NC Triangle LW meetup: Wed June 1, 7:00PM 2011-05-26T01:09:08.717Z · score: 3 (4 votes)


Comment by mutterc on A funny argument for traditional morality · 2011-07-16T13:54:19.470Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good question :-)

We could measure them against some non-relativist ethical standard, like "US Dollars lost", "lives lost", "person-weeks stuck in traffic" or somesuch.

Comment by mutterc on A funny argument for traditional morality · 2011-07-13T00:57:05.928Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

drift is harmful from the perspective of my current values

True. And that drift would be beneficial from the perspective of your new, drifted-to values.

But neither of those statements have any bearing on whether value drift (in general or any specific instance thereof) is good or bad.

Comment by mutterc on Meetup : Research Triangle Less Wrong Meetup · 2011-07-06T00:50:27.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Offer extended; I can be there about 6:40.

Comment by mutterc on Meetup : Research Triangle Less Wrong Meetup · 2011-07-06T00:49:48.399Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. Google says it's not particularly out of the way. (I got a day job, around Brier Creek; coming from there puts me halfway to the meetup compared to coming from home).

Comment by mutterc on Meetup : Research Triangle Less Wrong Meetup · 2011-07-05T23:00:45.320Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by mutterc on I'm becoming intolerant. Help. · 2011-07-02T19:05:14.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I know this sounds snarky, but it's serious: Are you married?

Ideally a life partner will share many of your values, but no two people share all values, and you'll need to respect the ones that differ. (Even if you're both Bayesian, in area where you have different values/axioms you will not necessarily agree).

Comment by mutterc on asking an AI to make itself friendly · 2011-06-29T00:38:30.239Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Assuming one already had an AI that is capable of understanding human psychology

From what I understand, that's actually the hard part of the Friendliness problem.

Comment by mutterc on Reasons for being rational · 2011-06-29T00:07:29.409Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

a significant proportion of the LW posters are contrarians

I'm not!

Comment by mutterc on The Ideological Turing Test · 2011-06-26T21:14:41.754Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the position. Remember Poe's Law - there are some positions where it's impossible to distinguish a parody from the real thing.

Comment by mutterc on Exclude the supernatural? My worldview is up for grabs. · 2011-06-26T21:05:49.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Attempt to make beliefs pay rent, and beliefs in the supernatural will likely melt away as they fail to constrain your anticipated experiences.

And don't worry too much about supernatural beliefs. Just keep trying to make your beliefs correspond to reality, and see where that goes.

Comment by mutterc on How exactly do you deal with irrational reactions to insects and spiders? · 2011-06-17T01:53:34.907Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By attempting genocide.

Comment by mutterc on What do bad clothes signal about you? · 2011-06-17T00:28:44.312Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

sandals are supposed to show your feet

I read once that men should generally avoid showing their feet, because said feet are likely to be uglier than socks or shoes. (Or even Vibram Fivefingers).

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-16T00:06:11.593Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The implied context of all this is: what if Bitcoin (or something similar) became a/the dominant currency, that paychecks, debts, etc. are denominated in?

If it doesn't then it doesn't really matter, societally, if it inflates, deflates, mutates, or defenestrates (other than to the people who invest in it...) It'd just be another good, as you say.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-13T23:14:36.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's deserved - I wasn't being productive, or constructive, or even particularly coherent. It surprised me too. I think various Issues of mine that nobody cares about all came together yesterday, and so I'd be better off to just avoid discussing economics altogether. At least until I can be unemotional about it (if ever). Sorry for polluting the thread, back to public-key encryption...

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-13T23:05:50.795Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My understanding is that one good wouldn't do it, but persistent, overall deflation would in fact devastate the economy.

Sure, right now you can stick money under a mattress for 6 months and buy more Core 2 laptops than you could today. But that doesn't seem the same as "getting richer".

Where's the line? Good question. Obviously if you could buy more of anything that would be getting richer without investing the money. Or if you could buy more (houses or food or cars or Internet access or electricity or sex or drugs or rock n' roll).

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-13T22:57:34.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've not been very coherent, and I think my once-debilitating fear of the Invisible Hand has not gone away enough. So I'm not making a lot of sense, even to myself.

So, umm, never mind. Sorry for polluting the thread.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T23:47:16.451Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you expand? Here's the difference as I see it:

  • Price index: the dollar is worth 5% less than last year because it buys 5% less of the stuff in this market basket, populated with stuff representative of the "cost of living"
  • Gold standard: the dollar is worth 5% less than last year because it buys 5% less gold

Which is more or less useful, and why?

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T23:41:06.338Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Here's another, hop to it...

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T19:29:28.595Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, just discuss the particular problems with the (best versions of) propositions put forth by such people [goldbugs and libertarians], and how their conclusions don't follow, and what specific pieces of evidence weight heavily against them. (Note the lack of smearing them as racists in this method.)

OK. Libertarianism I can leave to others (I don't think I have anything new to say about it). As for hard-money advocacy, usually one sees the following errors:

  • Belief that there's some Platonic ideal of "value" against which currencies should be measured (traditionally "gold", though one sees variations these days)
  • Ignorance of the hazards of a totally exogenous money supply size. (fewer levers to deal with recessions and overly-hot economies; real wage declines have to happen nominally (which is very difficult) rather then through exchange rates)
  • Belief in immaculate transfer (trade balances, capital flows, and exchange rates in fact all affect one another)
  • Belief that the medium of exchange should be a stable long-term store of value, and in fact increase in real value without being invested (how could such a thing even work? What's creating the value?)

As far as I can tell, the only of those I've seen from you in particular is the last one, and that's another subthread.

There is a new one, from you, in this discussion though: the idea that "too much" economic activity is happening now, and it would be better to defer some of that economic activity until later. High unemployment refutes this. [If you'll claim current unemployment is structural in nature, then what is the industry that lacks labor, and is thusly currently experiencing increasing real wages?]

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T19:10:22.493Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily (though I'm no doubt being too snarky).

It's common for goldbugs to compare stashing gold under a mattress with stashing green pieces of paper under a mattress, and note that the former has better investment return. When there's no economic reason that simply sitting on wealth (without loaning it out to some productive use) should make one wealthier.

The expectation that money should be a long-term store of value is, in fact, misguided.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T19:02:38.504Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Now to get to the actual economics:

Investing in the productive economy hasn't yielded a positive return for the last ten years

Given stock price trends I can't see how this is true. Can you elaborate? Even Treasuries are yielding 3-odd percent in the face of 2-odd percent inflation.

unless you want all behavior to shift toward consuming all real resources immediately, including "seed corn", you have just as much an interest in seeing an economy strike a balance between present an future consumption

The wealth of a nation is not some fixed quantity; it's its aggregate production of goods and services. There's not anything we can "run out of" that's required for people to trade, barter, etc. Am I missing something?

Sure, there are finite resources we could run out of, like oil. But attempting to restrict the total size of the economy in an effort to conserve those particular resources seems awfully suboptimal. (It also seems doomed to fail in an economy consisting of humans). Better to attack those particular resource usages through taxation, policy, subsidizing alternatives, etc.

Try to bear with me; and I will try to remember where I am. This is the first time I've met a hard-money advocate on the Internet who also [presumably, given our venue] cares about map-territory correspondence.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T18:44:17.504Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

you hate rich people

I do, and this probably clouds my judgement.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T18:43:48.767Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

if you want to paint me as a racist

I apologize; that was not my intent. Even here one must be very careful about any statements involving race, and I was not nearly careful enough.

The entire concept I was trying to get at is one I think worthy of discussion. Let's see if I can unpack it non-offensively:

1) [Economic] conservatives generally consider poor people an out-group (often even when accountancy would consider said person poor) 2) Said conservatives are almost universally white 3) Everybody on Earth considers people of other races an out-group 4) Everyone on Earth wishes to help their in-group before their out-group, if they wish to help out-groups at all 5) In the USA, poverty is highly correlated with being black and/or Hispanic, for a variety of reasons, including failure to choose the proper parents

As far as I can tell none of those statements are controversial, or paint you (or any other) individual person in a negative light. Please correct me if I am wrong about that.

It seems to me that #2-5 could have a large influence on the apparent paradox in #1 (the "why do poor white folks often favor upwards redistribution?" problem).

Edit: Upon reflection, I'll withdraw the entire sub-topic as "too mind-killing". Besides that property, it's orthogonal to the question under discussion: "Is a hard quantity limit on a medium of exchange a feature or a bug?"

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T14:32:56.835Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To expand, whenever you think of "dollar debasement", ask yourself "relative to what?"

  • Gold: Exactly how important is gold to everyday commerce and life?
  • Oil: Check the oil price in other currencies to get an idea of how much of the change is because of the value of the dollar vs. the supply of and demand for oil.
  • Other commodities: see "oil". If the commodities are produced in the USA (or China, as long as they peg their currency, the RMB, to the USD), then fluctuations in the value of the dollar can't affect their prices. (Edit: Yes, everything needs oil, and almost everything has at least some "foreign" component, so there can be second-order effects).
  • Other currencies: If capital flows in and out of the subject countries are relatively free, then exchange rate changes mean something real about the respective economies. (China restricts capital flows and buys a shitload of USD, that's how they can keep the exchange rate constant. It also means domestically they have ugly inflation they can't do anything about).
Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T14:22:42.966Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

After a deep breath and an attempt to come up with something nice and/or constructive:

You are probably attempting to apply too much "common sense" and household finance to macroeconomics - this is very common. Lots of smart people get sucked in by those fallacies.

An economy needs both savers and consumers to function at full capacity: someone's got to supply the capital that funds businesses to create goods and services, and someone's got to buy those goods and services. There's already a global savings glut - see Planet Money's "global pool of money" series for details.

Emotional resentment of the seeming payoffs to the "undeserving" cloud the issues. I've always found wealth and "deserving-ness" mildly correlated at best (contrary theories have always smacked of just-world bias to me). [] Keep in mind that in many white conservative circles, deserving-ness is mentally (usually subconsciously but sometimes not) highly correlated with skin color. (Citation: growing up white, rural and poor) Living in Texas, your social circle may be inadvertently coloring your thinking this way (I saw plenty of that in rural Ohio).[]

In conclusion, make some models of international trading and see what effect "dollar debasement" has. Example: Take three countries that trade exclusively with one another, halve the values of all their currencies, you'll find that nothing has changed (in real terms) at all. Another example: The USA generates the most manufactured goods in the world (by value). Pretty much every country out there does a lot of trade with the USA and/or processes a buttload of US dollars. Given that, attempt to construct a model where the US dollar loses a significant portion of its value relative to every other world currency, and it does not spring back given capital flows, trade flows, etc.

EDIT: Portion within [*] withdrawn as overly mind-killing, offensive and (worst of all) orthogonal to the topic. Apology issued downthread.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T13:58:03.136Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Let's hear your economic system design where anyone can gain real wealth by simply putting their cash under mattresses (as would be true if deflation were the norm). Who needs to invest in the actual productive economy?

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T13:54:56.475Z · score: -15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Do you also believe inflation is higher than the BLS stated numbers? Da Gubmint be lyin' to placate us? Or that inflation is particularly high these days? Or that the price of oil is under the control of the Fed? Or the Jews?

Feed us some more mockable "economics"!

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-12T13:51:09.143Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

So inflation benefits the rich and deflation benefits the poor? Krugman has it backwards, then? Thanks for the tip.

You have savings under a mattress, or in some other vehicle that doesn't pay interest? Sounds retarded.

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-11T20:02:06.493Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I have a bad habit of spending time in corners of the Internet where libertarians, gold-bugs and various mutations thereof like to come and argue (i.e. any economics-related blog); so anything that looks like hard-money or libertarian advocacy provokes an instant "aw geez, not this shit again!" reaction.

It does occur to me that any system of money with de-centralized production probably does have to have an upper quantity limit, to keep random assholes from manipulating its value.

As popular as libertarianism and goldbuggism seem to be, it wouldn't surprise me if much Bitcoin advocacy did derive from those beliefs. And it seems those beliefs are at least as misguided as theism (and we have no trouble being dismissive of them). Is there a nice way to discuss that?

Comment by mutterc on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2011-06-11T15:20:39.147Z · score: 1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I do not understand why people are especially excited about bitcoin.

My understanding:

  • It's not under the control of any particular government, which excites people who view governments as evil mutants
  • It has a fixed upper quantity, which excites people who understand macroeconomics little enough that they think that's a good idea for a medium of exchange

Or in two words: techno-libertarian porn.

EDIT: It occurs to me the fixed upper quantity is necessary given de-centralized production.

It also occurs to me to wonder if there are any reasons to advocate Bitcoin other than those two - anyone want to help me update?

Comment by mutterc on Rational Parenting? · 2011-06-08T18:28:35.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd think if you value / reward honesty and being reality-based, everything else should fall out of that. But mine are still too young to tell.

Comment by mutterc on Job Search Advice · 2011-06-06T14:10:31.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The unemployment office recommended My Next Move for scouting out occupations. (I'm already established in something that can loosely be called a career so it wasn't of use to me).

Comment by mutterc on What would you do with infinite willpower? · 2011-06-05T21:38:07.765Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would presumably be able to stop eating things after noting that I am neither hungry nor enjoying them.

This is actually theorized to be a major contributor to obesity. It definitely is for me; I generally desire to continue eating until mechanically full, or the food is gone.

Forcibly eating slowly (using chopsticks can help that) can help that.

Comment by mutterc on What would you do with infinite willpower? · 2011-06-05T21:34:43.343Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My ability to do things very fast is currently hampered by my psychological need to multitask, take frequent and extended breaks, etc. With infinite willpower I would just do things very fast. I would take on more paid work.

Before I got ADD treatment I coped by working in a job where it's an asset rather than a liability: tech support. One cannot keep the same activity going very long in that environment because one is certain to be interrupted with something of higher priority, in short order.

Comment by mutterc on What would you do with infinite willpower? · 2011-06-05T21:32:29.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lose 120-150 pounds. Then put some energy into figuring out what to do next. Then do that.

Comment by mutterc on Should a rationalist be concerned about habitat loss/biodiversity loss? · 2011-06-05T21:28:48.902Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What upsides are left to being vegetarian once you leave out economics and ecology? I have trouble thinking of any. It's a bit easier for a vegetarian to eat "light" but one has to keep an eye on one's protein intake. As far as I can tell the moral dimension (is it "wrong" to eat animals?) reduces to personal preference.

Is there an upside I'm missing?

Comment by mutterc on Job Search Advice · 2011-06-05T21:20:54.297Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When applying, model the probability of getting any specific job as zero. If you get through an in-person interview and it goes well, you can update that probability upwards a bit.

That is, don't serialize your applications (you won't hear back anything at all from most of them, anyway). Expect near-universal rejection, even for jobs for which you're the world's most ideal candidate.

Compensate by applying for hundreds of jobs.

Comment by mutterc on What are you working on? June 2011 · 2011-06-05T21:13:47.101Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Just finished a new, improved sandbox. The prior one was irregularly shaped, hard to cover, and lined with a tarp so when it got wet it would stay wet. The new one:

  • Added a couple boards to make it strictly rectangular
  • Treated plywood lid in two pieces with handles, to make it easy to cover in a mostly waterproof way
  • Lined with landscape cloth, so if it gets wet it can drain, without letting in worms, ants and such from below

Motivation source: Starting a new (temporary) day job soon, so I could afford the materials, and would have little time to work on it.

Comment by mutterc on Heuristics for Deciding What to Work On · 2011-06-02T18:40:20.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

With similar keys: If they're the same brand of lock, and you control both, you can get one re-keyed to be the same as the other.

Locksmiths will do this, or if you buy a new lock of that brand at Lowe's and bring that existing key (and the person who knows how to do this is afoot), they will re-key the lock to match your existing key, at no extra charge.

Comment by mutterc on Overcoming Suffering & Buddhism · 2011-06-01T19:43:29.392Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I read (in What To Expect, maybe) that until the 50s or so, doctors generally would not give pain relief during childbirth. Not so much because of concern over side effects, etc. but for reasons as above.

Painful childbirth was seen as a divine curse upon womankind - a punishment for Eve's role in the Original Sin. Therefore ameliorating said pain would be immoral.


Comment by mutterc on Existing Absurd Technologies · 2011-06-01T01:02:00.638Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I was without plumbing for several years as a teenager (1980s). Occasionally I marvel that I can use an automatic dishwasher instead of dipping up a pot from the rain barrel and heating it on the stove. It got mundane for me mighty quick though.

Comment by mutterc on [SEQ RERUN] Lotteries: A Waste of Hope · 2011-06-01T00:55:25.033Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Lately I fantasize about telling my wife I have to work late, sneaking off to a motel, and sleeping.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Buying a car · 2011-06-01T00:48:05.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've found to be well worth the $26/year, especially in the automotive reviews.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Buying a car · 2011-06-01T00:47:08.844Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From the Car Talk guys: The cheapest car to own, in the long run, is a junk heap. But expenses with such cars are "bursty" and unpredictable; you never know when you night have to drop a grand on a head gasket or something. They're also less safe than newer cars of similar mass, and more likely to break down at inconvenient times.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Buying a car · 2011-06-01T00:29:53.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would suggest; they will tell you an average of what other people are paying for a car of your choice (a good guide to knowing if prices are in line with reality). I don't know if they cover Australia, but even if they don't, some good information is likely there for the taking.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Buying a car · 2011-06-01T00:27:09.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It also makes a difference if you're unusually tall and/or fat (or as I prefer to be called, a "person of size".)

Comment by mutterc on Teachable Rationality Skills · 2011-05-31T20:44:11.480Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's a mind hack to help one consider fellow LWers as part of one's "tribe".

It seems to me to be a rationality skill, in the sense of consciously exploiting human cognitive biases in the service of one's own goals.

Or it's a very mild form of cult "love bombing".

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Homeownership · 2011-05-27T20:59:31.481Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I hadn't considered that that whole mess hasn't shaken out yet.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Homeownership · 2011-05-27T18:12:16.655Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I actually think it is rare for houses to lose value, especially over a few years. But I might well be missing something.

Yes, there was recently a housing "bubble" where many did lose value. My understanding is that the typical case there was a house that went up 40% in value from 2000 to 2007, then plummeted to its 2000 value. Sucks if you buy in 2007 I suppose.

And there are instances where an individual house can lose significant amounts of value. It could become unintentionally mobile, for example.

Comment by mutterc on Advice request: Homeownership · 2011-05-27T17:14:55.055Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Other advice:

  • Get an inspection. That house is a fixer-upper; you'll want to have a good idea of everything that needs fixed. Triage that stuff in terms of safety, severity, cost, inconvenience, etc.
  • Even casual friends will often help you move, paint, etc. in exchange for pizza and beer. (I'm in serious danger of having a day job by then, but ought to be able to find some time nonetheless).
  • There will always be stuff that needs improved, altered, newly furnished, etc. Pace yourself.
  • Mortgage: Accept only a fixed rate with no prepayment penalties. If your interest rate is above-market (because of credit history, documentation, etc.) you will likely want to refinance within a few years, and a prepayment penalty will make that painful.
  • If there's something about this house and/or mortgage that seems like a big problem, be prepared to walk away. There are others.