115Joined May 2020



Coherentist theory of epistemic justification

Correspondence theory of truth



Topic Contributions

I would assume that for a private prison that has become good at its business the benefits of more inmates would outweigh the liabilities and that at some point it would (in principle, ignoring the free rider problem for a moment) become easier to increase the profits by increasing the revenue by making more things illegal than trying to reduce the reoffending rate.

Ignoring the free-rider problem ("problem" being from the perspective of the prison), as the prison gets more and more current/former inmates, it becomes harder for that cost-benefit calculation to make sense. With no change in the law or the performance of the prison, the prison's liabilities will grow until the point at which the current/former inmates who die are are as numerous incoming inmates. So for lobbying to make financial sense, it would probably have to occur soon after the prison is started or soon after the system is implemented. But that time is also when the prison has the least information about their own competence (in terms of rehabilitation and auction pricing).

Also do administrators profit from more crimes in a public system? It of course increases the demand for administrators, but I don't see how it would increase the salary of a significant number of them.

Not really, but that's besides the point. The point is that they don't benefit from rehabilitating their inmates. They don't benefit from firing abusive guards. They don't benefit from reading the latest literate on inmate rehabilitation and creating policies that reduce the chance of their inmates re-offending.

Does insurance contracts typically contain clauses for future “products”? I would have assumed that the insurance of the prison would only cover the damage of the point in time the contract was firmed.

I don’t know much about insurance, but I think you can write pretty much whatever contract you like, as long as no laws are broken.

The “Planck principle” seems more applicable to scientists who are strongly invested in a given hypothesis

Yep, that’s why I referred to your 2nd and 3rd traits: A better competing theory is only an inconvenient conclusion if you’re invested in the wrong theory (especially if you yourself created that theory).

I know IQ and these traits are probably correlated (again, since some level intelligence is a prerequisite for most of the traits). But I’m assuming the reason you wrote the post is that a correlation across a population isn’t relevant when you’re dealing with a smart individual who lacks one of these traits.

I think you have to be smart to have all the OP’s listed traits, so sure, there’s going to be correlation. But what’s the phrase? “Science advances one funeral at a time.” If that’s true, then there are plenty of geniuses who can’t bring themselves to admit when someone else has a better theory. That would show that traits 2 and 3 are commonly lacking in smart people, which yes, makes those people dumber than they otherwise would be, but they’re still smart.

Wow, that essay explains strong anecdotes a lot better than I did. I knew about the low-variance aspect, but his third point and onwards made things even clearer for me. Thanks for the link!

Yep, I agree.

Maybe I should have gone into why everyone puts anecdotes at the bottom of the evidence hierarchy. I don't disagree that they belong there, especially if all else between the study types is equal. And even if the studies are quite different, the hierarchy is a decent rule of thumb. But it becomes a problem when people use it to disregard strong anecdotes and take weak RCTs as truth.

One big change that a lot of employers can make is changing their interviews and written tests.

I’ve been required to create a new policy from scratch in interview settings. “Okay now you should come up with an idea on the spot, and you will need to say why this policy should now be a legal requirement of every person in the country.” It’s exactly that type of surface-level thinking that policymakers should avoid.

You should be allowed to bring in work that you’ve already made into the interview and for the written application. It’s far more reflective of the work you will do, because it is the work that you’ve done. Plans for future policy writings mean nothing because there very well could be some technical reason why your nascent policy idea is fundamentally flawed.

(One of my comments from LessWrong)

If we were to see inflation going back to levels expected by the Fed (2-3% I suppose?) how would that change your forecast?

Great question. So my view is that there could be a few potential triggers for a sell-off cascade (via some combination of margin calls and panic selling), leading to a large drop. There’s also a few triggers for increasing interest rates, not just inflation: The Fed doesn’t have a monopoly on rates. When they buy fewer bonds, they shift the demand curve left, decreasing the price, leading to higher effective interest rates. I’m kind of baffled that they speak about “tapering” as if it’s possible to do so without increasing interest rates.

The particular problem with persistent inflation is that the Fed is less able to increase the cash supply in the event of a large crash. So while I think that inflation isn’t necessary for a 30 percent drop (I’d say it’s over half of my credence), I expect it to magnify the downside if it is higher than normal right before a crash.

Interestingly, the Fed itself was (and probably still is) concerned about the current high valuations.

When you wrote “The main thing I’m worried about is increased savings” did you mean what you described in the previous paragraph (e.g. zero-NPV assets investing and alike), or was it something else?

When I say zero-NPV assets, I mean anything that doesn’t pay out future cash flows to investors, like gold, silver, bitcoin, and NTFs. Certain stocks are being traded as if they were these assets too (AMC, GameStop). I think investment in these things is indicative of mania.

I’m worried that the Fed has flooded the market with so much cash that the new normal for the CAPE ratio and PS ratio are close to what they are now. If it is, then margin-debt-to-GDP isn’t the relevant ratio anymore, margin-debt-to-total-market-cap is, which is not at as high of a level as margin-to-GDP. Basically, supposing we have a smooth exponential curve for the S&P 500, I’m worried about a one-off discontinuity in the graph. I’m also worried about people investing more of their income and net worth, which would have the same effect.

I’m thinking that you might be able to bet against experienced bettors who think that you’re the victim of confirmation bias (which you might be)

I’d say I’m neutral (though so would anyone who has confirmation bias). I’ve given reasons why these indicators may have lost their predictive value. My main concern is increased savings (and investment of those savings). But hey, we don’t get better at prediction until we actually make predictions.

I’m just looking for market odds. I’d prefer to read the other side that you mention before I size my bets, but I listened to Chairman Powell’s reasoning every time he gives it. Watching Bloomberg’s videos. Listened to Buffett explain why he’s still holding stocks (low interest rates). Let me know if I should be listening to something else. I’m very happy to read the other side if someone is giving their credences.

I’m not quite sure about my bet structure. I’ve got my probability distribution, and I want to bet it against the market’s implied probability distribution in such a way that I’m maximizing long-run growth. Not sure how to do that other than run simulations. If there’s a formula, please let me know.

That’s a fair question. Culture is extremely important (e.g. certain cultural norms facilitate corruption and cronyism, which leads to slower annual increases in quality of life indices), but whether cancelling, specifically, is a big problem, I’m not sure.

Government demonstrably changes culture. At a minor level, drink-driving laws and advertising campaigns have changed something that was a cultural norm into a serious crime. At a broader level, you have things like communist governments making religion illegal and creating a culture where everyone snitches on everyone else to the police.

If we can influence government policy, which I think we can, we can influence culture. It’s probably much easier when most people aren’t questioning a norm (drink-driving, again, being a good example), but I think you’re right in this case: Since cancelling is fairly common to talk about, it’s probably much harder to change the general discourse (and the laws).

Thanks for the link; I should read Overcoming Bias more. I liked Hanson’s Futarchy idea, specifically the idea of replacing the Fed with financial instruments (which I can no longer seem to find anywhere). (Though I think the idea of tying returns of a policy’s implementation to GDP+ is doomed for several technical reasons, including getting stuck at local maxima and a good policy choice being a losing bet because of unrelated policy failures). I think he probably influenced my prison and immigration idea, and really my whole methodology (along with Alvin Roth’s Who Gets What and Why).

For a few of the reasons you outlined, I wrote, “[people would also be fined] for the offence of participating in an online pile on”. Which, quite possibly, is not technically feasible (at least not without requiring the major platforms to verify real-life identity). But making pile-ons illegal doesn’t fix your last point (i.e. how to agree upon the rules especially without throwing mud at each other).

I don’t think expansive laws will ever solve the whole problem. But something like adultery, for instance, is seen almost universally as morally wrong, but there’s no fine associated with it (in fact, there can actually financial benefit if you’re not the main breadwinner).

But yes, I do not think making laws more expansive is a good solution at all. I’m trying to signal my level of confidence by separating ideas into posts (proposals that I’ve thought about a lot and considered many alternatives) and questions (proposals that I’ve just loosely considered, and I’m asking for better alternatives).

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