Credit to Gwen Danielson for either coming up with this concept or bringing it to my attention.
If the truth about the difference between the social contract morality of neutral people and the actually wanting things to be better for people of good were known, this would be good for good optimization, and would mess with a certain neutral/evil strategy.
To the extent good is believed to actually exist, being believed to be good is a source of free energy. This strongly incentivizes pretending to be good. Once an ecosystem of purchasing the belief that you are good is created, there is strong political will to prevent more real knowledge of what good is from being created. Pressure on good not to be too good.
Early on in my vegetarianism (before I was a vegan), I think it was Summer 2010, my uncle who had been a commercial fisherman and heard about this convinced me that eating wild-caught fish was okay. I don’t remember which of the thoughts that convinced me he said, and which I generated in response to what he said. But, I think he brought up something like whether the fish were killed by the fishermen or by other fish didn’t really affect the length of their lives or the pain of their deaths (this part seems much more dubious now), or the number of them that lived and died. I thought through whether this was true, and the ideas of Malthusian limits and predator-prey cycles popped into my head. I guessed that the overwhelming issue of concern in fish lives was whether they were good or bad while they lasted, not the briefer disvalue of their death. I did not know whether they were positive or negative. I thought it was about equally likely if I ate the bowl fish flesh he offered me I was decreasing or increasing the total amount of fish across time. Which part of the predator-prey cycle would I be accelerating or decelerating? The question had somehow become in my mind, was I a consequentialist or a deontologist, or did I actually care about animals or was I just squeamish, or was I arguing in good faith when I brought up consequentialist considerations and people like my uncle should listen to me or not? I ate the fish. I later regretted it, and went on to become actually strict about veganism. It did not remotely push me over some edge and down a slipper slope because I just hadn’t made the same choice long ago that my uncle did.
In memetic war between competing values, an optimizer can be disabled by convincing them that all configurations satisfy their values equally. That it’s all just grey. My uncle had routed me into a dead zone in my cognition, population ethics, and then taken a thing I thought I controlled that I cared about that he controlled and made it the seeming overwhelming consideration. I did not have good models of political implications of doing things. Of coordination, Schelling points, of the strategic effects of good actually being visible. So I let him turn me to an example validating his behavior.
Also, in my wish to convince everyone I could to give up meat, I participated in the pretense that they actually cared. Of course my uncle didn’t give a shit about fish lives, terminally. It seemed to me, either consciously or unconsciously, I don’t remember, I could win the argument based on the premises that sentient life mattered to carnists. In reality, if I won, it would be because I had moved a Schelling point for pretending to care and forced a more costly bargain to be struck for the pretense that neutral people were not evil. It was like a gamble that I could win a drinking contest. And whoever disconnected verbal argument and beliefs from their actions more had a higher alcohol tolerance. There was a certain “hamster wheel” nature to arguing correctly with someone who didn’t really give a shit. False faces are there to be interacted with. They want you to play a game and sink energy into them. Like HR at Google is there to facilitate gaslighting low level employees who complain and convincing them that they don’t have a legal case against the company. (In case making us all sign binding arbitration agreements isn’t enough.)
Effective Altruism entered into a similar drinking contest with neutral people with all its political rhetoric about altruism being selfishly optimal because of warm fuzzy feelings, with its attempt to trick naive young college students into optimizing against their future realizations (“values drift”), and signing their future income away (originally to a signalling-to-normies optimized caused area, to boot).
And this drinking contest has consequences. And those consequences are felt when the discourse in EA degrades in quality, becomes less a discussion between good optimization, and energies looking for disagreement resolution on the assumption of discussion between good optimization are dissipated into the drinking contest. I noticed this when I was arguing cause areas with someone who had picked global poverty, and was dismissing x-risk as “pascal’s mugging“, and argued in obvious bad faith when I tried to examine the reasons.
There is a strong incentive to be able to pretend to be optimizing for good while still having legitimacy in the eyes of normal people. X-risk is weird, bednets in Africa are not.
And due to the “hits-based” nature of consequentialism, this epistemic hit from that drinking contest will never be made up for by the massive numbers of people who signed that pledge.
I think early EA involved a fair bit of actual good optimization finding actual good optimization. The brighter that light shone, the greater the incentive to climb on it and bury it. Here‘s a former MIRI employee apparently become convinced the brand is all it ever was. (Edit: see her comment below.)