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Suggestion, could you link to the podcast website directly in these posts? I wasn’t previously familiar with Conversations with Tyler so “CWT” didn’t give me any hint about what this post was about, and google search shows quite a lot of different podcasts for CWT.

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Oh, yeah, I just forgot this time. Usually I do.

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i definitely spent about 10 seconds thinking "huh? there was a culture war thread, like the old ones from SSC, and tyler cowen participated? i wouldn't expect zvi to deem that worthy of coverage"

then i realized CWT definitely didn't mean culture war thread, but the context was just similar enough that i couldn't quite get it

didn't figure it out til i saw this comment

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"I know plenty of very high intelligence (INT) people but find it hard to name very high wisdom (WIS) people I have met. Who is the wise man among us? Perhaps my standards are wrong."

It's extremely hard to spot wisdom in people, especially as high WIS people are probably implementing the wisdom (and therefore off engaging with family/friends/community, not getting out over their skis, living within their means and seeking joy/contentment vs temporary happiness). I think you can probably sit down and think about people you know who seem to be above average in WIS, but that it's a LOT easier to spot high INT people.

Think about it: The primary pieces of wisdom (at least the ones that resonate with me) are almost all things that would make the person a "grey man" unless you knew them very well. You'd have to look for subtle evidence of a life well lived, perhaps (ugh for the idea of this) well lived against some expected avg for starting conditions, contentment against replacement? To ID this in someone youngish is pretty hard and in someone old is easier (but of course probably looks even more boring in an old person).

"Tyler makes a pretty bold claim here: “At Emergent Ventures, we support many teenagers, young women. Many of them not 13 years old, but very often 16 to 19 years old. They’re doing science. They’re remarkably smart. They get in touch with their collaborations and with each other using social media. They exchange information. They’re doing phenomenally well. They’re an incredible generation, smarter, more dynamic, probably more productive than any other scientific generation ever, and that’s because of social media." This is great and sounds cool, but as a justification it falls flat to me. Of course there are massive upsides to the tech, but the question is cost benefit (not benefit analysis). Given the levels of tech available now you could delete normie accessible social media and tons of those kids would connect through the web anyway, it'd just be buried in some modern version of IRC/IM/who-knows-what. That the most motivated and intelligent kids sometimes benefit is not enough reason to keep this junk around, but remember that forums and boards still exist.

I think we can thread this needle and get rid of/block kids from the worst of the social media and trust that most of the benefits for the above cohort will find another way to thrive. Promote ways to for the kids to mix in-person and they'll figure out how to connect and build their own anti-social networks online later.

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re: INT vs WIS, I think you have a really good point: people high in INT often are very public to exploit their comparative advantage, but high WIS means you gain enough wisdom to mostly not want to do that - the archetype being the hermit guru high in a mountain cave. Even worse, wisdom means *not* constantly confidently asserting infallible opinions on everything to everyone, it would mean being humbler and wrong (in the sphere of public discourse) a LOT, perhaps even appearing to be more often wrong than the average idiot, resulting in the high INT people thinking you're pretty stupid.

Given the starting point of "I am person sitting at a keyboard on the internet in the year 2024," - how DO you find high wisdom people?

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I'd have to reflect on that, but my gut says look for people who pop up infrequently or have a few posts, guests posts or maybe "here's what my weirdo friend said" on a blog. But mostly, sort lots and lots of chaff in odd corners.

Second gut thought is ignore anything recent. Not that recent stuff can't be good, just that 6 months (or 6 years), can really help put some perspective on stuff.

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I read the Anxious Generation. You're not missing much if you've been reading After Babel substack and generally following the conversation over the past year concerning the social media hypothesis. The book is light on the in-depth statistical analysis. It's clearly written with an eye towards advocacy than as a work of technical social science.

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Aaron Brown’s commentary on Haidt’s book is worth listening to: https://youtu.be/XoiZ1nqryfk?si=oemuh81mPFZDw_YN

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I didn't know Snapchat had a full friends ranking, that's so absurd. Here are some more examples of "managing network costs" from my experience using the app. I remember my girlfriend being upset that she wasn't my best friend on Snapchat. We spent most of our time together so I never really sent her anything, but once she told me she was upset about it any time I sent a snap to a friend I had to either make sure I also sent it to her or I had to send her another random snap to compensate. The same was true with maintaining your snap streaks, every day I had to find some bs reason to send people an image otherwise our snap streak would come to an end. In hindsight these are features obviously implemented in a way to ramp up engagement, but at the time they mattered!

To me it seems Cowen/Haidt don't really disagree about the downsides of social media, Cowen just thinks the benefits are larger and that we'll adapt to deal with the problems. Let's put the benefits aside and focus on the adaption. I think Haidt is wrong here to focus on social media as a source of information. It leads to this argument on AI as a potential solution that totally misses the point on why kids use social media to begin with (as you note). As my examples above highlight, the allure and downside of social media revolves entirely around status, and the games we play to acquire it

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The AI confusion was amusing. The idea that most people are spending most of their screen time accomplishing concrete tasks that the AI will help them finish quicker, thus solving the problem... only someone like Tyler could come up with that.

Just wait, once the AI can play our video games for us, think of how much time that'll free up for all our young men! The male labor force participation rate will finally start going up again!

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At the risk of sounding uncharitable... all the people taking issue with Haidt's hypothesis sound like addicts who are mad that their addiction has been called out.

Smartphones are a problem. It's obvious that they're a problem. No one under a certain age should own one. Personally, I'd put the cut-off age at 18, but I'd be willing to make an exception for teenagers with jobs.

If this were ever written into law, the market would produce massive numbers of regular old cellphones again (ideally without screens), so every kid could have one. This would solve the communication problem that parents worry about.

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Imo what you’re missing is the “careful that the cure is not worse than the disease” issue.

For the record, I strongly agree with Haight on raising the legal age for a child to sign up for a social media account. And I don’t think that one point Tyler was disagreeing with either. Nor was he disagreeing much with Haight’s *recommendations* to parents on how to manage their children’s use of social media.

But for all the other recommendations Haight made that would impose costs on adult consumers via government imposition by violence preventing certain actions and exchanges in the name of preventing harm to children, I’m not sure exactly where I come down on each issue, but at barest minimum I’m highly sympathetic to Tyler’s points.

And benefits versus costs do matter, as do “unintended consequences” and the realities of how people will get around laws they don’t agree with. Which is why, e.g. we not only allow the sale of matches we allow people to bring them with them into heavily forested areas. And why Prohibition was a bad idea.

So making smartphones illegal for those under 18 is NOT a solution here, even if you are 100% certain that every one of Haight’s conclusions is correct.

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> We used to let kids babysit other kids.

And it led to predictable risks that predictably sometimes fired, more often than for paid adults. This is something of the old village, "let the seven-year-old babysit the three-year-old". Non-adult nannies was never a good practice, even if in some times and places it was widespread.

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This would benefit from at least sketching a cost-benefit analysis.

Presumably you don't advocate banning the transportation of children in cars, even though that has predictable risks that predictably sometimes fire.

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True. But the transportation benefit seems... rather more obvious.

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The benefit of having minors work as babysitters is that it lowers costs.

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Why, presuming it's not older siblings? (I mean, I fully believe that it used to be that way, what I don't believe is that it is an _inherent_ part of dynamic rather than a historical accident.)

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That's just how families and communities work??

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Huh? I repeat the "why". There's nothing inherent in paying minors less.

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Given that he advocates banning folks camping in the forest from having matches, yours is not a safe assumption…

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Let's not strawman with the story of the 7 year old nanny. How about a 13 year old hanging out with a 3 year old for four hours? Compared to an adult babysitter, it's lower cost (to answer your other point, because the market clearing wage for a 13 year old is much lower) and higher availability, which means it happens more. Parents end up with more chances to take a break and socialize with each other and friends, and the kid ends up with some more autonomy and a chance to form a different social connection.

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Strawmanning implies non-existence of the strawman, while this is something that quite certainly happened in history.

Come on. Are you implying that (normal, adult) babysitter market inherently suffers in _supply_? That there are few nannies available? I can certainly imagine that there are/were places where it's true, but I'm not in one and never was in one. So the consideration becomes cost, and… I'm afraid there's a strong effect of "you get what you pay for".

A social connection between a 3yo and a 13yo? I am… not even sure how to comment that part.

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“I'm afraid there's a strong effect of ‘you get what you pay for’”

Sorry, you can assert this, but it doesn’t make it true.

It surely was decidedly NOT a strong effect back in the 70s and 80s when 13-16 year olds like myself babysat for 3-9 yr olds.

True, there is a *weak*, non-zero effect of higher quality when limiting to relatively highly paid adults. In a society of 200 million+, you will indeed see a tiny number of very bad outcomes. As splendric notes above, by that logic, we should ban all camping in nature, or at least ban people bringing matches or gas stoves into nature, since occasionally bad forest fires are caused.

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Duh. We should.

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In the real world, high wisdom looks like: living a good life, probably living a long life, avoiding disasters of all sorts, making ethical choices. People rarely discuss these things. Wisdom is choosing the right principles and applying them carefully and consistently. A wise person doesn't make bad mistakes.

A wise person is well-calibrated, and probably can make money in markets betting against the overconfident. Excellent poker players are wise (both in terms of knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, but also wise to all their opponents' tricks) - so I guess that's probably a source of somewhat famous high-wisdom folks. Probably other strategy gamers can also be classed as wise, especially within their domain, but poker seems unusually high wisdom-indexed.

Wise people often have great breadth, since the world is interconnected, and it isn't wise to put all your eggs into one basket of knowledge. I would expect that a wise person would be able to regularly apply knowledge in one domain, such as "people skills," to succeed in other domains. Wisdom comes in part from experience, so you might expect to find more wisdom in older people.

We have a trope of the "naive utilitarian": utilitarianism seems like it implies some unwise bad decisions, like harvesting the organs of the living. A wise person knows not to do this, and it's not because they have a more complicated ethical theory -- it's because they are using their common sense.

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I don't think that's true in poker. It definitely isn't true in sports betting, many of the top performers are total degenerates. And if you watch poker players on TV and hear the stories of the top pros, or based on the poker players I know... I would not call them wise, in general? Savvy in some ways, yes, but very much not in others.

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Can confirm poker players are generally unwise, have twisted ethics, take too much risk and generally lack common sense.

Many exceptions obviously but the whole ecosystem is depressing.

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Poker and other games of chance are fixed rules closed systems where probabilities can be calculated. It is by definition a place that is about intelligence and very specific knowledge/experience (of reading people playing poker), not generalized wisdom.

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Wise people that are good at poker probably do not play poker except recreationally.

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Just listened to this on a long drive with my wife - and I’m posting this comment before reading this post, which I’m looking forward to - and neither of us could believe how much Tyler seemed to be missing the point, or just combatively rejecting any sort of acknowledgement of any point whatsoever

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Tyler says, “If this is making the kids unhappy, why don’t they just stop and do something else?”

Haidt responds by talking about collective action problems, which, sure, that’s probably part of it, but Tyler also seems to be missing the point in a big way.

It’s like if we were talking about the obesity epidemic and Tyler said, “If being fat makes people unhappy, why don’t they just eat less?”

Libertarians have weird blind spots sometimes.

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Agreed!

Tyler made a big thing about “we’ll adapt” but I thought what Haidt was saying was literally “This is HOW we have to adapt, by keeping the great parts of the internet and delaying the dangerous parts”

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It sounds like a Moloch Trap. Parents give their kids phones because all the other kids have phones and they don't want their kids to be the weird ones. Many parents are unhappy about this, but they feel powerless to stop it. They'd probably be thankful if society took the choice out of their hands. I think it's heading that way, personally, and probably for the best.

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I think collective action is why parents don't just take the smartphone away. But I think a big part of why kids use phones too much to their own detriment is just that the phones are addictive and entertaining, in the same way that people eat too much because food is tasty and convenient.

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Good timing with DHH posting review of Shrier's Bad Therapy book earlier this week.

https://twitter.com/dhh/status/1775505670915158324

https://world.hey.com/dhh/bad-therapy-08849dc9

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> Screen time seems super inefficient. You spend all this time — why not just deal with the digest?

I worry about this, and what will happen to our information processing capabilities once we begin relying on AI digests. To use a crude analogy, social media is like a junk food version of social interaction; this seems like it would at best be a soylent version of information, and at worst a high fructose corn syrup version. Maybe I'm just grumpy: kids these days don't wrangle manual memory allocation the way I used to, but I don't debug programs by staring at raw hex core dumps until they make sense, the way my aunt did. But I think it's more fundamental: video games provide an immediate reward loop that real life rarely does, and I worry that something similar will happen with information processing. This is the core of how we interact with the world. I don't know what I've lost by not being able to identify all the trees and plants around me, but it has to be infinitely less than I'd lose if I weren't able to identify love or bullshit or insight without an AI-assisted tool. Take PornHub: what happens when AI-assisted porn generators identify the precise set of images that turn us on, as individuals, the most? What happens the next time I see an appropriate person in an appropriate situation?

Taking it down to a more specific level: There was a long podcast with two smart people. You summarized a lot of it. How much better a job could an AI do than you? Your writing style here is already quite condensed and requires context to decipher (this is NOT a complaint, much closer to praise); how much denser could it be? It's a function of audience of course, so the smaller the audience the more compact the representation could be. How personalized can these things get, and when a generation is raised on them, will they share an underlying information architecture that makes it easier to expand summaries? The two of us (and hopefully most of your audience) have a pseudo-shared experience that lets us decode the combination of "want" and "to be one way" into, among many other things, the complicated feeling of staring into the void and realizing that reality doesn't care about the nice stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel safe and happy. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

If/when I ever listen to this podcast, I'd bet I'd find at least one thing that I find fascinating but that you didn't mention. Is it worth my time to listen to the podcast to get that extra piece of information, given that I trust you did an excellent job of summarizing it? Do I learn something about the people involved that I wouldn't get from your summary? I'm vaguely familiar with them, and I've gotten familiar with your style, and all that goes into my reconstruction. Would my life be better or worse if I weren't familiar with aspects of the three of you, and didn't have to be? Impossible to answer, of course; as you point out, it depends on what fills up the free space. But also, what happens to **me** when I stop getting that extra bit of information that I find fascinating and that you don't? If I never get the earlier pieces that made me into the person that finds that piece fascinating?

https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/compress

"Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."

> This story doesn’t mean anything, so please don’t try to decode it.

The story may not mean anything, but the information content was shifted into the disclaimer, which means all that and more.

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In the past, when one burden of thought (such as memorization) was eliminated through technology, this freed up brain power to work on other things. Is there reason to believe that this would not also be the case if AI took over some types of information processing?

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Oooh, memorization and writing is a very good parallel, thank you. I recall grumpy people complaining that a lack of memorization was harmful to minds. :-)

But I think Zvi made this point in his summary. If we pursue our desires or competitive advantages, and if technology makes a type of activity easier, then people whose desire or competitive advantage lies in that activity will simply do more of it, perhaps filling up the time, perhaps discovering new ways to do even more. A scientist may be able to do research for a project more quickly, but I think it likely that they'll use their free time to simply do more research, because that's what they want to do, because that's what they're good at, because specialization is helpful and all our labor-saving devices haven't given (most of) us a 4-hour work week.

To your example, when we invented writing, and it became somewhat widespread, I expect that people spent more time reading and writing, than people had previously spent on memorizing and reciting. (That's just a guess, though.) Similarly, when smartphones and widespread Internet access spread across the world, people spent more time on the Internet.

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Sure, that's economics. If a good (or activity) is reduced in price (time) per unit, then if it is a complement to other goods (activities), you will increase the units of it that you consume, but you will spend less total (time) doing so. If it is a substitute for other goods (activities), you will increase the units that you consume even more, and increase the total amount (of time) you spend on it.

(Only if it is a rare "Giffen" good would you decrease the actual quantity of research you do when research gets more efficient. That's not really plausible in this case.)

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The response to Candice Odgers was perfect. The way people say "no evidence" when they really mean "no proof" has been bugging me for a long time now. Someone who doesn't know the difference -- or disingenuously conflates the two -- should not be taken seriously.

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Your point 43 is cut off and ends with "aside from not being confident that the"

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Audio is easier on eyesight, and allows healthy multitasking like walking or riding a bike that are incompatible with visual input. That is still not enough to conclude that Tyler is right to want to switch modes, just enough to show there might be something there.

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"Tyler asks why around 1900 European culture became more neurotic, depressive, negative and hostile, and then 1700s weirdness [...] Why not simply say that big mood shifts we can't explain are the norm? [...] I want to say clearly: If there was an 'exogenous mood shift' in the 2010s, then all plausible candidates for it, including the rise of both wokeness and Trump and the loss of credibility of elites, are causally heavily intertwined with phones and social media."

While the post is mainly about children, this bit seems to be about neurotic, hostile culture in general, and for *that* there is a candidate that has nothing to do with phones and social media. I have written about it and even put it against Haidt in particular: https://birdperspectives.substack.com/p/progressive-train.

The idea (simplified) is that progressives slowly defeated discrimination and privilege over centuries, and at some point all their *reasonable* demands were fulfilled, gay rights being the last one. That meant a phase change, about a decade ago. The following paragraph in the linked post describes consequences (afterwards I discuss complications):

"Namely, on the progressive side, clearly there is much more need for enforcement of in-group beliefs and positions once those are unreasonable rather than reasonable. And as for the conservative side, they are now under 'genuine' threat, rather than just confronted with challenges to their privileges. Such a threat may also cause ranks to close and nuance to die."

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The closing of in-group ranks and the death of nuance have *nothing* to do with social media?

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Sorry that was indeed unclear. One problem is that I cut too much out when I quoted in the first paragraph. The context (that I cut out) makes it clearer that this is about the causes/reasons/explanations of mood shifts. The rise of wokeness and of Trump are not candidate mood shifts but candidate causes of the mood shift that occurred. I provided a different candidate cause (and should have written „candidate cause“) which, unlike those, has nothing to do with social media.

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