Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Jef_Allbright comments on Dunbar's Function - Less Wrong

27 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 December 2008 02:26AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (65)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Jef_Allbright 31 December 2008 05:33:51PM 0 points [-]

But we already live in a world, right now, where people are less in control of their social destinies than they would be in a hunter-gatherer band...

If you lived in a world the size of a hunter-gatherer band, then it would be easier to find something important at which to be the best - or do something that genuinely struck you as important, without becoming lost in a vast crowd of others with similar ideas.

Can you see the contradiction, bemoaning that people are now "less in control" while exercising ever-increasing freedom of expression? Harder to "find something important" with so many more opportunities available? Can you see the confusion over context that is increasingly not ours to control?

Eliezer, here again you demonstrate your bias in favor of the context of the individual. Dunbar's (and others') observations on organizational dynamics apply generally, while your interpretation appears to speak quite specifically of your experience of Western culture and your own perceived place in the scheme of things.

Plentiful contrary views exist to support a sense of meaning, purpose, pride implicit in the recognition of competent contribution to community without the (assumed) need to be seen as extraordinary. Especially still in modern Japan and Asia, the norm is to bask in recognition of competent contribution and to recoil from any suggestion that one might substantially stand out. False modesty this is not. In Western society too, examples of fulfillment and recognition through service run deeply, although this is belied in the (entertainment) media.

Within any society, recognition confers added fitness, but to satisfice it is not necessary to be extraordinary.

But if people keep getting smarter and learning more - expanding the number of relationships they can track, maintaining them more efficiently...[relative to the size of the interacting population]..then eventually there could be a single community of sentients, and it really would be a single community.


But as the cultural matrix keeps getting smarter—supporting increasing degrees of freedom with increasing probability—then eventually you could see self-similarity of agency over increasing scale, and it really would be a fractal agency.

Well, regardless of present point of view—wishing all a rewarding New Year!