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Videochat August 2018

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Here's the latest chat with fans. I'm still working to move out of here, but that likely won't happen until the end of the month. Besides the Game Dungeon episode I'm finishing up, there won't be much in the way of videos this month since I'm going to focus mostly on the movie. Also, it's possible the website may go down at some point this month (in fact, I hope it does so it can be updated), to use the new codebase. All it means is things will be locked down temporarily, we shouldn't lose any data. I'll have more details on that later.

 

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Oh man, I have so much to say on the "capitalism" topic.

 

Ross's main point was that humanity's greatest problem was its inability to handle either far-away problems or extremely malicious powers eg (sociopaths becoming head of states).

 

I agree with the gist of it (we're our own worst enemy), but I disagree with the specifics. Ross is framing the problem in terms of hostile actors who actually want to make everything worse for everyone else, or at least who want something selfish and are ready to endanger other people's lives to get it (eg someone who would go "everyone has just enough food to live and that's great, but I'm going to take as much food as I can to be rich"). I think the main problem with face when designing political and economical systems is that most people are decent people, but most decent people are really bad at cooperating when the stakes are serious.

 

Regular people are the problem, not just nebulous greedy super-rich CEOs. Ross said that most people go with the flow, but that's not always a good thing. People don't think about their actions in terms of morality. Maybe they think they do, but when you look at economical trends, people mostly do what benefits them, especially when they're under pressure (eg because they're poor). Some people think that capitalism runs on "greed", but I think it mostly runs on "people need things (food, shelter, medicine, access to information, social activity, entertainment, etc) and the people who can provide those things also need things from other people, and everyone does what gets them the things they need".

 

Corruption was rampant in the USSR because people went "I need food / furniture / a car, and I'm never going to get it in a public store. So I need to buy it on the black market", and so they did. Their decisions weren't based on what they thought the effects of their behavior were when generalized on an entire population, their decisions were based on "waiting for hours in the cold in a food line sucks!".

 

The way AlexanderWales put in in The Dark Wizard of Donkerke, people follow the path of least resistance. So a good society is one where the path of least resistance for everyone is one that incentivizes people to act efficiently and cooperate with each other. XXth century communism was pretty bad in that regard. Capitalism isn't that great (because it wasn't designed, it's just the aggregation of individual incentives), but at least in a capitalist society people are mostly incentivized to produce things that other people want so they can get the things they want.

 

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By the way, Ross, if you're interested in this topic, look up "coordination problems", which is the technical name for what you were grasping at. Meditations on Moloch from Scott Alexander is a long-form dissertation on the subject.

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