Wait Culture vs. Interrupt Culture

  • Many people think it’s normal to interrupt
  • However, interruption is a social norm
  • Consciously avoiding interruptions can be a much better mode of communication
  • Pauses are an opportunity to reflect on what has been said
  • Trust the conversation itself over individual participants
  • Wait culture is more “civil” and allows people more time to think before they respond
  • Interrupt culture is more robust in “real world” circumstances, where we’re forced to compete for priority

Interpretive Labor

  • Interpretive labor is the work that you do to understand and contextualize the actions of others in terms of their norms and values
  • It is also the work that you do to make your actions understandable to the norms and values of others
  • Interpretive labor flows up the status gradient – it is less privileged people who are supposed to be doing the interpretive labor to “fit in” with the social norms of the more privileged
  • A large part of the anger around trigger warnings and cultural sensitivity comes from the fact that they’re asking people with greater privilege to perform interpretive labor
  • We need to take into account interpretive labor when we perform charity
  • If we’re not careful, the additional interpretive labor that we require of the recipients of our charity can diminish or even overwhelm the benefits provided by the charity itself


  • Ra is a name given to a personification of the tendency to stockpile more resources than you can possibly consume
  • Ra is about generic superlativity - having “the biggest, the bestest and the most”
  • Ra is about prestige
    • Being an “insider”, even when that status can’t be cashed out for money or favors is Ra
    • Ra is seeing institutions as “more real” than the people who comprise the institutions
  • Ra defends itself with vagueness, confusion, incoherence and then anger
    • Excessive use of jargon without fully understanding what the jargon means is Ra
    • When challenged, a Ra point of view collapses into angry nihilism
  • A Ra perspective leads to people getting offended when people do things for reasons other than money and power
  • Ra is when you think that others are “insiders” in a way that is impossible for you to figure out
  • Ra hates communication and introspection
    • Ra is the feeling that people who are mysterious and unknowable are somehow better than people who are easy to model
    • Ra promotes the idea that optimal politeness involves hiding as many preferences as possible
    • Ra hates specificity and concreteness, on the reasoning that being specific about things robs them of their sacredness

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics

  • Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics
    • The actual spin of a particle is in a superimposed state until it is observed
    • Observing reality fundamentally changes it
  • Copenhagen interpretation of ethics
    • If you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it
    • At the very least, you can be blamed for not doing more
  • Separating “noticing the problem” from “doing something about the problem” makes it much easier to work on big problems without getting overwhelmed

Theory of Change

  • Work backwards from the goal in specific, concrete steps
  • Figure out exactly what people’s incentives are, and how to change those incentives
  • Related topic: Murphy-jitsu