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Comment by 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 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 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 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 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.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-11T15:08:26.736Z · LW · GW

I am not a tax professional either, but I generally rely on tubotax, and that is very clear that you do not get to deduct the cost of the shares from the winnings. I'm not entirely clear whether the taxable income is the $100 nominally won, the $98.50 after the first fee, or the $93.57 after the second fee, but those numbers are close enough that it doesn't really make a difference. See https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/jobs-and-career/how-to-pay-taxes-on-gambling-winnings-and-losses/L7JNH7mjn.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Ongoing free money at PredictIt · 2020-11-11T04:33:18.554Z · LW · GW

I'm not particularly familiar with predictit, but someone please explain where I am going wrong here. Lets say I buy 100 of these contracts for $85, and I win as seems virtually guaranteed. Then I receive $100. From this $100, predictit takes 10% of the winnings, or $1.50. I then withdraw the remaining $98.50, of which predictit takes another 5% or $4.93, leaving me with $93.57. I then owe taxes on the $100 of income, which even if I am in the lowest tax bracket is $10. That leaves me with only $83.57 when all is said and done, which is less than the $85 I invested. Haven't I just lost money?

Comment by frank-bellamy on What are good election betting opportunities? · 2020-10-29T15:15:46.840Z · LW · GW

Why do you say to only deposit $10? Is that just the minimum to play, or is there no benefit to more?

Comment by frank-bellamy on Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition · 2020-10-22T14:28:11.914Z · LW · GW

I'd like to see discussion on how a persons behavior should change after they have had covid, how much should we trust that immunity.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Plans / prepping for possible political violence from upcoming US election? · 2020-09-01T02:02:09.399Z · LW · GW

I think the most likely outcome is no serious violence, or at least violence on a small enough scale as not to effect most people at all. If there is violence, it will likely last a matter of days or possibly weeks, no longer. So my theory right now is to be prepared to weather that, and if violence does last longer, at least I will have a few weeks of relative security to figure out a longer term plan. The best way to survive political violence is to be somewhere else. I live in a small town about an hour away from the major cities, so I'm probably in a relatively safe place already. If I were in or near a major city I would be more worried. But either way, I think the strategy is (1) have a month or two of supplies in the house before election day - if supply chains get disrupted, or traveling to the grocery store becomes more dangerous, it will be good to be able to just sit in the house until things blow over. (2) Have a quick exit option if the house becomes unsafe - I have a car I can pile critical supplies up in, an idea of what those supplies are and how to grab them quickly, and family/friends in other towns and cities I can drive to if I really need to. I realize many city dwellers may not have cars. If I lived in the city and didn't have a car, I might go out and buy a cheap one (they are pretty cheap right now), just to have a quick exit option that still works even if planes and trains and buses stop running. So wherever the violence is, I am prepared to be somewhere else.


I have no training with guns, and I agree with the other commenters that now is not the time to start. I have pepper spray, and as I said, my general strategy for political violence is to be somewhere else.


I am not the kind of person who travels internationally, and I am not making any preparations to for this. If there is violence for days or weeks, the US is big, I am confident I can find a safe place to be inside the country. If it lasts for months or years, like a second civil war, maybe I'd find a way to leave the country then, I don't know. Being prepared to be somewhere safe for days/weeks of violence means I will have the time to figure out international travel if the violence actually gets that bad. That said, if I were a person who traveled internationally anyway, I might arrange such a trip to coincide with the election. Again, the big picture strategy is to be somewhere else.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Investment is a useful societal mechanism for getting new things made. Stock trading shares some functionality with investment, but seems very very inefficient, at that? · 2020-08-25T02:56:28.710Z · LW · GW

Diluting the shares is only a bad thing if the companies overall value (called "market capitalization") is constant (or grows slower than the dilution). If, for example, a company has 9k shares outstanding, sells another 1k shares (10% dilution), uses the money to expand the business, increasing profits, and as a result the value of the company doubles (meaning share prices almost double), the owners of those first 9k shares should be quite happy about that.


I'm unsure what problem you are trying to solve with your proposal for investors to pay money to the companies they own shares of. What it actually sounds like to me is a buy back. Sometimes companies buy shares of their own stock from the market, decreasing the number of outstanding shares (the reverse of dilution). For the shareholders who sell the stock back to the company, they are being directly paid for their investment. For the shareholders who do not, the supply of stock in that company has decreased, which results in an increase in the value of the remaining shares.


I think you also need to realize that having stocks like this isn't just about raising capitol, it is also about creating a check on the CEO and other managers. The shareholders elect the board of directors, which has the power to hire and fire the CEO, among other things. Without stock, who would the CEO have to answer to? Powerful unaccountable people are not a thing I want running around in society.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Why hasn't there been research on the effectiveness of zinc for Covid-19? · 2020-08-25T02:33:25.402Z · LW · GW

My guess: Zinc isn't patentable, nobody can make money from selling it so nobody will do research to see if it works.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Investment is a useful societal mechanism for getting new things made. Stock trading shares some functionality with investment, but seems very very inefficient, at that? · 2020-08-24T08:14:38.820Z · LW · GW

That isn't always true. Sometimes, when a company wants to raise capitol, they sell their own stock, and you, in buying the stock, are directly giving the company capitol. In that case, the market price, which has been determined by all of this buying and selling, determines the allocation of voting power (and dividends if there are any) between the owners of the older shares of stock and the buyers of the new shares of stock.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Why don't countries, like companies, more often merge? · 2020-08-23T08:27:11.275Z · LW · GW

When two companies merge, there is an outside institution, the government, which everybody trusts to enforce the terms of the merger and to protect the rights of the employees. When two countries merge, why would the lesser country trust the greater one to honor the terms of the merger agreement and protect its citizens' rights? There is no outside institution to enforce it. If Mexico agreed to merge with the US, and the new national government still dominated by former Americans decided to renege on some part of the deal, who would the former Mexicans go to to seek redress? There is no one, and they know that there is no one, and so it doesn't make sense for them to agree to a merger.

Comment by frank-bellamy on What am I missing? (quantum physics) · 2020-08-22T01:40:54.648Z · LW · GW

Because this is how all properties work in quantum mechanics. This was the point of my reference to the double slit experiment, which is the classic example of this idea (called "superposition"). In the double slit experiment, you shoot a particle at a barrier that has two openings in it, and watch where it goes. If you shoot a bunch of particles through at once, then they interact with each other and produce a particular pattern. If you shoot them through one at a time, and they randomly picked one of the two holes to go through, you would expect to see them cluster in two places. This is not what you actually see. What you actually see when you shoot them through one at a time is exactly the same pattern that you saw when you shot them through all at once. Therefor, individual particles actually go through both holes at once and interact with themselves, they are in two different states simultaneously until someone observes them, and forces them to be in one. This is how all quantum mechanical properties work, including spin.

Comment by frank-bellamy on What am I missing? (quantum physics) · 2020-08-21T18:58:59.935Z · LW · GW

The difference is that spin is a quantum mechanical concept, and this result becomes surprising in light of other things we know about quantum mechanics. Specifically, in quantum mechanics, it's not just that we don't know a particle's properties (like spin) before we measure them, it's that the particle has both properties, it has both spin up and spin down, until we measure it. We know this from things like the double slit experiment, where a single particle goes through two different slits at the same time and then interferes with itself. So when we have these two particles whose spins sum to 0, and we move them far away, and two observers measure their spin at the same time (so that the observers are outside of each others light cones), how do the particles coordinate so that their spins still sum to 0? They both had both spins when they were together, they didn't pick individual spins until the measurement occurred, and yet they still somehow coordinated to have opposite spins, despite being outside each others light cones. That means information must have moved between the particles faster than the speed of light. That violates one of the fundamental premises of special relativity. That is the surprise.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Strong implication of preference uncertainty · 2020-08-12T21:43:15.072Z · LW · GW

Can you give an example of two sets of preferences which are prediction-identical, but which lead to will lead to "vastly different consequences if [you] program an AI to maximi[z]e them"?

Comment by frank-bellamy on How much is known about the "inference rules" of logical induction? · 2020-08-08T19:43:46.534Z · LW · GW

Is there a reason to think this would be different than any other kind of induction or Bayesian reasoning? We use probabilities to describe things for which there is a true answer that we happen not to know all the time. Probability is often (arguably always) subjective in that way. For example, what is the probability that you, Eigil Rischel, have any siblings? The answer, in an objective sense, is either 0 or 1. The answer, from your subjective perspective, is either very close to 0 or very close to 1. But from my perspective not knowing anything about you, I'm going to put it at 0.7. If I wanted a better estimate, I could actually look up what fraction of people have siblings and use that. If I wanted an even better estimate, I could ask you. But right now, from my perspective, the probability of you having siblings is 0.7. This seems straight forward for physical truths, I don't see any real difference for mathematical truths. You should be able to use all the standard rules of probability theory, Bayes theorem, etc.


I'm unsure that your second bullet point follows. For that limit to work, I should be able to pick a (finite) N such that if psi(n) for all 0<=n<=N, then the probability of "for all n psi(n)" is greater than or equal to .9. I don't know how to find such an N. How do I know that the limit isn't 0.8? Intuitively I feel like just checking more and more values of n should not get us arbitrarily close to certainty, but I don't know how to justify that intuition rigorously. Infinities are weird. Possibly infinities give us different rules for certain mathematical truths, I don't know. I would be curious to hear other people's thoughts.

Comment by frank-bellamy on The Ghost of Joseph Weber · 2020-07-14T13:44:37.991Z · LW · GW

A lot of this reads like you are trying to apply the structure of an experiment to a thing that is, um, not an experiment. Like, we all learn the steps of an experiment in school (where they often incorrectly call the experimental method "the scientific method"). But there are whole sciences, like astronomy, and cosmology, and geology, that don't do experiments, they just make observations and analyze them in the context of what we already know from experiments in other areas of science. That is what LIGO does. We can't do experiments on gravitational ways, because we don't have the capacity to produce gravitational waves. All we can do is observe them. And that is still a perfectly valid scientific endeavor. And in particular, it is a scientific endeavor in which the notion of a "control" doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. Now, I don't have the technical competence to evaluate these kinds of high level physics things for myself, I don't know the math of general relativity, so I'm not going to try. But I generally trust the scientific community, and I'm not going to update much on a blog post that seems to misunderstand what these things are trying to do.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Failures in technology forecasting? A reply to Ord and Yudkowsky · 2020-05-09T02:32:28.341Z · LW · GW

Minor factual quibble: Truman didn't spend "years" as Vice President, he was sworn in as Vice President less than 3 months before being sworn in as President. Which possibly makes the fact that he wasn't read in on the Manhattan Project a little less surprising.

Comment by frank-bellamy on Consistent Glomarization should be feasible · 2020-05-04T18:52:24.255Z · LW · GW

This certainly can come up in close friendships. There was an incident last summer where a then-close-friend of mine told me an outright lie about what they were doing on a particular evening, in a one-on-one conversation, and I caught them, and that lie certainly contributed to the breakdown of the friendship and my current distrust of the person. If we had had a convention like this explicitly established, who knows where we would be instead. Probably would have ended up in the same place for other reasons, but it is hard to know.


On the other hand, I don't think I would value a friendship as much if it had this convention attached to it.

Comment by frank-bellamy on COVID-19 and the US Elections · 2020-04-09T04:47:45.564Z · LW · GW

A variant of (3) would be election months. In Virginia, where I vote, they have (what they call) a version of absentee voting where a person who expects to be absent on election day can go into a government office on the weekend for a couple of months before the election and cast their vote in person that way. We could expand that - every day of the week for October and maybe September, an office is open to accept in-person votes. We could even randomly assign each voter a particular day in that month(s)-long window to come in and cast their votes, so that we don't end up with too many people in the same physical space on any one day.

Comment by frank-bellamy on What should I study to understand real-world economics? (I.e., To gain financial literacy) · 2020-04-09T04:13:47.026Z · LW · GW

The basic law school class or casebook (a casebook is the law school version of a textbook) is generally titled simply "corporations" or "business organizations" or something like that.

Comment by frank-bellamy on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T16:48:32.104Z · LW · GW

I imagine those would make life harder for people with pets or babies crawling around.