inadequate equilib

inadequate equilib.png

(nov 2017) by @ESYudkowsky

intro’d to book while reading bs jobs.. and this twitter exchange:

@davidgraeber ‘we can all imagine a better world. why can’t we just create one.. why does it seem so inconceivable to just stop making capitalism.. or govt‘ @davidgraeber’s bs jobs

Original Tweet:

@monk51295 @davidgraeber For useful food for thought in considering this question, I can recommend ‘Inadequate Equilibria’ by @ESYudkowsky
No answers – not even a fully satisfying analysis, but excellent on the depth of what ‘network effects’ really consist of.
Original Tweet:



1 – inadequacy and modesty

this is a book about two incompatible views on the age old question: ‘when should i think that i may be able to do something unusually well?

everyday.. ie: equity as everyone getting a go everyday


the thought being: i shouldn’t build a fence here, because if it were a good idea .. someone would already have built it..


if you want to outperform – if you want to do anything not usually done – then you’ll need to conceptually divide our civilization into areas of lower and greater competency..

2 – an equilib of no free energy


and would you, failing to observe anything on the subject after a couple of hours of googling, conclude that your civilization must have some unknown good reason why not everyone was doing this already?

to answer a question like this, we need an analysis not of the world’s efficiency or inexploitability but rather of its adequacy – whether all the low hanging fruit have been plucked..


distinction: efficiency – prices neither too low/high; inexploitability – some overpriced but can make profit selling; adequacy – crazy.. but at least no better way or someone would be doing it


they’re all chasing whatever things people in that system actually pursue – instead of the lost purposes they wistfully remember but don’t have a chance to pursue because it would be career suicide..

what inadequate systems and efficient markets have in common is the lack of any free energy in the equilibrium..


there’ s a diff between ‘caring’ and ‘caring enough to prioritize this over nearly everything else i care about’.. and it’s the latter that would be needed for researchers to be willing to personally trade away non small amounts of expected money or esteem for new treatment ideas..

3 – moloch’s toolbox


in your terms, it involves a sticky, stable equilibrium of everyone acting insane in a way that’s secretly a sane response to everyone else acting insane.. t


pareto optimum is any situation where it’s impossible to make every actor better off simultaneously.. ie: alt to craigslist won’t work unless everyone (buyers and sellers) all switch at once..


prisoner’s dilemma is a coord problem because the sole equilib isn’t pareto optimal; there’s an outcome .. that both prefer but aren’t reaching


a majority of people have to trust that institutions.. they have to know that other people trust the institution, so that everyone expects the coordinated action to occur at the critical time, so that it makes sense for them to act too..

rather.. begs we leap.. sans institution ness.. via a (simple enough mech) means about something every soul already craves (problem deep enough)


fundamentally your asking why scientists on earth don’t adopt certain new customs that you think would be for the good of everyone.. and the answer is that there’s this big, mult facto system that nobody can dissent from unilaterally, and that people have a lot of trouble coordinating to change..t

let’s try this: short bp via 2 convos

as it could be..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


once you’ve been thru a painful initiation ritual (ie: calc for lawyers) and rationalized its necessity, you’ll hate to see anyone else going thru a less painful one..t


so occupational licensing is regulatory capture is a commons problem is a coordination problem.. t

visitor: then the upshot is that it’s impossible for your country to test a functional hospital design in the first place.. the reformers can’t win the competition because they’re not *legally allowed to try

*or financially


every potentially useful part of every land is under some system’s control, and all of those systems would refuse you the chance to set up your own alt system, .. t


visitor: so there’s no way for your plane to try diff ways of doing things, anywhere.. you literally cannot run experiments about things like this

cecie: why would there be.. who would decide that, and how would they personally benefit

visitor: that sounds extremely alarming.i mean, difficulties of adoption are one thing, but not even being able to try new things and see what happens..  shouldn’t everyone on your planet be able to detect at a glance how horrible things have become..t

cecie: ok look.. despite everything you’ve said so far, i still have some trouble understand why drs and parents can’t just not kill the babies. i manage to get up every single morning and successfully not kill any babies.. it’s not as hard as it sounds..t

cecie: you can’t just not kill babies and expect to get away w it (sued, no tenure, ..)

what we really need is a revolution, so we can depose our corrupt overlords, and  finally be free to coordinate..

cecie: we’ve only begun to survey the malfunction of the whole system, which would further include the fda, clinical trials, p-hacking. and the way vc is structured, and equity market regs and the insurance co’s and the tax code..  and the corp’s employees and the politicians and the voters..


visitor: it sounds like the ‘politicians’ and the ‘voters’ might be a more key issue..


cecie: ah.. but it turns out that vc’s and startups can be seen as a simpler version of voters/politicians.. so it’s better to consider entrepreneurs first

visitor: .. persistent societal problems tend to be ones that don’t have easily capturable profits corresponding to their solution..

cecie: walking thru the simpler case of vc will help us understand the more complex reason why voters and politicians are nailed in to their own equilibria, underpinning the ultimate reason why nobody can change the laws that prevent change..t


simplicio: a keynesian beauty contest.. where everyone tries to pick the contestant they expect everyone else to pick.. a parable illustrating the massive, pointless circularity of the paper game called the stock market, where there’s no objective except to buy the pieces of paper you’ll think other people will want to buy


not because everyone believes it, but because everyone believes that everyone believes it..t

pluralistic ignorance


simplicio: isn’t the solution here obvious though? all of these problems are caused by voters’ willingness to compromise on their principles and accept the lesser of two evils..t 

spinach or rock ness


(on allan ginsberg’s poem moloch.. everyone is hurting each other and everyone hates it.. but can’t stop because moloch perpetuates it)

visitor: or if you did do this to yourselves,. all by yourselves.. then why can’ t you just vote to change the voting rules? no, nevermind ‘voting’ why can’t you all just get together and change everything period..?..t

meadows undistrubed ecosystem

cecie: .. any talk of systemic change on this level would just be lost in a haze of equally plausible-sounding-to-the-average-voter blogs, talking about how quantitative easing will cause hyperinflation..t

ch 4, 5, 6


simplicio: if you’re proposing a reform that puts more power in to the hand of sheep not yet awakened, the results could be even worse..t

begs mech w detox embed ie: self-talk as data


cecie: the visitor keeps asking why, in some sense, on some sufficiently general level, we can’t just snap out of it..  i suspect that the recursion, the dependency of what people believe other people believe, has a lot to do w making that a sticky equilib a la vc..t


visitor: but what about everyone else..? (after excuses for economists et al).. there are 7 bn people on  your planet.. how is it that none of them step up to save these babies from death and brain damage? how is your entire planet failing to solve this problem..t

cecie: that .. sounds like a weird question, to an earth person


wandering bystander: i just can’t believe our planet would be that dysfunctional..  maybe the omega 3 & 6 .. is just a crackpot diet theory that somehow made it into wikipedia..

4 – living in an inadequate world

5 – blind empiricism

book is heavy on assumption of money.. this ch in particular

6 –  against modest epistemology


i’m feeling like i’m reading.. p 85 being acted out (cecie: .. any talk of systemic change on this level would just be lost in a haze of equally plausible-sounding-to-the-average-voter blogs, talking about how quantitative easing will cause hyperinflation).. dang

7 – status regulation and anxious underconfidence


only people who already have something like an aura of pre importance are allowed to try to do important things…t

chomsky serious things law

conclusion: against shooting yourself in the foot


if you’re trying to do something unusually well.. then this will often mean that you need to seek out the most neglected problems. you’ll have to make use of info that isn’t widely known or accepted, and pass into relatively uncharted waters.. t.. and modesty is esp detrimental for that kind of work, because it discourages acting on private info, making less than certain bets, and breaking new ground..

graeber min/max law


the world isn’t mysteriously doomed to its current level of inadequacy..  incentive structure have parts, and can be reengineered in some cases, worked around in others..t

i’m thinking if we think we need incentives.. we’re doing it wrong

as it could be..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way