Comment on SSC's Review of Inadequate Equilibria

by Ben Pace2 min read1st Dec 2017No comments


Inside/Outside ViewMoloch

Copying over my comment from the SSC review, which otherwise may get lost in the fog of comments there.

Super fun review!

I found this part to be the biggest disappointment of this book. I don’t think it grappled with the claim that the Outside View (and even Meta-Outside View) are often useful. It offered vague tips for how to decide when to use them, but I never felt any kind of enlightenment, or like there had been any work done to resolve the real issue here. It was basically a hit job on Outside Viewing.

Conversely, I found the book gave short but excellent advice on how to resolve the interminable conflict between the inside and outside views – the only way you can: empiricism. Take each case by hand, make bets, and see how you come out. Did you bet that this education startup would fail because you believed the education market was adequate? And did you lose? Then you should update away from trusting the outside view here. Et cetera. This was the whole point of Chapter 4, giving examples of Eliezer getting closer to the truth with empiricism (including examples where he updated towards using the expert-trusting outside view, because he’d been wrong).

You quote “Eliezer’s four pronged strategy” But I feel like his actual proposed methodology was in chapter 4:

Step one is to realize that here is a place to build an explicit domain theory—to want to understand the meta-principles of free energy, the principles of Moloch’s toolbox and the converse principles that imply real efficiency, and build up a model of how they apply to various parts of the world.
Step two is to adjust your mind’s exploitability detectors until they’re not always answering, “You couldn’t possibly exploit this domain, foolish mortal,” or, “Why trust those hedge-fund managers to price stocks correctly when they have such poor incentives?”
And then you can move on to step three: the fine-tuning against reality.

This is how you figure out if you’re Jesus – test your models, and build up a track record of predictions.

You might respond “But telling me to bet more isn’t an answer to the philosophical question about which to use” in which case I repeat: there isn’t a way a priori to know whether to trust experts using the outside view, because you don’t know how good experts are, and you need to build up domain-specific skills in predicting this.

You might respond “But this book didn’t give me any specific tools for figuring out when to trust the experts over me” in which case I continue to be baffled and point you to the first book – Moloch’s toolbox.

Finally, you might respond “Thank you Eliezer I’d already heard that a bet is a tax on bullsh*t, I didn’t require a whole new book to learn this” to which I respond that, firstly, I prefer the emphasis that “bets are a way to pay to find out where you’re wrong (and make money otherwise)” and secondly that the point of this book is that people are assuming way too quickly the adequacy of experts, so please make more bets in this particular domain. Which I think is a very good direction to push.


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