Audio version of the posts shared in the LessWrong Curated newsletter.
"Focus on the places where you feel shocked everyone's dropping the ball" by Nate Soares
Writing down something I’ve found myself repeating in different conversations:
If you're looking for ways to help with the whole “the world looks pretty doomed” business, here's my advice: look around for places where we're all being total idiots.
Look for places where everyone's fretting about a problem that some part of you thinks it could obviously just solve.
Look around for places where something seems incompetently run, or hopelessly inept, and where some part of you thinks you can do better.
Then do it better.
"Basics of Rationalist Discourse" by Duncan Sabien
This post is meant to be a linkable resource. Its core is a short list of guidelines (you can link directly to the list) that are intended to be fairly straightforward and uncontroversial, for the purpose of nurturing and strengthening a culture of clear thinking, clear communication, and collaborative truth-seeking.
"Alas," said Dumbledore, "we all know that what should be, and what is, are two different things. Thank you for keeping this in mind."There is also (for those who want to read more than the simple list) substantial expansion/clarification of each specific guideline, along with justification for the overall philosophy behind the set.
"My Model Of EA Burnout" by Logan Strohl
(Probably somebody else has said most of this. But I personally haven't read it, and felt like writing it down myself, so here we go.)
I think that EA [editor note: "Effective Altruism"] burnout usually results from prolonged dedication to satisfying the values you think you should have, while neglecting the values you actually have.
Setting aside for the moment what “values” are and what it means to “actually” have one, suppose that I actually value these things (among others):
"Sapir-Whorf for Rationalists" by Duncan Sabien
Casus Belli: As I was scanning over my (rather long) list of essays-to-write, I realized that roughly a fifth of them were of the form "here's a useful standalone concept I'd like to reify," à la cup-stacking skills, fabricated options, split and commit, and sazen. Some notable entries on that list (which I name here mostly in the hope of someday coming back and turning them into links) include: red vs. white, walking with three, setting the zero point, seeding vs. weeding, hidden hinges, reality distortion fields, and something-about-layers-though-that-one-obviously-needs-a-better-word.
While it's still worthwhile to motivate/justify each individual new conceptual handle (and the planned essays will do so), I found myself imagining a general objection of the form "this is just making up terms for things," or perhaps "this is too many new terms, for too many new things." I realized that there was a chunk of argument, repeated across all of the planned essays, that I could factor out, and that (to the best of my knowledge) there was no single essay aimed directly at the question "why new words/phrases/conceptual handles at all?"
So ... voilà.
"The Social Recession: By the Numbers" by Anton Stjepan Cebalo
This is a linkpost for https://novum.substack.com/p/social-recession-by-the-numbers
Fewer friends, relationships on the decline, delayed adulthood, trust at an all-time low, and many diseases of despair. The prognosis is not great.
One of the most discussed topics online recently has been friendships and loneliness. Ever since the infamous chart showing more people are not having sex than ever before first made the rounds, there’s been increased interest in the social state of things. Polling has demonstrated a marked decline in all spheres of social life, including close friends, intimate relationships, trust, labor participation, and community involvement. The trend looks to have worsened since the pandemic, although it will take some years before this is clearly established.
The decline comes alongside a documented rise in mental illness, diseases of despair, and poor health more generally. In August 2022, the CDC announced that U.S. life expectancy has fallen further and is now where it was in 1996. Contrast this to Western Europe, where it has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. Still, even before the pandemic, the years 2015-2017 saw the longest sustained decline in U.S. life expectancy since 1915-18. While my intended angle here is not health-related, general sociability is closely linked to health. The ongoing shift has been called the “friendship recession” or the “social recession.”
"Recursive Middle Manager Hell" by Raemon
I think Zvi's Immoral Mazes sequence is really important, but comes with more worldview-assumptions than are necessary to make the points actionable. I conceptualize Zvi as arguing for multiple hypotheses. In this post I want to articulate one sub-hypothesis, which I call "Recursive Middle Manager Hell". I'm deliberately not covering some other components of his model.
Something weird and kinda horrifying happens when you add layers of middle-management. This has ramifications on when/how to scale organizations, and where you might want to work, and maybe general models of what's going on in the world.
You could summarize the effect as "the org gets more deceptive, less connected to its original goals, more focused on office politics, less able to communicate clearly within itself, and selected for more for sociopathy in upper management."
You might read that list of things and say "sure, seems a bit true", but one of the main points here is "Actually, this happens in a deeper and more insidious way than you're probably realizing, with much higher costs than you're acknowledging. If you're scaling your organization, this should be one of your primary worries."