Another brilliant reply to "Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People" - this time from a civil servant, who has granted me permission to share this, but asked not to receive credit for obvious reasons :)
Just read your post on Defecting by Accident. I think there's some valuable insight there which fits with my own experience (I'm a junior civil servant in ---).
One tactic I've acquired/developed for the 'someone proposes something unworkable' situation is to: a) agree pleasantly and b) propose something different. People who have practised assuming an air of authority can come across as being more certain/committed to plans than they actually are. I've been pleasantly surprised how happy people are to move on to better ideas; when doing so doesn't involve loss of face. Doesn't work all the time, but it helps. Forgoing the temptation to nitpick requires a bit of willpower but it gets easier, like a diet.
There's a potential Nash equilibrium where you have a better idea, but think 'They seem to believe this strongly, so I'll just accept it and avoid conflict.'
All the best, ---
"One tactic I've acquired/developed for the 'someone proposes something unworkable' situation is to: a) agree pleasantly and b) propose something different. People who have practised assuming an air of authority can come across as being more certain/committed to plans than they actually are. I've been pleasantly surprised how happy people are to move on to better ideas; when doing so doesn't involve loss of face."
Brilliant stuff. Thanks, mysterious reader.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.
Do you like racing big wheels down the hills in the rain? I do.
When I was in middle school, I was a picky eater. I didn't eat meat and I didn't eat any vegetables besides corn, potatoes, and artichokes. If it weren't for my parents cleverly blending all sorts of vegetables into pasta sauce, I'd probably be about four feet tall and be even skinnier than I am now. I told people that I didn't like meat or vegetables, but in reality I just didn't know; I stubbornly refused to try them.
This sounds ridiculous, but we do it all the time. We write off certain activities that we've never experienced, usually because of a lack of information. Recently I've been challenging my prejudices by doing things that don't particularly appeal to me. It comes back to the risk/reward idea: if I don't like the activity I've wasted an hour of my time (because I'll leave if it seems hopeless in the first hour), but if I do like it I might find an awesome new hobby or interest.