Raikoth: Corruption, Priesthood

Some of the comments to my last post required essay-length responses, plus I will keep talking about my conworld until somebody shuts me up. This one is in response to Nemryn on corruption.

Third Eyes are little lifelogging cameras provided at government expense. They intermittently take pictures + video and record conversations and wirelessly upload them to a central database.

Oh no! Dystopian society in which the government can monitor everything you do, right?

Not exactly. The central database is encrypted, and only the wearer of a Third Eye knows its master password. This master password can be used to generate daily passwords, which unlock the data for a specific day without allowing reconstruction of the master password. At the request of the wearer and the provision of the daily password, the caretakers of the central database can decrypt a day’s recordings.

This soundly discourages crime. A falsely accused person can authorize decryption of their recordings for the time the crime took place, potentially proving their alibi. And a victim can authorize decryption of their recordings, proving their story to be correct.

“Decryption”, in this context, means that one of the Priests of Truth who runs the central database will watch the recordings and then send back a single bit of information. For example, a judge might send a request to know whether someone committed an assault on a certain day, and the accused might release the password to their Third Eye. The Priest would then watch the recordings, send back a “yes”, “no”, or “it’s complicated” to the question, and then swear an oath never to discuss the recording further without the subject’s consent. So if you didn’t commit a particular crime because you were busy having an affair with your best friend’s wife, your secret is safe.

Average citizens are not required to wear Third Eyes – that would be dystopian – but most people quickly see the benefits. But the Rhavakl, who serve as the police force, are required to wear them. The Priests of Truth, civil servants who might otherwise be subject to bribery, are required to wear them. Anyone in a position of power or vulnerable to corruption charges agrees to put on a Third Eye before being trusted with their office.

None of these people are ever required to disclose their password, of course. That particular rule is sacrosanct. But if you’re wearing a Third Eye, and you refuse to give access to it in a criminal proceeding, no one is the least bit reluctant to take that as an obvious admission of guilt.

The system isn’t perfect. Third Eyes neither record every single moment, nor can they upload their data to the central database in real time. It’s possible to accept a bribe very quickly, hoping you get in between Third Eye recordings. And clever muggers will demand that people hand over their Third Eyes during an assault, then break them so they don’t have a chance to transmit their data (some of the newer models have panic modes, but they don’t work 100% of the time).

But the device operates on a random schedule and never gives any detectable sign that it’s on. So anyone who wants to do something illicit has to hope they get lucky, and a lot of people aren’t willing to take the risk.

And the uncertainty inherent in Third Eyes is a feature, not a bug. It is acknowledged practice to hold trials before anyone knows whether the recordings from Third Eyes address the problem. The confirmation from Third Eyes then provides useful training data for Priests of Truth.

The Priesthood of Truth

The most important evaluations of factual questions are performed by prediction markets: either the Angel of Evidence in the Meta-Analytical Oracle or smaller oracles that address purely local concerns. But sometimes there are questions not worth a market’s time or energy, specific questions about individuals that need to be made dozens or hundreds of times per day. For these questions there are Priests of Truth.

Priests of Truth are humans who have been trained to have judgment approaching that of a prediction market. To be accepted into the Priesthood, you must cultivate near-perfect calibration and accuracy compared to both other humans and predictive algorithms. Some tests face the candidate off against a prediction market they are not allowed to view. Others make them evaluate training data – cases from years ago in which the right answer is already known.

An Arch-Cathedral in Tala – because I already used up all my pictures of more relevant buildings in the last post

Most Priests go on to specialize. Some become judges for criminal trials, skilled in predicting whether a suspect actually committed a crime from the testimony available. Others work on the opposite end of the justice system, skilled at predicting whether offenders have been sufficiently rehabilitated that they will not offend again. Others are the ones who select gametes for the fertility program, skilled at predicting from genetic information and parental histories whether they will produce healthy and happy children. Still others are the ones predicting who should be offered incentives to give birth to and raise these children, based on predicted or observed parenting ability.

Others choose to serve the private sector. There are Priests of Truth who specialize in determining whether marriages will last; for a fee you and your significant other can meet with them and take some psychometric tests and they will tell you the chance you’ll still be together when you’re fifty. There are Priests who will tell you how likely you are to be happy at age 50 depending on what job you choose. There are Priests for nearly anything, and smart people consult them before any big decision.

All predictions by all Priests get entered into – you guessed it – a centralized database – and each Priest receives a score based on how much better or worse ze has done than other predictors – again including other priests, predictive algorithms, prediction markets, and the petitioner themselves. Those Priests who fail to beat chance or very simple toy models are expelled from the Priesthood, although given the rigorous initiation process this rarely happens. Those Priests who can beat chance but do poorly relative to other Priests end up in less important positions or out serving tiny communities in the Cold Waste. The most effective and accurate Priests advise the government on delicate tasks, earn wealth and fame, or become High Priests of entire cities.

But being a Priest of Truth isn’t just about being good at figuring things out. The Priesthood is a genuine religious order dedicated to the worship of Truth, one of the two (occasionally three, rarely four) gods of Raikoth. Their philosophy is that you can’t predict things well without learning not to lie to yourself, and you can’t learn not to lie to yourself while selectively preserving your ability to lie to others. Therefore, all Priests of Truth, upon their initiation, swear never to tell even the slightest lie, or to break even the most trivial oath. This commitment makes them useful as an incorruptible class who can evaluate possible corruption in anyone else.

Not that anyone takes this on trust. The Priests of Truth wear the biggest and most sophisticated Third Eyes on the island.

And although Raikoth abhors the idea of an involuntary death penalty (citizens may choose death in preference to exile or other punishments, but it is never forced upon them) this Priesthood is the sole exception. Any Priest of Truth caught lying, cheating, or breaking an oath is subjected to a shockingly primitive custom that has remained intact for over five thousand years since the pre-Apollonian era: they are thrown into the crater of Ianakve, the sacred volcano.

Also a convenient source of geothermal power!

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53 Responses to Raikoth: Corruption, Priesthood

  1. Fnord says:

    The problem with technical measures as a means to ensure incorruptibility is that they’re subject to technical countermeasures.

    It’s a neat feature, to be sure. If the system mostly works anyway, and the gizmos just make it work better at the margin, that’s one thing. But, to the extent that they’re an inseparable part of the system, I have the same sort of objections to the Third Eye system as I had to the crypto-secured guns suggested by reactionaries.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Really? My objections to the crypto-secured guns are that they would still need soldiers to fire them, the monarch is still easily assassinate-able, minor inconveniences like the monarch having a stroke could instantly wipe out the country’s military, and one good hacker could take over the world – plus like ten others. What are your objections?

      • Fnord says:

        I was talking about the “one good hacker could take over the world” one. Not so much one good hacker actually taking over the world, but the root problem, the inability of the system to remain secure against compromise from people with physical access to the hardware.

        Obviously, that’s a big problem with the crypto-guns, because your entire apparatus of state-sponsored violence is vulnerable. Hence you get the “one good hacker taking over the world problem” (although, even there, you’re much vulnerable if the “one good hacker” is someone inside the military hierarchy).

        I don’t know exactly how important you consider the Third Eye system to the larger system of Riakoth’s governance. The possibility of tampering doesn’t negate “they’re a nice thing to have, because they reduce corruption on the margin, but the system basically works regardless”. If it’s “I know this system has a lot of potential for abuse, but the Third Eyes prevent this”, then tampering is a bigger problem.

        • Vanzetti says:

          >>>the inability of the system to remain secure against compromise from people with physical access to the hardware.

          Distributed ledger is your friend here. Let everyone have the entire database of surveillance, a-la bitcoin.

          Impossible with current technology, of course.

        • Fnord says:

          There’s still the issue of source level compromise. Spoofing recordings, etc. Even just detecting when recording is happening makes it possible to accept bribes without a problem.

    • Deiseach says:

      The Null-A books by A.E. van Vogt. Society relies upon (and everyone swears up, down and sideways that) certain specialised control computers are absolutely infallible and cannot be tampered with in any way whatsoever.

      Turns out the villains learned how to tamper with the untamperable central computer 🙂

  2. Douglas Knight says:

    I will keep talking about my conworld until somebody shuts me up

    Are you asking for a new topic? How about the evils of modern architecture?

    • Vanzetti says:

      Skyscrapers killed my family, but I will revenge!

      • Deiseach says:

        They suffered from monstrous carbuncles? (And if anyone gets this reference, you get nothing except the virtuous glow of being a smart-arse).

        • g says:

          Given that Scott’s readership is (I think) mostly US-based, that’s a bit unfair.

        • Deiseach says:

          Consider it revenge for having to read (in printed media and online) copious untranslated references to the rules and statistics of baseball, sugar-laden foods never encountered by the mind of man on this side of the Atlantic, clothing brands, shopping habits, pop culture references (although acculturation is global these days) and the rest of it 🙂

      • im says:

        I dont mind skyscrapers so much, but I am indifferent or hostile to basically every building in my university built past 1950.

  3. Peng says:

    I can see how Third Eyes apply to assault cases. But they seem less well-suited for crimes which you have no idea when they happened. Someone is accused of accepting a bribe, and to defend themself they release… recordings of their every waking minute for the past several years?

    • Vanzetti says:

      You can’t just accuse someone of a bribe in general. Surely some details of the event exist that can pinpoint it to a certain time.

    • Fadeway says:

      I was left with the impression that the eyes are just one of many pieces of the system; hence why the priests are trained to make judgments before the encryption is released. The lack of concrete witness evidence shouldn’t impede the process, if the other parts – the predictors – work well. The eyes by themselves seem quite fallible – they only work sometimes, they’re breakable, not everyone has one, etc. Redundancy is the best insurance.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      True. I guess the hope would be first that there are certain meetings between figures when bribes might take place (and that people know what they are) or that the knowledge that anybody you asked for a bribe would possess the recording of you doing so would discourage people from asking.

      I don’t know if there’s some way to create a culture in which is is obvious to everyone you’re asking for a bribe but can’t be proven on a recording. Something like “I’d really like to help you, but I feel like there’s *wink* *wink* something missing from your proposal” would probably beat the American court systems but not get past a Priest of Truth.

  4. cool rich guy says:

    “Their philosophy is that you can’t predict things well without learning not to lie to yourself, and you can’t learn not to lie to yourself while selectively preserving your ability to lie to others.”

    Hmm, I believe the opposite of this.

    Also, to what extent are you endorsing this society? Is this your genuine attempt to engineer a perfect society, or more of a creative attempt to make a realistic world with flaws? I can’t really tell. The last paragraph in particular sounds like something hard to find genuinely desirable.

    Enjoyable post as always (:

    • Michael Vassar says:

      Glad to see that someone remembers!
      I might also add that if you pursue a line of inquiry far enough, you will very frequently end up with inferential gaps which make exact truth telling to outsiders impossible. In our world, scientists very partially solve this problem by a combination of authoritarianism and being so terrible at communication that no-one expects to understand anything they say except buzzwords and requests (usually for more money, but sometimes for a quarantine or something extremely simple and useful), but that doesn’t seem optimal.

      What’s the best answer to “which of these two candidates is the true representative of God on Earth?”. A serious solution to this problem might involve formal scientific discussion analogous to a court’s proceedings and sealed against public inquiry where scientists *are* required to give the truth, as best they understand it, and are guaranteed a great deal of time to do so (and ideally externally monitored WRT their mental states). For such a proceeding, only other scientists and experts in communication to the outside world could be present, and the communications experts, in conjunction with politicians or other outside experts, might later decide on whether the public should be deceived WRT the current risks of unsafe sex in order to prevent the spread of STDs which might actually cause it to become as dangerous as they are currently told it is or whether a patient should receive receive reassuring lies for the sake of placebo benefits.

    • Nick T says:

      From the link:

      It seems to me that this fear of believing what they don’t want to say if they only believe truth is the single largest seemingly removable barrier to people becoming rationalists at all, or passing that barrier, to becoming the best rationalists they can be.

      I suspect this is context-dependent; e.g., probably the best condition for truthseeking is being and feeling so secure that you don’t have or feel the need to lie to others or to yourself. This seems like the kind of thing a monastic order could create within itself, or a powerful priesthood could create for its members in the outside world, but read literally probably unrealistic for not-very-high-status people in reality. However, I’m sure the “feel” side of it can realistically be hacked, with a lot of work and some privilege, for huge returns.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Also, to what extent are you endorsing this society? Is this your genuine attempt to engineer a perfect society, or more of a creative attempt to make a realistic world with flaws?”

      This is my attempt to create a perfect society while erring on the side of weirdness. So if there’s something where it might make things better or much worse, I include it anyway. There are also some local touches – like the polar bear obsession is because they happen to live in the Arctic Circle, not because I think a perfect society would be obsessed with polar bears (though it shows good taste!)

  5. Dorikka says:

    > I will keep talking about my conworld until somebody shuts me up.

    I heartily endorse this.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      I also endorse it, except for the part about it being possible to shut him up.

      • vali says:

        Speaking as someone whose primary source of pleasure and happiness comes from being immersed in intriguing and complicated imaginary worlds, I would be perfectly willing to pay for and read books full of this sort of thing. Because that’s how I spend all my weekends anyways.

  6. Jack says:

    Yeah, I find this really interesting.

    And I think “recorded, but needing a specific process to unlock” is the right way to do it. Our current governments keep scarily pushing for laws more like “we’ll record everything and the police have to have a good reason to snoop on it, but the good reason can be vague bullshit that’s never accountable”…

  7. Deiseach says:

    Dammit, Scott, are you trying to be Catholic or what? First the Seal of the Confessional and now moral theology about sophistry! 🙂

    That bit about the Priests of Truth swearing never to tell the least lie sounds uncannily like the discussions in St. Augustine about the very same thing; the usual way the dilemma is put is suppose Jones comes to your door begging you to hide him as a maniac is trying to kill him; you do so, then five minutes later there’s a knock at the door and there stands a maniac with a hatchet who asks you “Is Jones here?” What do you say: Yes? And run the risk of you/Jones being slaughtered? No? That’s a lie! (This arose out of the various persecutions against Christians where some lied, some equivocated, and others said “That’s cowardice, lying and avoiding martyrdom”; updating to modern times, it’s often put as “So would you turn Anne Frank over to the Nazis or instead lie if they asked was she there?” or the likes).

    This is why St. Thomas Aquinas was very careful parsing out what is and is not a lie, and why the Jesuits got a bad reputation regarding sophistry 😉

    Now, as to the Third Eye cameras – it does sound as if Raikoth have adopted the principle not of “innocent until proven guilty” but “guilty until proven innocent”. I might have very good reasons not giving over my password, and they needn’t be because I had my fingers in the till: since nobody knows when the thing is recording and it switches on at random times, I may not want anyone looking at a recording of me in the bathroom or doing other activities which are private, personal, and nobody else’s business but my own. I’m afraid that, to me, this sounds like the controversial 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in the U.K.

    Do the Raikoth not recognise the right to avoid self-incrimination or again, is it the idea that “If you’re innocent, you have nothing to fear” which we hear so often when proposals for more CCTV monitoring, expanding police powers, etc. are mooted?

    And in the perfect society, people still get into punch-ups and commit adultery? 🙂

    • I’m hoping that in the perfect society, people will have scope sensitivity about minor violations of law and convention, and some understanding about how common such violations are.

      • Mary says:

        Minor violations of law and convention would not be commonplace in any society remotely worth of the term “perfect.”

        • Intrism says:

          That’s quite correct. If a law is so overbroad and unenforceable that violations are commonplace, it ought not to be a law in the first place.

    • Berry says:

      The only reason that “If you’re innocent, you have nothing to fear” sounds ominous is because we don’t want or trust bureaucratic digging into our privacy. But here, one could hardly object to a semi-perfect monk who is sworn to secrecy AND will never again have anything to do with you AND is not actually allowed to go into details if the answer is ambiguous prying into the contents of a single day.

      • Deiseach says:

        Listen, it’s hard enough for me to go to confession when I know the priest can’t even see my face; I don’t want anyone looking at a video feed of what I was doing 🙂

    • Alex R says:

      Re: not lying to the extreme

      It seems like the Priests of Truth would be able to and often choose to refuse to answer questions. So the would-be assailant would get a refusal to answer the question whether or not there was someone hiding, and ey would know that.
      Note that a Priest may still choose to lie if ey believes that the lie is worth sacrificing eir life for. It’s even possible that in extreme circumstances a lying Priest would be afforded clemency (though expelled from the order).

      • Mary says:

        Do mental reservations count? If he says, “I did not see him” — in the last five minutes — is that a lie?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I agree with your Christians that having everyone unable to lie would be a bad thing. But I think there’s a role for carving out a certain small subgroup and saying they’re unable to lie. That way if you want to make sure you’re getting a true report of something you can send one of them, and someone else can take care of hiding Anne Frank and the many other situations where lies are useful or necessary.

      I agree with Berry regarding the privacy issue. Between the social cost of having one guy who doesn’t even know your name and is sworn to secrecy seeing you in the bathroom, or letting someone get away with murder, I’m going with the former.

      • Deiseach says:

        But don’t you then hit into the question of “absolute truthfulness is not always useful or beneficial” and therefore why should one sub-group be bound by it, if the majority of the population are not?

        Or contrariwise, if it is useful to society to have one section of the populace devoted to speaking truth at all times, then would it not be even better to have a greater (up to all) the population do so?

        If you’re relying on “Jim and Sally may lie, but Bert is oath-bound not to, so Bert will patch up the effects of Jim and Sally’s lies” to keep things running, would it not be better not to have Jim and Sally lying in the first place?

        Then again, if there are times when lying is the better option (e.g. deceiving another to save a life), then is this not an example of truth-in-action (to lie is sometimes better than to be honest always) and so the Priests of Truth, being devoted to absolute honesty at all times, are in fact abiding by what is false reality (absolute truth not being the optimum condition)?

        • g says:

          There are all sorts of things we want to have some people, but not everyone, doing. Society would collapse if everyone were a doctor, or if everyone were a professional musician, or (etc., etc., etc.), but it would be pretty bad to have to do without those professions altogether.

          Other examples, a little closer in spirit to Scott’s but controversial in various ways: (1) RC priests are required to be celibate but no one would want everyone to have to be. (2) It’s widely considered a good thing for alcoholics never, ever to drink alcohol, but probably not a good idea for it to be banned altogether. (3) Soldiers are allowed, and sometimes required, to kill people who have done them no particular harm and committed no crime. The rest of us generally aren’t. (4) Some people (e.g., spies, people developing Apple’s next big product) aren’t allowed to tell anyone anything to speak of about their job; that would be an unreasonable imposition on most people.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, but celibacy is a discipline (and if you’re a faithful Catholic, you are supposed to be practising chastity anyway; continence within marriage and no sex before or outside of it).

          The absolute prohibition on lying restricted to one section of the populace (particularly as they are tasked with a role in society for maintaining good public order by being a resource of appeal and judgement) is more like restricting the right of self-defence to one section. We may accept that the police have powers to carry weapons and use them in necessity, but general members of the public are entitled to defend themselves; we wouldn’t say “You’re not a member of the police force so you are guilty of murder because you used force to defend yourself when attacked”.

          Though I imagine it’s more the other way round with the Raikoth – it’s more like everyone except the Priests of Truth could use force to defend themselves, but if I went up and stuck a knife in a Priest of Truth, he or she could not do anything to stop me. That’s a more interesting notion to contemplate.

          However, I was thinking more of what philosophical basis this requirement could be based upon – if there is an absolute requirement on the Priests of Truth never to utter the smallest falsehood (even in the nature of a joke, social politeness or the like) even outside of performing their duties, then how is that presented? Either absolute veracity and honesty is determined to be the best response to reality-as-it-is (seeing as how they’re basing their society on utility and rationality), in which case it should apply to everyone and not just particular office-holders, or there are exceptions when it is more consonant with reality-as-it-is to permit lying, deception or equivocation.

          Which is where the kernel of my difficulty lies: given that a coherent philosophical rationale and defence of lying can and may be constructed, what is to prevent a particular Priest of Truth constructing an argument that is convincing whereby he or she proves he or she should be permitted to lie, deceive or equivocate in a particular instance of examining a Third-Eye record (or any other action he or she may perform)?

          What I’m trying to get at is that this society is claimed to be based on optimal, rational decisions (and not on belief in deity or deities issuing binding commandments), so what logical construction (apart from agreeing to give up a liberty or free exercise of a power, state or right) underpins the idea that absolute, unflinching veracity in all instances is binding upon Priests of Truth as an exception to the general population?

          We wouldn’t say “Antibiotics are demonstrably good for treating disease, but we’ll only give them to medical professionals and not the general population” because only doctors, nurses and others involved in the administration of health would optimally benefit from or need them. Likewise, if absolute veracity is a good, then why restrict it or teach it to only one section of the Raikoth? Contrariwise, if it helps to be able to lie at times, why deny this to a Priest of Truth (unless they never have any dealings with anyone outside their order, they may indeed be in the “in extreme cases, you have to save Anne Frank” situation).

        • Mary says:

          At this point, I must point out that priests are not bear arms even in a just war. A man who has killed is not allowed to become a priest — not only in voluntary manslaughter or murder, but serving as a combat soldier, or as the judge or a juror in a capital case. Indeed, if a doctor’s patient dies, the doctor would need special approval to become a priest.

          Not telling lies even in a good cause would appear to be similar.

        • Deiseach says:

          Good points, Mary. My point is that the Raikoth are intentionally constructing the ‘perfect society’ which includes eugenics, education, and a whole heap of social pressure on “if you don’t like it here, go elsewhere” (‘Raikoth – love it or leave it!’)

          In our world, we try and teach our children not to lie, and expect a standard of honesty in public life, but we can put the blame for shortcomings on concupiscence and fallen human nature.

          What excuse do the Raikoth have for permitting lying amongst the general population? Selective breeding is weeding out those with undesirable traits that might be heritable and their educational and social system is set up to inculcate the desirable values they wish to propagate. Scott makes specific mention of this:
          Galisyin means “the gardened ones”, and it is a name the Raikolin give themselves. …The gardening begins with birth and reproduction. All men get RISUG as part of what we might call their high school health class; although they may reverse the process at any time, in practice no one does so until they want to have a child, and the procedure can be repeated free of cost at any time. This effectively prevents unplanned pregnancies and unwanted children.
          …The Angels keep the population at their desired level by paying people to have and raise children, and the highest price is given for people who are willing to use gametes selected by the Priests of Truth as unusually likely to create good people (where “good” is as always defined as “tending to increase the function described in the Risurion-silk” but usually involves intelligence, compassion, sanity, health, and creativity).

          In addition the Galisyin ideal includes euthenics – bettering people by improving their environment. …Some euthenic interventions are more proactive: for example, there is an exactly optimal amount of lithium in the water supply.”

          So the Raikolin have no problem actively engineering their populace for certain goals. Therefore, what is their philosophical basis for deciding absolute veracity is necessary for some but not for all? If veracity is better, why confine it to one sector? Or if lying is necessary, why are there not balancing priesthoods to mediate between times when absolute veracity is not as desirable as some degree of being “economical with the actualité“, so that there is a Priesthood of Lies as well one of Truth, a Priesthood of Ugliness to offset those of Beauty (throwing people into volcanoes is one of those ugly but necessary acts they might be in charge of performing), and one of Sorrow as a counterbalance to Joy.

        • g says:

          (Response to deiseach’s comment beginning “Yes, but”.)

          It seems to me that “the Priests of Truth take a vow never to lie, no matter how good the reasons may seem” is pretty much exactly parallel to “the Priests of the RCC take a vow never to marry or have sex, no matter how good the reasons may seem”.

          (Radical honesty for the Priests of Truth is a “discipline” for them, as I understand it, in very much the same sort of way as celibacy is for RC priests.)

          And the justification (whether or not successful) is of roughly the same sort in both cases. It goes something like this: “No, doing X is not always bad in itself. However, having a group of people who reliably don’t do X is valuable. We make it an absolute prohibition because that’s easier to stick to, harder to fool yourself about, and easier for other people to trust.”

          (There may be other justifications in both cases. And of course the absolute prohibition may turn out not to be so absolutely observed.)

  8. jimrandomh says:

    If you tried to implement this in present-day America, I’m pretty sure you’d run out of suitable people before you’d filled all the priesthoods. This is the sort of society one might build out of people with a median IQ of 120, not a society one could build out of any present-day population. Perhaps, if education improves drastically, we might achieve things like this. But one way or another – whether through FAI or an Xrisk – I don’t think the world is going to last that long.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m curious why you think that. Do you think there’s a sharp discontinuity in people’s ability to be Priests of Truth, rather than their predictions gradually becoming more accurate as they become smarter?

      I am not at all convinced rationality is this thing that can never be taught to most people. Keep in mind normal plain old coin-flip-is-50% probability started out being understood pretty much just by Blaise Pascal and no one else, and as it became more popular and useful it’s percolated down to almost everyone. Not everyone’s good at it, but a significant proportion of the population can at least assess gambles and see if the odds are in their favor or not.

      • Michael Vassar says:

        It’s very hard to distinguish between only 10% of the population being able to learn and all of the population attending schools that are only designed to teach 10% of their students.

  9. Max says:

    The problem I see with imposing the death penalty on the Priests of Truth, and the same reason I don’t advocate throwing corrupt cops into a volcano, is that the more severe a punishment is, the more reluctant people who’re close to them are likely to be to enforce it on them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If I had to justify my younger self’s decision on this issue, I would say they’re maximizing for trust rather than trustworthiness. “Bob is going to mediate our dispute; he belongs to an order that throws him into a volcano if he’s dishonest” is more convincing than “Bob’s going to mediate our dispute, he belongs to an order that puts him in prison if he’s dishonest”, even if the latter is more effective.

  10. Maybe it’s because I only skimmed the text instead of properly reading or thinking about it yet, but…

    Why is it a feature instead of a bug that the Third Eyes don’t record everything?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Eh, it’s not a good feature, but it helps train Priests of Truth, whose improved training then allows them to confidently render judgments in cases where Third Eye-type confirmation isn’t available.

  11. Nestor says:

    I find it interesting that your utopian society is a tiny country rather than a world spanning system

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is partly limited by the medium (it’s in a simulation where everyone has their own country, and in order to get lots of land you have to have many real-world people cooperating, and I didn’t want to give up sole creative control) and partly because of exit rights – ie I’m much more comfortable with a somewhat repressive society in the form of an intentional community where you “love it or leave it” as opposed to a globe-spanning empire that is the only game in town.

  12. muflax says:

    So I’ve been thinking about Raikoth lately and have a few comments / questions.

    1) I like the “highly regulated cities + unregulated wasteland” idea. It feels like a post-viking society you’d actually want to live in – mostly calm, but plenty of room to blast death metal in. Many parts of Raikoth sound a bit like Mormon Heaven to me, i.e. very orderly and safe, which is probably a lot of fun to *live* in most of the time, but not very interesting to describe. “Well mostly, we don’t do all the insane stuff”, which is great, but sometimes you gotta burn something to the ground, you know? Do you have some details what these more experimental communities in the wasteland are like? (I’m hoping for REDLINE-like car race, for one.)

    2) Several institutions seem to solve common coordination problems through a (de facto) government-run central institution, like the Official Dating Roulette. You said you wanted to subvert common dystopia tropes (yay for fewer stupid tropes!), but the whole implementation sounds well-integrated with the rest of Raikoth, and so I wonder to what degree you think that a) issues with current systems go back to coordination problems, b) having a monopoly on institutional power is a good idea, and c) having a Standard Solution With A Complete Script means you don’t have to worry about this problem anymore and can play more Minecraft instead. (Assuming a standard “haven’t run RCT of states yet, ideas not taken as official doctrine” disclaimer of course.)

    3) I’m still not sure how this system isn’t horrible corrupt and on the brink of turning into the UK.

    For example, Moldbug and the Communists (high-concept ska, one experimental folk album) both try to fix this by aligning the incentives of the state with the good of the people, either by making the state for-profit (and trusting the market) or… I’m not quite sure, but it seems to involve turning everyone into equal shareholders of everything, or something. Anyway, you seem to agree with a strong incentive-based, practically Historical Materialist kind of view, so what exactly keeps this system in check?

    Some failure modes I can think of right at the top of my head:

    a) Organizations (government or not) establish culture of “voluntary” sharing of data “for copyright reasons” or “against child pornography”. Insert results all hackers have been right about for decades here and which people still somehow act surprised about.

    b) The Third Eye does not protect at all against government conspiracies (as outlined very convincingly by Assange). Can I just write a simple program that submits an accusation every day for every possible crime for every politician currently in office as a countermeasure? And what about implicit agreements of conspiracy, like for example extended definitions of “this violates the politician’s privacy and won’t be disclosed”, or “we run a big news network and will defend categorical rejection of government transparency”? (See the reference work, Yes Minister. Compare also the clusterfuck of evil that is Wikipedia bureaucracy, despite all its openness.)

    c) If I can only accuse government employees of specific crimes, I’m still doomed. Even if we could enforce all of the law on every priest at all times, I’d still expect them to pwn me with no difficulty. The Third Eye works against Single Person Trying To Mug Me, but not against Clever Sociopath Establishes Exploitative Incentive Structure And Makes Me Pay For My Own Slavery (i.e. the Scientology business model, or just the default outcome of capitalism, if I’m feeling particularly left-wing today).

    d) How much of that is the use of Kadhamic supposed to counter? I mean, reasonably competent sociopaths can still screw you over in broad daylight, mere transparency won’t stop them. Can I just not set someone up for failure, sell them an ideology, or lie to them in Kadhamic? As Joel Grus posted recently:

    > Most books (with the notable exception of *Praxeological Parenting*) will tell you that *moderate* libertarianism is all you need to be a good parent. But there are a great many parenting problems that a belief in the night-watchman state does little to solve.
    > For instance, when your kid doesn’t want to go to school because it’s a brainwashing factory designed to grind young impressionable minds into submission by (among other things) forbidding them from leaving their seats or talking “out of turn” or using the restroom without first obtaining permission, the moderate libertarian answer is typically to offer them a voucher that covers the tuition to a different brainwashing factory. Your kid is unlikely to find this satisfying, for obvious reasons.

    Having prediction markets that guide a government staffed with people free to control the narrative sounds *exactly* like this solution.

    Basically the point comes down to, “like an AI, an organization will follow its incentives and treat controls as mere obstacles to throw its superior intelligence and power against; there’s no middle ground between Friendly and Cthulhu”. Giving someone a Big Inscrutable Machine That Computes Government Decisions is like selling your soul to Tzeentch and expecting them not to screw you over.

    As the saying goes, the only reason democracies work is *because* they’re inefficient and exerting power is hard. That they’re complicated messes that can’t do anything *is a feature*. Raikoth looks like a vastly more competent government with none of its incentives changed. I feel much safer around the polar bears, I think.

    tl;dr: instructions unclear; stuck mowing lawns for neighborhood association ruled by a cabal of immortal bear demigods

  13. Eliezer Yudkowsky says:

    …this sounds amazingly, scarily, exactly identical to the model I built in my head when I tried to figure out what a correctly designed police system should look like. It still seemed over-centralizedly-vulnerable to me, though, like I was ultimately relying on a particular class to be incorruptible and hadn’t properly set up incentives or checks that would actually work.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think the reliance on the priestly caste is absolutely necessary. For example, you could recruit a jury of your peers, give *them* the password, and have *them* return the bit of information (you’d be sacrificing certainty that no one would ever talk about what they saw, though you could have some safety checks like that the jury comes from a different state than the perpetrator, and maybe never even knows their real name).

      I guess the remaining danger would be that someone has to own the database and can insert false videos into it. I bet if someone hired Satoshi Nakamoto to figure out a way around that with cryptography and distributed architecture it wouldn’t be too hard, but I don’t know enough about computers to be able to say that with confidence.