Posts

Avoid News, Part 2: What the Stock Market Taught Me about News 2021-06-14T20:54:05.386Z
Book review: The Geography of Thought 2021-02-09T18:47:35.781Z
The Flynn Effect Clarified 2020-12-12T05:18:53.327Z
Book review: WEIRDest People 2020-11-30T03:33:17.510Z
Book review: Age Later 2020-10-27T04:21:12.428Z
Black Death at the Golden Gate (book review) 2020-06-26T16:09:06.866Z
COVID-19: The Illusion of Stability 2020-06-08T18:46:54.259Z
Book review: Human Compatible 2020-01-19T03:32:04.989Z
Another AI Winter? 2019-12-25T00:58:48.715Z
Book Review: The AI Does Not Hate You 2019-10-28T17:45:26.050Z
Drexler on AI Risk 2019-02-01T05:11:01.008Z
Bundle your Experiments 2019-01-18T23:22:08.660Z
Time Biases 2019-01-12T21:35:54.276Z
Book review: Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security 2018-12-08T03:47:17.098Z
Where is my Flying Car? 2018-10-15T18:39:38.010Z
Book review: Pearl's Book of Why 2018-07-07T17:30:30.994Z

Comments

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on The aducanumab approval · 2021-06-18T03:15:18.206Z · LW · GW

Crappy drugs that only slow the decline a bit might need an aducanumab comparison, but why would a drug that reverses the decline need that?

See Cassava's trial results.

See also this clinical trial of Bredesen's approach (press release here).

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Taboo "Outside View" · 2021-06-17T19:31:56.829Z · LW · GW

The book Noise by Daniel Kahneman et al sometimes uses the terms statistical thinking and causal thinking as substitutes for outside and inside views.

These terms seem better at reminding me what the categories are meant to be, and why evolution prepared us less for one of them. But they still leave some confusion about how to draw the boundary between the concepts.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on The aducanumab approval · 2021-06-17T18:26:59.995Z · LW · GW

Companies already knew beforehand that Alzheimer drugs are a multi-billion dollar market.

But they didn't know how willing the FDA was to approve placebo-like drugs.

Cassava Sciences, whose Alzheimer drug candidate doesn't target beta amyloid, rose in response to that approval. I doubt that many people will be satisfied enough with this drug to deter signups for new trials.

I don't know what the net effect will be on the development of good drugs, and I doubt that anyone else does either.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on [Prediction] What war between the USA and China would look like in 2050 · 2021-05-26T18:28:06.483Z · LW · GW

Part of what I'm asking is how long would Taiwan resist assimilation if assimilation is the only way to re-establish trade with the world?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on [Prediction] What war between the USA and China would look like in 2050 · 2021-05-26T17:38:49.034Z · LW · GW

Why would the Beijing government invade Taiwan? Couldn't it get most of what it wants by taking control of the airspace and shipping lanes around Taiwan?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Zvi's Law of No Evidence · 2021-05-14T15:15:30.065Z · LW · GW

I disagree. Much of what's going wrong is differing meanings of the word evidence.

Most people are oblivious to the Bayesian meaning of the word evidence. When I hear an ordinary person say "no evidence", I usually interpret it as "no evidence that's admissible in a court", or maybe even "no proof".

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-09T20:31:23.846Z · LW · GW

Ticks: I've found more ticks on me in the bay area than I did when I lived in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I don't think that's fully explained by behavioral changes.

I have a good deal of control over my exposure to ticks. I haven't put much effort into avoiding them. Well over 90% of the times I've found ticks on me were after going off-trail. Brushing against tall grass seems especially high risk. Wide trails seem to have very low risk. The clearest exception I've seen to this pattern may have involved transmission via a dog.

I started getting more tick bites after I stopped using sunscreen. That's definitely not due to getting more ticks on me. I think the sunscreen caused them to wander around much longer before deciding where to bite, giving me more time to find them when they're still crawling.

I've never found a tick more than 24 hours after my suspected exposure. I don't think I'm unusually diligent about checking for them.

The big caveat here is that the ticks that transmit Lyme are smaller than the ones I'm used to finding on me. I had a recent test that detected small amounts of a Lyme virus in my blood. I haven't seen any corresponding symptoms, so I don't have any guess as to where I lived when I got infected. I presume I never detected the tick that caused it.

Other insects: those mosquito maps seem misleading. There's a lot of local variation. Most parts of California seem pretty mosquito-free. The few parts that I've found bad were in mountains where the snow recently melted. The median location in New England has significantly more mosquitoes, and also a wider variety of other distracting insects, than the median location in California. My impression is that Maine is the worst state overall for insect distractions of the states that I have enough experience with to evaluate (mainly New England and the area from Colorado west), yet those maps suggest it's good.

I consider grass pollen to be a bigger negative than insects. Grass pollen bothers me much more in New England than it does anywhere in the west.

My overall preferences (for reasons mostly involving weather, outdoor recreational options, and political climate): Of the top 5 places that you mention, Reno is my top choice, Bellingham is 2nd, New Hampshire is 3rd. Colorado also seems worth considering.

There's a significant chance I'll want to stay in the bay area, probably moving to somewhere a bit less urban than Berkeley.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Best empirical evidence on better than SP500 investment returns? · 2021-04-25T20:37:24.262Z · LW · GW

The best answers to these questions that I've seen are in the book Expected Returns, which I reviewed here.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on [deleted post] 2021-04-18T02:02:42.847Z

I see important benefits, and big risks.

What stops the government from taking more money in ways that it doesn't classify as taxes? E.g. civil forfeiture?

It could increase hostility to new immigrants. That might be solved by taxing people when they immigrate. I'm unsure how to evaluate the effects of those taxes.

the one main reason to expect the government to shrink is that it acts irresponsibly and politicians take out debt with no good plan to pay it back. However, if this happens, shouldn’t we celebrate that the government is shrinking?

I don't know. Does it imply that the government gets taken over by a government that can afford more military spending?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on People Will Listen · 2021-04-12T20:54:14.069Z · LW · GW

How many LWers bought Bitcoin in 2011 and ended up with poor returns due to the demise of Mt. Gox?

I almost ended up losing a little of my money that way, but was stopped when my KYC evidence was rejected for no clear reason. I ended up doing well by buying Ripples a couple of years later, but I don't know whether I would have done that if I had lost money in my first attempt.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Covid 2/25: Holding Pattern · 2021-03-25T04:43:28.399Z · LW · GW

It's got to be either reporting delays, or people dying months after they contracted the virus. I've changed my mind a bit, and I'm currently guessing it's more the latter.

I compared the ratio of reported deaths over the past week in California (1273) and New York state (406). This clearly has no connection with people who recently tested positive, since New York has been reporting over twice as many new cases as California recently.

It was only before mid-January that California last reported something in excess of twice the new cases that NY reported, and only around Christmas or earlier that California reported 3 times as many new cases a NY.

So unless there's something quite misleading about the ratio of California to NY numbers, recent deaths are dominated by people who contracted the virus around Christmas / New Years.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers · 2021-03-24T18:57:57.390Z · LW · GW

It looks like the average academic bioethicist is ok (with high variance), and is not having much effect outside academia.

Like lawyers, the bioethicists we hear about the most are the ones defending the least ethical clients.

Are the less conspicuous bioethicists doing the equivalent of mundane, mildly beneficial lawyers who write contracts? Or are they mostly engaged in intellectual masturbation?

I'm unclear on why I'd hire a bioethicist unless I was trying to defend behavior that looks unethical. Which suggests that there isn't much demand for bioethicists to do constructive things.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What are the best resources to point people who are skeptical of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 to? · 2021-03-21T23:33:03.794Z · LW · GW

I suggest the RaDVaC article, as evidence of what experts think about vaccine safety when they're focused on protecting themselves.

You might follow that up with this suggestion about why the FDA might mislead us: if people notice that some vaccines are safer than the alternative by really big margins, they'll start asking why we don't just bypass FDA review in some cases. That will bias the FDA to suggest that most vaccines are tough choices, which need the FDA's expertise to evaluate. But given big variations in how harmful diseases are, this will lead the FDA to be too cautious about the worst diseases.

Also, it can't hurt to mention evidence of asymmetric blame that motivates the FDA to overstate the risks of all medical treatments.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015? · 2021-03-09T19:15:36.617Z · LW · GW

If you act on it by donating, you can be done with it. It’s a conversation-stopper.

In 2014, it felt like donations were a good conversation topic. There were enough new charities to evaluate that it was worthwhile to get other people's opinions. The EA community and the number of new charities were small enough that we could come close to knowing most of the people involved in starting the charities, and expect most EAs to know something about those new charities.

Then the EA movement became much larger than the Dunbar number, it became harder to keep track of all the charities, and the value of additional funding declined a bit. At least some of those factors made it harder for EA to be a good community.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Covid 2/25: Holding Pattern · 2021-03-03T05:27:10.229Z · LW · GW

The slow decline in deaths seems like it must be primarily due to delayed reporting.

We know that there were a few big batches of delayed reports, plus day of the week effects. I can't think of a good reason to expect those without also expecting a significant number of small batches.

I expect that hospitalization data is much more reliable evidence about the timing of bad health. It shows the expected sharp drop. It also dropped faster than the death rate after the summer wave, and maybe slightly faster than the death rate after the first wave.

In order believe that the death rate was dropping much more slowly than the reported hospitalization rate, it would seem to require something like deaths per hospitalization rise as hospitals become less overwhelmed, or that there are reporting problems that have a significant effect on the rate of change of hospitalization data. Neither seems likely.

I suppose there might be some predictable demographic changes that alter the death rate (i.e. younger people get infected at earlier stages of each wave), but for recent data it's hard to reconcile that with the effects of vaccines.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: The Geography of Thought · 2021-02-28T03:52:00.547Z · LW · GW

When talking at a high level, the author refers to cultures that were heavily influenced by China, versus European cultures. But many specific research results or anecdotes are only available for one Eastern and one Western nation. For those, he mostly refers to the specific nations, and leaves it to the reader to make inferences about how well those apply to similar nations.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Covid 2/18: Vaccines Still Work · 2021-02-19T16:27:04.746Z · LW · GW

Yes, Scott's first 25% appears to be only about preventing infection.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Covid 2/18: Vaccines Still Work · 2021-02-18T23:28:14.276Z · LW · GW

These two numbers being identical thus suggests Scott doesn’t see it that way, and in particular that he’s thinking that if it doesn’t work in a hospital (or doesn’t work in a hospital for any given reasonable dosing method) it also doesn’t work as a supplement.

I don't imagine Scott thinks that. I assume the most important difference is between vitamin D working to prevent infections, versus vitamin D preventing serious harm given infection.

Could the difference between the Spain and Brazil studies be due to bigger vitamin D deficiencies in Spain?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: The Geography of Thought · 2021-02-12T20:10:04.523Z · LW · GW

That might have some interesting implications for where mind uploading will initially become popular.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on How would free prediction markets have altered the pandemic? · 2021-02-10T00:28:20.528Z · LW · GW

Here are some pairs of contracts that would have been informative last spring:

  • Vaccinations in 2020 if human challenge trials are started by June 1.

  • Vaccinations in 2020 if human challenge trials are not started by June 1.

  • COVID deaths in 2020 if rapid at-home tests are approved by July 1.

  • COVID deaths in 2020 if rapid at-home tests are not approved by July 1.

  • COVID deaths in 2020 if most states keep schools closed all year.

  • COVID deaths in 2020 if most states reopen schools in September.

  • Vaccinations in winter 2021 if vaccine manufacturers are paid at least $1000 per dose for the first 10 million doses.

  • Vaccinations in winter 2021 if vaccine manufacturers are paid at most $100 per dose for the first 10 million doses.

Some contracts that would have been informative in October:

  • COVID deaths in 2021 if state health agencies are put in charge of most vaccinations.
  • COVID deaths in 2021 if drug stores are put in charge of most vaccinations.
  • COVID deaths in 2021 if hospitals are put in charge of most vaccinations.

It would likely require decades of advocacy by prediction market supporters before mainstream opinion shapers feel constrained to acknowledge that these markets constitute expert opinions. But if they did acknowledge that expertise enough for it to alter government policies, I'd guess that 2 or 3 of those policy changes would have cut COVID deaths by about 10% each.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Metric selection bias: why Moore's law is less important than you think · 2021-02-08T03:26:34.652Z · LW · GW

The decline in solar costs is known as Swanson's Law.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on ESRogs's Shortform · 2021-01-31T18:26:00.758Z · LW · GW

I'm unsure why you'd expect anything to be better than pure plays such as shorting bond or Eurodollar futures.

I expect the effects on value minus growth to be rather small.

If you're betting that rising rates will be due to increased inflation, more than rising real rates, then it's worth looking at companies that have borrowed at low long-term rates. Maybe shipping companies (dry bulk?), homebuilders, airplane leasing companies?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on [deleted post] 2021-01-26T04:09:10.133Z

Maybe ask him when was the right time for doctors to start having an opinion about whether smoking is unhealthy?

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Benefits of "micro-tracking" for personal health measurements? · 2021-01-19T22:12:57.473Z · LW · GW

For food, I've found macro-tracking to be sustainable for 5+ years, whereas I would not be willing to sustain micro-tracking for more than a few weeks.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Anti-Aging: State of the Art · 2021-01-10T05:59:25.173Z · LW · GW

Baze has technology for cheaper and more convenient blood tests. So far they're only using it to sell vitamins. I presume regulatory obstacles are delaying more valuable uses.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2021-01-10T05:22:37.934Z · LW · GW

I've put together some guesses about what's important for US competence as a nation, loosely based on ideas from WEIRDest People and Where is my Flying Car?.

Human societies likely default to small groups that fragment (due to disagreements) if they grow much above 20 people.

Over the past 10 millennia or so, it has become common to use extended ties of kinship to scale up to the Dunbar number, and sometimes well beyond that.

Western civilization scaled up to unprecedented levels of trust and cooperation via a set of fairly new cultural features: moral universalism, use of impartial rules rather than contextual particularism, the expectation of supernatural punishment for undetected crimes, more emphasis on analytical thinking, and more positive-sum thinking.

The US has been partly held together by a shared religion, whose teachings promote trust between co-religionists, and which also encourage treating others as potential converts.

Shared enemies (Nazis, Communism, maybe briefly Islam) created additional, but temporary, boosts to cooperation within the English speaking world. Some of the polarization we've recently experienced is just a return to patterns that were previously common. If that were most of what's going wrong, I'd be fairly optimistic about the future of the US.

Over the past few decades, the US has experienced a decline in religion (or a least in a shared religion).

Science got too aggressive about demanding that we disbelieve any knowledge beyond what scientific journals would publish. That eroded beliefs in supernatural phenomena, and also eroded beliefs in the religion(s) that helped to promote large-scale trust and cooperation.

Science didn't succeed in replacing religion with something more rigorous. Instead, new quasi-religions sprouted (e.g. Green fundamentalism, and the cult of Trump). They're optimized more for features such as compatibility with forager instincts, than the ability to promote prosperity.

In contrast, the Protestant religion was selected in part for its ability to foster cooperation between distant strangers.

I'm concerned that many US problems of the past few decades (including The Great Stagnation) can only be solved by something like a return to being a Christian nation. The tension between Science and Christianity seems strong enough that it's hard to see how that is feasible.

Another problem is that democracy has morphed from a tool, to a goal in itself.

That has undercut the authority of political parties. They used to have near total control over what candidates were on the ballot. Then, starting around 1970, there was a massive shift toward direct voter control over who each party nominated.

That made it harder to hold any institution accountable for political results. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that this trend started around the same time as The Great Stagnation. It seems correlated with reduced trust in authority in general, although I can't tell whether this is a cause or effect.

WEIRDest People also claims that WEIRD cultures have produced lower testosterone levels, via monogamy. That's important, since it reduces impulsivity, reduces competitive urges, and increases positive-sum thinking.

But testosterone seems to have decreased over the past few decades, so the US ought to be in a better position than most societies to rebuild institutions.

I'm maybe 90% confident that the US still has enough competence to postpone collapse and civil war for a few decades.

It seems like there should be some research on how companies, nonprofits, etc. scale up past the Dunbar number. But I'm unclear whether it's relevant to groups as big as the US, but WEIRDest People has led me to expect that the optimal approach for a group of 300 million people will be rather different from the optimal approach for 200,000 people.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Why the outside view suggests that longevity escape velocity is a long time away and cryonics is a much more feasible option for those alive today: signal-boosting a comment by Calm-Meet9916 on Reddit · 2021-01-08T18:09:50.224Z · LW · GW

I agree that Aubrey is too optimistic, but there's been a bit more progress than you indicate.

Alzheimer's appears to be curable (although not easily treatable), at least if it's treated early.

There's been progress in understanding what lifestyle mistakes are the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. 20-30 years ago most people thought it was mainly saturated fat, now there's more awareness of diabetes-related factors.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Open & Welcome Thread - December 2020 · 2020-12-31T06:04:24.997Z · LW · GW

The GreaterWrong.com interface offers a theme with light text on a dark background.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on My Model of the New COVID Strain and US Response · 2020-12-28T02:35:22.651Z · LW · GW

Something is odd about how people are analyzing vaccine effects.

My guess is that the US is doing a tolerable enough job of vaccinating the vulnerable first that the IFR will start dropping by around 50% per month, for new infections, starting in a week or so (until we get to limits due to people refusing to be vaccinated?). So even if we get another wave with infection rates 2 or 3 times the recent levels, it seems unlikely to keep the death and hospitalization rates from declining.

It will also become gradually easier to keep r low due to the increasing number of people who are immune.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What trade should we make if we're all getting the new COVID strain? · 2020-12-28T01:18:01.760Z · LW · GW

Little reaction to the likely spread of the new strains.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What trade should we make if we're all getting the new COVID strain? · 2020-12-27T19:43:38.559Z · LW · GW

You can short VIX futures.

Shorting VXX is a bit like shorting VIX, often better.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What trade should we make if we're all getting the new COVID strain? · 2020-12-27T06:12:22.969Z · LW · GW

I do trade oil and VIX futures. This is competent advice, close to what I would have written if I'd found the time. I don't expect much reaction to this news, but if I did, I'd short March oil futures, maybe hedging by buying September oil futures.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What trade should we make if we're all getting the new COVID strain? · 2020-12-25T21:00:39.153Z · LW · GW

What would need to happen for this -not- to lead to a crash?

Many investors remembering that selling in mid-March was a bad idea, and that the economy recovers from pandemics faster than most commentators expected.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on What trade should we make if we're all getting the new COVID strain? · 2020-12-25T20:56:51.813Z · LW · GW

VXX is not a good way to compare volatility across years. VIX and similar measures are showing fairly high volatility, but no signs of new panic recently.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on How Hard Would It Be To Make A COVID Vaccine For Oneself? · 2020-12-21T18:35:12.452Z · LW · GW

The RADVAC website has more information, possibly enough to tell experts how to do the same for other viruses.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T21:34:40.756Z · LW · GW

My sound imagination seems a lot more like real sound than my visual imagination seems like seeing.

I suspect I do a lot more visual thinking than verbal thinking, but the verbal thinking is mostly at a conscious level, and the visual thinking is mostly subconscious.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on We desperately need to talk more about human challenge trials. · 2020-12-20T19:05:45.282Z · LW · GW

I'll guess that there's no literature on the subject.

FDA rules require a lot more work per patient for trials. I'm guessing something like $10k per patient, so you're likely proposing more than a trillion dollars in spending. And that assumes there are no problems with hiring and training enough people to run the trials.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on We desperately need to talk more about human challenge trials. · 2020-12-19T20:59:22.378Z · LW · GW

Let me suggest that human challenge trials are a bad idea in a pandemic such as this, because they're too slow.

We can see, from RADVAC use that competent experts who were focused on minimizing their personal risk, that at least some untested vaccines look safer than a lack of vaccines.

So the only ethical strategy was to approve emergency use of at least some vaccines back around February. Possibly there were some vaccines were too novel for this to be safe. Do any of the people who are saying untested vaccines are risky quantify the risks that they believe support their position?

Why might the experts with the most media attention be wrong about this?

  • the FDA is scared of anything which would suggest that their normal process hurts people by delaying good medicine.
  • pharma companies are worried that competitors will be able to sell new medicines more easily.
  • both expect to be blamed much more for harm caused by medicine than for harm due to lack of medicine.
Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Which sources do you trust the most on nutrition advice for exercise? · 2020-12-16T04:03:45.486Z · LW · GW

If you're willing to put a good deal of effort into this, I suggest Staffan Lindeberg's book. There's a good deal that can be inferred from his evidence from very different cultures with different disease rates.

Beyond that, I like Chris Masterjohn, Dale Bredesen, Stephan Guyenet, and Chris Kresser.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Why quantitative methods are heartwarming · 2020-12-13T05:10:40.346Z · LW · GW

Yes and no.

Most social changes have too many effects to be pure wins, so a widespread shift to quantification will likely cause some harm in addition to benefits.

The WEIRDest People in the World has some hints about the trade-offs. E.g. in many cultures, people don't buy from the merchant who offers them the best deal. They buy from the merchant to whom they're most closely connected (as in kin). A switch to more competitive markets makes trade more efficient, at the cost of weakening some social bonds.

The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World, by Douglas Allen, argues that trends of this nature played an important role in the industrial revolution. In particular, the practice of honor duels seems to have ended due to better ways of measuring how honorable a person is.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Anti-EMH Evidence (and a plea for help) · 2020-12-07T03:10:48.928Z · LW · GW

My impression is that market efficiency varies a lot from year to year.

Recessions tend to be associated with less efficient markets. I presume that's because it takes a lot more capital to correct mispricing when the overall market makes large moves.

If a phenomenon only exists one year per decade, then it's less valuable to have enough liquid capital to exploit it, fewer people have the patience needed to remain alert enough to notice it, etc.

2020 has had mispricings that seem more unusual than once per decade phenomena.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on How a billionaire could spend their money to help the disadvantaged: 7 ideas from the top of my head · 2020-12-05T05:47:59.172Z · LW · GW

For idea 5, Michael Kremer's patent-buyout proposal seems more directly focused on doing something similar but better for patented drugs (presumably via a charity?). It looks valuable, but $1 billion worth of charity seems rather small for this kind of project.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-05T02:42:50.239Z · LW · GW

And I’d be quite surprised if none of Google, OpenAI, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla ends up being a major player.

If we get transformative AI in 2028, then I agree. I have some Google shares for AI-related reasons. But if we don't get it until 2040, then I'd be mildly surprised if any of them will be close enough to the cutting edge to be major players.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-04T21:25:59.058Z · LW · GW

Something like half of the companies that look overvalued do not look like they'll benefit much from AI. They look more like they were chosen for safety against risks such as recessions and other near-term risks. I'm thinking of companies such as Apple, Chipotle, Home Depot, Lululemon, Mastercard, and Guidewire.

The "next few decades" is too long a time. Try evaluating what would have happened if you'd invested in companies in 2008 that looked like they would benefit from this decade's demand for electric vehicles, robocars, or solar. Or what would have happened if you had tried to act in 1986 on Drexler's forecast (in Engines of Creation) of a global hypertext system taking off within 10 years?

I'm guessing that if I'd tried those, I'd have guessed on Toyota or Honda for electric vehicles; for solar I actually made some money in Evergreen Solar in 2005-6, so I'm guessing it would have been my top choice (with a few others from this list?); I don't know what I would have found for robocars; and I would have bought Autodesk if I'd realized it owned Xanadu (I'm unsure when I was able to find out that Autodesk had acquired Xanadu).

How well would those have worked? Evergreen Solar became worthless. Some of the more successful solar companies (Canadian Solar, First Solar) are still below their 2008 peak. Honda and Toyota have been unimpressive. Autodesk has done well, but mostly not while it owned Xanadu or during the dot-com boom.

This suggests that expecting an industrial revolution-level change after 2030 is a poor reason for choosing index funds that are loaded with high p/e stocks.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: WEIRDest People · 2020-12-04T00:22:03.431Z · LW · GW

I did not get the impression that Henrich believes in or implies linear progress.

The citation for the chart on p 315 is Kin-Networks and Institutional Development. It sort of looks like the data came from table C.6, column 1 or 2. Oddly, that uses the term commune instead of representative government.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: WEIRDest People · 2020-12-04T00:20:02.088Z · LW · GW

I don't have any evidence directly answering that, but levirate marriage seems to have been encouraged among a wide variety of pre-industrial cultures.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: WEIRDest People · 2020-12-04T00:17:44.327Z · LW · GW

He is aware of some relevant Roman norms. From page 176:

Early Roman law, for example, prohibited close cousin marriage, though the law of the Roman Empire - where Christianity was born - permitted it without social stigma.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: WEIRDest People · 2020-12-03T05:10:15.697Z · LW · GW

It seems like there should be a significant reputation cost to the reversal, since it needed to be widely understood.

I'd expect arbitary exploration to be averse to conspicuous costs. Whereas planned strategies can be plausibly motivated by a vision of inheriting valuable land from widows who have less pressure to leave the land to kin in their wills.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-02T23:34:58.454Z · LW · GW

I think the Michael Burry concerns are reasonable. That mostly means a few of the most popular index funds are overpriced. There are many funds to choose from, and funds that aren't imitating the most popular ones still look like reasonable investments.

See also Colby Davis for some hints about which types of funds look risky.

Comment by PeterMcCluskey on Book review: WEIRDest People · 2020-12-02T23:07:11.908Z · LW · GW

You appear to be correct about the sentence that you quote (with the estimated probability of zero).

Henrich (and Fukuyama?) appear to overstate the novelty of the church's influence on land ownership and marriage norms.

I searched for "land ownership in ancient rome", and found evidence in Property Rights in Ancient Rome that supports at least a small part of the Henrich / Fukuyama story of land ownership:

In the nineteenth century, legal theory created the myth of absolute, exclusive, and unbounded individual ownership, which seemingly had its roots in classical Roman law. The chapter shows that such ownership was never an abstract, unlimited right in ancient Rome. Ownership was rather a dynamic category with changing legal content according to its social, political, and economic environment. It met a broader target, and fostered conditions amenable to an optimal exploitation of the main natural resource, agrarian land.

How much should I alter my opinion of the book due to these issues?

Creationists sometimes criticize stories such as a linear increase in the size of horses. They have a valid point that evolutionists sometimes misleadingly portray change as an inevitable, linear form of progress. We should have some distrust of evolutionists, but that doesn't say much about the central features of evolutionary theory. Historian's reactions to Henrich sound a bit like this - valid criticisms, which don't tell me much about the ideas in which I'm interested.