty poor when it comes to my own life?

Anyway, the point is that in general the “fundamentally true about who you are” relation doesn’t seem to apply to myself and any concept that I hold in great esteem. If I were to describe something fundamentally true about who I am it would be cowardice, but that doesn’t seem like an artifact of power – the great Shield of Cowardice whose bearer will sit in an office in Canada making DNS slightly more useful while everybody else is off saving the world. At least if it is it would have “[-20] {cursed}” at the end of its name. And obviously it fails the other criterion of “self-evidently the only correct way for you to be”.

So somebody’s wrong about something, no big deal.

If you’re the acting Executor Director of CFAR though, then not being wrong is basically your job. This suggests that maybe most people really are like that and that I’m unusual in this sense – that my feeling of being a wet blanket in a way that other people aren’t actually has some structure and evidence to it. Or at least that it’s unusual enough to make a note of here.

Maybe thinking of people in these terms – in general thinking about people in ways that are common to most people but which I miss out on – might help me understand them better.

 

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