Why Destructive Value Capture?

Previously: Front Row Center

I got a lot of push-back from suggesting that there was a way for theaters to improve their customer experience and value proposition at low cost (get rid of the seats that are so close to the screen they cause neck strain), and that theaters should do that.

The push-back didn’t argue that the method wouldn’t improve the customer experience at low cost. There were a few who suggested an alternate high-cost solution that improves the experience more (use high-quality and assigned seating at a substantially higher price point), and which some places have implemented. No one argued that, where the higher-cost solution didn’t make sense. my incremental suggestion wouldn’t improve the customer experience versus status quo, at relatively low cost.

They also didn’t raise the reasonable argument that getting people to do things at all, especially slightly non-standard things that might look bad on superficial metrics during the pitch meeting, is hard. People don’t think about things, they don’t do things, they don’t optimize, and so on. One could reasonably argue this isn’t worth the effort.

Instead, everyone argued that, unless they were forced to do so, theaters shouldn’t implement the suggestion. Because it would cost them money – they couldn’t sell those few terrible seats, and forcing people to come early increases ad and concession revenue.

That’s interesting. And weird.

The proposition creates value. One comment from Quixote estimates $1.67 in customer time-value is saved in exchange for the loss of $0.10 in ad revenue.

The proposition improves the customer experience. It generates movie-going habits, loyalty and goodwill.

Not implementing the proposition is a destructive value capture. In order to get a little revenue, an order of magnitude more value is destroyed.

Destructive value capture is normal. In order to capture value, some value is typically destroyed. But when you’re destroying most of the value you withdraw from the system, you should be suspicious mistakes are being made. At a minimum, it’s worth asking on a deeper level why this is happening. What could justify it? What failure mode are we in? How does it come to be, why does it persist, is there a way we can solve it or minimize it? We shouldn’t shrug and mutter something about capitalism. We should treat this as a major failure, and brainstorm potential barriers even if they don’t apply in this case.

Can’t Raise the Price

If you’re charging $15 to see a movie, then destroying $1.50 in value to generate $0.15 in additional income, why aren’t you just not doing that, and instead charging $15.25 to see the movie?

What might stop this from being a good solution?

What if movie was free? Moving from free to not free is a huge change, even if the additional cost is small. This could drive people away and be hugely value destructive.

What if this introduced an additional collection point? You’d need to ask someone for money an additional time to make up the additional cost, and that could be value destructive.

What if this disrupted a standardized price or crosses a key threshold? Suppose everyone knows that movies cost $15, and there would be a strong reaction against a price of $15.05, because it’s different, or because it makes it hard to give exact change.

What if the market encouraged sorting purely by price? Imagine a world like with plane tickets, where you go to Kayak or Orbitz or what not, and there is strong default pressure to buy the cheapest tickets without noticing extra charges.

What if regulation prevented higher prices? That which is forbidden is not allowed. Price controls often cause perverse reactions.

Those would be good reasons. All clearly do not apply. Movies aren’t free (or if you have MoviePass, they would stay free). Movies have a collection point. Movies don’t have a standardized prices or a strong price-sorting search mechanism, and prices are rarely at a key threshold.

Other reasons might apply somewhat, but still seem weak.

What if this would be a price increase and that would be bad? Thus, the bad event of ‘prices went up’ could matter even if the new price isn’t much different from the old price, so you can’t do that often. A tiny increase might be impractical.

That’s fair. But the increase could be put into a later, larger increase, or if that’s too big a burden, one could wait on implementation until the next price increase.

What if higher prices decrease customer experience, so they’re more expensive than they look? 

I grant this is likely true for some, but the effect size should be small.

What if this is a pure bad when demand is low, such as at a matinee, and complexity cost prevents price discrimination? 

Again, this seems true but effect size is small. Some places price discriminate by time but the complexity cost stops the majority. So even though removing the seats costs nothing when demand is low, raising the price at those times is net bad.

Would a price increase send the wrong message? Would people then worry about the health of your company, or your industry? Would it thus push down stock prices or reduce your ability to raise money?

It might, indeed. It also might do the opposite. I don’t think this is what’s going on here.

All of that is seeking solutions to the easy out: raising prices. Or, if prices are already higher than they should be, lower them to where they should otherwise be, then raising them back.

Let’s take away that easy out, and say one of the good reasons applied. You can’t raise the price and demand exceeds supply.

This is pretty terrible even if you don’t then do value capture. Destructive value allocation is bad enough, via making people wait on lines or make commitments or virtue signal or what have you – anything where the auction involves incinerating rather than redistributing the bids, often all-pay auctions at that. One can think of this as balancing supply and demand by making quality of the supply sufficiently worse. 

Thus we have two mostly distinct problems. We need to pay for the creation and maintenance of nice things without destroying what makes them nice. And we need to do efficient allocation of those nice things, that balances supply and demand and gets the product to the right people.

Letting the price float is the best way to do both, but what happens when you can’t do it? Are we now stuck with terrible seating and massive deadweight loss? What about other situations where the price is stuck? A life lived under advertising’s increasingly long and intrusive shadow? Or worse, the evil bastard children of microtransactions and free to play games?

We seem to be headed that way. I think there are promising answers, which I hope to explore further. That starts with defaulting to price adjustment, and finding creative ways to do price adjustment, and viewing destruction of value as a failure rather than normality or ‘the way of business.’

 

 

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Front Row Center

Epistemic Status: Lightweight

Related: Choices are BadChoices Are Really Bad

Yesterday, my wife and I went out to see Ocean’s Eight (official review: as advertised). The first place we went was a massively overpriced theater (thanks MoviePass!) with assigned seating, but they were sold out (thanks MoviePass!) so we instead went to a different overpriced theater without assigned seating, and got tickets for a later show. We had some time, so we had a nice walk and came back for the show.

When we got back, there was nowhere for us to sit together outside of the first two rows. They’re too close, up where you have to strain your neck to see the screen. My wife took the last seat we could find a few rows behind that, and I got a seat in the second row. It was fine, but I’d have much preferred to sit together.

It was, of course, our fault for showing up on time rather than early to a sold out screening. I mention it because it’s a clean example of how offering less can provide more value.

The theater should, if they don’t want to do assigned seating, rip out the first two rows.

At first this seems crazy. Many people prefer sitting in the first two rows to being unable to attend the show, so the seats create value while increasing profits. What’s the harm?

The harm is introducing risk, and creating an expensive auction.

The risk is that if you go to the movies, especially the movies you most want to see, you’ll be stuck in the first two rows. So when you buy a ticket and go upstairs, you might get a bad experience. If the show is sold out, that might be better, as you can buy a different ticket or none at all.

The auction is worse. Seats are first come, first serve. So if it’s important to get served first, you need to come first. If it’s very important to not be last, to avoid awful seats, you need to come early, and so does everyone else, bidding up the price of not-last the same way you’d bid up being first.

With no awful seats, those who care a lot about better seats will still come early, but most people care a lot less. So everyone can come substantially earlier, and not feel pressure. Many will show at the last minute, and be totally fine.

The deadweight loss in time, of adding those forty extra seats, is massive, distributed throughout the theater. Everyone feels pressure to get there early even when they already have a ticket, so even if their seat is good, they stressed out about their seat, and not only burned time but feel bad about being pressured.

Avoiding time-based auctions and signals, or at least minimizing the value at stake in them, is an important and underappreciated problem.

 

 

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Simplified Poker Conclusions

Previously: Simplified PokerSimplified Poker Strategy

Related (Eliezer Yudkowsky): Meta Honesty: Firming Honesty Around Its Edge Cases

About forty people submitted programs that used randomization. Several of those random programs correctly solved for the Nash equilibrium, which did well.

I submitted the only deterministic program.

I won going away.

I broke even against the Nash programs, utterly crushed vulnerable programs, and lost a non-trivial amount to only one program, a resounding heads-up defeat handed to me by the only other top-level gamer in the room, fellow Magic: the Gathering semi-pro player Eric Phillips.

Like me, Eric had an escape hatch in his program that reversed his decisions (rather than retreating to Nash) if he was losing by enough. Unlike me, his actually got implemented – the professor decided that given how well I was going to do anyway, I’d hit the complexity limit, so my escape hatch was left out.

Rather than get into implementation details, or proving the Nash equilibrium, I’ll discuss two things: How few levels people play on, and the motivating point: How things are already more distinct and random than you think they are, and how to take advantage of that.

Next Level

In the comments to the first two posts, most people focused on finding the Nash equilibrium. A few people tried to do something that would better exploit obviously stupid players, but none that tried to discover the opponents’ strategy.

The only reason not to play an exploitable strategy is if you’re worried someone will exploit it!

Consider thinking as having levels. Level N+1 attempts to optimize against Levels N and below, or just Level N.

Level 0 isn’t thinking or optimizing, so higher levels all crush it, mostly.

Level 1 thinking picking actions that are generically powerful, likely to lead to good outcomes, without considering what opponents might do. Do ‘natural’ things.

Level 2 thinking considers what to do against opponents using Level 1 thinking. You try to counter the ‘natural’ actions, and exploit standard behaviors.

Level 3 counters Level 2. You assume your opponents are trying to exploit basic behaviors, and attempt to exploit those trying to do this.

Level 4 counters Level 3. You assume your opponents are trying to exploit exploitative behavior, and acting accordingly. So you do what’s best against that.

And so on. Being caught one level below your opponent is death. Being one level ahead is amazing. Two or more levels different, and strange things happen.

Life is messy. Political campaigns, major corporation strategic plans, theaters of war. The big stuff. A lot of Level 0. Level 1 is industry standard. Level 2 is inspired, exceptional. Level 3 is the stuff of legend.

In well-defined situations where losers are strongly filtered out, such as tournaments, you can get glimmers of high level behavior. But mostly, you get it by changing the view of what Level 1 is. The old Level 2 and Level 3 strategies become the new ‘rules of the game’. The brain chunks them into basic actions. Only then can the cycle begin again.

Also, ‘getting’ someone with Level 3 thinking risks giving the game away. What level should one be on next time, then?

Effective Randomization

There is a strong instinct that whenever predictable behavior can be punished, one must randomize one’s behavior.

That’s true. But only from another’s point of view. You can’t be predictable, but that doesn’t mean you need to be random.

It’s another form of illusion of transparency. If you think about a problem differently than others, their attempts to predict or model you will get it wrong. The only requirement is that your decision process is complex, and doesn’t reduce to a simple model.

If you also have different information than they do, that’s even better.

When analyzing the hand histories, I know what cards I was dealt, and use that to deduce what cards my opponent likely held, and in turn guess their behaviors. Thus, my opponent likely has no clue either what process I’m using, how I implemented it, or what data I’m feeding into it. All of that is effective randomization.

If that reduces to me always betting with a 1, they might catch on eventually. But since I’m constantly re-evaluating what they’re doing, and reacting accordingly, on an impossible-to-predict schedule, such catching on might end up backfiring. It’s the same at a human poker table. If you’re good enough at reading people to figure out what I’m thinking and stay one step ahead, I need to retreat to Nash, but that’s rare. Mostly, I only need to worry, at most, if my actions are effectively doing something simple and easy to model.

Playing the same exact scenarios, or with the same exact people, or both, for long enough, both increases the amount of data available for analysis, and reduces the randomness behind it. Eventually, such tactics stop working. But it takes a while, and the more you care about long histories in non-obvious ways, the longer it will take.

Rather than be actually random, instead one adjusts when one’s behavior has sufficiently deviated from what would look random, such that others will likely adjust to account for it. That adjustment, too, need not be random.

Rushing into doing things to mix up your play, before others have any data to work with, only leaves value on the table.

One strong strategy when one needs to mix it up is to do what the details favor. Thus, if there’s something you need to occasionally do, and today is an unusually good day for it, or now an especially good time, do it now, and adjust your threshold for that depending on how often you’ve done it recently.

A mistake I often make is to choose actions as if I was assuming others know my decision algorithm and will exploit that to extract all the information. Most of the time this is silly.

This brings us to the issue of Glomarization.

Glomarization

Are you harboring any criminals? Did you rob a bank? Is there a tap on my phone? Does this make me look fat?

If when the answer is no I would tell you no, then refusing to answer is the same as saying yes. So if you want to avoid lying, and want to keep secrets, you need to sometimes refuse to answer questions, to avoid making refusing to answer too meaningful an action. Eliezer discussed such issues recently.

This section was the original motivation for writing the poker series up now, but having written it, I think a full treatment should mostly just be its own thing. And I’m not happy with my ability to explain these concepts concisely. But a few thoughts here.

The advantage of fully explicit meta-honesty, telling people exactly under what conditions you would lie or refuse to share information, is that it protects a system of full, reliable honesty.

The problem with fully explicit meta-honesty is that it vastly expands the necessary amount of Glomarization to say exactly when you would use it. 

Eliezer correctly points out that if the Feds ask you where you were last night, your answer of ‘I can neither confirm or deny where I was last night’ is going to sound mighty suspicious regardless of how often you answer that way. Saying ‘none of your goddamn business’ is only marginally better. Also, letting them know that you always refuse to answer that question might not be the best way to make them think you’re less suspicious.

This means both that full Glomarization isn’t practical unless (this actually does come up) your response to a question can reliably be ‘that’s a trap!’.

However, partial Glomarization is fine. As long as you mix in some refusing to answer when the answer wouldn’t hurt you, people don’t know much. Most importantly, they don’t know how often you’d refuse to answer. 

If the last five times you’ve refused to answer if there was a dragon in your garage, there was a dragon in your garage, your refusal to answer is rather strong evidence there’s a dragon in your garage.

If it only happened one of the last five times, then there’s certainly a Bayesian update one can make, but you don’t know how often there’s a Glamorization there, so it’s hard to know how much to update on that. The key question is, what’s the threshold where they feel the need to look in your garage? Can you muddy the waters enough to avoid that?

Once you’re doing that, it is almost certainly fine to answer ‘no’ when it especially matters that they know there isn’t a dragon there, because they don’t know when it’s important, or what rule you’re following. If you went and told them exactly when you answer the question, it would be bad. But if they’re not sure, it’s fine.

One can complement that by understanding how conversations and topics develop, and not set yourself up for questions you don’t want to answer. If you have a dragon in your garage and don’t want to lie about it or reveal that it’s there, it’s a really bad idea to talk about the idea of dragons in garages. Someone is going to ask. So when your refusal to answer would be suspicious, especially when it would be a potential sign of a heretical belief, the best strategy is to not get into position to get asked.

Which in turn, means avoiding perfectly harmless things gently, invisibly, without saying that this is what you’re doing. Posts that don’t get written, statements not made, rather than questions not answered. As a new practitioner of such arts, hard and fast rules are good. As an expert, they only serve to give the game away. ‘

Remember the illusion of transparency. Your counterfactual selves would need to act differently. But if no one knows that, it’s not a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

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Simplified Poker Strategy

Previously in Sequence (Required): Simplified Poker

I spent a few hours figuring out my strategy. This is what I submitted.

If you start with a 2, you never want to bet, since your opponent will call with a 3 but fold with a 1. So we can assume no one who bets ever has a 2. But you might want to call a bet.

If you start with a 1, you never call a bet, but sometimes want to bet as a bluff.

If you start with a 3 in first position, sometimes you may want to check to allow your opponent to bet with a 1. If you have a 3 in second position, you have no decisions.

Thus, a non-dominated strategy can be represented by five probabilities: The chance you bet with a 1 in first position, chance you bet with a 3 in first position, chance you bet with a 1 in second position, chance you call with a 2 in first position, and chance you call with a 2 in second position. Call a set of these five numbers a strategy.

There were likely to be a few players bad enough to bet with a 2 or perhaps make the other mistakes, but I chose for complexity reasons not to worry about that, assuming I’d still do something close to optimal. If I was confident complexity was free, I’d have included a check to see if we ever caught the opponent doing something crazy, and adjust accordingly.

If you know the opposing strategy, what to do is obvious. Thus, I defined a function called ‘best response’ that takes a strategy, and outputs the strategy that maximizes against that strategy.

My goal was to derive the opponents’ strategy, then play the best response to that strategy.

As a safeguard against opponents who were anticipating such a strategy, I included an escape hatch: If at any point, my opponent got ahead by 10 or more chips, assume they were a level ahead of me, and playing the best response to what I would otherwise do. So derive what that is, and play the best response to that!

That skipped over the key puzzle, which is figuring out what the opponent is doing. On the first turn, I guessed opponents would pursue reasonable mixed strategies: bet a 1 about a third of the time, bet a 3 in first position about two thirds of the time, call with a 2 about half the time. I represented this with a virtual hand history that I included until I had enough real ones.

On subsequent turns, I looked at the hand history.

If the opponents’ card was revealed, that was a pure data point – if we knew they bet with a 1, that’s a hand where they did that.

If the opponents’ card wasn’t revealed, but only one card made any sense, I assumed they had that card. Thus, if I bet with a 1 and they fold, I assume they had a 2.

If the opponents’ card wasn’t revealed, and they could have had either card because you bet a 3 and they folded, or they bet and you folded a 2, that’s trickier. The probability of them having each card in that spot depends on their strategy. And again, there was a (unknown soft) complexity limit.

My solution was to assume that in each unique starting position (your position plus your card) half the time my opponent would draw the higher of the two cards I hadn’t drawn, and half the time he’d draw the lower one. So half the time I have a 2 in first position, he has a 3, half the time he has a 1.

That was definitely not ideal, and I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but it definitely did the thing it was designed to do: Identify exploitable agents lightning fast, and do something reasonable against reasonable ones. Trying to optimize the details of this type of approach is an interesting puzzle, both with and without a complexity limitation.

 

 

 

 

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Simplified Poker

This is intended as a three-part sequence. Part two will go over my strategy. Part three will reveal the results and discuss some implications.

In the same class in which we later played The Darwin Game, we played a less complex game called Simplified Poker. As in The Darwin Game, we were given the rules and asked to submit instructions for a computer program that would play the game, and the professor would then code our programs for us.

The rules of Simplified Poker are as follows:

Game is played with a 3-card deck, with the cards labeled 1, 2 and 3.

Each hand, the players alternate who goes first, each player antes one chip and is dealt one card.

The first player can bet one chip, or check.

If the first player bets, the second player can either call the one chip bet, or fold.

If the first player checks, the second player can either also check, or can bet. If the second player bets, the first player can either call the one chip bet, or fold.

There is at most one bet per hand, as neither player is allowed to raise.

If either player folds, the other wins the pot of 2 chips and takes back their 1 chip bet. Neither card is shown. If neither player folds – either both players check, or there is a bet and a call – then both cards are revealed and the player with the higher card takes all chips.

In the class, all programs would play a round robin with all other programs, with 50 hands per match. You know the results of previous hands during the match, but not the results of hands from other matches. Your goal is to maximize the average number of chips won over all rounds – note that how many opponents you beat does not matter, only the number of chips won.

The game is simple. A lot, but far from all, of your decisions are forced. There’s no weird trick, but optimal play still isn’t obvious. I’ll pause here to allow and encourage thinking about what strategy you’d submit.

(Edited to explicitly note that you have knowledge of earlier hands in the same match)

Next: Simplified Poker Strategy

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The Third Circle

Previously: The First CircleThe Second Circle

Epistemic Status: Having one’s fill

The third circle took place at Luna Labs. After the second circle, the decision was made to bring in a professional. The New York rationalist group, together with several others in the Luna orbit, gathered at quite the swanky little space to form another group of about twenty. This time, one of the most experienced out there would be leading us. She did not lack for confidence.

As an introduction, the rules are again explained and we went around saying what we were reading lately. Speak your personal truth, no speculation, ask if you’re curious, stay in the moment, everything for connection and all that.

We began with a series of paired exercises. We stare into each others’ eyes. We say things we are feeling or sensing, and what we feel the other person is feeling, and what we feel about that and how accurate it was. We share about what our biggest problems are, and how we feel about that.

It illustrates a different mode of thinking, of what to pay attention to. It was interesting, engaging and quite pleasant.

It also demonstrated how easy it is to fool your brain into thinking you’re making a deep connection with someone, that there’s suddenly definitely a thing there, simply by holding eye contact with someone and paying attention to each other. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an actual connection with my partner. I think there was,  she’s been to our Friday night dinners before, I like her a lot and I hope we get to be good friends. Despite that, it was obvious the circumstances were tricking my brain’s heuristics in ways I had to keep reminding myself to disregard.

Yet another way for saying the unfiltered thoughts on your mind is tricky, also impossible.

What was odd was that these exercises took up an hour and a half, leaving only half an hour for the actual circle. Seemed disproportionate. We’d come for the thing. Was it so far out of our reach we needed this much prep?

Finally, the main event began, under active facilitation. Everyone was tentative. People expressed things, and reactions, and so on, made good faith efforts. Many said nothing, doubtless feeling awkward, also there were twenty to thirty people. Too many.

On some levels, it was clearly working. It felt like insight was generated about people, their perspectives, how they think, what they felt. I didn’t feel connection with anyone, but did feel like I was getting new data worth processing. As an evening, I’ll take that. That’s not bad.

The most interesting moment was when I realized how it worked. Give people prompts they’re not used to, things that seem meaningful. Have them notice what they haven’t noticed, and get their raw interpretations. The things they’re trying to tell themselves. See what resonates. Explore that. Assume what you feel is truth, figure out what that implies. Believe in thine placebo.

The cold read, the astrological sign, the tarot deck. Done right, without deception.

Thus does the facilitator facilitate. Exude supreme confidence and faith. Push on that which reinforces the narrative.

And believe that the only truth, is your feelings, your reactions. Your truth. There is no The Truth.

These things are useful! Finding a well-designed one, that goes good places, with a minimum of a woo tax, could be excellent. So this cuts both ways.

After I’d had that aha moment above, came another.

Someone had reacted to a reaction by making a point, then collapsing back into their chair with arms somewhat outstretched.

They were asked, why did they take that action? Why that movement?

(Assume it means something. Pick at it. Let associations run.)

The person wasn’t sure. A speculation was offered, that this was body language symbolizing hostility. Or something similar.

That didn’t strike me as true. I offered that to me, it seemed like they had needed to say their peace, then having finished, they relaxed back satisfied, as if to say, ‘and now I’m done.’

Person responds that both explanations sounded true. Which is scary. At most one of them is true! If these both sound true, what else would sound true? How many true-sounding explanations were there? Could one be so easily fooled?

Good questions.

The moderator responded (I don’t remember exact wording, so this may be a paraphrase): Isn’t it wonderful how many true explanations we’re finding?

No.

Or rather, yes it’s quite interesting how many explanations sound true, and it’s wonderful to get new insight like that. But you know they aren’t true, right? 

Except, no. I don’t think she does.

So I spoke my truth, as per rules. I noticed that I’d heard a statement that seemed to imply that things that felt true when said, were true, even when they said that which was not. And that this seemed very opposed to the previous speaker’s view, as well as mine.

When you notice a fundamental difference about the nature of truth and reality, and you’re seeking insight, you might want to look over there.

Her response was to say that the thread this suggested ‘didn’t feel like it had the best energy’ so she was going to proceed another way.

Ah. Right then.

True enough?

 

 

 

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The Second Circle

Previously: The First Circle

Epistemic Status: One additional level down

The second Circle was at Solarium in New York City. Jacob, of the New York rationalist group, and had been getting into Circling, and decided to lead us in one to show us what it was all about.

He explained the five rules. I remember the gist – to use ‘I’ statements, talk about physical sensations in detail, to listen to other people for real, and so on – but not the exact wording he used. I do remember (mostly) the wording of rule five. Rule five was memorable. It was:

5. Everything is about furthering connection. If it would further connection, do it. If not, don’t do it.

The final rule. We’re here to win, damn it. Winning here means connection. So we give you guidelines, but don’t be a slave to them. Once you’ve faked it until you’ve made it, when the situation calls for it, throw the rules out the window.

There are two kinds of rule sets. Those that contain the final rule, and those that don’t. Games and not games.

It is very bad to include that rule where it does not belong. And also very bad to not include it, where it does belong.

We get about twenty people. Good turnout. Circle begins. Everyone is quiet.

The topic of the meetup is… circling. Circling, it seems, is about circling. We’re explicitly supposed not to talk about anything. Or try to accomplish anything, other than connect.

The art must have an end other than itself or it collapses into infinite recursion.

The infinite part takes a while. First you just go meta.

Go meta? Don’t mind if we do! Rationalists love meta.

Here we all sensed we weren’t supposed to go meta. But that meant our object level thoughts were meta thoughts. No way out.

So what talking there was, kept to the rules, but went meta.

We expressed our worry that we weren’t supposed to go meta. Which meant we had gone meta-meta. Which was even worse!

Quick! Don’t think about that!

If you are pondering what I am pondering, and I am pondering what you’re pondering, then this mutual pondering of pondering is our common experience. It builds connection!

So for a while, it felt super awkward, but also felt like it was kind of… working?

Then disaster struck – Jacob worried that disaster had struck. And felt he had to Do Something. Treat the situation as bad.

Which made it bad. From there, all downhill. Nothing disastrous, but less connection, more awkward, no road to recovery.

I asked myself, what made this night different from the previous night?

Several strong suspects.

Tonight, we were told we’d have a facilitator to teach us Circling, rather than simply Circling in media res and getting corrected as needed.

This meant we worried that we needed a facilitator, and we (and the first time facilitator) worried that he would facilitate wrong. So we were thinking about the possibility of failure, treating the enterprise as something that could go wrong, rather than something with various possible outcomes. And we were looking to someone else to make the night succeed.

Tonight, we’d had a lot more people; about twenty versus three or four. Good intimate conversations tend not to happen in twenties.

Tonight, we’d had a circle about circling. Previously, we’d had a circle about something quite important. An object level to work with, and build upon, to prevent the meta cycle. So tonight felt not real, like a game. Previously was not a game.

If I had a hammer, I wouldn’t hammer in the morning, in the evening or all over this land. Occasionally, I’d hammer something. And learn how. Different in kind from ‘time to find things to hammer’ or ‘lets all see what it’s like to hammer things.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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