[ExI] Conspiracy epistemology (Was: cut off worried)

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Wed Feb 17 10:15:27 UTC 2016

On 17 February 2016 at 09:28, Anders Sandberg  wrote:
> More seriously, after reading Tetlock's work, I have reduced my estimate of
> the likelihood of clever political conspiracies. I have no doubt some people
> *try*, but given that policy experts are lousy at predicting consequences of
> events any plan involving steps like "And then X will appoint Y, who will
> implement plan Z, with no trace back to me. Excellent!" is very likely to
> fail. When even superforecasters selected for their objective accuracy
> cannot do reliable predictions very far in the future it seems unlikely
> conspirators are any better. Especially in multi-agent situations like the
> current US election, or situations where random events can blow up (like in
> many parts of the middle east).
> So if you want to run a "conspiracy", focus on actions that have predictable
> effects - physical effects, things going according to the normal legal,
> bureaucratic or traditional routine. Don't rely on outside people acting as
> you want, don't act in domains where outside events can overwhelm your
> influence. Shanteau's theory of expertise gives great input to what skills
> you need to affect things. Information leakage and side agendas grows
> nonlinearly with group size. And so on. It is much easier to do a
> non-conspiracy where you get people with shared interests to coordinate,
> pool resources, and push for changes they want to see without all the
> cloak-and-dagger stuff. Non-conspiracies are also more agile in areas where
> predictability is lesser, but will of course have to deal more with
> opposition. Conspiracies in theory avoid opposition by being secret, but in
> practice they have to deal with it anyway: the opposing interests will be
> acting in unpredictable ways in any case, potentially wrecking plans with no
> idea what they were about.

How do you make God laugh?
Tell Him your plans.

I have found the best way to run a "conspiracy" is multiple very small actions.
Individually, each action has little effect and matters little if it
fails. If accused of misbehaviour, it can easily be brushed aside as a
mistake or misunderstanding. But the cumulative effect of small
changes can be very significant. So that the end result is achieved
without people realising quite how they ended up in that situation.

People like 'grand plans'. But the big changes going on in society
today are more like the death of a thousand cuts.


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