Compromise or Coin Flip?

“And so the general mathematical way of thinking about this,” explained Vitalik Buterin, “is if you have A and B, and you had to choose between a compromise between A and B or a coin flip between A and B, would you take the compromise or the coin flip?”

Convex situations are x^2 conditions. These are coin flips. War, says Buterin, is a convex condition. It’s better to fight at A or B rather than A and B (Jack Reacher style). Travel during Covid is another. Host Julia Galef adds another, “as someone who took only two thirds of her course of antibiotics for strep throat at one point in college, I can attest to the all or nothing approach.”

Concave decisions are compromise. Omnivores are concave. Iatrogenics is concave.

Concavity filters advice. Any really great idea is too expensive to pay for.

There are always trade-offs. A or B vs A and B won’t always work, but it’s another idea to add to the mental toolbox.

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