Simple Rules of Law

Response To: Who Likes Simple Rules?

Epistemic Status: Working through examples with varying degrees of confidence, to help us be concrete and eventually generalize.

Robin Hanson has, in his words, “some puzzles” that I will be analyzing. I’ve added letters for reference.

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Tales from the Highway

Epistemic Status: Concrete data on how something works with curiosity as to the gears behind the decisions, and a desire to record exactly what happened for posterity so we have detailed accurate records and perhaps an example of some things. But no reason to think any of it is important, or you should feel any great need to read it.

“You don’t know what you have until you go to New Jersey” – My wife Laura, when this was almost over.

This happened on Saturday night, as I attempted to transport myself, my wife and our two children home from their in-laws.

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Tales From the American Medical System

Epistemic Status: Overheard in New York

I am walking and talking with my friend, a Type I Diabetic, when he receives a phone call from his doctor’s office.

As a Type I Diabetic, my friend needs insulin. The effects of not having insulin are very bad, and include death.

He has run out of refills on his prescription, and will run out of insulin on Saturday. He called about a week ago to attempt to remedy this situation and get refills.

That’s for background. This isn’t about the order of magnitude higher my friend’s copay is in America, compared to the entire retail price in Canada.

This is about my friend’s attempt to get legal permission to continue buying life-saving medication for a lifelong condition with no known cure.

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Dishonest Update Reporting

Related to: Asymmetric JusticePrivacyBlackmail

Previously (Paul Christiano): Epistemic Incentives and Sluggish Updating

The starting context here is the problem of what Paul calls sluggish updating. Bob is asked to predict the probability of a recession this summer. He said 75% in January, and how believes 50% in February. What to do? Paul sees Bob as thinking roughly this:

If I stick to my guns with 75%, then I still have a 50-50 chance of looking smarter than Alice when a recession occurs. If I waffle and say 50%, then I won’t get any credit even if my initial prediction was good. Of course if I stick with 75% now and only go down to 50% later then I’ll get dinged for making a bad prediction right now—but that’s little worse than what people will think of me immediately if I waffle.

Paul concludes that this is likely:

Bob’s optimal strategy depends on exactly how people are evaluating him. If they care exclusively about evaluating his performance in January then he should always stick with his original guess of 75%. If they care exclusively about evaluating his performance in February then he should go straight to 50%. In the more realistic case where they care about both, his optimal strategy is somewhere in between. He might update to 70% this week.

This results in a pattern of “sluggish” updating in a predictable direction: once I see Bob adjust his probability from 75% down to 70%, I expect that his “real” estimate is lower still. In expectation, his probability is going to keep going down in subsequent months. (Though it’s not a sure thing—the whole point of Bob’s behavior is to hold out hope that his original estimate will turn out to be reasonable and he can save face.)

This isn’t ‘sluggish’ updating, of the type we talk about when we discuss the Aumann Agreement Theorem and its claim that rational parties can’t agree to disagree. It’s dishonest update reporting. As Paul says, explicitly.

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Asymmetric Justice

Related and required reading in life (ANOIEAEIB): The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics

Epistemic Status: Trying to be minimally judgmental

Spoiler Alert: Contains minor mostly harmless spoiler for The Good Place, which is the best show currently on television.

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics (in parallel with the similarly named one in physics) is as follows:

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it. In particular, if you interact with a problem and benefit from it, you are a complete monster. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, but it seems pretty popular.

I don’t say this often, but seriously, read the whole thing.

I do not subscribe to this interpretation.

I believe that the majority of people effectively endorse this interpretation. I do not think they endorse it consciously or explicitly. But they act as if it is true.

Another aspect of this same phenomenon is how most people view justice.

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Counterfactuals about Social Media

Response To (Marginal Revolution): Counterfactuals about Social Media

See also: Against FacebookAgainst Facebook: Comparison to Alternatives and Call to Action

The idea that the primary problem with such programs is ‘they make political fights weird’ or that ‘they enable censorship’ is to miss the bigger problem. Social media is ruining our lives. Directly.

They also degenerate our politics. That’s mostly a side effect.

Social media succeeds largely because of network effects. One uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the others mostly because others you want to interact with are using them.

Many people know social media to be terrible for them and for their lives. Many people know Facebook is terrible, in particular (whether or not the photo-based Snapchat and Instagram, which my circles never used, are even worse, as I suspect they are). Many of those would love a better alternative.

But coordination is hard. By the time many people figured this out, it was too late.

Shifting the equilibrium by force is a reasonable response.

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Reflections on Duo Standard

Previously: Speculations on Duo StandardReflections on the Mythic Invitational

Companion Piece: Reflections on the Mythic Invitational

Frank Karsten (Channel-Fireball): The Mythic Invitational Wasn’t Perfect And It Was Still a Smashing Success

There are two big questions to ask about Duo Standard.

The first question is, is Duo Standard a good format? Should we continue to play it? Or should we abandon it?

Wizards has already answered that this is definitely not the final form. That still leaves the question of why, and how to improve.

The second question is, What is the right thing to do in Duo Standard, right now or in general? What game theory questions, metagame shifts and strategic issues are most important? How does this differ not only from best-of-three, but from best-of-one?

My answer to the first question is: No. Duo Standard is not a good format. We should not continue to play it. The Mythic Invitational was played and the verdict is in. 

The best way to give a more complete answer to the first question is to answer the second question, then double back. So that’s how this is structured.

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