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Crowdfunding Vaccine Development 2021-05-08T04:10:42.805Z

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Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on How can there be a godless moral world ? · 2021-06-21T16:43:16.258Z · LW · GW

"I mean that many actions or states are categorized as good or evil," - you're using the passive voice here. Categorized by who? I can categorize things as good or evil. So can you. Do you mean to write into your definition of "moral world" that god must be the one doing the categorizing? If so, then you have defined your terms in such a way that there cannot be a "moral world" without a god, but also in a way where I at least don't particularly care for a moral world. If not, then you should think out who can do the categorizing and why.

"and that this is a good measure to evaluate whether we should do these actions of reach these states, regardless of other measures such as expected utility or pleasure." - this part of the sentence pretty much hides the entire issue inside the word "should". To my mind, we should do things precisely because they maximize expected utility.

The classic argument I have to point you at is called Euthyphro's Dilemma, and it goes like this. Are things moral because god categorizes them as good, or does god categorize them as good because they are moral? Which direction does the causality go in? 

Option #1 is to say that things are moral because god categorizes them as good. This is a logically coherent position, but also an enormous bullet to bite. It implies that god could have said "murder is good" just as easily as "murder is bad", and that would make it so. Which things are good or bad becomes completely arbitrary, a matter of god's random whims. It turns the statement "god is good" into a meaningless tautology. It implies that we can't worship god out of any kind of admiration, as the choices god made are no better than any other choices god could have made. Our only basis for worshiping god is fear of god's power.

Option #2 is to say that god categorizes things as good because they actually are good, by some standard other than god's say-so. This avoids all of the problems with option #1 described above. There is an actual standard of morality, outside of god, by which we can look at god's actions and evaluate them to be good. "God is good" is no longer a tautology, it is a meaningful claim, and a basis for worship. "Murder is bad" isn't just an arbitrary choice god made, god had to say that, because that is what this morality-outside-of-god says. But this option moves god into the role of a reporter of what is moral, rather than a chooser, a judge, not a legislature. It doesn't actually answer the question of why murder is bad, it just removes "because god said so" as an explanation. And if there is such a reason why murder is bad, then this opens up the possibility of humans knowing this standard of morality and applying it without going through god. It asserts that there can be a godless moral world, without explaining how.

The other answers out there for where morality comes from are basically consequentialism (which I think most here, including myself, favor), and deontology, and maybe virtue ethics, all of which you can look up and read about. I particularly recommend Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Who wants to run a B2B SaaS startup? · 2021-06-17T17:14:10.826Z · LW · GW

It sounds like the value of the company is in one particular piece of software they have. Another option would be to sell the software to another already-existing company that could then continue licensing it to the current customers, and shut down this business.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Doomsday, Sampling Assumptions, and Bayes · 2021-06-14T22:55:07.021Z · LW · GW

I think that that first bayes equation in the SSA section is supposed to be something more like this: (.5 x 10^-24) / (.5 x 10^-24 + .5 x 10^-11) = 10^-13 (sorry I don't know how to enter equations here). The errors are that that first exponent in the numerator should be -24, not -11, and the answer is just 10^-13 or 1 x 10^-13, not 1 - 10^-13.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Why has no one compared Covid-19 and Vaccine Risks? · 2021-06-13T13:50:25.700Z · LW · GW

I'm no microbiologist either. I can't cite a paper to tell me there's no risk of heart disease from pumping my own gasoline. But I also don't have a model of the world that suggests any connection between pumping gasoline and heart disease, so I don't worry about it. Most things don't cause most other things. So just on priors, there's no reason to worry about this.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Why has no one compared Covid-19 and Vaccine Risks? · 2021-06-04T18:03:41.416Z · LW · GW

Why do you think there is any risk of long-term loss of quality of life from the vaccine? There just isn't a reason to think there is a risk there. Your only finding one side because there is only one side.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Rationalists should meet Integral Theory · 2021-06-04T18:00:41.011Z · LW · GW

I stopped reading about a third of the way through. You gotta tell us what integral theory is much sooner than that and convince us that it is worth continuing to read about. Wasting time up front with a personal narrative without first giving us a reason to keep reading is just poor writing.

Comment by frank-bellamy on [deleted post] 2021-05-19T01:01:52.724Z

I've only briefly googled it, so I may have missed something, but so far as I can find, nobody claims to have evidence of Gates being involved in Epstein's crimes. Even if Gates were still running Microsoft, I wouldn't regard the mere friendship as a cause for anger or boycott.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Thinking About Generators · 2021-05-16T12:55:03.792Z · LW · GW

Another option, which may only work if you own a hybrid vehicle, is to use the vehicle's engine as a generator. Connect the vehicle's battery to an inverter, and plug your house stuff into that. Only requires an inverter of however many watts you expect to use, and an extension cord.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Crowdfunding Vaccine Development · 2021-05-13T13:52:59.331Z · LW · GW

For me at least, the point is to figure out what can substitute for a failure of the patent system. You might see the patent system as likely to fail in the future because Biden just undermined it. I also think patents were just always a bad idea. So I'm trying to think of how we can get vaccines in a world where there just aren't patents. #1 and 4 seem to presuppose a functioning patent system, so I'm not a fan. #2 and 3 are more interesting. They would both require a credible pre-commitment from the government to enforce such taxation and give it to the pharma companies. Do you think it could make such a credible pre-commitment? Especially after what it just did with the vaccine patents?

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Do you think TDT/FDT imply magic is real? · 2021-05-10T12:19:52.260Z · LW · GW

Leaving "magic" as a pretheoretic pointer doesn't get you unbiased results, it makes your question incoherent. You have to tell me what you mean by "magic" before I can attempt an answer.

If you leave it to me, then I will define magic as "Humans doing things that violate the laws of physics as we know them", in which case the answer is trivially "No, TDT/FDT do not imply that magic is real."

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Covid 5/6: Vaccine Patent Suspension · 2021-05-08T15:34:11.616Z · LW · GW

It's true that all notions of property involve some kind of social norm to enforce, usually a social norm in the form of a law backed by government force. What's different is that in the case of literal property, the scarcity is already out there in the world before the government shows up. It is a fact of the world, independent of social norms, that there is only one of each physical thing. If more than one person wants to decide what to do with a given physical thing, then there is an inherent conflict there. All the government is doing is stepping in to resolve that conflict.

Intellectual property is different, which is why I say it is only a metaphor. With intellectual property, the scarcity is not out there in the world, it is created by the government. My copying your computer code to my hard drive and running it on my processor doesn't deprive you of your hard drive, your processor, or even your code. You can still run your copy of your code, you haven't lost anything. The scarcity isn't a fact of the world, there is no conflict until the government comes in and tells me to stop. And creating artificial scarcity is just an objectively bad thing to do. Especially when the thing you are artificially making scarce is a life-saving vaccine.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Covid 5/6: Vaccine Patent Suspension · 2021-05-07T04:26:12.236Z · LW · GW

Intellectual property is not literal property, it is a metaphor. When we say that you have intellectual property, what we mean is that the government will use its monopoly on force to prevent other people from doing something similar to what you do. To say that Pfizer has a patent is the same as saying that the government will stop other people from manufacturing the Pfizer vaccine. So removing the vaccine patents is the government saying that it will not prevent people from manufacturing vaccines. Which, I believe, is something you have been (rightly) advocating in other contexts for months.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on What do the reported levels of protection offered by various vaccines mean? · 2021-05-04T23:14:50.011Z · LW · GW

#3  - it means that when they did the trials, and people in the trials reported symptoms and got tested and it was covid, that happened 20x more often in the control group than the experimental group. 

Comment by frank-bellamy on [deleted post] 2021-04-18T02:00:42.518Z

In 2018, US households' total wealth was $98 trillion. Federal government spending in 2018 was $4.094 trillion. If we take the standard investment advice and assume that the government can spend 4% of its savings each year, that means the government would need to acquire $102.35 trillion in this one-time taxation. The math does not work out. (I picked 2018 simply because it was the year for which I found total wealth quickest in a google search. The federal budget has only grown since then.)

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on How long should I delay my second shot? · 2021-04-17T12:00:27.414Z · LW · GW

When I spoke to someone in a local Walmart pharmacy department in western Maryland a couple of weeks ago, they told me that they weren't sure if they could give a cancelled second shot to someone else, because they are sent exactly the number of shots they need on the assumption that everyone gets their second shot at 3 weeks. So do double check if that cancelled second appointment can actually be given to someone else. If it can't, there is absolutely no reason for you not to take it.

As far as going out and doing things with your spouse (or anyone else), we know that a single shot of Pfizer/BioNTech is more effective than a single shot of J&J. So unless a place is rejecting people who got J&J, I would so go ahead and present yourself as vaccinated and enjoy yourself (once two weeks have passed).

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on How do you reconcile the lack of choice that children have in being born? · 2021-04-07T02:30:23.132Z · LW · GW

If in expectation a life involves more suffering than happiness, then it is immoral to create such a life. I think that that is not the case, for most people, there is more happiness than suffering. We justify making the choice for an as-yet-non-existent person the same way we justify making all choices for very small children, and gradually fewer choices as the child gets older: until they are able to make a decision for themselves, somebody else has to make it for them, and all we can do is give the decision to someone we think will act in the child's best interests.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Preventing overcharging by prosecutors · 2021-04-06T23:08:36.522Z · LW · GW

That's not a bug, that's a feature! The prosecutor knows what evidence the prosecutor has, but the defendant knows whether he did the crime. We want the defendant to make the plea decision blind to the strength of the prosecutor's evidence, because guilty defendants will guess that the prosecutor has strong evidence and plead guilty (even if that guess is wrong), and innocent defendants will guess that the prosecutor has weak evidence and proceed to trial. This is how we want the system to work. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Preventing overcharging by prosecutors · 2021-04-06T15:32:02.638Z · LW · GW

Another idea: as things stand today, prosecutors are only allowed to file charges when they have "probable cause". Courts won't put a number on what that means, but you might reasonably approximate it as 25% certainty that the defendant did it. We could insist on a higher standard - preponderance of the evidence (which courts do define as > 50% certainty) or clear and convincing evidence (which courts won't put a number on but you could reasonably approximate as 75% certainty).

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Preventing overcharging by prosecutors · 2021-04-06T15:22:23.378Z · LW · GW

I think you are forgetting a major player in the criminal justice system: the defense attorney. The defense attorney already has both the expertise and the incentive to accurately advise the defendant as to the likelihood of a conviction on each charge.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on What do you think would be the best investment policy for a cryonics trust? · 2021-04-04T21:14:16.657Z · LW · GW

I think the general strategy should be extreme diversification across asset classes. It might be that the stock market itself goes out of business, and stocks themselves cease to exist, on average once every thousand years. How would we know? There haven't been stock markets that long. And for a non-cryonicist who expects to have money in the market for maybe 50 years tops, that's not a problem. For a cryonicist who expects to have money in the market for a thousand years, that is actually a huge problem. So I would say put some money in the stock market. Put some money in REITs. Put some money in cryptocurrency. Put some money into artwork and coin collecting. Put some money in things that have a record of holding value for a thousand years - precious metals and gems, plots of land, water rights. Anything else you can think of that seems not stupid. This way, if any particular class of stuff goes bust, you've still got most of your capitol. If it all goes bust, well, probably nobody will be left to revive you anyway so it won't matter.

As a separate strategy, also put some money into biotech and AI specifically, both because that might lead to people figuring out how to revive you, and because if people do figure out how to revive you, it will probably be because biotech and AI have been successful.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on A dashboard for progress · 2021-03-21T12:17:22.699Z · LW · GW

I like the idea of a dashboard, but I'm not at all sold on using consumption as a proxy for progress. To take an obvious example, the computer I am on now uses fewer watts than the computer I was on a decade ago, and will therefor show up as a decrease in energy use. Yet it is superior by every metric that we judge computers by. A Tesla will get more miles for the same amount of energy compared to a traditional gas car. In general, I think we may be at a point in history where progress takes the form of producing better quality products with fewer inputs, and a dashboard that focuses on consumption will incorrectly show that as regression. 

This may be more difficult to actually get numbers for, but I think a better sort of metric might be output over input - number of watt-hours divided by number of hours of human labor used to produce those watt-hours.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Sharing a Car · 2021-03-17T16:21:14.405Z · LW · GW

Second this. The lawyer part of my brain says to draw up a written contract to make sure you get your share of the cars value back at the end, which just adds to the complexity and tension of the situation. But not drawing up that contract is placing a lot of trust in the housemate. A simple per-mile rate seems much simpler and easy to get out of, and the IRS provides a standard rate for that.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Car Thoughts · 2021-03-08T21:35:00.663Z · LW · GW

If you plan on taking long trips in the car, or if you plan to have it for ten or fifteen years, or if there is any possibility of a fourth child, you might want to consider a minivan. As the kids get bigger / trips get longer, putting three of them in the back seat of a car, with one uncomfortably in the middle, will get less and less comfortable.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Limits of Giving · 2021-03-04T04:16:57.232Z · LW · GW

I'm curious how far you go in the other direction. If your Wave stock turned into an extra $50M, would you donate an extra $50M, or an extra $49M, or an extra $40M, or what? As your lifetime earnings go to infinity, is your personal leisure spending bounded?

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on We should not raise awareness · 2021-03-03T16:57:19.695Z · LW · GW

I think the breakdown is good. I find it more natural to call your level 1 "education" than "raising awareness", but I guess both terms are used. 

I think the changes on sexual assault have been a mixed bag and that in at least some circles the pendulum has already swung too far. Reconceptualizing sex between spouses without consent as rape was a good move, reconceptualizing stupid drunk sex where both parties consented at the time as rape was a bad move, and both have definitely happened as a result of this raising awareness.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on We should not raise awareness · 2021-03-01T16:15:18.471Z · LW · GW

I share your unease with the "raising awareness" mode of activism. I'm not really sold on these extra simulacra levels as an explanation of that unease. Especially levels 9 and 10, an evolutionary explanation just isn't interchangeable with an explanation of a biological mechanism. Similarly, a memetic explanation just isn't interchangeable with a simulacra explanation, a memetic explanation just isn't an explanation of what psychological process causes a person to utter a sentence, it is an explanation of why certain sentences are uttered given a psychological environment.

For me at least, I think the uneasiness with "raising awareness" is more that it is transparently ineffective altruism. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people "raising awareness" of x type of cancer or of sexual assault or whatever, as though there was anyone on the planet who didn't know that these things exist. And it seems wildly implausible to me that wearing a ribbon or whatever is actually going to cause anybody to think of a new solution or implement an existing solution more effectively. "Raising awareness" comes off as very transparent pure signaling, simulacra level 3 or 4, and often rather expensive signaling, and I don't like that.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Privacy vs proof of character · 2021-02-28T23:00:41.198Z · LW · GW

That case is from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, a federal appellate court. It is binding precedent not only in New Hampshire, but also in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. And it is the only federal appellate court to have ruled on the issue, which means it is still the most definitive interpretation of the law that there is for the entire country. The ruling is not based on details of statutory wording or legislative intent, so your suggestion that other courts might rule differently based on those things is completely baseless.

 And it does seem very nature to this retired free speech lawyer. In any free speech case, the government has the burden of showing (1) that there is a significant governmental interest at stake, and (2) that the statute is narrowly tailored to that interest. The government has to present evidence for these two things, and they couldn't. As the court notes, the constitution "is not satisfied by the assertion of abstract interests". The country was a very different place a century ago, some states do allow you to photograph a ballot, and the state was not able to point to a single instance of a person photographing a ballot as part of a vote buying scheme. That seems like a good reason to think that it isn't actually a problem. And even if it were, the court points to two problems with narrow tailoring. One, that the statute prohibits a lot of highly protected political speech, such as the original posts hypothetical. Two, vote buying is already illegal, and there is no reason to think that statutes prohibiting vote buying are inadequate. 

Note that nothing in that analysis is particular to the New Hampshire statute, it applies equally well to any statute that prohibits people from taking pictures of their ballots. Again, this is a federal appellate court, and the only one to have addressed this issue, so it is the strongest law there is throughout the entire country. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Privacy vs proof of character · 2021-02-28T04:26:43.713Z · LW · GW

At least in the US, the Free Speech Clause protects your right to photograph your own ballot, though local election officials are often unaware of this. Rideout v. Gardner, 838 F.3d 65 (1st Cir. 2016).

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Don't encourage prisoners dilemmas · 2021-02-16T16:45:33.492Z · LW · GW

At least in the US, donations to political parties, political campaigns, political action committees, etc, are already not tax deductable (which I take is what you mean by "tax back"). In fact, the amount that a person can donate to such an entity is even limited. See https://blog.turbotax.intuit.com/tax-deductions-and-credits-2/are-your-political-campaign-contributions-tax-deductible-11380/. In the US, tax deductible donations are for 501c3 organizations (named for the section of the internal revenue code in which they are described), and such organizations are already forbidden from engaging in partisan politics and severely limited in the amount of lobbying they can do. 

The standard proposed here has broader implications than party politics. To pick two hypothetical organizations, the Tough On Crime Institute would be the opposite of the Criminal Justice Reform Association, so by this standard, neither should get tax back. My initial reaction is that I don't want that result, I want both organizations out there making their cases stronger, not weaker. But I could be talked out of this.

I'm also not sure why the Against Unicorns Foundation wouldn't be a legally valid charity. It might not be a very popular one, but an argument can certainly be made that destroying unicorns prevents them from suffering, and preventing animal suffering is generally regarded as good and specifically listed as a charitable purpose in section 501c3. I don't think regulators would or should question the validity of that purpose. So by this standard, the Unicorn Conservation Society would also not get tax back? This doesn't seem right.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Micromorts vs. Life Expectancy · 2021-02-09T23:34:24.639Z · LW · GW

I think that if the US population was in a stable state - the number of people in each age bracket staying constant over time - then these numbers would have to converge. But of course the US population is not in a stable state, it is growing, and so there are more young people with lower mortality pulling the average micromorts down. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Extracting Money from Causal Decision Theorists · 2021-01-30T04:18:37.650Z · LW · GW

Care to elaborate on the every day thing? Aside from literal coins, your cell phone is perfectly capable of generating pseudorandom numbers, and I'm almost never without mine.

I guess whether your point stands depends on whether we are more concerned with abstract theory or practical decision making.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Extracting Money from Causal Decision Theorists · 2021-01-28T21:38:28.133Z · LW · GW

How often do you encounter a situation where an unpredictable randomization mechanism is unavailable?

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on How likely is it that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a laboratory? · 2021-01-25T21:54:49.849Z · LW · GW

How do you reconcile the hypothesis that it escaped from a lab in China with the reports that covid-19 antibodies were found in more than a dozen blood samples taken in Italy in early October 2019, and therefor must have been circulating in Italy in September 2019?

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Democratic Currency · 2021-01-19T16:02:25.447Z · LW · GW

I think this is equivalent to a UBI, where the amount of the UBI is pegged to the amount of money in circulation. You have certainly identified my big issue with capitalism - that it measures value by what the already rich value. And I think I like this way of scaling a UBI better than just a fixed dollar amount or even pegging it to the value of a fixed basket of goods (inflation). This would actually address long-term wealth inequality, and provide some incentive for the rich to spend down their wealth.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on How to solve the argument about what the algorithm should do · 2021-01-15T16:09:41.219Z · LW · GW

It's an interesting idea, but I worry that it would only make these platforms more polarizing. I'm imagining a social justice recommender algorithm, which promotes the most extreme and censorious social justice positions, and maybe flags people taking not-so-woke positions (say against affirmative action) for unfriending/unfollowing. One could imagine something similar coming from the political right. And then these platforms become even more polarizing. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on #2: Neurocryopreservation vs whole-body preservation · 2021-01-13T04:22:23.991Z · LW · GW

I'm somewhat confused about what the success scenario for neuro preservation looks like. Are we expecting future medical science to grow a new biological body? Are we expecting some kind of upload into a computer?

I have no particular knowledge of cryonics or even of biology or medicine. But I imagine that reviving the actual body that is frozen will be easier than either of the above scenarios, and will therefor happen centuries sooner than any mechanism for reviving a bodyless brain. If I am right, fewer centuries in a freezer is a lot less risk, fewer centuries where something could go wrong with that freezer. That seems like a strong argument for whole-body preservation.

If we are simply reviving frozen whole bodies, then what does the recovery process look like? For the first batch of people frozen and unfrozen, which is what we hope to be, might there be a months or years long process of physical therapy, learning to walk again, etc? If so, might that negate any benefit to the musician/etc of keeping the same hands? Might they have to re-learn their instrument (if they choose to) anyway?

These two lines of throught seem to push in opposite directions, and are both obviously highly speculative, but I'm curious what thoughts mingyaun or anyone else might have on them.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Circle Games · 2021-01-12T01:00:44.516Z · LW · GW

This post starts as a discussion of babies enjoying simple repetitive games and observes that for babies this is how they learn a skill. It then suggests that we should apply the same frame to understand adults who engage in seemingly maladaptive social behaviors, such as repetitive arguments, romantic drama, and being shocking to get attention. Finally, it gives several ideas of what might being happening in very abstract terms, in the language of machine learning. It fails to connect any of these abstract, machine-learning-type explanations to any of the examples of adult maladaptive behavior, or to consider ways in which human brains don't work like machine learning algorithms. Overall, the first half might work in a volume on children/parenting, the second half should be labeled as "epistemic status: speculative" and is probably not worth including.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on In Defense of Twitter's Decision to Ban Trump · 2021-01-11T21:57:26.689Z · LW · GW

The First Amendment and freedom of speech are NOT synonymous. The First Amendment is only one legal protection of free speech in one context. It is true that banning Trump from Twitter does not violate the First Amendment, but it is a violation of freedom of speech. We live in a world there the speech that used to occur as literal speech in public places, protected by the First Amendment, now occurs largely online on Twitter and Facebook and such. They fill the role of providing a medium for speech which used to be filled by the government, and we need to hold them to the same standards. 

You have also misconstrued the point of section 230. Section 230 says that platforms cannot be held laible for what users post, it is there to allow platforms to respect free speech, not to give them discretion not to.

It is true that smaller-scale entities like SSC or LW regulating content is not necessarily bad. There are thousands of blogs on the scale of LW or SSC, there is only one Twitter and one Facebook, and really nothing else on that scale. In order to have a healthy ecosystem for exchanging ideas, the larger platforms need to respect freedom of speech on their platforms, in the same way that the First Amendment requires of the government. How big does a platform need to be before it needs to respect freedom of speech? I don't know, there may be a gray area, but Twitter is definitely not in the gray area.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Some Thoughts on My Psychiatry Practice · 2021-01-10T04:24:09.743Z · LW · GW

This post is an observation about a difference between the patients in the doctor's prior practice dealing with poor Medicaid patients, and her current practice dealing with richer patients. The former were concerned with their relationships, the latter with their accomplishments. And the former wanted pills, the later often refused pills. And for these richer patients, refusing pills is a matter of identity - they want to be the type of people who can muddle through and don't need pills. They continue at jobs they hate, because they want to be the type of person who has that job. These richer patients are obviously more similar to LW readers.

In one sense this idea that people make decisions that cause suffering because of their attachment to identities, this has been observed for mellenia, most famously in Buddhism. This post simply makes the observation from a more scientific standpoint, from inside our community and epistemology. That is a contribution.

The author acknowledges that she isn't sure what the point of these observations is, and I wish she had written a follow up post on that. For me, I have certainly felt resistance to the idea of even talking to a mental health professional because of this same type of identity, not wanting to be the kind of person who needs that. Perhaps the point is that members of our community should be more open to the help of mental health professionals. Perhaps the point is that in a community where we pride ourselves on keeping our identities as small as possible, we ought not to identify as people who don't need professional mental health care in general or pills in particular.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Moral moralizing · 2020-12-23T14:57:33.543Z · LW · GW

define "moralizing". I'm not sure what it is you think we maybe shouldn't do.

I would also point out that professional ethicists are if anything worse than ordinary people. Professional ethicists are the ones who prevented most of the kinds of studies, like human challenge trials, that could have made this pandemic much less bad. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Epistemic Warfare · 2020-12-15T01:20:27.066Z · LW · GW

Contract law could be much more workable, yes, especially if the contract specifies some private entity, not a judge, to be the arbiter of what is a lie.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Epistemic Warfare · 2020-12-14T20:44:04.939Z · LW · GW

You've misunderstood my claim. But since you want to go into the legal technicalities, let's go there. There actually was no majority opinion in US v. Alvarez. There was an opinion by Justice Kennedy for himself and three other justices, which talks a lot about content-based discrimination. The idea here is that lies are a subcategory of content-based discrimination. Suppose there is a statute prohibiting me from lying about how many chairs there are in this room, and I assert that there are three chairs in this room, when there are in fact only two. I have violated the statute. But had I made a different claim on the same topic, had I asserted that there are only two chairs in this room, I would not have violated the statute. That makes the statute content-based. 

The controlling opinion in US v. Alvarez is actually the opinion by Justice Breyer, not Justice Kennedy, and Justice Breyer more or less skips over the whole issue of whether it is content-based, but ends up applying strict scrutiny anyway. According to Justice Breyer's controlling opinion, regulations of false speech in areas that “would present a grave and unacceptable danger of suppressing truthful speech”, such as “philosophy, religion, history, the social sciences, the arts, and the like”, get strict scrutiny. Regulations of “false statements about easily verifiable facts that do not concern such subject matter” get intermediate scrutiny, which means they still might not be constitutional.

Both opinions recognize that there are a lot of specific categories of lies, such as perjury which you mention, that are generally thought to be proscribable, and which US v. Alvarez does not touch. Neither opinion suggests that these categories of lies are somehow content-neutral. Even for content-based regulations, courts then have to ask whether the government has a compelling interest in prohibiting the speech, and whether the prohibition is narrowly tailored to that compelling interest, before declaring a prohibition on speech unconstitutional. There are a variety of other exceptions to free speech that the Supreme Court has recognized over the years (defamation, true threats, incitement of imminent lawless action, etc.) The idea with many of the categories of presumably proscribable lies mentioned in US v Alvarez is that these categories of lies are proscribable because they generally cause significant harms, even though they are content-based. This is how Justice Breyer puts it: "I also must concede that many statutes and common-law doctrines make the utterance of certain kinds of false statements unlawful. Those prohibitions, however, tend to be narrower than the statute before us, in that they limit the scope of their application, sometimes by requiring proof of specific harm to identifiable victims; sometimes by specifying that the lies be made in contexts in which a tangible harm to others is especially likely to occur; and sometimes by limiting the prohibited lies to those that are particularly likely to produce harm." Since you mentioned perjury and lying to cops specifically, here is what Justice Breyer has to say about that: "Perjury statutes prohibit a particular set of false statements—those made under oath—while requiring a showing of materiality. See, e.g., 18 U. S. C. §1621. Statutes forbidding lying to a government official (not under oath) are typically limited to circumstances where a lie is likely to work particular and specific harm by interfering with the functioning of a government department, and those statutes also require a showing of materiality. See, e.g., §1001."

The point: US v. Alvarez actually is a serious impediment to any prohibition on lying aimed at improving the general epistemic environment of public debate, and for good reason: any such prohibition has to be enforced by the government, and allowing the government to decide what counts as a lie is a recipe for censorship. People like Donald Trump sometimes win elections, and do you want him deciding what counts as a lie and is therefor prohibited?

This argument about affidavits seems wrong to me too. I've never heard of an affidavit being used in a context where there wasn't the idea of the document being used in a court proceeding, and I'm not sure such a thing would be allowed. Can you please cite a particular statute that you think would allow a podcaster to legally bind himself with an affidavit? And if such a thing did become common, do you think courts would be willing to be the arbiters of which statements were true in podcasts, or do you think they would be unwilling to enforce what they would (rightly in my view) see as a misuse of a tool intended to protect only their own integrity? The latter seems much more likely to me.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Epistemic Warfare · 2020-12-13T21:40:18.440Z · LW · GW

US v. Alvarez doesn't make any distinction between prohibitions on lying that are content-based and prohibitions on lying that are content neutral. And I don't think you can make such a distinction, any prohibition on lying necessarily permits a person to assert the negation of whatever is prohibited, and would therefor necessarily be content-based.

It is certainly true that US v. Alvarez allows a lot of specific prohibitions on lying in contexts where there is concrete harm, I just took the post to be arguing for a broader prohibition on lying, a prohibition on all lying, which I think would be clearly unconstitutional under US v. Alvarez. Could we expand the contexts in which a legal prohibition applies? Possibly to some degree, but I don't think the very abstract metaphorical war that the post talks about would be a harm that any court would recognize, and I'm not sure the kinds of narrow prohibitions would address the posts concerns. 

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Writing tools for tabooing? · 2020-12-13T21:22:29.911Z · LW · GW

A problem with any simple implementation, like editing the dictionary of your spell checker, is that you may want to taboo one meaning of a word but not another. For example, I try not to talk about privilege - the thing the oppressors are supposed to have and the oppressed do not have. However, I have no objection to talking about privilege - the thing where certain relationships (attorney/client, doctor/patient, etc) create an exception to the general duty to testify when subpoenaed.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Epistemic Warfare · 2020-12-12T00:09:04.960Z · LW · GW

In the US, legally prohibiting lying would be unconstitutional (US v. Alvarez), and for good reason, I certainly don't trust our political leaders to adjudicate what is a lie and what is not.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T17:03:31.480Z · LW · GW

I don't think I qualify as "policy elite", but my thoughts are along these lines. When I see a smoker, I see someone who is behaving stupidly with their own health and possibly as endangering mine, as a threat, not as someone I have any sympathy for. Whereas covid is not a choice, it often hits people who have done nothing wrong its victims can properly be called victims, they are much more sympathetic.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-12T20:30:22.578Z · LW · GW

From the first link I posted: "[Y]ou can't subtract the cost of gambling from your winnings. For example, if you win $620 from a horse race but it cost you $20 to bet, your taxable winnings are $620, not $600 (after subtracting your $20 wager)." If you think Turbotax is wrong, I strongly encourage you to offer more than your word as a random person on the internet.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-12T15:52:12.053Z · LW · GW

I'm pretty confident that the $85 would only be a loss if you loose the bet, which is not the scenario we are considering. I haven't found anything specifically on predictit, but here's what I found on slot machines, and I think the analogy is pretty clear:

"A taxpayer recognizes a wagering loss if ... the total dollar amount of wagers placed by the taxpayer on electronically tracked slot machine play exceeds the total dollar amount of payouts from electronically tracked slot machine play during the session." - https://www.thetaxadviser.com/issues/2016/oct/taxation-of-gambling.html

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-12T01:28:56.968Z · LW · GW

Where does it say that you can deduct the $85? All I'm seeing is that you can deduct gambling losses, and if you win the bet (which is the scenario we are considering), then I would think your gambling losses would be zero.

Comment by River (frank-bellamy) on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-11T15:17:28.131Z · LW · GW

To your second question, if Biden becomes president, then Trump's cabinet will likely resign, and if they don't then Biden will fire them. If the senate refuses to confirm Biden's appointees, then the answer to "Who is the senate-confirmed X on Feb 15 or March 1?" is nobody, and therefor definitely not Mike Pompeo or Bill Barr.