Sep 29, 2022 3:03 AM
how Merrin came to the attention of Exception Handling
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"Depends what your goals are.  It's not wrong to want to work in the same city where your mother lives, for the rest of your life, if no one's true life is at stake.  It's not wrong to decide that being an ordinary tier-3 medtech is the happiest job in the world for you, and that matters more to you than anything else, if no one's true life is at stake.  And in fact it isn't, so far as I know, not in a predictable way."

"Some people will offer you more money to work somewhere that isn't here, doing something that isn't this.  There are two offers along those lines, that I am authorized to pass on to you, if you wish, or Personnel can do it.  But making you offers is the sum of what most everyone thinks anyone is allowed to say or do, to influence you.  You might save more lives, elsewhere, but you will not save more true lives in but the unlikeliest of cases.  Given that, the ordinary stance of ordinary morals is that people are allowed to offer you more money to do things that they prefer, and aside from that ought to shut up; and once you've been offered incentive, your life is your own, to do with as you wish, in the face of those choices.  We can increase how much an option pays out to somebody, if we want them to choose our way; we don't make choices for them."

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Somehow Merrin feels like that was missing the point of the question she was asking.

She's - not sure how, though, and also she maybe doesn't want to know. 

(Also WHAT two offers she's suddenly so curious...) 

 

She takes a deep breath. "- Actually I think my main question is whether the things that the Chief of Exception Handling said about me are, um, usefully true, as - information I should have, as opposed to - mainly things he said to make a point for other people who aren't me." 

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"There was indeed a formal market-anchored-nonmarket-counterfactual estimate that if 'adding in Merrin' came last in the permutation and after everyone else had already decided their contributions, the patient's survival logodds thereby went up by .4 bits.  In the end that was zero to zero, but in terms of probabilities before the fact it was 15% to 20%."

"A lot of the apparent-logodds-of-success that it was possible to seize at all lay at stake in those first 30 minutes of stabilization, before it was possible to get anyone else on scene who could have run all the emergency equipment simultaneously.  Having five differently-certed oppers trying to coordinate those machines would have in the market-grounded-counterfactual-model been a substantial expected loss.  That was most of your irreplaceability, but one person learning the patient's particular realtime-procedural-skill details for twelve hours straight wasn't negligible either."

"If the larger system of the world had worked out earlier that you could do that, you could have been at Default earlier and done that for other patients.  They'd have been less well-paying cases than today's, but your earnings prior to today would have been substantially greater, if that career offer had been made you and you had accepted it."

"The ominous supervillain lecture surrounding these relatively straightforward counterfacts is, shall we say, a choice of particular slant and emphasis to put on those counterfacts.  Not everyone would find Catchall's slant useful.  I didn't."

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Merrin still feels like maybe the main point here is that she could have been better at things by now if she had somehow ended up working in Default Hospital, which apparently has emergencies this interesting every week, a few years ago. But this seems like a hypothetical that's probably mostly only interesting to her. 

"...Right. I, um, what are the two offers you're authorized to tell me about?" 

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"You have the option of heading off to a slightly more private location before hearing them.  I don't mind either way, just mentioning the option."

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Oh no has she been bothering people by having this conversation in the command center? Merrin glances around quickly to get a sense of whether anyone else is still in earshot and looks like they might be bothered. 

"...Um, I - guess I would prefer to sit down somewhere if it's going to take a while to explain? And if you think it should be private I don't mind walking further." 

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"Do you want Personnel there too?  The markets think she's your friend."  (Said more quietly.)

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Merrin is so out of energy for making decisions on things like that, but– oh, huh. 

"...Yeah, I think that would be nice, if she doesn't mind? She looked tired before though, I don't want to, um..." 

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"High probability that she's still around specifically in case you turned out to want her there.  You worked intensely for a long time with high stakes, it's not surprising if someone who thinks she has advantage in Merrinology wants to be the one who hangs around and makes sure you're okay.  There obviously had to be someone."

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...Nod. 

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The Keeper collects Personnel and heads off to a nearby breakout room with seating for three.

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"How are you doing?" Personnel asks Merrin once they're out of earshot of anybody except the Keeper.  "I keep thinking thoughts along the lines that someone ought to wrap you in a blanket and feed you chocolate, but I don't actually know how one cares and feeds for a Merrin in this particular circumstance."

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Merrin is really not sure how to respond to that. 

"- I had a hug from my mom! ....Um, I - said I was going back to check on everyone else and that 90%-likelihood it'd be less than twenty minutes but I don't actually know how long this is going to take. She was just asking for likelihood it'd be over an hour so probably she won't worry unless it's more than that."

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She takes a deep breath.

"I...think I mostly want to close all the mental loops I still have open, which are - at this point not about the patient," because they know the outcome and great now she's having to try not to cry again, "and just the stupid villain speech." aaaaaaaaaaaah she did not entirely mean to say that out loud. 

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"Yeah, that was... an experience.  I'm pretty sure we were not the intended audience and were just collateral to him talking to the other Very Serious People involved.  If he meant to give you advice I'm sure he'd text it to you privately in accordance with incredibly fundamental basic advice-giving etiquette."

Personnel has elected not to say anything about her attempts to text Catchall to tell him not to do that around someone with Merrin's neurotype, nor about how it turns out you can't just text Catchall directly because other people are silly about trying to text him, nor about how she worked out roughly one minute after it was too late that she should've just poked one of the Keepers or any number of other people physically present who'd have Catchall's direct contact route.  Personnel is reasonably sure that she's not saying this because it would make Merrin feel uncomfortable, rather than because it would make Personnel look stupid.

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"...I did mostly figure that out after the fact." No need to mention the entire freakout in the middle. "But, um, I - apparently some people do want to offer me jobs somewhere else and I thought I should at least hear what the offers are." 

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She's not really expecting to get to keep Merrin, but it still feels a little sad, and maybe something of a sting in thinking that Catchall's spin is that they never should've had her in the first place and profited from their own failure to notice that.

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The breakout room has whiteboards, a vidscreen that isn't on, three chairs around a table positioned so that everyone could see everyone, and its own fruit bowl around half of which has been eaten.  (No small purple dinosaur figurine.)

The Keeper, slightly leading the way even if it's not his hospital because people just seem to expect that of Keepers, sees them both seated in the breakout room and then sits down beside them.

"The modal-case higher-earning offer is from Default Hospital," the Keeper begins.  "You'd come in as a tier-4 medtech there, and expect to make most of your money on occasional emergency cases that can benefit from somebody doing five oppers' worth of work for six shifts.  Replaceability-wise, once you were trained, the opper in Default Hospital who was previously worst at that sort of work while able to do it at all would go to Oceania Central hospital, and cause Oceania to have three people like that on staff instead of two.  Quickie estimate is that your counterfactual impact would be around a third of the direct work you'd do, save maybe a few hundred QALYs annually on the margins as your final share of group-effort impact."

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Merrin is mostly bouncing off thinking about the numbers being quoted. The numbers part of her brain is especially worn out and also mostly full of patient-specific data and, uh, she is maybe mostly going to be going off social cues from Personnel on whether what she's being told makes sense? (And, of course, asking to give her final decision on this later once she's slept and can think again.) 

Except for making tier-4. That's good, right? It's good in a way she can personally make sense of, even! 

....She can sort of tell - or guess, at least - that Personnel is sad about this. Fair enough. She's sad too! She feels like she'll be letting Civilization down if she doesn't go elsewhere, and that's worse, but she'll still be letting down her hospital if she does leave, and that hurts. Probably a whole lot of that is wrongthought but Merrin is especially tired of stomping on wrongthoughts.

"...Mmm," she manages. "What's the other offer?" 

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"In all of dath ilan there aren't actually that many people who want to spend half their waking hours training every single emergency cert they're eligible for, to high fluency, at realistic stress levels.  Many of those don't want to go into medicine specifically."

"And not all of Exception Handling is movie-style needing to lightning-integrate twenty unprecedented weird observations into a shocking yet correct theory using sheer uncrystallized fluid intelligence and five different polymath backgrounds while alone in interstellar space.  Sometimes, even in the weird hypotheticals that Exception Handling tries to position itself to handle, it's more about having somebody who's trained in exactly the right five weird protocols because she's trained in everything; better yet, even, if she can do that for twelve hours straight given adequate prediction-market guidance.  Though you did not, actually, fall down or fail to notice when the markets steered you wrong, even while incredibly distracted."

"For you, as for everyone, working for the weird-hypothetical branch of Exception Handling means that, in most probable worlds, your life will have less impact than it would in most other occupations you're suited for - balanced by a tiny probability that you end up doing something incredibly incredibly important.  Clearly not everyone ought to do that, clearly someone has to do it, and so - as an obvious matter of conventional morality - the deciding factor can be whether you think it'd be fun."

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"....It seems really implausible that Exception Handling wants me?" Merrin says dully. "I - um - I think I don't meet the basic entrance requirements." 

 

(Sure, Catchall said something about that in his weird villain monologue, which in the abstract sort of makes sense, but Merrin was only half listening at that point, and also it was clearly a speech meant to make a point to someone who wasn't her, Personnel even confirmed that.) 

Though she hasn't actually failed to notice that all of today was deeply implausible. Or that, for some reason she can't quite pin down, working for Exception Handling feels less scary, or something - not exactly 'less scary', something else - than working for Default Hospital. 

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"Well, they've made you a job offer.  Whatever your prior was on that, it happened, so go ahead and update."

"Being fair, a number of computer systems apparently agreed with you about your sense of the implausible.  Their priors will be updated."

"It's a longstanding problem of Civilization to build a social system where guesses, heuristics, proxy measures don't ossify into, as you put it, requirements.  Especially requirements about people.  The social-system-builders try to not have it happen, and it happens anyways, especially when people have to delegate part of their judgment to other people who feel more comfortable working to rules.  Computers make it worse, and there isn't enough human attention-resource in Civilization to live without them."

"You do, in fact, fail to meet Exception Handling's entrance heuristics for candidacy, but that's fine because you meet Exception Handling's actual performance metrics for hiring.  So while it might become a problem if you want to apply as a candidate, it should be fine if you just directly start work." [Humor.]

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"...Okay." 

(Merrin is now kind of absurdly, and belatedly, distracted by having been specifically praised for noticing when the treatment-planning markets started proposing treatments that blatantly made no sense. Is that impressive?? It was really pretty obvious???) 

It probably WOULD be fun to spend more of her time training on weird hypotheticals like the ones on Exception Handling medical TV

"- I, um, should - probably think about it." And give other people, who might be even more tired than her right now, a chance to rethink their offers before it becomes even more weird and awkward to withdrawal them if it turns out to have been a bad decision. 

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"Yes, I'd have booped you if I noticed you trying to make a decision immediately.  Even you, at this point, are visibly tired."

"The people who approved the offer weren't tired, be it clear.  Same with the offer from Default Hospital.  Avarris made a recommendation after following along with your work, but she wasn't the final decider, she was busy trying to follow all of your sensor inputs and your responses."

"I am in fact tired myself, but not to the point where it would impair my judgment that the people offering you money are following an obvious course of thought in doing so.  The unusual challenge we faced today made it visible that you can do a kind of work that's valuable to either Default Hospital or to Exception Handling.  That part isn't controversial, nor a difficult-to-make barely-marginal call.  The Very Serious arguments are about how bad it is that we don't live in a Civilization which figures out everything like that about everyone, as soon as it becomes reasonably knowable to a very smart person staring at it, and then informs people about it right away."

"Have you other questions for me, or do you want to be alone, or with just Personnel?"

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