Should I prefer to get a tax refund, or not to?

I don't have any formal math for you, but my answer is that trying to not get a refund is a planning question that involves predicting the coming year, whereas trying to maximize your refund is a strategic question about filing your taxes after the year happened. In other words, tax owed or refunded at filing time is a measurement of prediction error about your expectations for the prior year.

At any given time, I can make tax withholding decisions (or estimated tax payments for the self-employed) that I expect will mean I pay the exact right amount in withheld taxes. However, between now and the end of the tax year, lots of things can happen. My income can change, the tax rates can change, I can buy or sell a house or car and both my deductions and tax obligations can change, I could get married or otherwise change my filing status, and so on. There are enough variables outside my direct control that I should not expect to always get this right.

When I file, I have all the information. I know exactly what happened, where reality differed from my predictions. Yes, there may be things I can do even then in how I file that might legally change the outcome, but in general that's a question of skill in reading legalese and filling out forms.

Stupid Questions October 2020

So, I value having coherent and internally consistent beliefs. Are there any good tools or methods for helping train or test myself on that?

Like, prediction scoring can be helpful for calibrating individual probability estimates over time, but it'd be great to have some tool that would let me put in some probability estimates, then prod me with questions to check for mutually incompatible estimates, like by asking me to also estimate enough conditional combinations to make some inferences for me to sanity check against. 

The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

Link to a review article

I don't know the answer to your question other than "they merged more fully than the genomes of other endosymbionts," and in any case endosymbiosis is only one proposed explanation for the origin of the nucleus.

The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

Fair enough. I was reaching too far in assuming endosymbiotic events were the limiting factor in that transition.

Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses.

I suspect all or almost all of these play a role, but I'd also add that the world asks us to make a lot more choices now than in the past, period. We have more options in every area of our lives, our choices are less socially constrained than they used to be, and we have vastly more access to information sources for making choices, but the amount of brainpower and willpower we have access to in order to process that info and divide up among all the choices hasn't changed.

Forcing Freedom

You're right, nothing explicitly stated anything about old age, but the study itself has "burials" right up in the headline. IDK if respondents knew those questions were coming when they answered the "lifespan" question, but if they did, I doubt most people automatically assume an increased lifespan meant they'd start being younger than they currently were. That's all conjecture on my part, but I think it's similarly plausible as psychological life-weariness as an explanation.

How would computational capacity be infinite in the presence of finite energy?

As I understand it, the theoretical limits on energy efficiency of irreversible computing are a function of ambient temperature (because they involve dumping heat/entropy into the environment). That means if the future universe keeps getting colder as it expands, the amount of computing you can do with a fixed supply of stored energy goes up without bound, as long as you use it slowly enough. That's basically Dyson's Eternal Intelligence, though I don't think anyone knows what the computing architecture would look like. Things like the Omega Point spacetime in a collapsing universe seem more speculative to me but still might be possible.

Forcing Freedom

That linked account seems to assume that people who want to live forever expect to "get old" along the way, in the same way they do now, and I don't think that's accurate. I wouldn't want to live even for centuries, let alone forever, in a 90 year old's body, in world where most of the people I know and love are gone forever. But many of those same 90 year olds will gladly profess to believe, or at least hope, to be reunited with loved ones in death and remain with them forever.  But if you offer me the chance to stay in a 25 or 30 year old's body/level of health, and everyone else I love would get the same, I'd at least like the chance to see what it's like and (Ian Banks' Culture-style) get to choose my lifespan, not all at once but each and every day, based on how well it works out. I have no idea if I would actually want to live for TREE(3) years, but I'd much rather have the choice, and not have to make it within the next 50 years.


it's impossible to literally live forever.

Are you sure? That seems like a question of physics, and the accessible energy reserves and computational capacity of our light cone (the latter of which may be infinite even if the former is not). 

Any survey of this type runs into, not just the nuances of the questions and how they're asked, but how little most people have really thought about the question, or what the different answers would actually imply.

Zen and Rationality: Just This Is It

Ah, I totally missed that! Makes sense :)

For myself, I'm one of the people who, like the writer of that book mentions can happen, accidentally had my A&P experience before I had any meditation practice, back in freshman year of college. Also had several times when I had all the 1st jhana experiences spontaneously, too. All I can say is, my next 12 years (10 before I started regularly meditating) made it very clear to me that the "dark night" is real, and I'm so glad I'm 1) now out of it, and 2) have a name for it.

Against boots theory

I agree with the post as far as it goes. Frankly, I think later-Vimes would too, once he finds out how much the *actually* rich people actually make as income from inherited assets without ever lifting a finger.

I think there is some truth to the theory even for the rich, in the context of inherited wealth in an agrarian society (medieval or earlier), for people within a few rungs of each other in the income distribution. Back then all but the very richest still had to be frugal in many ways. Today, not so much, and the rungs are farther apart, and the products the poor and rich buy are much more different. Most people have no idea how rich "the rich" actually are, and even less idea what that actually means in terms of living their lives.

Also: have you read Scott Alexander's Staying Classy post on some descriptions and discussions of economic and social class in the modern world (including Siderea)? I think the boots theory is basically Vimes applying his Labor thinking in an inappropriate context.

Also also: durability and price in the modern world are very poorly correlated for most things I buy. $500 fashion boots are frequently going to be less durable than ordinary workboots, even if they pretend to be workboots themselves. Discerning durability is quite hard, and if you're rich enough, not worth the effort. Similarly, yes some laptops are better built than others, but I've never had one last longer than 4 years before it was not worth it to maintain or fix it. For desktops, the cycle is slightly longer but not by that much. I do have sneakers I have kept for >5 years, and they are a major brand name, but I bought them (new) at Marshalls for less than 1/4 the MSRP. Boots theory in Ankh-Morpork didn't have to contend with just how complicated modern capitalism can get in terms of setting prices.

Zen and Rationality: Just This Is It

There is, and lots of traditions along it, but I think where on that spectrum is best depends as much on the student as anything else. You're trying to make purely mental moves to shift your mind into a new stable state, but the mind is complicated enough with enough variety in starting states that different techniques are likely to work for different people.

For me, Scott Alexander's book review that got me to read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is what resonated for me and really helped my meditation practice progress. It's at lot of explanation and description but very insistent about the limits of words anyway.

My take on the argument for the Zen approach is that as you bring in book-length discussions, it's hard for anyone who doesn't already understand to judge whether what was written is "right" or useful. So over time you end up with a lot of garbage to parse through which may or may not still make the whole better than the Zen approach.

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