All of banx's Comments + Replies

Anyone remember that monopoly pc game with the nice music?

The jazzy music? I played that a lot.

don't reuse floss

I think most of the answers there imply that one shouldn't use floss picks (unless you use many per day)? That's unfortunate.

isn't the nurturant parent model blatantly the best parenting style, obviously?

Seems to me like it's the best. But I can imagine being convinced otherwise by data. It also depends on what you're trying to optimize for. The generally agreed-upon answer to that question has likely changed over time.

edit: fixed formatting

Given this definition, I don't see why only stocks and bonds qualify.

My claim is that equity and fixed income are the important pieces for reaching that goal. With a total stock index fund and a total bond index fund you can achieve these goals almost as well as any other more complicated portfolio. Additional asset classes can add additional diversification or hedge against specific risks. What other asset classes do you have in mind? Real estate? Commodities? Currencies?

True, but given that you said "cash and CDs" I thought your idea of cash excludes deposits.

Fair enough. I was unclear.

They are, of course, important. The question is whether they are the only important pieces. Real estate is the most noticeable thing here, given how for a lot of people it is actually their biggest financial investment (and often highly leveraged, too). Commodities and such generally require paying at least some attention to what's happening and the usual context of financial discussions on LW is the "into what can I throw my money so that I can forget about it until I need it?"

What's the criterion of importance?

Important to the goal of increasing one's wealth while managing the risk of losing it. Certainly there are other possible goals (perhaps maximizing the chance of having a certain amount of money at a certain time, for example) but this is the most common, and the one that I assume people on LW discussing basic investing concepts would be interested in.

Um.... I hate to break it to you...

I'm not sure if you're referring to the fact that popular banks are returning virtually zero interest or if you're interpreting &qu... (read more)

Given this definition, I don't see why only stocks and bonds qualify. True, but given that you said "cash and CDs" I thought your idea of cash excludes deposits. Still, there are more asset classes than equity and fixed income.

Yes, but those are the important ones. Stocks for high expected returns and bonds for stability. You can generalize "bonds" to include other things that return principal plus interest like cash and CDs.

What's the criterion of importance? Um.... I hate to break it to you...

I had already heard about this, and was 95+% sure of my answer. But you didn't say to not answer if you already knew, so I voted. I'm letting you know so that you can disregard the vote if you want to.

My employer changed their donation matching policy such that I now have an incentive to lump 2 years' donations into a single year, so I can claim the standard deduction during the year that I don't donate, thereby saving around $1200 every 2 years. I've been donating between 10 and 12.5 percent for the last few years. This year I would be donating around 21%. Has anyone here been audited because they claimed a large fraction of their income as charitable contributions? How painful was the experience? I doubt it's worth paying $1200 to avoid, but I thought I'd ask.

Julia and I donate 50% [] and haven't been audited yet, but I expect we will at some point. We keep good records, which should help a lot.
I donated roughly that percentage several years ago & was not audited.

I don't know for sure, but the answer is very probably yes. I recommend searching for Australia-specific info.

At least, this is the way I make sense of my behavior. Maybe I've got it wrong.

Some people may make arguments for morality based on things similar to Coherent Extrapolated Volition. I don't find those arguments convincing. I help people I don't know because when I think about the alternatives, I prefer the world in which one fewer person is suffering to the one where I'm better off in whatever way (e.g., I have more money in my bank account) because I didn't help. That preference is based on empathy, which was evolved, but I don't particularly care where it came from. At some point that preference gets outweighed by selfish preferenc... (read more)

Perhaps there is also an intrinsic motivation associated with it. If you make the world better, it's just nicer; perhaps just as cleaning your desk or backyard or sharpening a box of pencils. These examples are certainly also motivated by social status, but there is also certainly an intrinsic element to it, which expresses as OCD in its extreme.
At least, this is the way I make sense of my behavior. Maybe I've got it wrong.

I think you're talking about ordinal numbers vs cardinal numbers. With ordinal numbers you can say a > b, but not by how much.

Monolithic posts can be intimidating. You can accomplish close to the same thing with digestible posts that end with a link to the next one.

If you want to take one more step of complexity (and assuming you have at least $6000 to invest) you can split your money between VTSMX and VGTSX as Unnamed mentioned. In doing so you would be diversified across the global economy, instead of just across the US economy. You would want 20% to 50% of your funds that are in stocks to be in international stocks.

Vanguard Target Date funds (e.g., VFIFX) are also a good option if you want something you never have to manage, and they have a minimum investment of $1000. They allow you to invest in a pre-determined ... (read more)

What do folks here think about blood donation? Is the consensus that it's not an efficient way to help people?

Sure it is, if you are in the vicinity of a donation site on a regular basis anyway. Pop in, donate, read while doing so, pop out again. Warm fuzzies during pleasure reading time. Warning, my opinion on this may be influenced rather heavily by the fact that I essentially don't notice the donation, nor do I mind needles.
Maybe it's not, but it's super-conspicuous and might be useful for reputation-building. Also, if you want to practice dealing with blood draws in a not-being-sick context it could be useful. (I haven't donated yet though because age restrictions.)
I don't think it's efficient. If you work for the amount of time you'd be spending giving blood and donate the money, you'd do much more good.
I don't see what's the inefficiency in it. Currently it's the easiest way to obtain an otherwise irreplaceable resource.
It might not be an "efficient way to help people" in the sense of having high marginal value. It's still a positive pro-social activity that addresses an important problem which isn't easily solved by other means.
It may not be an effective way to help people but it sure as hell helps you up to do it up to three times a year. All hail longevity! I regret I am in a rush so I can't link but I believe RomeoSteverns' post on optimising your health has the references.

Does she know that you (presumably) don't believe in supernatural things? Does she know why? How do you explain (to yourself) her stories about seeing spirits. Those seem to be a lot more serious than simple beliefs in absurd things like "healing powers" (or astrology, etc). Do you really believe she's not crazy? Is she making it up? (If so, why?) Using drugs? Believes they're there but doesn't actually see them, just "senses" them or something?

Yes. She might have a vague idea, but I've never gone over it in detail. Mostly, they sound like hypnagogic/hypnapompic hallucinations [], also called "waking dreams" - the same kind of thing that inspires "I was abducted by aliens" experiences. For example, my aunt tells a story of seeing a red traffic light over her bed one morning when she woke up: she thought "The light is red, I should stay home" and went back to sleep rather than get up and try to be on time. My girlfriend also frequently complains of insomnia and often texts me in the middle of the night. Well, she doesn't act crazy, and I'm not qualified to give a psychiatric diagnosis.

From GW's perspective, each of their top charities can consume a certain amount of additional money before the expected value of an additional donation decreases by some amount. Their goal is to move money such that each charity hits that target, and then they'll reassess. So they recommend donors split donations so that, as a whole, these targets are hit and EV is maximized. From your perspective, you may decide that concentrating your entire donation in one organization has a higher EV, since that organization has a generally higher EV relative to the others and since your action isn't going to affect the actions of the rest of GW's audience.

I like I think I found it from someone's comment on LW. They advocate a simple portfolio of low-cost index funds. The community is really helpful for figuring out the details.

I thought it was bleeding because of the magical resonance that was actually happening at that time when other Harry hit LV with the stuporfy.

That magical resonance didn't make the scar bleed the first time the scar encountered it, did it? If so, what happened to the blood?
My first thought was about the centuries-old theatre trick: Harry hides a few drops of red paint in one hand, presses that hand on his forehead because “the scar hurts” … and voila, a bleeding scar. Your thought seems simpler, though, as well as plausible: (chapter 114; although I’m not quite sure whether that really refers to blood from his scar, or just garbled sensory input caused by the resonance)

I remind myself that I care about each individual that can be helped by my action. Even if there are huge numbers of individuals I can't help, there are some I CAN help, and helping each one is worthwhile.

Pretty much this. Focus on what you are doing, and who you are helping, not who you aren't. This is a broader problem than just EA too - you could think of all the possible achievements or research or inventions or friendships you could make in your life, and thus any particular string of them is irrelevant. But if you don't focus on that infinity of great things you could do, you're able to realize this particular life is pretty great too. Think of it in terms of 'if I wasn't here, these particular people would be worse off' (usually quite a long list, even for non-EAs - friends, family, colleagues you help out etc.) and your contribution seems a lot more important :-) After all, you're only one person of that infinity, so if you help more than one person considerably you've actually made a big (relative to you) contribution.

You could also just think that GiveWell doesn't currently have as much room for more funding as the recommended charities do, even though GiveWell may disagree with that assessment.

you should split your donations just as you split your investments, because of risk.

Isn't it the case that most investment opportunities have essentially the same expected returns, due to market efficiency? In that case you want to diversify, since you can lower the variance without lowering the expected return. But if you can identify a single giving opportunity that has a significantly higher expected return than the alternatives, then it seems like you'd want to concentrate on that one opportunity.

Survey completed, besides the digit ratio.

My temporary solution is to max out my employer's annual match. That the maximum match is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of my income is very convenient, as that makes me feel like I'm contributing the "expected" amount for an EA (this feeling is only important for fuzzies) but still leaves me with what seems to be a good amount to save and spend. It also allows me to avoid committing an answer to the question of whether to donate now or invest and donate later. The guaranteed, almost-immediate, soon-to-expire 100% return provided by the mat... (read more)

That's a very useful point. I do have employer match and it is likely to be an inflection point for effectiveness of any money I give.
Another interesting kink in your utility function: you can deduct up to half of your income from your taxes through charitable giving. As far as I know, this represents an opportunity cost: each year I have the option to donate half of my income for that year to charity and only pay taxes on the remaining half, and that opportunity goes away if I don't take it.

So you're claiming that there is no way in which the US police and justice systems treat black people differently that isn't reducible to intelligence or conscientiousness differences?


I just meant that working might be an opportunity to better accomplish some goal you deem ethically relevant (e.g., by earning money and donating it or by developing FAI or the cure for some disease). I'm not arguing that it is. That depends on what the goals are and what your opportunities (both "work" and "leisure" using your definitions) are.

It's less ethical if you think that you can get more resources by working, and that those resources can be used to create an ethically superior world.

We might be mutually holding the others point equal. Sure one can get more money working, but I meant aside from that. Did you mean aside from the best alternative use of 40 hours per week?

Has this been demonstrated for home environments in the developing world or sub-middle class home environments in the developed world? My prior understanding was that it had not been.

There are serious restriction of range problems with the literature. I believe that there is one small French adoption study with unrestricted range which produced 1 sigma IQ difference between the bottom and top buckets (deciles?) of adopting families. I wonder if this what Shalizi alludes to when he says that IQ is closer to that of the adoptive parents than that of the biological parents.

Keep in mind that there is a nice theory about not being able to lie in parseltongue.

This line reminded me that Quirrel's frequent transitions from man to snake and back seemed odd to me when I was reading. I went back to see if any of what he said after transitioning back to a man was a good candidate for a direct lie that he couldn't tell as a snake. But I didn't find anything. Most of what he said was phrased as speculation, rather than direct statements.

I don't have a full answer to the question, but if you do feed the dog meat, one starting point would be to prefer meat that has less suffering associated with it. It is typically claimed that beef has less suffering per unit mass associated with it than pork and much less than chicken, simply because you get a lot more from one individual. The counterargument would be to claim that cows > pigs > chickens in intelligence/complexity to a great enough extent to outweigh this consideration.

I'm curious: are there specific reasons to believe that dogs nee... (read more)

Here's a quick citation: [] tldr: Dogs are opportunistic carnivores more than omnivores. They eat whatever they can get, and they'll probably survive without meat, but they'll be missing a bunch of things their bodies expect to have.
My understanding is that pigs > cows >> chickens. Poultry vs mammal is a difficult question that depends on nebulous value judgments, but I thought it was fairly settled that beef causes less suffering/mass than other mammals.

Is it always correct to choose that action with the highest expected utility?

Suppose I have a choice between action A, which grants -100 utilons with 99.9% chance and +1000000 utilons with 0.1% chance, or action B which grants +1 utilon with 100% chance. A has an expected utility of +900.1 utilons, while B has an expected utility of +1 utilon. This decision will be available to me only once, and all future decision will involve utility changes on the order of a few utilons.

Intuitively, it seems like action A is too risky. I'll almost certainly end up with ... (read more)

Depending on your preferred framework, this is in some sense backwards: utility is, by definition, that thing which it is always correct to choose the action with the highest expected value of (say, in the framework of the von Neumann-Morgenstern theorem).
People who play with money don't like high variance, and sometimes trade off some of the mean to reduce variance.
Um, A actually has a utility of -89.9. That explains why it seems less appealing!
I'd flip that around. Whatever action you end up choosing reveals what you think has highest utility, according to the information and utility function you have at the time. It's almost a definition of what utility is - if you consistently make choices that rank lower according to what you think your utility function is, then your model of your utility function is wrong. If the utility function you think you have prefers B over A, and you prefer A over B, then there's some fact that's missing from the utility function you think you have (probably related to risk). I've recently come to terms with how much fear/anxiety/risk avoidance is in my revealed preferences. I'm working on working with that to do effective long-term planning -- the best trick I have so far is weighing "unacceptable status quo continues" as a risk. That, and making explicit comparisons between anticipated and experienced outcomes of actions (consistently over-estimating risks doesn't help any, and I've been doing that).

I think the non-intuitive nature of the A choice is because we naturally think of utilons as "things". For any valuable thing (money, moments of pleasure, whatever) anybody who is minimally risk adverse would choose B. But utllons are not things, they are abstractions defined by one's preferences. So that A is the rational choice is a tautology, in the standard versions of utility theory.

It may help to think it the other way around, starting from the actual preference. You would choose a 99.9% chance of losing ten cents and 0.1% chance of winning... (read more)

It doesn't avoid the problem if people want to vote with a percentage < 1%, and try to do so with a 0-100 value (e.g., .5 meaning .5% rather than 50%).

Very good point. I had not thought of this earlier, but it is entirely correct.

Here's Optimal Employment, where the working in Australia idea is discussed, and here's the Optimal Employment Open Thread.