I am not convinced that this is morally superior to selling opium. This depends critically on how much use the marginal student actually gets out of English.

Now SAT tutoring, that is certainly morally inferior to selling opium. (Inferior, not equal, for obvious utility reasons.)

This depends critically on how much use the marginal student actually gets out of English.

Er, that seems pretty massive to me. Access to the English internet by itself seems worthwhile.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky8y...and how much utility people actually get out of opium.
5aelephant8yOne thing I can tell you is that if a child has a native English speaker teaching them, their English is pretty much guaranteed to be better than if they don't. At many schools, Chinese teachers who have never been outside of China will be the ones teaching the kids English -- their English is horrible & often they will be punishing the children for getting something "wrong" when they are more likely than not the ones mistaken.

Economy gossip open thread

by John_Maxwell 2 min read28th Oct 201259 comments


Diego Caleiro writes:

It amazes me that there is no "Sequence on how to make money in intelligent ways" or something of the sort in LessWrong.

I don't think a sequence is the quite the right approach to this.  The economy is huge, complicated, and heterogeneous, and it's changing constantly.  (Think of how complicated people are, then imagine how complicated their economy is.)  It's hard for a single person to have a thorough understanding of everything, and even if someone did, their understanding would start becoming obsolete immediately.

And making money intelligently is very closely related to knowing what's going on in the economy.  If you're training for a job, you want to develop skills that are in high demand.  If you're starting a business, you want to sell stuff for a profit.  You can only go so far identifying these opportunities by thinking things through from first principles.

I don't think most useful knowledge Less Wrong can share about what's going on in the economy is going to approach the certainty of carefully derived math or settled science.  Instead, it'll be more like gossip.  Since no one understands the entire economy, we won't get much firsthand knowledge.  Lots of information will consist of hearsay and speculation that's subject to change at any time.  (Incidentally, gathering such info and trying lots of stuff out may be a good preparatory activity for starting a business.)

Anyway, here's some gossip from me; feel free to post yours in the comments.



The US Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains an Occupational Outlook Handbook with information on salary, education requirements, and job growth for a wide variety of jobs.  Here are a few random interesting ones:

  • It may be possible to become an actuary (~$90K/yr, faster than average job growth, involves math) without a college degree if you pass a few actuarial exams
  • Diagnostic medical sonographer: requires only a 2-year degree, ~$65K/yr, much faster than average job growth
  • Michael Vassar was telling everyone to become a police officer a while ago.  The BLS page looks only OK, maybe you can get a much higher salary in the right municipality?

Payscale.com looks pretty nice for salary info: college education return on investment data, top paying majors.  See also: 5 ways to be mislead by salary rankings, GlassDoor.com

UC Berkeley alumni surveys: What can I do with a major in...

This guy claims you can make $45-60 an hour playing poker after a year's practice and $5000 lost.  Some blackjack card counting guru I emailed years ago claimed you could learn to count cards in 100 hours and make 6 figures for years if you were diligent (cover play, travelling for new opportunities, etc.)  I'm not sure how workable these ideas are if you don't already have a large bankroll.  (See Kelly criterion.)

If you're interested in getting paid to practice rejection therapy and you're in the SF Bay Area, PM me and I can put you in touch with someone in California's ballot signature collection industry.  The job consists of standing somewhere where lots of people walk by and asking them to sign your petitions.  You get paid per signature, and if you find a good spot (and keep it secret from other signature gatherers), it's possible to make a lot of money.  A friend averaged $300 a day; I wasn't sufficiently dedicated/psychologically resilient to get anything like those results.  The business is seasonal; if I recall correctly, February is an especially good month.

It looks as though high-end, college-educated call girls can make $300/hour.

Tutoring websites: UniversityTutor, TutorSpree, Care.com, Craigslist, Wyzant.  One thing to keep in mind with tutoring: Since you generally work so few hours per gig, transportation-time overhead per hour worked is higher.

80,000 hours offers one-on-one career advising, if you're in to effective altruism.


Salary Negotiation

"In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University's business school, Professor Linda Babcock discovered that [those MBA students who negotiated their starting salary instead of just accepting their initial offer] received an average of $4,053 more than those who did not."  (Bargaining for Advantage, p. 16.)  Women seem much more reluctant to ask for more money, which may go a ways towards explaining gender pay gaps.  The book recommends thorough preparation prior to any negotiation.


Business Gossip

Why rely on just one guru when you can draw inferences from the experiences of many?  But beware sampling effects: you'll likely hear less from people who didn't end up accomplishing anything worth writing about.

As business gurus go, Paul Graham is highly rational, has an unmatchable resume, and all his stuff is free.


Previously on Less Wrong