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Jiro comments on Planning the Enemy's Retreat - Less Wrong Discussion

17 Post author: Gram_Stone 11 January 2017 05:44AM

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Comment author: Jiro 12 January 2017 05:19:10AM 3 points [-]

Entertaining such ideas in reality may be subject to the problem that you are a fallible human and incapable of the certainty needed to justify making the choice. It may be that fictional dictatorships could be better than fictional democracies, but in a real-life situation I could never know that the dictatorship is better with enough certainty to be able to choose the dictatorship.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 14 January 2017 06:12:07AM 0 points [-]

I think this is worth pointing out because it seems like an easy mistake to use my reasoning to justify dictatorship. I also think this is an example of two ships passing in the night. Eliezer was talking about a meta-level/domain-general ethical injunction. When I was talking to the student, I was talking about how to avoid screwing up the object-level/domain-specific operationalization of the phrase 'good governance'.

My argument was that if you're asking yourself the question, "What does the best government look like?", assuming that that is indeed a right question, then you should be suspicious if you find yourself confidently proposing the answer, "My democracy." The first reason is that 'democracy' can function as a semantic stopsign, which would stop you dead in your tracks if you didn't have the motivation to grill yourself and ask, "Why does the best government look like my democracy?" The second reason is that the complement of the set containing the best government would be much larger than the set containing the best government, so if you use the mediocrity heuristic, then you should conclude that any given government in your hypothesis space is plausibly not the best government. If you consider it highly plausible that your democracy is the end state of political progress, then you're probably underestimating the plausibility of the true hypothesis. And lastly, we hope that we have thereby permitted ourselves to one day generate an answer that we expect to be better than what we have now, but that does not require the seizure of power by any individual or group.

If, in the course of your political-philosophical investigations, you find yourself attempting to determine your preference ordering over the governments in your hypothesis space, and, through further argumentation, you come to the separate and additional conclusion that dictatorship is preferable to democracy, then the ethical injunction, "Do not seize power for the good of the tribe," should kick in, because no domain is supposed to be exempt from an ethical injunction. It just so happens that you should also be suspicious of that conclusion on epistemic grounds, because the particular moral error that that particular ethical injunction is intended to prevent may often be caused by an act of self-deception. And if you add a new government to your hypothesis space, and this government somehow doesn't fit into the category 'dictatorship', but also involves the seizure of power for the good of the tribe, then the ethical injunction should kick in then too, and you should once more be suspicious on epistemic grounds as well.

What do you think about all of that?

Comment author: Jiro 14 January 2017 06:00:31PM 0 points [-]

My point is that using fiction to sneak ideas about the real world past people is a cheat. It is possible to be certain about something fictional in a way in which one cannot be certain about the real world.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 14 January 2017 11:41:37PM 0 points [-]

Stipulation is obviously sometimes a cheat. I would be surprised if it was always one.