Programmer, rationalist, chess player, father, altruist.


Wanting to Succeed on Every Metric Presented

I am a pretty serious chess player and among other things, chess gave me a clearer perception of the direct cost in time and effort involved in succeeding at any given pursuit. You can look at any chess player's tournament history and watch as they convert time spent into improved ability at an increasingly steep rate.

As a result, I can confidently think things like "I could possibly become a grandmaster, but I would have to dedicate my life to it for ten or twenty years as a full-time job, and that's not worth it to me. On the other hand, I could probably become a national master with several more years of moderate work in evenings and weekends, and that sounds appealing." and I now think of my skill in other fields in similar terms. As a result, I am less inclined to, e.g. randomly decide that I want to become a Linux kernel wizard, or learn a foreign language, or learn to draw really well, because I clearly perceive that those actions have a quite substantial cost.

IQcaptcha enters beta

Funny, but I think it would be funnier if it were less unsubtly rude. The concept is already inherently edgy enough that adding extra insults is like putting frosting on ice cream.

Tales from Prediction Markets

After hanging out in the Polymarket zone for a while, it became clear to me that there are at least two pretty distinct groups of people -- the +EV veterans who have fun trying to beat the market and make money, and the gamblers who like to play the game of betting on their opinions and seeing who makes bank. The latter group doesn't really like it when the +EV people find a "clever" edge like this because it makes the game less fun and fair-seeming.

There exists no third group that really wants an accurate up-to-date prediction of the CO2 level printed on the website as of the next day.

Julia Galef and Matt Yglesias on bioethics and "ethics expertise"

It seems to me that there are many different complaints being raised:

A) Experts in specific things were treated as general authorities.

A lot of what we get is adjacent expertise. So somebody who studies viruses, and maybe knows a lot about the protein structure of viruses, will opine about masks, right... They didn't have expertise in those areas, and were in fact just on a par with me, or anybody else, right? But they had the, sometimes, arrogance that comes with believing you're being asked about your area of expertise.

B) People have differing moral values about what is a good result.

We're just talking about, what is a fair and reasonable way to prioritize different people over each other?

C) The arguments and decisions being made aren't actually being made by the real experts, they are being made by pseudo-experts.

And I'm like, "Well, according to whom?" Right? Obviously in consequentialist terms, it’s good ethics. I happened to know the top expert in Kantian ethics, she thinks that's a good idea. So, who the fuck are you?

I think these complaints are not incompatible with some people being experts at reasoning about ethics. It seems like what's happening (I certainly have never observed "bioethics Twitter" so I am just guessing) is that random people are rationalizing their beliefs by appealing to random prestigious or powerful people and calling them the "experts" to whom you should defer all judgment, and then Julia and Matt are pushing back on that whole general dynamic.

Speculations Concerning the First Free-ish Prediction Market

You know, Polymarket really works and anyone can use it right now, including US citizens; the only really serious problem with it is that it costs a flat fee of about ~$50 to deposit and withdraw, and you have to be able to figure out how to send cryptocurrency.

Some comments:

  • As a random smart LW person, I actually rarely have interest in participating in a prediction market, because I have to work hard to have any edge on anything, and even if I have an edge I risk betting against someone who has true inside information. I would have to value my time less or enjoy modelling things more to be an active participant. It's not like the stock market where you are incentivized to use it even if you don't know anything special.
  • It's hard to get people to participate in long-term markets, because the payoff just isn't very good. I have zero desire to work hard on a model so that I can make an expected profit of 10% two years from now.
  • $25k is a joke -- is that for real? That does not pay off someone for making a good model. It also doesn't let smart money fix a wrong price even if they magically have a perfect model. You would have to organize some kind of fund with many traders working on many models who all shared info and went in on all of each others' trades.

I think if you have a good system to predict prices, it doesn't make sense to add this tweeting dynamic. If you do it, and it produces good predictions about the combination tweet+price system and makes money as a result, then what will probably happen is a ton of other people clone the idea and produce similar tweeters and/or predictors until it's much harder to produce good predictions with consumer-grade models, whereas if you kept your system to yourself you could have gone on extracting money from your good predictions quietly for longer.

Naively, the system seems similar to "good predictor" human fund managers who advertise their services, where you can see the end state I'm describing: there are so many of them that most of them don't make money anymore, and even if someone shows you good evidence of their good predictions in the past it's no longer sufficient evidence to act on their advice in the present.

Open, Free, Safe: Choose Two

I agree -- I think there are many communities which easily achieve a high degree of safety without "safetyism", typically by being relatively homogeneous or having external sources of trust and goodwill among their participants. LW is an example.

Conspicuous saving

The ultimate explanation for the low savings rate seems to be that people are myopic. In other words, people implicitly care more about having stuff now, rather than later. But that too can't be the full picture.

What makes you think that this isn't the full picture (or most of the full picture?)

Open, Free, Safe: Choose Two

I only skimmed the article you linked, but I don't think I agree with your characterization of anonymity -- it's not on the axis of openness, but the axes of freedom and safety. If someone is already let in, they may choose to be anonymous if they think anonymity helps them express things that are outside the box of their existing reputation and identity, or if they think anonymity is a defense against hostile actors who would use their words and actions against them.

The EMH is False - Specific Strong Evidence

I assume the person you're talking about who made $100K is Vitalik. Vitalik knows much more about making Ethereum contracts work than the average person, and details the very complicated series of steps he had to take to get everything worked out in his blog post. There probably aren't very many people who can do all that successfully, and the people who can are probably busy becoming rich some other way.

I could have imagined this was true a month ago, but then I spent about 15 total hours learning about Ethereum financial widgets, which was fun, and wrote it up into this post, and now I totally understand Vitalik's steps, understand many of the possible risks underlying them, and could have confidently done something similar myself. Although I am probably unusually capable even among the LW readership, I think many readers could have done this if they wanted to.

Similarly, I don't know anything about perpetual futures, but I guarantee that I could understand perpetual futures very clearly by tomorrow if you offered me $20k (or a 20% shot at $100k) to do it.

Having to think hard for a week to clearly understand something complicated, with the expectation that there might be money on the other end*, is definitely a convincing practical explanation for why rationalists aren't making a lot of money off of schemes like this, but it's not a good reason why they shouldn't. Of course, many rationalists may not have enough capital that it matters much, but many may.

*It's not like these are otherwise useless concepts to understand, either.

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