Great post, endorsed.

What is the significance of the two other Substack posts excerpted at the bottom? Are they the equivalent of Wordpress "pingbacks"?

Expand full comment

They’re good posts on the subject.

Expand full comment

"A culture that stifles debate around difficult topics will fail to discover certain important ideas."

Such as: Cowardly rejection of truth ends your bloodline.

...Better luck next lifetime, a-holes!

Expand full comment

It does? I don't think you're right.

Cowardly rejection of truth is evolutionarily fit.

Hence why it is common, while autistic truthfulness is rare.

Expand full comment

Autistic levels of truthfulness isn't rare. Voicing it is, because most people don't lack the social awareness that truth telling in some circumstances can be harmful to you, and even get you killed.

Can you name one instance where denying truth results in an evolutionary advantage?

Expand full comment

Male overconfidence bias in female sexual interest in them.

Expand full comment

Overconfidence gets you killed, typically before genes are passed on.

Expand full comment

Then why is there a giant empirical corpus demonstrating sexual overperception bias?

Expand full comment

You seem to be conflating overconfidence with "peacocking" (male fitness displays). Post a study, let's have a look at it.

Expand full comment

Likely the best solution would be for people to speak frankly under pseudonyms that maintain a separate reputation, that way you can have both a intellectually honest conversation and also reduce reputational damage with the hopes of having your less unpopular views influence the culture/policy or to clearly lie in such a way to achieve a pragmatic end without having to commit to such lies during discussion with your intellectual equals. This seems better than talking in private with your fingers crossed. As for the dangers of cognitive decline, you probably only need a small fraction of the population to be von Neumanns to maintain societal progress, since ideas have a marginal cost of 0, if anything assuming you can control the negative externalities of being low IQ like crime and such, having a low IQ population might be easier to manipulate and control, as such i think it really makes sense to focus more on making more von Neumanns and ensuring your the group in control of the populace instead of being worried about the decline of intelligence in the average person, its not as if it was all that impressive to begin with. I should also say im really sympathetic to people who make philosophically unsound or invalid arguments and instead rely on emotion and making things taboo and treating rational discussion with extreme hostility. The reason for this is because even though such a strategy isn't effective at coming to the truth of the matter, its probably the most effective pragmatic strategy independent of whether people realize it. Feminism is a pretty good example, perhaps in the near future we won't even need the label because we have all accepted roughly the same very extreme form of it.

Expand full comment
Jan 28, 2023·edited Jan 28, 2023Liked by Ives Parr

"Likely the best solution would be for people to speak frankly under pseudonyms that maintain a separate reputation, that way you can have both a intellectually honest conversation and also reduce reputational damage with the hopes of having your less unpopular views influence the culture/policy or to clearly lie in such a way to achieve a pragmatic end without having to commit to such lies during discussion with your intellectual equals."

This describes the rationalist community quite well and explains why they've avoided a lot of the pathologies that have befell the Effective Altruism community. I think of rationalism community as a primarily online community: a binary star system centered around the twin helioses of Lesswrong and AstralCodexTen. Because it's an online community with a strong culture of pseudoanomynity, discussions of even the most taboo topics tend to be much more honest than the types of discussions possible in non-online settings. This has allowed rationalism to "stay weird" even as it's slowly grown in popularity.

You could argue that the rationalism community is not a completely online community due to infamous Bay Area rationalist subculture. That's true, but based on the stories I've heard about Bay Area rationalists, they are even *weirder* than online rationalists!

Effective Altruism, while it has a strong online presence, seems to be much more oriented around offline organisations and meetups. This has pros and cons. The pros is that there are certain types of organizations--like GiveWell, for example--that would be impossible to coordinate without large instituitional funds. But the cons are that Effective Altruism has to adhere to the strictures of our current upper middle class. The people Effective Altruism wants to influence--whether it's big-pocketed donors or politicians or even potential EA converts--will disproportionately be of this social class. This leads to "blindspots" like their shunning of genetic engineering (and conservative-flavored cause areas more broadly).

Expand full comment

I didn't think about this, but you are correct, especially about the need for EA to be open and to appeal to a particular social class. At the same time it seems as if lots of the EA types could also maintain a separate identity to talk frankly, and both currently don't do that and even if they did that im not sure if they would be willing to talk about their "blindspots".

Expand full comment

Three things

Having a bunch of cognitive elites in New York doesn't stop Detroit or Baltimore becoming essentially failed cities. Especially since the intelilgence of these elites doesn't stop them from supporting more of the same policies that have failed to fix these cities for decades. And these cognitive elites are the ones most in favor of expanding imigration in such a way that enormous (millions per year) of additional below average IQ people will come to the US every year, meaning they are responsible for offsetting much of the benefit their own intelligence brings to the country.

Secondly, making new von neumanns is really, really hard. So hard in fact that it will only become a remote possibility once substanital scientific and technological advances have been made. Before such time, it will be much, much easier to significantly reduce the average IQ in the US thorugh large increases in non-selective immigration. Such a policy could exist as soon as the next time a new Deomcrat is elected president. I don't think it will happen that soon, but the probability of it happening in next 30 years >> creating meaningful numbers of new cognitive elites through e.g. gene therapy or embryo selection in the next 30 years. And I focus on immigration because nothing has the potential to change the distribution of things like intelligence in a country as quickly as immigration does, except maybe some sort of extremely deadly virus that selectively infects people based on intelligence or something.

"ensuring your the group in control of the populace instead of being worried about the decline of intelligence in the average person"

This is also very, very hard. Almost nobody has the power to meaningfully influence national elections, certainly not the Parrhesias or even the Bostroms of the world. But that's just getting the "right" party in power. Getting the right individual who knows about and cares about this stuff is not a realistic strategy to get anything done.

Expand full comment

On the first point I was more referencing high IQ people in silicon valley or wall street etc, that is the gains in terms of scientific or industrial innovation or even in management or better allocation of capital. Not the cultural elites or political elites or high society types all of whom I regard as midwits. I also don't think these people (the silicon valley types etc.) on the whole support bad policies compared to the average voter, and I don't think their number is significant enough such that even if they did it would really matter. As for the points about immigration, I don't expect to convert you in a sentence, but I should say that the marginal human/immigrant is on net a large positive especially if you can control the negative externalities of crime, voting wrong, pollution etc. And that for roughly the same reasons free trade is largely beneficial namely ricardian comparative advantage so is immigration even with low or average IQ people.

As for the point about it being hard to make new smart people I think the gains from near future tech are likely to be modestly big but not massive at least at first, but im mostly interested in just ensuring current smart people have lots of kids, which does seem a very tractable problem that rationalist or EA types can contribute more to, not going to elaborate but you can see where this line of reasoning takes you.

As for the gaining power line, I agree its hard if not near impossible . But thats roughly what the end part of my original rant alluded too, maybe rationalist types should be more open to pulling a Peter Singer so to speak, it's almost certainly more effective than what they are currently doing especially in the long run.

Expand full comment
Jan 30, 2023·edited Jan 30, 2023

On immigration: the *current* marginal legal immigrant is quite different from what would become typical under open borders. Related observations:

- The UAE is generally a worse deal for immigrants than the US, yet enough people take that deal that its population is ~85% foreign at this point.

- Singapore's government has one of the best technocratic track records in the world; they're very willing to do unpopular things that they believe to be correct, and actually invited Bryan Caplan to speak back in 2008. And today, they have an immigration policy that's more open than that of most other countries... but it also includes consistent expulsion of guest workers that get pregnant. Ok, sure, that kind of guest worker policy is probably economically net-positive. It's also abhorrent to a majority of Western voters, I don't see this changing, and I'm not convinced Western attitudes around this should change.

Especially because open borders now resembles a solution in search of a problem. The biggest stories in poverty reduction over the past several decades have been China and India. I can understand why someone entering the field as late as the early 1990s might believe that the choices are open borders or eternal poverty for Indians, but today? Turns out there's a much less disruptive playbook that gets the poverty-reduction job done. (I speculate that the Internet was the final piece of the puzzle for India, routing around governmental incompetence and enabling hundreds of millions of Indians to rapidly teach themselves.)

To be clear, I am not opposed to immigration in general. It is premature lifting of restrictions, when those restrictions still have a very important function, that I am strongly opposed to. In particular, the US does not have a shortage of "low or average IQ people"; instead, we have business and other folks who don't want to deal with our homegrown ones. One solution to that is to do the hard work of improving the behavior of our native lower classes, and another solution is to trade a lot with places like India. Importing foreign masses without addressing the reasons why homegrown low-or-average-IQ people aren't great to do business with is basically a Ponzi scheme, not a long-term solution.

Expand full comment