Utility function estimator

by apophenia1 min read2nd Oct 20101 comment


Personal Blog

I am writing a program to estimate someone's utility function in various common situations.  My primary application is to find out how average humans actually devalue utility over time--is it hyperbolic as claimed?

However, the same program could be used to make a proxy for yourself in various situations.


Someone requested a top-level post going into more detail on how I'm working on it (if people donate money I'll work faster), what exactly it does, and what you might use it for.  I'm a slow writer and don't really want to put the effort into a top-level article unless more than one person is interested.  I thought the new discussion forum would be ideal to gauge interest.

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There has been a lot of research on this topic. How familiar are you with that research (both results and methods), and how do you see your project in relation to that research?

A little bit of googling turned up this 2002 paper (pdf) by Shane Frederick, George Loewenstein, and Ted O'Donoghue, which has a summary of that research starting in section 4, "DU Anomalies" (p. 14). In brief, people's discounting depends on lots of things, and is not thought to be simply hyperbolic (at least not by behavioral economists).