Half-Baked Products and Idea Kernels 2020-06-24T01:00:20.466Z · score: 53 (19 votes)
Liron's Shortform 2020-06-09T12:27:51.078Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
How does publishing a paper work? 2020-05-21T12:14:17.589Z · score: 41 (18 votes)
Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? 2020-05-18T01:56:58.415Z · score: 22 (11 votes)
How About a Remote Variolation Study? 2020-04-03T12:04:04.439Z · score: 27 (8 votes)
How to Frame Negative Feedback as Forward-Facing Guidance 2020-02-09T02:47:37.230Z · score: 46 (18 votes)
The Power to Draw Better 2019-11-18T03:06:02.832Z · score: 37 (15 votes)
The Thinking Ladder - Wait But Why 2019-09-29T18:51:00.409Z · score: 21 (5 votes)
Is Specificity a Mental Model? 2019-09-28T22:53:56.886Z · score: 22 (6 votes)
The Power to Teach Concepts Better 2019-09-23T00:21:55.849Z · score: 83 (26 votes)
The Power to Be Emotionally Mature 2019-09-16T02:41:37.604Z · score: 26 (10 votes)
The Power to Understand "God" 2019-09-12T18:38:00.438Z · score: 16 (14 votes)
The Power to Solve Climate Change 2019-09-12T18:37:32.672Z · score: 31 (21 votes)
The Power to Make Scientific Breakthroughs 2019-09-08T04:14:14.402Z · score: 23 (7 votes)
Examples of Examples 2019-09-06T14:04:07.511Z · score: 19 (7 votes)
The Power to Judge Startup Ideas 2019-09-04T15:07:25.486Z · score: 87 (41 votes)
How Specificity Works 2019-09-03T12:11:36.216Z · score: 88 (44 votes)
The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments 2019-09-02T12:57:23.341Z · score: 84 (57 votes)
Specificity: Your Brain's Superpower 2019-09-02T12:53:55.022Z · score: 53 (28 votes)
What are the biggest "moonshots" currently in progress? 2019-09-01T19:41:22.556Z · score: 15 (7 votes)
Is there a simple parameter that controls human working memory capacity, which has been set tragically low? 2019-08-23T22:10:40.154Z · score: 16 (7 votes)
Is the "business cycle" an actual economic principle? 2019-06-18T14:52:00.348Z · score: 45 (14 votes)
Is "physical nondeterminism" a meaningful concept? 2019-06-16T15:55:58.198Z · score: 24 (6 votes)
What's the most annoying part of your life/job? 2016-10-23T03:37:55.440Z · score: 13 (16 votes)
Quick puzzle about utility functions under affine transformations 2016-07-16T17:11:25.988Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
You Are A Brain - Intro to LW/Rationality Concepts [Video & Slides] 2015-08-16T05:51:51.459Z · score: 13 (16 votes)
Wisdom for Smart Teens - my talk at SPARC 2014 2015-02-09T18:58:17.449Z · score: 15 (20 votes)
A proposed inefficiency in the Bitcoin markets 2013-12-27T03:48:56.031Z · score: 3 (34 votes)
Atkins Diet - How Should I Update? 2012-06-11T21:40:14.138Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
Quixey Challenge - Fix a bug in 1 minute, win $100. Refer a winner, win $50. 2012-01-19T19:39:58.264Z · score: 6 (45 votes)
Quixey is hiring a writer 2012-01-05T06:22:06.326Z · score: 10 (17 votes)
Quixey - startup applying LW-style rationality - hiring engineers 2011-09-28T04:50:45.130Z · score: 27 (28 votes)
Quixey Engineering Screening Questions 2010-10-09T10:33:23.188Z · score: 2 (19 votes)
Bloggingheads: Robert Wright and Eliezer Yudkowsky 2010-08-07T06:09:32.684Z · score: 6 (9 votes)
Selfishness Signals Status 2010-03-07T03:38:30.190Z · score: 1 (37 votes)
Med Patient Social Networks Are Better Scientific Institutions 2010-02-19T08:11:21.500Z · score: 37 (45 votes)
What is the Singularity Summit? 2009-09-16T07:18:06.675Z · score: 10 (19 votes)
You Are A Brain 2009-05-09T21:53:26.771Z · score: 114 (124 votes)


Comment by liron on How "honest" is GPT-3? · 2020-07-11T01:24:30.751Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When you say it is not a door [because it’s ajar], what you mean is it is open, like a container


Comment by liron on What gripes do you have with Mustachianism? · 2020-07-08T02:30:38.967Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the biggest correct takeaway is that most people don’t appreciate how rich they are because they set their standards on buying the latest crap. If they just set their standard of a good product to “used stuff from 5 years ago”, suddenly everything is 75% cheaper and still much better than anything that people 50 years ago could dream of.

Comment by liron on snog toddgrass's Shortform · 2020-07-04T03:20:57.392Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote a blog post on this topic -

But anyway, this little optimization is nothing compared to a deep toolbag of conversation skills you could employ. Feel free to DM me for more specific advice.

Comment by liron on Liron's Shortform · 2020-07-04T03:18:22.614Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you’re using dating apps and not sure how to write a “good text”, feel free to ask me in a comment or DM. I’ve developed and tested an extremely detailed framework on how to manufacture a good conversation.

Evidence of expertise is that I created

Comment by liron on Site Redesign Feedback Requested · 2020-07-04T00:42:56.538Z · score: 36 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The new design looks good to me.

I just want to say overall the LessWrong team is killing it! You folks successfully revived a mostly-dormant community and now it’s lively and special, the community whose feedback I seek and respect the most on many topics. Thanks for making the software lively and special too.

Comment by liron on Half-Baked Products and Idea Kernels · 2020-06-26T00:34:22.894Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes the value of half-baked kernels and quick iteration loops generalizes to most “projects” including vacation planning :)

Comment by liron on Half-Baked Products and Idea Kernels · 2020-06-24T02:07:09.171Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Related to this, here’s my site dedicated to explaining how Minimum Viable Products should be more half-baked and less bloated:

Comment by liron on Liron's Shortform · 2020-06-09T12:27:52.531Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Check out my blog about how most startup MVPs (minimum viable products) are overly bloated:

Comment by liron on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-06T20:30:44.903Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If COVID were 3x higher on either parameter, it probably wouldn’t have led to a more effective US federal response. My guess is that it would just have been a much bigger crisis.

Comment by liron on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-06T18:08:04.948Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We simply observe that COVID is not on the convex hull of bad-pandemic-causing parameters. It’s a luckier roll of the dice than the one portrayed in the plausible Pandemic movie.

The “next” pandemic is likely to revert to the mean, but it seems like over 20% chance that on a 30-year timescale there will be a virus with much higher IFR and/or much higher R0, maybe due to much more surface and aerosol spread than SARS-CoV-2 which is apparently mostly droplet spread.

Comment by liron on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-03T16:37:35.893Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately I feel like the whole pandemic will only lead to a very slight overall uptick in preparedness for the next, much worse one. The biggest impact will probably be people’s perception that pandemics can be real threats.

Comment by liron on What aspects of the world emotionally bothers you on an immediate personal level on a daily basis? · 2020-05-22T13:39:47.188Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I’m somewhat scared to check my email inbox in the morning because every week or two there’s something in there that existentially threatens my company, like our app not getting approved in the app store or most recently Facebook inexplicably blocking our ads.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-19T19:57:02.539Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ya I’m now pretty convinced that Tesla’s market cap isn’t obviously off by an order of magnitude, and is merely a good buy with expected value similar to buying any top tech stock. So my accepted answer to the original question is “no”.

I endorse buying a significant amount (10%+) of top tech stocks and Tesla as part of a diversified personal portfolio.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-19T01:38:18.664Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok 100x Tesla's 2019 gross revenue is a stretch (100 * $25B = $2.5T = half of car industry, 5x Walmart), I didn't think that through.

For comparison, Toyota's market cap is $194B and their 2019 operating profit was $22B. Today the market is valuing Tesla at almost Toyota's level. I'll say there's at least a 20% chance that Tesla will surpass Walmart's revenue in 7 years, i.e. reach double Toyota's 2019 revenue.

If Tesla can 5x their 2019 revenue (that's $125B), then they'll probably grow into their $150B market cap with a normal P/E ratio (I'm assuming higher margins than Toyota).

So yeah, this seems like the consensus guess that the market is pricing in: Tesla keeps getting more powerful every year because it's building on a bunch of accumulated advantages, until it's one or two Toyotas, or it could somehow stumble and fire sale.

But now, on top of that, we need to layer on the Elon Musk magic. Beyond 2025, Musk is just getting started. There are going to be "oh shit" moments where threads come together. It's like when SpaceX recently announced they're planning to start launching 1,000x more weight into space each year than all the rest of the world's companies combined (not to mention reusable rockets and Starlink). I can't invest in SpaceX, but I at least want to be holding tickets to the Elon Musk / Tesla show.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T14:51:49.585Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with what you're saying. My point is that public stocks rarely can be said to have a startup-like "chance to see those big numbers" (10x+ upside). When such a chance is say 20%+, then you don't need to worry too much about the 80% chance of a 0.5x or 1x downside.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T14:45:41.741Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So far the feedback in this thread has updated my opinion from "the rationalist community could conceivably agree that this is an amazing stock pick" to "this may be merely the usual kind of high-priced high-quality stock".

The point I haven't seen addressed in the comments is I think Tesla has unusually potent ingredients for a more than 10% chance of a 10x+ upside. Just scaling up its gigafactories and dominating battery production across all industries seems like a sufficient ingredient to tell a disjunction of such stories. Making an equity bet where the maximum loss is 1x therefore still seems attractive to me.

But you could probably say that about all the top 5 tech stocks, especially Amazon if I had to pick one. I do think it's currently good to own these tech stocks as a significant percentage of one's portfolio, and I guess owning Tesla may not be any better than that.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T14:37:45.948Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like all the competitor EVs today have two major downsides vs Tesla: Huge price increase for same battery range ($20k or more) which I guess supports your point that Tesla's battery dominance is its main advantage, and the other EVs' autonomy features are very lacking. I also suspect that their overall car OS / software platform is lacking the design and integration that Tesla has.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T04:11:45.922Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think Tesla is pretty clearly making the best EVs right now but ya it’s hard to say how many years of lead they have and whether the lead is growing or shrinking.

Why are you convinced that Waymo is ahead of Tesla on autonomy?

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T03:47:02.800Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think they are likely to grow to 100x their current revenue - reasoning backward from market potential the way a startup investor does, rather than anchoring from their current size.

Comment by liron on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T03:25:11.838Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree the market is pricing in a normal kind of expectation of “significant gains” but it’s not pricing in a major industry-changing “surprise” breakthrough announcement, which on the meta level should not be a surprise IMO, but rather the expectation. This company has ingredients in place for a massive upside. I admit I don’t know the facts here but I’m feeling pretty skeptical that BMW will have caught up to Tesla’s vehicles in 5 years or even shrunk the size of the lead, even given their currently much higher scale of car production capability.

Re autonomy, I heard on the Third Row Tesla podcast that driving a Tesla in the last couple months has noticeably better autonomy than ever and the fraction of time/situations when you can let the car drive smoothly for you without touching anything keeps increasing. They are also collecting a lot more data than Waymo, the highest quality kind of data you can get: real driving on real roads, and times when the driver disengaged autopilot.

Comment by liron on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-18T00:57:02.469Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This layout has worked decently well for me and I haven't tweaked it in months, but it makes major tradeoffs, most notably:

1. No arrow keys in the main layer

2. The same key can be either enter or right shift so occasionally I accidentally hit enter in a chatroom when I don't want to. But at least my thumbs can do a lot of heavy lifting.

Comment by liron on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-18T00:47:33.838Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah ya I didn't realize Dvorak helps significantly with layout of punctuation. The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard looks great, only thing for me is I prefer the two sides extra far apart and I think Ergodox's cable span is an extra foot or so.

Comment by liron on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-17T18:20:26.269Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My solution for keyboard RSI:

For software engineers, a normal QWERTY keyboard requires the pinky on the right hand to press a ton of different keys, and my pinky joint was getting sore.

I bought this Ergodox EZ keyboard and remapped the "P" and various brackets to extra keys that are easily-pressable with my forefinger or thumb. It took a couple weeks to stop being annoyed by the new layout, and a couple months to return to my old typing speed, but this is a lifelong ROI.

There's another major bonus: I can now separate my arms far apart when I type, instead of squishing them together to accommodate a one-piece keyboard.

Comment by liron on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-17T18:16:38.992Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Any gym equipment in your house, even just a couple 15-pound dumbbells.

Exercising used to be the #1 reason I leave my house, and I don’t leave my house much overall, so pre-COVID I thought I might as well keep using outside-the-home gyms. But I'm also somebody who finds doing 10+ minutes of "task-switching", like driving to the gym, to be a pretty big psychological barrier.

So finally I bought some weights and a treadmill, and now almost every day I'm like sure, at some point of this day I'll take 30 seconds to switch tasks from sitting in a chair to moving my body, it's a nice change of pace.

Comment by liron on The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments · 2020-05-16T23:35:56.349Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If a single dad is having a hard time with Uber, it seems relevant to ask counterfactually about the same dad if Uber didn’t exist. To some degree you have to keep this in mind and not forget and let the conversation be steered away. Part of the “zooming in” operation I describe involves holding your mental camera steady :)

Comment by liron on The Power to Demolish Bad Arguments · 2020-05-10T00:31:27.974Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, can you give an example of the kind of back & forth you find yourself having?

The technique in this post demolishes a common type of bad argument, in which the arguer's claim sounds meaningful when phrased in abstract terms, but turns out to be meaningless when viewed at a higher specificity level.

In your experience as I understand it, your discussion partner furnishes an example per your request, and the example seems like a valid illustration of their general claim, not something that dissolves into nothing when you try to repeat back what they're trying to say?

In that case, it sounds like their claim might not be a meaningless one like Steve's. But at least you can use the example to help your thought process about whether the general claim is right.

Comment by liron on COVID-19: List of ideas to reduce the direct harm from the virus, with an emphasis on unusual ideas · 2020-04-09T12:31:28.287Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Related to decreasing initial viral load: Anyone want to guess whether there’s a significant (10%+) chance that getting infected via rectum has a flu-like Infection Fatality Rate at any dose?

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-06T00:55:35.322Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The lead of the study can be in a country that is unlikely to prosecute, or anonymous.

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-06T00:54:24.619Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A simple rule can be that anyone who has been self-quarantining for 14+ days can be considered negative at the start of the test. We wouldn't lose that much data quality with that rule IMO.

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-06T00:52:32.450Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty optimistic that we have enough imprecision budget to work with if we put our heads together. Unfortunately, this comment section hasn't been very lively so far.

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-04T19:41:20.240Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes the study could have everyone get ready to kick off as soon as tests are widely distributed. Or it can just use proxy tests like temperature, heart rate and oxygen saturation. The study has the luxury of potentially compromising accuracy on one or two major variables because it’s looking to detect a 3-30x effect.

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-04T18:46:49.564Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
Let's say X% get hospitalized within 2 weeks. What's the highest value of X that would say variolation is a good idea?

Roughly X <= 1%. Something like 1/10 to 1/30 of the average 2-week hospitalization rate for a similar data set of non-study people is the success case. Assuming that the total study size has a sample of 10k+ participants, it's not that hard to get a strong signal of success out of the data.

What's special about this situation, besides the desperate emergency, is that the effect size we're hoping to detect here is nothing short of huge.

You don't know how many botched the protocol.

If video documentation of the full protocol is required to count someone in the study, the protocol accuracy could probably get within a 2x factor of having a professional administering it in meatspace.

You don't know the hospitalization rate after contacting corona in normal ways, which can also be low dose. Many people don't get tested now and the epidemic is spreading.

Aren't we confident that the hospitalization rate from getting it normal ways is 2-20%, and isn't that enough to go on?

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-04T16:16:24.556Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Claiming that infections will halt at a small fraction of the population may be fine for Plan A, but shouldn’t we prepare a Plan B for the case where this claim is false?

  2. Maybe the variolation protocol can include instructions for how someone in your area with COVID can donate e.g. a tube of water mixed with their cough and how to get a small part of that into your rectum or whatever... I know it sounds crazy but proving out a potential 30x CFR reduction is a BIG DEAL

  3. It seems easy enough to at least just have participants report whether or not they ever required hospitalization.

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-04T16:10:15.984Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What if all participants have to post a video of themselves taking a test that shows that they’re negative for COVID, and then of performing the variolation protocol?

Comment by liron on How About a Remote Variolation Study? · 2020-04-03T18:00:04.315Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have an estimate of how effective convalescent serum is in giving the recipient immunity?

Comment by liron on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-14T12:12:01.419Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like a good time to sign up you and your loved ones for cryonics

Comment by liron on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-04T03:46:15.806Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think everyone should be stocking up on at least a month of food because survival-grade food is cheap and has at least a10% chance of being very useful to you at some point, either in this pandemic or for a different emergency.

Comment by liron on How to Frame Negative Feedback as Forward-Facing Guidance · 2020-02-10T18:47:47.713Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ya this is a good example of how to communicate to Fred without a forward-facing frame.

This probably makes Fred think "I'm doing something wrong in meetings and I better fall in line", i.e. go from "bad" to "acceptable".

The forward-facing frame is for when you'd rather have Fred's mental model be to take the next step in the path toward "very good". Once you've established that forward-to-backward spectrum, it's then ok to also emphasize how his current position is bad.

I wouldn't start the feedback by saying there have been complaints about Fred. I'd only say that part after establishing a forward-facing frame, or not at all.

And to build on my heuristic from the previous comment: if Fred's whole job is a very structured one where "acceptable" and "very good" are basically the same state, that's when the forward-facing frame is least needed.

Comment by liron on How to Frame Negative Feedback as Forward-Facing Guidance · 2020-02-10T06:53:14.545Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great point and I think I should preface the advice in the post with a condition.

If clear expectations have been set, e.g. needing to show up to work on time every day, then it’s optimal to have the employee represent in their mind that they have performed below standard. But when there’s any gray area about whether or not they’re meeting a standard, as is often the case for creative/knowledge workers, and your goal is to make them perform to their potential, then the forward-facing frame seems like a better technique rather than giving them a kind of negative assessment that they’re not expecting.

Comment by liron on Is there a simple parameter that controls human working memory capacity, which has been set tragically low? · 2020-01-06T23:39:31.480Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm interesting, thanks for posting this! Overall the fact that humans are so much smarter than chimps but still have the same-size tiny-on-any-absolute-scale symbolic working memory seems to support my original claim that this is a tragically sucky situation.

Comment by liron on Is there a simple parameter that controls human working memory capacity, which has been set tragically low? · 2020-01-06T14:22:23.432Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow as Vakus Drake said, looks like chimps have more working memory than us, at least in one sense that feels important:

Comment by liron on CFAR Participant Handbook now available to all · 2020-01-05T15:22:25.277Z · score: 38 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This content is a real gem. It's easy and fun to read, yet offers a high density of CFAR's unique insights which are worth knowing to improve your life. It also manages to speak to all rationality skill levels and knowledge.

I would love to see this content featured on CFAR's site, which is currently kind of a black box in terms of what specific "rationality" they teach. There's this FAQ answer that lists the topics of the workshop, but I suspect it's better to let prospective workshop attendees dive in more ahead of time if they're curious.

I was so inspired by how this handbook makes CFAR look good that we're now working on the same thing at my startup Relationship Hero, a public-facing handbook that will make our coaching less of a black box. Update: It's live here.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T19:03:57.128Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Alright I shall update to a belief that maybe there’s some different dynamic that makes remote work less advantageous when an organization size is in the 10,000+ range.

What are all these “costs” that outweigh the benefits? I suspect they are easy enough to circumvent. My observation is that all the same tools being invented that make non-remote companies more productive (e.g. Slack) are usable remotely.

I’d still bet 1:1 odds that 2+ of the top 10 US companies by market cap in 5 years will allow more than 50% of their employed software engineers to work from anywhere.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T18:57:21.290Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You think I would use the language of belief probabilities as a figure of speech???

I’m up for $100 vs $100. Just send me a message at to confirm with your real identity.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T02:58:22.802Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any hard data but I'd bet that the ratio of "work locations per market cap dollar" has been steadily increasing in the economy over the last few years. (A measure of how distributed each company's workforce is, and weighting higher-market-cap companies higher.)

I also bet more than 50% chance that within 3 years at least one of {Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon} will give more than 50% of their software engineers the ability to work from home for at least 80% of their workdays.

The fact that Stripe ($30B+ valuation) is now actively hiring many remote employees is a significant recent anecdote I can offer. Do you have any significant anecdotes indicating a remote work decrease?

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-01T11:18:26.777Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But every sufficiently large organization is already distributed across lots of offices and timezones. Why should we expect the distinction between “on-site” and “off-site” work to be relevant to productivity if on-site work is already remotely distributed?

The inside view is: even if you’re in the same office with all the people who matter to your job, most of your job is done by you interfacing with your computer. Even when I did the whole “live with your startup cofounder in a 2BR apartment” thing, we worked in separate rooms and interacted via text. So what specific interactions happen in meatspace that are durably necessary for increased productivity in our increasingly virtual world, and can’t be compensated for by any creative remote-work best practices?

It seems obvious to me that the answer is nothing.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-30T16:40:58.959Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confident that the larger trend is the opposite of the examples you've witnessed. Sure, big companies who wake up to the importance of having engineering resources might first get the idea to hire them in-house, but remote work is clearly a huge trend throughout the economy. One way to understand this is that even "in-house" often means that a company's own employees are working across national/international offices or working from home.

Comment by liron on Why is the mail so much better than the DMV? · 2019-12-30T02:29:26.678Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think competition explains a lot of it. Using USPS instead of UPS or Fedex is a free-market choice, but I don’t have much choice where to get electricity for my home or where to get a driver’s license after moving to a new state.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-29T13:03:48.896Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From my other comment:

What kind of workers are producing more value? What are the characteristics of a job that enables more value creation? One where there's more leverage, i.e. an hour of work produces more economic value, without a corresponding increase in supply.

Another example of a sector that's seeing much higher economic leverage is white-collar work serving high-cost-of-living countries/cities from within lower-cost-of-living countries/cities. E.g. English-speaking workers from our neighbor Mexico where real income per capita is only 28% of the US's, can now create more value on their time by working from home and copy editing articles, or doing phone customer service, or graphic design, and even management-level work like marketing strategy and project management.

Unfortunately remote workers' leverage increase here is partly zero-sum because it decreases the economic leverage that local workers get from their location. But it's actually positive sum because poorer people tend to benefit from a wealth transfer more than richer people lose. It's also positive sum because some jobs are only worth paying below the local living wage. E.g. a San Francisco company might be able to afford paying $12/hr for a customer service representative, which is far below cost of living in the SF Bay Area, but not bad in Mississippi.

Remote work has also created higher leverage on the value of everyone's haven't-gotten-dressed time or currently-babysitting time, regardless of their previous baseline.

Also note that one type of remote white-collar work is programming. Companies hiring their in-house software engineers offshore to work remotely, or contracting with offshore software consultancies, is also an increasingly common practice which is helping other economies and raising US GDP while reducing US programmer salaries, but the US salary effect is small because the whole world's programmer supply is still not keeping pace with global demand growth.

Comment by liron on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-29T12:44:27.348Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah right yes, ok so not a huge increase. Meanwhile, I've seen real value of entry-level programmer compensation packages at least double since 2000, probably more like triple.

I think my point about GDP growth helping the outside view is this: *some* significant chunks of sectors in the economy are getting significantly more productive. What kind of workers are producing more value? What are the characteristics of a job that enables more value creation? One where there's more leverage, i.e. an hour of work produces more economic value, without a corresponding increase in supply. And any sector where the leverage on time is increasing say 5x+ per decade is a good bet for an area where supply is trailing demand.