Contrarian LW views and their economic implications

by Larks1 min read8th Oct 2014126 comments


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LW readers have unusual views on many subjects. Efficient Market Hypothesis notwithstanding, many of these are probably alien to most people in finance. So it's plausible they might have implications that are not yet fully integrated into current asset prices. And if you rightfully believe something that most people do not believe, you should be able to make money off that.

Here's an example for a different group. Feminists believe that women are paid less than men for no good economic reason. If this is the case, feminists should invest in companies that hire many women, and short those which hire few women, to take advantage of the cheaper labour costs. And I can think of examples for groups like Socialists, Neoreactionaries, etc. - cases where their positive beliefs have strong implications for economic predictions. But I struggle to think of such ones for LessWrong, which is why I am asking you. Can you think of any unusual LW-type beliefs that have strong economic implications (say over the next 1-3 years)?

Wei Dai has previously commented on a similar phenomena, but I'm interested in a wider class of phenomena.

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It is plausible that a few LessWrong readers have information which would let them create a portfolio which would, on average, perform better than the market. For the large majority of us, though, knowing about overconfidence bias and the law of large numbers should be enough to convince us that putting most of our savings in an index fund is a good idea.

Although everything in this comment seems correct, it also seems to be missing the point a bit. Not all investment is equity. Any of us might be in a position to notice an asset is considerably undervalued.

The old saw about two economists seeing a $50 on the ground and dismissing it as impossible since if it were, someone would have picked it up, is illustrative in this case. The underlying point is broadly correct, since you don't often see fifties lying in the street, but when you do actually see $50 in the street, you don't just leave it there. Sticking with this analogy, by my reading, the OP is suggesting that LW readers go down some unusual streets without a lot of foot traffic, where stray fifties might not have had the chance to be picked up.

These feel like stating the obvious, but maybe outside LW they wouldn't:

  • Expect the judgement of evidently rational players (such as Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and probably many others I'm unaware of) to be extra trustworthy. Do what they're suggesting, or what becomes profitable once their suggestions have been implemented by others. (For example, Elon Musk said fully electric hypersonic VTOL jets are possible. He's rational and knows a lot about electric propulsion and aerospace, so this heuristic means believe him even though he hasn't demonstrated it. So when looking at aircraft propulsion business, favor companies at least looking at electric propulsion.)
  • Expect economic upheaval created by self-driving cars and other autonomous drones in the next ten years. Avoid investing in any business insufficiently aware of, or insufficiently preparing for, that. Specifically, avoid brick-and-mortar retail with (narrow ranges of) products that could be shipped via drones.
  • Expect the education bubble to burst at some point. Avoid investing in business that would suffer in that case (e.g. real estate near universities), and invest in companies that benefit from it (e.g. online education prov
... (read more)

Expect the education bubble to burst at some point.

Personally, I expect this "market" to remain irrational for longer than I expect anyone who bets against it to remain solvent.

8Lumifer7yIt's hard to short universities :-) I expect the market to bifurcate with the top tier maintaining its ability to commandeer outrageous prices, but the bottom tier either reinventing itself or going bust. Harvard is fine, a fifth-tier law school in South Dakota is in deep trouble.
4Larks7yYou can short this one [].
2[anonymous]7yMy first reaction on looking at the plot on the right, before reading the labels on the x axis, was ‘it looks like the impending doom is probably already priced in’.
8Larks7yThese are very good suggestions; thank you for making them. Is this a LW consensus? I know Thiel believes it, but if you follow a Caplan-style signalling model it's not clear we won't end up in a Peacock like race for more and more education.
3ChristianKl7yThere very little real consensus on LW. On most subject you do have a few people who are contrarian on LW. On the other hand many people on LW think that's the case.

Genetic engineering for intelligence will be a game changer. I don't know when it will start, but as soon as we can reliably produce children with, say, 130 or above IQs markets will anticipate higher future economic growth.

My initial reaction was

"Unfortunately I think this is too far away to have much impact on NPVs now. Say it takes 5 years to develop the technology, and 20 years for early adopters to mature and enter the workforce. Suppose the rate of RGDP growth increases from 2.5% -> 10%, and we use a discount rate of 8%. I don't think you'll get much movement in NPV"

But then I actually worked it out in excel and the NPV triples. So thank you for the good suggestion!

Given the current political climate, I think it's likely that those children will be first born in non-Western countries.

4Username7yMy money's on China.
0Larks7yGiven the theme of the thread I must ask: in what exact way? Chinese Stocks? Australian Commodities? Currencies? Short Taiwan?
2Username7y我决定读中文. So technically I guess I invested my time, not money.
2Larks7yGood answer, one I hadn't thought of.
0[anonymous]7yI hardly think that's a consensus view. The timelines simply don't match up. In the generational lead time it takes to develop genetic engineering for intelligence, we'll have the tools (medical nanotechnology) to do the same in any human.

In the generational lead time it takes to develop genetic engineering for intelligence,

I don't see why that would be true. The GWAS and embryo selection approach is basically atheoretical and can affect intelligence at all points in life: you take millions of variants, run a giant regression, and select embryos based on the regression score. You have no idea what each variant does, why it does it, when it does it, or how; all you know is that it seems to increase scores a little bit. And you can do this approach in the complete absence of any understanding of what a brain is or a neuron is.

we'll have the tools (medical nanotechnology) to do the same in any human.

We will? So the biologists will be able to reverse-engineer the thousands of relevant variants, figure out exactly why they work, and then we'll be given nearly-magical nanobots which don't come close to existing right now which will be able to implement each variant?

Even if we had those nanobots, why would you expect that to work? Aren't there lots of possible changes to intelligence which only work in a narrow developmental window and ideally start at conception? For example, iodine: giving people iodine as adults seems to do zilch for increasing intelligence (once a cretin, always a cretin). How would medical nanotechnology fix that?

0[anonymous]7yI said generational lead time because each iteration takes... one generation. If such procedures were enacted today, the first kids won't be educated and having an impact in the workforce until ~25 years from now. I personally rate a better than 50% chance that molecular nanotechnology capabilities will arrive sooner than that.
2gwern7yAnd what do you rate that each of an estimated 10,000 different genetic variants with different effects at different developmental windows will have been reverse-engineered by biologists/neurologists to the point where they can be safely applied to healthy humans and pass long-term clinical trials, especially given that the variants have to be found first and are applicable immediately to embryo selection if anyone wants to? I think that's absurdly optimistic a view about the speed of applied medical therapies.
0[anonymous]7yThat's entirely not necessary when you have the tools to go in there and make targetted changes. In a post-human world, genetic code means very little.
3gwern7yWe can make 'targetted changes' in adults' iodine levels. It doesn't do anything.
3James_Miller7yTrue, but if it were a consensus it would already be reflected in financial market prices. Possibly, but this would give us even more economic growth.

You may as well test an idea before trading on it, e.g. gather data about gender composition of a company + profitability, run a simulation, and see if someone trading based on this idea could expect to make money. One idea I've had is reading the reviews of what it's like to work at a company and trading based on those... I'm not sure to what extent the smart money is already taking that info in to account or whether it would have any predictive validity.

A related thing that came up in a discussion recently:

When I first found out about Bitcoin (~2010) I thought it was exceedingly clever and technically interesting, but then I put on my Monetary Theory goggles and concluded that as a currency it was subject to deflationary pressures, with a long-term trend towards appreciation. I then took off my Monetary Theory goggles and, I dunno, made a sandwich or something, when what I should have been doing was buying a quantity of Bitcoin below a certain regret-threshold face-value. I now consider this an object lesson in taking ideas seriously.

9Douglas_Knight7yWhat was the lesson? The Big Theory only told you about the long-term behavior of the currency. Four years is not the long term! It applies just as much today as it did four years ago. What has happened in the interim, the thing you regret, has nothing to do with that Idea and everything to more people hearing about bitcoin, and maybe a bit to do with black markets. The only lesson I can draw from this is that if you think something is clever and technically interesting, other people might, too, which seems to be opposite from the lesson you draw.

You're right. It does apply just as much today as it did four years ago, but the buy-in hurts a lot more.

The lesson is to not interpret my beliefs as some abstract, god's-eye-view observation with no real-world consequences. Instead of answering the question "should I buy some Bitcoin?", I answered the question "is Bitcoin the flawless transcendental currency that its proponents claim it to be?" and let that guide my decision on whether to buy Bitcoin.

I obviously have this irrational in-hindsight regret of not whimsically buying a massive pile of Bitcoin in 2010, then selling them in early 2014 and rolling around in a big pile of cash, but I didn't have any good reason to do that. A more pertinent regret about my past actions is that I had a good reason to buy dirt-cheap Bitcoin when they were dirt-cheap by my own material standards, rather than simply dirt-cheap by the standards of history. I didn't act on that good reason and I should have. Even if the currency crashes into oblivion tomorrow, I'll maintain I should have.

And I can think of examples for groups like Socialists, Neoreactionaries, etc. - cases where their positive beliefs have strong implications for economic predictions.

Usually the beliefs are impossible to put into practice because of legal constraints like rules against discrimination.

Can you think of any unusual LW-type beliefs that have strong economic implications (say over the next 1-3 years)?

Off the top of my head:

  • CFAR (and by extention LW) style rationality is practically useful. Watch out for companies trained by CFAR and invest in them
  • Effective Altruism is actually effective and raises the wellbeing of targeted people. Since wellbeing is correlated with economic activity, consider investing in regions where EA organisation are active.

Usually the beliefs are impossible to put into practice because of legal constraints like rules against discrimination.

That's true of some of the beliefs yes, but not of all. For example, many socialists believe (or at least used to believe) that large organizations (states) could efficiently allocate resources across a wide range of industries, without making much use of market prices. If you believed that, you might like to invest in conglomerates (which many investors dislike because they think conglomerates are bad at capital allocation across industries) and vertically integrated firms (which make less use of market prices of intermediate goods than non-vertically integrated firms).

Thanks for the direct suggestion! The former would have direct relevance for venture capitalists.

According to gwern,

In his autobiography, Alan Greenspan says he did exactly that: he hired underpriced women and made money from not being sexist. Similarly, I have read of a company or agency which does the same thing in highly sexist South Korea, and for other forms of discrimination, we have companies specializing in hiring discriminated-against people on the autism spectrum and making money off the difference. If you want to prove a market isn’t efficient, simply reliably make excess risk-adjused returns…

2ESRogs7yThanks for including that. This suggests the idea that you could profit off of looking for places where discrimination is greatest and going against the trend. This seems socially valuable too (assuming you're not capturing all of the gains for yourself, which you probably wouldn't be). Gwern [], if you're reading this, do you remember which company this was? ETA: Found some references: It Pays to Hire Women in Countries That Won’t (HBS) [] Profiting from sexism (Economist) []
2gwern7yNot offhand. I believe I read it in the K-blogosphere, a mention of a legal firm or something white-collar like that which made a point of hiring women because South Korea is extremely sexist. I probably excerpted it to my Evernotes, but it'd be buried in thousands of other clippings mentioning Korea.
0ESRogs7yOh, once I found the linked articles I assumed what you'd read was about the same study. Do you think it was something independent of that?
2gwern7yYes, those two were anecdotes, not studies. I wouldn't be surprised in the least bit if there were studies pointing the same way, though, but I've never looked: the point is obvious enough that it doesn't really need to be argued for.
3ESRogs7yDid you miss this (from the HBS link)? "Employing women who are excluded by their own countries' labor markets is a growing trend for firms with international branch offices, says Harvard Business School professor Jordan Siegel. He discusses the issue in a new study titled "Multinational Firms, Labor Market Discrimination, and the Capture of Competitive Advantage by Exploiting the Social Divide", which he co-wrote with Lynn Pyun of MIT and B.Y. Cheon of Hanshin University and the Korea Labor Institute." Edit: Oh, or did you mean that what you'd read before was just anecdotes?
2gwern7yThat. [] sounds interesting though.
2Larks7yYup - exactly. Note though that Greenspan did this a very long time ago. It's plausible that the feminists were right and the market was inefficient decades ago, but they are wrong and the market is efficient contemporaneously.
-3CellBioGuy7yIsn't this practice just as reprehensibly sexist? Hiring people that you know are just as good and paying them less for no good reason?

He paid them more than they would otherwise have made (otherwise, they'd've accepted someone else's job offer). How sexist, offering them better-paying jobs because he wasn't blinded by misogyny.

-2CellBioGuy7y"I know you're just as good as Bob, but I'm only going to pay you 80% what he makes because if you go anywhere else you'll get paid 70%." Yeah, no. Though perhaps 'sexist' is only partially applicable - 'exploitative' or 'asshole' is better. It could totally be in their best interest to take that offer as opposed to another. Doesn't make the offer (as opposed to an even offer) less reprehensible.

That's how markets work: exchange only happens if one can gain from it, otherwise one doesn't do it. Every transaction follows that same structure: 'I am only going to pay you X which is the current price for something, even though X is lower than my gain from it'. You're demanding gifts be made, and how is that ethical?

7pragmatist7yThis question sounds like it's meant to be rhetorical, as if demanding gifts be made is obviously not ethical. But there are quite widely accepted moral systems (utilitarianism, for instance) that do demand that gifts be made in certain cases -- sufficiently wealthy people are morally obligated to donate some of their wealth to charity, for instance. I'm not saying that in the case under discussion Greenspan had an obligation to pay women as much as men were being paid (it's a complex issue and I'm not sure what I think about it yet), but I do think that simply pointing out that Greenspan had no economic incentive to pay them that much is a pretty unconvincing response to CellBioGuy's moral contention.
9gwern7yYes, under utilitarianism, but I've already pointed out that any such imperative would be vastly exceeded by other imperatives. I'm also not sure whether it works under deontological systems. One way to universalize such a claim is that you should pay people as much as they could earn under any state of affairs, but naturally that leads to you never making money and going broke as it's equivalent to demanding you give away all gains from trade: 'John makes me $1000 and currently costs me $500 in salary; however if the job market were much tighter, then in that counterfactual universe I'd be willing to pay him anywhere up to $999 but not higher, so I must morally pay him $999 right now - anything else would be exploitation and discrimination'.
5gjm7yThat's how economics-textbook idealized markets work. In the real world, many things that can be modelled as market transactions don't behave exactly like economics-textbook market transactions. For instance, sometimes people leave money on the table in an attempt to behave ethically ("I'm not going to pay her less just because she's a woman and other companies will offer her less!") or out of prejudice ("That may be her notional market price, but I just don't trust women to be good team players -- she'll be wanting to leave to have babies or something") or for any number of other reasons. CellBioGuy isn't (so far as I can tell) trying to force employers to pay women the same as they pay men (that would count as "demanding" and might be unethical); he's merely saying that he thinks they should pay women the same as they pay men. Do you really think there is an ethical problem with saying that? (Er, of course you might disagree, but it looks as if you're saying more than that: that CellBioGuy is doing something unethical merely by expressing that opinion.) In some situations that fit this general pattern -- things are bad for some group (in this case: women), and someone else has an opportunity to take advantage of their difficult situation in a way that actually helps them a little (in this case: employers who can pay them the going rate and thereby get cheaper employees) -- it's clearly reasonable to say "Yeah, this looks bad but actually these people are helping this group and all the blame, if any, should go to whoever is responsible for the group's bad situation." But here what causes the bad situation is exactly all those employers who choose to pay women less than men whose work is equally valuable to them, and an employer who takes advantage of the situation by paying women exactly the market rate and merely hiring more of them is part of the problem. (Slightly less so than the other employers who aren't even preferring to hire women in this situation. But
7gwern7yHe is of course free to say anything he wants to and I have no ethical opinion on him saying what he believes, but that's not what is under discussion. If they paid 100% to the blonds, then they eliminate any benefit to them from hiring blondes in particular, and reduce the rate at which this inequity is wiped out. Anyone who establishes a norm of full pay has harmed their cause. This is as predictable as a refusal to buy from sweat shops harms the sweat shop employees and the economic development of that impoverished country. The private good here helps create the public good of an equitable country. If one cares about things like consequences, then yes, it would be unethical to overpay the blondes. You should pay them slightly above market-wage, and you morally owe them nothing further as you have helped to erase the inequity. Of course, one could give them more money. But this is not ethically superior to other forms of charity like donating to Against Malaria Foundation, and is much worse than many forms of charity: you're giving money to someone stable, able-bodied, not just employable but actually with a job, and (in the relevant countries which have the luxury of feminists searching out discrimination) who lives in a First World country - the sort of people who least need your charity.
5gjm7yYes. (Maybe they get some benefit from being able to get all the blonds, though; see below.) That's not at all clear to me, especially in the case where the number of blonds is large and especially in the case where the employer in question can use lots of them. If Employer A is paying blonds much more than everyone else, then Employer A gets the pick of the blonds, other employers have a severely reduced range of possible employees, and they therefore have reason to offer more if they ever find a blond person they want to employ. Which increases salaries for blond people and thereby reduces the inequity. I understand the situation you're drawing parallels with, but I don't see that there actually is a parallel. An employer who pays currently-exploited workers more isn't like a consumer who won't buy things made in sweat shops, but like a consumer who buys things made in sweat shops but sends extra money to the sweat-shop employees when s/he does. (Which isn't really possible, but it's not my fault you picked that analogy.) Oh, quite likely. But the same goes for any form of good behaviour that has a personal cost, whether it's an act of heroic virtue or just a matter of common decency. Instead of being polite to other people I could be brusque and rude for the sake of efficiency, make a bit of extra money with the time I gain, and send the proceeds to AMF. Instead of being honest I could shoplift, sell the stuff I steal, and send the proceeds to AMF. All true, and it's (uncomfortably) quite possible that the best thing really is to behave in whatever way maximizes money and send it all to the most effective charity one can find -- even if "whatever way maximizes money" would generally be considered odious. But (1) it does seem that the vast majority of people behaving in that sort of way aren't actually doing it in order to send more money to effective charities, and (2) the heuristic of treating others decently even if it means passing up some chances of makin
5gwern7yIf Employer A is paying blondes any more than the others, not 'much more'. They get the pick either way. One employer isn't usually going to make that big a difference, but yes, that's how it works: since Employer A is bidding up the price of blondes, the other employers will need to offer more to remain competitive. No, the analogy was otherwise. Imagine the consumer who, having flunked Econ, watches a TV report about horrible t-shirt sweatshops, and resolves to buy only fair-trade certified Mother-Jones-approved t-shirts; these t-shirts will cost more / be produced more inefficiently (if sweatshop t-shirts were worse, then they'd all go out of business and it wouldn't be a concern anymore) / be inferior, so the consumer will buy less t-shirts (and possibly quite a bit less depending on elasticity). And there goes the export-driven economy which was slowly pulling up that third world country. If I have $17 to pay a bunch of blondes and blondes usually get paid $0.8 and I pay them $0.85, then I can hire 20 blondes, but if I bought into this idea that I owed them some theoretical wage of $1, then I can only pay <17 because I raised prices on myself for no good reason, and the other 3 blondes must go pound dirt or work for employers who will treat them worse. (No, you probably couldn't, since IIRC low levels of Agreeableness are not too good for your career earnings.) This isn't a question of whether you're treating them decently: you're giving them a better job than they can find otherwise, that's quite decent. The question is whether to lavish even more money on them.
2gjm7yAgain, that might be true in a textbook-economics world, but in reality people have other criteria besides salary when choosing a job, and don't always know about all the available options, etc. A company that pays blond-haired people slightly more will have an advantage when hiring blond people, but I wouldn't expect it to be the sort of advantage that means they simply have the pick of the best. So on what grounds do you say that paying blond employees the same as everyone else, rather than 20% less like everyone else, will "reduce the rate at which this inequity is wiped out"? Oh, OK, so your proposed mechanism is that paying more means hiring fewer people. I agree that this will happen to some extent. But: If our hypothetical employer keeps its blond-employee-hiring budget constant and hires fewer blond-haired people precisely in proportion to the bigger salary it pays them, then the total flow of money from that employer to the blond-haired population is independent of the salary. In that case, to a reasonable first approximation, they will be as much use to blond-haired people whether they pay the market rate or (let's call it) the equitable rate. But of course they won't do that, for two reasons. First, the budget that might be fixed is their total hiring budget, not their blond-hiring budget. So some of the people they don't hire will be non-blond people, and there will be a net benefit to blond people. (You can think of this, if for some reason you want to, as a reduction just in hiring blond people, plus a transfer from non-blond to blond. The latter is probably an overall utility improvement since blond people have been doing worse as a result of prejudice.) Second, I do not believe that the fixed-hiring-budget model is accurate. If employees become more expensive, then as well as hiring fewer employees employers will spend less on other things and maybe take less profit. So, if again we start from the fixed-blond-hiring-budget baseline, this amounts
3ChristianKl7yOffering anybody a job doesn't hurt that person. If the don't like the deal the can refuse the offer. The general idea of a market is that the ability of people to choose with offers they want to take allows them to take offers that are good for them.
2gjm7yCompared with not offering them a job, that's obviously true. But why should that be the point of comparison? Suppose you apply for a job. You are well qualified for it; you would do it well; you perform well at interview; you are very keen to do the job; you would get on well with everyone else on the team; no one else better on any of those metrics applies. And your prospective employer offers you the job -- at half the salary you'd normally expect to get. It turns out that a wave of misdirected anti-religious prejudice has led everyone in your country to offer half the salary to people called "Christian" that they'd have offered to anyone else. When your prospective employer offers you that job, at half what would be the going rate for anyone else -- have they hurt you? Are you the victim of any injustice here? I say they have, and you are, and the fact that they could have done even worse by simply refusing to give you a job is neither here nor there.
3ChristianKl7yDiscriminating against people because you don't like their given name isn't a offense that's legally banned nor should it. If someone misleads me to think that I will be payed a certain salary at a certain job and I invest resources into applying for that job, that's injustice but I don't think that's the case here. If I want to buy a mattress at a store and they owner wants 400$ for it, I don't do the owner any injustice for offering 200$ for the mattress or even 100$. The fact that I'm a prospective buyer doesn't mean that I will pay whatever the owner of the mattress wants to have or what other people who buy mattresses are willing to pay. It's consenting adult offering to engage with other adults in deals.
2gjm7yI agree, but I don't understand the relevance. So far as I can tell, no one has been arguing here that wage discrimination of this sort should be illegal. The question is whether we should regard it as immoral.
0ChristianKl7yAs far as I'm concerned in areas where there's no special need of protection, giving people choices that they want to take given fully informed consent isn't immoral. To show that an action that offers choices is immoral I think you have to either show: * There a special need for protection in that area * The person with whom you are interacting isn't really fully consenting. Maybe they don't have all information. Maybe you are preying on some mental bias of that person.
0gjm7yOne point at which our views of this situation diverge might be this: It seems to me that * inaction as well as action can be morally problematic * in some situations something can be classified as an action plus an inaction (i.e., doing X rather than Y = doing X + not-doing Y) * what's arguably immoral here is not offering the applicant a particular job on particular terms but not offering the applicant a job on better terms, given that they're a strong applicant and you'd normally do that if they didn't have the particular name / hair colour / skin colour / gender that they do. A variant on the thought experiment to illustrate this. Part 1: Instead of everyone only offering you half the pay they'd offer everyone else, none of them will employ you at all -- again, just because of prejudice about your name. (And let's suppose it's the fact that you were ever given that name that bothers them; or that it's your official legal name, and you're in a jurisdiction where you have no way to change it. So you don't have that way out.) Given that the consequence of this is that you are in serious danger of starving to death, I hope you agree that you are being wronged in this case. (Note: I'm still making no claim that anything should be illegal.) Part 2: Now all your job applications are "successful" -- but every prospective employer, without exception, offers you $1/year for your work. Note that now the consequences are basically the same as in part 1, but in every case what the employers are doing is to offer you a choice that you want to take (because you will starve slightly slower on $1/year than on $0/year). (Assume for the sake of argument that there aren't, e.g., government benefits available only to the unemployed.)
-1[anonymous]7ySee Markets are Anti-Inductive [] The Jew in your hypothetical would rather you didn't interact with them at all than you beat them up less than usual. The blond in the other hypothetical would rather you hired them at a smaller pay than you hire dark-haired people than you didn't interact with them at all. Also, you lost [].
2gjm7yYup, familiar with it. Would you like to be more explicit about why this means that paying members of a discriminated-against group 20% less than everyone else will lead to a quicker reduction in their pay deficit than paying them the same as everyone else? Thanks. I agree. If you're intending to make an argument that this means the hypothetical blond person is being treated decently, then I would like to know what general principle you're appealing to. It sounds like it's something like this: "If A does something to B, and B would prefer A to do this than not to do it, then A is treating B decently". But this -- I think -- is refuted by my Nazi example: the Jew is going to get beaten up and sent to Auschwitz anyway, and would (slightly) prefer the other guy to find him rather than not, because the other guy will beat him up a little less badly. Nope. Let me repeat: "the above example is intended merely to make the logical point in the foregoing paragraph as vividly as possible". I'm not comparing anyone to the Nazis here; I'm pointing out that a principle to which I think gwern was appealing is incorrect, and showing why. Of course, if you choose to operate a policy of dropping any discussion if it mentions the Nazis then that's your prerogative.
0[anonymous]7yIf blond employees at market rates give more bang for the buck than dark-haired employees, you should prefer to hire the former, as this will allow you to offer lower prices (and some of your customers will themselves be blond), make more profit (and some of your shareholders will themselves be blond), etc. Your competition will start doing the same so they too will get more bang for the buck (or be outcompeted by you). This will increase the demand for blond workers, bidding their market wages up, until an equilibrium is reached where blond employees will make no less money than equally good dark-haired employees. If instead you pass all of the gains from hiring blond employees to the employees themselves rather than to customers and shareholders, you won't threaten to outcompete other employers so they will have no reason to start preferentially hiring blonds too. He would still prefer to not be beaten up by anyone at all; conversely, the blond would not prefer to not be hired by anyone at all.
2gjm7ySure they will. They'll have the same reason I had: that by doing so they can get more bang-per-buck. The thing that provides that is the fact of wage discrimination, not the fact that one particular employer started to exploit it. Sure. But we aren't in a position to provide either of those outcomes. Again: what is the general principle to which you're appealing?
2[anonymous]7yI agree with your general argument, but that particular example isn't true IME -- ISTM fair-trade products are cheaper than non-fair-trade products of the same quality (e.g. the fair-trade t-shirt I own cost me €3 IIRC, and after three years I've owned it it doesn't show that much wear and tear). I suspect customers refrain from buying them out of ideological reasons or something.
0[anonymous]7yNot necessarily (assuming by “they” you mean an individual employer rather than the market as a whole) -- in that scenario, the most qualified blond willing to work for 100 will be more qualified that the most qualified brunette willing to work for 100.
0ChristianKl7yNot really. If an employer only hires women than it's not about paying woman as much as the employer pays men. There no real reason why the employer who only hires woman should pay them as much as a men would get if he worked for someone else. If a men applies to the company and is willing to work for the kind of wage women usually get in the market place of course he could be hired.
1CellBioGuy7yThey would still be gaining more than they paid if they paid them the same as a man. And not being subjected to sexist practices is a 'gift'? Seriously? And people wonder why nobody can take this place seriously on gender issues...
3gwern7yAnd if I paid for bottled water at the grocery down the street what I would pay them in the desert, they'd be gaining even more! And if I gave them everything I had, their profit would be still higher.

Regarding the efficient market hypothesis:

It is mostly true for large, liquid markets, at times when you do not have any insider information.

The less liquid the particular market you are looking at, the less true it is. That is, if a $100 bill is lying on the ground in a place where people dont look very often, it very well could stay there for a while, and you might have found it first if you were looking.

And if you do have insider information, that is, you know about or understand something that most of the market participants do not understand, then you might very well discover opportunities to beat the market.

A concrete example of how markets are imperfect, and the efficient market hypothesis is not a 100% true rule:

On monday afternoon, Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock, gave a speech in Vegas in which he announced that Overstock was partnering with Counterparty (an altcoin), for their attempt to develop a blockchain stock market.

I saw this information very shortly after it happened, and I could have immediately gone and purchased some Counterparty. But I didnt.

One hour later, Counterparty was up 40%, and I thought: well, I shouldve bought! But I guess it is priced in now. Af... (read more)


Feminists believe that women are paid less than men for no good economic reason. If this is the case, feminists should invest in companies that hire many women, and short those which hire few women, to take advantage of the cheaper labour costs.

McKinsey did find that companies with a higher percentage of female outperform their competitors. But it could simply be that more forward thinking companies hire more woman. It's difficult to estimate to what extend those factors are currently priced into stock values.

Can you think of any unusual LW-type beliefs that have strong economic implications (say over the next 1-3 years)?

If the leadership of companies would learn CFAR style skills those companies would perform better.

Experts who get feedback on the prediction they make perform better so companies should put structures into place where their leadership makes data based decisions and get's feedback. You can pay out bonuses by giving employees chips for the internal prediction market of the company.

3brazil847yI mentioned this elsewhere in the thread, but I thought I would point out here that I checked the McKinsey web site for the city where I work -- New York. It seems that 84% of the senior managers in New York are men. [] I also checked their web site for California, it seems that roughly 80% of the senior managers are men: [] Ditto for the Southern office: []

You need to distinguish between (1) the beliefs people hold for social/political reasons and (2) the beliefs people hold for actually making decisions when important personal interests are at stake.

Feminists believe that women are paid less than men for no good economic reason.

I doubt anyone seriously believes this in the second sense.

That said, my personal belief -- in the first sense -- is that we are moving more and more towards a "winner take all" economy. As an extreme example, if Google were to invent GAI, it could easily end up bei... (read more)

4ChristianKl7yHow would you tell? Especially gives that higher percentage of women in leadership position at companies is correlated with more successful companies as the McKinsey data shows. McKinsey speaks about the value of diversity and not directly about the pay of individuals but it still seems pretty much on the mark.
4brazil847yI think that's a good question. For one thing, you don't really see people starting businesses aimed at taking advantage of this supposed pay differential. You wouldn't even necessarily need to discriminate to do so, just offer wages low enough that it's primarily women who end up working for you in a traditionally male dominated field. Where are inexpensive lawn care companies, exterminator companies, auto garages, etc. which make a killing by relying on female labor? You never see them. Even in trades which are more balanced, like law and medicine, you don't see it. When a belief is floating around, and pretty much nobody is willing to bet their own money on it, it's reasonable to think that the belief falls into the first category, i.e. it's a belief people hold for social/political reasons. Also, it's pretty obvious just from simple observation that female workers are less willing than men to take on work which is dirty, dangerous, risky or demanding, and more likely to absent themselves from work or even quit over child care issues. In my experience, people who complain about supposed wage gaps generally give short shrift to or even ignore these types of common sense observations. When people ignore common sense and obvious facts that contradict their beliefs, it's reasonable to conclude that those beliefs probably fall into the first category, i.e. those beliefs are held for social/political reasons.
2ChristianKl7yIn McKinsey you do see a top management consulting companies coaching companies to take advantage of the opportunity. People can't effectively correct for the hindsight bias if you tell them to correct for it. The same thing is likely true for a lot of people inherent sexism. They might think that they are accurately assessing the skills of woman but are blinded by their own sexism. In law it's important that the client judges the lawyer as high status. A law firm might hire based on the advantages the get because their clients prefer to be represented by males.
4brazil847yWould you mind quoting McKinsey where they urge companies to do this? Also, what percentage of entry level McKinsey consultants are female? If McKinsey practices what you seem to claim that it preaches, I would expect it to be at least 80 or 90%. I doubt that's true, but assuming it is, it only supports my position -- it's for social/political reasons that people adhere to the belief that women are underpaid; when they make decisions which have a big impact on their own interests, they are sexist (by hypothesis). Anything is possible, but you see balanced hiring even in low end insurance defense law firms which just crank out billable hours. In any event, when you look at industries where status isn't very important, for example messenger services where people just want the package delivered, you still see male domination. By the way, do you agree with me that it's pretty obvious just from simple observation that female workers are less willing than men to take on work which is dirty, dangerous, risky or demanding, and more likely to absent themselves from work or even quit over child care issues? And do you agree that people who complain about pay gaps tend to manifest little attention to this very important fact? If so, what do you think is going on in their heads?
3AspiringRationalist7ySelling status is a huge part of the consulting business, especially for a company like McKinsey. I find it quite likely that women are less effective (in most modern-day business social environments) at producing the sort of status signals that McKinsey sells, even if they are equally effective at less status-driven tasks, such as writing software or delivering packages. Based on my knowledge of the industry, I would guess that 60-70% of entry-level consultants and 80-90% of partners at McKinsey are male.
4brazil847yI agree with this, particularly if "effective" includes "interested." But the interesting question is what McKinsey thinks about all this. I would probably agree with this too. And that a lot of the women in these numbers receive special incentives like less demanding schedules. But again, the interesting question is what McKinsey thinks about this. What would they say if they were accused of discrimination? Edit: For kicks I looked at the McKinsey web site for the city where I am located (New York). The site lists some 25 senior managers. Based on the photographs, 4 of the 25 are female. So it looks like your estimate was right on the money. [] Again the question: How would McKinsey respond to the observation that 84% of its senior management in New York is male?
2ChristianKl7yDeciding that your hiring manager suffer under a bias that makes them discount the expertise of women alone isn't enough to hire more capable women. You confuse two issues: (1) Do people really believe that women are underpaid. (2) Are women underpaid. In this discussion I argue for (1) and in general I'm agnostic about (2).
2brazil847yI don't see anything in that quote which makes the "save money by hiring women" argument. Indeed, if that were the argument, it would not be limited to "senior management roles." So it seems that the McKinsey study does not contradict my position. Incidentally, if you had to bet, would you guess that McKinsey entry level consultants are primarily female? I would guess that they are not. What do you think? Also, do you agree that, at a minimum, non-status-oriented businesses seem like messenger services, pest control companies, and auto garages don't seem to act as if they believe that women are underpaid? No, you did not read my argument carefully. My point is that that those who argue that women are underpaid have a tendency to ignore clear, simple, common sense evidence against their position. That's a red flag that they are adhering to their beliefs for social/political reasons. Last, do you agree that if people make personal economic decisions act out of sexism of which they are unaware, then regardless of whether that sexism is economically rational, one could say that probably they do not believe women are underpaid in the second sense I described?
0ChristianKl7yI can believe that most humans are victims to the hindsight bias and still fail to correct against the bias. The mental bias literature frequently demonstrates that knowing about a mental bias isn't enough to avoid it. I would say that a person can believe that most people suffer from hindsight bias in the second sense you described and still fail to correct for hindsight bias.
2brazil847yUmm, does that mean yes or no? Also, why do you keep ignoring my question about entry-level McKinsey consultants? I'm willing to bet a modest sum that McKinsey is NOT choosing to reap the supposed cost savings from hiring primarily women. Also, do you agree that your quote from the McKinsey study is NOT arguing to "save money by hiring women"? Again, does this mean yes or no?
0ChristianKl7yA big company can't simply have a stated policy: "We hire primarily women or we hire primarily men." A CEO can tell the HR department. There's a bias that makes you undervalue women, please correct for that bias. A would consider a CEO who does such a thing to be honestly holding the belief that women are generally underpaid. On the other hand that doesn't mean that you see the company having 90% women as entry-level positions. While I don't think McKinsey hires primarily women I do think that they have processes in place to increase the number of women they are hiring.
2brazil847yOf course not, but as I noted above, such a policy is not necessary. Just reduce entry level salaries and watch the profits (and the girls) roll in. Also, do you agree that your quote from the McKinsey study is NOT arguing to "save money by hiring women"? Also, do you agree that, at a minimum, non-status-oriented businesses like messenger services, pest control companies, and auto garages don't seem to act as if they believe that women are underpaid? It's a very simple yes or no question. Why won't you concede this obvious point?
0ChristianKl7yNo, that might simply result in less qualified male candidates. Having low starting salaries might also send bad signals to the clients of McKinsey as management consulting is a premium service. I don't think non-human entities have beliefs so "no". Firms don't believe anything in the sense that humans hold beliefs.
0brazil847yBut according to McKinsey's claimed beliefs, there exist qualified female candidates ready willing and able to work the same jobs for the reduced salary. Right? And again my question: Do you agree that your quote from the McKinsey study is NOT arguing to "save money by hiring women"? Simple yes or no question. Lol, nice dodge. But I am feeling charitable so I will rephrase the question: Do you agree that, at a minimum, executive management at non-status-oriented businesses like messenger services, pest control companies, and auto garages don't seem to act as if they believe that women are underpaid? Last, how do you think McKinsey would respond to the observation that 85% of its senior New York employees are men?
0ChristianKl7yIt doesn't argue that point directly. It argues benefits of having more woman but doesn't argue specifically that women are underpaid. The part of the McKinsey report I quoted, says that it's not trivial to run programs to increase the amount of female senior employees. As far as the way auto garage companies are managed, I'm not sure at all how those companies are managed and whether the management of those companies tries to implement program to raise the amount of female employees in those companies. You can't conclude from the fact the a program to increase the amount of female personnel fails that no such program exists. Given how hard it is to correct for cognitive biases, it's not hard to imagine that most programs fail.
0brazil847yUmm, does that mean "yes" or "no"? Are you saying it's somehow implied that a firm will save money if it hires women? So McKinsey would say that it's too difficult for it to reap the wonderful benefits of increasing its female representation? Ok, so assuming there isn't some mysterious unknown at work, executive management at non-status-oriented businesses like messenger services, pest control companies, and auto garages don't seem to act as if they believe that women are underpaid. Agreed? How hard would it be to simply reduce wages and watch the profits and the girls come pouring in? I would like to propose a bet: I will draft a job advertisement on Craigslist for a dirty job such as pest control, scrubbing excrement out of a tank, or whatever. You can select whatever pay scale between 50% and 200% of the typical wage for the job which you think will maximize the number of female applicants. I predict that whatever pay scale you choose, there will be very few female applicants relative to male applicants. If my prediction is correct, you will pay for the ad. Otherwise I will pay. Interested? Do you have any concrete evidence for this besides your imagination? i.e. that businesses all across America are leaving billions of dollars on the table because they are unable to resist the urge to discriminate against female applicants? Oh, and please answer my question from before; According to McKinsey's claimed beliefs, there exist qualified female candidates ready willing and able to work the same jobs for the reduced salary. Right?
0[anonymous]7yAnd Moldbug::Optimates are less willing than Moldbug::Helots to take on work which is dirty, dangerous, risky or demanding, and yet the latter are usually paid less.
0brazil847yCan you point to a definition of "Moldbug::Optimates" and "Moldbug::Helots"?
0[anonymous]7y“Castes of the United States [] ” on Unqualified Reservations (unlike most posts on that blog, this one isn't very long). (There are similar groups here in Western Europe too, but most Helots here come from North Africa and Eastern Europe; also, Brahmins tend to be unwilling to do dirty, dangerous, etc. work too.)
1brazil847yThank you. From reading your definitions, I gather that "optimates" tend to be born into money and status and tend to be very well connected. I agree that these people, regardless of gender, tend to shy away from jobs which are dirty, demanding or dangerous but due to their wealth and connections tend to be very well compensated anyway. (Actually that's not totally true, I would guess that a non-insignificant percentage end up in demanding jobs and that group is predominantly men.) But does any of this contradict anything I have said?
-1[anonymous]6yThe fact is, I sometimes see Dark Enlightenment types making the point that men do a disproportionate fraction of the Real®™© work whereas women mostly do bureaucratic busywork, and therefore yay men, boo feminism, without seeming to notice that the same thing applies to immigrants and therefore yay immigration, boo borders. OTOH I'm not sure I've actually ever seen the same person making that argument and also oppose immigration (unless you count trolls like James A. Donald), so maybe I'm committing the Muhammad Wang fallacy as a result of the outgroup homogeneity bias. (BTW, in my country, people whining that immigrants are stealing their children's jobs when there's no way their children would be willing to do the kind of jobs immigrants tend to do for the kind of pay immigrants tend to accept are so common that Poe's law applies to them. And here in Europe, thanks to (among other things) cheap tuitions, you don't need to be an Optimate for your children to be a tenured student [].)
1brazil846yI'm not sure what you mean by "Dark Enlightenment types," but I doubt anyone disputes that there are lots of recent immigrants doing Real Work. The main "boo immigrants" argument on this point is that without these immigrants, the same Real Work would be done by domestic workers for significantly higher wages. Anyway, please answer my question: Do you disagree with anything I have said? If you want to change the subject, fine, but please first address what I have said. Thank you.
0[anonymous]6yNo, at least not denotationally [].
0brazil846yBy the way, I find it deliciously ironic that you have used innuendo to accuse me of using innuendo.
0brazil846yWell have I connoted or implied anything you disagree with? If so, what?
-2[anonymous]6yAre you implying that that would be a good thing? Said higher wages would still have to come from someone's pockets.
0brazil846yNo, I'm not. I do think it it would probably be a good thing, but my point was that there isn't a contradiction between (1) valuing the sort of dirty work which is typically done by men; and (2) opposing the bringing in of foreign labor en masse to do this sort of work.
-3Azathoth1236yUm, the main argument against immigration is not based on the work they do but on what else they do, e.g., commit violent crimes or vote against the policies that created the economic prosperity that enticed them to immigrate in the first place.
0[anonymous]6yFWIW males also commit a vastly disproportionate share of violent crimes. And in plenty of places immigrants aren't allowed to vote, unless they get citizenship first (which usually requires many years and a civics exam). EDIT: Also, you seem to be implying that voters have non-negligible actual power to affect economic policy, which is preposterous [] these days.
-1Azathoth1237yWell, these days a lot of the former aren't paid at all and are living in their parents' basement.
0pragmatist7yThe alief vs. belief [] distinction might be useful here.
0ESRogs7yWould be interested to dig into the details of this. Do you have a reference? Edit: never mind, saw this [] in your other comment.

Invest in Quixey when they go in for the next round of funding, perhaps.

2Larks7yInteresting idea. Presumably one would have to be an accredited investor to do so?
1blogospheroid7yYes, I think so. Something I won't be able to do as a non-US investor.

Feminists believe that women are paid less than men for no good economic reason. If this is the case, feminists should invest in companies that hire many women, and short those which hire few women, to take advantage of the cheaper labour costs.

I suspect that the effect, if real, is likely small enough to be masked by confounders, like CEO competence, market conditions, various other biases of the executives and the board,random chance etc. I wonder if any statistics exist on the matter.

Can you think of any unusual LW-type beliefs that have strong eco

... (read more)
3Drahflow7yRegarding statistics: [] links to quite some.
2Bruno_Coelho7yThe economic implications of reading LW should be put somehow on the census. Human resources is something the rationality cluster has a lot. Imagine people being paid for insights they put here.
1ChristianKl7yIsn't nearly any organisation struggling at attracting more resources?
7William_Quixote7yNot really. Many large well managed corporates literally have more cash than they know what to do with. If you look at cash and very liquid short term cash like debt instruments as a percentage of total corporate value it's as high as it's ever been.
4Larks7yI think actually it was higher in the '50s. Corporates had extremely conservative balance sheets in those days, with lots of treasuries. But we're certainly at high levels by the standards of the past 40 years.
4Lumifer7yTrue, but "resources" is much more than cash. I think the bottleneck resource for large well-managed corporations is finding enough smart talented motivated people who get shit done.

106 comments so far and the word "artificial" (as in "artificial general intelligence", AI, or AGI) hasn't come up!?

As near as I can tell, if someone gets AGI to really work properly (and get even a not-very-explodey sort of intelligence explosion, just exponential curves with double times of months or years), it is likely, in the span of years to decades, to become worth more than the entire present value of the economy of the planet. How can this not be an investment opportunity?

4Larks7yAlso I appreciate the way you incremented the count, and expressed implicit minor surprise that your previous comment did not mention AGI!
1Larks7yPerhaps it is in part due to my suggestion of a 1-3 year time horizon. But it is plausible that it could be discovered in 1-3 years. Do you have suggestions on how one would invest on this thesis? (Invest in land and commodities? Or Google???)
3JenniferRM7yFor what it is worth, I started working at Google about five months ago and am legally classified (as are all of Google's full time software engineers) as an "insider". Thus: no comment :-P

I am astonished that after 105 comments, cryonics had not yet been mentioned. Very long term investments with compound interest plus a cryonics policy that works seem like a pretty simple formula for acquiring enormous absolute (and potentially even relative) wealth.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

Feminists believe that women are paid less than men for no good economic reason. If this is the case, feminists should invest in companies that hire many women, and short those which hire few women, to take advantage of the cheaper labour costs

Labor costs are already reported, and if it was known that a company was particularly efficient in the labor market, that'd already be factored into its price and performance expectations, regardless of the cause.

3Izeinwinter7y [] Market rationality isn't. The fact that if you made an index fund of only female-lead companies it would beat the pants out of the market has been been known for a really long time and still hasn't been arbitraged away. 30 years or so of traders just leaving money on the sidewalk because of testosterone poisoning. Traders are under much greater pressure to not do this than the average employer, so, no, it's perfectly possible that "hire women until you are at risk of being sued for gender discrimination due to your 93 to 1 ratio of females to males, pocket wage savings" would be a winning business strategy. .. Except, near as I can tell, wages are pretty darn causative of productivity. Yes, causative. Not correlated. Pay people more, and management will find ways for them to produce more. Pay people peanuts, and suddenly, "Go sweep the warehouse with a broom" doesn't seem like a stupid waste of employee time.... This isn't what is in your economics 101 text book? Well, consider where the industrial revolution took of, and what was special about that time and place. It wasnt coal or literacy of technical expertise. China had that in abundance for thousands of years. It was all that and high wages So women who are paid 80% of what a man is, might do 80% of the work, but this is pretty darn likely to be down to the pay, rather than the chromosomes. Or maybe they do 120% of the work and don't get hired anyway. Certainly, this holds in some fields.

Market rationality isn't. The fact that if you made an index fund of only female-lead companies it would beat the pants out of the market has been been known for a really long time and still hasn't been arbitraged away. 30 years or so of traders just leaving money on the sidewalk because of testosterone poisoning.

I don't believe that, and you lay out exactly why one should not believe this claim for an instant: you seriously think that in the the $2.4 trillion+ hedge fund industry - stuffed full of the smartest hungriest slimiest most ambitious money-hungry people, men and women who would sell their own grandfather if that would provide collateral for a juicy short, who would encourage their employees to break the law and throw them to the wolves if they get caught, who are worse friends than sharks because at least sharks' bellies can get full - that this entire industry would uniformly pass up almost doubling their return through a dead-simple legal strategy which would be discovered by their machine-learning algorithms even if they were blind to it - out of sexism? (How many Wall Street traders even know the gender of the CEOs whose associated hieroglyphics flash across thei... (read more)

0Larks7yGood point. On the other hand, the 'true', underlying normalised cost structure of a business is often unclear. If a business had a lower wage cost, and higher costs due to transient factors, you could bet that those transient factors would mean revert. But this is perhaps a relatively minor factor.

Bitcoin has been the answer to this question for the past 5 years and it is still the answer. It is the biggest disruption to the monetary system since we moved from bartering to using currency, and it is still in its infancy.

5Lumifer7yOh dear , this sounds exactly like a penny-stock scam X-/ "RIGHT NOW" (in all caps, no less), "an amazing time to get in", "strong possibility", "can get in close to the bottom"....
1Ander7yPlenty of people on less wrong have heard about bitcoin for years now, and most probably have done nothing about it, and feel like they missed the boat. Maybe people should think about taking it seriously for a bit, and actually consider whether it is a worthwhile investment. I think it is far better for us as a community, ad for our collective ability to support effective altruism and the causes we believe in, if a lot of people here this advice at a time when bitcoin is relatively low, than that they get interested at a peak when all of the media is talking about it.
8Lumifer7ySame is true for Microsoft, and Apple, and Google stock, for example -- a lot of people feel they missed the boat on those. Funny how the wish of having bought AAPL at the bottom sticks in the mind, while the memory of people bankrupted by the dot-com crash, for example, doesn't. You could almost think that there was some... bias there? Sure. Care to make a case for it? With numbers, please. Most of bitcoin promotion that I see is generally based on the greater fool theory.
3ESRogs7yHere were the numbers [] that I used to decide to buy up until the spring of 2013 and start selling last fall. I sold more than half of my holdings last fall/winter, but I'm still holding a bunch while I wait for the Winklevoss twins to get their ETF approved and for enough exchanges to be set up around the world to enable the remittance use case to really take off (once neither the sender nor the receiver needs to hold BTC). Once those things either happen or seem like they're not going to happen, I plan to sell a large portion of what I have left and then keep a bit in reserve just in case one of the truly crazy scenarios referenced in that reddit comment comes to pass.