PeterMcCluskey

I'm a stock market speculator who has been involved in transhumanist and related communities for a long time. See my website at http://bayesianinvestor.com.

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Keynesian Altruism

10 years worth of cash sounds pretty unusual, at least for an EA charity.

But part of my point is that when stocks are low, the charity won't have enough of a cushion to do any investing, so it won't achieve the kind of returns that you'd expect from buying stocks at a no-worse-than-random time. E.g. I'd expect that a charity that tries to buy stocks would have bought around 2000 when the S&P was around 1400, sold some of that in 2003 when the S&P was around 1100 to make up for a shortfall in donations, bought again in 2007 at 1450, then sold again in 2009 at 1100. With patterns like that, it's easy to get negative returns.

Individual investors often underperform markets for the same reason. They can avoid that by investing only what they're saving for retirement. However, charities generally shouldn't have anything equivalent to saving for retirement.

Keynesian Altruism
  1. Cash sitting in a charity bank account costs money, so if you have lots of it, invest some;

But the obvious ways to invest (i.e. stocks) work poorly when combined with countercyclical spending. Charities are normally risk-averse about investments because they have plenty of money to invest when stocks are high, but need to draw down reserves when stocks are low.

How to Fix Private Prisons and Immigration

When I tell people that prisons and immigration should use a similar mechanism, they sometimes give me a look of concern. This concern is based on a misconception

I'll suggest that some people's concerns are due to an accurate intuition that your proposal will make it harder to hide the resemblance between prisons and immigration restrictions. Preventing immigration looks to me to be fairly similar to imprisoning them in their current country.

Idea: statements on behalf of the general EA community

It would be much easier to make a single, more generic policy statement. Something like:

When in doubt, assume that most EAs agree with whatever opinions are popular in London, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Or maybe:

When in doubt, assume that most EAs agree with the views expressed by the most prestigious academics.

Reaffirming this individually for every controversy would redirect attention (of whatever EAs are involved in the decision) away from core EA priorities.

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

Another risk is that increased distrust impairs the ability of authorities to do test and trace in low-income neighborhoods, which seem to now be key areas where the pandemic is hardest to control.

Climate Change Is Neglected By EA

EA is in danger of making itself a niche cause by loudly focusing on topics like x-risk

EA has been a niche cause, and changing that seems harder than solving climate change. Increased popularity would be useful, but shouldn't become a goal in and of itself.

If EAs should focus on climate change, my guess is that it should be a niche area within climate change. Maybe altering the albedo of buildings?

Policy idea: Incentivizing COVID-19 tracking app use with lottery tickets

How about having many locations that are open only to people who are running a tracking app?

I'm imagining that places such as restaurants, gyms, and airplanes could require that people use tracking apps in order to enter. Maybe the law should require that as a default for many locations, with the owners able to opt out if they post a conspicuous warning?

How hard would this be to enforce?

How Much Leverage Should Altruists Use?

Hmm. Maybe you're right. I guess I was thinking there was an important difference between "constant leverage" and infrequent rebalancing. But I guess that's a more complicated subject.

How Much Leverage Should Altruists Use?

I like this post a good deal.

However, I think you overstate the benefits.

I like the idea of shorting the S&P and buying global ex-US stocks, but beware that past correlations between markets only provide a rough guess about future correlations.

I'm skeptical that managed futures will continue to do as well as backtesting suggests. Futures are new enough that there's likely been a moderate amount of learning among institutional investors that has been going on over the past couple of decades, so those markets are likely more efficient now than history suggests. Returns also depend on recognizing good managers, which tends to be harder than most people expect.

Startups might be good for some people, but it's generally hard to tell. Are you able to find startups before they apply to Y Combinator? Or do startups only come to you if they've been rejected by Y Combinator? Those are likely to have large effects on your expected returns. I've invested in about 10 early-stage startups over a period of 20 years, and I still have little idea of what returns to expect from my future startup investments.

I'm skeptical that momentum funds work well. Momentum strategies work if implemented really well, but a fund that tries to automate the strategy via simple rules is likely to lose the benefits to transaction costs and to other traders who anticipate the fund's trades. Or if it does without simple rules, most investors won't be able to tell whether it's a good fund. And if the strategy becomes too popular, that can easily cause returns to become significantly negative (whereas with value strategies, popularity will more likely drive returns to approximately the same as the overall market).

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