# Nathan_Barnard comments on Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors

• It seems like a strange claim that both the atrocities committed by Hitler, Stalin and Mao were substantially more likely because they had dark triad traits and that when doing genetic selection we’re interested in removing the upper tail, in the article it was the top 1%. To take this somewhat naively, if we think that the Holocaust, and Mao and Stalin’s terror-famines wouldn’t have happened unless all three leaders exhibited dark tetrad traits in the top 1%, this implies we’re living in a world world that comes about with probability 1/​10^6, i.e 1 in a million, assuming the atrocities were independent events. This implies a need to come up with a better model.

Edit 2: this is also wrong. Assuming independence the number of atrocious should be binomially distributed with p=1/​100 and n=#of leaders in authoritarian regimes with sufficiently high state capacity or something. Should probably be a markov-chain model.

If we adjust the parameters to top 10% and say that the atrocities were 10% more likely to happen if this condition is met, this implies we’re living in a world that’s come about with probability (p/​P(Dark triad|Atrocity)^3, where p is the probability of that the atrocity would have occurred without Hitler, Stalin and Mao having dark triad traits. The interpretation of P(Dark triad|Atrocity) is what’s the probability that a leader has a dark triad traits given they’ve committed an atrocity. If you have p as 0.25 and P(Dark|Atrocity) as 0.75 this means we’re living in a 19 world, which is much more reasonable. But, this makes this intervention look much less good.

Edit: the maths in this section is wrong because I did a 10% probability increase of p as 1.1*p rather than p having an elasticity of 0.1 with respect to the resources put into the intervention or something. I will edit this later.

Excluding 10% of population from politcal power seems like a big ask. If the intervention reduced the probability that someone with dark triad traits coming to power (in a system where they could commit an atrocity) by 10%, which seems ambitious to me, this reduces the probability of an atrocity by 1% (if the above model is correct). Given this requires excluding 10% of the population from politcal power, which I’d say is generously 10%, this means that EV of the intervention is reducing the probability of an atrocity by 0.1%. Although this would increase if the intervention could be used multiple times, which seems likely.

• I think an implicit assumption of the article is that people with dark triad traits are more likely to gain power. If unstable politics can create a 99:1 selection effect toward the Hitlers and Maos in the top %ile of dark triad, then they come to power in half of the nations with unstable politics. I can imagine this being true if people with dark triad traits are way more power-seeking and this is what matters in unstable political climates.

• So the model is more like, during the Russian revolution for instance it’s a 5050 chance that whichever leader came out of that is very strongly selected to have dark traid traits, but this is not the case for the contemporary CCP.

Yeah seems plausible. 99:1 seems very very strong. If it were 9:1 means we’re in a 1/​1000 world, 1:2 means an approx 1/​10^5. Yeah, I don’t have a good enough knowledge of rulers before they gained close to absolute power to be able to evaluate that claim. Off the top of my head, Lenin, Prince Lvov (the latter led the provisional govt’ after Feb revolution) were not dark triady.

The definition of unstable also looks important here. If we count Stalin and Hitler, both of whom came to power during peacetime, then it seems like also should count Soviet leaders who succeeded Stalin, CCP leaders who succeeded Mao, Bashar al-Assad, Pinochet, Mussolini. Sanity check from that group makes it seem more much like a 1:5 than 1:99. Deng definitely not Dark Triad, nor Bashar, don’t know enough about the others but they don’t seem like it?

If we’re only counting Mao, then the selection effect looks a lot stronger off the top of my head, but should also probably be adjusted because the mean of sadism seems likely much higher after a period of sustained fighting given the effect of prison guards for instance becoming more sadistic over time, and gennerally violence being normalised.

Don’t know enough about psychopathy or machivallianism.

It’s also not completely clear to me that Stalin and Mao were in the top 10% for sadism at least. Both came from very poor peasant societies. I know at least Russian peasant life in 1910 was unbelievably violent and they reguarly did things which we sort of can’t imagine. My general knowledge of European peasant societies—e.g crowds at public executions—makes me think that it’s likely that the average Chinese peasant in 1910 would have scored very highly on sadism. If you look at the response of the Chinese police/​army to the 1927 Communist insurgency it was unbelievably cruel.

Makes screening for malicious actors seem worse and genetic selection seem better.

Apologies that this is so scattered.