[Short, Meta] Should open threads be more frequent? 2014-12-18T23:41:14.678Z
Discussion of "What are your contrarian views?" 2014-09-20T12:09:50.492Z
What are your contrarian views? 2014-09-15T09:17:20.308Z
Open thread, 21-27 April 2014 2014-04-21T10:54:16.422Z
Open thread, 24-30 March 2014 2014-03-25T07:42:20.383Z
Meetup: Somewhere you do not live even close to 2013-11-07T11:17:21.889Z
Open thread, September 16-22, 2013 2013-09-16T05:18:34.009Z
Open thread, September 9-15, 2013 2013-09-09T04:50:39.610Z
[Discussion] The Kelly criterion and consequences for decision making under uncertainty 2013-01-06T02:14:52.715Z
Expected utility and utility after time 2012-08-29T13:10:59.110Z
What are useful skills to learn at university? 2012-08-25T22:43:32.431Z
What math should I learn? 2012-02-02T19:06:59.539Z
Looking for information on cryonics 2012-02-02T12:33:02.181Z
Where do you live? Meetup planners want to know 2011-12-11T21:08:09.977Z
[German] Wo wohnt ihr? 2011-12-09T01:51:03.429Z
LessWrong as place for scientifically literate advice 2011-08-19T14:05:10.617Z


Comment by Metus on Have you changed your mind recently? · 2015-02-08T16:30:36.831Z · LW · GW

Skimming your comment history it seems like the majority of your downvotes comes from expressing views inconsistent with the progressivist narrative on gender. LW now is overloaded with that.

Comment by Metus on Have you changed your mind recently? · 2015-02-07T20:21:29.180Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I decided to leave LW.


Comment by Metus on Stupid Questions February 2015 · 2015-02-03T20:12:58.473Z · LW · GW

There exists a mild market in organs. I can donate a kidney in exchange for a loved one getting a kidney. I also can donate my body to science, in exchange the institution - at least in Germany - pays for some kind of burial.

Immediate edit: Actually, since there exists a black market in organs we could make some estimates about prices and conditions on a legalised market in organs.

Comment by Metus on Stupid Questions February 2015 · 2015-02-02T15:40:49.601Z · LW · GW

π seems like half the size it should be

That one you found out already, it would make it much more consistent with how similar constants are used.

The gravitational constant looks like off by a factor of 4π

Not sure what you mean. Do you mean when comparing the equation for gravitational force to the electric force? Or do you mean when looking at the 'intuitive' way of writing the differential equation


In either case it seems that the choice of 4π is arbitrary on one equation or the other. For example choosing Gaussian units introduces a 4π in the electrical equation and makes it look more like the gravitational equation.

cosine seems more primitive than sine

They seem equally primitive by



The Riemann Zeta function ζ(s) negates s for reasons beyond me

It doesn't according to Wikipedia

The Gamma function has this -1 I don't understand

I haven't read up on that so I don't really know. Seems arbitrary to me too.

Comment by Metus on Stupid Questions February 2015 · 2015-02-02T15:17:03.196Z · LW · GW

Cost-Benefit analysis of a flu shot

Comment by Metus on [Link] An argument on colds · 2015-01-19T10:54:51.431Z · LW · GW

European countries are way more lenient with workers who do not show up for health reasons. How does the data compare there, are workers more productive on average and sick less often?

Also, what is the unintended side effect of this? Do we open up an evolutionary niche for something even more horrible? Wouldn't it be better to require sick people to wear a face mask like it is usual in some Asian countries?

Comment by Metus on LINK: Diseases not sufficiently researched · 2015-01-17T17:05:19.355Z · LW · GW

[Seperate post, because it is a seperate point]

I wonder how a "rational" funding system would look like if an economist designed it. The expression "where researchers see the most potential for a breakthrough" under the constraint of competition over limited resources just screams "market mechanism" to me.

Comment by Metus on LINK: Diseases not sufficiently researched · 2015-01-17T16:53:33.880Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that research funding is surprisingly well calibrated with a bias for infectous diseases as opposed to what I as an amateur would call "structural failure" collecting ischemic heart disease, stroke, injury and so on.

Looking at the "overfunded" category the worst offenders are HIV and cancer. I suppose cancer research is overfunded because people donate to causes their loved ones suffered and cancer tends to kill old people with a lot of money. But I have no good explanation for the overfunding of HIV which is a completely preventable disease on the personal level by using a condom and refraining from using IV drugs. BTW, the most successful HIV reduction programs give out free needles and condoms, reducing the need for medical treatment and of course human suffering in the first place.

Looking at the "underfunded" category we have injury, ischemic heart disease, COPD, depression, stroke. Injury is something that disproportionally affects poorer people, so I use the reverse reasoning to cancer. I have no good explanation for the underfunding of the other diseases here, except for maybe depression which has a bit of a stigma to it. At best I'd guess that heart attack and stroke do not have the spectacular, drawn out suffering like cancer and HIV treatment have.

Comment by Metus on LINK: Guinea worm disease close to eradication · 2015-01-16T21:56:52.311Z · LW · GW

Rinderpest was a disease in cattle we have eradicated. We are also making progress on on some more. Let's hope that this does not have any unintended horrible consequences like opening the ecosystem of human parasites to something potentially more deadly.

Comment by Metus on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-13T23:12:04.117Z · LW · GW

It would be an interesting analysis to find out how many traditional players are involved and to derive from that confidence in the optimality of the bitcoin price.

Comment by Metus on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-09T06:13:34.164Z · LW · GW

Further adding on that: Depending on the legal structure of the retirement fund, it can serve as a replacement for smaller insurances or you can have your children inherit it. Or have donated to charity upon your death.

Comment by Metus on 2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository · 2015-01-09T05:00:41.918Z · LW · GW

You very probably have not all recommended insurances in your country of residence or your mandatory insurance doesn't cover everything you'd want it to cover. Same goes for savings, you don't save enough for old age and emergencies. Basically if at some point you would have had to do something to prepare for the future, you didn't do it.

The short version about insurance is this: Never insure anything where you can go "damn it" and pay in cash, the same rule goes for deductibles. On the reverse, insure anything that you absolutely have to pay for and would financially ruin you. Some possible areas are your house, liability insurance and health care cost. Google "necessary insurance" or similar.

The short version about savings retirement plans is this: Use google to find out if your government provides sufficient provisions for retirement, if you plan on retiring at all. If not, look for ways to provide for old age and/or invest money, the sooner you start, the better. Hold about three months worth of living expenses in the most liquid form possible to cover emergencies. To ensure saving, order your bank to transfer a set amount of cash every month to a seperate bank account which you can not access on the go.

Comment by Metus on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-05T01:59:23.848Z · LW · GW

Another way to ask the question is, assuming that IQ is the relevant measure, is there a sublinear, linear or superlinear relationship between IQ and productivity? Same question for cost of raising the IQ by one point, does it increase, decreasy or stay constant with IQ? Foom occurs for suitable combinations in this extremely simple model.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 29, 2014 - Jan 04, 2015 · 2014-12-30T01:24:46.845Z · LW · GW

Without a simplicity prior you would need some other kind of distribution.

You can act "as if" by just using the likelihood ratios and not operating with prior and posterior probabilities.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 29, 2014 - Jan 04, 2015 · 2014-12-29T19:07:31.416Z · LW · GW

Indeed, I run on carbohydrates, not my computer.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 29, 2014 - Jan 04, 2015 · 2014-12-29T18:49:11.272Z · LW · GW

A question for specialists on EA.

If I live in a place where I can choose between a standard mix of electricity sources consisting of hydrocarbons, nuclear and renewables, and a "green" mix of renewables exclusively that costs more, should I buy the green mix or buy the cheaper/cheapest mix and donate the difference to GiveWell?

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-28T09:42:31.280Z · LW · GW

Am I unusually dense or is the site unusually inaccessible with regards to relevant advice re internships and generally?

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-27T22:18:05.861Z · LW · GW

Thank you very much! I will take you up on that offer.

Comment by Metus on CFAR in 2014: Continuing to climb out of the startup pit, heading toward a full prototype · 2014-12-26T19:37:19.713Z · LW · GW

Any other fundraisers interesting to LW going on?

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-25T11:48:06.149Z · LW · GW

I am not going to start a lengthy discussion on this subject as this is not the place for it, so please do not read the lack of any further answers as anything else than the statemet above. That being said ...

I am not completely sold on the premise that all human lives are equal which puts the whole idea of a cheaper saved life in question. I am not donating out of a moral imperative but personal preference so my donations exhibit decreasing marginal utility making diversification a necessity. And finally I have generally massive skepticism towards anything and anyone that claims to solve a huge, long standing problem like poverty just like the EA movement tends to do.

This is the rough sketch of my reservations. I will not discuss it further here but I am willing to discuss it in a more appropriate place, like a seperate thread or the open thread.

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-25T00:17:54.155Z · LW · GW

Personally it sems that number of commits is a metric too easy to game. If you generally are honest with yourself, keep it, but I wouldn't use it if I were to set a goal for a group of students. Another metric that is less easy to game on a personal level is time spent with your programming environment open, which is effective if you tend to either not start programming or stop prematurely. Finally the ideal metric is to have a set of features or a certain output you want to achieve and have that as a goal with the caveat that these goals tend to be too hard to achieve in the mean time.

So overall, I'd recommend time spent programming as a weekly goal and a final product as an overarching goal with the explicit option of re-negotiation.

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-25T00:12:46.292Z · LW · GW

Great list! Hope you don't mind a couple of questions.

Thanks! There would be little point in posting to a discussion board if I wasn't expecting discussion.

Any particular reason to donate to Wikipedia? I ask because I just read this interesting article about Wikimedia donations that was posted on the FB EA thread a few days ago.

Until a few minutes ago I thought that people would on average not donate enough to Wikipedia enough. Actually, my thought was more like "Wikipedia was so useful in the past and I expect it to be useful in the future too, so I could donate a small amount to make up for my use." But I am revising that thought as we speak. The larger point anyhow was to signal that I am not completely sold on effective altruism and might also donate to the Red Cross or so.

Also, how many applications per month?

I have until the end of this year to decide. A modest goal would be one per week, but it would be way more effective if I make the rate dependent on time and domain. So let's say - and let me say that this won't be the final number - one per week for stuff in industry that is not seasonal and an adjusted number for seasonal stuff.

Comment by Metus on 2015 New Years Resolution Thread · 2014-12-24T23:45:48.725Z · LW · GW

My list of goals, nice habits to have and general goodness tends to grow in length instead of shrinking for various reasons but I can make progress anyhow in implementing it. Also I know that having way too many goals at once is harmful, so here's the obvious caveat: This is a general list and brainstorming so far, with no real plan for realiable implementation, so take the goals, the length of the list and the commentary with the proverbial grain of salt. (Legend: "I vow" is certain, "I will" actually means "maybe")

  • Charity: There has been a delay in forming my contract for my student's job and thus also a delay in payment, which made me think about money a lot more than usual. Since for various reasons my cashflow will improve I hereby vow to donate 1% of my income below the taxation threshold and 10% of any income beyond that to a mix of GiveWell, CFAR, MIRI and Wikipedia of my choosing.

  • Health and charity: The weird case where self-interest and the public interest coincide applies for three things I have in mind

    • I will donate blood at least once in 2005. Of course I'll donate 10% of the remuneration I get.
    • I will get all my vaccinations up-to-date and take any additional as recommended by my physician. Maybe the payment from above will subsidise a shot not covered by insurance. One prick for another.
    • I will take a course and certification in first aid. It might just be one of my dearest people I can help or just the occasional stranger.
  • Education: No university and no school can offer comprehensive education, it has to come from many sources.

    • I tried audiobooks via Audible for the first time less than a month ago and I was amazed. At 10€ per audiobook it is quite a bargain and ideal for any non-fiction book with low information density like biographies. So I will listen through at least one audiobook per month, totaling twelve (12) books consumed in 2015.
    • Though this will happen at university, it still gets to the same heading. I will start learning Spanish and get at least to A1 level as I am currently pre-occupied learning Russian and developing a general love for languages.
    • Speaking of learning languages, as this is very fact-heavy and I start seeing the benefits of SRS, I will use Anki every single day instead of clusters of ten interspersed with pauses of a couple of days.
  • Travel: This might just as well put this under the education heading, but it deserves its own spot. I will travel to at least one country I have not yet set foot in, alone. Since I live in Germany, the bar is relatively low, but this is one goal that tends to fuel itself.

  • Interviewing: I will send out applications for part-time jobs, internships and stipends. Since I can control the material I send but not the answers I receive, the goal is set to the former. For far too long I have ignored the usual advice of getting at least one of each in internships, stipends, part-time-jobs and maybe a year/half-year abroad so I am looking for ways to fix that. The most obvious is to send out applications like crazy. This obviously ties into the points education and travel.

Some ideas I had before but I am unsure of in the face of total workload are to subscribe to a higher quality publication like the Economist and read at least one article every week or to read at least one book per month in addition to the audiobooks from above.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-18T23:38:20.767Z · LW · GW


But more seriously, try asking this again in the next open thread, this one seems flooded.

Comment by Metus on Kickstarting the audio version of the upcoming book "The Sequences" · 2014-12-16T11:19:51.650Z · LW · GW

I don't, sorry, that's why I was asking. Sometimes publishers have unreasonable delays when publishing in other jurisdictions than the US because of licencing problems but that should not be a problem if all participants agree.

Comment by Metus on Kickstarting the audio version of the upcoming book "The Sequences" · 2014-12-16T02:52:02.440Z · LW · GW


Will it be available globally?

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-16T02:42:57.778Z · LW · GW

Reduced consumption of animal products, more specifically meat should help my health and both my purse and the global poor through reduced food prices. For reducing meat consumption in general it seems easy to just replace meat in a lot of dishes with cheese or substitute meaty dishes with some scrambled eggs. What can I do for variety? I am especially looking for cheap, fast and/or convenient methods to put together a meal. I am very willing to trade off fast for the other two as I can listen to audiobooks or similar while preparing food.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-16T01:15:01.198Z · LW · GW

Also the German name suggests European location which means that fraternities are pretty much dead around here.

Comment by Metus on Has LessWrong Ever Backfired On You? · 2014-12-15T22:21:35.030Z · LW · GW

A joke.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-15T02:45:23.279Z · LW · GW

The theoretical question still stands.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-15T01:19:20.660Z · LW · GW

One thing I might start experimenting with is a version of morning contemplation. Ancient stoicism seems to suggest to reflect on one's principles in the morning, christian tradition has morning prayers and Benjamin Franklin reviewed his virtues every morning, so why not do a little personalised version of it? Things like the serenity prayer or Tarski's litany.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-15T01:17:31.980Z · LW · GW

Interesting answer. Seeing as my personal giving is completely out of pleasure not some kind of moral obligation, the argument for diversification is very strong.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-15T00:27:24.535Z · LW · GW

I am looking to set a morning routine for myself and wanted to hear if you have some unusual component in your morning routine other people might benefit from.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-15T00:25:12.930Z · LW · GW

I want to open up the debate again whether to split donations or to concentrate them in one place.

One camp insists on donating all your money to a single charity with the highest current marginal effectiveness. The other camp claims that you should split donations for various reasons ranging from concerns like "if everyone thought like this" to "don't put all your eggs in one basket." My position is firmly in the second camp as it seems to me obvious that you should split your donations just as you split your investments, because of risk.

But it is not obvious at all. If a utility function is concave risk aversion arises completely naturally and with it all the associated theory of how to avoid unnecessary risk. Utilitarians however seem to consider it natural that the moral utility function is completely linear in the number of people or QALYs or any other measure of human well-being. Is there any theoretical reason risk-aversion can arise if a utility function is completely linear in the way described before?

In the same vein, there seems to be no theoretical reason for having time preference in a certain world. So if we agree that we should invest our donations and donate them later it seems like there is no reason to actually donate them at any time since at any such time we could follow the same reasoning and push the donation even further. Is the conlcusion then to either donate now or not at all? Or should the answer be way more complicated involving average and local economic growth and thus the impact of money donated now or later?

Let the perfect not be the enemy of the good, but this rabbit hole seems to go deeper and deeper.

Comment by Metus on Harper's Magazine article on LW/MIRI/CFAR and Ethereum · 2014-12-13T00:06:27.737Z · LW · GW

US Americans are overly obsessed with hygiene from the point of view of the average European.

Comment by Metus on Estimating the cost-effectiveness of research · 2014-12-11T21:20:02.660Z · LW · GW

This is an extremely important question to ask and to research, not to speak of answering it properly. It complements the EA community very nicely and can then help to answer questions like "Should I donate to GiveWell or MIRI?" I am very interested in your results.

Comment by Metus on Kickstarting the audio version of the upcoming book "The Sequences" · 2014-12-11T21:16:39.925Z · LW · GW

If the ebook is available at a reasonable price on the Amazon store Germany I'll buy a copy. If not I'll be waiting for the hardcopy version which I'll buy anyhow.

Comment by Metus on Kickstarting the audio version of the upcoming book "The Sequences" · 2014-12-11T21:15:03.662Z · LW · GW

Then I'll be waiting for it to appear in the Audible catalogue, assuming it will be available world-wide, specifically Germany. As a student $50 is way too much, especially since I want to get the hard copy in addition, but €10 (about $13) is quite realistic.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T12:19:59.604Z · LW · GW

Physics: "what is energy?"

I am a graduate student of physics and I am inclined to say that I now know even less about what energy is.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 8 - Dec. 15, 2014 · 2014-12-08T10:58:02.390Z · LW · GW

Chemistry: "What is a bond between two atoms?" or "What is a reaction?"

Linguistics: "What is a word?" or "What is a language?"

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-04T01:11:01.145Z · LW · GW

Say I have have a desktop with a monitor, a laptop, a tablet and a smart phone. I am looking for creative ideas on how to use them simultaneously, for example when programming to use the tablet for displaying documentation and having multiple screens via desktop computer and laptop, while the smart phone displays some tertiary information.

Comment by Metus on Good things to have learned.... · 2014-12-04T00:45:51.369Z · LW · GW


Comment by Metus on Good things to have learned.... · 2014-12-03T21:47:09.966Z · LW · GW

[Meta] The answers will be way more informative if they are posted as "X instead of doing/learning Y" e.g. "Underwater basket weaving instead of moping around" as of course I wished I had learned everything.

Comment by Metus on The new GiveWell recommendations are out: here's a summary of the charities · 2014-12-01T23:09:54.384Z · LW · GW

Thank you.

Which I suppose it is, to some extent for most people, but it seems like it shouldn't and it's unfortunate to be encouraging that mode of thinking.

You don't encourage it, you use it. It will be there no matter what you do as humans are social creatures under heavy competition. We can speculate about the reasons but it is what it is.

Would be happier with a calculator that instead suggests an equivalent of the money to be donated considering tax-deductibility? I am imagining something like "You can donate $10k per year to do X, equivalent to about Y1 number of coffees, Y2 movie tickets, Y3 beers, ..." The point of htese calculators is to visualise the stark contrast in life between first world countries and target nations.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-01T22:03:55.801Z · LW · GW

How do you track and control your spending? Disregarding financial privacy I started paying with card for everything which allows me to track where I do spend my money but not really on what. I find that I in general spend less than what I earn because spending money somehow hurts.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-01T22:01:15.544Z · LW · GW

Thank you. It is a bit of a shame that it is so complicated to donate tax-efficiently from one EU country to another. I can understand complications going from the US to the EU member states and vice versa but this is plenty strange.

Comment by Metus on The new GiveWell recommendations are out: here's a summary of the charities · 2014-12-01T21:42:52.162Z · LW · GW

Thank you for your work.

On the Giving What We Can website (or some other from the same memespace) there is (or was, as I can't find it anymore) an extremely powerful calculator that upon input of your income calculates what your current relative position in the world is, how much it would be reduced by their recommended donation and what good this money could do in terms of physical action (like 23 people dewormed) and expected lifes saved. All the long discussion is extremely valuable but should be put aside to make these kind of visualisations more visible.

I am willing to bet that more people would be convinced by reading something along the lines of "$100 of your annual income would knock you down only by 0.1% on the income distribution, but it would help educate 63 people about basic hygiene and prevent 12 expected child deaths" than by anything else.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-01T19:34:15.010Z · LW · GW

Nerds tend to undervalue anything that is not math-heavy or easily quantifiable.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-01T16:38:33.381Z · LW · GW

Also note that there is information on tax-deductibility of donations outside of the U.S. on that site. If you are paying a lot of income tax you might be able to get some money back, donate even more or some combination of those two.

Comment by Metus on Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014 · 2014-12-01T13:55:55.359Z · LW · GW

This is for the people versed in international and tax law.

By a ruling of the ECJ all tax-payers in the EU can deduct charitable donations to any organisation within the EU from their taxes. In Germany at least this means that the charitability has to be certified by the German authorities. The usual process here is that a legal entity wishing to accept tax-deductible donations has to document how their funds are used and can then issue certificates to donors which then document the tax-deductibility of their donations.

Which leads to a couple of ideas and questions:

  1. It is obvious then that to receive tax-deductible donations in principle necessitates exactly one legal seat in any of the EU member states. This opens up donations from potentially 500 million people in the largest economic zone of the world. Does charitability have to be proven in every one of the currently 28 member states or is there an easier way to do this, e.g. by some sort of transitivity? Is it possible to get the usual certification at all or does charitability have to be proven for each and every one of the donations?

  2. Is this process specific to Germany or do other EU member states recognise charitable organisations from other member states by default such as Ireland and United Kingdom? How do medium sized organisations solve the problem of receiving tax-deductible donations, do they just found a bunch of subsidaries?

  3. Assuming that the situation is maximally bleak with regard of tax deductibility, would it be useful to lobby for reform at the level of the EU to make it way easier to donate from any member state to any legal entity in any other member? Or is the marginal unit of money better spent elsewhere?

Considering the tax-load in the EU and the potential wealth available for donations a lot of thought should be given to these kind of things.

I have a couple more thoughts on the whole matter of extracting more donations, if anyone is interested.