In this episode, we discuss Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart, socio-cultural norms, social class and how they have changed in the US.
William Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past or it’s a better, more definite vision of the future. I’m your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com.
Will Jarvis 0:40
Quinn, how’s it going, man? Pretty good. You. Good? Well, thanks. Thanks for hopping on again.
Quinn Lewandowski 0:46
Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely.
Will Jarvis 0:49
It’s a nice kind of warm day here and rainy Wake Forest, get home base here. I wanted to get back together and talk to you about the topic we like we started cover in a previous episode. And it was about declining social technologies. Yeah, this is a roundabout way. It’s not exactly what we planned. But I think I think this place as well. And so we talked about how, you know, infant mortality, definitely heading south. But at the same time, we’ve got, it feels like we’ve got a lot of declining capability. In a lot of like, social arenas, that’s perhaps a really poor way to put it. One of the big things we can think about is, how often do people get married and form families? Yes. And this has been like precipitously declining. Yes. Do you think that’s a good metric for perhaps even?
Quinn Lewandowski 1:41
Yeah, I think it’s worth trying a bunch of different models to try to get to the core thing. So I’m not proposing this is the fundament, like, the root difference, right? I think a decent one, if you’re just trying different ones out is that we’re good. We’re doing good stuff that’s very legible. Baby deaths, right? We’re not doing so good. Stuff that fuzzier and harder to quantify. Interesting, I’m seeing that pattern. And so marriages seemed like a good metric. But we should expect there to be fewer good metrics. Because if we had good metrics, I think we’d be doing a much better job of,
Will Jarvis 2:21
right. What’s something that’s like fuzzy, good fuzzy, be something like
Quinn Lewandowski 2:26
community spirit, social trust, to some extent? Because we don’t just mean do you trust other people? We mean, should you trust other people? And that’s hard to quantify.
Will Jarvis 2:40
Yeah, that is that is hard to quantify. So like, we’ve talked about you, and I think we’ve talked about the wallet studies where they drop wallets, parse the world and see who, you know, how often do you get them returned with money and things like that? Yeah. That seems like a good way to get try and get it that right. Yeah. The some extent? I think so. Gotcha. And just anecdotally, I would say, I have this feeling, at least where we live, that people are pretty good to strangers in general. Yes, like, so I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but whenever I see someone break down by the side of the road, very often, I’ll see someone else unrelated stop trying to help. This happened to my wife recently, you know, like she’s driving, you know, far out in eastern North Carolina. It’s a flat tire, or something, if something’s wrong with the car. And, you know, like, someone just pulled up behind her. It’s like, Do you need help, you know, like, I’m happy to help and just gets out and like, helps her put things together. So it’s good.
Quinn Lewandowski 3:37
I just yesterday saw someone on Twitter saying, reiterating what he was wearing crib butts in the rain. And a woman pulled up in her car and asked if he wanted to get in where it was warm. Yeah, it was raining. Yeah. And the bus was actually behind her. So she was holding out that he was saying he just knew that I love this town.
Will Jarvis 4:00
Yeah, no, that’s a really good metric. And even like, if you’re able to talk to people, yeah. Like, I think in line at the grocery store, you know, like, that’s a really good sign just to be able to talk about like, whatever or or be generally friendly to people, you have no relation to,
Quinn Lewandowski 4:19
you don’t have a baseline expectation that they’ll hurt you. Right.
Will Jarvis 4:24
That I think that’s really positive. So at least locally, things are in some sense. Okay. Well, they still work. Okay. And, and more so than in other parts of the world? I feel like Yeah, well, that could be like very well localized to our area. Now. Marriage, divided marriage, like we’re jumping around a little bit, but I think we tie it back together really well. marriage rates. So the book we actually started talking about is called coming apart. Yeah. And the thesis and thesis it’s called coming apart the state of white America from 1960 to 2010. Yeah, And the author focuses on white America to kind of just give us a subsection. Yeah, it’s a big demographic. And it gives us some idea of like, how things have changed over time.
Quinn Lewandowski 5:09
And he says that people always sort of try to make this stuff about, right. Yeah. So just focusing on white America makes it very, very difficult if he’s going to talk about an underclass forming. And he’s just talking about white people. People can’t go, but yes, that’s Jim Crow. Right. Exact talking about Jim Crow.
Will Jarvis 5:33
Right, right. Right. Right. So you can’t you can’t sub sect it by in some other way. Yeah. Other than it has to be class. Yeah. So except, that’s super interesting.
Quinn Lewandowski 5:42
I just, I would call it he’s controlling for a confounder.
Will Jarvis 5:46
Right. He’s controlling for a confounder in this case. So this is the book, there’s kind of this great divergence between what would you call it like? I guess between you know, upper class? Yes. And then lower class? Yes.
Quinn Lewandowski 6:07
Smart, college educated people who tend to be Athlon. Right? It’s partly social class. So money is very incomplete metric of it.
Will Jarvis 6:19
Gotcha. So we could think of like, a PhD student in Sociology at Duke probably does not have a lot of money. Yeah. Yeah, probably makes 20 30k year or something like that. But they are class, in terms of class.
Quinn Lewandowski 6:38
In particular, I think that a lot of people in the upper class trade off money against other things, they want more. So I would definitely put at least some journalists in the upper class, and they get paid very well in money, but they get paid pretty well and influence and then
Unknown Speaker 6:58
status or status, or something like that
Quinn Lewandowski 7:01
status do Yeah. Since their work is meaningful, the ability to exercise power. Yeah. So I think I’m just that’s another reason why my doesn’t map it completely. Right. Bertrand Russell has a really good essay, where he distinguishes his talking about motivations, and he distinguishes the love of glory from the love of power. And he says he’s writing in 1952 I think he says in America movie stars of glory. And the house on American Activities Committee has power that no glory. And he says the actually see this pray common historical figure who has no glory whatsoever, no status whatsoever, it goes about in racks, but um, controls everything, sort of a power behind the throne figure. And he cites various examples. And I have, I’ve run into that places beside Bertrand Russell. So I think it’s a thing. To the extent that money is part of a total compensation package, you should expect to see people using it as a dump stat sometimes to maximize other stuff.
Will Jarvis 8:16
Gotcha. Interesting. So do you mean something where like, What do you mean by that? What’s the dumps that
Quinn Lewandowski 8:23
oh, I’m in a certain games, I think Dungeons and Dragons may be definitely a bunch of clones of it, you have a certain number of points to stink to distribute between attributes. So strength is an attribute intelligence as an attribute, you can take points from strength and put them into intelligence, which will make you smarter but physically weaker. Scott Alexander has a prey amusing retelling of the Greek myths where he uses this logic explicitly to explain why Hercules is incredibly stupid? Because he’s also the strongest man in the world? So his ball has points and toe? Nice. Which is why think of why think of the so when people are designing characters to play the games a lot of the time, so decide the particular stat just doesn’t matter much. Gotcha. Am I not putting any points into charisma because I’m just going to bash people over the head, right? call that a I’m a dump stat, a stat where you don’t care how low it is. So you can distribute the points to your other attributes. So if you are maximizing for influence, you might end up with relatively little money, because anytime you have a chance to trade money for more influence, you take
Will Jarvis 9:40
Gotcha. And probably there’s something where like, you know, each profession or job has like some trade off between all these different factors. Yeah. And you try and like and each person is trying to optimize audit, so maybe you can get more status, get less money or something like that. And yes, gotcha. Interesting. One of my pet projects is I want to do and I’m seven days right this big sociology of American class
Quinn Lewandowski 10:02
would be nice to read. Yeah, I
Will Jarvis 10:04
think we interesting right? Like, you go live with all kinds of like all kinds different people. And like try and like ferret these things out like Paul fossile wrote some guy. Yeah fairly tongue in cheek, which I wish he was actually more literal. I think it’d be
Quinn Lewandowski 10:17
I read Scott’s reveal which Scott tribute is tend to quote the exceptions of the original texts, you end up feeling like I’ve read fossil?
Will Jarvis 10:25
Yeah, it’s good. It’s Farming Simulator die. So this divergence between kind of upper class whites, and I hate to say lower class it makes makes things are bad. Which I had some other term. But lower class class whites, shall we say? And there is this, like, it’s almost taboo to talk about class us, right? Like, so there’s no such thing as class. It’s
Quinn Lewandowski 10:52
awkward. Yeah. And people redirect it into discussions about money. Right? Exactly. Like it gets auto translated.
Will Jarvis 11:00
Right. Right. Right, all the time. But there’s no such thing. And it’s funny, because I think actually, one of the things I got from the book was like, I think this was fairly, there was somewhat true that there was very little class and yeah, 1960. whites in America,
Quinn Lewandowski 11:19
lots of mobility, I noticed that. And lots of people not identifying with a particular class. And he makes the point that they might be rationally expecting to change classes, because that happens a lot more often back then.
Will Jarvis 11:34
Right. The example I like to give is, and he gives in the book is in 1960, Maytag, this huge American company that makes still makes washing machines, based some small town in Iowa, and the neighborhood where the CEO and Chairman founder of Maytag lived, you know, his house was only like, 1.5 times the median house in the town. Yeah. You know, and like, in all kinds of people lived in the neighborhood. And that is somewhat unthinkable to think a lot. So what’s a great American company, new, great American company, like, Apple, you know, can imagine Tim Cook living with, you know, in a house, that’s 1.5 times the median? Well, it’s,
Quinn Lewandowski 12:17
he would get a reputation for being an eccentric. Yes,
Will Jarvis 12:21
we would think it was very weird. He wouldn’t he you know, he’d be living in like, you know, carry and one of these big, big neighborhoods, you know, not with everyone else. Just an example for North Carolina, that, so, things have gotten very different now. Right. Like, like, even in that example, the CEO of Maytag now, you know, he lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and a really rich suburb, and then like, takes his private jet down to the headquarters every day or something like that. And so I guess my question is, maybe we haven’t painted this divergence super well yet. And maybe we should do that first. But why did things diverge? Like this? Right, like, between, you know, there used to be things were really flat, like fairly flat? Oh,
Quinn Lewandowski 13:09
I’ve read a few different people. I mean, Murray now, but also, Paul Graham, and I read Zoe’s review and analysis of Tyler Cowen’s complacent class, which seems like talking about the same stuff. Yeah. Graham thinks that things were artificially pushed close together, largely because of World War Two, that World War Two, put us on a war footing, which is essentially a socialist command and control top down, right, and that we inherited these huge corporations that didn’t really compete with each other and didn’t really have to worry too much about going out of business, or fake economy. I think he calls it the Duplo economy. And that we have all these weird social mores, I guess, in those that you recognize from the military, like seniority being really important. Yeah, like working the same place for your whole life. Yeah, and not trying to get market price for your labor, because you’re gonna be there. That all makes sense in that, you know, military structure. And it’s just we’re down market structure. Right. And I guess eventually that stopped working and when decompressed Yeah. But you know, the good parts and bad parts to that. Definitely some, it’s worth focusing on the bad parts. Right. Well, on
Will Jarvis 14:42
the on the positive side, what have we gotten? We’ve gotten like, consumer goods and a lot cheaper. Generally, like TVs? Yes. Like cheaper.
Quinn Lewandowski 14:53
Consumer goods are cheaper. There’s the whole information technology. Yeah, it’s sorry. It’s a little hard to untangle because it’s also a cause. But, you know, when I was a teenager, I didn’t, there was this guy I watched movies with every so often. And I had to be careful not to bring up his religion or he get mad. Basically, I didn’t have friends. I was in a world that wasn’t really very connected. And so
Will Jarvis 15:22
this is pretty this is fairly, it was like, coinciding with consumer internet coming online, I guess.
Quinn Lewandowski 15:27
Yeah. 2000s, gotcha. Partly, I was less functional. I’m autism spectrum. And I had learned last about, you know, how to relate to other people. But also, I noticed it reading Murray’s book, he’s talking about smart, isolated people who would find ways to connect with the normal people on the football team. You know, if you were the nerd who wants to read physics books, but there aren’t 100 or 200 physics books, then you will find ways to relate to the non physics reading people write the kind of jammed into, to fit again. And sometimes it just doesn’t work. I mean, I was incredibly depressed as a teenager, I’m not totally sure about the etiquette of bringing that up. And I could be an outlier. But I think a lot, there are a lot of desperately depressed teenagers who are very alone. And with the Aaron, now they can meet other people who share their interests and connect. And it’s, that’s definitely causing some problems. And it’s worth focusing on those problems. Right, I noticed that Murray’s attitude is basically, well, they would get over themselves and learn to relate to the normal people. And, you know, I was at the smell of time thinking about suicide. I wasn’t content. I wasn’t happy. I knew I wasn’t happy. I realized people say, I can’t do that. Sometimes. They mean, I don’t want to do that. But sometimes you literally can’t do it. It’s true. It’s very true. That that’s at least one. It’s one very salient reason why I tend to skew libertarian is safety valves, the people who desperately need the fact. Yes. So, you know, we, um, California banned plastic straws A while ago, right? When I told my parents that it would be vastly better if they imposed like $100 per straw fine. Yeah. Because then if there’s someone who really needs the straws, for some reason, we have an anticipate, because you can test everything, you have a safety valve. And if you’re right, that nobody values a plastic straw, $100, then it’s the same as the band. Right? And you can, if people do buy the straws, you can use that to clean up and do with the environment.
Will Jarvis 17:53
Exactly. Really smart way to do it. Yeah. This reminds me of, so this is one thing in the book, this is the way I think things are a lot better, and perhaps is the some you’re getting at is like in 1960. On any given Thursday, a third of the population was watching the same TV show. Yes. Like at the same time, like Holy mackerel, can you imagine? And like there’s a lot of things like what could go on TV was very restrictive. norms were much more restrictive, like we talked about, like canceled culture today. But you know, like, if you’re you were, you could not be publicly gay and be in like, any kind of position of power or anything like that. And like you said, you know, like, if you grew up in a small town, you were, there is no safety valve. Like you, you have to make friends with the football team, or, you know, like, you can’t connect with other people that, you know, let’s say, you know, you have X interest. That’s not served by being in a bit small town, like, I don’t know, like being like, reading Scott’s blog. Yeah, like there would be no one else, either. I mean, how many people in the tribe will read Scott’s blog? Or at least come to the meetup? There’s probably like, yeah, 10 people, you know, factor that maybe there’s 100, that Ribbit total, right? Like,
Quinn Lewandowski 19:09
I don’t know about you, I use the blog to filter for people who have ineffable personal qualities that I’m going to get along with. And some ethical, physical qualities. I mean, there’s decoupling. There’s being interested in abstract ideas. Yes, trying to accurately make predictions notice and when you’re wrong, those are all mental habits. They’ve managed to F but there’s some remaining ineffability about
Will Jarvis 19:39
right. Take us there is like a hard like, like like there there are trade like a real trade off.
Quinn Lewandowski 19:46
I think. I guess what I was trying to say and doing a bad job of is the it depends on who’s in what bucket. Murray? It reads like he’s trying out As it’s inconvenient, linear and tough to connect with the football team. I’m very well aware that there exists nerds who simply will not be able to connect with the football team. And if there are lots and lots of nerds like that, then that matters a lot. If they’re extremely rare outliers, then it’s almost it’s distracting to bring out because, you know, Sunbae gets struck by lightning twice. Gotcha, gotcha. So the goodness or badness depends on what funders against what I guess,
Will Jarvis 20:36
right? Is it something like where there’s some people that can’t like, like, are unable to, like, fit into the mold, you know, connect with like, whatever, like, just go along with it. And if you don’t have any way that they can escape, it’s just it just doesn’t work? It’s not like it’s not like always the same? Or if you could just figure it out. And
Quinn Lewandowski 20:55
yeah, I found a book by Bertrand Russell, when I was 16. And I read, I read latches are essays, he had that quality to him. I learned later that he spent his teenage years the same way I had I really miserable and lonely and thinking a lot about, he says that he used to go down and watch the sunset and think about committing suicide, but he didn’t because he wanted to know more mathematics. Definitely not. I’m never endorsing everything anyone says, and that goes for him too. But he had. So that was say, land for me. And that mentions out blog posts that he got into philosophy when he bought them by Bertrand Russell when he was 16. Overall. So there is a cluster here. Yeah, absolutely. But on the other hand, the whole sometimes it’s good for you to connect with the football team. Murray definitely. I mean, he has an argument they impels you to do things you might not do yourself that you’ll be better off having done. From USA, that doesn’t happen because it didn’t happen in my case, or treating the cases where it does happen is noise because it didn’t happen in my case would be in epistemic ly really fuckin questionable. Definitely don’t want to do that.
Will Jarvis 22:19
Yeah, I’ve got a lot of thoughts here. I’m trying to think what, what’s best? So we’ve had this, you know, I think the football team is a good example. Yeah. Because I think it illustrates something real. You know, so it seems like in 1960, the nerds stuck around. Yeah. They felt responsible to the football team. And, you know, it’s like Maytag, you know, you live in the neighborhood. You take care of everybody. It seems like now, and perhaps there wasn’t capability to do this. So this is this matters, or about perhaps things have gotten more libertarian in some sense, or I don’t know, I don’t know, the hand waving right now. But I get the feeling like there’s this ability to exit, we’re going to exit to the big metropoles. We’re going to leave every man for himself. Yes, we’re going to do a lot better. And this plays out in the numbers to the upper class whites make a lot more money. Yeah. You know, they stay married. They, they have all these like, very socially conservative norms around child rearing. Which they don’t imprint on the football team. So that’s big. And people kind of are left behind. Yes. And it is much better for the upper class. But I think it is probably much worse. Yeah. In this great divergence.
Quinn Lewandowski 23:44
Yeah. There’s the brain drain effects. And there’s the lack of, I guess, intermediate role models. People who are sort of like you, but different enough that you can learn from them and modulate your behavior towards what they’re doing.
Will Jarvis 23:58
Right. And I think this is of this in the context of Gerard were like, you know, if, like, Who is that? Who are you imitating? Yeah, you know, who do you wish to be? And if you’re imitating someone who’s like, say, the CEO of Maytag is responsible, this neighborhood, he takes care of other people. He stays married to his wife, you know, he like does all these, you know, raises children in these responsible community. Maybe you try and live up to that, but if that person’s gone, yeah, like in that they’re
Quinn Lewandowski 24:31
consciously I mean, imitative and synth goes really deep. Yes, maybe just a funny story. Right Association. Yeah. But definitely goes to Jordan Mesas. I was having this problem when I was in college where the spell checker on my home computer would show no problems, but I didn’t have a printer at the time. So I would email it to the school’s computers and print it off their their spell checker. What cello a bunch of problems. And I eventually figured out that what was happening was that I sometimes slipped into using British spellings. And then I figured out that when I was doing that my inner voice was imitating Bertrand Russell. I didn’t even register the I was, in almost all cases a couple of times. I think there was one point where I said, this is a very peculiar argument, and then went into taking part and there was I totally hadn’t, you know, I wasn’t even thinking. I wasn’t thinking I’m imitating Bertrand Russell. It was just the tone of argument I picked up on that awesome. Yeah, I do
Will Jarvis 25:44
think you know, like, Man, I think we very rarely have original ideas. I think a lot of what we do, just copy our role models.
Quinn Lewandowski 25:51
I think a lot of is can I float? Uh, I’m not sure if it’s a counter argument or refactoring. Oh, absolutely. Um, we don’t have original ideas, sui generis, we remix stuff. That’s where original ideas come from. You can’t create a new idea out of nothing. But we can’t help but remix stuff, because we’re not perfect imitators.
Will Jarvis 26:17
So it’s actually like some see think it’s a clue. I find this super appealing. It’s some like evolutionary argument. Right? So you have like some some kind of like, mutation, or something when you try to copy
Quinn Lewandowski 26:30
I’ve been listening to a lot JJ Cale lately, the guitar player. He is uh, his guitar tone is really, it’s noticeable. It’s gorgeous. I really liked that. Yeah. And I was reading about how he got that. Yeah. And he was trying to imitate Eric Clapton, maybe. Gotcha. But he couldn’t figure out how Eric Clapton was doing. So he ended up doing this whole separate thing. Right. And that’s how we get that awesome guitar. Tom also, um, Black Sabbath, you know, invented that loosely strong, the guitar tone there sounds really, really different. Yeah, the way they did that was the guitarist lost part of his hand in industrial accident. And that was the only way he could play. It was completely accidental. And you hear it in everything in metal after that point. Right. Some mutation.
Will Jarvis 27:26
That’s mutation. This this may be just like, I was trapped me try. And so God’s trying to signal something. Okay. And I do think this is I think you’re absolutely right. This happens a lot. But it almost sounds like it denies human agency.
Quinn Lewandowski 27:40
Will Jarvis 27:41
I don’t know exactly where I want this. Do you think there is any place for human agency in this kind of thing? Or is it just like something? Yeah, I don’t know.
Quinn Lewandowski 27:51
I think it depends on the cartoonist and media figure, Scott. Adams. Yeah, wrote a book on systems versus goals, which I meant to read, because the basic idea did sound where he basically said that when you I didn’t read that, so I’m, my brain is filling in. Yeah. But what my brain fills in is that if you have a very particular picture of the way you want the world to look, and you go chasing after that, you’ll almost always fail, because there are loads of ways to be wrong. To get that picture wrong. But if you have a sort of general direction and a bunch of heuristics, you can pray consistently steer the future into a region higher in your preference or drink. Gotcha. So we have agency and that we can make the world a better place. But the more precise our goals become, the more likely, the more helpless, we are to achieve them just as they’re specified.
Will Jarvis 28:54
Interesting. So the more specific we get, the harder it is.
Quinn Lewandowski 28:58
Yeah. Sort of like the conjunction role of probability, the more details you add, the more chances you have to be wrong, right? Absolutely. The more constraints you add, the higher the probability that you’ll fail to satisfy some of them. But they’re also unexpectedly good things. Things that rank high in our preference ordering that we maybe didn’t anticipate.
Will Jarvis 29:25
Yeah, totally. This is an example or not example. Good to thoughts. So PayPal, PayPal so Peter Thiel, PayPal Mafia, they go through they want to create like entire new currency like digital currency like Bitcoin, that’s what they like to like the Feds bad like, you know, like, we love Rothbard like, I’m like, towards the Fed. I actually don’t know Rothbard stance on the Fed bums me didn’t like it. And we’re gonna create this new currency. And they didn’t quite accomplish that but they ended up creating this like, very valuable tech company. Yeah. Does that kind of fit into your systems goals? Like yeah, I
Quinn Lewandowski 30:04
think so. Or, um, well, sort of dual examples, except that I suspect they’re, in some sense the same example. Yeah. And laser you kowski is fictional story, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, excellent. The character, it’s a very good story.
Unknown Speaker 30:22
Good story like Harry Potter, you got to fix
Quinn Lewandowski 30:25
the character of quill tells us that when he was younger, he wanted to be a Dark Lord. And he eventually gave up on that. But that if he could go back in time and stop himself from trying, he wouldn’t do that. Because it caused him to do lots of research that was otherwise useful, make himself stronger. And so he was able to reorient that kowski had a bunch of ideas about super intelligence that he ended up thinking were totally wrong. And I think we’re I’m just going to say we’re totally wrong, that would be good by default that we need to create as quickly as possible. Yeah. And that impelled him to do lots of research and stay cognitive science and biases. Yeah. Which ended up being very, very useful. Right. So there are some courses of actions where if they turn out to be mistaken, you’ll probably get a lot of fringe benefits out. And probably shouldn’t even say fringe benefits may be the capital you’re going to desperately need for other stuff. Right? And then there are courses of action where if they fail, you’re kind of screwed. I’ve been my friend Danny is sort of a left wing radical. Oh, at least is socially a left wing rack on I’ve been having this argument. Half argument with him a lot. I’m just end that if you burn the system to the ground, and you’re wrong, but that creates a better world. Yeah, we’re totally screwed. Right? So you need to build a better world first. He kind of gets that, but not quite. Not, or he’s not emphasizing it as much as I think he should. I mean, I shouldn’t frame it. So that I’m on Mackley. Right here. Yeah. But it’s crucial to think what will happen if you turn out to be badly wrong? Right. Take steps to mitigate that. And it’s possible to misread that because in general, the way you avoid being blamed for things in our society is inaction, not doing things. And so if your people have this association, that humility means not doing things, because you’re not sure it’s the right thing to do. Yeah, but not doing things is also a choice. And sometimes it’s exactly the wrong thing to do.
Unknown Speaker 32:58
Yes, is very much as
Quinn Lewandowski 33:00
so actual, I’d call humility. As opposed to modesty, right? Is both less easy than that, and less passive coded. Got it? I got the humility, modesty distinction from your Caskey. If you hear someone you respect a lot of saying something that sounds clearly wrong, the modest thing to do is not to say anything about because Who are you to think you could know better than them? Right. And usually, the high humility course of action is to say so very loudly, so you can be corrected. Assuming you’re wrong. Yeah. And you shouldn’t necessarily assume that, right? It’s useful having a fact pattern where they give diametrically opposite answers, let you pull them apart pretty easily.
Unknown Speaker 33:54
Definitely. Get some more. Yeah.
Quinn Lewandowski 33:57
So Marie is saying, I think he’s right. We’re seeing this bifurcation? Yeah. Which kind of sucks for people on the back end of the bifurcation? Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 34:10
That’s pretty good for the people on top. Yeah. At
Quinn Lewandowski 34:13
least in the short term, probably in the long term to I went to college for a few years. And it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. And when I talked to older people, um, my thought was going to be, it seems like that’s sort of a recent development.
Will Jarvis 34:31
What were your expectations going in? Like honest, intellectual debate?
Quinn Lewandowski 34:35
Yeah. A lot more like the rationalist community. They’re really in favor of diversity, which is kind of the reason you want diversity is so you have people with different views coming together and testing each other’s theories, right. I mean, I knew they didn’t just mean ideological diversity by assumed they wanted the other kinds as proxies for ideological Ah, no. And if I’m right, that’s gotten worse. And that. See, I want to be very careful of the narrative that I’m in the long run. It’s bad for the upper class people, too. Yeah. I’m just pointing out downsides. They do get echo chambers. And the echo chambers make it more difficult to think. And that makes it more difficult to make decisions. And that is potentially a huge problem.
Will Jarvis 35:36
Yeah, yeah. Just just on the just on the intellectual side, right. Yeah. And I think two thoughts here. I think your notion about, you know, college preps and universities changing over time where they were, they were much more truth seeking things like that, like, so the evidence I have that this, this perhaps is true. Is that like the $20 bill on the sidewalk that there even is like this community of people like the quote unquote, rationalist community? Yes. Like, even exist? Yeah. The perhaps is evidence that like, you know, there’s like, oh, there’s these academic, essentially academic people outside of academia? Like a really robust way. Yes. Is evidence to me that,
Quinn Lewandowski 36:17
yeah, it does. Weird. There was this discussion on what’s wrong. I was reading up between people, I think I was reading the transcript, and it was a voice chat. And they were talking about bunch of stuff. But one thing we were talking about was why academic decision theories have not, I’m just going to go ahead and adopt my perspective, because it’s easier than climbers have not gone as far as a laser yet. kowski has gotten right. I think his model actually is progress. So why do we have decades of people working on this and no one in academia getting that far? I’m not sure his model is, right. But it’s closer to right than the academically. And you could kind of tell but every time the conversation circled back to that he got sort of impatient. And eventually he said, The asking why academia didn’t solve timeless issue. Session theory is sort of like asking, like JC Penney didn’t solve timeless diffusion theory. But there was a point in the past where their incentives were aligned in a way that would produce results. But we aren’t in that world now. And we haven’t been for a long time. Right. We shouldn’t be misled by the, you know, big red letters on the side of the thing saying, this is about truth seeking. And I think he put it less inflammatory late than truth seeking lat very last bit, right. And Scott said recently, that in 2014, this is very close to exact quote, in 2014, if you and your friends are being the experts, that was awesome, and you should celebrate, and and 2021, if you and your friends are being the experts, such as Ken kind of sad now are the experts. Okay. Do they need help? And you know, he’s joking.
Unknown Speaker 38:12
Yeah, it’s like, what is going on? Yeah.
Quinn Lewandowski 38:16
I think partly simulacra levels. That was the first kind of the first two we did, I helped interviews to be, and then you and I talked about that. That’s a big piece of it. Um, it wouldn’t be happening on its own. But, um, so it’s not the root of the problem. And I’m not sure they have a good enough model, it could be several things that we have lumped together as one thing, right. Partly, it’s good Harding, that we’re getting very good optimizing for the measures are getting very good optimizing for the legible targets. And that’s increasing the gap between what we’re optimizing for and what we really want.
Will Jarvis 39:06
So and you’re good hearts law, where you know, you set something as a measure, it ceases becoming ceases to be.
Quinn Lewandowski 39:13
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. And I explained this to my parents, I talked about the Soviets paying factories for how many shoes they put out, and the factories releasing very tiny shoes, or paying truck factories around me tons of machinery slipped out suddenly you get very, very heavy traffic. In my experience, is it’s a frustrating thing to talk about because people always feel like if they just add one more sentence to it, they will have specified what they want. We just had to say no heavy trucks, okay, not pursue that keep thinking that it’s just one more cents away, and then you poke holes in that. They have no sense and you poke holes in that and it’s fresh. gang because a lot of the times the argument ends with them feeling like Well, obviously smart people can work this one out. Yeah. And I mean, I oftentimes think that in theory, it’s possible but in practice, it’s very unlikely. Right? I call that a Lewis argument. The philosopher Daniel Lewis once said, in exasperation, I cannot refute an incredulous stare. And the Lewis argument is a argument where people don’t actually have any counter arguments at the end of it, but they still feel like you’re wrong. And, you know, it’s frustrating because that instinct could be, you don’t want to disregard it out of hand. Right. But I do prefer things I can argue with.
Will Jarvis 40:49
Right, I think. Yeah, I think it’s more productive. So the long term? Yeah, that class, you know, what I see, I see it pretty vividly with nothing changing. It’s something like South Africa at this point. You know, where, if you’ve done well, you know, you get this house with this barbed wire, electric fence, you know, bars on the windows, you hire private security. You just, you know, it’s all this, like, just super insulated. You know, no social trust. No, absolutely no social trash. And I just don’t see, you know, like, how do you get out of
Quinn Lewandowski 41:27
it? I wish I knew more history. Trust comes from somewhere. Scott has at post on niceness, community and civilization and trust networks spontaneously forming. And the Americans and the Germans or maybe the British and the Germans in World War One gang out the trenches on Christmas. So there is a trick to it. Maybe a lot of tricks to it, but I my wish I knew what they were curiosity. I mean, this might just be like moralizing. But I feel like I’ve had I’m gonna discard the false humility. I think I’m in the top 10 percentage points for people who’ve had productive dialogues with people who are on the opposite side, politically free just about a side you can specify a shoe you can specify. And I didn’t get there by thinking, assuming it’s an accomplishment to be there, which I am one by thinking that I ought to. Or that would be virtuous. I got there because I was curious. Yeah, a lot of the times I was as curious about people’s psychology. I mean, it’s not something you would say their face, but you’re wondering, okay, how does this person get that badly? Wrong? Right? But it’s still curiosity. So you still want to hear from them. So if you don’t say exactly that, and you signal friendliness and openness, they will try to explain to you and you’ll learn things. And I think Nietzsche said, The best way to loving your enemies is to learn from them, because it makes you grateful to them. Which is hell? Yeah. I don’t think that scales.
Will Jarvis 43:11
Right. And it also doesn’t seem like it’s, it’s correlated with having more smart people. Yeah, but it’s not definitely not the only thing. Yeah, there’s plenty of places in Singapore, like, Singapore is a great example. But China or like, places that have plenty of smart people that are unable to
Quinn Lewandowski 43:29
partly it’s technology. Going back to Graham Graham says technology is a lever that magnifies human action, but also human capability, technology increases the returns to intelligence, and social technology, you know, kind of fits in there, having the structures in place that let you that let you turn the intelligence into results, right. And norms, which I mean, probably falls under social technology. But I’ll cowboys, you know, having a culture where I’m being kind of a Maverick and considering unusual ideas and taking action when it seems like action is necessary, and no one else is doing it. In some cultures. That’s a good thing. And some cultures, it’s not right. Um, I guess it would be like 1214 years ago now, so it’s probably a day. But I remember you TASKI saying that. The reason we didn’t see more super powered Vnus coming out Asia, was that they have this cultural norm that the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered down. And that I’m sort of filling with him that may be that does have benefits, it lets you run normal society really well. It limits your ability to access outliers, Scott’s recent posts on the CDC, one of his sorry, on the FDA, Freudian slip there. One of his arguments was that a disproportionate amount, the value from approving things, is a handful of extremely high value innovations. And so if your screening process stops those anti HIV drugs and COVID vaccines, then even if it works very well, in most cases, it’s still massively net negative.
Will Jarvis 45:43
Right? Well, in most and especially thinking like, you know, most drugs, you know, there are very few drugs that provide most of the benefit humanity. Yeah, it’s like antibiotics, like penicillin is some huge percentage, and then each and everything else down behind that, right, like, and so if you go up one off, that’s really important. It could be half. Yeah, percent of like, the entire benefit to humanity. Yeah.
Quinn Lewandowski 46:08
And it’s so hard to reason about those. I remember Paul Graham saying how he was calling what he did with Y Combinator Black Swan farming. That Oh, interesting. Yeah, he was saying how the vast majority of his return is on those very rare investments that pay disproportionately well. So that requires him to do lots of counterintuitive things. And he said that sometimes he doesn’t do the counterintuitive things that he can’t bring himself to. Benjamin Hoffman criticized him a lot for that. And may have had that point. But I’m gonna sail past that, that if you have a business in front of you, that is probably going to be profitable, and are when it’s almost certainly not going to be but might be insanely incredibly profitable, then it’s weird to fund the second business knowing that you’re almost certainly going to regret
Unknown Speaker 47:11
fit against as if you you’re talking about fight you like you find the one with the
Quinn Lewandowski 47:17
growth model. He was describing wise, almost all of the value is an outlier. Oh, rarest, all of the outliers are very low probability. Right? And so you take actions that you think will be futile, almost certainly, because they might not be. Right. And that requires you to pass up actions that you think would probably be useful to some degree, but have a lower chance of being insanely incredibly useful.
Will Jarvis 47:51
Gotcha. So in other words, like, if you’re Paul Graham, your Y Combinator, you want to, or you know, venture capital.
Quinn Lewandowski 47:57
Yeah, you want to find Airbnb. And the problem with funding Airbnb is that it’s obvious that no one wants to sleep in air mattress in someone else’s living room. It’s a stupid idea. And he says that consistently. The really big ones seemed like stupid ideas. They seemed lame. It wasn’t just that nobody saw the value it was they were dumb looking. And that dumbness kept people from seeing the value. Right?
Will Jarvis 48:28
What? Yeah, like it. It’s interesting. So I started doing some angel scouting for the hill. He’s kind of a, he started Gumroad he’s a big, kind of entrepreneur, VC, angel investor. And it’s interesting, you know, in hearing from him, it’s like, you’ve kowski calls this the, it’s like the red hair problem or something is inadequate. equilibria I might be saying it’s wrong. But you know, if like you, you know, one funds, entrepreneurs with red hair. And you find this really good deal like this. This is the next era. This is the Airbnb, they they’re gonna be solved, like the liquidity problem, people are actually going to, like, add that liquidity problem for like spaces. For these fake hotel rooms are people’s houses and people are actually going to sleep on an air mattress, people’s house, strangers houses, then, you know, even if you fund them, they’ll never be able to get a series B, or C, because no one else funds, red haired entrepreneurs. Do you see I’m saying, Yeah, I
Quinn Lewandowski 49:30
see it. I wish I remembered. I thought I had that one just about memorized. Yeah, it’s V has a series of essays that make a similar point. I can use that. But if you think of which way is similar
Unknown Speaker 49:45
to me, it might not have been inadequate equilibria might have been
Quinn Lewandowski 49:49
for a number of months. Probably a year and a half after I thought I had read everything he had kowski had written I keep finding other essays that just one Aren’t you now compiled into the core sequences? Right? So, um, if you do stumble across it, I might not read that one, too. Absolutely. I do tend to find the people I like and then go very deep on them. That’s wise. It’s,
Will Jarvis 50:17
it’s almost a black swan thing, right? We’re, I think, you know, you’re looking for the outliers of insight.
Quinn Lewandowski 50:23
I think it’s how my brain works to a large degree, like I figured out, it was really funny, when I was a kid, a teenager. I mean, there were a lot of jokes about that. I had great difficulty reading strangers by language. And my parents thought I was psychic, because I could read theirs very well. Very, very, very well. And I eventually figured out that sensitivity versus specificity trade off, that I had memorized all of their micro expressions perfectly. And my brain couldn’t generalize that to other people’s non micro expressions. If you have a very precise picture of that exact frown in your head, the precision of that picture itself keeps you from abstracting into something you can recognize on someone else’s face. So I think to some extent, I’m just sort of wired to model a few people in great, great depth. And it sort of fits my, where I tend to land on the I don’t intuitively draw patriotism, I don’t have a deep concern for my fellow countrymen. I’m not more altruistic. So it’s not like you’re more about foreigners. It’s like, all of the sort of second order, loyalty goes into the very specific people that I’m focused on. Gotcha. And that’s less true than it used to be because rationalist community
Unknown Speaker 52:03
was a bit broader. Yeah.
Quinn Lewandowski 52:05
That was a tangent. But
Will Jarvis 52:07
no, that’s good. That actually, also reminds me it’s like, you know, I feel like just by the by the rationals. Committee, you know, pretty utilitarian, right? Like,
Quinn Lewandowski 52:17
yeah, I think a lot of them are a thought about this. I mean, a lot of them aren’t utilitarian, but they buy bullets that usually only utilitarian spite, but they’re definitely in that cluster. But I used to get frustrated with people accused David Friedman being a utilitarian and he’s literally written an essay called Ymi. utilitarian that gives Scott being a utilitarian, his wrote a whole series of essays about where he’s starting to have doubts about utilitarianism, and then he amends his moral system and ends up with way calls contract terian ism, which is my philosophy professor, I liked his school had not heard that word before, and he seems to have made up. So I think, I mean, they’re definitely more utilitarians than most movements. But I also think there are a lot of people who are utilitarian adjacent, in some sense, that have also explained in great detail why they’re not exactly utilitarians. Right? It’s interesting. Anyway, you’re going somewhere with that? I’m sorry? Oh, no.
Will Jarvis 53:26
I wanted to keep expanding that, but it’s just the context of the football team. Yeah, no, I think this is a great, great metaphor. It’s in the context of the football team, I think, you know, most of football team are would be much more partial to like some kind of virtue ethics or something like that. Whereas I think, for perhaps, Sparta, people are more utilitarian in general, reading Bertrand
Quinn Lewandowski 53:51
Russell as a teenager, he was a utilitarian and that wasn’t and I decide. I thought he was biased in favor of it because it enables analysis. If the ontology, sometimes it’s useful to say things without necessarily endorsing them. Yeah, I mean, I’m tempted to say I think the dominant ethical stance in the rationalist community is virtue ethicist who believes that is virtuous to approximate utilitarianism. But the mental processes are very that good person would do this, right? Until you get behavior that looks utilitarian, but the underlying mental schema is very virtue ethics. Yeah, I
Will Jarvis 54:41
think I think you’re I think that’s a very wise way to put it. Yeah.
Quinn Lewandowski 54:48
Gaskey once tweeted, let me get this right. Um, the rules say we have to use utilitarian as, but all the good people Are Dion technologists and virtue ethics is what actually works.
Unknown Speaker 55:07
I love that. I love, it’s awesome.
Quinn Lewandowski 55:12
I also like Steven Kay said something about de ontology, USA ethics and consequentialism being analogous to virtue ethics was nouns, and consequentialism was verbs. And I think de ontology was adjectives. deficit that I do see some sometimes is different elements that come together to in that mental schema we actually use, I have to try hard to avoid teleological language different, it would be around to say, different elements that we use in order to because I’m the only reason we think that’s a goal is because it’s the goal that we have. Right. But I do see them as, to a large extent, complimentary and practice, and not in theory, which is fun.
Will Jarvis 56:24
Yeah, that’s, that’s why it’s right. That’s a it’s a good point. So like, we use all these different tools, our day to day lives, you know, sometimes you do this cost benefit analysis, sometimes you do things because they’re right. Sometimes, there’s all it’s very case dependent. And the world’s complicated. Yeah. And we end up using them all, in all these different cases.
Quinn Lewandowski 56:46
I think I’m also biased in favor of utilitarianism, because it’s fun to figure out utilitarian justifications for the rules I already had. But utilitarianism isn’t the cause of the rules, except maybe in a very loose cultural evolutionary sense. Right.
Unknown Speaker 57:07
Okay, that makes sense. I’m just noodling on that.
Quinn Lewandowski 57:16
Yeah. I really liked the I was listening to one of these with my dad. And I really liked the pauses to thank you got here a lot that and it’s, it’s good to listen to I mean, sometimes the listener needs the pauses to think
Will Jarvis 57:32
yeah, actually consume, like, especially when things are high density. Yeah. I guess get coming back to our original thought, just this kind of divergence, this divergence between upper class white America and then, you know, lower class white America. Just quantifying that, perhaps, is to bring it full circle, you know, like marriage rates. You know, it used to be that everyone got married. Yes. Everyone’s like, I mean, it’s like, if you had a child, you went and got very shotgun wedding, like, this is what you did. Yes. And a lot of people, everyone did this. It’s norm.
Quinn Lewandowski 58:15
Exceptions are notable. Exceptions are notable, disproportionately concentrated among people who renewable for other reasons. I noticed reading about philosophers. I forget exactly which period that there is some period where every notable philosopher you read about never married. And that was very odd. And people talked about. I don’t know if that I’m not really suggesting a deep connection. I would guess that if you’re wired differently than the surrounding culture, you have to do some of your own thinking. And that built some good habits maybe,
Will Jarvis 58:51
right? Do you Mari seems convinced this? I think I’m convinced to this. But I don’t have I haven’t articulated well. So I want to I want to throw this out there. And maybe we can maybe consider this that I’m on or Berridge as a social institution. Do you think it’s as important as Murray says it is?
Quinn Lewandowski 59:12
I think it solves some problems that desperately need solver. I guess I’m not all the way convinced that the solution is unique. But having a I’m not convinced it’s not unique either. One thing I like about you is I can relate uncertainty without being taken as like active suspension for figuring out that there was no other way to achieve that. Seems like it would take a really a lot of thought that um, I don’t have a narrow way in mind.
Will Jarvis 59:44
Right. And what are some of those things you think? Is it like? Some long term expectation like so you can play like some repeated game?
Quinn Lewandowski 59:56
Well, it does several things that start With probably not the most important one, but the easiest to articulate, yeah, keeping with our theme nice that we do what we can here keeps people from unilaterally altering the contract after other people have paid sunk costs, that if you take a job and move to a new say, and get a new apartment maybe six months later, the people who hired you say, Well, if you’re willing to do it for $200,000, a year before, now that you pay all these costs that you can’t get back, you’d surely be willing to do it for $50,000. And, you know, humans have a evolutionary I think, instinct to say no, and fuck you write the Dictator Game helps us in repeated games, marriage, locks down sort of freezes the commitment that keeps people from trying to alter it for their own advantage, which in turn keeps us from having to pay the costs of people trying to alter it. So if like, private property is economically punishing thieves is economically efficient, because working as a thief is still work. And the net profit is just transfer. And we don’t want people. I hear that from David Friedman, that, at first glance, it seems like stealing isn’t necessarily economically efficient, because you’re just transferring stuff, right? And it turns out that we want to disincentivize thieves from going through the effort of stealing stuff. Because So similarly, we want addition, you know, when you’re in a relationship, and you’re trying to figure out what you can get, and push that to the limit, it’s a very different mentality. It’s not a very pleasant mentality a BM right. And it’s costly. It also solves some evolutionary stuff. Because what we’re sort of, I also got this from David Friedman, that I’m basically sleeping around and hypergamy that have a lot of partners. Yeah, also, um, for men having law partners for women trading up for someone higher status. I think I’m representing Friedman accurately here. And I’m pretty confident he wouldn’t be I’m not badly wrong enough that he’d be offended. That men and women on average as groups defect in different ways that the shape of not necessarily what we want, but what we want when we’re wanting the wrong thing is mismatched. And it’s mismatched in a way that creates some problems with respect to time. Sometimes, a man trades up for a younger model, sometimes a woman trades up for someone with more status. These are all generalizations, and they’re all we know how weak those are, when it comes to individuals. But it also, you know, if you really look at the evolutionary stuff, it’s hard to see how there wouldn’t be some of that happening. Yeah. Some marriage is also sort of a brace against that. If you marry a girl when she’s 20 The marriage is a way that she can be confident that you’re not going to dump her when she’s 40. Right. And David Friedman talks about the ranks the diamonds and how those sort of came into existence as a social custom as a bond to a sort of security deposit that you weren’t going to engage in theft of virginity.
Unknown Speaker 1:04:26
So she can go keep the ring and go and go sell it and
Quinn Lewandowski 1:04:30
yeah, worse comes damages her dating market value if you don’t want to stay with her. Right. And like all signaling things, you sort of you wish there was a way to do that without having to spend a lot of my on the hunk of stone, the end. Costly signaling, right. But sometimes there isn’t.
Unknown Speaker 1:04:54
Yeah, it’s the best we can do.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:04:57
So marriage Also the kids, America tend to that the parents who are married seem to have the best results in terms of their kids staying out prison and not gang up drug Cabot and suffering a number of other legible bad fate, right? There’s a lot of evidence for that. And you have to figure its prey significant because we all start as catch the number of affected people is just huge.
Will Jarvis 1:05:30
Right? But I guess when I think through why that why that might be it might be good in that respect with something like, Well, yeah, there’s two people who are, you know, they kind of walk together. And they’ve got this like, and it’s protecting their downside. Yes, in some sense that you know, you know, your, your wife’s not going to try and leave you for some higher status person, and your and your wife, particularly because as she gets older, you know, she’s not going to, you’re not going to get to leave her for some young lady or something like that. And this is a heterosexual case. But
Quinn Lewandowski 1:06:05
Friedman, see, I’m not relaying it very well, Friedman, phrased it in terms of male peak performance and female peak performance on the dating market are asymmetrically time. Interesting value youth that’s early in the relationship, again, generalization. And women value status and financial success, which tend to take time to acquire, right. And so you have people who, whose value on the dang market is going to fluctuate and who are going to the man is going to gain more opportunities, the women is going to lose more opportunities. This fits pretty well, the cultural wisdom of you know, you knock a woman up and leave her damaged or whatever. I used to be really puzzled by that, because, you know, why is she damaged? This
Unknown Speaker 1:07:04
doesn’t make sense.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:07:06
It makes some, some sense now. There was something else and same. It alters. All right, Marie establishes that you don’t get the same benefits to the children with parents who are merely cohabiting. But I thought he didn’t go into that enough. He didn’t spend enough time on it, it could really just be a selection of fact, I’m not saying I think it is, but um, you know, who decides to get married is non random? Yeah. So I think Scott has a metaphor at one point about something, something completely else but good metaphor is good, where he said, he was talking about AAA. And he said, Imagine the alternate world where it doesn’t work, Hale, it doesn’t help ale. But it’s the conventional wisdom that if you’re really serious about quitting drinking, you’ll go to AAA, we will see that people who got a are much more likely to quit drinking when people who don’t, because anyone who is very serious about will do this useless thing, right. Similarly, I can’t believe that selection effects aren’t part of what’s going on here. Right. I would be surprised if they were all what’s going on here.
Will Jarvis 1:08:32
Yeah, and I think, I think it’s probably bad to get selection effects. And then it’s the fact you kind of like, it produces this longer term orientation.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:08:43
Yeah. It really It alters the mentality. Yeah. Why is that? You know, you can do stuff. Yeah, you can do with the other mentality?
Will Jarvis 1:08:53
Yeah. It almost gives you some slack, right. Yeah, we’re here not just optimizing for the short term all the time,
Quinn Lewandowski 1:08:59
and said good way to play. It gives you some slack. It means you don’t have to hit legible metrics. You can experiment more. Right, thinking of Zverev stuff about moral mazes. I’m not used to think of marriages is more majors, but
Will Jarvis 1:09:16
it can’t be more always. There’s been this big decline in this institution. And one of the things I like I found is, I wish I had this statistic in front of me, but it was divorce rates among, you know, quote unquote, upper class whites, just like astronomically lower, like, you know, they’re like, oh, half of people get divorced, but like, among, you know, let the leftist you know, tanky say what are they fresh, professional managerial class, you know, however you want to put this it’s just much lower.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:09:50
Yes. I’ve seen that statistic too. All right. I’ve seen a statistic but produce the same reaction. So I’m guessing it’s the same statistic.
Will Jarvis 1:09:59
Yeah. Oh, maybe was 20%? Yeah, it’s like, it’s too big swing. Yeah, big swing. Pretty weird.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:10:07
partly why Murray has format in terms of what the upper class say and what the upper class would do.
Will Jarvis 1:10:14
Right. So they do. So they say. So what do they say brassica steps that
Quinn Lewandowski 1:10:23
I’m thinking of? I heard someone on the air and someone sort of disreputable in some other context on that, but who sometimes had some good ideas. But I didn’t completely trust him. So I was, I remember he made the point that he refactored the sexual revolution as high IQ people who can handle that gushingly institutions that low IQ people used to get by that if you have 130 IQ, and you are a staple, professional, managerial type person, polyamory is probably fine for you to work really bad if it becomes a norm, because if it becomes a normal thing, because most people are not going to be able to make it work, right. Although that does raise the question of whether you know, the in group sidelong might actually be I’m not sure good in this instance. But good. Theoretically, if we have way to signal these are the people who can make polyamory work. And the signal was reasonably accurate, we might be able to have different sets of norms. Right, I’m libertarian enough that it makes me sad to think that there might be people who are better off being polyamorous who don’t get to do that, because most people can’t handle being polyamorous. Right? That kind of sucks. Yeah, it makes me sad. I would like to find a way around that if I could.
Unknown Speaker 1:12:12
People can do what they want. Yeah. Okay.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:12:16
So that is interesting. And I wonder how that feels. The guy who was reading was, you know, very right wing, and very conflict theorists use framing it as sort of, maybe not quite deliberate sabotage, but something like that. And I wonder, I don’t think it’s that. So I wonder how it feels. If the behaviors you actually use, the code you follow in your actions is very sort of conservative and traditional. And your stated doctrines are very radical. I just wonder, does it feel like gum? At each point, the traditional thing is just the thing that makes sense. But you don’t generalize it to other people? Or do you think that you’re in special circumstances, but other people aren’t? Or are you communicating at a high simulacra level? So when you say the Racal stuff, you processed as a coalitional signal rather than just wondering?
Will Jarvis 1:13:24
It’s probably that right? Yeah, probably the last one a lot. And then all the other ones as well? Yeah. Yeah, it’s just weird. It’s like, so you know, upper class whites wealthier than they ever have been? Yet they get married similar rights to that they did in 1960. A lot of parental investment their kids, you know, they go to church a lot, they eat a surprise, you know, like, they evolved in their communities, their PTAs are quite vibrant. There’s all these things, you know, there’s not the drug and alcohol problems that exist in with lower class whites. And it’s weird, right? Like, so like, there’s all these really socially conservative practices. Yeah. But there’s no expectation that anyone lives up to that. Or like, you would never advertise, like, like to think like, I remember, there’s covered Newsweek used to read Newsweek when it was still a magazine when I was like, you know, in high school, and, you know, it’s like, you know, something about, you know, how marriage wasn’t really important or something like we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t imprint like, family values or something like that. But upper class whites are incredibly and family values. Yeah. Like, this is their thing, man. But they don’t want anyone else to have to follow it, which I think is, in some sense is is good not to trap people, right? But then again, there is a strong norm. It’s like a silent norm, right? You can’t talk about it’s so weird. It’s so weird.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:15:00
If that’s a good candidate for if we’re doing I always forget, it’s how archaeology if we’re looking for the place where evil enters the world, my guess is that will have something to do with can’t talk about not because talking about things automatically makes everything better but because that kind of sort of cone of silence tends to systematically make things worse
Will Jarvis 1:15:27
Yes. Whatever that some level if you can identify correctly identify what’s going on you can never have any hope of fixing it.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:15:36
Yeah, thank in public, can’t speak in public can tour of X get right there? Nice, large the stall and then get shipped off. I mean, he didn’t, but somebody hit Learn. Yeah. Which in turn means you don’t get the contour of ex who are socially clueless, but oftentimes is not clueless about our stuff,
Will Jarvis 1:16:01
right. And it’s all real problem. Now. I say because, you know, all these things are, right affiliated. Yeah. And most the upper upper class whites are, you know, you know, Senator laughed, you know,
Quinn Lewandowski 1:16:19
I read this blog are saying, we have to create Joe Biden with the vaccine, because if Trump had won reelection, he would have endorsed the vaccine, and that was meant that we wouldn’t be able to use it. It would be too dangerous.
Will Jarvis 1:16:35
Too dangerous, either. Cuomo Cuomo talked about that quite a bit, you know, since Trump vaccine, you know, they rushed it through, there’s no way we can trust it. Yes. Now that’s flipped around. And And now Now, the far right won’t take the vaccines is quite quite a scary but entertaining.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:16:53
I’m learning from it. So that’s a good sign. Yeah, I agree. It’s scary. I do think I’m starting to maybe get a handle on that. And that’s an anti scary feeling. That’s good. It’s less confusion.
Will Jarvis 1:17:09
But I do worry is, you know, without kind of radical action, advancement on the technology front, you know, if we, if we continue to have like, really sluggish, stagnant growth, and there’s a little bit but not that much, or maybe there’s even zero, and worst case or negative. You know, it makes the political. Much more important, because it’s giving up what’s left. And then these things get even worse. And you can’t, you can’t have someone on the website, you know, family values are really important. And like, we want everyone to get married. You just can’t You can’t do that.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:17:55
And shift people into that mentality. So it to zero. So I’m conflicts, which is a very bad thing. If you want to get out of the overall situation, right. I think Brett Weinstein has said some stuff about the Nazis. And that being downstream of the fact that they’re seeing economic contraction. And he thinks there might be an evolutionary program to look for other groups and take their stuff when you’re seeing economic contraction. Because that’s the only real option. Or it’s a it’s a we think it’s the only
Will Jarvis 1:18:35
Yep, right. Exactly. It’s a very, very legible option. Yeah. Right.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:18:40
In the ancestral environment well, right. So that part is really scary. The stuff with the vaccine is the anti vaxxers, that’s less, it’s less scary, and maybe because it’s hard to take them seriously. There, I say to them, it’s functioning at a high. So a lot for level rather than modeling physical reality, that’s going to work out bad for them in situations where physical reality matters, they also feels like it should limit their ability to directly or may in the people I care about,
Will Jarvis 1:19:20
right. But perhaps it’s a testament to how I’m not sure about this word, but how virtual the political fight has gotten, in some sense, you know, it’s like really not real at all. It’s all on Twitter. And so it almost feels like the anti vaxxers They can’t even get past the fact that like, like this could be in the physical like environment, right? Like this could be the real thing in the real world. Because everything everything else is operating on that just kind of almost imaginary level where
Quinn Lewandowski 1:19:54
I remember Yeah, no, that could just be wearing what you do. said whether this might be obvious. But click something for me. The comment section at Slate star Codex Sunday made a bad argument that we didn’t need to worry about AI again. And Scott took it apart into little tiny pieces again, the last of those he posted. I think it was actually titled, contract a schmuck glue on Oh, God, are we doing this again? Yeah. Which is not to. I think we I have the idea that we might disagree about that. So I want to specify the fact that those people are making bad arguments isn’t even evidence that there aren’t good argument. I’m not saying they were making bad arguments, because they were arguing against them saying they were Yeah. And someone on the comment section said, Well, they’re humanities people. Think about look at AI. You know, it’s huge and civilization altering. It’s very abstract. It’s just obviously symbolic. You don’t need to say it’s symbolic. process it like they would a literary trope. Yeah. Because it’s so obviously, the stuff that literary tropes are made out. Right. And it doesn’t occur them to think, Wait, do the actual laws of physics, let’s do that.
Unknown Speaker 1:21:25
Quinn Lewandowski 1:21:28
I think that was what was happening. I think I see it happening in other areas. Maybe just going over simulacra levels again. Yeah.
Will Jarvis 1:21:40
And that you mentioned this a while ago, but at perhaps the very real level with AI risk? I am. I do think AI risk is a is a very important question to be worried about concerned about. I think I think it gets more airtime than other x risks. Yeah. Which is solid. And I wonder if that’s just because it’s like computer science people or something. And that’s our area. And I also think, so it’s weird, right? I’m not worried about AI? Well, I’m much less worried about AI taking our jobs than I am AI
Quinn Lewandowski 1:22:18
killing us. Same strong agreement.
Will Jarvis 1:22:20
But I’m also worried about, you know, damping progress, because we’re worried about AI risk. Yes. When it when it’s one of the few areas where we can still do anything.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:22:31
Yes. I got that. And I can add, I can uncover Yodlee affirm that that’s a legitimate thing to worry about. Yeah. I mean, if it turns out that we ought to have stalled progress that doesn’t get out of that downside, right. Yeah, I would worry about that a lot. And definitely more worried about killing us than I am at taking our jobs. And I do. Like if I contrast it with my brain, this brain min max, your stuff I’m very good at and stuff I’m very bad at the climate science stuff is. I always feel like it’s chemistry. It’s oriented towards some aspect that I really, really suck at. Yeah, I have very little ability to evaluate those arguments themselves. Yeah. Gases. And my brain doesn’t do that. Well, it does do the stuff relating to AI. Well, so I tend to focus more on that because I can actually have nonmetal level ideas about Yeah. And that holds, I think, also for viruses. Also for really a lot of extra risk. My brain does philosophy of science really well, it does epistemology really well doesn’t usually do actual scientific content really well. Right, like Earth Science or so definitely. Disproportionate focus there.
Will Jarvis 1:24:07
And we’ve also I just look at, Ted, we talked about cowboys earlier. Yeah. And you know, when we tested one of the first atomic bombs, you know, the physicist that were working on it, but and they’re really smart people, but they believe there was some percentage chance that when they tested it, it would like atmosphere on fire, and kill everyone. Like weren’t sure they still did it. I don’t know. That’s probably not a good attitude, like, like, the question is, with all these things, it’s like what is the acceptable level of risk?
Quinn Lewandowski 1:24:46
I wonder? Sheet my brain generates an explanation for that. I don’t want uncritically endorse it. But yeah, my dad knew this guy. I think It was when he was in the National Guard. It may have been after he was in the National Guard and the guy was also in the military. Yeah. Not he was in the National Guard, so they wouldn’t send him to Vietnam. This guy was in the actual military and my dad talked, knew some stuff about his background. And he talked about the juxtaposition between sky was very fearless in terms of, you know, charging enemy machine gun people. And he was really incapable of saying no to anyone in authority. Oh, yeah. And those who sort of orthogonal? Yeah, very strong need for approval. So thing I would wonder about with the scientists is how maybe it was just too awkward for them not to do it. I mean, yeah. Oh, yeah. Do we think that’s a trade off? They actually decided to make or, as opposed to, they should have? I’m wondering if they weren’t bowing to social incentives rather than bravely experiment? I would not have this worry if there were one scientist working alone now lab.
Will Jarvis 1:26:15
Right. I think, you know, it’s probably some calculus where you look at it, you know, like, we don’t think the risk is that high. And there’s immense social pressure, because, you know, the army brought us to New Mexico, and they got to us in our families in these barracks. And, you know, general groves is like, he wants the bomb now, you know, the endless war. And, and you just calculate that all together and like, okay, like, we get to do this. I don’t know.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:26:46
My brain thinks that’s more likely then. than deciding it was okay. That there was a 5% chance of rain we atmosphere on fire.
Unknown Speaker 1:26:55
Yeah. Yeah, I think that perhaps a better explanation. That’s quite interesting.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:27:06
Yeah. I layers to
Unknown Speaker 1:27:10
a lot of layers to class. We’ve covered quite a lot today.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:27:14
Yeah. I think this was a good one.
Unknown Speaker 1:27:17
Yeah, I think we got a lot of productive ground.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:27:20
I learned what Mito,
Unknown Speaker 1:27:22
any other closing thoughts you can think of before? Oh, thanks. So
Quinn Lewandowski 1:27:25
a number of closing thoughts. Like ready? Yeah.
Will Jarvis 1:27:30
But I think if I had to sum it up, in some real way, things have gotten worse, or had not really gotten better for some people. And we should think about what we can do to mitigate that, or well, one more thoughts were you? Do you think things being flat is a good in themselves? Good in itself? Like so things being flat isn’t like, you know, having moderate distance between, you know, someone who just works in retail and, and Jeff Bezos, do you think there’s some good in that?
Quinn Lewandowski 1:28:11
As you take different questions. I think there are some people who think it’s good in itself. I’m not one of those people. I think there are sometimes maybe even often utilitarian type reasons why it’s instrumental like God, and, like diminishing marginal utility of money for which provide some historical context for where the instinct came from. Right? I’m not dismissing it, because our instincts come from something like that. But now I I was trying to figure out how condense my politics, to explain it to people at colleges to say, I was anti poverty but not anti inequality. So potentially open to taking away rich people’s money to give it to poor people but very uninterested, and taking you away to chuck into a hole in the ground. Right. And I think is a difference in perspective, because I think for some people taking away from the rich people is not a it doesn’t go on the con side of ledger, rap price you pay to do something else. But I could definitely be convinced. instrumentally and I might have to accept that. If other people have strong enough egalitarian impulses, then they may be experiencing enough suffering lamb utilitarian enough they have to sort of bow that but I’m not sure yet. And I’m not amusing utilitarian as a adjective. Never adapt. I just want right Because I don’t buy all the bullets. Yeah.
Will Jarvis 1:30:05
I will say this, I have this moral intuition. Yeah. So like the so the nicest car you can get and inflation adjusted terms in the US, like, essentially, the nicest car you could reasonably get was $47,000 or 7005. But it was like some Cadillac or something like that. And I got, I don’t know, perhaps some like Quaker background or something. But I do have this preference for like, ostentatious displays wealth and things like that, I think are not good for anyone. If that was yeah,
Quinn Lewandowski 1:30:37
I’m on board with that I, I have multiple justifications for why those are not good. They’re often I don’t want to say explicitly, but not to implicitly a deliberate attempt to incite envy or creep,
Unknown Speaker 1:30:52
right. Yeah. Like, I think that’s kind of
Quinn Lewandowski 1:30:55
people trying to hurt other people. Yeah, exactly. I very much feel that right. And the baseline is sort of you know, that it’s costly. Even if you don’t have that it’s costly signaling. That’s not going to value. A lot of the times when I think about inequality, I think about not being opposed to it, I think in terms of maybe there’s someone who really needs that car. I can’t think why that would be but my imagination is very limited. So that’s the argument I go to
Unknown Speaker 1:31:32
got like plastic trolls, right?
Quinn Lewandowski 1:31:35
Yeah, exactly. Like I was just
Unknown Speaker 1:31:37
like, really, really,
Quinn Lewandowski 1:31:39
the conspicuous consumption stuff is socially negative, some would be socially negative. Some even if people’s weren’t optimizing to cause negative emotional consequences and hurt people. It’s one thing to sort of shrug off those consequences when they aren’t deliberately intended. It’s nothing when they’re the whole point. And the behavior doesn’t make any sense without them. Yeah. No, I’m definitely with you there.
Unknown Speaker 1:32:08
Gotcha. And that’s kind of it that is separate. That’s separate from the inequality question, I
Will Jarvis 1:32:14
think. Yeah, I think I think it is separate.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:32:18
I think some people. Again, this is it’s propaganda. It’s the propaganda you use on yourself. So it’s not necessarily dishonest propaganda. But Bertrand Russell, same essay, where he’s talking about motivations, he starts with acquisitiveness. And his stock example, of acquisitiveness is to say, I’m forgetting the name of the country. I’m Middle Eastern, I’m pretty sure little girls who came to live with his family when he was a teenager, and they had almost starved, and with his family, they obviously had enough to eat. But they spent all their time stealing fruit from the surrounding farms and burying. Because anyway, because the to incite sympathy for people who really want a lot of money, I think he explicitly uses that to stop why someone thinks they need to $10 billion. I’m sure it’s not the only reason that I’ve been charged the most common reason, right. And he says, stronger than acquisitiveness, is rivalry and brings up live examples of people hurting themselves to hurt their rivals more or less. He says love of glory tends to be a little stronger than rivalry. But it’s hard. And love of power is rarer than love of glory. It’s much stronger in the people who have and it has an outside historical impact. And because people who’ve love power tend to end up with love power. Yeah. Was it good? That’s
Unknown Speaker 1:33:57
a great essay. I gotta read it.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:34:00
I’ll send it to ya. We good? I always wish I had a solution. And delays.
Will Jarvis 1:34:07
Yeah. I always we always end up with more questions. But you know, perhaps, you know, describing the problem as best we can. That’s the beginning.
Quinn Lewandowski 1:34:17
Scratches my itch remaining. Absolutely. Good company. Yeah, definitely. Great. Well, thanks for coming on. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 1:34:28
We’ll do it again, say. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.
Join the discussion