LW4EA: Is Success the Enemy of Freedom? (Full)

post by Jeremy (captainjc) · 2022-06-21T15:07:12.464Z · EA · GW · 1 comments

This is a link post for https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/D4hHASaZuLCW92gMy/is-success-the-enemy-of-freedom-full

Written by LW user alkjash [LW · GW].

This is part of LessWrong for EA [? · GW], a LessWrong repost & low-commitment discussion group (inspired by this comment [EA · GW]). Each week I will revive a highly upvoted, EA-relevant post from the LessWrong Archives, more or less at random

Excerpt from the post:

I. Parables

A. Anna is a graduate student studying p-adic quasicoherent topology. It’s a niche subfield of mathematics where Anna feels comfortable working on neat little problems with the small handful of researchers interested in this topic. Last year, Anna stumbled upon a connection between her pet problem and algebraic matroid theory, solving a big open conjecture in the matroid Langlands program. Initially, she was over the moon about the awards and the Quanta articles, but now that things have returned to normal, her advisor is pressuring her to continue working with the matroid theorists with their massive NSF grants and real-world applications. Anna hasn’t had time to think about p-adic quasicoherent topology in months.

B. Ben is one of the top Tetris players in the world, infamous for his signature move: the reverse double T-spin. Ben spent years perfecting this move, which requires lightning fast reflexes and nerves of steel, and has won dozens of tournaments on its back. Recently, Ben felt like his other Tetris skills needed work and tried to play online without using his signature move, but was greeted by a long string of losses: the Tetris servers kept matching him with the other top players in the world, who absolutely stomped him. Discouraged, Ben gave up on the endeavor and went back to practicing the reverse double T-spin.

C. Clara was just promoted to be the youngest Engineering Director at a mid-sized software startup. She quickly climbed the ranks, thanks to her amazing knowledge of all things object-oriented and her excellent communication skills. These days, she finds her schedule packed with what the company needs: back-to-back high-level strategy meetings preparing for the optics of the next product launch, instead of what she loves: rewriting whole codebases in Haskell++.

D. Deborah started her writing career as a small-time crime novelist, who split her time between a colorful cast of sleuthy protagonists. One day, her spunky children’s character Detective Dolly blew up in popularity due to a Fruit Loops advertising campaign. At the beginning of every month, Deborah tells herself she’s going to finally kill off Dolly and get to work on that grand historical romance she’s been dreaming about. At the end of every month, Deborah’s husband comes home with the mortgage bills for their expensive bayside mansion, paid for with “Dolly money,” and Deborah starts yet another Elementary School Enigma.

E. While checking his email in the wee hours of the morning, Professor Evan Evanson notices an appealing seminar announcement: “A Gentle Introduction to P-adic Quasicoherent Topology (Part the First).” Ever since being exposed to the topic in his undergraduate matroid theory class, Evan has always wanted to learn more. He arrives bright and early on the day of the seminar and finds a prime seat, but as others file into the lecture hall, he’s greeted by a mortifying realization: it’s a graduate student learning seminar, and he’s the only faculty member present. Squeezing in his embarrassment, Evan sits through the talk and learns quite a bit of fascinating new mathematics. For some reason, even though he enjoyed the experience, Evan never comes back for Part the Second. (Full Post on LW [LW · GW])

Please feel free to,


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comment by Jeremy (captainjc) · 2022-06-21T15:09:30.608Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Of particular relevance I think to people coming to EA mid-career. 

And brilliantly, succinctly summarized by Villiam [LW · GW] in the top comment [LW · GW].

Slack enables exploration.

Exploration enables exploitation.

Exploitation destroys slack.