[ExI] Restructuring executive compensation

Max More max at maxmore.com
Sun May 31 04:26:11 UTC 2009

Brian Atkins wrote:
>Max, Bill is right that it's proven beyond any doubts at this point 
>in history
>that rules just will not stand in the way of the economic cycle. I mean we're
>living through the aftermath of exactly the kind of rule perverting 
>stuff Bill
>is talking about.

Is it really so proven? I must have missed that proof. However, I 
suspect you are using "rules" to refer solely to centralized 
government intervention. I am not limiting the term that way, as 
should be obvious from the blog post of mine I previously mentioned.

Even if what you say were true, taken literally it would prove very 
little. We will only be at "this point in history" for a moment. Then 
we move on to the next moment. As we move from one moment to the 
next, we learn. At least, we have the opportunity to learn, though 
obviously we often fail to do so. We're still only beginning to 
understand complex systems. Why be so pessimistic that we will never 
be able to tweak them on any level for the better?

Let me get this straight. Are you say that no changes to rules 
(private or public) will make any difference at all? Are you really 
agreeing with BillK that "Better rules are meaningless." (BTW, that 
comment baffles me given what seems to be his favorable view of 
government intervention.) I didn't say that the economic cycle could 
be entirely prevented, only that it might be somewhat alleviated and 
some of its causes and effects moderated.

The view you seem to be taking is that *nothing* can be done, even on 
a microeconomic level, to possibly ameliorate the business boom-bust 
cycle. You are saying that no institutional changes in incentives can 
make any difference. No technology-mediated improvements in 
transparency and communication can make a difference. No 
Internet-enabled stakeholder pressures can ever make a difference. 
That a remarkably ambitious claim. It implies omniscience.

On your defeatist view, we should quit wasting our time trying to 
change aging and death and other traditional, long-lived, and deeply 
embedded aspects of the human condition. Surely, on the same 
principle you implicitly propose, we cannot do anything "at this 
point in history" to alter the biological cycle. Yet I don't believe 
you accept that, given what I know of your views.

Your same view seems also to imply that property rights cannot make a 
difference to human behavior and to economic outcomes. We might as 
well abandon them. Yet I don't think you would accept this 
implication. Your view seems to have similar implications regarding 
the U.S. Constitution. Did this have no good long-lasting effect? 
(Yes, of course, Supreme Court judges together with politicians, 
primarily, have worked around the Constitution, most obviously with 
moves such as the Interstate Commerce Clause. But it took decades for 
them to do this damage, and it *still* isn't complete. The 
Constitution was *not* a total waste of time.)

Your whole perspective leaves no room for the recognition that human 
behavior is influenced by conditions and opportunities.

Ultimately, I take it that you are assuming that nothing can be done 
to improve the basic functioning of the economy until we can make 
basic changes to human nature. This seems to be a classic example of 
an error to which Singularitarians are prone. "Let's not try to 
improve things. Leave it for the superintelligence AI."

>In the aftermath now, sure we will make a bunch of new rules to shore things
>back up, and for a while it will be improved, but the cycle will continue
>turning. As long as it is driven by human minds then eventually it 
>will almost
>certainly repeat.
>And by the way, attempting to smooth it out typically just ends up 
>making things
>worse down the road.
>If the government/Fed had let things deflate properly during the 
>last recession
>instead of smoothing that out then we never would have had this huge 
>housing and
>debt bubble. Or at least it wouldn't have been so big and damaging.

Yes, I agree with what you say here. That's not the kind of 
"smoothing out" that I'm talking about. From the context, it should 
be obvious that I don't mean heavy-handed government intervention 
that acts in a way that prevents the circuit breaker from blowing. On 
the contrary, many of the most important ways of moderating the 
swings consist of removing and preventing government interventions of 
the kinds I just listed here: http://strategicphilosophy.blogspot.com/

More relevant are means of helping us learn more quickly, thereby 
reducing the magnitude of the problems resulting from failure. 
Designing institutions and learning processes to learn from "fast 
failure" through many modest experiments (as well as developing 
better means of anticipation) seems to be a promising approach. This 
is really just a practical implementation of pancritical rationalism, 
and was nicely described in some detail by Stefan H. Thomke in his 
book "Experimentation Matters".


Max More, Ph.D.
Strategic Philosopher
Extropy Institute Founder
max at maxmore.com

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