Elliot's Microblogging

Yeah you’ve mentioned this before. It’s plausible that they’re partly (possibly a large part) lying and doing this, which is bad in a variety of ways but partly different.

It was my experience that right after a layoff was done, the company would go back to hiring. Sometimes they’d keep hiring even during the layoff

IIRC I read that some of the tech companies are doing hiring freezes atm in addition to large layoffs.

The LW/EA community is a mess.

Recently I was told one of EA’s advantages, related to its rationality, is not needing to waste much effort on good governance, anti-corruption, etc. I disagreed.

Now that FTX has blown up there are posts like:

The FTX crisis highlights a deeper cultural problem within EA - we don’t sufficiently value good governance

Let me illustrate my point with some major examples I am aware of from EA and EA-adjacent organisations:

  1. Weak governance structures and financial oversight at the Singularity Institute, leading to the theft of over $100,000 in 2009.
  2. Inadequate record keeping, rapid executive turnover, and insufficient board oversight at the Centre for Effective Altruism over the period 2016-2019.
  3. Inadequate financial record keeping at 80,000 Hours during 2018.
  4. Insufficient oversight, unhealthy power dynamics, and other harmful practices reported at MIRI/CFAR during 2015-2017.
  5. Similar problems reported at the EA-adjacent organisation Leverage Researchduring 2017-2019.
  6. ‘Loose norms around board of directors and conflicts of interests between funding orgs and grantees’ at FTX and the Future Fund from 2021-2022.

Those claims are all sourced. I clicked on the MIRI/CFAR one:


While most people around MIRI and CFAR didn’t have psychotic breaks [like I did], there were at least 3 other cases of psychiatric institutionalizations by people in the social circle immediate to MIRI/CFAR

And two suicides, and a car hijacking.

And when the people working on AI safety got worried that AI would be invented sooner:

Perhaps more important to my subsequent decisions, the AI timelines shortening triggered an acceleration of social dynamics. MIRI became very secretive about research. Many researchers were working on secret projects, and I learned almost nothing about these. I and other researchers were told not to even ask each other about what others of us were working on, on the basis that if someone were working on a secret project, they may have to reveal this fact. Instead, we were supposed to discuss our projects with an executive, who could connect people working on similar projects.

They are idiots with no idea how to run an effective organization.

there was quite a lot of effort to convince me of their position, that AGI was likely coming soon and that I was endangering the world by talking openly about AI in the abstract (not even about specific new AI algorithms)


I, in fact, asked a CFAR instructor in 2016-17 whether the idea was to psychologically improve yourself until you became Elon Musk, and he said “yes”.


I know there are serious problems at other EA organizations, which produce largely fake research (and probably took in people who wanted to do real research, who become convinced by their experience to do fake research instead)

In Dec 2020, SBF wrote a long Twitter thread basically saying that he disagrees with the Kelly criterion for bet sizing, and would bet more than that.

The Kelly criterion is, in short, well known, optimal math, which you can prove or simulate. It’s also for repeatable games, which SBF doesn’t seem to understand. When adapting to real world situations people often bet a fraction of the Kelly value. But SBF wants to bet extra, not less.

SBF’s confusion, or alienation from math, or whatever it is, did not cause pepole to run away screaming.

Too bad there were no Paths Forward, or someone could have started a debate about Kelly criterion with SBF two years ago and perhaps saved over a million FTX depositors from losing their money.

In some ways, EA is more like a subreddit than a forum :(

Horrifying. They apparently write academic papers about how they think it’s good for your moral principles to be flexible instead of applied fairly/equally/universally, and they think it’s bad to judge situations by the action the transgressor took, such as rights violations or not, instead of by how sad/hurt the victim appears.

In other words, they think objective morality (and the rule of law) is autistic and is an example of how autistic people are inferior at thinking.

I have not yet looked at the paper.

A link to the paper:

On p.1374. the authors write:

Finally, in addition to the generation of abstractions, the flexible use of cognitive skills is imperative in formulating judgments. Flexible thinking, which refers to the ability to shift to different thoughts or actions depending on the sit- uational demands (Monsell 2003), is another identified area of difficulty for individuals with ASD (Corbett et al. 2009; Dawson et al. 2000). Flexible thinking has been frequently assessed using rule switching paradigms (Meiran 2010). Although the differentiation between the moral and social transgressions in the current study was not made explicitly, the participants’ judgments regarding universal applica- bility and contextuality required implicit rule changing as the moral/social distinction is a distinction between two types of interactions: those in which one rule applies (i.e., moral transgressions) and those in which the appropriate- ness of the behavior is contingent upon the particular set of circumstances of each interaction (i.e., violations of social conventions). The participants with ASD in the current study seemed less aware of the possibility that the rules which prohibit social conventional transgressions might change according to the specific contextual conditions of each interaction and that some of these changes could lead to a different evaluation of the acceptability of the depicted behavior.

On p. 1368, the authors write:

In the present study, the five moral transgressions consisted of pictures depicting (1) one student hitting another; (2) one student pushing another; (3) one student throwing a glass bottle at another; (4) one student not sharing food with another who is requesting it; (5) one student stealing something from another’s bag. The five social conventional transgressions were (1) one student eating his snack on the floor while other students in the class are eating at their tables; (2) one student daydreaming while the other students listen to the teacher; (3) two students coming in from recess, one of whom places his bag on a chair while the other one hangs his up in its place; (4) two students one of whom is tearing his book while the other is reading his; (5) one child drawing on the walls, while the other students are drawing on paper at their desks.

They say that refusing to share food with somebody who asks for it is a moral transgression so they’re biased against property rights.

The researchers being told to not ask about what others were working on part reminds me of Theranos.

People get really hurt and upset about rejection, including rejecting them as valuable debate/discussion partners. This is one of the problems with open debate policies and cultures where debating is more normal: if you aren’t just ignoring people with no explanation at any time, then you have to actually be able to reject people/debates and directly say why, which will piss people off. To normalize debate and Paths Forward, you have to either 1) change the cultural norms of a community (or the world) to take rejection and criticism better or 2) you have to be OK with people getting upset (and probably do online-only interaction or use limited IRL venues for safety reasons, especially if you’re female).

This guy is mad/upset/tilted/etc. enough that I figure if you get this reaction 100 times IRL, while alone with someone, you have a good chance to be punched at least once. And over the years I’ve gotten over 100 negative debating reactions online.

I don’t like people getting upset but I don’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want to just go silent with no explanation. I also didn’t want to continue the discussion while ignoring the problems. And I didn’t want to be dishonest. And the guy opted in both by trying to start an intellectual movement focused on debate and also by opting in to the discussion with me personally. And I opted in too.

If getting tilted is a common reaction to rejecting a debate, then it might be a good idea to take that into account when you make the rejection. You could link to one of your articles on emotions such as


You can take this one video, plus some well known background knowledge, and learn a LOT about the world if you know how to interpret it.

What you need is mostly concepts, not much evidence. People mostly need to get better at interpreting evidence, not at getting more evidence.

Also people need to want to have extended discussions about things, keep thinking things through, etc., much more persistently and thoroughly (and frequently) than they do.

some things i thought about the video:

comcast just incinerates documents without a care for what they are, or trying to send them back? even if they are literally stuff like birth certificates? I find that kind of hard to believe, but then again I think nestle probably killed babies by trying to sell their mothers infant formula, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing a company has done.

I think shipping companies are pretty notoriously unreliable, but IDK what else the customer could do but trust them in that situation.

This seems like about the worst accident you could have in a shipping company with someones stuff, but I doubt the shipping company tried to do any sort of investigation into and how to fix it like with plane crashes. like they probably find this acceptable and don’t really care.

I think co-workers are known to be unreliable sometimes, so when you have something very high priority like this, that only you know how important it is, you should try to do it your self. IDK how realistic that is in the context of a job tho.

What could cause a situation where the executives/leaders at a major shipping company don’t really care about this? I’d suggest brainstorming many possibilities.

Ok brainstorm things, that sounds hard and like i’d spend a lot of time on it. So i’m gonna try to spend a short amount of time on it:

Profit: maybe if you don’t spend money on trying to help people, you will spend less money! i doubt that having a horrible reputation is very profitable tho, people won’t want to use you anymore, and if there was a better shipping company, then people would all try to use that one. Maybe there are regulations which make it so you can’t make a better one.

Crime: it seems sort of like a violation of someones rights to be like: I 100% Guarantee this will be delivered. and then have that said thing end up incinerated. But if no one gets into actual trouble for that, then there is less reason to care from the perspective of going to jail. IDK how much this point applies to the CEOs

Not wanting peoples things to be destroyed: I think it’s a general thing where Person A would not want all of Person B’s documents destroyed, even if they don’t know the other person at all. So I think executives would probably feel similarly, and they are in a position where they could actually try to stop that, and they are involved with that person because the person who lost all their documents is a customer of the company.

Loss of motivation: Maybe they tried sometimes to fix things, but then it never really worked out. Like they had an idea on how to fix something, but then it wasn’t fixed, and they did that multiple times, and so they sort of just gave up.

Selection bias for becoming a leader in the first place: I think generally select their leaders. So the selection process could be bad. like they select people who impress them, rather than someone who would actually be good. Elliot has talked a lot about social status and social climbing, so maybe they choose someone who is socially impressive, but then isn’t actually competent. This specific point doesn’t seem like it has to do with "What could cause a situation where the executives/leaders at a major shipping company don’t really care about this? ". Oh wait maybe it does cuz you select someone who doesn’t care? I don’t think social climbing inherently means you don’t care tho.

Don’t rock the boat: maybe they don’t want to change things cuz it seems like everything is mostly working. like the company is alive, maybe profitable, changing stuff is hard, a lot of people get their packages delivered. to bad that some people get there documents incinerated, but maybe we will cause more problems if we try to fix it. Maybe leaders will get yelled at by other people if they try to change things, and get voted out of the company or something.

Corruption: Maybe leaders have advisors who are like Oh don’t worry CEO Bro, everythings totally fine, people complaining about document incineration are just exaggerating and we’ve dealt with it. But they should still be able to see through those lies, or like try to reach out to the person them selfs sometimes to try to confirm if what the advisors are saying is true.

Conclusion: IDK why they wouldn’t care, it seems like a pretty big deal. My best guess is maybe something like apathy or a lack of care in general or something like that. That seems like it would develop before they are a CEO rather then when they become a CEO.

About writing this post conclusion: I was able to write all this pretty quickly. I forget how long I spend writing this but it was under 20 minutes. I never got stuck trying to write it. When i get stuck trying to write something, or feel like I don’t have any idea of what to write next, i think is when i feel the worst about writing.

those are all good thoughts. most of them are mistakes a leader could make, e.g. wrong ways of thinking or bad traits he might have.

which raises the question of how someone who makes those mistakes ends up leader.

you also brought up leader selection. one important concept there is that people tend to be good at what they focus on and bad at other stuff. so even if you could be good at social climbing and also preventing package handling errors, if you focus on social climbing, you probably won’t be good at preventing package handling errors. people don’t have time to be great at everything. an example of social climbing skill would be figuring out how to put blame on others when failures happen. if you’re really good at that, then there’s less incentive to avoid failures, since you won’t take the fall for them (and your rival might).

another big picture issue besides leader selection is the societal context, like is this in a competitive free market or something else, and how is that relevant?

another issue is that many low level employees make lots of mistakes. what can a leader do about that? is it just hopeless from his perspective because he can’t stop them from screwing up or train them not to screw up? or are there solutions that don’t require having way better employees?

I tried out the ChatGPT AI chatbot which is impressing people. I was not impressed. It’s kind of like reading Wikipedia with a bit of AI glitchiness thrown in.

(I think? I’m not sure if “Playground” uses different technology than the chat thing I found afterwards, which also gave poor Popper answers focused on falsifiability, but which didn’t hit a rate limit for my second message.)

The ChatGPT answers I got about Popper and Goldratt were superficial and basically worse than Wikipedia. But I tried some other prompts and this stuff about debate policies went better than I expected. This software works pretty well in some ways, and is reasonably impressive as software, though not as AI – it’s not clever or intelligent or anything like that. I think it helps demonstrate that some of the stuff I want people to do regarding rational debate is not unusual or new.

Quotes are my prompts and unquoted is the AI:

Can you list some debate policies?

Debate policies are guidelines or rules that are used to govern the conduct of a debate. Debate policies can vary depending on the context and the specific goals of the debate, but some common policies include the following:

  • Clarifying the topic of the debate and the specific points that will be discussed
  • Establishing ground rules for the debate, such as speaking time limits and turn-taking
  • Defining the roles and responsibilities of the participants, such as the moderator, the debaters, and the audience
  • Outlining the format of the debate, such as the number of rounds and the structure of the arguments
  • Specifying the criteria that will be used to evaluate the debaters, such as the strength of their arguments, their use of evidence, and their ability to respond to counterarguments
  • Establishing procedures for managing disruptions or other issues that may arise during the debate
  • Identifying the process for determining the winner of the debate, such as a vote by the audience or a panel of judges

Debate policies are important for ensuring that the debate is fair, organized, and productive. By establishing clear rules and guidelines, debate policies can help participants to focus on the issues at hand and to engage in respectful and constructive discourse.

What are reasonable starting and stopping conditions for debates?

Reasonable starting and stopping conditions for debates can vary depending on the context and the specific goals of the debate. However, some common starting and stopping conditions for debates include the following:

  • Starting: The debate should begin at a pre-determined time and location, and all participants should be present and ready to participate. The moderator should provide an overview of the debate topic and the ground rules, and the debaters should be given the opportunity to present their opening statements.
  • Stopping: The debate should end at a pre-determined time, and the participants should be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare and deliver their closing statements. The moderator should then review the debate topic and the arguments presented by the debaters, and the audience or judges should be given the opportunity to provide their feedback and evaluations.

In addition to these general starting and stopping conditions, the specific rules and guidelines for the debate may also include additional conditions, such as time limits for each round of the debate, rules for the use of visual aids or other materials, and procedures for handling disruptions or other issues that may arise during the debate. These rules and guidelines should be clearly communicated to all participants before the debate begins, and should be followed throughout the course of the debate.

What are downsides to ending a debate at a pre-determined time?

One downside to ending a debate at a pre-determined time is that it may not allow for sufficient time for all participants to fully develop and present their arguments. If the debate ends before all participants have had the opportunity to present their ideas and respond to counterarguments, the debate may not be as productive or informative as it could be.

Another potential downside to ending a debate at a pre-determined time is that it may create pressure or time constraints that can lead to a less balanced or fair debate. If participants are rushed or feel pressured to finish their arguments before the end of the debate, they may not be able to fully articulate their ideas or address all of the relevant issues. This can lead to a less comprehensive and nuanced discussion of the debate topic.

Overall, ending a debate at a pre-determined time can be useful for ensuring that the debate stays on track and remains organized. However, it is important to carefully consider the timing of the debate and to provide sufficient time for all participants to present their arguments and engage in a thorough and productive discussion.

What are upsides to ending a debate at a pre-determined time?

One upside to ending a debate at a pre-determined time is that it can help to keep the debate organized and on track. By establishing a clear end time for the debate, the moderator and the participants can have a better sense of the overall structure and pacing of the debate, and can plan their arguments and responses accordingly. This can help to ensure that the debate is focused and productive, and that all participants have the opportunity to present their ideas and engage in a meaningful discussion.

Another potential upside to ending a debate at a pre-determined time is that it can help to prevent the debate from becoming overly long or tedious. If a debate is allowed to continue indefinitely, it may become repetitive or bogged down in unproductive arguments. Ending the debate at a pre-determined time can help to prevent this, and can ensure that the debate remains engaging and focused on the key issues.

Overall, ending a debate at a pre-determined time can be a useful way to ensure that the debate is organized, focused, and productive. By establishing clear starting and stopping conditions for the debate, the moderator and the participants can work together to create a balanced and fair debate that addresses the key issues in a thorough and engaging manner.


Sometimes people here socially attack me, like office politics, because I don’t like to respond with social counter-attacks.

Also people aren’t generally looking out for merit (in others) and then rewarding it. They don’t spend their time doing that. There is no system to automatically (from your perspective) reward your merit. There aren’t good truth seeking systems. We live in a world full of social hierarchies instead.

People like to claim merit will rise to the top because it implies that whatever success they had at social climbing actually shows their merit, and it flatters the people in power.

Comment Goal: React to a post from ET and try to maintain some active connection to CF.

I’m aware that I’m very ignorant of how social dynamics work and all the ways in which they are bad. I notice some of these attacks but presumably only a small fraction. Sometimes comments make me feel uncomfortable when I notice the attacks. My reactions could have a significat social dynamics based component though. Maybe it’s something to do with me seeing you as the pinnacle of the CF social hierarchy and then experiencing a feeling of disaproval toward criticism of the top of the hierarchy.

I think I also dislike and feel disquieted by the attacks because I think you are an exceptionally good person offering amazing and free educational resources and more interaction than any public intellectual I know of. I think you especially don’t deserve to be attacked at your own forum where your going out of your way to answering people’s questions and comments about your ideas. Thank you for doing that.

I also want to mention that I know that my lack of progresss with CF so far is due to my flakeyness and lack of focus. I have very positive feelings about CF and think that I should be much more motivated to seriously study. Basically, I think I’m irrational for not trying more.

I haven’t been looking for merit very much at all. I hadn’t explicitly thought to look for merit but I like the idea and wish that I had been doing it more. I notice merit a bit as a background thing but not enough and I don’t concentrate on the good stuff I see enough. This is something I will try thinking more about and looking to consciously take note of more.

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I set up an RSS feed polling plugin for the forum. It can auto-generate posts based on RSS feed entries. I pointed it at a curi youtube playlist where I can put everything except gaming videos (which I couldn’t exclude with Zapier). I also deleted 5 gaming video topics that had been auto-posted here and had no discussion.

If it works well, I can switch the CF channel and CF ghost blog to the same system, and also do it for the curi.us RSS feed instead of manually posting those.