You’re Entitled to Everyone’s Opinion 2014-09-20T15:39:07.903Z
JSTOR gives public access to pre-1870 publications 2011-09-09T14:19:48.693Z


Comment by satt on Pitting national health care systems against one another · 2017-10-26T01:20:50.988Z · LW · GW

I think this post underrates two general rationalist skills, plus some assorted empirical facts. First, the two skills.

  1. Avoiding the fallacy of the one-sided wager. The post talks about cost-benefit analysis, but in a complete cost-benefit analysis one has to consider the risks of both choices under offer, not just one. The post takes specific notice of the default course of action's risks (money, tears, side effects) but focuses less on the risks of the alternative (e.g. toddlers winding up in the ER because they're shitting themselves half to death from rotavirus).

  2. Trying to look things up. I'll pick this point up briefly below.

The rest of this comment is going to be scattershot, as it just runs through relevant facts I was inspired to check or dig up by different bits of the post.

I grew up in the US in the 80s and I don't remember getting nearly this many. Is my memory faulty?

Probably not, there's a simpler alternative explanation: adults remember basically nothing from before age 3 or so. However, we don't even need that explanation, because...

I'm pretty sure it was more like 12 back in those days.

...the CDC actually did recommend fewer vaccines in the 1980s (via). Though this wouldn't address whatever local or state-level vaccine program you might've also experienced as a kid.

Is this all really necessary? Nobody likes getting shots, especially not children. What changed, anyway?

Scientists and clinicians developed and tested newer vaccines and better vaccines. Seriously! (I think this is an example of how people, even very educated people, tend to not understand on a gut level how much of microbiology's progress was made just in the past 40 years.)

The CDC's 1989 vaccination schedule and current schedule for normal children have only 3 vaccines in common: DTP/DTaP, HbCV/Hib, and MMR. That leaves 7 vaccines which appear on the current schedule but not the 1989 schedule. I looked each of the 7 up online and discovered the following.

  • A patent on hepatitis B vaccine was filed in 1969, but the earliest actual vaccine appears to have come only in the 1970s. It was shown effective in 1980 and made available in 1981, but the vaccine wasn't ideal for mass vaccination because it came directly from carriers' purified blood and was hard to mass produce. A superior recombinant vaccine came along only in 1986, the first of its kind for humans.

  • Rotavirus vaccines didn't even get to the point of testing until the 1980s, and the first publicly introduced vaccine arrived only in 1998. And was then promptly withdrawn due to concern over a potential side effect — clinicians & manufacturers do keep an eye open for side effects!

  • Pneumococcal vaccines have been tested in people for about a century but were relatively ineffective and poorly understood, and their popularity waned with the rise of penicillin. Modern tests began again in 1968 and continued into the 1970s, resulting in US approval for a new vaccine in 1977. However, that vaccine covered only 14 variants of pneumococcus; an improved 23-variant version "covering about 87% of bacteremic pnemuococcal disease in the US" came out in 1983 and was recommended for routine vaccination only in 1984 (and then just in old adults).

  • Inactivated poliovirus wasn't new (Salk famously developed it in the 1950s) but in the current CDC schedule it merely replaces the oral polio vaccine (OPV) used in the 1980s. The inactivated poliovirus vaccine is safer than the OPV in that children who receive the OPV can crap the live, active virus back out.

  • Influenza vaccines are even older, dating to the 1930s.

  • The first varicella vaccine was developed in Japan in the early 1970s, but its safety and worthiness were controversial. Clinical trials took place in the 1980s and the vaccine was licensed for use in Japan in 1986. The US followed suit in 1995.

  • Hepatitis A vaccine went on the market in the early 1990s. Based on playing with Google Scholar, I think the key human studies were done in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

So we have a mundane explanation for most of the newly introduced vaccines for healthy young children; today's vaccines weren't ready before the '80s.

Now, I'm not an expert on immunology or epidemiology so I expect diving into the literature isn't going to be fruitful; I won't be able to ante up decades of education and experience fast enough.

Don't do yourself down! A lot of material written by clinicians & researchers is out there, some of it deliberately targeted to laypeople, and you can often get some understanding even of technical material just by reading, recalling high-school biology, doing arithmetic, and looking things up in medical dictionaries. You won't learn everything, but if the topic is important to you you can discover a lot by spending a few weekends with Google. (There are topics it's hard to get a hold on as a layperson, but it's hard to know whether a topic's that difficult without trying to get a hold on it.)

Here's how many shots each nation's health care system recommends by the time children turn 5.

37 US

25 UK

I thought I'd take a closer look at these two countries (they're both Anglophone, easiest to check). I get somewhat different numbers: 32 or 33 for the US/CDC (count the yellow boxes, remembering to count the annual flu virus 5 times) and 19 for the UK/NHS (only 4 anti-flu injections here; we don't start them until age 2).

Also, while there's a clear UK-US difference in the number of injections, it's exaggerated by the UK lumping multiple vaccines together into one injection. The UK bundles the DTP, polio vaccine, Hib and hepatitis B vaccines; if I broke those out separately I'd get 29 injections instead of just 19 (and then I'd get 30 if I split the combined Hib/MenC vaccine). The numbers of distinct exposures to microbes are similar in the two countries.

When it comes to cultural and environment differences I have a hard time imagining that the orthodoxy varies because Hep A is a much bigger deal in the US. I presume the calculus changes based on your geographic neighbors, but is it a meaningful difference?

Probably the prevalence of hepatitis A in the US itself plays a bigger role. Trying to summarize hepatitis A's prevalence in different countries is a bit of a pain, because prevalence varies a lot by age and cohort as well as place, but I did find a couple of kinda representative studies of the prevalence of hep. A antibodies in the US and UK. Immediately before (1988-1994) vaccine licensing a national survey found a prevalence of 32% in the US, while a nationwide UK study got a prevalence of 12% in unvaccinated individuals around 2002.

On the flip side of this argument: so what if we vaccinate kids against more diseases than other countries? Well, they're not free. [...] Those other nations (presumably) ran cost-benefit analyses too and came to different conclusions. It would be nice if each country showed their work.

At least 3 of the 5 countries you discuss have shown work. See the US's CDC, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and Germany's Standing Vaccination Committee at its Robert Koch Institute. Granted, I couldn't find any dedicated webpages for Denmark or Sweden in a few minutes of searching, but that may be due to my non-knowledge of Danish & Swedish.

Comment by satt on Open thread, October 2 - October 8, 2017 · 2017-10-15T22:01:54.412Z · LW · GW

Upvoted for asking an interesting question, but my answer would be "probably not". Whether patents are a good idea even as is is debatable — see Michele Boldrin and David Levine's Against Intellectual Monopoly — and I expect beefing them up to be bad on the margin.

I'm unclear on whether the proposed super-patents would

  1. be the same as normal patents except fileable before the work of sketching a plausible design has been done, or

  2. would be even more powerful, by also allowing the filer to monopolize a market in which they carry out e.g. "market research, product development and building awareness", even if that involves no original design work,

but in any case the potential downsides hit me as more obvious than the potential upsides.

Item 1 would likely lead to more patents being filed "just in case", even without a real intention of bringing a real product to market. This would then discourage other profit-seeking people/organizations from investigating the product area, just as existing patents do.

Item 2 seems to take us beyond the realm of patents and intellectual work; it's about compensating a seller for expenses which produce positive spillovers for other sellers. As far as I know, that's not usually considered a serious enough issue to warrant state intervention, like granting a seller a monopoly. I suspect that when The Coca-Cola Company runs an advert across the US, Wal-Mart sells more of its own knockoff colas, but the US government doesn't subsidize Coca-Cola or its advertising on those grounds!

Comment by satt on HOWTO: Screw Up The LessWrong Survey and Bring Great Shame To Your Family · 2017-10-15T19:53:03.058Z · LW · GW

I believe the following is a comprehensive list of LW-wide surveys and their turnouts. Months are those when the results were reported.

  1. May 2009, 166
  2. December 2011, 1090
  3. December 2012, 1195
  4. January 2014, 1636
  5. January 2015, 1503
  6. May 2016, 3083

And now in the current case we have "about 300" responses, although results haven't been written up and published. I hope they will be. If the only concern is sample size, well, 300 beats zero!

Comment by satt on Mini map of s-risks · 2017-07-15T12:23:13.032Z · LW · GW

I found the same article on an ad-blocker-friendly website. And here's a direct link to the academic article in Complexity.

Comment by satt on Open thread, Jan. 23 - Jan. 29, 2017 · 2017-07-15T11:47:13.245Z · LW · GW

I think in January I read you as amplifying James_Miller's point, giving "tariff and other barriers" as an example of something to slot into his "Government regulations" claim (hence why I thought my comment was germane). But in light of your new comment I probably got your original intent backwards? In which case, fair enough!

Comment by satt on Open thread, June 26 - July 2, 2017 · 2017-07-08T10:34:20.599Z · LW · GW


Comment by satt on Open thread, June 26 - July 2, 2017 · 2017-06-29T21:48:44.091Z · LW · GW

I hope this a joke.

Yeah — scurvy's no fun!

Comment by satt on Self-conscious ideology · 2017-06-29T21:33:46.042Z · LW · GW

Did Kuhn (or Popper or Lakatos) spell out substantial implications of the analogy? A lot of the interest would come from that, rather than the fact of the analogy in itself.

Comment by satt on Self-modification as a game theory problem · 2017-06-28T23:11:11.025Z · LW · GW

Let's say two AIs want to go to war for whatever reason. Then they can agree to some other procedure that predicts the outcome of war (e.g. war in 1% of the universe, or simulated war) and precommit to accept the outcome as binding. It seems like both would benefit from that.

My (amateur!) hunch is that an information deficit bad enough to motivate agents to sometimes fight instead of bargain might be an information deficit bad enough to motivate agents to sometimes fight instead of precommitting to exchange info and then bargain.

Coming up with an extensive form game might not help, because what if the AIs use a different extensive form game?

Certainly, any formal model is going to be an oversimplification, but models can be useful checks on intuitive hunches like mine. If I spent a long time formalizing different toy games to try to represent the situation we're talking about, and I found that none of my games had (a positive probability of) war as an equilibrium strategy, I'd have good evidence that your view was more correct than mine.

There's been pretty much no progress on this in a decade, I don't see any viable attack.

There might be some analogous results in the post-Fearon, rational-choice political science literature, I don't know it well enough to say. And even if not, it might be possible to build a relevant game incrementally.

Start with a take-it-or-leave-it game. Nature samples a player's cost of war from some distribution and reveals it only to that player. (Or, alternatively, Nature randomly assigns a discrete, privately known type to a player, where the type reflects the player's cost of war.) That player then chooses between (1) initiating a bargaining sub-game and (2) issuing a demand to the other player, triggering war if the demand is rejected. This should be tractable, since standard, solvable models exist for two-player bargaining.

So far we have private information, but no precommitment. But we could bring precommitment in by adding extra moves to the game: before making the bargain-or-demand choice, players can mutually agree to some information-revealing procedure followed by bargaining with the newly revealed information in hand. Solving this expanded game could be informative.

Comment by satt on Open thread, June 26 - July 2, 2017 · 2017-06-28T21:51:28.742Z · LW · GW

The amount of wastage from bitcoin mining pales compared to the GDP spent on traditional forms of trust. Think banking isn't contributing to global warming? Well all those office buildings have lights and electricity and back-room servers, not to mention the opportunity costs.

That provoked me to do a Fermi estimate comparing banking's power consumption to Bitcoin's. Posting it in case anyone cares.

Estimated energy use of banking

The service sector uses 7% of global power and produces 68% of global GDP. Financial services make up about 17% of global GDP, hence about 25% of global services' contribution to GDP. If financial services have the same energy intensity as services in general, financial services use about 25% × 7% = 1.8% of global power. World energy consumption is of order 15 TW, so financial services use about 260 GW. Rounding that down semi-arbitrarily (because financial services include things like insurance & pension services, as well as banking), the relevant power consumption number might be something like 200 GW.

Estimated energy use of Bitcoin

A March blog post estimates that the Bitcoin network uses 0.774 GW to do 3250 petahashes per second. Scaling the power estimate up to the network's current hash rate (5000 petahashes/s, give or take) makes it 1.19 GW. So Bitcoin is a couple of orders of magnitude short of overtaking banking.

Comment by satt on Self-conscious ideology · 2017-06-28T20:23:34.174Z · LW · GW

You reminded me of a tangentially related post idea I want someone to steal: "Ideologies as Lakatosian Research Programmes".

Just as people doing science can see themselves as working within a scientific research programme, people doing politics can see themselves as working within a political research programme. Political research programmes are scientific/Lakatosian research programmes generalized to include normative claims as well as empirical ones.

I expect this to have some (mildly) interesting implications, but I haven't got round to extracting them.

Comment by satt on Self-modification as a game theory problem · 2017-06-28T20:06:18.791Z · LW · GW

I'm flashing back to reading Jim Fearon!

Fearon's paper concludes that pretty much only two mechanisms can explain "why rationally led states" would go to war instead of striking a peaceful bargain: private information, and commitment problems.

Your comment brushes off commitment problems in the case of superintelligences, which might turn out to be right. (It's not clear to me that superintelligence entails commitment ability, but nor is it clear that it doesn't entail commitment ability.) I'm less comfortable with setting aside the issue of private information, though.

Assuming rational choice, competing agents are only going to truthfully share information if they have incentives to do so, or at least no incentive not to do so, but in cases where war is a real possibility, I'd expect the incentives to actively encourage secrecy: exaggerating war-making power and/or resolve could allow an agent to drive a harder potential bargain.

You suggest that the ability to precommit could guarantee information sharing, but I feel unease about assuming that without a systematic argument or model. Did Schelling or anybody else formally analyze how that would work? My gut has the sinking feeling that drawing up the implied extensive-form game and solving for equilibrium would produce a non-zero probability of non-commitment, imperfect information exchange, and conflict.

Finally I'll bring in a new point: Fearon's analysis explicitly relies on assuming unitary states. In practice, though, states are multipartite, and if the war-choosing bit of the state can grab most of the benefits from a potential war, while dumping most of the potential costs on another bit of the state, that can enable war. I expect something analogous could produce war between superintelligences, as I don't see why superintelligences have to be unitary agents.

Comment by satt on Any Christians Here? · 2017-06-26T00:05:53.686Z · LW · GW

(you will find the opinion of Rational Wiki around here is much lower than the of Christianity)

Plausibly people around here talk more smack about RW than about Christianity, but I'm doubtful that we actually think RW worse than Christianity!

Comment by satt on Open thread, June. 19 - June. 25, 2017 · 2017-06-25T22:59:40.251Z · LW · GW

I've thought a bit about writing a summary/review of Christopher Achen & Larry Bartels's recent book Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government for LW, since I expect it'd interest quite a few people here. But I'm fairly sure I won't bother now; a week ago a decent summary appeared on the blog of a couple of FRI researchers.

Also relevant:

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-23T22:29:17.104Z · LW · GW

I agree with the normative statement that pensioners who pay in are "entitled to get something out", but it's a new claim. My comment, like the bit of entirelyuseless's comment to which it responded, was about an empirical claim.

Pensioners have paid into the system, though.

The fact remains that there is a big group of people in Europe who can, in fact, claim government cash even if they declare that they have worked, and could work, but just don't want to work. Insofar as entirelyuseless's general point was that someone has to work to keep an economy going, that point is well taken, but the empirical claim about Europe is materially false.

(And, regarding the more general argument, if there were a basic income, the vast majority of people claiming it would likewise have paid into the system, through general taxation. So the fact of paying in doesn't do a very good job of distinguishing a BI from a pension scheme.)

Yes, it's a Ponzi scheme

How so? To my mind, a defining property of a Ponzi scheme is that it's fraudulent, deceptive (or at least opaque) about where it finds the money that it disburses. But — in my European country, anyway — the government publishes annual accounts for its pension fund, which are, as far as I know, uncooked books. Check 'em out.

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T20:18:04.742Z · LW · GW

Ah, OK, I read your "political decision [...] is quite clearly responsible" as referring to your previous sentence, not your previous comment.

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T18:51:50.202Z · LW · GW

Europe has a better unemployment system than the USA, for example, but even in Europe (at least in general and if I understand it correctly, and obviously the details differ in various places), there needs to be at least a bit of ambiguity about why you are unemployed. If you openly say, "I am perfectly competent and well qualified for many jobs, and I know from experience that I could get one next week if I wanted. In fact I just received an offer, which I rejected. I do not WANT to work, and I won't," even Europe will not continue offering you support.

Counterexample: pensioners. (And yes, I can be quite sure that some of them are both able & qualified to work, because a non-negligible number of them do work.)

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T17:43:20.573Z · LW · GW

For example, if you're a single mother minding a child, you're providing value, but your child is unlikely to pay you for that! (You reminded me of the feminists' observation that women disproportionately do work, like childcare, which is often left uncounted or under-counted in conventional economic accounts.)

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T17:06:52.086Z · LW · GW

Brad DeLong wrote in 2003 that "the market system's social welfare function gives each individual a weight inversely proportional to his or her marginal utility of wealth", which he found "a completely trivial result"! Here is his algebra. Last year he pointed to Takashi Negishi as someone who published the result in 1960.

Edit: though to get the result that the weights are proportional to relative wealth you have to add the assumption that utility goes as log wealth.

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T16:16:08.110Z · LW · GW

Tokyo's population has grown and is growing, but that seems to account for most of Tokyo's economic growth, not zoning regulations, since Tokyo's GDP per capita shows fairly anaemic growth from 2001 to 2012 (can't immediately find a longer time series).

Comment by satt on Open thread, May 15 - May 21, 2017 · 2017-05-21T15:47:31.680Z · LW · GW

I suspect the answer is "not in general, unless you're willing to pump extra money into the payment-extracting mechanism". Depending on how generally you define "free rider problem", at least some examples of the problem are likely to be captured by Holmström's theorem: a system which pays each member of a team to to provide inputs to produce output can't balance its budget (exactly split the output's value among the team members), be self-enforcing, and Pareto efficient.

I think your fresh paint example is susceptible to Holmströmean logic. Suppose you've found a painter who's willing to do an amount of painting proportional to the money they're given; you're willing to pay for $40 worth of painting but your two housemates would only pay for $20 worth of painting. If you propose to either housemate that you pay $20 to the painter while the housemates pay $10 each, the housemate will (assuming they act as homo economicus spherical cows) notice that if they don't pay anything, $30 of painting will still get done, more than the $20 they wanted in the first place. So they won't pay anything, as you expected.

Comment by satt on How I'd Introduce LessWrong to an Outsider · 2017-05-08T19:59:17.395Z · LW · GW

Maybe a side note, but it's not obvious to me that

When you are losing you increase variance. When you are winning you decrease it.

is in general true, whether normatively or empirically.

Comment by satt on Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017 · 2017-03-24T02:18:56.526Z · LW · GW

I think a lot more can be said about this, but maybe that's best left to a full post, I'm not sure. Let me know if this was too long / short or poorly worded.

Writing style looks fine. My quibbles would be with the empirical claims/predictions/speculations.

Is the elite really more of a cognitive elite than in the past?

Strenze's 2007 meta-analysis (previously) analyzed how the correlations between IQ and education, IQ and occupational level, and IQ and income changed over time. The first two correlations decreased and the third held level at a modest 0.2.

Will elite worldviews increasingly diverge from the worldviews of those left behind economically?

Maybe, although just as there are forces for divergence, there are forces for convergence. The media can, and do, transmit elite-aligned worldviews just as they transmit elite-opposed worldviews, while elites fund political activity, and even the occasional political movement.

Would increasing inequality really prevent people from noticing economic gains for the poorest?

That notion sounds like hyperbole to me. The media and people's social networks are large, and can discuss many economic issues at once. Even people who spend a good chunk of time discussing inequality discuss gains (or losses) of those with low income or wealth.

For instance, Branko Milanović, whose standing in economics comes from his studies of inequality, is probably best known for his elephant chart, which presents income gains across the global income distribution, down to the 5th percentile. (Which percentile, incidentally, did not see an increase in real income between 1988 and 2008, according to the chart.)

Also, while the Anglosphere's discussed inequality a great deal in the 2010s, that seems to me a vogue produced by the one-two-three punch of the Great Recession, the Occupy movement, and the economist feeding frenzy around Thomas Piketty's book. Before then, I reckon most of the non-economists who drew special attention to economic inequality were left-leaning activists and pundits in particular. That could become the norm once again, and if so, concerns about poverty would likely become more salient to normal people than concerns about inequality.

Will the left continue adopting lots of ideas from postmodernism?

This is going to depend on how we define postmodernism, which is a vexed enough question that I won't dive deeply into it (at least TheAncientGeek and bogus have taken it up). If we just define (however dodgily) postmodernism to be a synonym for anti-rationalism, I'm not sure the left (in the Anglosphere, since that's the place we're presumably really talking about) is discernibly more postmodernist/anti-rationalist than it was during the campus/culture wars of the 1980s/1990s. People tend to point to specific incidents when they talk about this question, rather than try to systematically estimate change over time.

Granted, even if the left isn't adopting any new postmodern/anti-rationalist ideas, the ideas already bouncing around in that political wing might percolate further out and trigger a reaction against rationalism. Compounding the risk of such a reaction is the fact that the right wing can also operate as a conduit for those ideas — look at yer Alex Jones and Jason Reza Jorjani types.

Is politics becoming more a war of worldviews than arguments for & against various beliefs?

Maybe, but evidence is needed to answer the question. (And the dichotomy isn't a hard and fast one; wars of worldviews are, at least in part, made up of skirmishes where arguments are lobbed at specific beliefs.)

Comment by satt on Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017 · 2017-03-24T00:55:43.271Z · LW · GW

Um. Not in economics where it is well-defined. Capital is resources needed for production of value.

While capital is resources needed for production of value, it's a bit misleading to imply that that's how it's "well-defined" "in economics", since the reader is likely to come away with the impression that capital = resources needed to produce value, even though not all resources needed for production of value are capital. Economics also defines labour & land* as resources needed for production of value.

* And sometimes "entrepreneurship", but that's always struck me as a pretty bogus "factor of production" — as economists tacitly admit by omitting it as a variable from their production functions, even though it's as free to vary as labour.

Comment by satt on Am I Really an X? · 2017-03-24T00:23:00.040Z · LW · GW

I recognize the difference, but I don't think it's an important one for the purposes of deciding whether to oppose a type of discussion. (I wouldn't expect, in general, a person's honest report of their experience to be much more valuable than someone else's honest attempt to sketch a general model of some phenomenon.) It's also a different objection to Dagon's, which is basically "boo political/social identity, because identity is hard to talk about!".

Edit to add:

Historically, we also had the downvote button.

Yep, if we still had the downvote button, I probably would've just downvoted Dagon's comment and left it at that.

Comment by satt on The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA – Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101 · 2017-03-24T00:13:17.250Z · LW · GW

This would be a little more interesting if he linked to his advance predictions on the war so we could compare how he did. And of course if he had posted a bunch of other predictions so we could see how he did on those (to avoid cherry-picking).

We may be able to get part of the way there. I found the following suspiciously prediction-like (and maybe even testable!) statements by Ctrl-Fing the pre-invasion posts on D-Squared's blog.

From October 21, 2002:

On the other hand, I am also convinced by Max Sawicky’s argument that Iraq is likely to be the first excursion of an American policy of empire-building in the Middle East, which is likely to be disastrous under any possible performance metric.

But, I retain my original belief that improvement in Iraq is politically impossible unless there is some sort of shooting war in the area culminating in the removal of Saddam Hussein. I don’t set much score by “national-building”, and don’t really believe that what the Gulf needs is more US client states, and I never believed any of the scare stories related to the “WMD” acronym which is currently doing such sterling duty in picking out weblog authors who don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. [...]

So, how can we square these beliefs a) that something has to be done and b) that if something is done, it will be a disastrous imperial adventure by George Bush.

February 20, 2003:

But apparently, having given up on the bin Laden connection and the Saddam-has-nukes idea, we are now going to be emotionally blackmailed into a war. In my experience, good ideas don’t usually need quite so many outright lies told to support them, but what the hey.

This February 26, 2003 post doesn't explicitly make predictions, but it's clearly written from the premise that the Bush administration would "completely fuck[] up" "the introduction of democracy to Iraq". Compare the end of the footnote on this February 5, 2003 post.

There might be empirical claims relating to WMD in later posts. Such might still count as predictions because the amount of WMD to be found in Iraq remained contentious for some time after the invasion.

Comment by satt on Globally better means locally worse · 2017-03-23T22:02:59.155Z · LW · GW

Older home appliances were also a lot more expensive in real terms (that is, controlling for inflation).

A point brought home to me by the MetaFilter discussion of the article linked in our OP:

Part of it is that the appliances are also literally cheaper. It looks like a full size fridge cost about $500 in the 60s, which works out to $3500 adjusted for inflation.

The example I was going to use was washers and dryers, which cost about $385 for the set in 1959, or about $3200 in current money.

I found a stash of business records from 1913, for a company that sold quality socks.

Adjusting to today's money, a pair of these socks cost $70. But they were really nice socks, apparently. The kind you would mend with your darning kit.

My grandmother paid roughly $7 for it [a Westinghouse oscillating fan] in 1938, which was a lot for a blue-collar family to spend in the Depression, and which amounts to $117 in 2017 dollars.

Makes sense when I think about it. As Yvain documents, enough big-ticket items have become so much more expensive in the US that a bunch of other goods or services must've become much cheaper — otherwise the US inflation rate would always be massive.

Comment by satt on Open thread, March 13 - March 19, 2017 · 2017-03-13T19:50:25.340Z · LW · GW

Landau's List.

Comment by satt on Am I Really an X? · 2017-03-08T00:42:39.861Z · LW · GW

I strongly disagree. (This is a special case of my general disagreement with strong forms of Politics-is-the-Mind-Killer-type objections to discussing capital-P Political topics.) I also want to amplify Gram_Stone's observation that this kind of topic was historically acceptable on LW.

Comment by satt on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-25T15:51:15.856Z · LW · GW

Dat anthropic bias tho!

Comment by satt on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-22T20:08:49.596Z · LW · GW


The school → university transition might be the most interesting one WRT tristanm's question, because although it theoretically offers the best opportunity to select for rationality, in practice a lot of people can't or won't exploit the opportunity. I imagine even quite nerdy students, when deciding where to apply to university, didn't spend long asking themselves, "how can I make sure I wind up at a campus with lots of rationalists?" (I sure didn't!)

Comment by satt on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-22T19:29:03.690Z · LW · GW


That clarifies things somewhat.

Comment by satt on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-22T00:14:44.065Z · LW · GW

It makes me paranoid and alienated if people I know join facebook groups that advocate political violence/murder/killing all the kulaks, although to be fair its possible that those people have only read one or two posts and missed the violent ones.

Does it help to disaggregate "political violence", political "murder", and "killing all the kulaks"? I'm happy with some instances of political violence, and even some political murders are defensible. The assassination of Jonas Savimbi pretty much ended Angola's 26-year civil war, for example. To quote Madeleine Albright: worth it.

If the people you know are thumbs-upping literally "kill all the kulaks" (and maybe they are! I'm sure I've seen that kind of stuff in YouTube comments and Stalinist tweets, so it is out there), I can understand your reaction. But if people are merely affirming that some political violence is worthy of support...well, I'd have to say that I agree!

Comment by satt on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-21T23:02:17.198Z · LW · GW

The (speculative) explanation my mind immediately goes to: a combination of the you-are-the-average-of-your-5-best-friends heuristic, and the dilution of a selected social group when its members move into new environments.

Universities and workplaces, with unusual exceptions, are probably not going to select as aggressively for high rationality (however you define "rational" & "rationality") as your in-school social selection did. So (I suspect) when the people in your circle started expanding their own social networks during university and then at work, the average rationality of their friends & acquaintances went down. And because (insofar as a person and their behaviour are malleable) a person's influenced by the people they hang out with, that probably made the people you know/knew less rational, or at least less likely to behave rationally.

Comment by satt on Increasing GDP is not growth · 2017-02-20T02:20:28.908Z · LW · GW

Related to your second paragraph, I was intrigued when I saw economists pointing out that even low-skilled immigrants could raise natives' productivity & income by (1) nudging natives to upskill and move into higher-skill jobs, and (2) lowering childcare & housework costs, making it easier for native women to work paid jobs.

Comment by satt on Basic Income. org · 2017-02-17T02:14:13.226Z · LW · GW

I guess gathering links to multiple related articles under one LW post makes sense.

Comment by satt on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-17T02:08:05.460Z · LW · GW

I might've been influenced too much by people speaking to me (in face-to-face conversation) as if moral realism entails objectivity of moral facts, and maybe also influenced too much by the definitions I've seen online. Wikipedia's "Moral realism" article starts outright with

Moral realism (also ethical realism or moral Platonism) is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world (that is, features independent of subjective opinion), some of which may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately. This makes moral realism a non-nihilist form of ethical cognitivism with an ontological orientation, standing in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism and moral skepticism, including ethical subjectivism (which denies that moral propositions refer to objective facts),

and the IEP's article on MR has an entire section, "Moral objectivity", the beginning of which seems to drive at moral facts and MR relying on a basis beyond (human) mind states. The intro concludes,

Neither subjectivists nor relativists are obliged to deny that there is literal moral knowledge. Of course, according to them, moral truths imply truths about human psychology. Moral realists must maintain that moral truths —and hence moral knowledge—do not depend on facts about our desires and emotions for their truth.

At the same time, the SEP does seem to offer a less narrow definition of MR which allows for moral facts to have a non-objective basis.

I wonder whether I've anchored too much on old-fashioned, "classic" MR which does require moral facts to have objective status (whether that's a mind-independent or human-independent status), while more recent moral realist philosophies are content to relax this constraint. Maybe I'm a moral realist to 21st century philosophers and a moral irrealist to 20th century philosophers!

Comment by satt on Increasing GDP is not growth · 2017-02-17T01:42:07.506Z · LW · GW

I agree with the substantive point that the changes in living standards we ultimately care about come from productivity growth, not GDP growth as such.

Now for the inevitable disagreements/critiques:

  1. The post title, "Increasing GDP is not growth", isn't actually true as such. Referring to increasing GDP as economic growth isn't a weird LW/transhumanist/etc. affectation; it's totally normal & conventional. If I heard a newsreader talking about economic growth, I'd guess they were most likely talking about (inflation-adjusted) GDP going up.

  2. The people I most associate with this kind of immigration-grows-GDP meme are single-issue-ish advocates of open borders, but AFAIK they refer to immigration increasing global GDP (which is kind of a strange usage of "GDP", since the "D" does after all stand for "domestic", but that's what they say). It's right there in the title bar. This avoids the issue of country-level GDP being dependent on how one draws lines on a map.

  3. It took me a moment to realize the post wasn't using "productivity" in the conventional economist's sense (at least when talking at the national level), namely labour productivity, which is output per worker or output per hour worked. This is distinct from output per person, and made the references to "productivity per person" momentarily confusing (because with the conventional understanding of productivity, writing "productivity per person" is a bit like writing "GDP per capita per person").

  4. PhilGoetz probably knows this already, but I don't know whether everyone reading this does: some advocates of higher immigration explicitly expect immigration to raise productivity, specifically of workers who come from lower-productivity countries to higher ones. The usual term for this is the "place premium". A Google search brings back among other things an illustrative working paper by Michael Clemens, Claudio Montenegro, and Lant Pritchett.

Comment by satt on February 2017 Media Thread · 2017-02-11T16:35:22.646Z · LW · GW

Relating to that, I have sometimes wondered whether recent government policies to lower the number of foreign students & graduates in the UK might backfire by degrading UK-Chinese relations in the long run.

There are ~100k Chinese students in the UK, which presumably translates to a flow of ~30k per year. Although small compared to China's population, reducing that flow might eventually have some impact on how the Chinese and UK states relate to each other, since those students are relatively likely to be China's movers & shakers of tomorrow, and relatively likely to have some Western Liberal Democratic Values™ rub off on them.

Comment by satt on Basic Income. org · 2017-02-11T15:42:56.047Z · LW · GW

IMO, an unadorned link to a news website (unless it's more directly LW related) seems better suited to the open thread or media thread.

Comment by satt on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-11T15:23:38.620Z · LW · GW

Do you think that we cant say its a moral fact that [...]

Correct, I would call that a category error.

And this moral evaluation depends on your state of mind?

One's view of the wrongness of torturing a newborn versus soothing it depends on one's state of mind, yes.

If I were confronted with someone who insisted that "torturing a newborn instead of soothing it is good, actually", I could say that was "wrong" in the sense of evil, but there is no evidence I could present which, in itself, would show it to be "wrong" in the sense of incorrect.

Comment by satt on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-11T15:14:52.314Z · LW · GW

IEPB: "People ought to do X" is your preference because you are assuming "People ought to do X" is a moral fact. It's a different issue whether your assumption is true or false, or justified or unjustified, but the assumption is being made nevertheless.

If my mental model of moral philosophers is correct, this contravenes how moral philosophers usually define/use the phrase "moral fact". Moral facts are supposed to (somehow) inhere in the outside world in a mind-independent way, so the origin of my "People ought to do X" assumption does matter. Because my ultimate justification of such an assumption would be my own preferences (whether or not alloyed with empirical claims about the outside world), I couldn't legitimately call "People ought to do X" a moral fact, as "moral fact" is typically understood.

Consequently I think this line of rebuttal would only be open to Boghossian if he had an idiosyncratic definition of "moral fact". But it is possible that our disagreement reduces to a disagreement over how to define "moral facts".

For example, when you exhort IEPB to not make mediocre philosophy arguments, and say that that's your preference, it's because you are assuming that the claim, "philosophy professors ought not to make mediocre philosophy arguments", is in fact, true.

Introspecting, this feels like a reversal of causality. My own internal perception is that the preference motivates the claim rather than vice versa. (Not that introspection is necessarily reliable evidence here!)

Comment by satt on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? · 2017-02-11T14:50:43.883Z · LW · GW

I think the 2004 numbers are actually higher than you suggest. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo is the third in the Man With No Name trilogy, but North by Northwest and Memento seem to be original.

Oops, thanks for picking me up on those. You're correct about IBIBIC and North by Northwest (maybe I mixed up the second with Psycho?). I'm not sure about Memento. On first Google it looked like Jonathan Nolan had written a short story with a similar premise, and that his brother Christopher had developed the film from the same premise, but without adapting the short story in the usual sense. Further reading convinced me that, actually, Christopher had adapted the film loosely from the short story, so I counted it as an adaptation.

Now I look a third time, I see from some guy's student paper that the film [edit: allegedly] wasn't adapted from the short story after all:

However, in an interview on the DVD, Chris Nolan reveals an interesting fact: the short story was not completed until well after filming of the movie had started. His brother Jonathan explained the idea to him on a cross-country roadtrip and granted him permission to extend it into a film. Here we see that "Memento Mori" is not the primary, hypotext we have been assuming. Instead, both the short story and the film are different readings or interpretations of Jonathan Nolan's original idea, as explained during that car ride.

Maybe I'll just give Memento a half point!

[Edit: forgot to acknowledge you on Casablanca. I decided it wasn't original because of the unproduced play you mention, but since the play wasn't produced my decision is kind of arguable.]

Comment by satt on The types of manipulation on vote-based forums · 2017-02-11T14:18:01.368Z · LW · GW

Accidental self-link?

Comment by satt on Civil resistance and the 3.5% rule · 2017-02-07T23:36:05.156Z · LW · GW

The issue, as I understand gjm, is whether there's a confounding factor.

Treating the correlation between choosing nonviolence (call that N for short) and succeeding in a political campaign (call that S) as accurately representing causality works if one assumes causation runs exclusively as N → S. gjm observes that expected probability of success (P) could be a confounding factor: maybe we have the extra causal arrows N ← P → S, as well as N → S.

According to her blog comment, Chenoweth did try to tackle this by establishing that there's no N ← P causal arrow. Reconstructing her apparent logic, she says she found that external structural factors (X), which activists presumably use to form their beliefs about the probability of success, are uncorrelated with the decision to use nonviolence: i.e., she supposes that X → P and observes that X is uncorrelated with N, so P → N is implausible (because otherwise we'd have X → P → N and X would correlate with N, assuming, uhhh, the causal Markov condition I think?). If we accept that argument, then P isn't a confounder.

Chenoweth also implies that she compared the outcomes within campaigns which split into a nonviolent arm and a violent arm. That would arguably control for P, if one accepted that for any given campaign which splits into two, P is the same for the two new subcampaigns. I don't think I do accept that, but I could be wrong, and if so this alternative analytical approach would address the issue.

It's hard for me to come to a strong final conclusion because I haven't read the book. Based on the blog comment, I wouldn't trust that Chenoweth's isolated the potential confounder, but I might change my mind if I read the book. Along similar lines, you could well be correct about what's typical for campaigns, but I can't conclusively say you are because I haven't systematically studied a wide range of political campaigns from this perspective.

Comment by satt on The Maze of Moral Relativism · 2017-02-07T23:06:54.240Z · LW · GW

Like BiasedBayes, this article reads to me as putting forward a false dichotomy. Unlike BiasedBayes, I don't think that "wellbeing" or "science" have much to do with why I'm unconvinced by the article.

To me the third alternative to the dichotomy is, unsurprisingly, my own view: moral facts don't exist, and "right" & "wrong" are shorthand for behaviour of which I strongly approve or disapprove. My approvals & disapprovals can't be said to be moral facts, because they depend solely on my state of mind, but I'm nonetheless not obliged to become a nihilist because my approvals & disapprovals carry normative import to me, so my uses of "right" & "wrong" are not just descriptive as far as I'm concerned.

I expect Boghossian has a rebuttal, but I can't infer from the article what it would be. I can't imagine a conversation between the two of us that doesn't go in circles or leave me with the last word.

Me: Moral facts don't real. And yet, no logic compels me to be a nihilist. Checkmate, perfessor!

Imagined extrapolation of Paul Boghossian: But if there are no moral facts, any uses of ideas like "right", "wrong", or "should" just become descriptions of what someone thinks or feels. This leaves you bereft of normative vocabulary and hence a nihilist.

Me: Uses of "right", "wrong", or "should" are descriptions of how someone thinks or feels, at least when I use them. Specifically, they're descriptions of how I think or feel. But they aren't just that.

IEPB: So what's that extra normative component? Where does it come from?

Me: Well, it comes from me. I mentally promote certain actions (& non-actions) to the level of obligations or duties, or at least things which should be encouraged, whether or not I (or others) actually fulfil those obligations or duties.

IEPB: This is reminiscent of the example I gave in my article of etiquette, which derives its normative force from the hidden moral fact (absolute norm) that "we ought not, other things being equal, offend our hosts".

Me: If that analogy works, there must be some moral fact hidden in my mental-promotion-to-duty conception of right & wrong. Suppose for a moment that that's so. Start with the observation that my conception of right is basically "that is the right thing to do, in that it is something I approve of so strongly that I regard it as an obligation, or something approaching an obligation, binding on me/you". Digging into that, what's the underlying "moral fact" there? Presumably it's something like "we ought to do things that satt strongly approves of, and not do things that satt strongly disapproves of". But that's obviously not a moral fact, because it's obviously partial and dependent on one specific person's state of mind.

IEPB: Which means it's not normative, it's just a description of someone's mind. So you have no basis for normative judgements. You're a nihilist in denial.

Me: If I'm incapable of making normative judgements, how do you explain my judgement that you shouldn't make mediocre philosophical arguments, because I strongly disapprove of them?

IEPB: Har har. That's not a normative judgement. That's just a description of your state of mind.

Me: Not "just"! It's an assertion that you're obliged to not make mediocre philosophical arguments!

IEPB: Obliged in what way?

Me: Obliged in that I'm telling you you're obliged!

IEPB: That's not an obligation, that's just you expressing your preferences.

Me: No, because there's an explicit extra component to what I'm expressing. Your "just"ing would be correct if I were saying, for example, that I don't like chocolate. But I'm not merely passively observing that I don't approve of mediocre philosophical arguments. I'm telling you to desist from making them.

IEPB: I don't disagree that you're telling me that. Nor would any rational listener to this conversation. But "satt is telling me to desist" is "just a descriptive remark that carries no normative import whatsoever", quoting my article, which you did read, right?

Me: As a matter of fact I did. But like I say, I'm not (just) making the bland descriptive claim which anyone with ears would agree with. I'm carrying out the first-order action of commanding you, in the earnest hope that you will listen & obey, to refrain from an action.

IEPB: Big whoop. Anybody can give an order.

Me: That you're unmoved by my order doesn't make it any less normative. Compare a realm where we both agree that there are facts: empirical investigation of reality. If I told you that gravity made things fall downwards, that would still have force (lol) as a positive, empirical claim, whether you agreed or not. Likewise, when I tell you to knock off some behaviour, that still has force as a normative claim, whether you agree or not.

IEPB: Nuh uh. The two cases are disanalogous. In the gravity case I can only disagree with you on pain of being objectively incorrect. In the knock-it-off case I can disagree with you however I please.

Me: No, you disagree on pain of being quasi-objectively wrong, according to my standard.

IEPB: Oh, come on. Quasi-objectively? By your standard? Really?

Me: Yes; any observer would agree that you'd violated my standard.

IEPB: But that's purely a descriptive claim!

Me: That's the descriptive component, and as a descriptive claim it's objectively correct. The normative claim is that your disagreement and violation mean you're in the wrong, as defined by my disapproval of your behaviour. And that normative claim is subjectively correct.


And at this point I have to break off this made-up conversation, because I don't see what new rebuttal Boghossian could/would give. Here endeth the philosopher fanfiction.

Edit, 4 days later: correct "normative important" misquotation to "normative import".

Comment by satt on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? · 2017-02-07T21:16:35.507Z · LW · GW

Delightfully, both the Internet Archive and IMDb are venerable enough that we can see how IMDb's top 250 looked 13 years ago. That lets us do a rough test of whether sequel 'n' adaptation spam clogging the chart is a new phenomenon.

IMDb's top 10, as of June 6, 2004:

  1. Godfather, The (1972)
  2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
  3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)
  4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)
  5. Schindler's List (1993)
  6. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
  7. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
  8. Casablanca (1942)
  9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
  10. Star Wars (1977)

Of these, I think 8 are sequels or adaptations (the original two are Shichinin no samurai and Star Wars).

Adding the next 15 films, things are slightly more complicated: Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, and Amélie look pretty clearly original, but Raiders of the Lost Ark is more arguable, 'cause apparently it's an uncredited ripoff of Secret of the Incas. That makes 7½ originals out of 25.

Comparing to now, we've gone from 2/10 and 7½/25 originals to 1/10 and 5/25. That does suggest a recent trend towards more sequels and adaptations, but there were already a lot in '04.

Edit, 4 days later: see below for some corrections.

Comment by satt on Civil resistance and the 3.5% rule · 2017-02-02T20:24:01.176Z · LW · GW

A good point to keep in mind, though it looks like Erica Chenoweth has tried to address it:

In my book with Maria Stephan, we devote an entire quantitative chapter (where we use multiple two-stage models identifying both the choice of NV/V resistance and the link between this choice and the outcome) and four cases studies to this possibility. We find that, while it’s true that people consider the costs before acting, the information environments in which they are operating are highly uncertain and that the selection process isn’t really influencing a majority of the cases. Activists do not know when they go into the streets whether the regime is going to crack down indiscriminately or whether the regime will ignore them. And some of them disagree about which method is most effective, resulting in some people within the campaign choosing nonviolent resistance and others using violent resistance under identical circumstances. Indeed, we found no structural factors (including violent repression) that systematically influenced whether people resorted to nonviolent or violent resistance. In other words, it is not the case the the probability of success influences the choice to use nonviolent resistance.

I guess it's up to the reader to decide whether these qualitative & statistical controls adequately address the selection effect.

Comment by satt on How often do you check this forum? · 2017-01-31T20:48:36.274Z · LW · GW

I was polled.

Comment by satt on Open thread, Jan. 23 - Jan. 29, 2017 · 2017-01-31T20:21:07.956Z · LW · GW

Do continue trying to put words into my mouth. That's absolutely going to convince me that it's worth responding to you with good arguments.