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How is the world different if I make a donation? 2014-12-29T23:29:31.758Z · score: 6 (7 votes)

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Comment by banx on Open Thread April 4 - April 10, 2016 · 2016-04-08T06:21:33.115Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone remember that monopoly pc game with the nice music?

The jazzy music? I played that a lot.

don't reuse floss

I think most of the answers there imply that one shouldn't use floss picks (unless you use many per day)? That's unfortunate.

isn't the nurturant parent model blatantly the best parenting style, obviously?

Seems to me like it's the best. But I can imagine being convinced otherwise by data. It also depends on what you're trying to optimize for. The generally agreed-upon answer to that question has likely changed over time.

edit: fixed formatting

Comment by banx on Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015 · 2015-11-26T00:50:39.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Given this definition, I don't see why only stocks and bonds qualify.

My claim is that equity and fixed income are the important pieces for reaching that goal. With a total stock index fund and a total bond index fund you can achieve these goals almost as well as any other more complicated portfolio. Additional asset classes can add additional diversification or hedge against specific risks. What other asset classes do you have in mind? Real estate? Commodities? Currencies?

True, but given that you said "cash and CDs" I thought your idea of cash excludes deposits.

Fair enough. I was unclear.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015 · 2015-11-26T00:11:16.730Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What's the criterion of importance?

Important to the goal of increasing one's wealth while managing the risk of losing it. Certainly there are other possible goals (perhaps maximizing the chance of having a certain amount of money at a certain time, for example) but this is the most common, and the one that I assume people on LW discussing basic investing concepts would be interested in.

Um.... I hate to break it to you...

I'm not sure if you're referring to the fact that popular banks are returning virtually zero interest or if you're interpreting "cash" as "physical currency notes". If the former, I have cash in bank accounts that return .01%, 1%, and 4.09% (each serving different purposes). If the latter, I apologize for the confusion. The word is used to mean different things in different contexts. In the context of investing it is standard to include in its meaning checking and savings accounts, and often also CDs.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015 · 2015-11-25T21:47:47.869Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but those are the important ones. Stocks for high expected returns and bonds for stability. You can generalize "bonds" to include other things that return principal plus interest like cash and CDs.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Nov. 09 - Nov. 15, 2015 · 2015-11-11T00:52:09.058Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had already heard about this, and was 95+% sure of my answer. But you didn't say to not answer if you already knew, so I voted. I'm letting you know so that you can disregard the vote if you want to.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Oct. 5 - Oct. 11, 2015 · 2015-10-08T05:07:38.656Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

My employer changed their donation matching policy such that I now have an incentive to lump 2 years' donations into a single year, so I can claim the standard deduction during the year that I don't donate, thereby saving around $1200 every 2 years. I've been donating between 10 and 12.5 percent for the last few years. This year I would be donating around 21%. Has anyone here been audited because they claimed a large fraction of their income as charitable contributions? How painful was the experience? I doubt it's worth paying $1200 to avoid, but I thought I'd ask.

Comment by banx on Stupid Questions September 2015 · 2015-09-03T23:52:59.160Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know for sure, but the answer is very probably yes. I recommend searching http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/ for Australia-specific info.

Comment by banx on Stupid Questions September 2015 · 2015-09-03T23:51:14.459Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At least, this is the way I make sense of my behavior. Maybe I've got it wrong.

Comment by banx on Stupid Questions September 2015 · 2015-09-03T23:46:50.823Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some people may make arguments for morality based on things similar to Coherent Extrapolated Volition. I don't find those arguments convincing. I help people I don't know because when I think about the alternatives, I prefer the world in which one fewer person is suffering to the one where I'm better off in whatever way (e.g., I have more money in my bank account) because I didn't help. That preference is based on empathy, which was evolved, but I don't particularly care where it came from. At some point that preference gets outweighed by selfish preferences, which is why I haven't given all of my money away.

I don't think maximally helping others is a particularly good way to maximize your own quality of life unless you already want to do that. Both (a) and (b) are true, but if your goal is maximizing your own quality of life you're almost certainly going to do better if you focus on that directly. At least, in my particular case, there's some amount of warm fuzzies I get from helping people and from identifying as someone who tries to effectively help people. So in that way my quality of life is improved. But I think that if I wanted to I could get that amount of fuzzies at a lower cost.

Comment by banx on Integral vs differential ethics, continued · 2015-08-04T04:02:19.128Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're talking about ordinal numbers vs cardinal numbers. With ordinal numbers you can say a > b, but not by how much.

Comment by banx on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-22T01:12:53.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Monolithic posts can be intimidating. You can accomplish close to the same thing with digestible posts that end with a link to the next one.

Comment by banx on Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015 · 2015-06-09T20:49:27.825Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to take one more step of complexity (and assuming you have at least $6000 to invest) you can split your money between VTSMX and VGTSX as Unnamed mentioned. In doing so you would be diversified across the global economy, instead of just across the US economy. You would want 20% to 50% of your funds that are in stocks to be in international stocks.

Vanguard Target Date funds (e.g., VFIFX) are also a good option if you want something you never have to manage, and they have a minimum investment of $1000. They allow you to invest in a pre-determined allocation of domestic and international stocks and bonds, and keep you balanced at a target allocation that gets more conservative as you get closer to retirement age.

You should also strongly consider investing in a Roth IRA if your income is not over the limit for contributions (and if it is, there are ways around that). Contributions to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time, though there are restrictions on accessing the investment returns. Your employer's 401(k) plan is another good option for long-term investments.

The Bogleheads wiki and forum are excellent resources for learning about low-cost long-term investing.

But I agree with everyone else: if you want to do the simplest thing and stop thinking about it, invest in VTSMX.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015 · 2015-04-01T03:41:41.191Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What do folks here think about blood donation? Is the consensus that it's not an efficient way to help people?

Comment by banx on Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015 · 2015-03-31T20:34:56.775Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does she know that you (presumably) don't believe in supernatural things? Does she know why? How do you explain (to yourself) her stories about seeing spirits. Those seem to be a lot more serious than simple beliefs in absurd things like "healing powers" (or astrology, etc). Do you really believe she's not crazy? Is she making it up? (If so, why?) Using drugs? Believes they're there but doesn't actually see them, just "senses" them or something?

Comment by banx on Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015 · 2015-03-31T19:57:41.030Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From GW's perspective, each of their top charities can consume a certain amount of additional money before the expected value of an additional donation decreases by some amount. Their goal is to move money such that each charity hits that target, and then they'll reassess. So they recommend donors split donations so that, as a whole, these targets are hit and EV is maximized. From your perspective, you may decide that concentrating your entire donation in one organization has a higher EV, since that organization has a generally higher EV relative to the others and since your action isn't going to affect the actions of the rest of GW's audience.

Comment by banx on Good forum for investing? · 2015-03-19T23:09:51.754Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like bogleheads.org. I think I found it from someone's comment on LW. They advocate a simple portfolio of low-cost index funds. The community is really helpful for figuring out the details.

Comment by banx on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 116 · 2015-03-05T23:15:39.162Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it was bleeding because of the magical resonance that was actually happening at that time when other Harry hit LV with the stuporfy.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Feb. 23 - Mar. 1, 2015 · 2015-02-25T04:27:38.258Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I remind myself that I care about each individual that can be helped by my action. Even if there are huge numbers of individuals I can't help, there are some I CAN help, and helping each one is worthwhile.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-19T00:37:57.489Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You could also just think that GiveWell doesn't currently have as much room for more funding as the recommended charities do, even though GiveWell may disagree with that assessment.

Comment by banx on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-19T00:30:15.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

you should split your donations just as you split your investments, because of risk.

Isn't it the case that most investment opportunities have essentially the same expected returns, due to market efficiency? In that case you want to diversify, since you can lower the variance without lowering the expected return. But if you can identify a single giving opportunity that has a significantly higher expected return than the alternatives, then it seems like you'd want to concentrate on that one opportunity.

Comment by banx on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-28T00:16:19.172Z · score: 30 (30 votes) · LW · GW

Survey completed, besides the digit ratio.

Comment by banx on What's the right way to think about how much to give to charity? · 2014-09-25T01:09:35.332Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

My temporary solution is to max out my employer's annual match. That the maximum match is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of my income is very convenient, as that makes me feel like I'm contributing the "expected" amount for an EA (this feeling is only important for fuzzies) but still leaves me with what seems to be a good amount to save and spend. It also allows me to avoid committing an answer to the question of whether to donate now or invest and donate later. The guaranteed, almost-immediate, soon-to-expire 100% return provided by the match wins pretty clearly over the EV of investing and donating later, and since I feel like I'm donating enough for now, I can evaluate what to do with what's being invested later on, based on my wants and needs.

Comment by banx on What are your contrarian views? · 2014-09-19T00:13:07.368Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So you're claiming that there is no way in which the US police and justice systems treat black people differently that isn't reducible to intelligence or conscientiousness differences?

Comment by banx on Open thread, September 8-14, 2014 · 2014-09-12T22:47:58.497Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just meant that working might be an opportunity to better accomplish some goal you deem ethically relevant (e.g., by earning money and donating it or by developing FAI or the cure for some disease). I'm not arguing that it is. That depends on what the goals are and what your opportunities (both "work" and "leisure" using your definitions) are.

Comment by banx on Open thread, September 8-14, 2014 · 2014-09-11T22:03:09.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's less ethical if you think that you can get more resources by working, and that those resources can be used to create an ethically superior world.

Comment by banx on Open thread, August 4 - 10, 2014 · 2014-08-06T19:31:13.367Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Has this been demonstrated for home environments in the developing world or sub-middle class home environments in the developed world? My prior understanding was that it had not been.

Comment by banx on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, July 2014, chapter 102 · 2014-07-31T19:35:40.200Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Keep in mind that there is a nice theory about not being able to lie in parseltongue.

This line reminded me that Quirrel's frequent transitions from man to snake and back seemed odd to me when I was reading. I went back to see if any of what he said after transitioning back to a man was a good candidate for a direct lie that he couldn't tell as a snake. But I didn't find anything. Most of what he said was phrased as speculation, rather than direct statements.

Comment by banx on Open thread, 3-8 June 2014 · 2014-06-03T17:32:14.369Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have a full answer to the question, but if you do feed the dog meat, one starting point would be to prefer meat that has less suffering associated with it. It is typically claimed that beef has less suffering per unit mass associated with it than pork and much less than chicken, simply because you get a lot more from one individual. The counterargument would be to claim that cows > pigs > chickens in intelligence/complexity to a great enough extent to outweigh this consideration.

I'm curious: are there specific reasons to believe that dogs need meat while humans (also omnivores) do not? A quick Google search finds lots of vegetarians happy to proclaim that dogs can be vegetarian too, but I haven't looked into details.

Comment by banx on Open thread, January 25- February 1 · 2014-01-26T00:27:13.799Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is it always correct to choose that action with the highest expected utility?

Suppose I have a choice between action A, which grants -100 utilons with 99.9% chance and +1000000 utilons with 0.1% chance, or action B which grants +1 utilon with 100% chance. A has an expected utility of +900.1 utilons, while B has an expected utility of +1 utilon. This decision will be available to me only once, and all future decision will involve utility changes on the order of a few utilons.

Intuitively, it seems like action A is too risky. I'll almost certainly end up with a huge decrease in utility, just because there's a remote chance of a windfall. Risk aversion doesn't apply here, since we're dealing in utility, right? So either I'm failing to truly appreciate the chance at getting 1M utilons -- I'm stuck thinking about it as I would money -- or this is a case where there's reason to not take the action that maximizes expected value. Help?

EDIT: Changed the details of action A to what was intended

Comment by banx on Polling Thread · 2014-01-23T22:57:58.533Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't avoid the problem if people want to vote with a percentage < 1%, and try to do so with a 0-100 value (e.g., .5 meaning .5% rather than 50%).

Comment by banx on Open Thread, October 7 - October 12, 2013 · 2013-10-08T05:05:32.656Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Here's Optimal Employment, where the working in Australia idea is discussed, and here's the Optimal Employment Open Thread.