Signalling games, subcultures, slang, El Farol Bars, anti-inductive systems, glass bead games, fake martial arts, level of simulacra, genre speciation, as transmitted on the social information graph …
Question: Is this a dig a Yudkowsky?
Robin Hanson argues against irony for being outgroup-exclusionary. I don’t think blanket discouraging irony is plausible or desirable, but… the insight is useful. It is important to remember that indicators of in-group membership, such as irony, are shibboleths, not indicators of quality.
This one is interesting not because it is not one of Hanson’s best ideas, IMO. I like it as a trial balloon for some better ideas that do not conflate local culture with hostility to wider culture, or assume the plausibilty of operating without in-groups.
David Chapman’s Geeks, MOPs and Sociopaths model, explains subcultural dynamics as a business model, looking at how fun things become mass market things.
Douglas Adams once said there was a theory that if anyone ever understood the Universe, it would disappear and be replaced by something even more incomprehensible. He added that there was another theory that this had already happened.
These sorts of things — things such that if you understand them, they get more complicated until you don’t — are called “anti-inductive”.
But what, then, in such a place, is nice? Is nice now an aesthetic, a style, rather than a substance? And hence, is it the aesthetic of having the aesthetic? Has the thing been banished by the symbolic representation of the thing? Does this tyranny of superficial niceness inevitably create a particular ideological cascade? It seems to. Does it banish truth, slowly pressuring all into conformity, via the Scott Alexander quote that cannot be repeated enough times, so here it is again:
Sometimes I can almost feel this happening. First I believe something is true, and say so. Then I realize it’s considered low-status and cringeworthy. Then I make a principled decision to avoid saying it — or say it only in a very careful way — in order to protect my reputation and ability to participate in society. Then when other people say it, I start looking down on them for being bad at public relations. Then I start looking down on them just for being low-status or cringeworthy. Finally the idea of “low-status” and “bad and wrong” have merged so fully in my mind that the idea seems terrible and ridiculous to me, and I only remember it’s true if I force myself to explicitly consider the question. And even then, it’s in a condescending way, where I feel like the people who say it’s true deserve low status for not being smart enough to remember not to say it. This is endemic, and I try to quash it when I notice it, but I don’t know how many times it’s slipped my notice all the way to the point where I can no longer remember the truth of the original statement.
Explaining those odd terms the alt-right use to troll their opponents, and complaints about virtue signallers as virtue signalling.
When I have a moment I would like to muster some thoughts about how in-group and outgroup signals like these are weaponised in practice, and the types of coordinations that are robust for society.
Closer to home, consider “Political correctness” accusations are always explosive at family dinner. 🏗
However, even fighters who enjoy making fun of fake martial arts in the “not useful for MMA” sense are still quick to admit that all martial arts are largely fake […]. Ramsey Dewey in particular enjoys demonstrating the fallacy of trying to fight off multiple opponents, or a single opponent with a knife, as opposed to employing wiser (but not useful for MMA!) strategies like diplomacy, going armed, making better life choices, and running the fuck away.…
I have been wondering if there are intellectual equivalents of fake martial arts. The highly ritualized and hierarchical culture of the legal courtroom is one example of how epistemic battles are rendered civilized, and in some ways less real. Yet one can’t deny that legal systems are having a genuine and ongoing encounter with reality, from top to bottom. They are embedded in reality. Their fakenesses serve realities on other levels.
In consumer design
Self-proclaimed premium mediocre intellectual Venkatesh Rao defines premium mediocre:
Premium mediocre is the finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden. Premium mediocre is cupcakes and froyo. Premium mediocre is “truffle” oil on anything […], and extra-leg-room seats in Economy. Premium mediocre is cruise ships, artisan pizza, Game of Thrones, and The Bellagio.
Premium mediocre is food that Instagrams better than it tastes.
Adil Majid thinks it though with a little more precision.
A related concept might be bugman technology. Caveat: that term has snide connotations rooted in romantic struggle against a corporate feminism surveillance complex. This movement (?) does not seem to me to have a compelling diagnosis of the world’s ills.