Personal Benefits from Rationality 2011-05-12T01:08:20.020Z


Comment by Celer on Improving capital gains taxes · 2021-07-20T15:12:16.707Z · LW · GW

Instead, we should tax the difference between what you earned and what anyone could have made by just putting the same amount of money in a savings account. That is, we should tax the stuff that is actually income, i.e. when you are actually doing work, taking risks, or exploiting connections.

I think that "savings account" is an underdefined term here, which I think causes serious problems. "doing work" and "taking risks" seem like income, and I see the argument for taxing them accordingly. Does "taking risks" mean "US Treasury Bonds" (which have a risk of default)? "broad market indices"? "employee stock options"? I think I would say that the market overall doesn't count as income in a meaningful sense, but that is very debatable.

I think an advantage of carry-forward is that someone can't get paid their marginal income tax rate for losing money. Marginal income tax at the moment caps at 50.3% in California (State+Federal), while long-term capital gains tax is 20%. There are a lot of accounting shenanigans that will make sense at a 45% rebate that would not at 5% rebate (approximating 10% annual returns and loss at halfway through the year, since carry-forward takes at least a year to come into affect assuming it is profits in the subsequent year that are at play, but even 15% vs 45% seems like more than enough room).

Comment by Celer on The Point of Trade · 2021-07-20T03:06:25.628Z · LW · GW

In advance of other comments: 
1. Declining marginal utility of specific goods and non-uniform initial distributions of goods over people (this one matters).
2. There is a finite length of the production chain that one person can accomplish if something would take longer than an entire human lifetime to produce. Suppose I luck into a massive amount of unobtanium, with perfect property rights. To some extent this is 1, but I might also desire goods that I could not produce in an individual life, and by trade acquire them (this one isn't that critical).
3. Building on 2, some goods are only possible at the end of extremely expensive or complex production chains: effectively high startup costs imply that not everyone should produce a good. For example, "an airplane" is something that a small fraction of is not nearly as valuable as the whole entity, and there are small enough fractions that are worthless as airplanes. (you might consider this solved by star-trek transporters, which deal with a similar problem and you thus consider the class of problems solved. That said, I consider this a key source of gains from trade)
4. There's a more pedantic point that as an economist I feel obligated to make: Increasing marginal utility of two goods over a relevant range implies gains from trade (this one doesn't matter for most understandings of trade)

After reading other comments:
Jsevillamol has a good point about insurance that I missed. Villam has a thoughtful point about R&D that I think is covered by the Matrix but arguably counts. Measure's point about shared equipment relates to time-sharing and startup costs, though framed differently.

Comment by Celer on "But It Doesn't Matter" · 2019-06-01T11:37:47.581Z · LW · GW

This seems very questionable: "does X matter?" is comparable to "is X vs not-X worth the cost of investigation?" If I'm constrained by resource limitations, and trying to acquire as much knowledge as I can given that, the ability to dismiss some answers as unimportant is critical.

Comment by Celer on Eight Books To Read · 2019-05-15T10:55:54.224Z · LW · GW

I would replace The Republic with a good Micro textbook for anyone who hasn't read one. A solid grasp of the mental framework that underlies Intro Micro is useful for anyone trying to parse society: not as the only framework, but an introduction to the fact that there are competing and incompatible mental frameworks. Following that, I would replacing your book with an IR textbook, which must cover different and competing theories. They will be shallow introductions to complex thoughts, but they will give the reader the critical chance to test and compare the competing and incompatible theories against each other, and realize that no one theory has a convenient answer for all problems. The discussions of constructivism and responses to the neo-neo "debate" will help you recontextualize and better understand the micro textbook. Reading these books (If you have no idea what to go for, I'd recommend Cowen and Tabarrok for Micro and Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches by Jackson and Sorenson for IR) will give you a broad overview of many theories, including modern ones informed by modern data.

Comment by Celer on Caring less · 2018-03-15T15:41:36.959Z · LW · GW

I think you're right, so I'll start by assuming that you're wrong, because I have an alternative explanation for those who disagree with you (and which I think is the most convincing if we assume that the signalling explanation isn't the correct one). I think Eukaryote is missing one important cause. Assume that most writers arguing for caring more or less about a cause are doing so because they believe that this is an important way to serve that cause. Particularly outside our community, people rarely write about causes just for intellectual entertainment. "Everything is signalling" is a valid response, but I'll first reply to the rational-actor case, since that informs the limits and types of signalling. If I am writing to people who are "broadly value aligned", an admittedly imprecise term, I tend to expect that they are not opposed to me on topics that I think are most important. I expect most (85% if I'm optimistic) instances of reading writing to happen when people who are broadly value aligned with the author, at least with respect to the topic of the piece.

If someone cares less about something, I might value that directly (because I dislike the results of them caring), and I might value that indirectly (because I expect effort they take away from the target of my writing to go towards other causes that I value). However, conditional on broad value alignment, the causes that my readers care passionately about are not causes I'm opposed to, and the causes that I care passionately about are not ones that they're opposed to. So direct benefit, except in writing that is explicitly trying to convince people "from the other side", will rarely motivate me to try to make people care less.

Most communities have more than 3-4 potential cause areas. One specific friend of mine will physically go to events to support gun control, gender equality, fighting racism, homelessness prevention, Palestine, Pride, her church, abortion rights, and other topics. If I make her be less confident that gun control is an effective way of reducing violence, her efforts will be split fairly broadly. It is unlikely that whatever topic I find most important, or even whatever bundle of topics I find most important, is going to receive much marginal support. EAs are relatively unusual in that deactivating someone along one cause area has a high expected affect on specific other cause areas.

Comment by Celer on SotW: Be Specific · 2012-04-04T21:08:18.189Z · LW · GW

1: dog 2: mammal 1: cat 2: feline

1: animal 2: flea 1: flyer 2: pilot

1: human 2: living 1: breathing 2: breather

Comment by Celer on SotW: Be Specific · 2012-04-04T02:38:30.766Z · LW · GW

I am borrowing an old acting game for this one, and modifying it slightly. I am calling it "which word." The rules are very simple, and this is a fairly fun warm up exercise.

Base: The other person replies with a word that is either a superclass or a subclass of the given word. Using words in a different sense is encouraged.

Options for increased difficulty include

Forced:: Each person must go up twice and then down twice, repeating endlessly

Time Limit:: People must respond with a word of their own in a given number of seconds. Feel free to make it shorter or longer as the group or any individuals need. I recommend starting with three seconds and moving up or down as you have to.

This tends to be a better exercise for noticing how much can be lost in abstraction than for teaching practical application, the best method of which I still believe is people pestering you with questions about what exactly you mean by your statements, but I do think that it is useful.

April 4, edited for clarity.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12 · 2012-03-26T21:52:18.313Z · LW · GW

I don't think that Hermione needs to be fully vindicated for the story to go on. Having her be ruled innocent by the Wizengamot, possibly with a later recantation by Lucius Malfoy once he calms down, would have her be distrusted by her classmates somewhat. This could fit in nicely with her character development and her fear of becoming dark.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-26T21:43:54.312Z · LW · GW

Hasn't Draco been with Lucius for the past hour? It would be one thing to steal the wand of a generic death eater, another entirely to steal a wand from under the nose of the head of the majority of the Wizengamot. Lucius seems to be well versed in the art of plotting and counter plotting, and getting Draco's wand from him and back to him without Lord Malfoy knowing with, at a maximum, five hours of planning, would be an extremely challenging feat even for Dark Harry. Still, I don't think that it is impossible.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12 · 2012-03-26T21:33:43.411Z · LW · GW

I edited my comment to correct that.

That would be brilliant. I wish.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12 · 2012-03-26T02:26:31.810Z · LW · GW

To call in favors he never earned for something he had no conscious control over to subvert the political process of a nation qualifies as at least a little bit dark. I think that it wasn't considered because Harry doesn't think of himself as being the one who killed the Dark Lord regularly, and he doesn't know that much about how debts in Magical Britain work. Only once he fully slipped into his Dark Side and became willing to do anything did he see that he could call in these debts.

I don't believe that Dumbledore would think of subverting the political process in that fashion. That things follow a "good process" seems to be very important to Dumbledore, even when it results in bad ends. That is the most charitable interpretation, and I believe it to be possible.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12 · 2012-03-26T01:16:49.368Z · LW · GW

Chapter 38: Lucius Malfoy claims that he was under an Imperius curse cast by Lord Voldemort. In canon, that claim was made by many powerful pureblood lords.

Chapter 26: Freeing someone from an Imperius curse by killing the caster of that curse creates a debt

Chapter 4: Bounties payable to the killer of Lord Voldemort could be delivered to Harry Potter.

Conclusion: Harry Potter is owed a blood debt by a number of the lords of the Wizengamot, which might be large enough that he could call it in and save Hermione. Even if it is just Lucius who owes him this debt, it could be enough.

Comments: Law of Conservation of Detail leans towards these facts being used, feels very desperate and Harry like, allows Hermione to come back to Hogwarts as a student.

Comment by Celer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T01:59:33.998Z · LW · GW

I never viewed them as really belonging in the same genre. Canon is character focused adolesence tale, MoR is plot focused epic fantasy.

Comment by Celer on Righting a Wrong Question · 2011-11-08T17:09:28.394Z · LW · GW

Your link is broken, as is the one on the Wikipedia page. works.

Comment by Celer on Tolerate Tolerance · 2011-05-24T23:14:30.577Z · LW · GW

I have not abandoned this. I am simply trying to rework my moral system such that it allows me to both choose whom I want to spend time with in a useful fashion while not being hypocritical in the process. I will get back to you with my results.

Comment by Celer on Tolerate Tolerance · 2011-05-18T15:07:54.409Z · LW · GW

To make sure we are not arguing over words, Googling "tolerate" returns two definitions. "1. Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

  1. Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance."

I am using the second, not the first. I don't see the point of dealing with someone who is explicitly intolerant of a group of people based on no conscious choice of their own, and should have examined their own beliefs, without a very significant reason to do so. This is because they are less likely to have interesting thoughts or experiences, and furthermore I would not feel comfortable dealing with them in many social settings.

Comment by Celer on Tolerate Tolerance · 2011-05-18T12:23:23.460Z · LW · GW

I am going to disagree with the idea that 'being "intolerant of intolerance"' is inherently inconsistent. The problem is with the word tolerance, which contains multiple meanings. I think that it is morally wrong to discriminate against people for things that they can't change. Believing that someone of a different race can't possibly be intelligent is a moral wrong. Furthermore, it is so indicative of stupidity that I do not wish to associate with such a person, if they are in a culture where theirs is the minority view.To put it another way, to preserve my time and energy, I am going to avoid dealing with people who have some traits, and one of these traits is racism. This does technically mean that I am "intolerant of intolerance." However, given that you are Eliezer Yudkowsky and I am a random HS student, it is likely that you are correct. Could you explain to me why you believe that I am wrong, or how I misinterpreted that.

Comment by Celer on Final Words · 2011-05-12T22:27:41.472Z · LW · GW

Blame me, because I restarted the chain. I voted this down, because it was not very amusing, and the parent up, because I assume it was an HPMOR reference and that is awesome.

Comment by Celer on Feeling Rational · 2011-05-11T13:17:26.274Z · LW · GW

I disagree here with what seems to be an unstated assumption. Namely, that the injunctive "That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be" is intended for application to the world. I instead understand it, as I think many here understand it, as applying to beliefs. If I believe something, it should not be false, and if I think it is false, it is a good thing for me to destroy that belief. Furthermore, in debates over religion, politics, and science, truth is the value that should be pursued. But the idea that I must tell the police about a crime a friend committed because "what can be destroyed by the truth, should be" seems absur, and it is not how I or, I think, many others interpret the phrase.

Comment by Celer on Of Gender and Rationality · 2011-05-03T00:23:40.295Z · LW · GW

I am a 16 year old. To be honest, most teens wouldn't handle the site. The requirement for an understanding of mathematics, logic, and science are beyond the reach of most, and the desire of most of the rest. That said, I have introduced two friends of mine to HPMOR and they have taken to it, and I am leading them towards Less Wrong. On the other hand? I don't know how many adults would handle less wrong either. If you want my advice on how to be more appealing to teenagers, it is relatively simple.

Link everything, so that someone who doesn't understand can follow your links and find out. Useful more for teens than for adults, it is still good practice. Few intelligent teens will tolerate a teens area for long.

Comment by Celer on Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided · 2011-03-15T20:58:16.695Z · LW · GW

I assume he means an R or an R^2 of 0.6-0.8. Both are measures of correlation. R^2 would be the percent in the variation of one twins intelligence predicted by the intelligence of the other twin.

Comment by Celer on Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions · 2011-03-11T14:59:23.327Z · LW · GW

I am currently taking Stats(AP class in the USA, IB level elsewhere), and hope that I can help.
A traditional probability test will take four frequencies(Male smokers, female smokers, male nonsmokers, and female nonsmokers) and tell you if there is a correlation with an X^2 test.
Bayescraft lets you use gender as a way to predict the likelihood of smoking, or use smoking to predict gender. The fundamental difference, as far as I can tell, is that Statistics takes results about samples and applies them to populations. Bayescraft takes results about priors and applies them to the future. The two use similar methodology to address fundamentally different questions.