Comment by feanor1600 on Musk on AGI Timeframes · 2014-11-19T03:36:13.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Warning: segment contains Colbert's version of the basilisk.

Jean Tirole on Adaptive Biases

2014-10-18T19:11:51.093Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Comment by feanor1600 on April 2014 Media Thread · 2014-04-09T02:21:01.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have to agree with Sanderson's first law. One reason I liked HPMOR more than the original Harry Potter was the transition from soft magic to hard (rule-based, well-explained) magic.

Comment by feanor1600 on April 2014 Media Thread · 2014-04-09T02:13:23.660Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How Politics Makes Us Stupid

Ezra Klein's version of Politics is the Mind-Killer.

Comment by feanor1600 on Yet more "stupid" questions · 2013-08-30T18:46:02.591Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"smart characters that win"

Miles Vorkosigan saga, Ender's Game, anything by Neal Stephenson.

Why Productivity? Why Gratitude?

2013-08-30T02:28:15.171Z · score: 11 (12 votes)
Comment by feanor1600 on New Monthly Thread: Bragging · 2013-08-27T22:26:32.673Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Got my dissertation proposal approved.

First paragraph: This dissertation continues the tradition of identifying the unintended consequences of the US health insurance system. Its main contribution is to estimate the size of the distortions caused by the employer-based system and regulations intended to fix it, while using methods that are more novel and appropriate than those of previous work.

Comment by feanor1600 on Q for GiveWell: What is GiveDirectly's mechanism of action? · 2013-08-11T15:27:33.650Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The most relevant field here is International Monetary Economics.

After TAing a class on the subject, I became convinced that most people (including economists) would be better off ignoring money most of the time, and just following where the goods went. So think of this as a transfer of $1000 worth of goods from the US to Kenya.

You could get the official answer with an IS-LM-BP model and some masochism.

More seriously, this does make me want to look into theoretical work on the macroeconomics of charity. On the empirical side, the best evidence is that even average (poorly targeted and managed) foreign aid has positive effects on country-level growth.

Comment by feanor1600 on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-08-11T14:56:25.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I agree with almost all of the antifaq (the general point is apparently more plausible to economists than non-economists), this is pretty misleading:

"The future cannot be a cause of the past."

True, but human expectations about the future can be very important in the present. If you expect that 5 years from now FAI will take over, you won't bother to make many long-term investments like building factories and training new workers.

Comment by feanor1600 on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-08-11T14:39:15.783Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Shorter work weeks didn't just happen. It took a huge amount of effort from unions, which were a lot more powerful then than they are now." I've never understood why people find this story compelling, precisely because of your final clause. If unions were the main force determining hours, why have hours continued to go down now that unions have been drastically weakened?

Comment by feanor1600 on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-08-11T14:36:46.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Groups of workers with higher status get paid better." True. But what is the main direction of causation here?

According to basic economics, workers will get paid their marginal product (how much you add to production). This is a pretty good first approximation. Of course, you can get paid in many ways- money, flexible hours, even status. The higher the status of a job the less it needs to pay to attract workers; this is called a compensating differential. High-level politicians are very high-status but don't make that much. Conversely, very low-status jobs (like janitor or garbageman) have to pay a bit more in money wages to get people to work.

Comment by feanor1600 on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-08-11T14:24:43.895Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"a normal effect of recessions is for productivity to increase; businesses lay off workers and then try to figure out how to run their operation more efficiently with less workers, that happens in every recession"

This is not true. In fact, the normal effect is the opposite- a productivity decrease. See the data for the US after 1948 here.

If you are looking for a story as to why, in some business cycle theories (such as Real Business Cycle Theory) the recession is caused by a negative shock to productivity.

Comment by feanor1600 on The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ · 2013-08-11T03:59:25.893Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Involuntary unemployment is bad. Not having to work is good.

Comment by feanor1600 on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-06-16T17:32:46.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Instead of trying to get a PhD and a job in academia (which is very costly and due to "publish or perish" forces you to work on topics that are currently popular in academia), get a job that leaves you with a lot of free time" Part of the attraction of academia to me is that it is exactly the job that leaves you with lots of free time. A professor only has to be in a certain place at a certain time 3-12 hours per week (depending on teaching load), 30 weeks per year. After tenure, you can research whatever you want, especially if you aren't in a lab-science field that leaves you dependent on grants. Even before tenure I can work on neglected problems, so long as they aren't neglected due to their low prestige.

Comment by feanor1600 on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-06-16T17:25:40.976Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"don't do a PhD in a country without a universal healthcare system" Funded PhD's in the US commonly include health insurance coverage as part of your stipend.

This is yet more support for your main point: the fact that getting a PhD in some programs/fields is a bad idea does not mean you should avoid a PhD from any program/field.

Comment by feanor1600 on Open thread, May 17-31 2013 · 2013-05-29T03:50:01.980Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

1) Find academic papers on the subject, see where they got their data 2) Data-only search sites like Zanran, or set google to search only for .xls 3) Question and answer sites, like r/datasets

Comment by feanor1600 on Problems with Academia and the Rising Sea · 2013-05-28T16:57:14.272Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"I had to copy thousands of lines of data out from the PDFs by hand. Journals prefer PDF format because it's device-independent"

Google "PDF to excel".

Comment by feanor1600 on Are there good reasons to get into a PHD (i.e. in Philosophy)? And what to optimize for in such case? · 2013-04-28T13:07:19.971Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Philosopher Michael Huemer has a page "Should I go to graduate school in philosophy?" It begins:

Many philosophy students decide to attend graduate school, knowing almost nothing about the consequences of this decision, or about what the philosophy profession is actually like. By the time they find out, they have already committed several years of their life, and possibly thousands of dollars, to the undertaking. They then learn that their initial assumptions about the field were unrealistically optimistic. They continue in their chosen path, even though, if they had known the facts at the start, they might have chosen a different career path. I have written the following points to provide a more realistic picture for students, before they make this choice

Comment by feanor1600 on Rationality Quotes April 2013 · 2013-04-11T13:25:39.104Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is how Scott Sumner describes his own work in macroeconomics and NGDP targetting. Others see it as radical and innovative, he thinks he is just taking the standard theories seriously.

Comment by feanor1600 on AidGrade - GiveWell finally has some competition · 2013-01-28T13:59:44.922Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From the same page, "Instrumental variables are rarely used and have generally become viewed with suspicion; their heyday was the 1980s" This is simply not true, at least within economics. Look at any recent econometrics textbook, or search for "instrumental variables" in EconLit and notice how there are more hits every year between 1970 and now.

Comment by feanor1600 on Launched: Friendship is Optimal · 2012-11-22T13:18:54.605Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Any plans to post this elsewhere? I feel like some readers will ignore anything on a site with as many pictures of ponies as fimfiction.

Comment by feanor1600 on Voting is like donating thousands of dollars to charity · 2012-11-06T04:58:46.639Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

More simply, you could just ask economists directly. But then they might tell you that the US President has very little impact on the economy.

The linked IGM poll is great though, it can also give you a good feel for which policies economists agree about, and their comments and links can give you some idea of their reasoning.

Comment by feanor1600 on Does My Vote Matter? · 2012-11-06T04:19:09.860Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant paper: Gelman, Silver and Edlin estimated that the average American voter has a 1 in 60 million chance of deciding the election.

Comment by feanor1600 on 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2012-11-04T19:01:31.446Z · score: 27 (27 votes) · LW · GW

Took it. The autism test makes it seem like it is easy for people to get more or less autistic with time. I would have scored much higher 10 years ago.

Comment by feanor1600 on Prediction market sequence requested · 2012-10-29T02:10:29.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"There are all sorts of benevolent aspects of everyday life which are clearly the product of chemistry or engineering or medical science, but it's hard to assemble a collection of concrete, object-level stuff and say "all these things were made by economists!"'

There is a book, "Better Living Through Economics", (the title inspired, I assume, by "Better Living Through Chemistry") that explains some of this. It is largely stories about economists getting the government to work better- ending the draft, stabilizing prices, et cetera.

Comment by feanor1600 on Prediction market sequence requested · 2012-10-27T00:31:16.813Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I study/teach economics for a living, this made my try to think about why it is useful (besides that it gives me a job).

How To Run A Government

Economics has a lot to say about which government policies will make people better off or worse off. This is a big reason I got interested in economics, but its not very practical for the vast majority of people, who have essentially no influence over government policy (and in fact it is economists who are famous for arguing, perhaps incorrectly, that votes don't matter).

Understand How The World Works

It's always nice to just understand more, but in particular I think some insights are likely to make you happier. For instance, you may worry about not being a good person because you are selfish, but economics argues that in market settings being selfish often helps others too. Several insights of economics make you appreciate other people more: knowing that their specialization and labor is what makes the world, and you, so rich- people of different countries, religions, et cetera cooperate to make everything from your computer to your pencil. Whenever I get annoyed at the crowd in a coffeeshop or on the subway, economics reminds me that if it weren't for the other customers, there would be no coffeeshop or subway. Learning about subjective value helps you not to look down on others so much for "bad taste" in music, books, et c.

Practical Skills

Econometrics (basically our word for data analysis) is the main practical skill of economics. It is a great tool for figuring out how the world works. I use it for academic research, but many private sector realize the value of econometrics (though they may call it analytics or data science or forecasting or something else). Another skill that only a few economists really master is mechanism design, which has been used to sell ads and spectrum and allocate kidneys, students, and medical residents.

Save Money

A lot of people get the idea that economics is about "how to make money", but anyone seeing my paychecks would realize I'm not the one to teach that. We do have some things to say about how not to throw money away though. By learning about the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and investing in broad index funds, you will avoid losing money to fund managers fees and brokerage trading costs, and avoid the possible catastrophic failure of an undiversified portfolio. Sometimes you can use efficient markets to save time as well. If I want to know whether the recent jobs numbers were better than expected, I could read a lot about it, or just look at how the stock market reacted in the 15 minutes afterward. If I want to know who is going to win the US presidential election, I could follow the news for hours and hours and make a guess, or just look on Intrade for one minute.

Act Rationally

Economics teaches a model of how "rational people" act. This helps you notice when you are departing from the model of rationality and think about doing things differently. For instance, write off sunk costs and make decisions at the margin.

All in all, I'm not sure if economics is the most useful subject to learn (what are other contenders?), but it does seem to have a fair amount of practical utility.


Comment by feanor1600 on 2012 Less Wrong Census Survey: Call For Critiques/Questions · 2012-10-19T21:32:36.986Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the politics question about libertarianism, "distribution" should read "redistribution". Also, ideally the political questions would ask about regulation and/or spending rather than taxes.

Comment by feanor1600 on When does something stop being a “self-consistent idea” and become scientific fact? · 2012-10-03T12:00:34.734Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would stay away from the accept/reject terminology and simply say they should assign low probability to this theory due to Occam's razor, and increase the probability if it survives experimental tests.

Comment by feanor1600 on RAND Health Insurance Experiment critiques · 2012-03-01T01:46:07.021Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Without addressing the substance of the papers, I can say that in practice most health economists still think the RAND experiment is really important. Robin Hanson is not unusual in this regard, the RAND experiment was featured prominently in the 2 graduate health econ classes I have taken, and in recent textbooks and papers.

Comment by feanor1600 on Meetup : Philadelphia LW: Macroeconomics crash course and general meetup · 2012-02-08T15:19:37.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

FYI, the marker on the google map is pointing to the wrong place, even though the address is correct (and works when I type it into google maps myself). La Colombe is just to the southwest of city hall, and looks out at it.

Comment by feanor1600 on Meetup : First Philadelphia Meetup of 2012 · 2012-01-04T01:05:53.434Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome! I'm in center city and so would prefer to meet there, but it looks like this coffeeshop is right next to a train station so that works.

Comment by feanor1600 on 2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey · 2011-11-02T02:24:52.677Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I assumed when taking the survey that those running the simulation are outside our universe and so ontologically basic.

Comment by feanor1600 on Meetup : Penn State University: NEW Meetup starting! · 2011-09-21T22:21:05.282Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am, I've been hoping someone else would do the organizing.

Comment by feanor1600 on Informal job survey · 2011-09-21T22:15:22.669Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As an economics graduate student trying to decide between academia, think tanks, government, and the private sector, I would appreciate it if you could expand on this. In particular, I wonder which jobs have the most novelty (not always teaching the same class or working with the same data), which encourage you to do more/better work, and which have the highest quality colleagues (rated on intelligence or friendliness).

Comment by feanor1600 on Decision Fatigue, Rationality, and Akrasia. · 2011-09-19T19:59:07.306Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Academics may be relevant as a similar "thinking community". I've heard many academics say they are severe procrastinators. Possible reasons for this are: 1) Procrastinators are attracted to the job, its independence and long-term deadlines 2) The nature of the work makes people procrastinate; research is hard, plus no boss and long-term deadlines mean immediate punishment for procrastination is rare 3) The job makes people feel they have akrasia even when they don't, perhaps because colleagues and competitors seem smarter and harder-working than in other fields

If nothing else, reading LW makes me feel 3)

Comment by feanor1600 on Rationality Quotes July 2011 · 2011-08-19T16:08:13.397Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible. The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks." -- Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

Comment by feanor1600 on Epistle to the New York Less Wrongians · 2011-04-23T01:39:28.547Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"And this essay does remind me a lot of Paul's letter to Galatians - in an entirely good way!" I second this.

Comment by feanor1600 on Arrow's Theorem is a Lie · 2010-10-29T16:22:11.209Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"There are numerous law of economics which appear to fall into this category; however, so far as I can tell, few of them have been mathematically formalized."

For better or worse, just about everything in economics has been mathematically formalized. If you are wondering about a specific "law" or concept I can try to dig up examples.

Comment by feanor1600 on Arrow's Theorem is a Lie · 2010-10-29T16:18:28.639Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It says that if the voters make the same decisions once the alternative is added, then the voting algorithm does. See Arrow's definition of IIA on page 27 of the 2nd edition of Social Choice and Individual Values (you can find this part for free on Amazon).

Comment by feanor1600 on Arrow's Theorem is a Lie · 2010-10-29T16:06:33.550Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The independence of irrelevant alternatives ("pairwise independence") can also apply to individuals, it is just that Arrow's theorem doesn't directly require it. However, a better statement of the independence of irrelevant alternatives for Arrow is "if all individuals have preferences satisfying pairwise independence, then the group's decision function should also satisfy it". So for group IIA to matter we should have individual IIA

Comment by feanor1600 on Arrow's Theorem is a Lie · 2010-10-29T15:46:42.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like you rediscovered the "Core".

Comment by feanor1600 on (Virtual) Employment Open Thread · 2010-09-25T03:42:25.840Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is the evil corollary of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (that all publicly available information is instantly incorporated into market prices).

Comment by feanor1600 on Attention Lurkers: Please say hi · 2010-04-25T05:11:52.575Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hi. EconPhD student in Philadelphia. Found OB through Marginal Revolution a couple years ago.

Comment by feanor1600 on Applied Picoeconomics · 2010-02-23T19:18:27.784Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do solemnly swear by the great Wiki that from now until April 1st, I will finish every part of every homework assignment by the midnight before it is due, on pain of food deprivation until the work be complete.