Fifteen Things I Learned From Watching a Game of Secret Hitler

Epistemic Status: Not likely to be true things. Right?

  1. Liberals know nothing, fascists know everything.
  2. Most of the policies democratic governments could pass are fascist policies that expand government power.
  3. The remaining policies are liberal policies. There is no such thing as a conservative policy.
  4. Liberal policies do nothing.
  5. If the liberals do nothing enough times, they win and can congratulate themselves, no matter how much more fascist things got in the meantime.
  6. Governments must always be passing new policies, and never take away old policies. Thus, government inevitably gets more powerful over time.
  7. The more liberal policies you pass, the more likely it is any future policy will be fascist.
  8. The more fascist policies you pass, the more likely it is any future policy will be fascist.
  9. When the time comes to pass a policy, the government will choose from whatever proposals are lying around, even if all of them are fascist and everyone choosing is a liberal. There is almost never an option to just not do that, as such bold action requires a mostly fascist policy already be in place.
  10. If the government fails to agree to pass one of the things lying around, that’s even worse, because it will then choose a new policy completely at random from what is lying around, which will probably be fascist.
  11. Liberals spend most of their time being paranoid over which people claiming to be liberals are secretly fascists, or even secretly actual literal Hitler, as opposed to attempting to write or choose good policies.
  12. Someone enacting liberal policies, but not in a position to assume dictatorial power, is providing strong evidence they are probably secretly Hitler.
  13. When good people often have no choice but to do bad things, but there is no way to verify this, the default is for no one who is good to have any idea who is good and who is bad.
  14. Despite this, good people think they know who is good and who is bad.
  15. Introducing a random element to the play is good for veteran players, because the ‘good guys’ are no longer able to (and thus forced to as in Resistance/Avalon) fall back purely on an announced, deterministic strategy, as the ‘bad guys’ could know the rules and game the system.
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Review: Slay the Spire

Epistemic Status: Many hours played

Spoiler-Free Bottom Line: Slay the Spire is an amazing single-player roguelike deckbuilding game. When I wrote that Artifact was the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time, the only alternative to give me pause was Slay the Spire. Each game, you work your way up the spire, with each room an opportunity to improve your deck, either with rewards from battle or other opportunities. Each turn of each battle, you see what the enemy is going to do, and by default you have three energy to spend on any combination of five drawn cards, to prepare to block their attacks while dealing damage back. If you die, that’s it, time to start over.

Early plays ideally involve discovery of what cards are out there, what decks are possible to assemble, what enemies there are and what they do, and everything else the spire has to offer. As you gain in skill and experience, you play it on additional levels and in new ways.

I highly recommend playing the game, and I highly recommend not learning more or reading further before doing so. Figuring the game out is half the fun.

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Prediction Markets Are About Being Right

Response To (Marginal Revolution): If you love prediction markets you should love the art world.

Previously on prediction markets: Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?Subsidizing Prediction Markets

I’ll quote the original in full, as it is short, and I found it interestingly and importantly wrong. By asking the question of why this perspective is wrong, we see what is so special about prediction markets versus other markets.

Think of art markets, and art collecting, as an ongoing debate over what is beautiful and also what is culturally important.  But unlike most debates, you have a very direct chance to “put your money where your mouth is,” namely by buying art (it is very difficult to sell art short, however).  In this regard, debates over artistic value may be among the most efficient debates in the world.  At least if you are persuaded by the basic virtues of prediction markets.  The prices of various art works really do aggregate information about their perceived values.

I have, however, noted a correlation, how necessary or contingent I am not sure.  The “white male nerd types” who are enamored of prediction markets tend to be especially skeptical of the market judgments of particular art works, most of all for conceptual and contemporary art.

In my view, discussions about the value of art, as they occur in the off-the-record, proprietary sphere, are indeed of high value and they deserve to be studied more closely.  Imagine a bunch of people competing to make “objects that are interesting but not interesting for reasons related to their practical value.”  And then we debate who has succeeded, or not.  And those debates reflect many broader social, political, and economic issues.  And it is all done with very real money on the line.  The money concerns not just the value of individual art works, but also the prestige and social capital value that arises from having assembled a prestigious and insightful collection.

That’s exactly why (almost) everyone who loves prediction markets hates the high-end, expensive art markets, even if they love art and artists and buy original paintings to hang on their walls. This goes beyond ‘skepticism of the market judgments.’ Expensive art markets are not fundamentally markets. They are fundamentally a political status game.

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Review: Artifact

Epistemic Status: Alpha tester

Bottom Line: If you are willing to devote the time and attention to a deep strategic game, Artifact will reward you handsomely. I highly recommended those who like such experiences to make the time. If you are not willing to devote the time and attention, you will likely be frustrated and bounce off, and what time and attention you do have to game with is better spent elsewhere.

Artifact is an amazing game. Artifact is gorgeous, immersive and flavorful, hilarious, innovative, exciting, suspenseful, skill testing, strategically complex and rewarding. The execution is bug-free and flawless. It is the most fun I have had playing a game in a long time.

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Preschool: Much Less Than You Wanted To Know

Response to (Scott Alexander): Preschool: Much More Than You Wanted to Know

Previously (Here): The Case Against EducationThe Case Against Education: FoundationsThe Case Against Education: Splitting the Education Premium Pie and Considering IQ

I see Scott’s analysis of preschool as burying the lede.

I see his analysis as assuming there exists a black box called ‘preschool’ one can choose whether to send children to. Then, we have to decide whether or not this thing has value. Since studies are the way one figures out if things are true, we look at a wide variety of studies, slog through their problems and often seemingly contradictory results, and see if anything good emerges.

The result of that analysis, to me, was that it was possible preschool had positive long term effects on things like high school graduation rates. It was also possible that it did not have such an effect if you properly controlled for things, or that the active ingredient was effectively mostly ‘give poor families time and money’ via a place to park their kids, rather than any benefits from preschool itself. Scott puts it at 60% that preschool has a small positive effect, whether or not it is worth it and whether or not it’s mainly giving families money, and 40% it is useless even though it is giving them money. Which would kind of be an epic fail.

There was one clear consistent result, however: Preschool gives an academic boost, then that academic boost fades away within a few years. Everyone agrees this occurs.

Let us think about what this means.

This means that preschool is (presumably) spending substantial resources teaching children ‘academics,’ and even as measured by future achievement in those same academics, this has zero long term effect. Zippo. Zilch. Not a thing.

Maybe you should stop doing that, then?

This seems to be saying something important – that when you force four year olds to learn to read or add, that you don’t achieve any permanent benefits to their math or reading ability, which strongly implies you’re not helping them in other ways either. That’s not a result about preschool. That’s a result about developing brains and how they learn, and suggesting we should focus on other skills and letting them be kids. Spending early time you will never get back on ‘academic’ skills is a waste, presumably because it’s so horribly inefficient and we’ll end up re-teaching the same stuff anyway.

This seems unlikely to be something that stops happening on a birthday. If there is actual zero effect at four years old, what does that imply about doing it at five years old? What about six? How much of our early child educational system is doing it all wrong?

Going back to preschool, we do not have a black box. We have adults in a room with children. They can do a variety of things, and different locations indeed do choose different buckets of activity. One would hope that learning one of your main categories of activity isn’t accomplishing anything, would at least shift advocates to support different types of activity. It seems kind of crazy to instead find different outcomes and then advocate for doing the same thing anyway. If time was spent learning in non-academic ways, and gaining experience socializing in various ways, that would at least be a non-falsified theory of something that might help.


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Deck Guide: Burning Drakes

[Note to rationalists: This is a straight up strategy article on Magic: The Gathering that the website I write for did not have room for, so if you don’t play, skip this.]

[Note to Magic websites: You have permission to post this article on your site anywhere that is not behind a paywall, provided you are clear that I wrote it, provide a prominent link back to the original post and a note that I will respond to comments here. You can delete these three notes.]

[Note to Magic players: This is Zvi Mowshowitz’s personal blog, which focuses on a variety of topics and is mostly not about Magic: The Gathering. See here for what I consider my best older posts.]

At the Pro Tour, I played an Izzet Drakes deck without Arclight Phoenix. Like all decks it will require adjustments going forward, but I believe the deck strong and well-positioned going forward. Alas, I could not win a game of limited and I had no teammates, so the me and the deck were done for the weekend after its 3-2 start.

Here is the list I played:

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Octopath Traveler: Spoiler-Free Review

Epistemic Status: Full Play Through, extensive experience with similar games

Previous Spoiler-Free Review: Persona 5: Spoiler-Free Review

Soon I hope to write Against Spoilers, which will detail how hard it is to actually provide useful information in a true spoiler-free way.

Stage 1: True Spoiler-Free Review

Octopath Traveler is an excellent game for the Nintendo Switch, in the tradition of Final Fantasy and Bravely Default. It mimics the Super Nintendo age in terms of technology and graphics, and innovates in interesting ways on the core design.

If you enjoyed such games as Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and Bravely Default, this game is for you.

If you played but did not enjoy those games, this game is not for you.

If you have never played those games, the first three are some of the best games of all time, so if you’re at all interested in trying an old school JRPG, you should try one of them. I would go in the order listed but all three are great choices.

After the fold, I’ll do a more traditional ‘spoiler-free’ review that will definitely alter one’s experience playing. If you should play this game and haven’t yet, I encourage not reading further until after you have played.

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