Information Hazards in Career and Life

Information hazards are not necessarily about red vs blue, as taking the red pill might give you superpowers. But sometimes it is more like a black pill that might give you a slightly more accurate understanding of how the world works but saps your motivation to effectively navigate it.

Alternative Title: The Case Against Social Science

Social scientists and black-pills are a clear case of massive negative externalities. Social scientists face much lower costs for pointing out flaws that might best have been undiscussed, compared to designing solutions to those flaws. This puts a huge cost on society even if only a minority of people read the scientist’s work, since the amount of negativity compared to solutions is so high and that minority readership is acting on disheartening information.

The best example of this I can think of is Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s Everybody Lies. That’s a rough title for a book that ends with Google searches curing cancer! Instead of focusing on how we can predict diseases the book mostly points out that your neighbors are secretly racist/watching porn. This is why there’s a large fanbase for guys like Elon Musk as well - new cars, rockets, etc. might not be as revolutionary as the internet, but you can’t press a button on your car that convinces you dating can only be modeled by an assortative mating game.

Should researchers be more optimistic in general? Given the rates of depression among grad students, should researchers undergo a psychological test if they might publish black-pill information hazards? Should Book of Genesis be required reading for social scientists? Maybe a seminar on Dark Knight?

Kudos to the author btw for keeping a positive attitude, claiming we underestimate technological progress :slight_smile: